Denial of a Death Bed


joseph_icon.gif teo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Denial of a Death Bed
Synopsis The Guiding Light acts as temporary shelter to a terrorist and the guy helping him not die. There's conversation and a call for cavalry.
Date May 31, 2009

Guiding Light Baptist Church

And eventually, daylight will break through the high, stain glass windows and light up the church in the desired effect of a heavenly glow. But not yet. Right now, streetlamps, distant neon signage and light pollution reflected down from the sky all work together to to pierce through the windows and offer some kind of visual ambience - soft blues and ghost pale white don't do much to beat back shadows, but the rib cage of the pews is just visible, should anyone care to look.

Teo's been wrapped in someone else's coat, perhaps to trap in body heat as much as it is to trap in the caking blood and grime of his clothing. It used to be clean, and smells strongly of the man currently acting as his most literal crutch - that is to say, mostly soap. Foot steps are plodding, slow going, and his arm is trapped firmly around surprisingly strong shoulders— or at least determined ones. Joseph hasn't said much to him, and doesn't say anything now as they both tumble into the dark maw of the Guiding Light.

The pastor hadn't said much on the way there. Not that he doesn't have a few requests. Don't die, don't worry. Now, he opts to say, "watch your step" as they navigate inside. The doors swing closed on their own.

Now to see how far they can make it, before unconsciousness chooses to grip the Italian again or Joseph remembers he isn't as strong as he used to be. On the very least, they have God on their side, or so one of them is certain.

There is a distinct grinding noise coming out of the sides of the ghost's strangely corporeal and clenched face, the cracking grind of molar on molar as he physically bites down, swallows back, and acidically smelts every whimper that walking threatens to jarr out of him. The ground refuses to hang even underneath the lopsided ruin of his legs and he's dragging along, hitch-scrape, hiccupy, like the drunkard that the bus driver had mistaken him for.

Hard to do so now, of course. His sleeve is matted, 'bandage' soaked through, and kevlar glimpses out the flapping gap between his lapels.

For five minutes now, the younger Sicilian in his head has been starting sentences with, If you hurt him, in between irregular silences spent attempting other inconceivable psychic things that Ghost can't even feel. He doesn't die, doesn't — really worry. He doesn't watch where he's going either, unfortunately, mostly because his field of vision is swooping and wormtunneling and growing thready around the edges with the basic process of syncopating with Joseph's strides, never mind moving his head.

As such, he navigates based on luck and extrapolatory logic. The corner of his shoulder scrape-bangs past the doorframe, and the damp bulge of his boot smudges something on stone that will dry either brown or red— in this light, it's impossible to tell.

There's a squeak of shoes against floor as Teo's shoulder collides with the doorframe, creating a partial domino effect that has Joseph bracing himself, a hand out to grip the front of Teo's— his coat, and makes a stammered apology. Glances towards the shadowed stairwell up towards the more comfortable confines of his office. Lets out a sigh that's also a groan.

"Okay." Never mind.

The awkward waltz of one dying man and one actually dying man is going to be completed one way or another, and eventually, they fall in a way that is hopefully more choreographed than what gravity would otherwise dictate, Joseph easing Teo down towards carpeted floor, an arm beneath his and curved around his back.

If Teo dies here, it will be woefully inconvenient, but hopefully no one— an anonymous 'no one' is easier to think about than 'the police'— will think to come knocking on the freshly painted doors of the Guiding Light.

He also seemed nice. "Teo?" The lended trenchcoat is shifted aside so he can see the damage, but mostly he's seeing body armor. "You're— safe now," Joseph says, and it's half-true. Teo's Glock lies somewhere at the bottom of the blue Daihatsu parked around the side.

The younger man eases his left eye closer to shut, greases his lips with a swollen tongue. Lying's a sinnnn, pastor, he thinks instead of saying, though he had obscurely planned to do so, aloud, in fatalistically braggodocio style. In The Tale of a Samurai, Kurogawa Seijou loses a war. Weeks after the city surrenders, he breaks his bow on its final shot, hurls himself off the tower.

