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Revision as of 21:57, 22 May 2020

Let the Right One In
Dramatis Personae

Lucien, Malthus, Steve

2020-05-21


"Answer me this, then: What will you do to stop it?"

Location

<NYC> Mount Sinai Hospital - Upper East Side


On the cutting edge of many medical technologies, Mount Sinai Hospital is often ranked as one of the nation's best hospitals. The medical school attached is one of the best in the world, meaning that even your med students know what they are doing. Chin up, then -- when you come in here badly mutilated after the latest terrible catastrophe in Times Square, you're in good hands.

It's late now, and this part of the hospital, at least, is reasonably quiet. This particular room even more so, though it's filled with the soft drone of medical equipment. The vitals monitor has fortunately been calibrated to the patient's unusual physiology, so that it isn't constantly trying to warn staff of his impending death. Steve is, in fact, very much alive, his condition stable as he dozes -- little thanks to the laughably inadequate painkillers being pumped into him through an IV -- in the aftermath of an emergency surgery that may leave several doctors and nurses in need of therapy notwithstanding his attempts to reassure them he was used to being fully conscious while people dug around in his body cavities. The sheets and blankets have been tucked around him just so, the tubing and wires connecting him to the machinery tidied as much out of the way as possible, little though he is likely to notice in his current state.

Surgery itself might have been a gruesome ordeal but -- somehow, its aftermath now has been, insofar as it is possible in the septic confines of a hospital, one of relative comfort. The medication proves little use, perhaps, but Lucien's arrival is followed by a swift and sure obliteration of all lingering pain. There are times that he wields his ability with a light and subtle touch -- this is not one of them. The hurt is replaced instead with a heady euphoria, warm and drowsy.

Somewhere at the periphery of his drugged awareness is Lucien. Coming straight from the gala he has not changed from his professional attire there, dressed still in a perfectly tailored light grey suit of fine materials and classic lines, white broadcloth dress shirt, sage green tie with subtle diagonal silver stripes, and polished black monk shoes. Overdressed for a hospital. Exactly-enough-dressed to blend into the background in his staffing role at the club. He sits, now, by Steve's bedside, his phone in one hand and his other lightly resting against Steve's.

One might be forgiven for initially mistaking Malthus for the Grim Reaper. The long, black coat he wears resembles dark robes; his shaved head and tranquil expression evokes that of Death's from The Seventh Seal. There is a quiet dignity he extends to this place; each footstep is positioned with reverence and care.

Nevertheless -- no matter how quiet he is, there is no shushing the two uniformed officers who walk behind him. They walk with the swagger of men who have found their authority challenged and rebuffed -- and are eager to exert it somewhere anew.

As they reach the entryway, Malthus gestures to the officers to stop. It is Malthus, then, who first appears in the doorway -- standing like a looming raven perched above a potential feast. His posture and expression exude civility and calm -- but the angry snarl of scar-tissue over his sightless eye belies a far more savage pathology. The one good eye is focused sharply... on Lucien.

"Good evening."

Perhaps it is the heavy tromp of swaggering jackbooted police-footsteps that draws Lucien's attention upward even before Death darkens his door. Perhaps it is just a vague sense of foreboding. Whatever the cause, he's tucking his phone away and rising at about the time the others arrive.

He folds his hands neatly behind his back, approaches the doorway. His nod is polite -- first to the officers, then to Malthus. The calm of his bearing is an oddly mirrored counterpoint to Malthus's -- though as he looks back it is from a face unblemished, an expression that tells only of a polite and neutral interest. "Good evening, gentlemen. May I help you?" His voice is quiet, a soft francophone accent gentling his words.

For a time, Malthus says nothing. The sheer weight of the silence is like a palpable presence. He stares at Lucien, assessing. The officers behind him grow restless. One shuffles aimlessly toward the door, but is instantly rebuffed by Malthus's crisply raised hand. The officer shuffles back. He and his partner find the stand-off increasingly uncomfortable; like vampires expectantly waiting to be invited in.

Malthus permits the silence to speak for him. When, at last, he grows weary of what it has to say -- he dismisses it: "I presume you are aware of why I am here and what I intend to do. Answer me this, then: What will you do to stop it?"

The question is asked as soft as a whisper; it carries with it no malice. But it is accompanied by the ever-so-slight narrowing of that one eye. Continuing to assess Lucien. Judging him.

Lucien is a patient man -- and, to be fair, at this precise moment he has very little elsewhere to be.

