2008-05-28: Protection

Starring:

Kory_icon.gif Gabriel_icon.gif

Summary: What happens when the protector becomes the protected?

Date It Happened: May 28th, 2008

Protection


Gabriel's Apartment, Deveaux Building, NYC

Kory preceeded her visit with a text to make sure she wasn't disturbing Gabriel. On receiving a presumed answer that a visit would be okay at this time, she heads down with a covered pan of baked ziti. The money she isn't spending on rent, and the money she got from her lawsuit leave her enough money to cook copious amounts of food. Since it's just her, and whoever's visiting, she has made a habit of bringing part of every big meal to Gabriel to save him some trouble. "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven" is not an old saying for no reason, after all, and Kory never attaches the sanity-damaging strings to her affection that Gabriel's mother had.

"Gabriel? It's me, Kory." She knocks with a free hand, pan balanced against her hip.

"Just a minute!" comes a voice from inside the apartment, following by the muffled sounds of something being pushed around. Truth be told, these sounds have been going on all day. Gabriel has been re-arranging his living room, you see, so that his workstation allows for a better light coming in from the outside— but it's been a while before he could finally find a setup that he liked. He's been moving things back and forth all day.

He's been expecting Kory, which is why he was rushing to get the re-arrangement setlled. Once he finally gets the last piece of furniture moved into place, he grabs a towel hanging off of the back of a nearby chair, wiping his forehead. Moving towards the door, he opens it, eyes immediately moving to the blue hair that sits atop Kory's head. Even the man who used to kill people for a living can't suppress the small chuckle that escapes his lips. "Nice hair."

Kory self-consciously lifts her hand to the fall of blue curls. "Yeah, temporary hair dye misfire. Temporary my ass," she grumbles. "I tried to fix it with another temp dye and they combined and now I look like Captain Planet's kid sister." She shakes her head and grins wryly at Gabriel. "It'll grow out in a couple months." She offers him the pan (which is cool, she put it in the fridge rather than bring it by at whatever late hour she finished cooking it).

Accepting the pan from Kory, he holds onto it for a few moments so he can continue to look at her hair. Unable to supress the smirk on his lips, he turns towards the kitchen, stepping away from the door. "You can come in, by the way," he says, realizing that, hey, he is the host here. He seems to have gotten over the anger he had with her last time they met, the time he found out just exactly who she was. Not much he can do about it now, and it seems she meant well.

Opening up the pan as he moves into the kitchen, the moment he spots the ziti, he stops, his smirk turning into a frown. He remains this way for a few moments, before looking back up to Kory, the frown quickly turning into a small smile. "Ziti," he says, setting the pan on the oven's range and pressing a button to set it to heat. "One of my favorites."

Plus, y'know, sending him leftovers on the regular — that can't hurt, right? "Is it?" Kory's question is sincere. She hasn't gone digging around in Gabriel's psyche for his favourite dishes. Kory told him she'd deal straight and honestly with Gabriel, and she is keeping her word to him. "One of mine, too, and I cook when I'm stressed. And I've been stressed since before I accidentally turned my hair blue. This saving the world stuff is harder than it looks."

"Yeah," is the simple response from Gabriel, who, now that the ziti is set to heat up on the stove, turns back to the living room and leans against the wall just outside of the kitchen, watching Kory. "The world is always going to need saving," Gabriel says, shrugging his shoulders lightly. He's said it before, he'll say it again. "And it's never easy."

"Well, at least my first stupid error wasn't fatal," is Kory's grateful response to that bit of wisdom. "I got what I needed, even if the bad guy does know my name and where to find me." Kory's wry smile fades, though, for a serious expression. "Which reminds me. The bad guy is after you, too. And for …as corny as it sounds, seriously nefarious purposes, Gabriel. Guy's name is Garibaldi. Novak Garibaldi. And his elevator does not make it all the way to the penthouse." She finds a chair to perch on, body language indicating how ill at ease she is just on the subject of the man known as the Teacher.

Something about Kory is just… true in who she is. Something that Gabriel can pick up on. That, and he doesn't know a lot of people (very, very few, really) who even come to see him like this, much less bring food and overall try to help him. A friend? Granted, he's only met her twice in person, if you don't count the numerous times he's seen her in his dreams.