It isn't quite like that when Ghost falls to the floor, but at least he does so on-schedule, and gratefully assisted.

Ends up plastered across the level of gravity, one arm bent awkwardly into the floor to cushion his descent and a boot sliding haphazardly across carpet. His other arm and leg, being broken if only medium, tumbles and slackens as uselessly as the cane had before it had ended laid up disuse on the Daihatsu's floor. In the company of gunmetal.

The ceiling is high and pristinely painted, mouldings running lengthwise to the corners; the sort of architecture that's meant to make a man feel small, yes, but safe in his smallness. It's that sort of church. It's Joseph Sumter's church. Ghost remembers him, and to his recollection, he's met the man more than once. He closes his eyes.

Pays little mind to Joseph's analysis of his injuries, having already completed a catalogue: wracked limbs, bruising, scrapes, ribs— the ribs are the worst, he's aware. Herniation's a bitch. He is going to be a very, very long time drowning.

He knows what he should be asking for, right now. Or whom. Instead, he rasps his question like it's a secret: "Why'd you— decide to become a priest?" Both eyes coruscate glassy pale as they swivel to find Joseph's face in the dark. "You could've chose t' b— e anything."

Joseph's attention has drifted downward, towards the awkward angle of the leg he'd been making up for in their stumbling journey inside. A lot like the coaxing and guiding of the inebriated man Teo had been mistaken for, but much harder. His hand drifts in an uncertain way, wanting to help, unsure to touch, and ultimately deciding not to. Making the decision to cause less pain; he isn't quite sure what to do with busted knees.

"I coulda been a medic."

The words are offered into the quiet of the church, now starting to smell like blood within this immediate vicinity, not quite overriding the scent of carpet cleaner and ageless dust. "That would be a darn sight more helpful," he adds, with a glance accompanying a fleeting smile, kind and apologetic although such subtle nuances are hard to make out. His silhouette is more easily found, although as he shifts where he's kneeling to face Teo, a little light manages to slice through, even if his eyes amount to shadows.

An earnest stare isn't really helpful anyway. The conversation is a much needed distraction, perhaps for both of them. "I, uh. It was after I was saved, and I realised that work was— work, but my life was the church. It was my callin'. What do you do?" …is what he almost doesn't ask, but there it is.

"'M a pro-Evolved activist." The ghost should be lying to Deckard right now, rather than lying to Pastor Sumter. Unfortunately, however, it would drolly appear that there are some psychological constructs that not even the most throwback Italian mercenary vigilante skydiver assassins can cast off. Talking to a man of cloth while on one's death bed instead of figuring out a way to get himself out of it would, apparently, be one of them.

"I made a mi—stake." Not even he is sure whether he is referring to the 'got hit by car' part and associated demolitions, or the greater theoretical and moral quandary of his existence at all.

He is using his wryly humorous voice, though, and there's an absence of real rancor in the look he angles across at Joseph now, despite the furrowed brow and curl in his lip. "'Calling's' a shit excuse. Y' lucky you don' need one." It is too difficult to roll his eyes far enough in their sockets that he can actually see the other man inside his head— never mind argue with him, so Ghost doesn't try. He dimly suspects that Teodoro Laudani would sooner listen to a priest, anyway.

(Oh, but that thought makes Teo mad.)

His chest heaves up when he grinds out a cough. "I could-a' bin a teacher. 'Nstead…" He makes a dead fish seizure with his arm, his best available version of a generalized sweep

"I see."

He doesn't. Pro-Evolved activists probably shouldn't be covered in blood and dying and unable to go to hospital, and there's disapproval set into the pastor's expression, whether for Teo or for whoever bloodied him up will remain a mystery, but it doesn't quite override the overt concern slowly souring into fear. A hand flutters to Teo's shoulder, an urge for him to be still, because— that might help? It's hard when you don't curse, as a rule, to express yourself.

