2008-01-20: Gratitude

Starring:

Gabriel_icon.gif Elle_icon.gif

Summary: Elle returns to New York to check on Gabriel. What she finds is surreal - but even after bringing Gabriel back from the dead, they can't quite figure out how to be civil and grateful.

Date It Happened: January 20, 2008

Gratitude


Gray & Sons

Elle was in the empty house for approximately one hour, after Peter had left, before she knew she had to leave. It wasn't that she felt her safety had been compromised, nor did she want to evade Peter should he return looking for her advice. No, Elle was worried - about Peter, about Gabriel, about what was happening in New York. And she needed to speak with Gabriel.

In truth, she needed to yell at him.

Late in the day, Elle makes it into the city. The car she drives - a rental not in her name - has been tearing down highways to make up time, and the seven hour drive from the safehouse in Maine to the watch shop has been cut. It's a wonder she didn't find herself stopped by the police or flipped in a ditch somewhere. But she didn't. And she's here, alone, healthy but for the dark circles beneath her eyes, standing at the back door to the watch shop and banging on it loudly.

—-

For the past two days, Gabriel has been hanging off of the same pipe Peter left him on, dead. The water has continued to leak into the watchshop, spraying everything within its radius, including Gabriel, who is completely soaked and lifeless. His entire frontside is covered in blood, the water mixing with it to give his white shirt a deep pink color. Fortunately, most of the water that isn't spraying on Gabriel seeps through the floor into the ground, but it's gotten to a point where it has no place to go but outside, finding its way underneath the door Elle happens to be standing at and onto the pavement outside, steadily flowing with no intention of stopping. The door is locked, windows still boarded up, and there's no answer to Elle's knocking, except for the soft sound of water spraying the building inside, which doesn't carry through the walls.

—-

The water has evaded her notice until now, but as Elle stands at the door and receives no answer, she turns her attention to her surroundings. She can't be certain there aren't people waiting for her, watching her from afar. The handgun she carries, hidden by her coat, is of little comfort. As she tips her chin down, looking to the water on the ground, she feels her heart skip a beat, a weight sinking to the bottom of her stomach. "Gabriel!" she calls, pounding on the door anew.

When she receives no response, Elle sucks in a breath and tries the door. Locked, of course. While her gun would make short work of the lock, it would also draw unnecessary attention - maybe even a call to the police. Not an option. It's been months since she's attempted to pick a lock. Acutely aware of how easily someone could sneak up on her here, she works away at the lock for several minutes before it finally pops open.

Even before she walks into the watch shop, Elle knows what she will find. It occurs to her as she takes her first anxious step inside that there is an unnatural stillness, a sense of lifelessness, that she has encountered only once before: the day she found a killer hanging from the ceiling. At first, she doesn't see him on the wall, her eyes taking in the destruction of the shop with a sense of horror. This is what she was hearing? If she'd known…

"Gabriel?" Nothing still. Resigned, Elle's eyes pass over the broken pipe once more as she turns away— and stops. "Oh my god." She stands in stunned silence for a moment, unsure what she ought to do, until she gathers her wits and rushes towards him. Not that she knows what to do once she's there. Her first awkward, surreal instinct is to reach for him, to shake his hand to wake him and press two fingers of the opposite hand to his neck to search for a pulse.

—-

No pulse. No reaction. There's nothing from Gabriel. Should Elle let go of his hand, it will fall limp at his side. He's most certainly dead dead, the lack of blood in his system plus the thick iron pipe sticking through the middle of his chest seeing to that.

—-

Letting out a strangled sound, Elle releases his hand and abruptly steps away, watching in horror as it falls so unnaturally to his side. After several seconds of staring at the corpse, the nagging voice in her mind breaks through her bemusement, reminding her that this should not be the end of Gabriel Gray.

Should not. But that doesn't mean she isn't too late.

Or that she's even capable of helping, given her small stature and the task of having to pull the larger man from a pipe. Wrapping her arms around him, Elle struggles to remove Gabriel's lifeless body from the iron pipe. It is not a quiet process, nor is it glamorous; when she finally wrestles him from the pipe, she has done more damage to the wound than was there previously, thanks to losing her grip several times and having to rest at others, and has alternately cursed and sobbed as she toiled.

But she does it. He falls to the floor with a hollow thud, and she collapses back against the wall, out of the spray, with his lifeless form in her arms.

Later, she'll realize with morbid fascination that she was thankful that he was dead, if only for these uncomfortable minutes, when what would have caused him agony if he were living has instead only upset her.

