Cautious

Author: Lily Zen

Rating: M

Pairing: Sylar/OFC

Disclaimer: I do not own Heroes. I do own Zabela and Anca.

Pre-Story Notes: I started playing Heroes Survival on the NBC website and developed some pretty cool characters. As a side-project in my writing, I thought I would create a livejournal account and write some stories about them. This is an AU of that, because in my writing, my characters haven't had any contact with the characters from the show. Anyway, I started writing this out of boredom, and I really like the way it turned out, so I thought I would publish it. I hope you enjoy it.

-Zabela-

Cautious.

We were always very cautious around each other ever since we met that first time.

It was silly, really. Some idiot on a power trip was trying to…I don't know, conquer the world or something. I didn't really want to get involved but when Claire showed up on my doorstep all teary-eyed I just couldn't tell her to fuck off. She reminded me of Anca then.

When we were little and her classmates used to pick on her for being weird and foreign she would give me the exact same look. It worked every single time and I always found myself going to scare the beejesus out of the little punks that would dare to make my baby cousin's life hell.

I got dressed then in my cat-burglar best, forsaking my baseball shirt and shorts for head-to-toe black. Yes, I realize what a stereotype that is but it's pretty accurate. After all, you want colors that don't reflect light and tight (but not restrictive) fabrics so you don't snag on anything.

Claire watched as I pulled on my leggings and my suede riding boots, a tight black tee, and a leather bomber jacket. Her eyes were curious like a child watching its mother dress to go out for the night.

"So I guess criminals really do wear black," Claire marveled.

My lips quirked up in a small smile while I violently brushed my hair, trying to remove all the loose strands, and pulled it back with efficient tugs into a long, tight braid. "Not all. It's just smarter, really. Why do you think the army wears camouflage?"

I don't carry lock picks or weapons usually. It's just more stuff for me to try and hang on to if I shift. As it was, I was already pushing it but New York was just too damn cold to go without a jacket.

"To blend in," Claire stated and my brow furrowed. I had already moved on to a different topic in my head—planning, organizing.

"So where are we going?" I asked.

"My dad's place. Almost everyone is meeting there. Oh and, um…"

"It's Zabela," I said at her hesitation.

"I know. I knew that, I'm just so used to thinking of you as 'Ruby,'" Claire admitted.

Without my permission, I smiled. "Good. That means I did my job right." But Claire's face told me another story—she looked sad. "Claire, I know you don't like the fact that I lied to you. We were friends—I hope we still are, despite that—and you feel like I betrayed you, but please try to see things from my point of view. I'm a hired gun—sometimes a corporate spy, other times a thief, and even sometimes a killer. My life is based on deception. We met while I was on a job, so of course I couldn't tell you the truth. In fact, even if I'd just been me, I wouldn't have told you the truth. You just don't tell people what you do when you're in my line of work. It's nothing personal."

She looked up at me with that same expression as the one she'd worn on my doorstep and said, "I know. I can't forgive you right now though. Maybe someday."

"But you can trust me with this? This saving-the-world business?" My words were spoken in incredulity.

"Yes, because I know that somewhere inside you there is a person who cares very deeply about this world and the people in it. If you didn't, you wouldn't have blown your cover for me."

I bit my lip. That was kind of true, but I would never admit it.

"Anyway," she shook her head, "What I wanted to say was that Sylar might show up. Its nuts but it seems like this time around he wants to play on our team, and I've got to admit that it would be a definite advantage having him fight with us."

Cocking my head to the side, I repeated dumbly, "Sylar?"

"Yeah."

"Sylar. As in I'm-gonna-cut-you-open-and-steal-your-gifts Sylar?" My eyelashes fluttered in time with my heartbeat.

"Yeah. Are you okay, Zabela?" Claire stood up and moved towards me, probably in case I swooned.

Brushing aside my momentary fear, I visibly straightened myself and stated, "Yes, of course. I'm fine."

"Do you know Sylar?"

"Just by reputation," I grinned nervously, "I have to admit I'm nervous about being in the same room with him. Did you know that the last person to have my ability died in 1785 and he was my ancestor? Isn't that crazy?"

"Um, I guess so. Not really though. We know that abilities are hereditary." Gently, she touched my arms, looking worried. "Zabela, are you scared that Sylar's going to try and take your ability?"

"No."

Claire smiled sadly and said, "Liar. Just so you know, one of Sylar's abilities is being a human lie detector. If I were you I'd get over your fear real fast. He likes it when you're scared. Sylar is just a guy on a power trip. He's like any other psychopath you've come in contact with. You're a bad ass criminal—you must've met guys like this before."

That was true. If you took away Sylar's power I had met men like him time and again. I had killed and fucked and stolen from men exactly like Sylar. I'd even worked with men like Sylar before. Once you took away his ability, he was just like a lot of other assholes out there.

With that rationalization in place, I stepped back from Claire. "You're absolutely correct." The room brightened up and it was then that I realized that the shadows had been responding to me without any sort of conscious effort on my thought. If just the thought of Sylar had made me lose that much control, I needed to absolutely keep a lid on my emotions that night. I couldn't afford to make a mistake.

Prudente.

Claire's father lived in a small apartment over a Japanese restaurant. There were already several other people (with abilities) present, making the place seem even smaller.

I shook Noah Bennet's hand. It was warm and dry, which felt really nice because my hands were super cold from the air outside. Then again, I usually have a lower core temperature. I think it's because I spend most of my time covered in shadows, which are always a bit cooler than the sunlight. He smiled and said, "It's nice to meet you, Zabela. Claire has told me a lot about you." There was an unspoken 'not all of them good' at the end his sentence. I nodded slowly and gave him my polite-yet-cold smile.

"I've heard about you as well, Mr. Bennet, and not just from Claire. Your reputation precedes you." His smile took on an edge and he released my hand.

I knew who Noah Bennet was and all about Primatech. So he may have known I was a criminal, but I knew of at least a dozen specials who would have loved to string him up by his heels and slowly, creatively kill him.

We both looked away from each other for a moment and when we looked back at each other I could see that a truce had been agreed upon. I smiled and let Claire introduce me to her biological uncle, Peter Petrelli, her grandmother, Angela Petrelli, and a woman named Tracy.

Claire and I drifted into the kitchen where she fixed me a cup of tea, and by the time we reemerged a few others had shown up. Seating was rapidly disappearing, so Claire and I sat back to back on a trunk in the corner, sipping at our tea automatically. When people approached us Claire would introduce me and they would quickly move on, feeling more comfortable with the other specials they had met before. That was okay with me though.

"Well, well, isn't this cozy?" I heard a man's low voice drawl. The sound of it snaked down my spine and coiled right above my tailbone. My eyes had drifted away from the room, from reality, studying the books Noah had left laying about curiously.

Claire's back stiffened against mine alarmingly quick. "Sylar," she greeted cautiously and the name made the knot in my back tighten. I could see the shadows as they started to waver, responding to my anxiousness. I dug up my will then and forced the emotions down, away from me.

