Author: "Solus Nemo"
Summary: "As surely as the blade's course is run, maybe my kingdom's finally come." Sylar/Gabriel G.
Author's Note: Just came to me as most things do. This story centers itself between "How to Stop an Exploding Man" and "Kindred", though not so much anymore. I don't know whether or not to make this a one shot, it's so long already – eight pages at last count.
for adult language, violence, themes.
Disclaimer: Trent Reznor would own the song "Sanctified" and that short little lyric I use for set-up. Tim Kring and all the wonderful people behind "Heroes" would own anything and/or anyone related to the show.
"As surely as the blade's course is run, maybe my kingdom's finally come."
The first time he had ever actually helped his father with a project
("restoration, Gabriel. We restore")
other than dropping the impulse jewel onto the floor was in the late afternoon in mid-winter, around his fourteenth birthday. It was after school and so the sun was already setting, bathing Gabriel's small part of the world in an apricot deeply reminiscent of orange flavored jell-o.
Sparkling fruit inspired gelatin clung to the edges of his father's shop windows, keening to the decal of a watch face, longing to touch the words "Gray & Sons" and hide them away. Gabriel strongly wished the frost would wash away the only promise his father had made to his son, would surely ever keep — a life sentence in restoring timepieces.
He frowned, standing inside of his father's watch shop, surrounded by — chocking on — the weight of a thousand ticking clocks, feeling the cold and bitter kiss of that promise etched in glass.
Gabriel Gray, son of a watchmaker and doomed to be a watchmaker himself, wanted no part in "Gray & Sons", not even a distant acquaintance. He was more than happy at home, dissecting the toaster in the passive gaze of his mother's infant snow globe collection. He was quite content with sitting at the kitchen table and putting that toaster back together — maybe even better than before he had ever touched it — just to start all over again. For Gabriel had a
(kind eye and soft touch)
way with mechanical objects. He could easily see the inner workings of things, what connected to what and where and why. It was just a knack he had, a certain je ne se quoi with complex bits of engineering. Gabriel had no problem when it came to shop class, could get an engine to turn over before many of the older boys realized that the awkward black glob they were looking at was called the starter. As a child he had been able to build a Tinker Toy ferris wheel without ever once having to look at the tube for direction.
His mother always insisted that his ability was a gift from God, whereas he was convinced it was nothing special — a fancy that stemmed from the strange maelstrom in his chest, churning with the sinister ardor that comes with the need of being, of doing. It was a complex in a way, a desire to be God. Not his mother's God because he didn't believe in his mother's God as he should, but a God. A Deity. Important. To have the power of manipulation, the almighty ability to alter things and choose who and what lives or dies… that would mean everything, it would mean that a watchmaker's son had a place in the world. A place in the world other than a desk outfitted with bright lights and magnifying lenses, littered with the many bones of broken timepieces in need of restoration.
Oh, how he hated that world, "restoration". It wasn't very much a justifiable loathing either, but a feral reaction to the future laid out before him. The word seemed to defile the very picture that Gabriel longed to see, a future with him behind a gleaming steel desk putting together the machine that will change the world as anyone knew it. The word seemed to whisper with vile breath what Gabriel knew but could never address, that he could never be what he truly wanted to be because everything was laid out before him, etched in the window.
"Gray & Sons", where clocks are not just repaired, they are restored — where Gabriel Gray stood on that cold winter day, watching the plight of orange frost on the window.
He stood in the middle of the showroom, hundreds of clocks sounding as one with such a deafening cacophony as to give Gabriel a headache if it hadn't become white noise. He couldn't hear the death song of his future, that rhythmic tick tock tick, but he could feel it. It pricked his skin much like a hot needle, boring into him in search of his soul.
This place was a dismal one, perhaps the very inspiration for many of Poe's more horrific stories, and one in which Gabriel believed he would die. He had been convinced of this since his early childhood, when the nightmares were quite vivid and frightful in their simplicity.
In those dreams the store was neither opened nor closed, but in a limbo of unknowing because the dreamer had never been able to see the sign on the door. Sleeping intuition had always told him that the finer details — dark emptiness — always pointed toward the logical conclusion that the shop was closed, and for good.
For ever would the door be shut and the sign turned round, for ever would the darkness be creeping over the world and raping white to black. For ever would Gabriel be lying on the scratched hardwood floor, for ever in the shadow of the window's clock face.
There was no blood in any of those dreams, no angry villain with a pension for killing things nor a freak accident born from the tired and distracted mind. There was only Gabriel's dead body, his loafer clad feet facing the door and bespectacled head turned to forever stare with clouded grey eyes his father's spiteful gift.