"Calling's not an excuse, it's— you don't become a pastor for any reason otherwise. For money, or— selfish reasons, it's wrong. Lose more'n you gain if you want to look at it on paper. I don't. An' you're not dyin'."

The words are abrupt, almost accusing. I see what you're trying to do, talking to a holy man near death, but not tonight, exclamation mark exclamation mark. Now for a reason. Joseph hesitates, angsts over a pause, continues with, "Just— Abigail don't have her ability— " and his sentence only hitches a little when he remembers implausible grammar, but continues on anyway— "and Flint— Flint does. He's on Staten Island."

And the last time Joseph went there, pirates tried to drown him. "You haven' made a mistake yet. You're gonna be okay."

Actually, in the real world, crusading for the civil rights of the mutant population frequently does correlate with concluding belly-up and bleeding out, but— this isn't the time to be arguing. The horizontal position is making the drowning worse, gravity conspiring with punctured membrane to accelerate the flow. Ghost can feel his lung filling, and so can Teo. The weight of the armor fast becomes unbearable; burning.

In so many finger-twitches and grunts, a haphazard effort to sit up, he requests for Joseph's help getting it off. It takes time, erratic breaths, leaks from his lip, a look on Teo's face that indicates he's got words, probably them curse ones, wired in and caged up behind his teeth as the loop of sleeve skids unevenly down his arm. His skin shows oddly unwounded underneath. Old scars in ridges, and an accumulation of tattoos: swooping eagle with talons outstretched, wicked barbs of a tribalized 'S.'

He rolls onto his side, the way you're supposed to render a coma drunk supine so they won't asphyxiate on the overflow of their own puke. Curling his hands in carpet to keep them from shaking, he finds, disappointingly, that they are leaden instead.

He is warpedly embarrassed at the prospect of meeting Deckard so soon after wrapping his gift of deliverance. Teo's mother had told him a thing or two about giving; you don't do it expecting any in return. This feeling, staticky and borderline delirious with self-referential amusement, is a clownish apeing of that one.

They can agree on one thing, though. Two, maybe. Calling's not an excuse. He's not dying.

"Flint'll come for me." Teo has to thieve the words out of the air; they're loose and stringy eddies, more like impressions against sound than anything with note or voice, never mind the unspeakable vanity that the assertion holds. Ghost shows Joseph a ruin of a grin: his teeth are all red. "Tell'm Felix's butt boy has some holes t' plug. 'S code. He c'n bitch la— "

By the time the coughing subsides, he's forgotten the end to his original statement. His fingers come away from his mouth sticky and dark. He is making a mess of the carpet. Apologizing for that would be as pointless as this question, anyway:

"Why're— you..?"

Joseph's hands are quick if not overly independent. Follows the dying man's instruction and clumsily guides his way around the buckles and straps of unfamiliar kevlar and easing him over with more feather-light touches. Teo will know, if not care about, two hands on his arm and shoulder, and then the slightly scratchy but well-meaning presence of the warm coat being drawn back over him, covering tattoos that only get a cursory glance. He doesn't really realise Teo is drowning on dry land.

The phlegmy sound of coughing sounds almost mundane, sickly but not deathly, until Joseph notices how dark Teo's mouth has gotten. There are fingerpainting smears and flecks of it on the carpet now. If he wasn't fired before—

The number for the Lighthouse is located on a scrolling screen, fingers working hurriedly on the lit up pad of the cellphone. "Alright. Just hang on…"

It's a good question. Why him. Teo is better at keeping himself alive than Joseph is a help, but then again, someone had to show up with a car and charitable intentions. "God sent me," he offers, with a slightly crooked, fretful smile. More ironic than the usual brand of Southern Baptist zealousness. The smile is more nervous than Teo's crimson one, as he brings the phone up to his ear.

"I'll explain later."

Time. It passes.

There's a disgruntled, privately drowning heap of boy— young man, really— rolled up against the wall of the worship hall, his knees peaked now, his arms loose at his sides and eyes shuttering unevenly in the half-light of a single bulb flipped on further down. Teodoro has watched Joseph get on and off the phone with a pall of quiet over him, notwithstanding sporadic chokes and gurgles, twitching of hooked feet and a mumble or two in a language that is neither English nor Italian.