"Who's your friend, Claire?"

"None of your business," she snapped back at him.

"Aw, come on, Claire-bear. I've been so nice to you lately."

She scoffed. Literally. I almost laughed. "As if that makes up for killing me."

"You really need to learn to let things go, Claire. It was just that one time and look, you're just fine." I could tell he was amused and I wasn't even looking at him. Then I forced myself to turn.

For some reason I remember being so surprised that he was handsome. I'd always figured that someone who had done such awful things must certainly reflect that on the outside. Then again, I don't. Still I took one look at that tall, lean man with his dark hair and intense eyes, and I felt my stomach drop for an entirely different reason.

"Shut up, Sylar," Claire hissed, but his attention had already shifted to me, drawn to my motion.

"Hello," I said, because I find that's generally a good opener.

"Hi there," he said slowly and with a grin that I could only describe as predatory, "And you are?"

"Zabela."

"What a pleasure it is to meet you, Zabela," he said and offered me his hand, "My name is Sylar."

I felt my mouth pull into a grin that matched his. "It's nice to meet you too. I hope you don't mind, but I'd prefer not to shake hands."

"Germophobic or is it ability-related?" he responded while he let his hand drop.

"Its ability related," I purred though I did not elaborate. In truth, I was only worried that if I touched him, he could absorb my power. Hell, for all I knew he didn't even need that. Technically I hadn't lied.

He smiled. "Understood."

"Okay," Noah started, "I think everybody's here…"

Sylar straightened and turned his strange focus onto Mr. Bennet, but stayed near me. I tried to ignore my own reactions to his nearness, not because I was afraid but rather because I was unafraid. I hadn't felt myself react to someone like that in a very long time.

Yes, there was Niko, but that was an unrealistic relationship. He didn't really know me—not the real me. All he saw was the Zabela I projected for him—the fun girl, the activist girl, the not-real girl. His father knew me more for myself, but then again Nikolai Senior was of a slightly different breed. Ex-KGB with an ability to boot, he'd done things he wasn't proud of either, though in his retirement he was trying to make up for it.

I was unrepentant.

I had no reason to be.

I was a bad person who hurt other bad people for selfish reasons, and I had long ago accepted that.

Niko was a good person who did good things and expected the same of everyone else. If he ever found out the truth about me, I knew I would never see him again.

It made sense that I would respond to Sylar the way that I did. Technically we had way more in common with each other, and I've always liked men who could challenge me in some way.

Ah, but my mind wanders…

Back to the story.

Noah wanted Peter and me to do reconnaissance. "All you have to do is touch Peter and he'll temporarily absorb your ability," he said, and I paused in mid-motion with the teacup raised to my mouth. Bennet, of course, noticed. "Is that a problem, Zabela?" His tone implied that it had better not be, but of course it was.

"Yes, unless he also absorbs my level of control and skill," I responded, setting my cup down and rising to my feet. There was a challenge in Bennet's bespectacled gaze and something in me demanded I physically rise to meet it.

Peripherally, I could see Sylar's interested gaze flicking back and forth between the two of us. He had been surprisingly quiet thus far, listening to the information being spewed, only occasionally interjecting with a comment or question.

"I think Peter can handle it," Bennet smiled and the shadows began to lengthen towards him as I grew irritated with his condescension. My grin took on a razor-sharp edge, a look that often overtook me just before I killed someone. A shadow whispered up my spine, bolstering my resolve. I didn't know these people (sans Claire), I didn't care about them (sans Claire), and I wasn't about to let them use my out-of-control ability.

Someone cleared their throat, and Peter stepped into my line of vision, not exactly in front of Bennet but definitely taking the focus off of him. He looked serious, the scar on his lip white with the tension in his jaw. "Maybe you should explain what you mean."

Oh god. I so did not want to tell a roomful of specials the intimate details of my ability. The shadows that had started towards Bennet seemed to retreat, and the room darkened noticeably where I was standing as the shadows prepared to defend me. To someone who wasn't looking for it, they would hardly notice.

Behind me somebody touched my leather-covered arm and I started, locking gazes with Claire. "It's okay," she said quietly, "Peter's a good guy. He's not going to do anything without your permission." For some reason, I believed her, though my mouth drew down into a frown. In my experience no one was that good.

Clamping down on my emotions (being in such a small space with so many specials had me on edge, not to mention Bennet's pissy attitude [not that he really had room to talk]), I shifted my focus back to Peter.

"My ability responds largely to emotional state and subconscious thought. It took me years to obtain the level of control over it that I have. I manifested when I was fifteen and killed three people unintentionally because I was feeling angry and scared." The shadows shivered, remembering my parents and the man who'd forced it all to the forefront, and I forcibly calmed myself, ordering them back into place. Some people looked surprised when the room grew brighter, even Peter, but I just shrugged.

"Shadow manipulation is nothing like what you've encountered in the past, I guarantee you. It is always active, even in your sleep. There is no off switch. The closest I have ever been able to achieve to that is control, and I still have to consciously work at that. Not to mention the potential disaster of an unskilled shift…"

"I'm sorry?" Peter raised his eyebrows in obvious confusion.

I huffed, saying, "Jeez, Bennet, I figured you would've briefed him all about me if your plan was power absorption." I didn't even bother waiting for a response, just kept on going. "Another part of my ability in addition to being able to control shadows is being able to dissipate into a shadow, and I can actually travel through other shadows. Of course, if you don't know what you're doing, you could end up anywhere. Again, it's all about subconscious thought…and most of the time when you reform, you've lost your clothes. Shifting physical objects outside of your physical self isn't instinctual and requires practice. Trust me.

"So, in conclusion, you would be more of a hazard than a help with my ability. Mr. Bennet, you should have asked me first how my power worked before you came up with such a dumb idea." Claire snorted and made a choked noise like she was trying not to laugh. I remembered then that their relationship was pretty rocky at the moment.

Then I quite calmly picked up my tea and resumed my original position. "Though I will quite gladly go on your recon mission by my lonesome. I am very good at working by myself." Sip.

"I never would have guessed," Bennet drawled.

My eyes flicked back to him. "Your sarcasm is noted."

"I think I hate her," he grumbled so quietly I almost didn't hear him.

Sylar chuckled.

"That's acceptable," I responded, "But professionally irrelevant to this situation. I have no particular feelings for you one way or the other, but I do know some who might." My tone was friendly enough, but my words were a warning. Sometimes I thought I should just get 'don't fuck with me' emblazoned on my forehead.

Tracy was smiling and Sylar was outright chortling.

"I think I like her," he spat out.

"Good," Bennet said, "Go do recon with her."

He stopped laughing and instead glowered at Bennet. I also chose to glower at Bennet. It was glowering in surround sound.

"Only if I get a no-kill guarantee clause from him," I barked and jerked my chin towards Sylar.

