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Scene Title Quarantine
Synopsis In whose hand is the soul of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind? Nick's self imposed quarantine puts him in the care of a once enemy.
Date May 15, 2011

Old Dispensary

A steady but light rain trickles down on the Dispensary, and one can almost see the overgrown lawns growing greener by the moment, the bright verdant hue a stark contrast to the gray and gloomy sky above, the reflection of which can be seen in the gleaming wet metal of Nick’s shiny black F-150, parked several yards from the Dispensary’s front doors.

The truck — and Nick within it — are back earlier than expected; he’d said he’d be back sometime Sunday night or Monday morning, but it’s just approaching 9:30. The young man’s figure can be seen, head down and tipped against the window. Upon closer approach, one can see his eyes are closed; his hair damp, his face pale. A note is tucked against the glass, written in a small and hasty hand on the back of his auto registration, to be read from the outside:

Need quarantine. Don’t touch door handle. Possible have non-ev H5N10.

If that weren’t ominous enough, there is a red smeared fingerprint on the corner of the note, as if to emphasize the critical nature of the message.

In a denim jacket that’s seen better days, pullover sweater, jeans, and boots, Amato swings the door to the Dispensary open with a well placed foot. The rest of him follows, a trash bag presumably full of an aggregation of the house’s waste bins lugged along. Once the door is closed behind him, the pale man lifts the relatively light bag over his shoulder and starts toward the street. There’s nothing incriminating in it, so there’s no harm in leaving it at the curb for whatever scavengers may decide to go through it, or whatever good Samaritan sanitation officers may decide to pick it up to haul off.

It isn’t until he gets to the curb that Amato notices Nick’s truck, and the presence of a note he can’t quite make out has him squinting. He starts toward the vehicle, straining to make out the letters and Nick’s face through the glass. He’s about seven feet away before he reads the full message of the text, and the realization makes Amato’s eyes widen. He starts forward with new speed, then stalls, unsure of himself or his understanding of this strain of the deadly influenza.

It isn’t any sound from outside that happens to stir Nick at that moment, but merely the need to cough; suddenly his shoulders rise and fall and his eyes open as he brings an arm to his mouth to cough into it. The attack is too violent to be a simple cold, and Nick didn’t have the cough yesterday morning. When he finally raises his head, wiping his mouth, there’s a glint of red in one corner, and he lifts his eyes to the rearview mirror, furrowing his brow at his own countenance.

Finally resting his head back on the headrest, he turns to look out the window, visibly jumping when he sees Amato. He reaches to the door to push the button for the window; the whites of his blue eyes are bloodshot, but there is a spot of red in the right and now another smaller pinprick in the left. Nick lets the window descend just two inches.

“I shoulda gone to the hospital maybe instead,” he murmurs, “but I wasn’t sure ‘til I got here.” It’s an apology, of sorts. His hair and face are damp, the oily sheen indicative of sweat rather than rain. “Fever’s bad. I don’t think I can get there now.”

Amato inches closer when Nick cracks the window, though part of his body leans away from the truck. “You would spread the infection,” he says flatly, though his eyes are narrowed in concern. “Even if you went to a hospital in one of the manufactured ghettos, you would still spread it. That cannot be helped.”

Straightening, Amato squares his shoulders and studies the man inside the truck. “This is no sick-room, Nicholas,” he says after a moment, as if Nick could have helped the fact that he didn’t get out of his car. Still, his intentions were good.

“That was my thought… safer here except Raith.” Nick speaks in short bursts. He tugs the keys out of the ignition and nods toward the door. “I think it’s non-evo only. You won’t get sick, but you should try’n’stay clear so you don’t track it either. If you go ahead of me, opening doors and I make sure not to touch nothin’ on the way to my room…”

Another cough rises and he turns away, coughing again into his forearm. “Fuck,” is rasped after before he nods back to Amato. “Back up. I’m gonna get out.”

Slowly, Nick opens the door, and climbs out before gingerly moving to the bed of his truck. He reaches over the tailgate to grab his duffel bag, rifling through it and grabbing a t-shirt to tie around his face as a makeshift mask, covering nose and mouth before he nods to Amato, then to the door.

Amato nods, accepting this role. He turns and walks ahead of Nick, but he keeps his gait short so that he is only slightly leading the other man. Just enough to open the door and close it behind him. Just enough to serve as a warning to others in the house, should they run across their path.

“There is tea - I can bring you some. I do not know what Eileen has in the way of medications, but I will check. Chances are there must be something that will help.” There has to be.

Waiting for the last of the doors, the one to his room, to be opened — Nick not wanting to contaminate the outer doorknob — Nick nods, dropping the duffel bag in the corner of the room and moving to sit on the bed, reaching to unlace his boots.

“You don’t have to come in. You can just leave it outside in the hall. I’ll - ”

Rest,” Amato interrupts. “And not tell me how the sick are to be cared to.” His tone is a fair degree firmer as he stands in the open doorway. “Of course, there must be precautions. But you are to leave those to me. Stress will only exacerbate your illness.”

He pauses, his brows furrowed and the line of his mouth thin. “I will bring you tea and more blankets.” Amato’s eyes drop to the portion of Nick’s face covered by the shirt, already flecked with a few drops of residual blood. “And tissues.”

Then he’s gone - the door still open wide as the sound of his footsteps mark his path down the hall to his own room. There’s the scraping of chair legs on the floor, and the thunk of wood against the wall. He appears again, his arm reaching to grasp the handle once more and pull the door shut.

Nick opens his mouth to protest, but everything seems to move a touch too slow and he simply nods to the empty door. He leans to the side as he brings his legs up onto the bed. His eyes close for the time that Amato is gone from the room, and open again, blearily to regard the man when he reappears.

“You don’t have t’take care of me. I’ll be fine. Just don’t want anyone else t’get sick. Keep Raith safe. I’ll use just the smaller bathroom, take meals in here. Use paper plates for mine,” Nick murmurs the litany of precautions Amato already told him weren’t his to worry about. His eyes close again, brows drawing together, a raspy breath taken and then released. “Thanks,” he adds, perhaps belatedly.

Amato pauses, his arm pushing back against the door before it comes home to it’s latch. “Lo farò,” he says, one eyebrow arching slightly higher than the other. “De jure.” A smile flickers onto his drawn face, and he nods in the manner of a valet. “You’re welcome. Che Dio ti benedica, ragazzo.

He ducks out then, closing the door with a soft click.

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