dantes_icon.gif amato_icon.gif

Scene Title Kismet
Synopsis Dantes's luck betrays him into his enemy's hands. Literally.
Date January 1, 2009

Cathedral of St. John the Divine

Morningside Heights was and is still known for its high density of educational institutions. Most of the neighborhood is owned by Columbia University; the rest is shared with Barnard College, the Manhattan School of Music, the Teachers College, Columbia Greenhouse nursery school, and a variety of religious seminaries.

In addition to places like the Cathedral of St. John the Divine and Morningside Park, the neighborhood boasts a variety of restaurants and clubs, excellent bookstores, and Mondel Chocolates, selling handmade chocolate candies even today.

Before the bomb, Morningside Heights was dominated by students. That is still the case today, but their majority is now far smaller — with Morningside being one of the neighborhoods least affected by the explosion, it has become a very popular place to live. Housing is extremely expensive, but people are willing to pay through the nose for a place they know is safe and sound — at least in structural terms. Population density is high; like everywhere else in the city, so is crime, although Morningside's biggest problems are theft and embezzlement. Along with the consequences of college parties and/or pranks.

Last night in the main sanctuary of the Cathedral of St. John was the free New Year's Eve concert, but all of its trappings are gone the following night. The space is relatively empty when Amato Salucci arrives, as is his preference. He takes a seat near the back of the cathedral and begins to read from a leather bound Bible he extracts from his coat. Unbeknownst to him, the jostling of the wool disturbs a small spider who has taken temporary residence on his shoulder near his collar, but it soon settles back, nigh-invisible against the dark fabric.

There are few here. The celebrations are over, and now it's back to the quiet depths of winter. A little ways ahead of him in the pews is kneeling the dark-haired young man, shoulders bent. He doesn't seem to be praying, per se. Merely waiting, wearily, for something.

It is generally seen as unseemly for one parishioner to speak to another when one seems to be in prayer, but Amato can't help but notice the man and be reminded of the back of someone else's head. Is it the same young man who has recently replaced the FBI Agent turned spiritual confidant? Amato clears his throat and quirks an eyebrow before he stands and adjusts his position so that he is sitting in the pew directly behind the other man.

"You've yet to find a haunt that keeps you out of trouble as much as 'John's Place', I presume?" he asks in his American accent, banking on the similarity being due to the fact that it is the same back of the head as the other man possessed.

Dantes turns to peer over his shoulder at the one addressing him. ANd stiffens a moment, before forcing himself to relax and grin, sheepishly. It can't be, right? "No," he says, in that low rasp, embarassed. "It…..I seem to keep finding trouble when I leave. Maybe I should take vows. That might be what's needed," he says, gently, though the smile is now a bit forced. Is this bizarre coincidence? Some sort of sick joke of Santiago's? Or a hallucination from too little sleep and a guilty conscience.

"You wouldn't be the first who has turned to such measures to avoid temptation," Amato muses, thumbing idly through his Bible. "But might I suggest something else? The more stringent yoke of monasticism requires a deeper sincerity to do the work and will of God with lesser means than the general populace have at hand. And the priesthood carries many responsibilities. Though you may find distraction from your own problems in helping others deal with theirs, I'm afraid you'll find they won't disappear."

It's sad really, that Amato cannot enjoy the irony of the situation. Months ago, he had the grinning sort of triumph in knowing that the very same FBI Agent whom he had two violent encounters with had become a repentant man under his spiritual guidance. For Dantes, the man who has replaced Felix in many ways, to realize the same about the man he has confessed to in so many words night after night is an agent of a dangerous and wanted man, brings the whole thing nearly full circle.

Part of him….well, most of him, is longing to bolt. But there's no faster way to betray youself. 'Never run from anything immortal,' quotes some half-forgotten memory from the back of his brain, 'It only attracts their attention.' And Amato may be mortal, but his master….well, perhaps Kazimir counts. "I…you're a priest?" he wonders, tongue gone thick and stupid in shock.

At one point in time, Amato might have answered that in the vague affirmative. In another, he would have smiled and been even more cryptic, believing himself to be above the priesthood, not to mention all men, entirely. But now, Amato pauses. He looks up from the Bible in his lap and tilts his head in a thoughtful manner. "At one point," he confesses. "I certainly retain all of the faculties and traits. I do not currently possess and ordination, however." Not that he ever did, in actuality.