—-

Once Gabriel is off of the pipe, on the floor, and in Elle's arms, the miraculous ability Claire Bennet gave up to him begins to work its magic. It takes a good minute, but the gaping wound in his chest begins to close, bones righting themselves and his lungs regrowing flesh, slowly expanding with air. The skin around the wound begins to sew itself together, and eventually, the wound is completely healed.

About three seconds later, Gabriel sits up suddenly, a huge, rasping, sharp intake of breath filling his lungs with fresh lungs. He coughs violently, shaking every time he does, and he clings to the nearest thing upon his revival for support: Elle.

There's several more coughs before he's finally had his fill of beautiful, fresh air. He looks up at the woman, squinting his eyes to see who it is. He's still clinging to her, but he doesn't seem to realize it. "Elle?" he says, a sudden shiver taking over his body, rattling him from head to toe. He's soaked in blood and water, and it's cold in the shop.

—-

Elle's reaction is muted when Gabriel comes back to life, her gaze distant and expression left unchanged. It doesn't seem real until he says her name, snapping her out of her reverie. Her hands come to rest on either side of his face, holding him this way for several seconds as she meets his gaze with hers.

Finally, a smile breaks across her face, a light in her eyes that hadn't been there before. Without a word, Elle presses her lips to his in a fierce, though fleeting, kiss. Wrapping her arms around him, she pulls him into a tight embrace, her eyes closing as she rests her head against his shoulder.

Without pulling away, she swats him hard with one of her hands. "What the hell part of 'be careful' don't you understand?"

—-

Coming back from the dead is disorienting, and even though Gabriel recognizes the woman in front of him, it takes a little bit before the realization that she came here to save him sinks in. When her hands find his face, he watches her, saying nothing, blinking a few times to clear the cobwebs, before his lips slowly turn upwards to amtch her smile.

He leans into the kiss, matching her fierceness, and when she pulls away, he looks at her, the events of the day finally hitting him. He died. He came back to life. He just lost who knows how long of a time while dead, and he stares at the wall considering this as Elle wraps her arms around him, shivering against her.

Then she swats him. He instinctively tries to cover his head, but it's rather hard when you have someone in your arms, so all he can do is take it. "I'm— sorry," he says, bringing a hand up to her head and placing it there, his fingers intertwining with her hair. He pulls back to look at her, unable to help the small, amused smirk that crosses his features. He's alive, and Elle came to check on him. He can be happy at that, despite everything that's happened. "It's not like I planned it, you know."

—-

Finally becoming aware of the shivering, of the water that has soaked them both, Elle pushes up to her feet, taking hold of his arm in both hands to help him stand. "We should get out of here," she says, flicking a glance to each door, still concerned that there very well might be someone waiting for them just outside the shop. "I don't have any blankets, but I have a car with heating." Not that he could catch cold, but she certainly could, and after the throw down with Church only days before, she'd rather not fall ill. Even if her injuries from the confrontation were healed. Looping her arm through his tightly, she leads him to the door she came through, the green rental car parked in the lot beyond.

—-

Standing from the floor with the help of Elle, Gabriel pauses before following her, taking a look around the ruined shop in front of him. Elle may not notice it, as it's brief— but there's a look of sadness that takes over his features, body slumping slightly. This was his watchshop. So much has happened to him here. The place where he tried to take his own life, where he met Elle, met Chandra Suresh, fought Peter.

After the moment of sadness passes, Gabriel turns to Elle, nodding at her. "Let's go," he says, following her towards the exit— but he hesitates again. On the floor, a charred, soaked, very chipped box lays. His watch. Somehow it's survived both the hotel and now this, and he's not leaving it behind. He stoops to grab it, straightening himself quickly with another nod at Elle. "Okay," he says, gripping her hand in his and staying close as they head through the door.

—-

The car is parked nearby, but with no mechanism to start it by remote, it's cold when Elle first helps Gabriel inside. "It's going to take a few minutes to warm up," she says as she settles into the driver's seat, turning on the heat. She, too, has started to shiver now that she's damp and sitting in the cold air, but her concern is for Gabriel, evidenced by the frown she wears as she looks over to him.

"I heard some of what happened," she says, turning sideways in her seat to face him, "but not everything." She hesitates then, as if uncertain whether or not to proceed with the question lying on the tip of her tongue. Her hands fidget absently with the hem of her coat. "Why did he— why were you two fighting?"