His thick eyebrows went up and he smiled. "Why I had no idea my reputation was so well-known."

Angela chose that moment to intervene. "Sylar, just agree to it. Given your habits, she's not exactly out of line to ask, and we've wasted enough time here."

I swear he pouted. "Oh, alright. Shake on it?"

"Fuck off," I responded coolly and slid my hands in my pockets. Claire giggled. "Meet me on the roof of the building across the street."

"Which street?" I heard him ask, but I was already shifting, taking the time to extend my focus to my clothes. It would totally suck to show up naked.

Ostorozhnyee.

He was a bad, bad man, this take-over-the-world fellow. For the life of me I could not remember his name. Then again, I didn't really care. I could see him through my shadow-eyes, surrounded by shades of gray ranging from light to dark. Did I forget to mention that when I shift I see in grayscale? Well, I do.

I flew from the shadows inside the room back down to the street, and up the opposite building. When I reformed I was crouching on the roof, half hidden by a ledge. My hair fell around me, an unnaturally red curtain to see through the world, and I ground my teeth in frustration, realizing that I had lost the rubber band securing the end of my braid.

"Your ability is very interesting," I heard from behind me. Naturally, I was startled, and as I whirled to face the voice, the shadows snapped up around me, high and tight and impenetrable, like body armor or a shield. Then I registered that it was Sylar but still I didn't tell the shadows to go.

"Thank you," I replied cautiously.

"Kind of jumpy, aren't you?" He stalked closer to me, and if I'd had anywhere to go I'm sure I would have moved away.

"Job hazard."

"What do you do?"

"Illegal things, and I get paid a lot of money to do them."

"I'm sure you do." He sighed and continued, "You can lower your…defense mechanism. I'm not going to take your power--at least not tonight. You were right; such a sensitive ability could easily ruin things in inexperienced hands." Sylar stepped closer to the ledge, resting his hands on the cold stone, and I gradually released my friends, urging them instead to provide cover for both of us—just a little deeper darkness in case the target glanced out of his windows in our direction.

Standing up, I posed in a similar way. "You've met the target before?"

"I have."

"What's your take on him?"

"He's narcissistic and greedy, but he tries to cover it up. He talks about things like belonging, but what he really means is belonging to him. More than anything he wants power—power over others. I can relate."

"I'm sure. I've met a lot of people like you. People who think power is equivalent to status and fear is the same as respect."

"Are you lecturing me, Zabela?" Sylar asked, but his voice was amused.

"No. I have no moral high ground to stand upon. I am killer not because of some psychosis but because I chose to be…because I am greedy and I equate money with power and I don't care what I have to do to get it."

"'Money: there's nothing in the world so demoralizing as money,' [1]. At least you know your faults," Sylar agreed, "As do I. This man deludes himself as to why he does the things he does. We have no illusions."

"'The most common sort of lie is the one uttered to one's self,' [2]. I lie to everyone. I can't afford to lie to myself as well. 'Know thyself and you will know thine enemy,' [3]."

"'Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power,'" [4].

"Already I've learned way more about you than I knew before," I said in my normal speech patterns.

"Like what?" Sylar responded coolly.

"Like you're well-read. I wasn't expecting that."

His lips quirked upwards. "What were you expecting, an imbecile?"

"Not quite that dumb," I laughed, and then my focus shifted, "He's moving. I'm going in for a closer look." Gathering myself, I shifted to the shadows and took off again.

Vorsichtig.

With so many specials working together, we stopped the villain, of course. It was touch and go for a moment, but I had to admit that Sylar really pulled us through. I wondered what it must be like to have such power, but then I realized that in my own way I do.

I never expected to see Sylar again. Aside from that strange moment of connection on the rooftop, we had no reason to communicate.

Then one day I ran into him at the ethnic food store of all places. To say I was shocked would be an understatement. New York is a very large city. The odds were incredible. We shopped alongside one another speaking in quiet voices of neutral topics. It wasn't until after we had checked out that I realized I had bought far more than I could carry.

My frustration must have been palpable or maybe he noticed the sudden darkening of the shadows. "Do you want some help?" he offered slowly, like he wasn't sure about it.

Eyeing him, I nodded hesitantly.

I wasn't sure about leading this man to my apartment, but I did it anyway. He took one of my bags and I scooped up the other two. Surprisingly, he was very polite when I let him in. Oh, sure, he looked around with curious, analytical eyes—eyes which I still found quite compelling if I was to be forthright—but he did not touch anything or venture further into the apartment than I did. I left my bags on the dining room table and thanked him with a genuine smile. He smiled back so sweetly, and I wondered if it harkened back to a time when he was Gabriel Gray or if it was Nathan Petrelli who made him smile so (Claire had told me all about her biological father and dropped bits and pieces of Sylar's story as well).

Then he left and I was simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

Almost two weeks later, my baby cousin came over for our regular lunch. Usually we went out, but Anca had insisted we just hang at my place. "I just want to chill today," she sighed over the phone, "It's been a rough week. Besides, I get the feeling that you don't really want to go out either."

That much was true and I didn't bother to question how she knew that.

Anca was gifted as well, though very differently from me. She was classified as a clairvoyant, and always knew things although you hadn't said a word. "There's something you need to talk about," she added, "And you won't do it if we're around a bunch of other people."

So I made cabbage rolls and zama [5] and used my mother's recipe for bread. I thought about making crepes for dessert but decided against it—crepes were a lot of work and I'd already done my fair share for the day. Still, I think for both Anca and I it was nice to have a taste of home, of family every once in awhile. Normally I forsook my roots as my family had forsaken me, but I had been feeling off-balance lately and the smell of the food was a comfort to me.

She noticed the second she stepped in the door. "Mm, smells like buna's," Anca noted while she toed off her shoes. We shared a smile of understanding and hugged tightly. "I've missed you, cousin," she stated when we released each other.

"I feel the same," I responded. It was a ritual of ours, that greeting. It was the first thing she said to me when she spoke to me after years of silence and separation, like I had been lost. Now we say it every time we meet like a benediction.

We ate sitting on throw pillows at the conversation table, like we used to when we were young, trading stories about our lives. After lunch I cleaned up automatically while Anca took a deck of playing cards out of her knapsack. I knew what was coming. She held them between her hands and closed her eyes, settling herself just like buna would do, and then she began to shuffle.

"I had a dream," she began in her strange, dreamy mystic voice, "That you were trapped in a cage of darkness, but you could not tame it as you normally do. This darkness was not your darkness, but another's that you were clawing at. Sometimes it would waver and begin to dissipate, but then it would return stronger than ever. It frightened me, Zabela. Tell me of the darkness you fight."

I turned on the dishwasher and left it to quietly hum in the background as I returned to Anca. Her dark, straight hair—so like my own natural color—curtained around her olive-skinned face, and her full lips were pursed in concentration. She flipped the first card but did not open her eyes. "There is a man," she stated, holding the card between her thumb and middle finger, "Conflicted like a land devastated by generations of war. He was not always a bad man, not innately. His was an evolution toward darkness."

