What You Believe

June 10, 2018:

Vivienne meets up with Tom Judge, Caitlin arrives and the women sit and talk of faith and the faithful.

Somewhere Near Harlem.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions: Lara Croft, Robert Berresford

Plot:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Vivienne actually, in her day life, was a student, though she seemed to have been given an unlimited dispensation for time to finish her doctoral studies. Just now, though, she was stepping out of the cab that had carried her from Columbia to the cross-street with Harlem just on the horizon. A frown at her phone, as she scrolled through some list or another.

-

There are plenty of bars in the surrounding streets, all good reasons why Tom Judge might be in the area. For once though, he's wholly, utterly sober, a situation he isn't overfond of at the best of times. He's slouched in a doorway, smoking. He's doing what could best be described as loitering, or maybe people watching, glancing up and down the street now and then. A familiar figure, stepping out of a cab, makes him straighten for a moment, a frown touching his lips. What are the chances? He glances up, around, just in case…

-

Vivienne too, lifted her head, something about the area, or something, someone in it, catching her attention. Probably better not to use the metaphor of 'spidey'-senses here. She ducks down long enough to pay the driver, clearly not being on the paying with a card bandwagon, straightening and turning in a slow half-circle as she tries to find that source of disturbance. On a street as full of vibrant life as this one is, it actually isn't that difficult to find the single rock in the stream, and to begin to make her way in his direction.

-

He's still, mostly, watching the skies, the places away from where people are, when she approaches. "No otherworldly entities attacking me, and you're here. Amazing. Hold that feeling," Tom says, with a flippant gesture of hand towards Vivienne when she's close enough.

-

"I'm not sure whether to take that as a compliment or a curse, Tom. It's good to see you mostly hale and whole." Vivienne never gets that close to him, seeming to accept a certain need for distance and separation that Tome seems to have, not only with her, but with the rest of the world. "I think there was a cart with a hot dog with my name on it. Interested?"

-

"I'm not rightly sure, either," the ex-priest admits with a hearty laugh, if somewhat wry. He pats his chest with his free hand, the Rapture swinging and glinting in the light as he does so. "Haven't been eaten by demons yet, many attempts in the interim aside. Business as usual, you know," he says it with such facetiousness that it's difficult to tell whether he's being anywhere near serious or not. He regards Vivienne at her offer for a long moment, taking the time for his gaze to sweep the street again for a moment, maybe lingering on one or two places a bit longer than others, before he gestures, go on, stepping out from the doorway and sucking in a lungful of nicotine as he falls into step with her.

-

"Yes, I heard about some of the troubles you've been running into. You should have called me," she did after all, make sure he had her number, "I could have saved you some of the healing time." His human form was, after all, so very human. "Not to mention that I know quite a few discrete drycleaners." Vivienne, seeing Tom step out of the doorway and fall into step with her, turns to head towards the cart in question, keeping close to the edge of the sidewalk, as they move closer to actually being in the flow of foot traffic, "Now, here's the real question…shall we continue with the hot dogs, or shall we hit the halal cart?"

-

"Why?" Tom seems surprised, as if he'd never even considered it. Probably hadn't. "I heal just fine the normal way." He rolls his shoulders, briefly. "Croft told you, huh?" The tall thin man at Vivienne's side is strange looking — not just for the fact that he seems restless and twitchy, glancing all around as they walk — but also for the priest's collar that hangs loose around his neck, and the ancient-looking double-barrel cross that swings loosely from a chain around his neck, glinting in the light as he moves. "Maybe after a drink or two," because food without drink is just as much of an oddity as a fully-sober Judge is.

-

"She mentioned you'd been attacked, yes. And her home's been targeted as well. That worries me. Though, to be thankful for small favours, the city has been fairly quiet in the last few weeks." Vivienne sidesteps a pair of tourists trying to actually stop in the middle of the sidewalk for dual selfies, reaching into a pocket to remove a billfold as they get to the end of the queue for the hot dog cart. "Because I could have healed you more quickly."

-

The queue at the cart is a little long because Caitlin just ordered what is probably a lethal dose of sodium and nitrates for a normal human. Two buns, four dogs, literally all the trimmings— and served in a small popcorn container, because the only way to it it without making a mess is with a fork.