Those gifts, the clocks, were never white noise in his dreams. They were a raging chorus of throaty mewls and high-pitched screams. Twelve throaty mewls and high-pitched screams. Always a chorus of deafening caterwauling in the pitch black, twelve versus, no more and no less, sounding out to no living creature but to a dead man on the floor in the shadow of a clock decal.
"Gray & Sons" burnt into the fabric of his cardigan.
Standing there in the shop at fourteen, willing the now red-orange frost to eat away the promise of a man more devoted to clocks than his own son — hell bent on giving that son a legacy of non-importance, of worthlessness — and be rid of that dark token, throw it into the violent maelstrom in Gabriel's chest that writhed with the yearning to be important.
Gabriel turned from the window, the pustule disease which proclaimed a life so futile, and addressed his father with a weak "huh?"
The man hunched over the desk at the far end of the store, half-hidden by a wall, did not lift his head from his current
restoration. The husband to Virginia Gray, father to Gabriel, merely continued tinkering away at the cuckoo clock before him. Black Forest, Germany — "made in der woods by elves" or was that BMW? — circa 1880 by LFS, Lorenz Furtwangler & Söhne. It didn't need much, just a replacement lifting wire or two to go along with the bellow tops. Which was a good thing to Gabriel, for the piece nearly made his eyes bleed when he first saw it come into the shop.
The cuckoo clock was huge, three feet high and over two feet wide. On its well-kept face were two beautifully ornate hands, but other than that Gabriel had no good things to say about the piece. It featured a rich oak case entirely ensconced with deer antlers and crowned with a pair of elk, dotted with wild boar teeth, carved roses from what might have been one of the deer skulls, and — last but certainly not least — in place of a bird there was a ghastly carved boar's head holding sentinel right about the twelve marker.
Gabriel's lip curled just thinking about that clock. It was hidden from view behind the wall, yet he could still see it clear as day and heard it calling to him, urging him to ram his eyes through with one of the deer antlers so he couldn't look at it anymore.
Bile searing away the back of his throat, the watchmaker's son pushed his glasses further up his adolescently greasy nose with his thumb.
"What's special, Dad?" he asked.
The watchmaker leaned back in his chair, rolled his shoulders in order to get the stiffness out.
Gabriel always liked to believe that he took after his mother, but unfortunately that was a lie. Once he grew into himself, if ever he would, he was sure to find himself looking just like the man thrusting a pathetic life into his, Gabriel's, hands. The height, the dark hair, the stern face only softened by thick framed glasses and greased back tresses, the black eyes and the curse of overactive hair follicles and having to shave them down ten times a day — it was all there.
He had his mother's vulnerability, sure, but what did that count toward? Gabriel was his father through and through. He was destined to curl up beside a popping fire and read The Complete History of Watchmaking: Complete and Unabridged with Indexes and Footnotes — hell, he'd write the damned thing.
Gabriel's sneer turned into a frown and he sighed, wishing he hadn't asked his father what was so special because on a major level he already knew the answer.
"This," his father said with arms outstretched to the clocks on the wall, nodded toward the timepieces in the glass cases scattered about the room. "All of this, Gabriel, that's what's special. Keeping time, it's a very important thing. Where would we be without it?"
"Better off" Gabriel wanted to reply, but he shrugged a shoulder instead. He had already had the "What if I want to be an engineer instead of a watchmaker?" chat with his father and it hadn't gone as well as a ten-year-old Gabriel planned. A little leniency, a little freedom, why was that too much to ask for?
The watchmaker smiled and waved his son over to the workbench, to the monstrosity laid out for all to behold.
"This shop is our family's legacy, Gabriel. It belonged to my father and when I become unfit it will pass on to you. You should be proud, son."
"Why can't it go to one of your brother's kids, make them proud?" never made it beyond Gabriel's teeth. He walked over to his father in silence but for the howling of the maelstrom in his chest. It pressed against his heart — was his heart — and made it hard for the watchmaker's son to breathe.
He didn't want this. He didn't want to live with a seething want in him to go on unfulfilled, to spend the rest of his life with "Inept" scratched onto his World Name Tag. He wanted to be "Special", "Important", maybe even "God". Instead he was —
"Gabriel, that's why I think it's time."
The watchmaker's son stared hard at the Black Forest cuckoo splayed out on the table. It was vile, the way it laid there, yet he couldn't look away. "Time for what?" he asked, cringing against the clock and the twisted way in which it lay.
"Why, to finish restoring this old girl here, what else?" His father laughed, a sound which always seemed false to Gabriel. "I'm nearly done here, but you can outfit her with her new weights and test her out."
The last thing Gabriel wanted to do was that, but his father was already moving aside to let his son in closer to the beast on the table.
A groan resounded deep within Gabriel's throat.