The pastor had given him his coat, except it is being used as a blanket as one would warm a child either too small or too stupid to operate the clothing as it ought to be. Being of adult size, Ghost amuses himself with the notion of the latter alternative. Testing the depth of his breathing once, he winds up wheezing in the three-beat pattern that other people cough in, squeezing his eyes closed against an unsettling welling of hot water.

It's very aggravating, having only the upper fifty percent of one's lungs available to respire with. Waterboarding and other techniques of torture were constructed on this sensation, this viscerally-programmed recognition of pain, terror of dying, a man trapped between fight and flight and ground to pulp between. Except, you know.

Teo really is dying, and the panicky wingbeat of his heart is entirely warranted. It's awhile in the dark before he finds enough breath and presence of mind to ask, sibilant from moisture, "How d'— you know— Flint?"

Phone clasped in his hand, Joseph's come to sit nearby, knees up with arms rested on them, shirt sleeves rolled to the elbows more out of nervous fidgeting than seeking comfort. The hairs on the backs of his arms are standing up, a chill in the church that's not quite so invasive as the one settling inside the man lying on his back a couple of feet away from him. He'd made sure to wander over there as he spoke to Flint Deckard in quiet tones, certain key words he doubts a man in Teo's position necessarily needs to hear. But by now, he's close again. Just in case.

In case something gets worse and he needs to be close enough to— something. Joseph's hand comes up to rub at his brow just as those hitching words are delivered.

"He— broke into the church." No need to lie, really. Joseph's voice is hushed, appropriate for a building like this, and for this hour, if ultimately unnecessary. "It was, um. Little while ago, lookin' for a place to sleep - it'd been abandoned for a while before, I guess."

And that's how he met Flint. A breath of a chuckle follows the pastor's words. "Interestin' way to make friends, maybe. We aren't," he amends, and diverts onto, "But. He'll be here as soon as he can be."

"He's my friend," gasps the fish. Teo's throat works as he swallows a fragmented breath that had broken over a lump of forming scab. He squeezes his eyes shut to concentrate on bucketing the next lungful of air. It goes down better. It helps that he'd sort of sat up again. Sort of. He has furniture doing the work his spine should be. "Good friend. 'M sorry he…" You know.

No need to waste air on elaborating. Teo spindles his fingers in the air, sketching abstracted words and apologetic feelings, vaguing it in with a gesture. "He di'nt— he didn't do the other s— tuff they want his head for, th— ough. Killing 'nd robbing and burning the place down. 'S innocent. 'S a good man. Deckard. S-saved the world once." He throws his back into an uncomfortable loop, trying to find a more comfortable way to match the subtle S curl of human spine against the plane geometry of man-made decorating.

"You'll love 'm before you like 'm. H— e's that kinna guy." Teo shows the pastor a blood-flecked smile that was probably originally configured to look reassuring.

He probably should stop Teo from trying to talk, but he also knows that that likely don't stop him from dying any quicker, and besides. The silence might become unbearable, converting church to tomb in a mere matter of guttering breaths and stone cold quiet. Joseph's eyebrows raise at Teo's words, manages to smile back in the face of pulled lips and crimson-stained teeth.

"If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. God teaches us to love, brothers and sinners alike." It's almost dismissing. "I have faith he could be a good man, just— he doesn't. He might, one day. I gave him a vision once. I think that helped."

Killing and robbing and burning the place down. Joseph's voice is uncertain when he next speaks. "He, uh. He hasn't told me much, in general. Figured he would when he wants to. Not my business, even if we did practice confession," he adds, with half a smile.

Pain is less, fear is more. That bodes badly for the physical progression of things. No, Teo doesn't seem like he's wont to stop talking; doesn't think it's going to make more than a few minutes' difference to the point of actual cardiac arrest, anyway. It's just disgusting and awkward, that's all. "'S good.

