Fugue, Part II



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Scene Title Fugue, Part II
Synopsis Mount Moriah Monastery receives an unusual trio of visitors.
Date April 3, 2011

In Dreams

It's raining.

Water glances off the gray and brown stone exterior of the old Benedictine monastery overlooking the flat sheet of rippling black water that is Wolf Lake. Lights glow in the structure's great windows and bleed through the trees, illuminating the road that winds through the forested hills and low, gnarled fields. From his room, Amato Salucci will see the approaching vehicle before he hears it, the sound of the engine smothered by the the roaring wind and rattling rain — it's an old pickup truck, the kind that looks as though it should not have been able to make the journey into the heart of the Adirondack Reserve's dense and tangled parkland.

As it pulls up in front of the monestary, its headlights go dead and the man behind the wheel kills the engine — and it is a man, because he's popping open the driver's side door a moment later and climbing out, hood drawn up over his head to protect graying hair from the chilly onslaught.

Amato watches the figure through the window for a moment before he turns away from the glass to move through the few halls that link his room to the monastery's front doors. Even without the full blaze of daylight and electric lighting, the shadowy route is familiar enough to see him there safely. The door opens with a creak, spilling light and warmth onto the cold night beyond and turning Amato into a silhouette against the interior glow.

He stands to one side, both gatekeeper and sentinel, one arm wrapped around his middle while the other rests atop it, his thin fingers curling over his elbow. He says nothing - no small talk about the weather or the trip or anything else. He simply stands. Waiting.

The man in the hood ascends the monastery's front steps, cloaked in the rain and the dark — it isn't until he moves into the ambiant glow that the features of his face become visible: dark eyes, a grizzled beard flecked with sliver and a hard, prominent jaw that has only become more chiseled with age.

Jensen Raith removes his coat's hood. His hair is in much the same state as his beard. Behind him, a young blonde woman in her late twenties or early thirties has opened the passenger's side door and stepped outside into a puddle as she pulls on a heavier wool coat over a sweater a size or two too large for her whip-thin frame, but instead of joining Raith on the steps, she moves toward the back of the vehicle and pops the back door.

It eases open with a scraping sound like rust. "Been a long time, Priest."

While there as easily as many bad memories linked to that face as there are good ones, Amato finds himself unable to help a small smile from creasing his face. "Indeed," he says with a slight turn and incline of his head. Too long? Maybe. He looks past Jensen to the truck and the young woman still near it, his smile shifting into a frown, the lines of his own face deepening with the turn of lip and the knit of brow.

"And it shall be again, I presume," he says carefully, stepping further to one side and letting one arm fall in order to extend the other toward the doorway. "So we must make the most of it."

The blonde leans into the truck, stooped over a smaller, darker form bundled in a mismatched array of blankets. It's a child, equally likely to be a boy or a girl judging from the length of their hair. She combs her fingers through it as she murmurs something gentle against the child's ear and presses a soft kiss to temple, rousing either him or her from their uneasy slumber.

Raith steps inside the monastery, rainwater shed from his hair and coat, dripping onto the stone floor underfoot. "There's not much to make," he says. "We can't stay. I need something from you."

It's the inevitable phrase, no matter whom it originates from. But the words that cut Raith's visit short before it really even begins are as expected as the request. Amato takes it in stride, his gaze once again shifting from Jensen to the young woman and the child before he follows him into the front hall, leaving the door open to the soft staccato of the rain outside. There was a time when his answer would have come as easily as his next heartbeat, or his next breath.

As brief as the pause is, there is that empty moment before Amato nods his head and holds out an open palm. "Ask," he says in gentle, if tired voice.

The child sits up in the truck's back seat and the woman smoothes more hair away from their face. She's talking now, mouth moving around slow, tentative words — her body language is the same Amato might use around a skittish baby colt, but maybe that has to do with her temperament more than it does the child's.

Maybe both. Raith looks down at Amato's palm, then back up to his gaunt, pale face. Resists temptation to steer his gaze back over his shoulder to see how woman and child are getting along as she retrieves a battered leather suitcase from under the seat, bending at the middle. "Watch someone for me. I don't know how long."

The inviting gesture closes, fingers curling into palm, thumb rubbing against the side of forefinger before the whole thing drops to Amato's side. There are plenty of questions that could be asked that have nothing to do with duration. Reasons and causes rather than logistics. But Amato lets these questions remain unasked - it's better that way. For everyone.

"Of course," he finally says, keeping his eyes on Jensen. A fainter version of his previous smile returns. "What are we if not a shelter in a storm?"

There's something grave and solemn behind Raith's eyes. For a long time, or what feels like a long time to Amato but is only a matter of moments in reality, he studies the expression on the younger man's face. Makes a decision, then.

A low, distant boom of thunder covers what he says next, and for the first time Amato's life, he hears genuine pain in Raith's voice—

Pollepel Island

There is no rain tonight. Only the wind whistling through the turrets and trees that stand stall on Pollepel Island. Breath hitches in Amato's throat as he's torn away from the dream and jerked upright in his bed. In another moment, he's gathering his meager blankets around him in an attempt to warm himself from the chill of the dream -

- a chill that only exists in reality because it refuses to shake back into the shadows between sleep and waiting.

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