A/N: Sorry about the screwy formatting. I continue to have problems

with MS Word, which means that everything I write is other programs.

That sucks, a lot, if you haven't been there before. Anyway. Yeah.

I don't know much about Catholicism, actually, and what I do know has

been passed on to me by people who are Catholic. The emotions and

opinions in this piece were passed on to me by Catholics, as well,

so, yeah. I don't ascribe to any particular religion myself, so don't

think I'm just randomly knocking God or organized religion or anything.

Like I said, I'm just taking what people have told me about before and

sticking it into Amon's head. Also, I had some people point out that

Amon, being Japanese, more than likely wouldn't be Catholic. Yeah,

true. However, this story takes place about two years after the end of

WHR in my little continuing imaginary story arc that I've made up for

WHR (because I'm a weirdo), and said story arc contains the completely

unfounded fact that Amon's mother was European (which country, I haven't

decided yet ^^), and therefore he got kind of an interesting upbringing.

That shall probably be highlighted in a fic, later. But for now I've done

enough dumbass rambling, and it is time to read.


Day of Ashes

by meris ann


Her eyes were hungry and eager there as they stood in line. The emotions that

took possession of Robin seen by way of her eyes barely made any sense to

Amon; God knows /he'd/ never felt that way while in church, while hearing

any of the bullshit spouted at him by the father, while being forced into a

small wooden booth to confess things that he didn't really feel bad about to

a man who more than likely didn't care. Amon believed in God.

He did /not/ believe in Catholicism. And it was as simple as that. His

experiences with organised religion, especially concerning what he was now--a

witch--were not particularly friendly. He believed in God but he believed in

the ability to be able to choose your own destiny, to be able to make things

happen by taking them into your own hands and /forcing/ them to go that way.

God, he figured, controlled little to nothing, when it really came down to it.

God was much more of a benevolent older brother figure, hovering above the earth,

looking down and wondering what the hell his children were doing. The concept

of Heaven and Hell definitely bothered Amon, that was for sure. He really had

a bit of difficulty grasping that one could go to only one or the other. Black.

White. No grey. Amon considered himself a mass of grey, whether or not he let

people know it, and the fact that there was no room in organised religion for

people like him, quite frankly, scared the hell out of him.

Best to ignore it.

Besides, he was a witch. Most organised religions would have predestined him to

Hell just for that, anyway.

He'd given up. He hadn't been to Confession since he was about fifteen; hadn't

received the ashes on his forehead in about as much time. He'd sat in on a few

masses but that had usually been because he was either forced to by family

or for work purposes. As a child the tales of hellfire and brimstone had

confused the hell out of him, the threats of eternal damnation and corruption

of his soul had annoyed him as a young adult.

Since then, he'd been largely on his own, forming his own opinions. Those

opinions, Amon suspected, were probably mostly what would be regarded as

heresy, but he didn't really care. He'd edited religion to a point where he

could deal with it, and he suspected that toleration was all that mattered.

He was quite certain that Jesus didn't really care, in actuality. He was

probably fairly busy with other things to worry about what each and every

individual person thought about his church that he hadn't /really/ even

founded. It had been started in the Middle Ages by a bunch of crazy

people and had eventually evolved into a really good way to make money.

So Amon thought. He kept his mouth shut. The look in Robin's eyes was too


For as much as he thought that a great deal of the teachings of the Catholic

church were complete and utter bullshit, Amon still marveled at those who

could seek out and follow said teachings. Usually he marveled at them because

he thought they were complete idiots, but every once in a while he ran across

someone whom he marveled at because they were managing to ascribe to two

completely different things--or so /he/ thought--what Jesus had advocated,

and what the church advocated. The church was off its rocker. Jesus had

been a pretty visionary person. The two did not go hand in hand. Every once in

a while, Amon would meet someone who was pretty much in what he thought would have

been Jesus's good graces, had the man still been around. Yet said someone

would usually continue to go to church, to act like it still mattered, because

to some degree, said someone still believed that it /did/.

Jesus, yes. Church, no.

