Cruelty in Kindness


amato_icon.gif ethan_icon.gif munin_icon.gif

Scene Title Cruelty in Kindness
Synopsis Munin changes Amato's bandages before receiving an unexpected visit from Ethan.
Date October 18, 2008

Cliffside Apartments — Amato's Apartment

While the warehouse works as an adequate place to meet and plan, it is not outfitted for the requirements of daily life. For that, Amato has found a roost in the Cliffside Apartment building, even if it is a temporary place of residence. As it is, it is very sparsely furnished. A single chair. A table. A mattress. A scratchy wool blanket. A large black duffel that has now been emptied of Amato's suits, which hang in the singular, small closet, lies inside the bedroom door. It is the very spirit of monastic life.

Or it would be were it not for Munin. The frequent presence of the English waif has definitely had it's toll on Amato's Spartan lifestyle. There is the majority of a bean bag type structure in what might normally be considered the living room area where many of Munin's belongings, or at least those that the girl doesn't carry on her person, are scattered around the chair which has been dented into more of a nest than anything else. It is, however, appropriate.

As the sun sets on the city, Amato sits in the relatively wide windowsill of the apartment where he lays his bones to rest from time to time, his blond head resting on the glass, blackened and distorted by age and heaven knows what else. As a subtle favor to Munin, the apartment is on the top floor, giving her easier access to her avian fellowship.

The man is dressed down, but he is at 'home', as it were. Lacking any shirt save for the ribbed, sleeveless undershirt, Amato's bandaged shoulder is visible, and the medical-taped gauze is showing the slight signs of wear, the edges curling and the fabric beginning to discolor with that telltale yet pale rust color. At his feet is a large, somewhat conical something covered with a white sheet.

Seated in a chair beside the windowsill is the aforementioned English waif herself, a first aid kit open upon her lap. She's no doctor, but she can see that it's past time to change Amato's bandages so his wound doesn't get infected. Careful not to nick his skin, she slips a pair of scissors beneath the gauze and begins to snip at it, each cut fraying the fabric a few more millimeters than the last. Like the hands of its handler, the instrument is small and thin, built for precision rather than strength. She'll take her time.

"I don't see why he couldn'ta just taken you to a street doctor," she says, her voice soft. "They never ask any questions, 'least not with me. This is a butcher's work."

With each brush of Munin's skin against Amato's exposed arm brings a flash of some sinful moment in her life, but they only appear as winces from Amato. He has seen them all before, but they are not any easier to deal with when experienced multiple times. "Please," he eeks out through his teeth. A butcher's work apparently hurts as badly as it looks. "Do not tell /him/ that." The fact that Kazimir didn't pass off the duty of Amato's repair to someone else was an effort to teach him a lesson, sure, but it was also, at least in Amato's eyes, a way for Kazimir to show his own affection. He did it himself rather than put Amato into the hands of a stranger.

"He is kind," Amato says as he pulls his head from the wall to look down at his female compatriot. His pale blue eyes move from Munin to the covered object near her. He paused, considering the likelihood of her already knowing its contents before he adds, "Surely you know that."

"Nobody never said there can't be cruelty'n kindness," is Munin's well-tempered reply. When he winces, the corners of her mouth turn down into a rueful frown and draw a quiet sigh from her nostrils. She should have put on gloves before she even thought about going near him. "I'm sorry," she adds, almost as an afterthought, though it isn't clear if she's apologizing for what she just said, or if she's apologizing for touching him without a protective layer between them. "Your shoulder is a mess, s'all I'm saying. Might not heal up right the way he's done it."

Then she doesn't know. If she did, she wouldn't have reacted that way. "It is better than it becoming infected," Amato says, though it is the sort of thing someone says in order to safe face and deny and potentially worse reality. Munin's concern is not lost on him, however, and when she apologizes, a small smile curls onto his face despite the pain.

"I picked up something for you today," he says as nonchalantly as he can in a situation like this. It isn't a lie. He /did/ pick it up, and it is for her.

Munin gives Amato a weary look, her green eyes dark with some foreign emotion. "Like I don't already have enough things," she chides him, though her heart isn't really in it. "S'bad enough I'm littering up your flat." She removes the bandage and, after folding it up, sets it aside where it won't get in the way. As she speaks, she opens a bottle of disinfectant and uses a large cotton swab to dab gingerly at the wound, not wanting to hurt him more than he already is. "Can't even find my own place."