She dropped the card and turned over the next. "There was a change in him recently, something that forced him to reexamine himself. He did not like what he saw anymore, but he is at a loss of how to change it without losing the essence of himself. There's a great struggle in him between a man who wants to be good and a man who wants to be powerful." Her eyebrows drew down into an even deeper scowl. "He does not know how to find balance anymore."

Again, the card clattered to the tabletop and was swiftly replaced with another. "Mm, and here is you," she said with a smile, "You find this man attractive, compelling. He is your equal in many ways, and yet…there is a part of you that fears him. No, not him—his love of power; you fear that his love of power will demand your destruction, and you are nothing if not a survivalist. Yet despite your fear, you want him. Very interesting."

Another card. "He wants you, though he's not sure what for. Part of him finds your power appealing—he covets it, craves it, wants to know how it works and what it can really do."

One more card. "Another part of him is genuinely interested in you, in your learned reserve and your careful control, and your intelligence. He likes the way you speak, the way you think, and wants to know more. Then there is the part of him that is very much just a man, full of base instincts and carnal desires, and you are very appealing to that man." My cousin smirked with her eyes still closed. "Very appealing."

Suddenly dry-mouthed, I cleared my throat. "What about the dream?"

Anca casually flipped over the next card. "The events in my dream have already been set in motion. You are battling his darkness at this very moment, and you don't even realize it. Oh, Zabela, how is it that you always draw such dangerous men to you?"

Like it was something I did consciously.

"My pheromones are encoded just for crazies, I guess."

My cousin opened up her dark eyes and laughed at me. "No offense. I know you don't do it purposely. In your conscious mind you choose to pursue men like your Niko—young, idealistic, mild. They are safe and normal and exactly who you think you should be with—" she turned a new card, "But there is a part of you always left hungry, untouched by these men. It's like soy—it fills you up, but you never forget the taste of a prime cut of beef."

"Nice comparison."

"I thought so. In any case, this man, he must be prime rib if you are so fixated on him." Anca grinned at me, flipped another card absently and immediately frowned. "I feel that I must warn you, Zabela. This man may look to you as an example or come for advice. He believes that you have found the balance that he struggles for. So be careful where you tread, cousin, because a wrong step may send him careening down into a darkness he cannot escape from."

"Is that it?" I asked, alarmed by her gift.

She shrugged, regarded the remaining cards in her hand and said, "Guess so. I'm not feeling any other tugs right now. I'll keep a psychic eye out for more." After she had calmly put her deck away, Anca stood up with a huge grin. "Well, I have to get going. I just remembered that I have to do some research on campus. Big project."

"Um, alright," I stated and pushed myself up to see her out, "Call me, I guess."

"Will do!" she chirped over her shoulder as I shut the apartment door.

Anca's words disturbed and aroused me in tandem. I was very attracted to Sylar/Gabriel/Nathan—whatever the hybrid personality wished to be known as—but I didn't want to be anyone's mentor or considered responsible for another's well-being. She was right—I may look like I have it together, but the truth was I decided my morals and ethics on the fly. If they were going to get me endangered, I easily tossed them aside.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard a knock at the door. As it was the room got about ten shades darker and I had to force things back to normal before I opened the door.

"Hi," I said dumbly.

"Hi," Sylar greeted me, "May I come in?"

Oprezan.

Feeling like I ought to bop my cousin upside the head (obviously she had disappeared suddenly for a reason), I stepped aside and waved him past. My eyes wandered and shamelessly checked out his ass as he walked in. Then I immediately scolded myself. Not out loud, of course. That would have been silly.

"Shoes off," I said absently, and he obliged me.

"It smells good in here," he stated.

"Thank you. I made cabbage rolls and soup for lunch."

"Hm, any special reason? You don't strike me as the type to take so much time on one meal just for yourself."

"Ha, no, I'm not. My cousin was here." I showed Sylar into the living room and indicated he should have a seat. "Can I get you something? I have leftovers, if you're hungry."

"No, but thank you. Maybe just some water?"

I nodded and fetched it rather quickly, reluctant to leave him for too long, although whether it was out of concern for me or for him, I had no idea. I sat down in the armchair across from him, crossing my legs the way I do when I'm in professional mode, though my jeans and thermal tee shirt looked the exact opposite of that.

Sylar was sipping his water and I was watching him curiously until finally he said, "Relax. I'm not here to kill you." Interestingly enough, my back relaxed and I leaned back into my seat a little more.

"Then why…?"

"I would have called ahead, but I don't have your phone number," Sylar stated with a smile.

"Oh. Well, no offense, but you didn't ask."

"I didn't think you would give it to me."

"That's probably true. I'm slow to trust people with the details of my life."

"Understandably so."

"Sylar, why are you here?"

Instead of answering me right away, he leaned forwards and put his glass down on the table. "I'm not sure. Part of me wants your power, no matter what I have to do to get it. Another part…just wants more intelligent conversation…" Anca had already told me there was more to it than that but I figured maybe even serial killers could be shy when it came to certain things.

"If part of you is going to attack me, Sylar, I won't hesitate to defend myself, but if part of you would much rather sit and trade witty repartee; I will be an eager participant. I think for people who choose to lead lives like we do, it can get incredibly lonely."

Sylar's brow furrowed. "You know, I never used to feel that way, not really, but all of the sudden…"

"Things are different. You're different. Claire told me what happened."

"Ah, yes, you and Claire. How exactly did that happen?" He sniggered.

"I was working a job on her campus. That's where we met—it's a long story. Suffice it to say that she discovered I was not really Ruby and I had an ability too."

"She must have been furious. Claire has a thing about lying."

"She was. The night I met you was the first time she'd spoken to me in over three weeks."

"Ouch."

I shrugged. "It would not have been too great a loss for me had she decided never to speak to me again. Little to no personal life is one of the professional hazards I long ago came to terms with."

"Hm…yes. I thought I had too, but I seem to be increasingly…lonely these days." The expression on his face was of a lost child and god I so wanted to touch him, comfort him, but I was still scared that he would lose the battle within himself.

Since I could not touch him, I tried to use my words. "We chose difficult paths. Solitary ones. Most people couldn't handle the things we do--I have tortured and killed, destroyed livelihoods and families, and done it all without a backwards glance—most people would never even consider the kind of life I lead an option. But in the end I have desires that I thought could never be sated with a passive, ordinary life, and a set of skills which make normalcy unattainable for me. Of course, as I grow older, I have come to acknowledge that I could have chosen a different path—I just didn't want to. It was easier for me to twist myself to do the things I've done than to try and fit myself back into a cookie-cutter existence."

"Exactly. How do you go back when you have already gone so far away?"