Curiosity. Well, what is it known for killing? Which is why he's lingering to ask questions, rather than excusing himself in haste. He's secure in that new face, and his own feigned death. "Why…I mean, I don't mean to pry, but….did you leave the priesthood? Or never receive ordination?" he wonders, turning around fully. Still rather slowly, as if afraid of startling the blonde man. The dark eyes are all but glittering with curiosity.

"I did not require it any longer," is Amato's simple answer, but Dantes's interest flags his own suspicion. "Why do you ask? It might surprise you, but people enter and leave such things more often then you might think. It is a quiet affair, but it happens nonetheless."

Dantes ducks his head, as if acknowledging his own nosiness. "I'm curious," he says, quietly. "I've always wondered what it'd be like to be that certain of God. To feel called."

"Are we not all called, sir?" Amato asks with a slight smirk. "Is that not why we find it necessary to wrap ourselves in the womb-like warmth of the presence as we find it in places such as this one?"

"Not in the same way, no. To feel God's presence powerfully enough to devote your life to it," Dantes says, watching Amato intently. "So. You're not a priest. What do you do now?"

"I abide," Amato says after another thoughtful pause. "I make use of the gifts God has sought fit to give me and live day to day in an effort to make my only impact one of the spirit." These days, this is a truer statement than it would have been when Dantes was still Felix, and truer still compared to when the two were at knowing odds. "And you?"

He's still wearing the scar from the knife wound Amato gave him. And it has him stifling a laugh of bitter irony. "I do what I can," he says, simply, spreading his hands and assuming a mock innocent expression. "One of the spirit?"

"To live without an impact on the world defeats the purpose of living." Amato looks down at his Bible again and takes a moment to read a particular verse before continuing. "I attempt to make my only impact a spiritual one, as you, I hope, are an example of."

"I see," Dantes says, thoughtfully, even as he resists the impulse to lunge for Amato over the pews. He looks as if he's half-strangling, and coughs into a curled fist, before pounding his chest. "Do….are you employed here?"

"Are you in need of attention, sir?" Amato asks as a valet might, arching an eyebrow as he witness the coughing fit and deftly avoiding the question. "There is a store around the block which should be open where you could get something for that. It doesn't sound healthy in the least bit."

Dantes admits, after a moment, "I smoke too much. My own fault," He's finally gotten his breath back. But as he looks up from under his brows, there's a glint of that impotent fury in his eyes. No back up. No one to call but Christian. He could creep out and call 911, but man, try getting that call past dispatch.

"We all have our faults," Amato agrees with an incline of his head, "and it is to God we must answer for them. And while all sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord, I think you might find leniency for your profanation of the body as a temple in comparison to other things you have alluded to, if you don't mind me saying."
"Are they really?" Dantes wonders, very quietly. His hands are white-knuckled where they're laced in his lap. "Murder of innocents versus, oh, sodomy? Where do we draw the line? It's been years since I was in parochial school, but I seem to remember cardinal and venial sins….."

Amato's initial answer is a soft 'beh' sort of scoff, and he shakes his head. "In a way, yes. Venial sins are those which we commit unknowingly or without consent. Playing accomplice in a matter you are aware of only after the fact, for example. Doctor Samuel Mudd in setting John Wilkes Booth's leg, for example. Cardinal sins, one must admit, are vague and in a way, all encompassing. No one is free of either in a world such as this. One may be more or less prideful than his neighbor, but each are guilty of pride and therefore sentenced to death in the eyes of God. The grace offered by Christ is our only salvation."

"And he's sort of a celestial get out of Jail free card? How far can we go?" Dantes says, moving fretfully in his seat. "I mean….I killed someone. Long ago, and it was in self-defense. The jury acquitted me. But….I can't forget it. What's justified?"

"Then your guilt is twisted. You saved your own life by taking another, sure," Amato suffers the indecency of a shrug when he says it, but it only helps the American persona he has donned. "But life is tantamount in the eyes of God. Your assailant, however, lived by the proverbial sword. As a result, he died by it. Call it fate. Karma. Poetic justice. Or God's will in action."