—-

Once they're close to the car, Gabriel gets in as quickly as he can to get out of the cold, curling into himself once he's inside the car, leaning forward to get close to the vents. He's still shivering, rubbing his chest to create more heat on his body to try and warm up quicker. His eyes are closed, and he's breathing heavily.

It's only when Elle addresses him that he turns his head slightly to look at her, his shivering starting to subside somewhat. "Blamed me for what happened," he says, answers short and quick. It's not that he doesn't want to talk, he just isn't comfortable enough yet to relax and have a normal conversation. "Attacked me." Another shiver. "Said it was all my fault." He leans away from the heater now, slowly starting to warm up as he turns more fully in the seat to look at Elle.

—-

Taking in what he says, Elle remains silent at first, considering his words carefully without interjecting with her own opinions. She tilts her head to set it against the headrest, her eyes drifting down to her hands. "It wasn't your fault," she says softly, reassuringly, as she reaches out a hand to brush the back of her fingers along his cheek. "You know that, right?"

Still, she seems bothered by something, every word and movement tempered by a strange sort of reluctance. It isn't that what she's saying is insincere in any way; it's simply that she seems to be holding back, keeping something to herself, a weight hanging in the air.

—-

Elle's assurances do little to calm Gabriel, and he looks away from her, turning his head to gaze out of the passenger side window, eyes falling on his watchshop. "Are you sure?" he says, finally turning his eyes back to her. "If he never tried to help me, it would have never happened. Maybe he should have just killed me when I told him to the first time." He looks away again, staring out at something in the parking lot, yet he can't help but notice something is.. off about Elle. He slowly turns his eyes back to her, frowning. "What is it?"

—-

"If he had killed you, I wouldn't be here right now." Elle's voice is quiet as she turns away, pulling her seatbelt across her chest and clicking it into place. "I'd still be with them." Hurting, maybe even killing - doing things nearly as horrendous as Sylar, and without the excuse of 'the hunger.' No, she did those things purely because she liked to. Because no one ever challenged her to question her motives…

…until these two men. Her hands rest on the steering wheel as she slants her head back, and Elle closes her eyes, letting out a breath. Flashes of memory from Peter's visit in Maine streak by: the defeat in his eyes when she opened the door, the desperation in his voice, the tenderness with which he kissed her forehead and healed her. Finally, she speaks, her voice calm, without looking back to Gabriel. "You shouldn't have said that he can't be trusted." Her head turns a fraction of an inch, enough for her to open her eyes and look to him sidelong. "You shouldn't have said that he'd hurt me."

—-

Falling silent at her first words, Gabriel considers what she has to say. It's true. She wouldn't be, most likely. Peter may have been able to get through to her eventually, been able to convince her to leave the Company for her own life, but he doesn't say it loud.

What Elle says next, however, stings, and Gabriel looks away from her, back towards the parking lot again. When he speaks his voice is quiet, controlled, defensive. "Peter can't control himself," he says, speaking to the window rather than her, "and it's not his fault. I know Peter would never hurt you, but Peter isn't himself right now. Even when I refused to kill him, knocked the gun away, he kept coming. Forgive me for not trusting him, but the pipe that was sticking through my chest a few minutes go doesn't exactly lead me to have complete faith in him." He finally turns to look back at her, a frown on his face. "What did he tell you happened to me?"

—-

"He was himself when he came and found me," Elle murmurs, her own tone edging on defensive, as she begins to pull the car out of its parking spot and get them back on the road. "He would never hurt someone he loves. He's a better person than me or you." She reaches over to turn the heat down some now that the car is warm, though she doesn't shut it off entirely.

"He didn't tell me what happened. He didn't kill you, Gabriel. Doesn't that count for anything? He knew you would come back." Even if it meant waiting for someone to find him, because surely, someone would have checked on Gabriel sooner or later. "He needs people to believe he can change, not people who won't trust him enough to think he won't kill his loved ones."

—-

Silence from Gabriel. He goes back to looking at the window, avoiding all eye contact with Elle at this point, keeping up his stony silence even as the car pulls out onto the open road. He has no idea where they're going, and he doesn't ask. Finally, after they travel a few miles, he turns his head slightly to look at Elle.

"I don't know what to say," he finally admits, a defeated look on his face. "Things.. shouldn't have gone the way they did at the shop. I believe he can change, it's why I refused to kill him. If I could do it, if I can fight it, then he can, just…" He looks away from Elle, watching the road in front of them. "I was afraid he would hurt you in the state he was in."