I smiled. "You don't. You find some place altogether new. Did you know that I do volunteer work in Russia?"

"No. Why Russia?"

"I have friends there. We help specials who have lost their way. A lot of the time they're poor and disenfranchised. Some of them can't go out in public really because of their power, so we help sneak them out of the country, find safe houses, deliver supplies to them. It's not much and it certainly doesn't even begin to make up for the things I've done—and continue to do because sainthood is boring—but it makes me feel like I'm taking positive steps.

"I've also changed my professional life a little bit. I try not to take jobs anymore that require me to kill people, and I try not to hurt people that I think are decent—which it's sometimes hard to tell. Anyway, my point is that I'm trying to build a sort of code of ethics."

"Are you suggesting that I adopt a code of ethics?" Sylar was amused with me again.

"I'm saying that I have. What you chose to do is, of course, up to you."

"Why won't you touch me?" Sylar asked abruptly. The shadows in the room writhed briefly as the urge to do just that swamped me. I took a breath and they settled while Sylar's dark brown eyes watched them. "Just fantastic," he breathed with a slight smile, and then seemed to refocus on his original question. "You're very adamant about not touching me, I've noticed."

I bit my lower lip and recalled Claire's warning. "To be frank, I'm not sure how your ability works, how you take someone's power, but I'm working on the assumption that it requires contact."

Much to my surprise, Sylar erupted with guffawing. It frightened and confused me, and the shadows seemed to tremble in the corners of my apartment. Sylar's shrewd eyes caught the motion. "Not really," he said when he'd calmed himself, "What exactly do you know about my ability?"

"Not much," I admitted, "I work with a lot of specials, and I've learned to respect their privacy, so even though I was curious I refrained from doing any snooping."

"I wish I could," Sylar said almost wistfully, and then cleared his throat, I assumed to get himself back on topic, "They call my ability intuitive aptitude. Like yours, it never turns off. I am constantly analyzing things, learning how they work, and I can even fix something if it's broken. I don't need to touch or kill to take an ability—in the beginning I did, but my knowledge of specials has grown tremendously and my power has evolved past that. All I really need now is to create an empathic connection."

"So you could have taken my power at any time?"

"Yes."

"Did you?"

"No."

"Why not?"

He shrugged and the movement was quite graceful. "To be honest with you, I already tried when we were talking up on that rooftop. Somehow you kept me or maybe yourself from making the connection."

"And in the grocery store?"

"The meeting was pure chance, and yes, I tried then too. Understand that it's not something personal, it's not something I do willingly. It's a compulsion. My ability creates a sort of hunger in me…"

It seemed to me that everyone had a hunger they couldn't fill today.

"To understand things, to know things inside and out, and powers are by far the most fascinating things. I have to have them, otherwise I don't feel complete."

"Like smack," I mused.

"Pardon?"

"You're an addict. It doesn't matter how high you just were, all you can think of is the next high and how much higher you could get."

"An unusual but strangely apt comparison…"

"And now? Are you trying to take my power now?" My voice was distant. I felt as though I was completely removed from the situation. I felt like I did when I worked—focused but empty. The thought occurred to me that maybe it was my own learned disconnection from the world that had stopped Sylar from taking my power.

"Not right this second. I was earlier though," he responded casually.

"And?"

"No dice."

"Hm. Interesting."

"I think so."

"I need your ability, Zabela," Sylar implored of me suddenly, "It infuriates me that I can't have it. I want it—I need it."

A edgy grin sprouted on my face. "That would be enabling your addiction, Sylar. I watch Intervention. Enabling an addict is the most harmful thing you can do for them."

"Zabela, you were talking earlier about ethics. This is about as ethical as I can get regarding this subject. I feel like I could hurt you, cut you open and spill out your organs with my bare hands. I feel like a…like an addict in withdrawal."

His words frightened me. They were so close to the tragedy that had been the catalyst for my manifestation, the tragedy that still haunted me no matter how I tried to hide from it. After all, I still bore the scars, and they were an ever-present reminder of things. I felt my lungs stop and the room grew so dark that Sylar became practically indistinguishable for me. My vision began to shift to nothing but shades of gray.

"Zabela?" I heard him say, but my body had already completed the shift, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry if I scared you. Please come back. I swear I'll be on my best behavior."

Slithering across floors and walls and the crack between the door, I coalesced in my bedroom, naked. I hadn't done such an inadvertent shift since I'd first manifested.

"Zabela? Are you still here?" Sylar called.

I leaned against my closet door, shaking, and slipped inside. "Yes," I called from the safety of my girly, materialistic sanctum. I went to grab a robe.

"Are you alright?" he called, sounding much closer, probably right outside my door, "Did I scare you?"

"What do you think?" I called back scathingly.

"Yes?"

"I kind of want to kick you in the dick right now!" I yelled, choosing to be angry rather than terrified.

"Would you like your clothes? Your jeans miss you."

"What?!" The robe slipped from my fingers.

He laughed. "That was a joke, albeit a bit tasteless. One of my abilities is clairsentience."

"Are you telling me you just power-perved on my jeans?!" Forgetting my own nudity and the robe I'd dropped in my fury, I stomped towards the bedroom door and flung it wide open with my gift.

Sylar appeared to be almost in tears, he was laughing so hard, but I just fumed my way right up to him and snatched my clothes out of his hands. "You fucking asshole! Pervert! Sa te fut!" [6].

"I apologized," he managed to choke out.

"Da-te-n pula mea!" [7].

"That's not very nice. I have no idea what you're saying."

"Oh? You don't speak Romanian? Good! Du-te in curul dracului, curva!" [8]. And on I went. When I ran out of steam, Sylar was simply leaning up against the doorjamb, leering at me.

"Done? Feel better?"

I was a bit preoccupied panting for breath to answer him.

"Good. Now, first off, I would like to say that you must be very proficient in Romanian to know so many curse words. It sounds like a very interesting language. Secondly, I don't like being insulted in English. What makes you think I'll appreciate it another language? Finally, even though my ears are ringing from that tirade, I'm willing to forgive you because you look so damn cute cursing in your birthday suit."

Hesitantly, I glanced down, noticing for the first time that I was indeed naked. "Oh my god," I groaned as I stormed into my closet, "Could this get any fucking worse?"

"Oh, yes," Sylar called out helpfully.

"That was a rhetorical question," I sing-songed back at him as I dumped my power-perved on clothes into the hamper and pulled on fresh, perv-less underwear, a red peasant skirt, and a black tank top. When I finally glanced up my eyes were sparking in a dangerous way, in a way that I hadn't seen in a very long time—angry eyes. I calmed myself before the shadows got away from my control, and waited until the flush left my face.

When I reemerged I felt like a much calmer, saner version of the woman spewing foreign curse words that they were her first language. Sylar was meandering around inside the room, slowly running his fingers across the chaise lounge I do most of my reading in, the yoga mat I use five days a week, the small artsy bookshelf I keep my prized book collection on, and the peacock-colored silk dupioni duvet on the bed.