She pays and steps out of the line, tucking her little billfold into a purse that's almost comically small compared to her. Her dress is quite modest, a deep aubergine with three-quarter sleeves and a knee-length skirt. She looks like she's part of the crowd that attended the evening Mass and is filtering back out into the world.

Spotting Magdalena, Caitlin hastily swallows her bite of hotdog and then waves to get the other woman's attention, smiling in a friendly fashion.

-

Tom shoves one hand in his pocket, still smoking — earning an unpleasant glance from the woman in the queue in front of them. The man seems oblivious or uncaring, though — grimacing. "I hadn't heard," about Lara being attacked. "I told her to go the other way. Pretend she never saw me. Damn, stupid, stubborn woman," he says with a hint of heat that might — just might — suggest the ex-priest actually gives a damn. Grudgingly, he crushes his cigarette out underfoot, shoulders rolling in a dismissive way. "I'm fine, as you see." His gaze is back to sweeping the street again, frowning when he spots a stranger waving at him. No, not at him — at Vivienne.

-

"I think we were lucky enough to catch the attack before they could get to her house in Greenwich. I was lucky to have some help in closing a breech there. I haven't considered whether or not I'll tell her about it. I gave her what weapons I could, in the hopes they might protect her, but I worry about subjecting her to too much of," here she pauses, as Tom grinds out the cigarette, "our world."

As tall as Caitlin is, it would be nearly impossible to miss her, or the wave she sends on Vivienne and Tom's direction. "She is a capable woman…but she's only human." And then, a shift in conversation, as they move nearly to the front of the line, "Caitlin! Wonderful to see you! It's been a good minute."

-

Caitlin makes a motion to offer a (careful) one-armed hug to Magdalena, holding her bowl-o-franks out and away so there's no chance of it spilling. "Vivienne, it's good to see you, too," she assures the other woman. Clearly, Caitlin's mentally categorized the regal woman as 'friend'. Fighting crazy Monkey Gods will do that.

"Fancy bumping into you here. Are—" she glances at Tom Judge. Brows lift and quirk expressively, and a question dies before she voices it. "Are you two just coming from Church?" she inquires, tilting a shoulder at the stately gothic edifice halfway down the block.

-

"I think your friend Berresford," and there's a sarcastic lilt in Tom's tone as he uses that word, "Already got her involved. Whether she wants to be or not. Best bring her all the way in." Not that he seems happy in the least about it — more resigned. His mouth twists a little, and not wholly at the sight of the hot dogs, either. He half eyes Caitlin, but doesn't much bother with any friendly greetings, particularly in light of her assumption, even if it would be logical given the priest collar he sports. "No," he growls, and with a roll of shoulders, turns with the obvious intention of leaving the two abruptly. He could have somewhere to be, but Magdalena probably knows him well enough to know that it's just the way Tom Judge rolls.

-

"Well, the next time, you can make the call." And then she really doesn't have much else that she can say as Tom does the most Tom thing he can do, and just turns and wanders off. There's the slightest pursing of her lips, before she simply moves up to place her order, and await the delivery of her meal. At least she has the tall redhead's hug to soothe her feelings, and that actually brings a smile to her lips, "No, I don't think he's go into a Church unless he was unconscious. I went to service earlier today. Have you just been?"

-

Caitlin blinks at Tom's abrupt departure. A minor expression of insecurity for the priest's back is checked by Vivienne's very nun-like pursing of her lips— it's almost probably not (hopefully) anything Caitlin did.

"Evening Mass," she says, wagging her chin. "Sunday is literally my only day off, so I figure I can catch the late service and sleep in a little," she admits, wryly. "I'm trying to be better about attending. Y'know— good for the soul," she says, a little self-consciously. Among the metahuman community, attendance of religious services leans towards the sparse side.

-

"Don't mind him, Caitlin. He's…dealing with a few demons of his own. And not the sort, that I think he could exorcise, even if he could get the Church's dispensation." The comment about coming from mass does seem to engage her, and as she takes the two hot dogs, also with everything, and a potato knish, no mustard, because mustard is how the devil gets inside you, she moves to draw Caitlin away from the queue. "I'm actually surprised you attend. And yes, it is. But God isn't just in those walls. He is wherever you are."