Still, at the news that her first error wasn't fatal, the ex-killer frowns. "What happened?" he says, trying to place the name Garibaldi. Doesn't sound familiar at all. "And what does this… Garibaldi person want with me?"

Yes, something's true about her. When you have to make sense to people in dreams, you learn to be very clear in intent and deed in the waking as well, so Kory is genuinely sincere. "Well, you know about Peter's list. And about Pinehearst," Kory says, looking up at Gabriel. "I heard about someone working on the formula, thought he could be of help to us, if we could sway him away from working for Pinehearst." She grimaces; that idea turned out to be a bad one, as evidenced by her continuing to explain.

"I thought that even though he's not really someone we could work with, I could dreamwatch him, see if he thinks about anything we could use. Floor plans to the facility, formulae codes I might be able to take down for someone else to decipher. What I got, instead, is a dream in which he wants to put …a name you used to go by —" And one, apparently, Kory can't bring herself to say out loud — "together with his daughter. Who has a really, really nasty ability."

"In order to crack the planet like an egg," she finishes, shuddering.

Turning away from Kory, Gabriel moves back into the kitchen, grabbing a large wooden spoon from a nearby drawer. He turns to the ziti, stirring it slowly so the heat is spread evenly throughout the dish. Listening to what the woman in the other room has to say, he sets the spoon down with a frown, turning back to her. "Crack it like an egg? How is that— how is that even possible? And how does he even know about…?" The name also goes unsaid for him. It brings up things he doesn't want to think about right now. "I don't understand," he says, looking at Kory. He pauses for a moment, watching her with a curious look on his face. "Do you think he'll try to… hurt you, or something like that?"

"I don't know if it's geologically possible," Kory admits, following Gabriel as far as the kitchen door to watch him and keep the conversation at the same volume. "I don't know how he knows about that old identity," she admits. "But he thinks that it's somehow a great dovetail for his daughter's ability. She's entropokinetic." After a moment to remember her audience, she adds, "Elisabetha Belmont can cause things to come apart. Things break down around her. And that's what had me dye my hair. I need to have at least made the acquaintance of the people I dreamwalk. So I went to see her. And ask her what Professor Garibaldi's really teaching her." As she sees him return from the kitchen, she goes back to the chair.

At the news of what this Elisabetha Belmont can do, a deep frown crosses Gabriel's face. Even if cracking the planet like an eggshell isn't possible, her ability doesn't sound like kittens and rainbows. It also sounds like an ability he doesn't want anything to do with, much less having this Garibaldi fellow tracking him down. "Do you think they need to be…" He pauses for a moment, the frown still there as he tries to figure out the best way to handle this delicately. "… need to be.. silenced?"

Why is it the testosterone always leads to these polite little euphemisms? 'Handled'. 'Silenced'. Kory sighs. "No," she says, firmly, "And even if I did think that was the right way to handle it, Gabriel, I certainly wouldn't be coming here asking you to do it!" She's almost offended at the implication. "You've come so far and worked so hard to become your own person, your own man. I just wanted to warn you!" And, more quietly, she adds, "Protect you. Y'know." Yes, the little dreamwalker is protective of great, big, strong Gabriel. Go figure.

"Elisabetha …I was making some progress with her. She is learning that what he's taught her isn't necessarily all there is. That's what made him come see me and tell me to back off my counter-lessons."

At first, Gabriel simply listens to what Kory has to say, an apologetic look slowly writing itself over his features. Holding up a placating hand, Gabriel tries to calm Kory down. "I know, I know," he says, shaking his head slightly. "Which I appreciate. Warning me. Trying to protect me. But if you're interfering with this man's work…" He takes a look around, letting out a small sigh, and he shakes his head, crossing his arms over his chest. "Don't you think it might be you that needs the protecting?"

Kory shakes her head. "No," she says after a moment to consider Gabriel's words seriously; a moment during which the color drains from her face and returns. "No," she repeats, a bit more certainly. "He hasn't got any special abilities from what I can see. And Elisabetha? She wants to know more about the world he's kept from her. The world I've started to show her. I can help her. She has a problem similar to your old one, I think." That would be one way to describe what the entropokinetic considers her Thanatos. "But …being a little more careful is definitely on the plate," she adds, glancing sheepishly at the floor. "This whole thing started because I didn't tweak his dream so he'd forget me. And we can fix that if we need to."