It made my jaw clench that he would invade my private space that way, because I had no doubt that he was using his clairsentience to peek into my life. I eyed the curly wrought iron headboard and tried not to think about what he was seeing. Instead I just cleared my throat.

"Ah," he turned with a slight smirk, "Zabela, I thought maybe you had disappeared again. Now…" he sat on the bed, "…do you want to tell me what that was all about?"

"Not particularly."

"I thought we were getting to know one another," Sylar mocked.

"Sylar, if you truly want some sort of change in your life, this is not a good start."

He huffed. "I know. I just can't help myself."

"Get out of my bedroom and maybe I'll tell you."

"Done." Swiftly he stood and glided out of the room. I followed and closed the door behind me.

When he was perched on the couch again and I was in the very same chair, I said, "When I was fifteen, I was stalked and attacked by a local man. He forced me into my house at knife-point, restrained my parents, and proceeded to rape me repeatedly. When I had the gall to get angry and try to fight back, he stabbed me quite a few times. Something about the situation caused my ability to manifest. I killed him and my parents, and trashed my house in the process. So…I don't like it when people say they want to cut me up."

I glanced up from my demurely folded hands resting on my elegantly crossed legs. Sylar, well, he didn't look exactly stricken, but he did look understanding. "My apologies," he said slowly, "I got carried away."

"Accepted, but if you do it again, I won't be held responsible for my actions."

"That's…reasonable," he agreed, "You know I almost had it, right? When you were yelling at me, you were so close. By the way, are you going to tell me what you said?"

"No," I replied, "You like to learn things, so look it up." We were both utterly silent then, and I made a decision then that altered everything. "If I consent to this non-harmful absorption you have to agree to a few conditions."

I watched as his whole face lit up like a boy on Christmas day. "What?"

"You may not use my ability against me."

"Alright."

"You will agree to practice with me until I am satisfied with your level of control, and until I am you will agree not to use my ability at any other time."

"Okay."

Nervously, I scratched a fingernail over my knee. "And you have to promise you won't hurt me."

"How many times am I going to have to make that promise, Zabela?" He shot back wearily.

"Until I believe you're capable of keeping it." Looking him dead in the eyes, I said, "You may have control now, but you said it yourself—you're always hungry. Just look at what happened earlier."

"But I don't want to kill you."

"That doesn't mean you won't," I whispered emotionlessly.

Sylar rubbed his temple in frustration, grumbling, "Fine. I promise I won't hurt you."

"Then we have an accord, Mr. Sylar." I put on my best British accent, extending my hand as both a sign of trust and to seal the deal.

"Gray," Sylar corrected me as he took my hand in his. At first he gripped me like I was made of China, but I tightened my grip on him until he squeezed back. "My legal name is Gabriel Gray. I think in this situation it's alright if you use it."

"Okay," I agreed, more than a little awed at the privilege, "So how's this work?"

"Use your power," he said.

"Like this?" I questioned, nodding to our clasped hands.

"Yes."

So I did. I made them grow and shiver and dance. I showed Gabriel how I could make them into weapons that only I could use, and how I could shift solid objects…

But nothing worked. Finally he barked, "You're not letting me in!"

"I'm…sorry?" The shadows crawled around me comfortingly as I started to shrink back, a little alarmed by his frustration.

"Goddammit, Zabela, you're still not making a connection with me!" His grip tightened, and he tugged me forwards so forcefully that I slipped off my chair and banged into the coffee table. "Shit, shit, I'm sorry," he said and his hand softened, but I kept moving. It was then that I realized he was using his telekinesis on me.

"I am not a doll, Gabriel," I growled when he set me down next to him.

"Shut up. I'm trying to do this a little more ethically and you're making it difficult," Gabriel snapped back. With that he grabbed my head and he kissed me.

At first I wasn't sure how to respond, how this related to that at all. I wondered if it was some sort of ploy or if it was genuine interest on his part. I thought about whether or not Anca had called—probably not—with more news on this increasingly awkward and complicated situation. He bit my lip; I suppose to remind me that there was something going on. Slowly, hesitantly, I kissed him back.

As though I had given him permission for something, I abruptly found myself crushed up against his lean frame. I marveled at his heartbeat against me, at how fast it seemed to be. His hands rested on my back just above where I would have told him to stop, the warmth of them palpable even through my tank.

Still I felt adrift from reality, and I was positive that Gabriel knew it too. He released my lips breathing unevenly, and his hand gently stroked my left hip, rounding the tender, feminine curve of it, coming to rest atop the space where I carried the scars. I looked down at the place where he touched and felt a fissure form within me. Leaning in close, Gabriel whispered in my ear, "Its okay."

The fissure widened into a crack at the same moment my eyes did. I wanted to run away, to disappear, but I couldn't find it in me to do so. He pulled back just far enough that I could look in his eyes, strangely soft and sweet-looking, but still intent. I swallowed, and I swallowed my fear and my self-loathing and my hurt. I put my trust in him, a withered flower he could easily crush, and I kissed him.

I kissed him so hard our teeth clicked, which made me laugh, but then I slowed down and I really kissed him. Our mouths moved against one another's with ease and passion. I wondered jokingly if I could sate my hunger with him and exactly what Anca was going to say the next time she called. "You have a wandering mind," Gabriel whispered between kisses.

"I'm an intellectual deviant," I purred, and he laughed as he kissed the sensitive spot over my pulse.

"Or you have ADD," he replied smartly. I ghosted my lips over his jaw and bit the corner of his lower lip in retaliation maybe a little harsher than would be considered playful. Gabriel just licked the spot and grinned. "Maybe a little deviant."

"'It is what it is,'" I quoted in mock-seriousness. [9].

Gabriel just ran his hands down my legs, under my skirt, and up onto my thighs. I shivered (and the shadows shivered) though I didn't mean to. "Very interesting," he murmured, stroking his hands up underneath my tank, pushing it up ever higher. In the end, I was the one who pulled it off and threw it away from us. I heard a crash as it knocked over a bookend which I righted via my gift.

He cupped my breasts, the pads of his thumbs running teasing (read: frustrating) circles around my tightened nipples. I exhaled sharply and shoved him backwards so that he laid on the couch, and then used my gift to push his shirt up, touching his skin like an extra pair of hands. When he made a sort of half-groan, I smirked against his neck and whispered, "It's a multi-functional kind of power." He let a choked laugh which was cut off when I gently closed my lips around his adam's apple and sucked. I felt it bob as he swallowed, and then I felt phantom hands touch my ass and go lower. I squeaked when I felt my skirt lower itself from my hips to my knees.

"I want it off," Gabriel said matter-of-factly. Truth be told, so did I, and so I stood up and let the fabric fall to the floor while I played with the waist of my black boyshorts. When his eyebrows arched in question, I made my decision, saying, "Come on. I like to fuck in comfort and my bed here has yet to be christened."