"This city is an unkind one, Munin," Amato says in a slightly sterner tone. "You don't know how much you out there on your own would worry me." Not that he doesn't trust her, but temptation is a strong force. "I have no problem with you staying here - you know that." The unveiling of that cryptic present can wait until after Amato is once again bandaged. He pauses, daring to glance at the carved-up skin. "How is it?" he asks, afraid of her answer.

"Bad. You'll have yourself a real nice scar when all's said an' done, but I s'pose it could be worse." Munin purses her lips and blows on the wound to speed up the disinfectant's drying process. "You could'a caught it with your face." And then he'd be dead. Silent again, she squeezes out half a tube of Neosporin onto a fresh dressing and uses a tongue depressor to distribute it evenly across the bandage's surface.

That smile only grows larger as Amato sinks to rest his back against the window's frame, awaiting the application of his bandage. "For thou hast been a shelter for me, and a strong tower from the enemy," he recites before he closes his eyes. "Those whom have the Lord God on their side need not know fear."

Ah, the Lord God. The one point of contention in Munin's relationship with Amato. As always, she says nothing that might suggest she feels differently than her protector — instead, she simply nods and mirrors his smile with one of her own. "People living deeply have none," she agrees, "just like Anais Nin says. I picked up the Delta o'Venus at the flea market last night. Maybe you want to give it a look when I'm done?"

It is a book that Amato does not know, and his expression communicates that much. But it has at least one contextual clue in it. "Venus was a pagan god. A false god of the Romans before they saw the light of the one, true Lord of us all." It's a condescending tone, delivered with the narrowed, 'preachy' eyes that are customary with this line of Amato-thought. Watching Munin for a moment more, and seeing how the line of reasoning did in fact fall in line with the word of God, the once-monk submits un-characteristically soon. Then again, it is Munin. "I should read it only to know what sin you have potentially exposed yourself to."

"It's really just a subjective thing, innit?" Munin says, beginning to wrap the clean bandage around Amato's injured shoulder. She takes care to make sure the gauze is tight enough to stay in place but not so tight that it cuts off his circulation. "Sin, I mean. As long as it don't hurt nobody, I figure God won't frown too badly on it."

"Munin," comes that Sunday School Teacher voice out of Amato again. If he didn't need her to finish attaching the bandage, the evocation of her name might be accompanied by a jerk of his arm. "All sin is equal in the eyes of the Lord."

"S'always the same with you, Amato." Munin stopped letting his attitude upset her a long time ago. Now, at least most of the time, she tolerates his lectures, unable to keep the fondness from leaking into her voice when she teases him. "God wouldn'ta made the whole wide earth if he didn't want you t'enjoy it. Live a little, yeah?"

If it weren't for the pain, it is likely that Amato would handle such a statement from Munin as he has to similar ones in the past. Instead, his stern expression melts away, replaced by exhaustion mixed with some semblance of that pain. "There are those among us who do not have that luxury, Munin," he says in a quieter voice. Glancing once again to the shrouded object, he nods to it. "But you are young. Such cannot be expected of you." Yet. "Let it breathe a moment. Indulge yourself. Indulge me."

Three loud knocks come from the door. The force behind the knocks shaking the door each time he hits it. The Wolf stands patiently outside the door, he folds the piece of paper in his hand and tucks it into his black pants pocket. Some would double check, make sure they had the right room number. Ethan stopped double checking a long time ago. If you don't get it the first time, you're too late. The man is dressed in a grey t-shirt with a short black trench coat over it. He wears a pair of black jeans and black combat boots. He waits…

Munin might be a skeptic, but it's hard not to believe in God when she was praying for divine intervention to shut Amato up just a few moments ago. "That'll be one of the neighbors, most likely," she tells him as she uses a safety pin to fasten the bandages. "You stay put." Dusting off the front of her shirt, she rises from her chair and sets the first aid kit down on the floor at her feet. "I expect they'll just want to say hullo, seeing as we're still so new." She makes her way over to the door and, lifting herself up onto her tippy-toes, presses her cheek against the door, squeezing one eye shut while the other peer out the peephole. It takes her a few seconds to recognize the man standing on the other side of the door, but when she does she's quick to crack it open just enough for Ethan to see her face in return. "You're real, righ'?"