And that was why he was there on Dies Cinerum--Day of Ashes--Ash Wednesday--in

line, with all the other good little sheep, waiting for the dab of dirt on his

forehead so he could feel special and feel like he was going to Heaven. And

yet there was Robin, a light in her eyes like she was a kid on Christmas Eve

waiting for the man in the red suit to show up. She wasn't just waiting, jaded,

for the ashes like he was. She was waiting like her life depended on it; waiting

like she was truly, deeply, excited. She waited like she couldn't wait in line,

as if at any moment she was going to spring forward and push people out of

the way, running right to the father for her mark of absolution, the mark that

was a reminder of her own mortality, the mark that was a symbol of her slavery

unto God, the mark that signified the beginning of a fasting denial.

Robin was eager, willing. Not jaded. She believed in the church, for all it had

wronged her, despite the fact that some of its higher members had ordered her

death. She could not distinguish God from the church, as Amon did, but

her stubborn refusal to become bitter and to turn her back on the church that

had raised her only awed Amon all the more. She had been ready at one point

in time to give her life, her soul, her body, her /everything/ to the church

and receive nothing in return but a guaranteed spot in Heaven and a decent

chance at canonization in a couple hundred years or whenever the church got

around to it--/hell/, the very thought of it made Amon's stomach turn into

knots, bewildered him. He couldn't imagine /anyone/ wanting to do

such a thing with their life, wanting nothing more than to become a bride of

Christ--which is exactly what she would have become, had the church not

started to fear her and turn her over to their big brother, SOLOMON. She

never would have met him, probably never had funny feelings in her stomach

about a member of the opposite sex, never would have killed, never would

have been branded as a witch, never would have had to live like an outlaw.

The thought that she never would have met him, in retrospect, frightened

him most of all.

Only a few more people now; and Robin leaned forward so hard as she waited in

line that Amon swore she would fall on her face, creating a domino effect

among the good sheep of God waiting there for some dirt on their forehead.

Four. Three. Robin sniffled; she had been recovering from a particularly

nasty cold that had actually rather concerned Amon for a few days. Two.

One. A very old woman in front of Robin, kneeling before the ancient,

just-as-dirty-as-the-rest-of-us father (Amon's mind reeled, cursed, spat,

what made him better than anyone else, god-damned old man holier-than-thou

fucker); mark on the forehead, rising, leaving.

Robin's turn.

She practically ran, she moved so quickly. Down on her knees before the father,

head bowed slightly; Robing clung desperately to some semblance of the good,

pure, non-damned life that she had lived before they'd called her a witch and

sent her packing from the convent in Italy to SOLOMON. He could almost

/feel/ her holding her breath.

"Remember, child, that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return," the father

murmured just as he had to everyone, and made a quick dabbing on Robin's

perfect, white forehead. She stood, turning, not even catching his eyes as she

did, so heightened was her rapture, her immersal. A faint, somewhat sloppy

X (barely even an X, more like a simple mark) was thumbed upon her forehead

like a child's fingerpainting. It was his turn, and she walked away from

him like a zombie.

Amon knelt before the father, feeling fifteen but infinitely wiser. He

couldn't even bring himself to close his eyes as the father spoke the

same words to him that he had spoken to Robin; instead, as the old man

made the mark of the cross upon his forehead, Amon looked to the side,

blankly. He no longer cared. He was only here because Robin had insisted,

because he had thought that she would cry if he denied her the right to

attend church on Ash Wednesday.

"I don't even remember the last Ash Wednesday service that I attended," he'd

remarked, while walking through the narrow, winding streets of Rheims, France.

"/You're/ Catholic?" Robin asked, in wonder, her face looking up at him. As

she got older, a few freckles along her cheeks and her nose had darkened, giving

her a sort of innocently sexy look, kind of girl-next-door-except-way-more-dangerous.

Funny he should ponder that on their way to church.

"Was," Amon replied. "I don't know many my age who were raised Catholic who

still are," he added, dryly. "Or who even believe in God, anymore." In

response, Robin had merely looked upset.

He got up; didn't look at the father, didn't thank him, didn't make the sign

of the cross. Didn't look at anyone else as he walked away, didn't think.