"He n— eeds people like you 'round." Breathe in, breathe out. It is easier when he is fluting through only his nose, though maybe that is just a placebo effect. A placebo effect is still an effect. Annnd—

Oh, right. He's still Catholic in 2009. Ghost needs to hang onto that fact better. It's mildly disconcerting, how quickly he got used to, and forgot that he was wearing a cross. "Confession's kin'a shit, anyway." Teo drags his good knee up closer to himself, draws crop circles on the carpet with his ruined fingertips. "Th' priests don' really want to kn— ow about the laundry that really needs airing out.

"Those, they 'ave to tell the p'lice." There is something knowing about the glaze in Ghost's pallid eye when he says that, another layer of veneer underneath the slow-incinerating asphyxiation he has going on here, made entirely explicable by the Swissed vest on the floor nearby, the blood leaking below.

Hnn. Joseph makes a rueful sound from the back of his throat, equal parts nervous and apologetic on behalf of the priests you can't talk to and biting back the reasons as to why. Because as we all know, they're only exempt from confidentiality, morally speaking, should the sinner confess to desiring to sin again. To hurt again.

So this is interesting. He's silent for a moment, a question in his mouth and not yet delivered. The shadows of the church steal away from the general biegeness that makes up Joseph Sumter, mostly blue and icier white lights struggling through warmer darkness. One knee creaks a little as he shifts to settle on the floor nearer by, an arm curled around a bent leg.

"What did you do?" he asks, instead. Quietly, tentatively. Every Sunday and Wednesday (sick days aside), his voice normally reaches right out to the corners, but this library-whisper is maintained below Teo's harsher, sicker tone.

Whether the confusion over policy can better be attributed to traitorous priests or the young man lying sodden on the floor being some horrible asshole is difficult to discern, what with all the blood and dirt and less than airtight alibis volunteered thus far. Activissssm. At eleven in the evening, which resulted in this and the precursor vision.

"R'venge," he finally finds the audacity to admit, presently, a sudden slither of sodden syllables through caged teeth. "Tried, 'nyway.

"Then— " Teo delivers a swat at a particularly audacious bit of air hovering about near his rattling chest. "— hit by a car." Kapow! Another swat. "Horrible shit. I know like three— Americans who can drive. You're one— of— " he pauses to cough. "'F them." Flattery will get you everywhere, if you do it right. Teo conveniently forgets that he is not precisely at his most seductive best at present.

Revenge followed by a hit and run. "Take it easy," Joseph thinks to murmur, as that cough sounded particularly wet, as if liquid were drawing up from Teo's chest with spikes on and pennies in its contents, jangling through a slot machine and coming out the other side as flimsy dampness destined to stain carpet. Kind of like sickness. He just knows it's not.

Anxiety is dictating the beat of his own heart, and manages— barely— not to wring his hands. "Drive better'n I doctor." It's hard to know what to do. Half of him wants to take the man's hand into his own, half of him wonders if it won't go appreciated or understood. It might, also, feel too much like dying. "I saw you in a vision. I didn't know it was you, really, didn't recognise— anyway. I don't get 'em, the visions, not normally. Hit my head and they started actin' up like— like it turned in on itself. Didn't get much from it, but I saw you, lyin' on that street."

There it goes, Joseph hands subtly coming together, nervously twisting. His wedding ring gets shifted around in the process of fretful gesture. "You had, um. Two faces. Both were in a bad way."

Dull surprise whistles down and craters on Teo's face, a dent showing in his brow. It passes for perplexity mostly because it is. Even in his — disheveled state, he's aware that this doesn't pose the most immediate threat to his fatal secret. If anything, it is obvious and politely apparent that Joseph could use some sort of explanation.


"'M glad you— 're okay," he rasps, some oddity of thought flattening out the otherwise lunatic spikes of his voice's carry across the hallway's strait. "Thank you." All of these seem like appropriate responses fetched out of the magic hat of dying man's vocabulary, in lieu of adequate mental faculties to cross the treacherous terrain of demystifying Joseph's prophesy for him. Gingerly, he relaxes the squint of his left eye after a moment, blinking away the afterimage of the band's golden glint before noticing the bit jewelry itself.