He waits.

There is no evidence of discomfort in his posture; he does not fidget. Does not shuffle. The even calm of his expression only shifts when Malthus speaks -- and even then it is only the slight hitch of an eyebrow. "You presume quite a bit." His hands unfold, spreading upward in front of him; the slight dip of his head is apologetic. "Captain Rogers is sleeping, however, and it has regrettably taken quite an ordeal to get him there. I am afraid that whatever your intentions, I must insist you leave him to his rest."

The officers behind Malthus grow fidgety. Malthus's own implacable stare sharpens. His brow pinches inward, crumpling into a knot. The only other outward sign of his internal struggle is visible at his left hand. It is clenched into a fist, the knuckles bone-white. His fingers dig so deep into his palm that they've cut into skin.

"I am here on behalf of a government agency regarding a matter of national security. It is my intention to acquire a sample of this gentleman's blood under the supervision of the two uniformed police officers behind me. Now, I will ask you once more, and only once more: Do you intend to physically stop me?"

Each word is selected and spoken with methodical precision. Malthus remains on the other side of the threshold -- again, like a vampire held at bay by the rite of invitation.

"Goodness." Now Lucien's eyes do widen. A touch. Just -- the faintest fluttering of long lashes, vivid green gaze ticking -- ever so briefly! -- to the accompanying police officers. "Is that your intention? That sounds --" The slight crease that wrinkles his brow is brief, as well, smoothing out nearly as soon as it dares think of troubling his placid expression. "Tremendously illegal. Forgive me, but Captain Rogers is -- I believe I did mention -- not conscious and cannot currently consent to such a procedure. Certainly, the both of us care deeply about matters of national security. I would of course be more than happy to pass along to him any consent forms you care to leave. For him to peruse, when he is in a position to do so." His voice is still -- pleasant. Calm. Somewhere in the course of this soft spill of words he has quietly shifted himself -- just that much more squarely into the doorway.

"Hhh." There is a slight creaking, popping sound. It takes Malthus a moment to realize it's coming from his mouth -- where his teeth have started to fiercely grind together.

"Uh... wait, is that --" One of the officers is now tilting his head past Malthus's shoulder, trying to look in and manage a peek at the gentleman on the bed. "Is that -- Steve Rogers? Holy shit." That last part is mumbled under his breath.

Malthus's lone eye remains firmly fixed on Lucien. He does not move. The grinding sound intensifies, and is soon accompanied by the crack-pop-crack of two fists firmly clenched.

"Like... Steve Rogers Steve Rogers?" the other cop says, under his breath. "Nobody told us we're here to --"

Something snaps. And suddenly... Malthus's brow is smooth. His hands are open. And his jaw is unclenched.

"Of course. My apologies. I was under the misconception that consent had already been provided," Malthus speaks, his tone carrying the serene cordiality with which one might civilly discuss the weather. "A breakdown in communication, I suspect. Please, pardon this interruption; I'll leave you be," he continues, extending his hand out to Lucien. "Thank you," he tells him. "Were not for your presence here tonight..."

The lone eye narrows. "...one of us might have made a grave mistake."

"It is indeed," Lucien confirms, "and I'm afraid he's had quite a night already -- no doubt the news will tell of it before long. And you are quite welcome." The barest slip of a smile flits across his face, his head inclining to the officers before he looks back to Malthus. Takes the offered hand in a brief -- firm -- clasp.

"Were I not here I suppose I might have been having one too many Scotches while running lines. I, at least, am glad I could put my evening to a more productive use. I'm only sorry you all had to trouble yourself to come all this way. -- Oh, excusez-moi." His hand lifts -- eyes skipping past Malthus to a somewhat lost-looking young woman with bike helmet and take-out bag both dangling from her wrist. "I believe that's for me. Please, do take care, and --" His tone is a little more offhand, now; his attention has already slipped past Malthus and the police officers as he lifts a hand to hail the delivery worker, "I will be sure to give Captain Rogers your regards."

Malthus's own grip is extremely firm, but does not linger. He swiftly exits with the two officers (both of whom are eager to sneak a glimpse at Captain friggin' America) reluctantly in tow. Stepping aside to make room for the young woman who steps past.

He says nothing in response to Lucien's pledge to give Captain Rogers his regards; instead, he merely nods. And then, Robert Malthus and the two officers are gone -- like a murder of crows chased off their prey.