-

Caitlin's shoulders move asymmetrically, and she pinks a little. "I know. Not a lot of people do the Church thing," she says, following Magdalena as the other woman steps out of queue. Somehow, Caitlin's already halfway through her immense meal— but she's eating very politely, not wolfing it down or making a mess.

"I — I used to go a lot when I first got here. Then, the League, and work, and… I'unno, I got out of the habit. It just…" she scrunches up her nose, looking for the word. "I can't articulate it. I feel so… peaceful during services." She directs an interrogative look towards Vivienne. "So— your friend's a priest. Do you visit a Sunday service?"

-

Vivienne begins her own meal, moving with easy grace, somehow managing to part the sea of bodies, as she heads for a bench not far from one of the many cultural centers of one kind or another, that seem to dot the landscape. "There's no reason at all to be embarrassed about that. Least of all with me. I grew up in the Church, literally. Raised by nuns the whole nine yards. And I know how much that feeling of peace and oneness with God can help to hold you together when the rest of the world seems to be falling apart." She settles onto the bench , leaving plenty of room for Caitlin to join her.

-

It's a good, sturdy old iron bench. The sort of thing that could double as a tie-down for horses (and given the age of the borough, it might have!) Still, she sits /carefully/ and it creaks a little as the tall ginger takes a seat and puts her purse across her lap.

"I know there's some… debate about the Church," Caitlin says, timorously. "I try not to get too caught up in the social commentary. It's…" she looks down the street, then back at Vivienne. "I'unno. It just makes me feel calm and safe. And the volunteer work the Parish does is just awesome." A smile flickers across her face.

"What was it like, being raised by nuns?" she inquires. "I didn't think convents took children in. How old were you?"

-

"I think there is always debate about faith, and whether or not we need it as we express it here in the world. I think, in the end, it's a very personal thing. And that it doesn't matter what you believe, as long as you believe in something. Some find strength and reassurance in the Church, some don't. And that should be okay, not something to be decried, or indeed, something to be forced on the unwilling."

Vivienne considers, eating in silence, as she waits for Caitlin to join her, as though she needed to find the right words. "Caitlin, have you ever seen that movie, The Da Vinci Code? Or read about the conspiracy theories about how Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and when he died, she went to Egypt to have his daughter and then went to France to escape the Church?"

-

Caitlin's expression grows a little solemn as Vivienne offers her thoughts on the topic of faith. It's a big question, and from her shifting posture, Vivinne might realize she's stumbled right into Caitlin's uncertain train of thought on the issue.

The question from the other woman jars her back to reality, and she blinks her voluminous green eyes twice. "I— yeah, I read the book," Caitlin admits. "And the… what was it, wasn't it the Masons?" she hazards, screwing up her brow in thought. "Or the Illuminati… they protected her, and — no, wait, it was the Templars—" she puts a palm to her brow and shakes her head. "Gah. I'm sorry, now I'm thinking of that movie Launcelot and THAT's not right," she apologizes, before laughing merrily at her own scattered recollections.

-

Vivienne actually looks rather amused, as Caitlin's recollections of the book, "That book was a bit of two truths one lie, except the other way around. Some of those things were true. There was a real Jesus, and a real Mary, who was his wife. And a daughter. Sarah, and many that came after. Even the idea of an order of the Church that protected them, and the children of Christ who came after. Though…the truth is, that it was really only ever the Daughters that the Church cared about." And then, again with a smile, "And it was the templars, though no longer. Now the Swiss Guard have added that to their duties."

-

-

"No, the Swiss Guard protects the Pope," Caitlin tells Vivienne. "And in the book I'm /pretty/ sure it was the Illuminati. Because he was… looking for the grail, or something? Wow, my memory suuuucks," she exhales.

She leans away to throw out her empty container. Where did she put all that food?! She tidies her fingers and mouth fastidiously with a napkin, and turns to face Vivienne again. "But I don't remember that bit with the… family in the books," she hazards. "I mean, like, not what you're saying. Or was that in Angels and Demons?" she inquires, furrowing her brow. "Sorry, I mean, ask me anything about Warcraft lore and—" she flips a hand in the air. "But it's a fun story, right?"