Neighbors? In a city as unfriendly as New York, post bomb? It's hard for Amato to believe, especially considering his recent run in with the metropolis' 'finest'. "Who is it?" he asks gravely when the response isn't the usual. There is no reason for the technically higher-ranking 'soldier' in Kazimir Volken's army to obey Munin, and who when she doesn't answer quickly enough for him, Amato gets up from his seat on the window sill to walk toward the door.

"Realer than you." Ethan says in his cockney accent with a wink to the girl behind the door. "'Ello princess." Ethan says semi-cheerily. "Happy to see me?" Taking a step forward, the Wolf places his shoulder against the door and pushes it open. Not forcefully to hurt her or anything, just enough to get in, and forcibly suggest she take a step or two back. Once in, the man smoothly shuts the door behind him with one hand. The other hand goes to rest on Munin's shoulder, wherein he goes to plant a kiss on her forehead.

Munin is happy to see Ethan. When is she not? She smiles up at him, her eyes bright and filled with unexpected joy. They're just a few people short of a real family reunion. "Does Kazimir know you're 'ere?" she asks, brushing away her bangs from her face after Ethan's lips have found her forehead. "He didn't say anything t'me. Did he say anything t'you, Amato?"

Ethan Holden. What is Ethan Holden doing here, of all places? For a moment, Amato's usual 'God has a plan, and it is God's will which we do' doctrine falters for a moment. The look in his eyes as he watches the larger, more physical man lay hands and then lips on the girl, can only be described as fiery frustration.

It is Munin who jerks him out of his smoldering trance. "No. He did not," is Amato's clipped answer - each short word carefully enunciated. "I thought you were still overseas." Why did he have to come here now?

Smiling down at her, he gives her shoulder a squeeze before releasing it. Ethan nods, "Of course 'e does. 'E told me to be 'ere." The Wolf's eyes wander lazily over to Amato. A small smirk. "Oh hey there buttercup, nice to see you too."

Ethan wanders in, taking a look at the sparse flat. "This is a real tip top place you've got 'ere. 'Ave you done any work at getting MTVs cribs over ere? They'd have a field day." Inspecting the place, the man goes to plop himself down on the mattress. "Well I was still overseas, but I'm not anymore, am I? How are you two doin'? Don't we care about each others feelin's anymore? Christ. America's done a bit on you 'asn't it?"

"Don't you mind him none," Munin tells Ethan as she locks the door behind him. "He's just sour 'cause he's hurting. You would be too, if'n you got shot by the En-Why-Pee-Dee." Because getting shot by the police is somehow worse than getting shot by somebody else. "Can I get you anything, Ethan? I think we might gave some coffee in the kitchen."

"It is close to the things we need most," is Amato's cold response. Those 'things' really amount to one 'thing', and that is Kazimir himself. Chief in his decision was proximity to the warehouse and Munin's birds. "And I am alright, considering. Though I'm sure the local law enforcement won't be disturbing us again anytime soon."

He glances around the room, which he cannot argue follows his own nature than Ethan's, or even Munin's for that matter. "If you would like to find a finer place to recuperate, I will not stop you. I cannot say that the company is the most…amiable." Amato hasn't had much time to apartment hunt, but it is certainly on his list now, given current events. "And you, Ethan? Your journey was uneventful?" Courtesy demands courtesy.

"Coffee would be a dream, darling." Ethan calls out to Munin. Though he arches a brow. "Got shot? Well my god Amato." The man gives his old friend a wide eyed look. "Shot? That must be a nightmare, Amato. How are you even standin' right now?" The veteran and former black ops agent says without any sarcasm in his voice.

"I don't mind, Amato. I'm sure you did the best you could." A glance to the apartment. "Very well. I guess we should get down to business then. I've got orders from the boss. The three of us are going to be workin' together for a spell. Hope that finds you two quite nicely," Ethan says with a charming smile.

Tomorrow, Munin will take some time to properly explore the neighborhood. Apart from the flea market she discovered by coincidence the other day, she hasn't a clue what else is in the area — what they need, more than anything, is a grocer's. Yes, they have the basic provisions in the cupboards, but there's just something about fresh food that livens the spirits. Even a bag of oranges placed in a bowl on the kitchen counter would brighten up the place. "That's a'ight," she says softly, her tone and body language growing more subdued now that the conversation has shifted over to business. Let it never be said that she's one hundred percent comfortable with what Kazimir does.