Absolution, and from his own lips. This will be ….ironic, in so many ways, no matter how this turns out. His expression smoothes a little, in honest relief. "True," he murmurs, almost humbly. "It just seems…presumptuous of me, to assume I know God's will on a given matter."

Amato's smile becomes a knowing, almost paternal one. "There is the rub, as it may be said. We can only derive from the Word and from our own personal revelations. Gut feelings and intuition are common vehicles, since the good Lord isn't in the habit of burning bushes anymore. It's a universal dilemma, I assure you."

"Personal revelation, huh? Have you ever had one?" Dantes wonders, lowering his gaze to his folded hands, lips thinning out as if he were clamping down on secrets.

"I'd like to take comfort in the idea, yes." Amato's eyes narrow at the question, but it is clear the man is in need of reassurance. "Though I'd also like to think they aren't uncommon. You read and hear about people having them before trips, and avoid airplanes or highways, thus circumventing tragedy. Or they may leave a line of work to adopt another, wherein which they find great personal fulfillment and financial gain."

He considers this. "I've had twitches of instinct. Saved my life. But that's a long way from a direct email from God," he says, with a short laugh, barely more than a snort. "What's to show it's not merely our own wishful thinking?"

"What's to show that our capacity to wishfully think isn't a manifestation of the divine spark?" Amato counters with a small smirk. "That very thing in us that is a reflection of the Almighty?"

"Because that's facile. Our desires….they're just that. We get tugged along by them, to our own undoing. It smacks of pride," he says, curling a fist, like he's gripping an unseen rope. Tug of war.

"With the light there is dark," Amato consents with a droll sort of nod. "Each holy inspiration battles against an instinctual, baser opponent. Human nature has been called both an agent of the Devil and the creation of God. But I suppose both are accurate statements, really. But conscience is molded, by experience and education. Your parochial school, for example."

Dantes nods to that. "God knows I got my knuckles rapped enough, when I was a kid," he says, pulling a wry face. "We had the most fearsome nuns on the west coast. I'm sorry. I've kept you talking way too long," he says, rising, and offering his hand. "Edward, by the way."

While Amato's hands are thin and delicate, his grip is firm. "Benjamin," he offers as he closes his Bible and stands to take the other man's hand. He struggles to keep his eyes open during the greeting, but it is an obvious fight accompanied by a tightening in his jaw and neck. No gloves mean an onslaught of images and scenes. Plenty of knuckling rapping type offenses sure, but there is also the man in the mirror and in the reflections of glasses in shop windows…the man Amato first saw in a darkened apartment. Amato's a great deal paler when he releases Dante's hand, but a swallow helps him regain some demeanor.

"Some may tell you that everything is relative," he says in a more immediate tone, as if his words now carried greater weight. "And it may be true, for some things. Friends. Enemies. Sinners. Saints. But relativity masks who we really are underneath all of those preconceptions and labels we fall victim to and attach to ourselves. God looks to the heart of man and judges him accordingly, and what are we but children aspiring to be more and more like the one who brought us into being?"

Oh, indeed. Because in the little scarlet archipelago of violent incidents in Dantes's past - and he's committed his share of brutal acts - is that little fight in the apartment. The pain of the knife, the desperate fury, and Amato's face, fleeting. Weird to see yourself in the mirror of someone else's memories. Doubly so when they're those of a dead man. "Agents of His will?" he offers, gently. And then, "You seem…unwell. You okay?" he wonders, ducking his head to look more closely into Amato's face.

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be quite alright," Amato says with another swallow and a small, if somewhat plastic smile. "But I was referring to the desire to be like God, or like Christ, if you prefer. All the word Christian means is little Christ, after all." Shaking his head, Amato starts to move away toward the end of the pew. "But I will excuse myself. I hope your evening goes well for you, where ever you may find yourself. Godspeed, Edward."

Dantes's brow is furrowed, with what might be concern. But he doesn't pursue, or protest. "Same to you, Benjamin," he says, simply, reaching into his pockets for his gloves. The sincerity of fanatics - it's always bewildering, and upsetting

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