-

"Yes, the Swiss Guard does protect the Pope. But the Pope no longer trusts the Knights Templar to perform the duties they had been charged so long with. No protect the Daughters of the Son, to see to their training and protection." Vivienne took a bit longer to eat, but she had less to begin with, and she soon rose to throw out her own trash. "He was looking for the grail. The receptacle that held the blood of Christ. Only that receptacle was a woman. Who bore a daughter who held the blood of Christ within her. Who went on to bear a daughter herself, and on and on through the centuries. And out of all of those many daughters, there were a chosen few, who were named The Magdalena, in honor of Mary, who were chosen to serve the Church."

-

Caitlin listens, spellbound. It's a fantastic narrative, and Vivienne relays the message with the sort of patient authority that so few people can manage. It almost sounds like she's speaking Absolute Truth.

"Wow, I didn't know that!" Caitlin says, the heels of her low flats bobbling under the bench. "Is that from the third book? I thought Dan Brown retired, I haven't really seen anything else of that scale. Is this a short story he's working on?"

She's a little slow, but at least Caitlin looks genuinely interested in Vivienne's explanation.

-

There's something soft, warm, in Vivienne's laughter, in the smile that follows, as she hears Caitlin's question, "It would make an amazing story, wouldn't it? If one could take the time to write it down." She shakes her head though, as she does as Caitlin might have seen her do once before, on the day they first met, reaching under the light summer coat she wears, to draw out a spear head. The shaft so short, it might have been missing entirely. She offers it to Caitlin, "I think you've seen this before. Take it."

And if she does, she'll feel it. It is a holy relic, it nearly vibrates with the power of it. But there's something calming, peaceful in it, something that will touch the part of Caitlin's heart that going to Church does.

-

Caitlin blinks at the spearhead, and accepts it with a reflexive sort of reverance. She balances it on her fingertips and gives it a closely scrutinzing once-over.

"It… it's funny," she says, a little dreamily. Her fingers curl around it, heedless of sharp edges. "It's so soothing. Where'd you get it? Is this… an arrowhead?" she inquires, squinting at the device. "Looks more like it'd be on a crossbow, it's…" her eyes lid moentarily, then open and focus on Vivienne.

"What is it?" she inquires, clearly sensing some deeper revelations pending in the wings.

-

Vivienne seems to have no worry for the spearhead, for all that she's had proof of Caitlin's strength, nor does she seem worried that should she hand it over, she will not get it back. "It is the Spear of Longinus. Though it has been called, in times past, the Spear of Lugh. You might also know it as The Spear of Destiny. This is the weapon you saw me use when we encountered the Monkey King."

Vivienne falls silent, allowing Caitlin time to commune with the Spear which, while it has no true voice, has a way of speaking with those who hold it. If they have the heart to listen. "It is the traditional weapon of the Magdalena, those daughters of Christ chosen to fight for and defend the Church."

-

Caitlin gives Vivienne a suspicious look. It's hard not to feel like she's being teased. But… there's a depth of sincerity to Vivienne's words. Her tone speaks volumes of Truth that appeal to Caitlin both morally and personally.

Her fingers curl around the sharp blade, and she starts to talk, stops, and starts again only to fall silent before the question is voiced.

"You— this isn't just a sunday school story, is it," she says, in a tone of nervous uncertainty.

She glances down at the spearhead. Caitlin's no holy warrior or paladin, or even the clergy. She's not 'just' a corn-fed Iowa transplant… but very clearly, there's a sense on her features of a young woman who's stumbled into something waaay past her paygrade.

-

Vivienne's voice is still gentle, as she watches the tall redhead sitting beside her on the bench, in the bright, warm sun of summer, "No, it's not just a sunday school story. Though, I imagine, if it were, a few more children might be interested in actually attending. Though, to be fair, fighting demons is not, in reality, as exciting as they make it seem in movies." Vivienne lifted a hand, attempting to place it on one of Caitlin's wrists, not gripping, only allowing the warmth of her fingers to settle there, if the young woman allows, "So, what I would say to you, Caitlin, is to trust in your faith. Faith is real, and so is the power behind it. And if you can't perform the ceremonies or go through the motions, like going to services…that's alright. He's always listening."

-

Caitlin looks … a little overwhelmed. Vivienne has that manner of speech that's just impossible to dismiss. Her use of words, cadence, even the easy confidence of her tone.

She doesn't object at all from Vivienne's touch, and gives the other woman a look of worried uncertainty. "I…" she hesitates.