"Sorry. Taking you 'way, t'night," he says, declining his grimey face down to indicate the band across his finger, his eyes making haphazard tracks in an effort to hold Joseph's image even in the giddy sway and backlash of reduced blood pressure.

Perhaps there's explanation required. Perhaps Joseph needs to Google search Roman gods until something makes sense, but really, the description is offered for Teo. If the symbols mean little to Joseph apart from abstract notions of false idols, then perhaps it means something for the man lying supine on the bloodied church carpet rather than some crucial clue that Joseph is meant to act on beyond a valiant rescue.

Oh, if only he knew. It's a good thing he doesn't add that one of the faces was dead, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean.

His head tilts, glances down along with Teo's glance, and for a moment he forgets the other man is dying, caught up in selfish sheepishness that manifests in the form of a dismissing chuckle. "My dog won't miss me," he says, reassurance in his voice. "Nothin' to worry about. My wife— she's back in Tennessee." And because guesswork is potentially more awkward than the truth— "We're separated."

At least it stops him from hand-wringing, both palms coming to rest on his knees instead, band of gold catching whatever light it will in the shadows.

Given the shared real estate— no, that wouldn't comfort either of them, that one of the faces was dead. Borrowing a brief moment out of conversational lull, Ghost rolls his eyes upward to study the panelling of the wall as he listens for voices that come from inside rather than out, quick to skim up any clues that his counterpart might drop as quick and inadvertent as the swivel of fish.

None. Wherever Teo is right now— it is neither now nor here. Any guesswork as to the pattern of his appearance will have to be left for a time when the ghost has more brain to him. He scrolls his head down wearily. There is a shallow cut healing in the hollow of his cheek, which twitches, faintly, at the mention of the dog. There's some familiarity there, though not the precise one Joseph's memory would refer to. He'd met a different dog at the pound; received a separate insight upriver through time.


The unhelpfully vague question is made specific and tactless by the deliberate weight of his gaze setting down heavy onto the priest's banded finger. The next instant, he winces at himself; retracts the question if Joe would prefer, with a quizzical look, a spin of pinkie. Of course, he is obscurely and obtusely aware that to accept the withdrawal now would be an act of unimaginable cruelty. He is, after all, for all intents and purposes— dying.

Priests, God and dead men. People you can say almost anything to. They have a lot in common, come to that, some sort of binding threeway agreement, except usually such confessions would turn a different direction, of this much Joseph is aware and— apparently— Teo is too.

What's there to confess, anyway? Joseph let's out a weary sounding sigh, smiles down at Teo. "We became different people. Things changed when I got my ability. I did, so'd she, though. It scared her, the— Evolved, generally. They scare her." Which might make sense, that in a future of Evolved and Non unity, Joseph and Claira Sumter remain happily married for well over a decade while he travels from church to university and gives lectures to more ears than the Guiding Light can contain. No one had asked Mrs. Sumter if she were happy, but they had found a way.

Which isn't to say he never came to New York alone. He did. He has. "And I didn't want to pretend. New York, too, wasn't what she wanted. It'll work out," he's quick to add. Not to turn this into a bad bedtime story or anything.

No more, though, quick to add— "If there's anythin' I can do to make you more comfortable…"

Sounds like the truth. That marriage— seems like the truth, like his parents' marriage. Ghost decides to go out on a limb and assume that it is. Sometimes, sorry, things just fall apart, and one rarely finds the material for perfect happiness in the rough and crude of real life's ordinary context. Despite the luminous finger and resulting illuminations of God's supposed involvement, and the mathematically surreal improbability of the ghost being here, the two men are that. Ordinary.

He wishes to reassure the older man that he will reunite with Claira and that they'll find a way, but he knows better than that. Judging from the make and character of the precognition offered, even God does.

