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Revision as of 18:10, 10 May 2020

And in their greed they will exploit you with false words; from of old their condemnation has not been idle, and their destruction has not been asleep.
Dramatis Personae

Iolaus, Leo, Steve

2020-05-09


"Perhaps I am making an error in thinking that the vox populi still cares about what is real and what is not."

Location

<NYC> St. Martin's Church - Harlem


St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church is not large, but it has a quiet majesty to it all the same, in the way of many old churches. A tall stone building tucked into the center of Harlem, it is one of the earliest Catholic churches in the city, and it looks it. Inside, the wooden pews stretch off towards the altar, the crucifix an immense and solemn wooden carving that presides over it all. Most of the windows are stained class, rich and vibrantly colourful depictions of various saints and Biblical scenes. Small recesses along the wall hold the Stations of the Cross depicted in intricate stone carvings, and the prayer alcove holds real flickering votive candles unlike many modern churches who have switched over to electric. The vaulted ceiling has detailed painting done between its arches, and the distinctive scent of frankincense often lingers faintly in the air.

Below, the basement of the church has been heavily modernized; there is a pair of meeting rooms for classes, a pair of bathrooms with showers, a door leading out to the tiny adjoining rectory building where the pastor lives. In tribute to the church's namesake, ministries for the poor are a large part of the church community; one room holds a wealth of donated clothing that is free for any to take. With the large dining room and industrial kitchen that serve hot dinners six days a week and distribute donated bags of groceries every Monday, there are frequent visitors through here who are often in need of the helping hand.

Saturday morning is just turning into the beginnings of the afternoon when the doors to St. Martin's let in two figures bundled up against the cold, even as a gust of wind follows them in, briefly guttering the candles at the front of the room before they brighten, fiercely, as the wind is shut out by the heavy oak doors. The two make their way into the chapel, shedding their hats, and one of them stopping briefly in front of the stoup and quietly murmuring a prayer in Spanish.

When the two enter the church, they quickly take a position near the back, sliding into the pews. An oddly matched couple, to be sure, one older and dressed in a ragged jacket where the younger one wears a charcoal suit and thin tie (Saville Row, natch.) Neither of them seems to be doing much prayer, however; Iolaus' eyes are busy scanning the room, the inside of his cheek curved inward slightly as he chews on it, and Alec takes out a book -- Keats is unlikely to be part of the liturgy -- from his overcoat and opens it to read.

Steve's dressed for the unseasonable chill in a navy peacoat, open at the moment, over a green, white, and purple plaid flannel button-down, gray corduroy trousers, and black combat boots. Even his short hair is a bit ruffled by the wind, though the man himself looks calm enough, if alert as he slips inside. His ice-blue eyes scan the near-empty church as he waves his companion inside with a hand neatly wrapped in white gauze. Then, almost automatically, dips a finger into the bowl of holy water beside the entry, crosses himself. He leads the way down to Io and Alec, letting his charge in ahead of him and genuflecting before slipping into the row himself and taking a seat. Unlike the other bodyguard, he does not break out the entertainment, but takes careful stock of the cavernous interior of the church again, calm but alert.

Leo is dressed for the weather as well, his black slim-line peacoat warm enough; he wears it over a vermilion button-down with a black mandarin collar, placket and turn-up cuffs, black plain front trousers and black loafers. Despite the snug coat he is still a touch shivery as he slips into the church behind Steve, trailing on autopilot to touch fingertips lightly into the holy water font, cross himself. He is hesitant when Steve lets him ahead, eying Iolaus with a touch of uncertainty, though ultimately he does slip into the pew. His hands fold in his lap, his eyes fixed on the altar at the front of the room. "Doctor." His voice is quiet.

Iolaus and Alec both look up as the other two men arrive at the pew. Though Alec's only visible reaction is the slightest raise of his eyebrows at Steve's presence, Iolaus is much more demonstrative, breaking out into a wide smile. "Steve," Iolaus says, volume modulated but tone pleased. "Mister Concepcion. It's a pleasure to finally meet you," he says, extending a hand towards the other man. "I've heard a lot about you, almost all of which I'm sure is lies. Thank you for meeting with me."

"Good morning, Doctor," Steve replies with a polite nod and a faint smile. Then adds to Leo with a contrite duck of his head, "I should perhaps have mentioned to you that I knew Doctor Saavedro. He helped me back when I was still new to the 21st century and...gun-shy about doctors. Without him it might have been a lot more trouble proving my identity."

Leo stiffens when Iolaus extends his hand, a slight clench tightening the line of his jaw as his eyes drop to the offered hand. Exactly enough time passes to make it awkward before he reluctantly unfolds his hands from his lap and reaches -- stiffly, very briefly -- to reciprocate. When he folds his hands in his lap again, he also shifts just a half-inch farther from Iolaus. "I've heard of you also." His eyes have fixed back on the altar. "I am still. A little gun-shy. On the subject of doctors."

"That is something that I'm, unfortunately, quite used to, so please -- don't worry. I won't take offense in the least." When the other man backs away from him, Iolaus himself slides back a little bit to give Leo more room, and he turns his gaze forward to the front of the room. He is silent for a half minute before he speaks again, voice quieter than before. "When I was in post-grad, one of the reasons I chose genetics for my doctoral work was because I was fascinated with how just a few small changes could affect something so much. A few letters here and there, and you have an entirely new animal, a new plant... a new disease. Just a few letters between life and death." A pause. "The work you've done is incredible, Mister Concepcion. I've looked over the cure, and I think I could repeat my entire doctoral work on it and still only be able to scratch the surface of the miracle you wrought."