"It doesn't take a special ability to kill someone," Gabriel says, his vioce taking on a much more serious tone. "I can regenerate— practically any injury I sustain, my body will heal and repair itself until it's like I was never hurt at all. I acquired it from someone else, someone I— hurt, and…" He trails off, going more into detail about how he got the ability than he meant to, eyes moving to the floor. "But even then, all it takes is one well-placed bullet, right here," a finger moves up to touch the back of his head, "and I'm finished." He looks back up at Kory, a frown etched on his features. "Someone without that ability… it wouldn't take much. He doesn't have to have an ability to hurt you, and if you're messing with this plan of his… trust me. I know what it's like to have a plan. To have a desire to do something, achieve something, believe in it like you haven't believed in anything else. If anyone tried to stop me? I wouldn't have hesitated to kill them. I've been there before. If he knows who you are, and where to find you…"

Kory bites her lower lip. She hadn't considered it, not like Gabriel's breaking it down for her. "Then I guess clearing his memory just became first priority," she says, hands clasped over her knee. So they won't shake. "Because knowing where I am is all well and good. But I know where to find him as well. And I do have somebody who can take me right out of his brain."

There's a long pause, Kory's eyes darting to the window, and back when she sees the blinds are drawn. "And if that doesn't work, there's always …my way." But she's a gentle person. That much is obvious to everybody who knows her, and whatever she means by 'my way'? It's something she clearly considers something of a nuclear option. "So …what do you suggest short of …'silencing'?" she asks, since Gabriel understands the mindset a bit better than she does. She's letting her idealism get in the way of her book knowledge. She drops her face into one hand, realizing she's making yet another stupid rookie mistake.

Gabriel moves back into the kitchen only long enough to stir the ziti again, which doesn't seem important at all considering where their conversation has moved, but he doesn't want it to burn and go to waste. Grabbing two bottles of sweetened tea out of the refridgerator (sometimes it's easier than making it), he moves over to where Kory is sitting, taking a seat next to her. "There are… ways of silencing someone without actually killing them," Gabriel says, looking at Kory as he passes one of the bottles to her. "If he wants to meet me so badly, maybe that's the best option to take. I can make sure that he would leave you alone." He doesn't say how he could do that, but he's sure Kory can figure out. "What is your way?"

Kory has her ideas. 9th Wonders and what little Peter told her before she went into Gabriel's head were plenty. She just doesn't think she's worth sacrificing the peace Gabriel has found to make him backtrack. "My way? Nightmares." She shrugs as she says it, accepting one of the bottles of tea with a nod of thanks. "Bad ones. The kind that'd make him sleep about as much as I do." A pause, at which point she has a sip of tea. "And …I don't really sleep. Much."

"Are they really going to stop him, though?" It's not that Gabriel doesn't believe in her abilities— this woman was able to get into his dreams with Peter, and he never knew any better until she chose to reveal the fact to him. He frowns apologetically at Kory, taking the lid off of his tea to take a drink. "It's not.. I don't know. I know we only… really just met, but you know a lot more about me than I do you. You probably know it's not really my nature to try and protect someone with where I've come from. Usually they need protecting from me. But I've seen enough bad things, done enough bad things, that I don't want to see them happen anymore. I stay shut up in my apartment for a lot of reasons. The temptation isn't as high to— well, you know. I try to stay away from the madness the world is descending into. Some people probably look down on me for it." He stands from the table, moving towards one of the windows and opening the blinds, both so a little more light is shed on the room, and so he can look out the window.

"I…" Kory shrugs. "Conceivably I could construct a nightmare fit to crack his sanity," she admits. "But …I don't know if I could actually do it. Which is why asking Sophie to take me out of his memory is the best option. Only problem with that is, he could've made himself notes or recordings in case we do such a thing." She sets the tea down on the nearest flat surface and huddles around her knees, properly shaken now. "…at least I'm starting to think things through."