"'L— east your calling di'nt change, eh? Or— maybe that's definitive." There is supposed to be a difference between calling and mundane employment, after all. If the silence takes it away, it would've merely been a job.

Teo is losing his grasp of time, or else he'd have a better estimation of how long until his lung collapses. His airways seem to chafe audibly against the passage of gas through them, or else that's his thinking noise while he seriously considers the pastor's lattermost offer. His leg hurts, which gets in the way. The feeling is coming back into his arm, the rifle-butted one, belatedly and unwelcome, pulses underneath the sleeve of his skin in a swollen hot rhythm. Death appears imminent. Deckard is nowhere he can see. Irrationally, he finds himself pushing back the urge to watch the ceiling open up.

Teo's eyes roll up toward it anyway, lids twisting, flicking spasmodic as a seizure.

"Woul' comfort me— if— you could… t-tell… I mean 'f I can't," sorry; the situation calls for adaptation to worst case scenarios, and provisions must be made, "I— I— " Sorry. Stuttering unattractively. Cold. M-meant the best. "— left 't 'n the gas s-station. A-ask— L-Lilah."

No, his calling didn't change, and here he is, and where is Deckard. Where is everyone Teo might hold dear? They should be here for— this. Whatever this is. The church is large and lonely right now. Joseph's brow is tensed in consternation— fate cannot be this final, to be fatalistic is to be blasphemous, and he believes Teo isn't meant to be dying right now, and yet—

Yet, provisions are being made. Which makes sense, by the way coughs bounce and gutter through a drowning torso, hitches words on hooking stammers, wet around the edges. It's an awful sound. It would be easy, to nod, to smile. He even says, "okay," almost too quietly, even if he's not quite sure of what's being asked of him. Hard to ask for clarification from a dying man and besides; "Won't matter, though. You're not dyin'."

They'd agreed on that. Joseph's hand goes out and grasps Teo's, as if perhaps he could tether the man's soul to earth through physical contact, as much as Teo's fingers feel cold and probably number. His voice doesn't shake, sounding firm and almost paternal.

"God sent me to find you, and God's gift rests in a man who'll be here any minute. You owe it to Him to hold on. Little longer."

Number. That is spelled exactly like— numberssss. Teo wipes the dizzy smile off his face and closes his eyes; the whole process of 'seeing' is beginning to get in its own way, honestly. Pretty words, he thinks, conveniently forgetting that he had long since ceased to consider 'God' one of those. "Metaphorically," he racks out, a little bit bravely, "exis— tentially, s-spiritually, I c'n try but—

"Think 'm gonna h-have to p— ass out, f' now." Probably, he would pat Joseph's knee in some morbidly humorous effort at reassuring or apologizing to the other man, except that Joseph is holding his hand. Raquelle would probably agree: these are the least pleasant circumstances under which such a clasp might be shared. Pleasantly blinded by the closure of his own eyes, he lets his head tip forward on its stem, swivel slightly to the left, and hang there, windpipe bent and gravity playing merry with limbs that lack the strength to insist to the contrary.

"Owe you one, signor," he whispers.

Joseph opens his mouth as if he might protest Teo passing out, but there are… some things, granted, that can't entirely be negotiated. "See you later," he murmurs, gaze trailing down to where Teo's cold hand is slack in his. Bedside manner dictates he squeezes his fingers around the other man's for a moment as one last reassurance, subtle cheerleading, before unconsciousness can take him.

There's a moment of silence, measuring the wet sound of breathing from the unconscious man, almost waiting for it to just cut out entirely. It doesn't. It persists. Life has a tendency to do that, more stubborn than willpower in some cases, more delicate in others.

If he dies, there's going to be a few things Joseph will come to resent. He shivers, once, in the cold of the church. How many nights has he spent here, completely alone, and felt like he wasn't? Melancholy, sure, over-thinking, or sometimes peaceful and calm. Never really alone, because that's kind of the point. But as Teo ceases to speak, or listen, it's almost as empty as the apartment he likes so much to avoid.

The murmured chant comes quietly, and does little to fill up the shadowed space. "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…"

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