Happy Christmas Brother


amato_icon.gif elias_icon.gif

Scene Title Happy Christmas, Brother
Synopsis Amato receives a visit from a ghost of Christmas past.
Date December 24, 2009

New York Countryside, Mount Moriah Monastery

Located in the gentle New York countryside, far from the bustling of the city that bears the same name, Mount Moriah Monastery sits. It is by no means a sprawling campus, nor even comparable to the stonework that housed the cloistered brethren of old, but it is adequate for the purpose it serves. The landscape is heavy with a white blanket that rolls over the fenced pastures of the monastery's sheep, and clings to the branches of trees, making them look like dark ladies wrapped in luxurious ermine stoles.

Amato, an Oblate with this Benedictine order, is in one of the barns. While the monks prepare for Christmas Eve mass, he is hard at work tending to the sheep that have been brought in for the night. Wool only goes so far in keeping one warm, after all, be he man or beast. Amato himself pauses to shiver inside his wool coat and rub his gloved hands together.

'Tis the season for overuses of the words 'Christmas Miracle.' Everything is a Christmas Miracle. If the sun comes out and warms the ground, it's a Christmas Miracle. Humbug. "Is this really where you saw yourself in ten years?" asks a voice from behind Amato. A voice that, he hasn't heard for almost a year. A voice he shouldn't be hearing. The voice of Elias de Luca, dressed in a heavy, black overcoat, carrying two wrapped sandwiches, and very much alive.

A true Christmas Miracle.

Whatever heat Amato was able to build up is immediately zapped from his thin frame at the sound of that ghostly voice. His eyes wide, unsure of what stands behind him, Amato slowly turns. He does, however, have the good sense to curl his fingers once more around the hay rake and lift the potentially dangerous spikes from the ground. Oblate or not, some old habits die hard.

But it is unquestionably Elias. Amato shakes his head, his eyebrows furrowed.

"You're dead," he mutters, his voice low in his throat. "Or else…you are supposed to be dead. How is it otherwise?"

"I… wasn't ready to go yet?" Elias offers with a shrug, "Had things left to do? Sandwiches left to eat? Old friends to turn white as sheets? Or maybe I was just lucky and got away?" Despite having nearly died, Elias seems almost unchanged in his demeanor. And perhaps this is for the better. "Take your pick, buddy boy. Whichever it is, here I am. Happy Christmas."

With a bit of a frown, Amato leans back. He was never that incredibly close to Elias. Not being able to tell with any real certainty when the man was being serious or not unnerved him. He glances from Elias' face to the sandwiches in his hands and squints. "Happy Christmas. So is that your gift then? Making the rounds to everyone from those days and making them believe that some seasonal ghost has come a'knocking to warn them of their tragic fates if they don't change their ways?"

To this, Elias shakes his head. "As interesting a prank that would be… no. In fact, everyone from those dark days seem strangely, absent," he replies, "Everyone except for you, I mean, and finding you wasn't exactly easy, and you know what? I hope it stays that way. Dark days that are behind us." But clearly, it's time to focus on the present. "Sandwich? I never really figured out what you took on yours, so I decided that ham and cheese was pretty safe. Lite mayo, easy mustard?"

There is a moment of tense silence in which the offering hovers and Amato studies his ex-compatriot. Or perhaps…perhaps they are still compatriots. In some way, at least. But it is Christmas, and Amato manages a small smile as he steps across the barn and holds out his hand for the food.

"If there isn't any tomato, then you're almost right on. I didn't get you anything, and I doubt you'd accept a place to sleep for the night."

"No tomato," Elias replies with a smile of his own, handing the paper-wrapped meal over to the monk. "I'll pass on the place to sleep. I still have the lease on your old flat, if you can believe that. And, well, it looks like you won't be needing a place to sleep for the night, either. All things considered, we came out of that mess pretty well off. Which, I think makes it easier to make amends for the things we did that weren't so nice." And they did some things that were not very nice at all.

"No tomato," Elias replies with a smile of his own, handing the paper-wrapped meal over to the oblate. "I'll pass on the place to sleep. I still have the lease on your old flat, if you can believe that. And, well, it looks like you won't be needing a place to sleep for the night, either. All things considered, we came out of that mess pretty well off. Which, I think makes it easier to make amends for the things we did that weren't so nice." And they did some things that were not very nice at all.

"Is that so," Amato muses on the old apartment, gesturing for Elias to take a seat on a crate while he settles onto a bale of hay. He unwraps an end of the sandwich and surveys it before taking a small bite. "And you definitely have a point there. Finding the right medium in which to do that seems to be the issue though. Some want to be more proactive than others. Me… I'm not so sure. Yourself, Elias?"

"Depends on what you mean by 'proactive,'" is the response Elias gives. In an obvious throwback to old times, he starts to sit down right where he stands, only to suddenly appear elsewhere in time to plunk down on the crate. Judging by the look on his face, it was not a very good idea. "It was a lot softer the last time I did that…." Soft enough the last time that this time, he has to shift and stretch his back to make up for the harm he did to himself. "I don't know about proactive. I'm just a nogoodnik, same as I've always been."