"I didn't mean to imply—" Gabriel begins, turning back around to face Kory. He moves back to the table, sitting by her again. "I don't know who Sophie is, but if she can do that, it couldn't hurt." He sets his tea on the table, leaning forward, elbows on his thighs so he can fold his hands together in between his knees, watching Kory. "The question is, what do you want to do? It's you we're talking about. Whatever you need to do to feel safe is what you should do."

"I don't want to continue antagonizing him, but I can't in good conscience just bail on his daughter. It's one going hand in hand with the other. That's the problem." Kory leans back agaisnt the sofa. "Sophie's a friend. Memory manipulation is her gift. She could do it. She's seen his dream. And she saw him in the Lair telling me to let him teach his daughter. She knows what Elisabetha is capable of."

She gets to her feet and swigs back her bottle of tea in a number of gulps. "I'm already building a panic room upstairs. And Hiro's working on an escape hatch for me. Since I'm ending up in possession of so many significant bits of information." She looks at Gabriel, mouth twisted into a wry line at how her intended reason for the visit has flipped around. "I will have to give it some more thought. Saving the world — stopping Elisabetha from becoming Thanatos — that's more important than keeping me safe."

Kory takes the bottle into the kitchen and turns the ziti down a little while she's there. "Que sera, sera, I suppose."

The ex-killer falls silent, watching Kory as she speaks and ultimately makes her way into the kitchen. He doesn't seem to really know what to say. Garibaldi could easily be taken care of, while leaving this Elisabetha girl safe for Kory to continue to work with, but he isn't going to press the subject. "If that's how you feel," Gabriel says, but there's no hostility behind it. He remains seated where he is, turning his head slightly so he can look out the window again, eyes on the clouds drifting lazily through the blue sky.

"I know you want to help," Kory says, smiling warmly and genuinely at Gabriel. "And I appreciate it. A lot. It's just I don't want them getting any closer to you. I don't trust what Professor Garibaldi has planned. He doesn't seem to want hostilities, and I promised Peter I'd be careful. I'll give him a chance to come to his senses. And if my attempt fails, then — what happens, happens, and if it's them or the world, well, you know how I feel. The world comes first." She comes back from the kitchen and actually dares to ruffle Gabriel's hair affectionately. "Ziti's ready. Eat up. I'll visit in your dreams tonight so you can see what father and daughter look like." Handy.

"I don't trust that he won't try something— and I respect you don't want them to get any closer to me, but I can handle myself easily. I'm not worried about me." His hair ruffled, Gabriel rolls his eyes slightly, but in a very 'I can't believe I just had my hair ruffled' way rather than 'how dare you touch me' way. Standing from his chair, he waits before he heads into the kitchen. "Are you staying to eat?"

"Okay," Kory admits. The man is powerful. She's just worried given how fragile his psyche was at their first acquaintance. She smiles, though, as he permits the affectionate gesture. "Oh, sure. I also am supposed to be getting heavy hitters together to …um, well, Niki asked me to 'distract Pinehearst' so they can rescue Cass." She shrugs, clearly a bit out of her depth there.

"Thank you, though," Gabriel says with a sincere smile for Kory, turning from her and moving into the kitchen. "For trying to protect me. I'm glad you gave me the warning. I can handle myself, but it's always better when I know they're coming. And if you ever need help in return… you know where to find me." He busies himself getting two plates from the cabinets, silverware, and a serving dish for the ziti, so he can move it all to the table where they can eat.

The Ziti is in a rich tomato sauce, with a mixture of ground beef as well as mild and spicy sausage. And oh, the cheese. How many innocent mozzarellas gave their lives?

"You're welcome, anytime," Kory assures Gabriel. "Like you said, the world needs saving all the time. And we have to look out for each other." She smiles, clearly a bit more at ease at his offer of help. "Thank you. I won't abuse the privilege." She settles down at the table, watching him. He seems pleased to have the companionship, which information she files away tidily in her mind and makes a mental note to visit more frequently, just to shoot the breeze. "Did you ever work out whether you were going to do that project you mentioned regarding Pinehearst?" she asks. It's not the best dinner conversation, but it's what she's got at the moment, and it takes the focus off how helpless and fragile Kory has been reminded she is.