He resisted the strong urge to wipe away the ashes on his forehead. Just as

he thought about doing it, he looked up to see Robin waiting for him at the

end of the nave, a somehow pleased look on her face. Only to make her

happy--never in a million years, other than that, would he have been

caught dead receiving the ashes again in his life.

"Are you ready?" he asked as he reached her, pointedly trying to ignore

the delicate curve of her lips, the glow in her eyes--dear God, he thought,

she looked as if she'd just finished making love, not enduring a church

service. Perhaps that was the sign of one who had been meant to be a

bride of Christ. As long as she was pleased, as long as it all made

her think that he was just as saved as her, then it was all fine.

"Yes," she replied, strands of her hair falling down over the ash on her

forehead as she turned for the door. Amon followed her, his mind a knot

of philosophical, theological, and sexual ramblings.

They walked side by side in silence for quite some time, by far not the only

pedestrians with the mark on their forehead. More people than not had the

mark, actually, which didn't shock Amon. It didn't seem to shock Robin

either. They rounded a corner, Robin's eyes gazing at a man selling

fruit from a street stand as they turned, and all of a sudden, she sighed.

"Do you think we did the wrong thing, going there today?" she asked,

without preamble. Amon sighed, himself: he'd expected this kind of

whiplash from the event.

"What do you mean?" he asked, flatly. His mind was already made up about

the situation; however, he remembered being in Robin's shoes, once,

being seventeen and not really understanding the whole God bit. Obviously

she had it a bit worse than he had it seeing as how she was the Eve of

Witches and all, but still. Any seventeen year old kid with questions

about God and the church was just the same as all of his or her peers.

She bit her lip, her words seemingly stuck in her throat. Robin winced,

slightly; it was almost as if her words literally /were/ stuck in her

throat, as if they caused her pain as she forced them out. "Did we

deserve to be there? To receive the ashes, from the father?"

Amon shrugged, slightly. "Why not?"

Again, she looked pained. "We aren't God's children, anymore."

"Who says?" He didn't feel like filling in the whole picture for her, for

some reason.

"To be hunted by the same church that grants our absolution?" she murmured, it

seemed, mostly to herself. "Not suffering a witch to live? Did.../did/ we

deserve to be there, Amon?"

When she said his name like that, so lost, he couldn't help but help her.

"Why not? You and I have as much of a right to be there as anyone. The

church is not the one who grants us absolution--that's God. And God doesn't

forget about his children, or forsake them, as far as I knew. I didn't see

God there in that cathedral, did you?" he asked her, pointedly but gently,

as gently as he could, anyway, without letting her through the wall.

"No," she murmured, and it was then that Amon noticed that her steps had slowed,

and he slowed down to match her pace. "But--how do you know?"

"I thought that you, of all people, would have understood that part," Amon

replied, feeling as if he was acting snide, but not meaning it in the least.

"Faith. I don't /really/ know. No one does. You can only believe what

you believe--and I happen to believe that God is not as much of a

narrow-minded zealot as they would make him out to be."

Robin had slowed down even more whether or not she realized it, and the only

thing Amon could do was once again match his pace to hers. "Amon?" she

queried, sounding small and broken. He swallowed hard.

"Do you think that He still understands us? Still thinks that we are

trying to do good?" she asked, smaller still and shattering into smaller


"Yes," he answered without thought. Whatever. Whichever. Whatever made that

desperate sound in her voice go away.

"I just..." She'd stopped walking completely, then, and it had actually taken

Amon a couple of steps to realize that. He stopped a bit ahead of her and

turned, looking back at her, wishing he could just pull a note out of his

pocket and say, "Here, kiddo. This is the secret to life. Read this

and let me know what you think in five minutes."

"I just wish I knew," she finished moments later, turning her face to the

cobblestones, slightly away from him, and he knew why almost instantaneously.

Her face was scrunching, slightly; voice becoming thicker, eyes starting to drip.

She was crying and Amon instantly felt like an ass, like he always did, like it

was always his fault. "I just wish I knew--" Robin stopped, overcome, sniffling.