"So, sandwiches." It would seem the monastery life, even as an oblate, has lightened Amato's humor a bit. "There are plenty of hungry people in the world, Elias. You could feed them, one sandwich at a time." He pauses to take a bite and think a bit. "But I'm not sure where your morality would stand if you did not legally procure these sandwiches."

"Amato, I may be a good-for-nothing thief, but I only steal from people who can afford it. And that money goes to people who need it. Trickle-down economics at work." Sort of. Certainly, Elias could be doing worse things with his time. "Besides, it's not sandwiches that the world needs. There are plenty of sandiwches. They just aren't going where they need to be. And that's the trick to it, you know. Inequitable allocation of finite sandwich resources. Social inefficiency."

"So you're Robin Hood, are you?" Amato nods. "Don't be offended if I don't leap at the chance to join your band of merry men as your friar or something or other. The last time I got dealt that hand, it didn't work out so well." He lifts the sandwich in salute. "But thank you all the same.'

And just like that, Amato did what he had yet to manage before; Elias chuckles at the notion of Friar Amato as he opens his own sandwich, as loaded as they usually are. "No, no, this Robin Hood works alone," he says, "It's better that way, I think. Easier for one guy to fence goods, get medicine, all that good stuff. Speaking of good stuff-" He interrupts himself with a bite of his sandwich, continuing with his mouth half-full- "Do the brothers need some green in their coffers? You know what they say about rich men. Eye of a needle, and all that."

Amato pauses at that, his face turning slightly serious for a moment. "I'm sure that any donation you would care to give would be appreciated, but I would prefer if your name was not linked with mine. You may still have that lease, but that flat isn't one that I'd like to return to anytime soon. You understand."

Elias simply raises one hand, palm forward, as if to indicate that, yes, there will be a full stop on any link between the two. "Nothing too big. Much as it would help, I'm sure, it might draw attention. We may be turning over new leaves, but that doesn't mean the old ones went away. Maybe some day, but not yet." Another, larger bite of sandwich. "An' really, wha' goo'-" Gulp- "What good's it going to do if we get ourselves in a fix where we can't help others. That's what it's all about now, don't you think?"

The mouthful of sandwich Amato chews gives him plenty of time to mull it over. "You're lucky, you know," he muses. "You're able to just pop in and out when things get bad. For the life of me, I don't know how the others are doing it. Some are more conspicuous than others."

"Maybe I'm lucky," Elias replies, "But, I don't know. I mean think about, back then. How easy it would've been for me to just disappear when things turned sour. Never did. You can't run from the things that really matter, Amato. Either you face 'em when they're in front of you, or they catch you and you face 'em later. But you always face 'em, no different. So why run from what matters and make things worse? Face what matters right now….

"You know, I've only seen Eileen besides you. Ms. Beauchamp too, but that's not really the same. And now, gone. Makes me wonder, you know? Maybe if I'd been around a little more after the dust settled, we'd be seeing more of 'em."

Amato shakes his head at that, a frown interrupting his expression. "I don't know about that. I haven't seen them for some time now, but when I last did, they were doing well enough. Hiding, for the most part, and acting when they could. Again - some more actively than others." Amato straightens his back and looks to one of the sheep then, chewing as well in the dying evening light. The bells from the chapel are due to ring out, but Amato won't be missed, and the singing may even reach the barns. "What I mean is, if they come looking for us. The government, I mean. We still must be held accountable for what we did, to both men and God. It is noble to atone and make amends for our misdeeds, but there are many who would surely still like to see us pay by more judicial means for our crimes."

"No doubt." Elias occupies himself with another bite of sandwich, one large enough to keep him busy for a few seconds. "We can do more good out here," he finally decides, "What good can we do in some prison designed to hold people like us? Say we're sorry? Let's face it. We're outlaws. Will be for the rest of our lives probably. But that's how it has to be. Don't have to be together to be a merry band, says I."

"Well, even when we were a band that was not so merry, we weren't always together." Amato nods to the sheep, but also to himself. "So in spirit, yes." And out there. There is where the good is to be done. Not that the monks have not treated Amato well - given him food, shelter, and work in his odd and vague situation, but taking care of the sheep is hardly the sort of repair work he ought to be undertaking. "God has given you sandwiches. Surely he has a plan for us all."

"I wonder if anyone has a plan anymore." Tragically, near-death hasn't changed Elias' demeanor. But how often has he been near-death, only to somehoe cheat it and have to reforge a path seemingly to nowhere? At least twice. Maybe more. But, in the end, Elias has a partial answer. "Someone does, somewhere. Until we figure out what it is… we just have to do whatever we can, hope for the best." Not a very good plan. But a plan.

"Here's to God's lost children. Happy Christmas, brother."

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