I was aware that as I turned on my heel and began walking that I was trying to gain control of the moment, forcing Sylar to follow me if he wanted me, and subtly withdrawing emotionally. The control and the crass words helped me distance myself, my casual attitude a mask to hide how close to the edge of some inner precipice I was. Such behavior was a thing I had perfected over many years.

I wasn't sure if he was following me to my room until I got body-slammed into the wall just outside my room. A shocked yelp made its way out of me and then Gabriel was looming over me, his litheness suddenly intimidating as he leaned with his arms on either side of my head. His serious eyes made me gulp back whatever I'd been about to say. Instead I just breathed and did my best to look haughty and amused.

"I know what you're doing, Zabela." He bent down slightly so we were intimately close. "I understand how you work." The eye contact was inescapable. The heat of him sank into me and I noticed idly that he must have tossed aside his shirt before he came after me as tension coiled inside of me. "You want me. I know it. I have this gift, you see…" his voice was quiet and even while he feathered kisses along my neck and collarbones, "It lets me see whatever it is that you want—your hopes, desires…and right now, what you want most is me." His lips moved into a wide grin. "It's flattering. Of course, I know you, and so I know that you also crave safety, security, and you know that I can't offer you those things…so you're pulling away. Now, Bell, I just can't have that."

And my mind whispered 'fuck, fuck, fuck,' at a frantic pace, unsure whether it meant the verb or expletive. 'Fuck, indeed,' I thought wryly.

"Don't call me 'Bell.'"

"Why?"

"It's a stupid nickname. I don't do nicknames."

"You're not really in any position to give orders," he remarked with a chuckle.

I tried to push myself up off of the wall, but found I could hardly move. A sound that could only be described as a growl found its way out. Sylar…Gabriel…whoever he was just grinned and slanted his mouth over mine in reply, devouring me with teeth and tongue and lips. The sheer force of it made it impossible for me to not respond. Meekly, shamelessly, I let him have control of that kiss, and the shadows pulled him closer, hips settling against mine in the way that men and women are designed to like puzzle pieces.

When I was young, just before the accident, I remember sleeping over at a friend's house. We stayed up all night gossiping and giggling in the way young girls are wont to do. Inevitably the discussion turned to boys, and my friend told me about a boy in class she had a crush on. 'So who do you like?" she'd asked, and I shrugged saying, 'No one in particular.'

'Oh, come on, there must be someone!' she cried. Again, I shrugged. 'Not really. I don't really know if I like a boy until I kiss him.'

'That's true,' my friend sighed, 'I love the way boys feel when they press all up against you and everything's lined up right. That's how I pick who I'm gonna date.' I laughed at her. 'No, seriously! My mom says that she knew my dad was the one when they kissed and their bodies fit together perfectly. Kinda gross when you picture my 'rents, but totally romantic in theory.' I was still laughing incredulously when she threw a pillow at me.

I thought of that moment as I stood sandwiched between the wall and Sylar's body, feeling his hardness between us. It was ridiculous and I discarded the thought almost as soon as it had fully formed, but there it was. He broke away with a gasp and a chuckle, and I found that sometime during the kiss, he'd released me. My arms were wound around him like a snake, and he lifted me with his arms under my derriere, my legs coiling around him automatically.

When he released me, I dropped onto my bed without a sound, stretching luxuriously the way I do whenever I lay on it. Gabriel made a sound low in his throat, clambered up onto the bed like a giant cat, and licked a line from the top of my underwear to the top of my throat. He nipped at my chin and tugged on my lip, saying, "Not so hard, is it?"

My eyes narrowed. I didn't like that he thought he'd won some sort of dominance over me. Then the expression eased into a smile as I stroked his chest, hands stopping to rest on his belt buckle. Yeah, that shit needed to go away. I undid the clasp and whipped it out, laughing when I cracked it in the air and he jumped a bit. I arched my hips up against him, rolling them in a way designed to tantalize as I used my gift to pop the button and slide down the zipper. He moaned and pressed himself into the motion, and I was the one chuckling then. "I don't know--feels pretty hard to me."

"Tease."

"Not if you intend to follow through," I sing-songed while I palmed his ass underneath his jeans, "Which I do." I moved against him again and again his hips flexed back. I hadn't had so much fun getting laid in a long time. "Off," I commanded, tugging at his jeans.

"What's the magic word, Bell?" he snarked back.

"Now," I added in a low, menacing tone seconds before sinking my teeth into his pec, drawing a little blood, and pulling back to suck. I was sure if he didn't have Claire's ability that I would have left an impressive mark. Sylar growled, fisting the covers next to my head.

"Good enough," he said when I'd stopped, and moved enough to shuck his pants. I noticed that his underwear went with them and smirked, bending my legs up to pull off mine as well. Then my shadows wrapped around him, moving his body back to mine until he covered me like a blanket. My heels rested on his butt as I giggled (embarrassing, but true) at his expression.

"Minx," he whispered as we kissed again.

"I don't like that comparison," I said when I needed air, "People kill minxes and make coats out of them."

"That's mink."

"Same difference. Where do you think the word 'minx' came from?"

"Something else entirely?"

I bit his shoulder for his know-it-all attitude and barked, "inchide!" [10].

"Clearly I need to buff up on my Romanian…" Gabriel drawled and then trailed off as ran my hands up his back, arched, and brushed him with my wetness.

"Are you going to fuck me sometime this century?" I asked casually, laughing when he grumbled under his breath and pinned my hands to the mattress telekinetically. He sat up then on his heels and eyed me spread out before him. "It would serve you right if I left you here like this," he said slowly as he ran just his fingertips up the inside of my thighs, "but I'm a compassionate man."

When I felt two of his fingers enter me, stretching my passage, my eyelids fluttered closed. "Oh good," I mumbled and my hips moved in counter-rhythm with his hand. Fuck, I felt so good and so far the only parts of him inside me were phalanges. [11]. "Shit, go faster," I pleaded when he started rubbing my clit with his thumb and arched my back in delight as he did just that.

I felt weight settle over my scarred lower abdomen and I opened my eyes abruptly, staring at his other arm over my tight muscles. His flawlessness seemed to accent the scars that had long since turned into haphazard silvery-white lines. Some people hardly noticed, thinking they were stretch marks if they didn't touch them and notice that the texture was completely different, but I never forgot how they'd gotten there.

And then it occurred to me that Gabriel's head was resting on my thigh as he stared up at me with dark, curious eyes. He flicked his fingers just so inside of me that I bit my lip to keep a very unladylike sound in. He smirked and bent to kiss my clit. "This is fun," he stated, then licked me. The unladylike sound found its voice that time. "Very fun," he mumbled against me, keeping my hips pinned as my body strained for more. My fingers combed through his hair while the darkness moved with my ecstasy.