The watchmaker patted his son squarely on the back and stepped further back behind the boy. It was a memorable moment for him, like a first date or winning touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. Gabriel, on the other hand, just wanted to get it over with. He wanted to go back to the kitchen and disassemble the coffee maker, maybe work on his inaugural speech for whenever he became president of the United States.
It was easy enough to hang the clock on the wall six feet off the ground. It was a cake walk to hang the pendulum, shaped not like a leaf but another bone rose, to the pendulum leader at the bottom of the clock. The problems came when it was time to outfit the hideous clock with its chains.
Gritting his teeth, trying to suppress a screech, Gabriel took one of the thin chains from the table and forced the maelstrom in his chest to calm enough for him to take a breath. It did not calm and he did not get breath, and so he had to delve lightheaded into the clock
(God, oh God)
and attach the chain in his hand to one of the sprockets inside the housing. Sickened in a way he could not explain, staring pathetically at the boar's head in its little house, Gabriel repeated the process with the three other chains. Puss in his throat the color of the promise etched in the window, Gabriel attached the iron weights to the chains.
Ill and wishing to be rid of the over-accessorized clock, Gabriel gently swung the bone rose pendulum to the right and set his left ear close enough to the clock — but far enough away for comfort — and heard that the ticking was uneven. His talent for seeing how things work allowed him the knowledge that he needed to swing the base of the clock a centimeter to the right. He set the time, glad that there were thirty minutes yet to the next hour, and wound the clock by pulling the free ends of the chain in order to raise the weights to the base of the clock.
The deed was done. Staring at the bone roses and antlers and closed door to the home of the boar's head, Gabriel not only felt dirty but also the electric current of that maelstrom in his chest reverberate throughout his body.
No, he did not want the life of a watchmaker, but that was what he had been gifted.
His present, his promise of futility, waited for him every day with a dark hubris that crashed down upon Gabriel like a particularly malevolent storm surge. Every day after school, per his father's request, he would slog down the grimy streets of Brooklyn to his gift. Every day he would stop in front of the words "Gray & Sons", glower and bemoan the future waiting for him and be struck dumb by the arrogance of his prison.
"Gabriel," it seemed to say in a voice slick with pompousness, "aren't you the luckiest boy alive? Stuck with me until you fall dead upon my beaten old floor."
At which point Gabriel would walk with dragging heels into the pustule abyss of emptiness.
And so it went for six more years, until the day his father walked out into the proverbial fog.
Gabriel had been nursing the wounds of a rather mean college rejection letter at the time – "You in MIT? A silly little man like you? How quaint, how absurd!" – and had no interest in dueling with that fetid promise etched in glass. He went anyway, the maelstrom in his chest no longer howling in indecipherable rage but screaming – SCREAMING – with a disparaging rapture which actually pained him.
Sickened by agony – who was he to think that he could ever be something? – it had taken Gabriel a full ten minutes to realize that his mother's frantic telephone calls, the ones hounding him all day, had not been exaggerations after all.
"Your father's gone", and so he appeared to be.
"No calls, Gabriel, not one", and the dormant alarm on the store's answering machine called truth.
"Just left – without a word", and the insidious lack of a 'dear son' Post-It confirmed his mother's tear-soaked eighteenth message.
"What are we to do?" had been her latest question, one Gabriel could not hear for the enraged whirlpool in his chest. The hateful thing had – finally – begun to swallow him.
He stood with the phone to his ear, staring at the most abhorred words etched into the window and suddenly everything
("... appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full moon ... streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.")
was gone. Everything Gabriel had ever looked forward to in his life, any chance of getting away from the bleakness the words "Gray & Sons" betrayed was burnt into a fine black cinder. His father had gone, leaving his only son with these dreams now dashed and the task of caring for timepieces.
And as he stood there, lost in the center of his long festering maelstrom, those timepieces laughed at him. Their rhythmic tick-tocking changed hands from passive to capricious. They stared with faces no longer blank but sardonic, cruel. Their smiles were acidic in their contempt.
01.) The clock I describe (found on eBay, search for "black forest antler&teeth" under cuckoo clocks) is very real and actually not as hideous as teenage Gabriel Gray thinks it is, though for the sake of the story I made it into a cuckcoo. The company, LFS (Lorenz Furtwangler & Söhne, note the "& Son" which was completely unintentional on my part) was an actual clock company in Germany, circa 1836 or thereabouts.
02.) Quotation sited about Gabriel's turmoil is from Edgar Allen Poe's "A Decent into a Maelstrom".
Originally I had paved this epic to be a oneshot, set between the first season's finale and the second season's third episode (in which we learn that Sylar is very much alive). When I began to write this, however, it didn't want to stay within any boundries.