Buck was about to interview the many many thought would be the next Pope, but his mind was entirely on Chloe. They'd touched again last night. Nothing impressive, he just put his hand to her cheek, but if felt right, he wanted to do it again. He'd spent his whole life in a world without literal human contact. He had lived in a bubble only broken by handshakes and those were mostly with people he was pretty sure were trying to screw him over or sources met in dirty cafes and grungier allies. Nothing to compare with the experience of simply reaching out and touching Chloe's cheek.
He wanted more of it, he want to experience that physical connection again. And then again and again. Was he going too fast? To slow? Why the hell hadn't anyone ever thought to explain any of this to him? It was like the world went from thinking him to young, to assuming he already knew. Should they hold hands next time they met? When did they reach the point where they could tear each other's clothes of and have sex?
And where the fuck did that leap come from?
That bothered him. It wasn't supposed to work like that. Or was it? Did it mean that he was mistaking lust for love, or was it natural to think that way about someone you loved?
Why in hell didn't the give out a manual for this shit in high school?
It was time to start the interview and he tried to push everything out of his mind, but the attempt failed and he had to start while distracted and frustrated.
"Why didn't you tell me you were a candidate for the papacy?" Buck began. Some part of him realized it was rude and needlessly confrontational. This was not how they taught him to interview in school, but his mind wasn't on what he had been taught, it was on what his education left out.
"So, we're just going to jump right into it, are we?" Mathews said. "Don't you like a little champagne in the morning?"
When he said, “No thanks,” Buck realized that his tone was unacceptable. He didn't care, he was pissed off and Mathews was there. The fact that he wasn't pissed off at Mathews -that Mathews wasn't in any way responsible for his insecurities or his ignorance when it came to love and dating- didn't matter. Mathews was there, Buck needed to vent, Mathews got to be the target.
"Well, you won't mind if I have a little pick-me-up."
"Suit yourself. Tell me when you're available to chat."
"Thank you, Caryn," he said, as if to an old friend. Apparently she was. When she was gone he whispered, "The Litewski family, from my first parish. Baptized her myself. She's worked this flight for years. Now where were we?"
The reporter in Buck clawed its way back back to the surface and he realized that this was a perfect opportunity to get Mathews to talk about his early career. Talking about Caryn and his first Parish could be used to segway into why he joined the priesthood, what his experience was like being a simple priest, what he his hopes and dreams had been. Whether he ever saw himself as becoming Pope back then, and if he did what he thought he'd do as Pope. From there it would be easy and natural to move on to how things had changed since then in the church and the world, as well as how Mathews had changed.
By bringing up his first parish Mathews had opened the door to a very personal way to approach talking about Mathews entire career. Even corny questions like, “What do you think the Father Mathews who baptized Caryn would say to Pope Mathews?” could be just the kind specific detail needed to differentiate his article from every other “The man who will be Pope” article that would be flooding the market.
Buck could even interview Caryn to get the view from a parishioner and – Buck suppressed a shudder. The last time he took an interest in a flight attendant he wound up getting her a job for the antichrist and hadn't figured out a way to get her back out again. He'd gone through a thousand things to say in his head, and always came back to the same problem. Anything that she would believe wouldn't convince her to leave, anything he said that might have the power to convince her to leave wouldn't be believed. He needed to find something to make her leave Nicolae's employ that didn't resort to things that she would dismiss as religious fanaticism.
Buck wasn't going to risk screwing with Caryn's life.
Mathews had apparently had his fill of silence, "Oh, yes, you were wondering why I didn't mention the papacy. I guess I thought everyone knew. Carpathia knew."
[After telling Buck that he will very definitely become Pope, and that this will mean much more than being in charge of the Roman Catholic Church, Mathews says:]
"It'll be announced later this morning, and if you do not quote me directly, Ill give you the first shot at it."
Buck thought, Gee, thanks. I work at a weekly magazine. You're giving me the scoop a few hours ahead of time so I can report it days after everyone else. I shall forever be in your debt. Just one question, “Why would you do that?”
"Because I like you."
Right, because everyone who likes me gives me exclusives I can't use, besides, "You hardly know me."
"But I know Nicolae."
Buck sank in his seat. "And,” in spite of an ongoing effort to be as rude as I can be without being killed, “Nicolae likes me."
Buck wondered what it would take to make Nicolae lose interest. As long as Nicolae was paying attention he couldn't do anything useful, even the slightest indication that he knew the truth and Nicolae would notice and use his domination of the media to shut Buck down. Possibly have Buck killed while he was at it. If Nicolae would just move on, just see Buck as another of the 40,000 reporters in the US, then Buck probably still couldn't publish an article saying, “Nicolae is the ANTICHRIST!!!” but he could come closer. He could lace his writing with insinuation, implications and inconvenient facts and maybe, just maybe, get his readers to make the final connection on their own.
He'd done everything in his power to make himself the kind of employee you don't want and Nicolae was still interested. He didn't know what to do. The others thought he should take the job, but if he did that he'd essentially be extending his moratorium on actual reporting and evangelizing indefinitely. He could probably get information, but there'd be nothing he could do with it. He'd have the power to reach every human being on earth, with the only catch being that if he ever so much as tried to use that power for good he'd lose it.
It was one hell of a catch.
Buck realized that he'd allowed the silence to draw out for far too long. Perhaps he should use that to say something that would make Mathews think that he was arrogant and incredibly dull. Something that made him look to stupid to employ. Then Mathews might report back to Nicolae that Buck wasn't worth the effort. Time to state the obvious. "So this little ride-along was not really entirely the result of my legwork."
"Ah, no," Mathews said.