"Please," I mewled when I could find the will to make something coherent come out of my mouth. Of course I couldn't finish the thought, but I'm pretty sure Gabriel had a good idea of what I meant when he did something with his fingers and mouth that pushed me over the edge with a shout.

I was aware of the darkness suddenly swamping the room, rendering the overhead light fixture useless no matter how hard it tried, but was helpless to try and control it. My world had narrowed down to the sound of my own pulse in my ears and the orgasm barreling through me.

When I found that I could function again I cracked open my eyes to find Gabriel laying next to me, licking what was surely my essence off of his fingers and looking quite proud of himself. "I take it that worked for you?" he asked when he noticed my eyes on him.

"It was…fun." I felt his still hard length pressing up against my hip, and I found that despite already having had my satisfaction, I wanted more. I used my gift to tease his cock, and then was startled to feel a sudden reluctance in them. Turning my own eyes up to Gabriel's, I saw him smile at me and state, "Use your hand."

"So I see sometime during all that you were able to copy my ability," I stated, trailing my hand over his hip in an ironic imitation of what he'd done to mine earlier. He shifted obligingly, giving me more access to that part of him I wanted to sink myself down onto and ride until we both reached completion. I wrapped my fingers around him and experimented until I found a grip that he really liked.

"Yes," he said as his hips flexed in time with the motion of my strokes, "When you came. It was amazing. Your gift is…amazing. It permeates every facet of you. The things you've shown me are only a fraction of what you're capable of."

"Fascinating," I purred as I used my other hand to tease his sac.

"Yes…" he hissed, and then still my hand on his length, "Stop."

I cocked my head to the side. "Is this the part where I get to pony up?"

He blinked in confusion. "Excuse me?"

"You heard me."

"You want to…?" Gabriel's voice trailed off when I helped him roll over onto his back and swung my leg over his body. "I guess so," he answered his own question as I chuckled, grabbed his dick, and lowered myself in quick succession. He let out a primal grunt at the joining.

I wasted no time, placing my hands on his chest, moving in the easy pace I always started out in. Nikolai compares it to a horse's canter. I don't really care what it compares to because it always gets me off and that's what matters.

Gabriel's hands cradled my ass as he began to move as much as his position allowed him to. However, Gabriel's not really an on-his-back kind of guy. Not usually. As he got closer to his peak, he grew frustrated with my pace. I could tell because the shadows were snapping across the walls and his brow was furrowed. I tightened my legs on his hips and began a quick roll like a shark in water. He moved with me fluidly and resettled into the new position with the ease of familiarity.

He kissed me sloppily before he reared up and fucked me in earnest, his thrusts so hard that I slid in small increments higher towards the headboard. Every move drew little sounds from me and I watched from heavy-lidded eyes, my hands gliding over the slick skin of his back and ass (I'm definitely an ass-woman), encouraging him toward his release.

When I felt myself getting close again I reached between us to circle that swollen bundle of nerves. His strokes grew frantic and uneven, and Gabriel leaned down to touch his forehead with mine. I whispered to him then, my dirty little confession, "When we met at Bennet's, I wondered what it would be like to fuck you. It didn't matter to me, the things I'd heard. I wanted you anyway."

Gabriel let out a moan, took my mouth in a rough, heady kiss, and at the moment I felt my orgasm bow me on the bed and tighten around him like a fist. His hips surged forwards as he let out a low grunt, bit his lip to where it bled, and came. I struggled through my pleasure to watch him in his, satisfying some strange compulsion I seemed to possess. I watched as the darkness surged again, making the room look pitch black, only I wasn't sure if it was him or me.

When his arms sagged, I cradled him to me, and we both just breathed. I watched in silence as the darkness breathed with us. After he caught his breath, Gabriel withdrew and moved to lay by my side. I wasn't sure if he was a cuddler or even if this was the kind of tryst where cuddling was acceptable, so I let my hands rest on my stomach.

I wondered if I should the regret process now or if I should wait until he was gone.

I didn't look at him because I wasn't sure I wanted to face what was on his mind.

That's the thing about hooking up with someone you hardly know—you never know what you should expect afterwards. I bit my lip. It didn't really matter what I was feeling in the moment—I was very carefully not feeling anything, actually—because I'd essentially made a contract with him.

"Tuesday," I blurted out.

"What?" he responded after a moment.

"I'm free Tuesday, so that would be a good time for me to start teaching you stuff." I sat up and tugged my hair into a rough braid.

"Alright," Gabriel agreed and sat up slowly, "Any particular time?"

"Let's say two o' clock just in case I have things to do in the morning." Standing on legs that felt like jello, I finally turned to face Gabriel, smiling my best professional smile and leaning against the footboard.

"Okay," he agreed and stood, obviously taking his cue from me, "May I clean up?"

"The bathroom is in the hall," I replied, "First door on the right." There was another door connecting it to the walk-in closet, but I didn't want him wading through my possessions, remembering his clairsentience. He moved to leave the room and I slid into the closet after scooping up my panties.

Alone and with my back against the door, I suddenly felt better. My muscles felt loose and limber, my mood was calmer, and I took the time to settle my whirling mind, using my underwear to clean myself.

I dropped them in the dirty laundry basket, debating whether I should get fully dressed or just pull on some sweats. 'Well,' I thought to myself, 'If he's leaving, there's no reason I shouldn't wear sweats. A little R&R would be nice.' So I pulled on gray yoga pants and a Marilyn Manson t-shirt from the Grotesk Burlesk tour, secured my braid with a pony holder and left my sanctuary.

Gabriel was waiting in the living room, fully dressed. He looked up when I came in, smiled, and asked, "Tuesday then?"

"Tuesday," I agreed and walked him to the door.

"Thanks for…" he gestured uncertainly.

"The power or the sex?" I asked, deliberately lacing my voice with humor. I was genuinely interested in knowing which meant more to him.

"Um, yes," he said and I had the genuine thrill of watching him blush, "Bye, Zabela."

"Goodbye, Gabriel," I responded and slowly shut the door behind him. I was simultaneously relieved and sorry to see him go, and conflicted about how I felt about Tuesday.

-FIN-

[1] Sophocles, Antigone.

[2] Nietzsche.

[3] Socrates said 'know thyself.' Sun-Tzu, in the Art of War (and I'm paraphrasing), said 'know thyself and you will know thine enemy.' I think both quotes are relevant, but I chose to use Sun-Tzu given the nature of Sylar and Zabela's conversation.

[4] Tao Te Ching.

[5] Zama is a traditional Romanian soup made from green beans, chicken, parsley, and dill.

[6] "Sa te fut" means 'fuck you' in Romanian.

[7] Go fuck yourself.

[8] Go fuck the devil's ass, bitch.

[9] Tony Sasso. I have no idea who he is, but I've used this phrase about a million times in my life. It's one of those that fit almost any situation.

[10] Shut up.

[11] Phalanges are fingers, just in case you're like 'wtf is she talking about!'