A small hiccupping noise escaped her and she turned away from him a bit more,

obviously embarassed that she'd broken down thusly. She always did try

to act so big in front of him, even when he could tell that she didn't feel

like it.

"I just wish I knew if He would still want me," she heaved quietly, snuffling.

"If I would still be fit for His service, if He still sees me as one of His

special children."

The absolute despair, loneliness, and self-doubt in her voice twisted his gut

and gave him a new reason to dislike the church. Before God, before the church,

Robin had nothing--and then she'd been taught by one of those entities that there

was nothing else in life. Now, in direct contradiction with the church by her

very existence, she felt as if she had nothing again.

"Robin." For a moment all he could do was watch her, helpless, as she cried quietly,

standing there a few feet away from him. Then he remembered that he was good for

something and crossed the space between them purposefully, enfolding her in his

arms and holding her to him, feeling like it was the best thing he could do. Her

tears soaked through his coat, through his shirt, through his skin; ate at his

soul like acid. After two years of being with her he'd seen her cry her share of

tears plenty often, but no time had they struck him like they struck him at this


"Robin," he said again, moving her away from him slightly so he could look down

into her face, still so far below his own--she still had never grown any taller

over the years. Bleary-eyed, runny-nosed, she couldn't quite meet his gaze,

and he sighed, sensing that he was on the losing end of the battle between

man versus establishment.

Leaning over her, one hand on her neck and the other on her cheek, he laid his

lips on her forehead, right on the spot where the father had fingerpainted her

with holy ashes. His lips tasted the sweetness of her skin and the dusty, smoky

taste of incense-smoked year-old palm leaves in one touch. She calmed against

his touch, her shaking ceasing.

Drawing back, he stayed close enough to where she could not look up into his eyes.

"Remember, Robin, that Christ was just a man," he said slowly, quietly, the

words coming from within him somewhat that opened like a floodgate whether or

not he had wanted it to. "Christ was just a man--and what man could not want

you?" he said, and had it been any other circumstances he would have bit his

tongue, retreated into silence and solitary for days at a time, avoided her.

But not this time. Amon felt that he had said what needed to be said.

She drew back slightly after one still moment, looking up at him with teary

wonder; a saved soul masquerading as a damned one, a virgin unwittingly acting

as a temptress, a girl on the verge of woman, wanting to remain holy as

what she was but wanting to be his at the same time. Their eyes locked and

they stared at each other for what may have been moments or minutes, but

a sudden, tremulous smile crept out on her sad features, her watery green

eyes sparkling with timid joy and unshed water.

"You have ashes on your lips," Robin whispered, as if she was afraid that if

she spoke any louder that she would pop the moment like the skin of a

soap bubble. Timidly or daringly, depending upon how Amon wanted to look

at it, she reached up with a thin, long-fingered hand and touched his lips

softly, brushing against them so lightly that she might not have touched

them at all. Perhaps he was hallucinating. Perhaps he was receiving a

revelation from God.

"Probably," he said, and the sudden movement of his lips made her pull her

hand away, probably startled. Amon's own hand reached out and settled a

large thumb on her forehead, on the ashen X there as her eyes looked

up at him, glistening. "Nothing but old palm leaves and incense smoke, you

know," he said, as much of a lilt in his voice as he could manage. Without

waiting for Robin's agreement or even her words, his thumb had already begun to

rub out the ashes on her forehead, resulting a faint, grey, almost invisible

smear after a couple passes. "Or so they tell you. It could be cigarette

ashes for all you and I know."

Robin managed a weak smile at him, through her sadness, her despair, and

that was worth being sacreligeous to him. He would have gone through

Hell and come back--and he was certain he had, before--to see that

delicate smile come through the gloom like that. She reached up and with the

sleeve of her sweater pulled over the palm of her hand, Robin rubbed at

Amon's forehead as well, shaking her head.

"They /are/ palm leaves," she chided. "Cigarette ashes. You're horrible."

She pulled her hand back and looked at her sweater sleeve; black made grey

where she'd rubbed off all of the ashes. Puckering her lips, she blew,

and a small cloud of white cloudiness rose into the air between them; the

hallowed remnants of burned, blessed plant material.

Remember, child. Thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return.