"I didn't," Gabriel admits, moving to set the serving dish full of ziti on the table, and turning back to the counter to retrieve all the dishware and silverware needed. Not much, considering it's just the two of them, and he sets them on the table. "Other things got in the way… everything seems to be happening so fast, from what I've gathered." He takes a seat at the table, serving the ziti for the both of them. "You said something about rescuing a.. Cass? The name is… familiar, but I can't quite place it. What do you mean distract Pinehearst?"

"She's a doctor. She was working on the inside, near as I can tell. Trying to sabotage them from inside, I guess. And she's been found out," Kory explains, waiting for Gabriel's reaction to the meal. At least this time it'll be hot. Despite the psych degree, Kory likes a little validation of her cooking, go fig. "I guess they want something that'll get the place evacuated or otherwise make everybody too busy to notice that Cass is gone until long afterward."

With the ziti served, Gabriel tucks in, taking a bite, and nodding appreciatively. He wasn't lying when he said ziti was one of his favorite meals, and this batch is delicious. Kory's words cause him to put his fork down, however; he looks much more serious. "She was found out?" He doesn't really know who this Cass is, even though he may suspect it was the same doctor he encountered after Peter took him in, but anyone who gets on Pinehearst's bad side… he's seen the ramifications of that up close and personal. "So they're planning on rescuing her.."

"Niki and her husband are, yes," Kory confirms. "They tried to warn her to get out before Pinehearst caught hint something was up, but they weren't fast enough. Niki wasn't really clear on the details. But since I'm kind of the switchboard for our little save the world coffee klatch, I guess she figured I'd know who could help stir things up sufficient to keep Pinehearst busy long enough to get her out of there." Kory takes a bite herself, chews slowly and thoughtfully. "Cass used to work at Enlightenment books, but she also had her own clinic. Remember last year when there was this virus affecting people like us? She was researching the cure."

It's like a lightbulb going off in Gabriel's brain. Cass has her own clinic. "I know Cass," he says, frowning slightly. "She was there when…" he trails off, shaking his head. "That's not important. If they're going to save her… I've been to Pinehearst. They don't mess around. They'll need, like you said, some really heavy hitters." He stops talking for the moment, taking another bite of ziti.

"Your help would be appreciated," Kory says, delicately, since she recalls Gabriel's own opinion on how well people may or may not be willing to deal with his involvement. "She's good people. And I'm pretty much useless in a situation like this. Unless I can peel the details out of Garibaldi's head. And now that he knows what I can do, he might be on his guard and that'll make it harder to get what I need from his dreams."

"My help?" Gabriel repeats, looking at Kory across the table. Granted, he could probably be a good deal of help, but the help he can provide may be outweighed by the reactions he'll get that he's even involved. He wouldn't be surprised. "If you think I would be of use. I would be careful with Garibaldi. I don't know if he can do anything to you when you're dreamwalking or not, but he might try."

"I know," Kory says solemnly. "I'm going to take your warning seriously. That's why I would rather avoid that, and stack things in our favor in the waking." She lifts her shoulders in a shrug. "Cass knows you, and I know you. That alone should be enough to make people realize that you've earned our trust. And if they want to generate drama about that — you can have them take it up with me." She places a hand on the table, palm open. "I trust you, and that's all there is to it. If somebody wants to argue about the past while trying to save the future, I can have that conversation. But we need you for this one, Gabriel. It's that simple."

Watching Kory and taking her words seriously, it's a long time before Gabriel speaks. The ziti, for the moment, is forgotten. He's considering her words, whether he should help or not, and whether it's worth the trouble to go through with it. Granted, Kory has helped him without any reason to do so, other than the fact that she seemingly wanted to. Why shouldn't he return that favor? She says they need him. "… okay," he says, giving a slow nod. "I'll handle anyone that has a problem with me, though."

Kory nods, seriously. "All right. As you wish." She still wants to protect him, even though rationally she knows better. It's just an instinctive response to her first impression of him. A mother's warped affection warping her son in turn. She doesn't want any more warping influences turned on Gabriel. "And thank you." She rises. "Finish up. I'll do the dishes." She picks up her own plate to begin doing just that while Gabriel finishes his meal.

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