"Forgive me if I speak out of turn here," Steve says quietly with a sidways glance at Leo. "I don't know a lot about genetics or diseases or Leo's...ability. But the circumstances and the choices he had to make about them were awful -- no one man should have had to do that." He bows his head, clasps his hands together awkwardly, then looks up at the crucifix behind and above the sanctuary. "It's not that I don't think it's worthy of thanks or praise, but to me it seems a collective apology is more in order than either."

Leo shifts in his seat, his fingers pressing tighter together. A touch of the stiffness in his posture eases up when Steve speaks; he breathes out slow and quiet, uncurling his hands to rest them instead on his knees. "I am sure it's -- very fascinating. To study. I admit I don't -- actually know much of the science of all of it. If you wanted me here to talk technicalities, I'm going to be a disappointment." His mouth compresses, his head bowing. "People were dying, and I could do something. I wish it had happened some other way."

"The circumstances make the thing all the more remarkable," Iolaus counters, gently. "Though, yes, I agree that an apology also seems in order." His lips purse, and he murmurs in a rhythmic Greek that has the well-worn feel of prayer. "'{Into whatsoever houses I enter, I will enter to help the sick, and I will abstain from all intentional wrong-doing and harm, especially from abusing the bodies of man or woman, bond or free.}'" In English, he continues. "'May I never see in the patient anything but a fellow creature in pain.' 'I will not use my medical knowledge to violate human rights and civil liberties, even under threat.' 'The health of my patient will be my first consideration.'" The doctor sighs, lacing his fingers together on his lap. "They say the oaths, but then breach them in the most fundamental and base ways. We've hung doctors for it before, and I hope we will again. I'm sorry, Leo, that those who have sworn to help have betrayed you."

Iolaus pauses for several moments. "No, Leo, I didn't ask you here to discuss the science. I came here to offer whatever help I can, small though it may be. I'm willing to put out a press release that your cure is real, that the science behind it is sound. I don't know how much weight my voice carries in the general public, but I think I can get some of my old professors to co-sign. They have much more weight than I do. I can also rush out a paper on it, to provide more evidence to the scientific community that it's real. And I can pray that not all of them have forgotten their sacred oaths."

Steve's right hand twitches when Leo's head bows, but he clearly conquers the urge to touch him, clamping his uninjured left hand more tightly around the gauze. "You saved a lot of lives. Doesn't make it uncomplicated or any less unfortunate." He tilts his head slightly when Io lapses into Greek, his eyebrows raising higher. Then scrunch back down, his perplexed gaze flicking aside to Leo for some hint or explanation. Finally, he gives a quick, abbreviated shake of his head. "I don't think anyone actually looking at the evidence doubts the vaccine is real. Plenty of folks do doubt it, but they probably aren't going to be convinced by more evidence if they weren't already convinced by the abrupt end of the outbreak here." He spreads his hands helplessly. "As for the men still after him? I'm pretty sure they believe it."

Leo glances over, meeting Steve's eyes with an equal confusion. A very slight shake of his head. His lip catches between his teeth, his fingers scrunching in against his knees. "Uh --" His brow pulls in. He hesitates a long moment, eyes skipping sidelong to Iolaus. His mouth opens -- closes. Opens. He finally speaks, slow and quiet and -- very cautious. "I'm -- sorry, Doctor, I think you -- may have a misunderstanding of my situation." His hands fold again, long fingers gently lacing in his lap. "The news has said a lot about me, I know. But --" His head tips, slightly, in Steve's direction. "The feds are not coming for me because they think my cure is not real. They're coming for me because they know that it is."

Head tilted slightly to one side, Iolaus nods as first Steve then Leo speak. "They know it is, but they tell the public something different, because their ability to chase you depends on the public not believing it's true." The doctor fidgets on the bench, looking down at his feet as he slowly turns one ankle this way and that. "Perhaps I am making an error in thinking that the vox populi still cares about what is real and what is not. Still, if that will not help... I am at your service, Mister Concepcion. What can I do?"

"As I said, I think don't think the folks who still doubt him at his point are going to be convinced by more evidence." Steve leans forward, resting his forearms on the back of the pew in front of him. "Doesn't mean public relations is any less important, though, and perhaps your connections may be of use there, Doctor." His muscular shoulders hitch up under his coat. "Luci's probably a better judge of that than any of us. But it seem to me at least the issue isn't swaying the...vox populi. Most folks know what's real and what's just, but don't know what they can do about it in the face of law enforcement that doesn't care and isn't answerable to the will of the people."

'Vox populi', Leo mouths silently to himself, eyes tipping down towards his hands. He draws in a breath slowly. Pushes it out slowly. "I'm very sorry, Doctor Saavedro," he finally says, hands unfolding once more. "I don't think that you and I have -- been living in quite the same of Americas. I am not sure I have an answer for you. Maybe Lucien will have one." He pushes himself to his feet stiffly, head tipping downward. Though he never actually removed his coat, he's still reaching for its front, smoothing at its flaps a little fussily as he turns toward the end of the pew.

Iolaus gives the other man a sad look and reaches into his pocket. Tugging out a business card, he scribbles a number on the back of it and then extends it to the other man. "If you think of something, Mister Concepcion. That's my cell phone. Call me, any time. Day or night. And I'll make sure Lucien knows of my offer, limited as my resources may be."

"Some men have a certain skill for walking between the world of the haves and world of the have-nots," Steve says quietly. "If anyone can figure out what could be of use, I'm sure Luci can." He rises with Leo, nodding to Io and Alec, "A good day to you both, and be safe out there." With this he walks Leo out into the blustery gray day waiting outside.