Business. Yes. Amato walks as tall as he can while feeling in inch tall toward the single chair in the room, taking a seat and putting both hands on his knees, though the left causes him some pain that is dealt with a tightening jaw. It is hardly Amato's place to question the desires and intentions of Kazimir, and so he doesn't linger long on the fact that Ethan has been called in, chalking it up to the building and solidification of force on this new battlefront. Or perhaps Amato's own recent failures. "Do you have specifics, Ethan?" he asks in as cordial a tone as he can conjure.

"No, Amato," Ethan says in a fairly sarcastic tone. "Let's just run outside and see what 'appens." The larger man replies, not so cordially. "Yes. Boss has placed me in charge of the work he's been doing now. All your intel, all your information comes to me." Ethan explains flatly. He says nothing plainly, he's been in the world of spies and taps for far too long to do that. "These things that e's been doin' aren't gonna look like that anymore. That's why I'm 'ere. Pin it on those terrorists, and maybe make 'em pay for it a bit along the way." Sitting up, Ethan flexes one hand open and closed.

"But for now, I want to know everything you know. About everything. Let's just play a little game of who knows more shit." He says, tilting his head at each word before giving them both a glance. "Whoever tells me more, wins an ice cream cone. How bout that? So. Tell me about these terrorists, tell me about the evolved ones in the area, tell me about your neighbors, tell me about the woman you saw joggin' in the park. I'm 'ere to do business. And we're going to do it perfect."

Munin finds that there's still coffee in the coffee maker from the batch she made earlier. Sure, it's lukewarm rather than piping hot, but these aren't exactly luxurious accommodations — it will just have to do. She returns to Amato and Ethan, a mug cupped between her small hands. "It's late," she points out. "There's nothing we know that can't wait 'til tomorrow, Ethan. You just got in. Shouldn't you be jet-lagged as hell?" Translation: Please don't start a fight. Just this once?

It is a wonderful idea, and Munin earns a smile from Amato because of it. "She has a point, Ethan. Nothing either of us can tell you will expire by morning." Looking to Munin more directly, Amato raises his eyebrows before tilting his head slightly toward the still mysterious gift on the floor to his right. "Munin. You have kept me waiting far too long, and while Ethan's arrival has undoubtedly brightened both of our evenings, if you could indulge me in … opening your gift, I would be quite delighted."

Ethan's eyes narrow for a moment. Wait until morning? The man eyes Amato for the moment. If it wasn't for Munin's presence he would probably have the man tell him everything he ever knew within the hour, and get it in writing as well. Cursive! But his gaze softens slightly as it moves to Munin. The down to the box. "Fine then. Morning it is." He concedes. Reaching out Ethan goes to take the mug from Munin. "Thank you, princess. Well get on then, open it. We don't want to wait to indulge Amato now do we?" Taking a sip of his coffee, Ethan waits patiently for Munin to indulge Amato.

Receiving gifts isn't something that Munin has experience with, except perhaps on Christmas and her birthday. She is, truthfully, more curious about what she did to deserve a present than she is about the present itself. "You really shouldn'ta got me anything," she says, kneeling down and grasping the edge of the sheet between her fingers before she gives it a short, sharp yank. "'Cept maybe a new pair o'rainboots—"

But it isn't a box. And Amato didn't do anything but make a suggestion and a pick-up. But that doesn't mean that Amato won't smile and take the credit in silence.

The sheet, once removed, reveals an iron bird cage of considerable size. Inside, resting on a perch, is a bird with rather unremarkable plumage. When met with the light, it ruffles it's feathers, tilting it's head in a curious fashion.

And then it begins to sing.

The nightingale's song is a sweet one, and there are only a few things sweeter that would bring Amato more joy.

The first thing Munin does is unlatch the door to the cage so the nightingale can spread its wings. While she doesn't usually like seeing a bird behind bars, there's a smile on her mouth and rosiness to her cheeks that wasn't there before. Yes, she might've been able to use a pair of rainboots more than another bird, but this gift acts as something even more valuable than dry feet: a pleasant reminder that she has people in her life who are sensitive to her unique wants and needs — even if they don't always get along with each other. Ethan and Amato, case in point.

"Thank you."

October 18th: Phase Two

This is the beginning of a storyline.

Next in this storyline…
Concerning Miss Childs

October 18th: An Informal Request
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