—-

Even Elle isn't certain where they're going as she slowly navigates the streets of New York. "He fixed me," she says defiantly, never once taking her eyes off the road now that the car is in motion. She doesn't seem to realize that his fear for her well-being likely had less to do with Peter and more to do with Gabriel's own affection for her, focusing on the wrong details. "The agent who came after me— he was pulling his punches, but I was hurt pretty bad. I don't even know how I made it to Maine." Did Gabriel even know that's where she'd gone? She can't recall if she'd told him. Has she even told him all that happened in the hotel, how close she came to being taken away? "When Peter came to see me, he didn't look at me like he wanted to hurt me. He just looked at me like he always has, then made it all go away. Every single bruise, broken bone, sore muscle— gone." She huffs bitterly, shaking her head. "That's what he did 'in the state he was in.'"

Gripping the steering wheel tightly in her hands, Elle draws in a breath. "I can't take you back with me," she says, a frown settling onto her face as she keeps her eyes on the road ahead. "I'm staying with an old friend." Friend, in this case, meaning something much different than it often does. "I'm coming back, I just can't— I can't stay here while they're looking for me."

—-

"It was different when he was here," Gabriel says, snapping at Elle. "He comes into the watchshop, starts yelling at me it's my fault, and attacks me. What did you honestly expect me to do, Elle? Offer him tea?" He shakes his head, sighing in frustration. "I had no idea what he would do. If he loves you and won't hurt you, then that's how it is. Obviously, I know that now. But before now? I didn't know what he was going to do. I care about you and was worried. You should know that by now, but if you're so good at taking care of yourself, then I just won't bother anymore."

As for not taking him back with her? That's fine. He has nowhere else to go, and he makes it evident. "What am I supposed to do? I don't know where Peter is. You're in Maine, even though you don't have to be, since I've told you Angela agreed to leave you alone. The Company is leaving me alone, too, but I don't think they'll exactly welcome me with open in arms if I go there." He turns to look at her, and he's angry. What she's said has clearly upset him and set him off. "So you tell me, Elle, since you seem to have all the answers. What am I supposed to do?"

—-

"I don't trust Angela as far as I can throw her," Elle snaps back, her protective tone abandoned in favour of a more cynical one now. "They'll leave us alone until the next time they think we're in their way, and then we're back to square one. Why do you think Angela sent them after me? She didn't want me getting in the way of you killing Peter." He didn't need to tell her what Angela Petrelli had said to him; she found that one out all on her own. "She knew I'd try to stop you. So don't think for a second that they won't come after you or me again, even if we spend the rest of our lives living under a rock in the middle of Alaska."

Heaving a sigh, Elle turns the car into the parking lot of a strip mall, leaving it running. "I can't tell you what you're supposed to do," she says, finally looking to him for the first time since she started driving. "I don't even know what I'm supposed to do. All I know is that I have to go back and try to change things." She doesn't specify what things those might be, instead leaving it open. "Your entire life has been decided for you, Gabriel. Isn't it about time you decided what's next for you?"

—-

"I wasn't going to kill him!" Gabriel yells at Elle. He doesn't even care to truly listen to rest of what she says. He hears it, and he'll think about it later, but for now he's rather pissed off at Elle. It doesn't seem to matter how many times he says anything about what happened, because all she seems to care about is defending Peter. As soon as the car pulls into the strip mall and comes to a stop, Gabriel opens the door and begins to get out, turning back to Elle to give her one last look. "I hope that works out for you," he says, before exiting the car and slamming the door shut. He leaves his watch in the car, and he knows this, but he isn't about to open the door back up to grab it. Once he's fully standing, he takes a look around, determining where he is in the city, and then disappears.

—-

One day, they might have a conversation that doesn't end in an argument like this. For now, however, Elle can only watch as Gabriel slams the door shut and disappeared, her expression dumbfounded. Her surprise quickly gives way to anger at his sudden disappearance, and she leans against the steering wheel, glancing out each window as if he might still be outside. When she realizes that he is well and truly gone, she slams one hand against the wheel in anger. "You're WELCOME," she yells, knowing he can't hear it.

Alone in the car, she takes the watch from where he left it, turning it over in her hand. Where she'd been furious with him a moment before, she's quickly becoming upset with herself for not being more sympathetic. Only now she can't do a thing about it, with no way to contact him or find out where he went. "Stupid, Elle," she grumbles beneath her breath, reluctantly pulling out of the parking lot and turning back onto the road. "Really stupid." Unfortunately for Elle, she has several hours in which to dwell on just how big a mistake it really was.

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