"I kinda … want to tell you something about services," she gets out, after a beat. "But I don't want you to think I'm… crazy, or whatever."

-

There's not an ounce of judgment, in Vivienne's eyes, or in her expression, as she listens to Caitlin, her touch lingering, only for a moment, but in that moment, offering something of the same peace of the spear. "I'm not going to think you're crazy, I promise you. We're talking about what already sounds like the maddest thing in the world, and it's all perfectly true. As true as your own powers." Not all of which Vivienne has seen, of course, but what she saw Caitlin using to help the injured during the arrival of Sun Wukong.

-

With great reverence, Caitlin offers the spearhead back to Vivienne. She hunches a little— an expression of uncertainty and fear. She's obviously someone not quite comfortable in her skin, no matter Viv's polite enncouragement.

"My…. my daddy used to take me to Mass," she tells Vivienne. "I mean, I /remember/ going to services, before I moved to New York," she explains. She dithers, fingers curling in the fabric of her dress and one heel drumming a staccato beat. "But part of me wonders if…. am I going because I want to go? Or because I was -taught- to go?" she says, haltingly. "Is it /me/ who wants to go to Mass, or am I just going because that's how I was brought up?"

-

"Would you believe, Caitlin, that, in a way, I asked myself the very same question once? When I was being raised, I was taught what my duties would be, what my obligations would be, what would be expected of me. If I were chosen to serve, to be the Church's Magdalena. And when that day finally came, I had to ask myself, if I wanted to serve the Church, or if I did it simply because I had been raised to do it. In the end, what I chose to do,w as to serve God, and to serve my faith. And to work with the Church. I think we learn faith from our families, our communities. We're taught what we're supposed to do, how we're expected to act. But I think eventually, to all of the faithful, there comes a crossroads, when you have to decide what it is that you have faith in. Is it the trappings or the thing itself. If you could never step foot in a Church again…would you still believe?"

-

Caitlin fidgets, a little awkwardly, and finds something on the sidewalk to stare at. She moves to hug a knee to her chest, but at the last second prevents a wardrobe malfunction and forcefully clasps her hands in her skirted lap and swings one ankle behind the other.

"I don't know," she admits, finally, her voice somewhat small, and eyes focused on the concrete. "I don't agree with the Church on a lot of stuff. And I know I go because it's how I was pr— taught. Sunday is for Church. But…I don't know. I don't know if that's /me/ wanting to go to Church, or the person I think I'm supposed to be," she says, exhaling slowly.

-

"I don't agree with much of what the Church does either. Which is why I work with them, but I do not serve them. If I feel they are doing what is wrong, what is against what my faith tells me, then I do what I believe is right. As you should. But this isn't something that happens overnight. And if you want help, I'm here, perhaps we can find ways to pray, to feel that divine presence without going into a building, and you can decide for yourself, if you need it or not." Vivienne considers the young woman across from her, before she continues, "And I might have a few texts, which might help to illuminate the situation. I will request the Library send them over."

-

Caitlin gives Vivienne an uncertain, interrogative look. "You're not -just- a member of the Parish, are you," Caitlin concludes, with a little flickering of insighht over her features. "You sound like one of the priests. The Jesuit priests, not the Irish-Catholic ones," She says. "Little more touchy-feely, little less 'fire and brimstone'," she remarks, and laughs at her own jest.

"I… Id' appreciate the reading material," she assures Viv. "I haven't spent a lot of time reading catechism and stuff. I know about St. Francis and Thomas Aquinius, but I… guess I'm looking for a way to connect with 'em, y'know?"

-

At Caitlin's question, Vivienne's hand closes around the spear that the younger woman returned to her, the artifact beginning to glow with a subtle radiance. Or, perhaps it is only Vivienne's hand that is glowing around the spear. Regardless, she doesn't seem to pay it any mind, "I am the Magdalena, Caitlin. I am the Church's champion, the one chosen to stand between the Church and the darkness. But the Church is not only a place, an institution. The Church is also you, and every other person who believes. Whether that belief is being tested or not. Perhaps especially when that belief is being tested."

Vivienne's smile widens, as Caitlin accepts the offer of reading material, "There are many more holy books than those that made it into the Bible that the Church constructed at the council of Nicaea. I believe they will have answers for you. or at least, they will help you along your road."

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