Disclaimer: Chrono belongs to Rosette, and unfortunately, she's too greedy to share! T.T

Author's Note: Um. . . hi? (runs away screaming from angry readers)

I KNOW! This update is L ONG overdue, you don't have to tell me. And I'm really sorry—though I know that's no excuse. Yes, I admit it, I lost my inspiration on this one for a while. It'd been so long since I'd had a good Chrono Crusade fix. . . but now that I've gotten to read volume 7, I'm back on the trolley! XD

So here you go, my lovelies.

. . . please don't hate me.

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DOUBLE TROUBLE

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Chapter Eight: Shooting the Messenger

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Chrono Catastrophe log, day— day. . . oh, who knew anymore? Certainly not the sisters. The hours and days had begun to blend together; memories bleeding from one frame of mind to the next. Had it been a week? A month? Perhaps a year?

Too long, in any case. And because of this—the tedium of recurring insanity—, a blanket of pure exhaustion had draped itself over the Order and its inhabitants. A blanket that made the sisters think of cloudy days. . . rain. . . or (heaven forbid!) a chance to sleep in.

They were simply tired.

Yet, surprisingly, everyone awoke to sunshine that morning. Bright, gorgeous sunshine. Again, the weather seemed to defy emotional stimuli. But perhaps that wasn't such a bad thing, this time— as it was one of those rare days where the weather is so very beautiful, all of the universe's problems (even theirs) seemed to float away on the breeze. After all, how could anything be wrong with the world when the clouds were so fluffy, the grass so green, the s—

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?"

"Eep!" Mary yelped in surprise, dropping the pile of books in her arms as the horrified scream echoed through the bright blue sky. "Jeepers creepers!"

Anna—who's feet had only just reconnected with the ground after jumping a mile— choked, whipping her head in the direction of the source. Judging by the trembling walls and windows, it looked as if it came from the Elder's cabin. . . "What was that?" she gasped, brown eyes wide. "It sounded like. . . ?"

"Rosette, of course," Claire murmured softly, the only one of the three who did not seem phased by the sudden screeching. Instead, she bent down and began retrieving the fallen Bibles and instruction manuals, calmly casting the nearby house a glance. It was easy to spot from the open-air walkway; covered in vines and a now-loosened roof. "Who else?"

"I dunno. . ." the blonde chewed on her thumbnail for a few moments, mildly disturbed by the unnatural silence now sweeping the lawns. "It could have been Chrono—or, uh, Chrono— . . . if the voice hadn't been so feminine, anyway. What do you think is going on?"

"Not sure," Anna replied with a grunt, hefting up her box of holy relics once again, "but whatever it is, I wouldn't fancy being the Elder right now. . ."

The other two nodded with small shivers, about to continue on their way—when Claire paused, looking a bit puzzled.

"Speaking of Chrono and Chrono, though. . ." she breathed, sounding rather baffled, "where are they?"

X

The inquisition, it turned out, had been a good one, considering that—until just about nine minutes and three point four seconds ago—Rosette had been wondering the very same thing. In fact, in an attempt to find the answer to said question, she had made her way rather swiftly to the Elder's. But though she found an answer, it hadn't been the one she was looking for. . .

Well, that was understandable, considering it hadn't even pertained to the inquiry at hand.

"Elder. . . ? Hello. . . ?" she had called loudly, throwing the door open without even knocking once. Her words echoed strangely, punctured only by the frantic clacking, clicking, and scratching of a piece of chalk on a blackboard from somewhere far away. The girl frowned, irritated that she had not been answered. "Elder?" she repeated a little more firmly, stepping into the cool threshold of the house. A hand moved to cup her mouth; she raised her voice another notch. "Hey, Elder, you listening? I was wondering if you'd seen either Chrono."

The distant noises came to a sudden stop. "Chrono. . . ?" came a quiet wheeze; thoughtful, and yet, curious. From the lab.

Rosette, scowling, began to march forward. "Yes, Chrono!" she snapped, just in case the old coot had been talking to her. "I asked you if you'd seen either one! It's the shorter one's turn to help me with chores, and—"

But instead of finishing her complaint, the exorcists' voice trailed off upon turning the corner to enter the room; it was stuffed with chalkboards. So many, in fact, that she had to squeeze past four just to find the Elder and an empty place to stand. "Good God!" she squeaked, taking in the scientist's appearance with wide eyes. He looked as if he hadn't slept in days; his clothes were rumpled and his face sagging, face and hands completely covered in white dust. It came with no surprise, either: the blackboards before him were so stuffed with chalked squiggles, notes, and formulas, that one could barely see the black background anymore. Rosette (who'd never been very good at math or science) felt her head begin to spin.

"What the hell are you doing?" she murmured, perplexed and a little worried. She cast the man beside her a concerned glance (for he hadn't even noticed that she was in her skimpy militia robes,) before sitting lightly on a lab table and drinking in the sight. "What's going on?"

Elder, however, rather than reply, only continued to mutter things under his breath: "Can't be true . . . but. . . makes no sense. . . still, he. . . maybe . . . molecular body chemistry? . . . no. . ." The older gentleman scowled, jotting a few more notes on the board, seemingly oblivious to the mere presence of the other. (Said other did not find this very amusing.) "But then. . ."

Rosette growled, not one to be ignored. Consequently. . . "HELLO!" she roared, slamming her fist (none too gently) against the scientist's capped head.

"!" The Elder straightened with a jolt, whipping swiftly around. "Rosette?" he gawked, rubbing his tired eyes. "What're you—?" A pause; a gasp. And suddenly, his zest for life returned with a start. "Rosette! That's it! I've solved it!"

She gifted him with a flat stare. ". . . yea?"

"Oh, it most certainly is a 'yea'!" he replied exuberantly, apparently unaware of the finer points of sarcasm. "Because now—now we can finally glue those two devils back together!"

That caught the blonde's drifting attention. Straightening hastily, she cast the chalkboards another curious stare. "You do?" she then demanded, irritated by the older man's now-knowing smile. "Well, tell me, dammit!"

It should be said that if the other sisters were weary of this charade, Rosette was already comatose.

"All in good time, my dear," the Elder assured, clapping his hands together to create something of a smokescreen, carefully maneuvering his way out of the maze of blackboards. Rosette closely pursued, piercing gaze following him as he quickly wiped off the rest of the chalk dust, making himself a snack in the kitchen. "All in good time! But first, allow this old man a nibble or two." His fingers twitched in that way.

". . . I hope—for your sake—you mean of food. Because otherwise, I'm really going to have to kill you, this time."

He laughed (albeit a bit disappointedly), and nodded, raking his hands through his wild hair. "I'm not suicidal," he assured, pouring and downing a cup of cold tea in less than a minute. "And anything you don't do to me, your Chronos will." Offering Rosette a seat at his mess-encrusted table (which she declined with a wave of her hand), the inventor ripped off a chunk of stale scone with his teeth—chewed and swallowed—then began quickly doodling stick figures on a napkin. "And they will keep doing so, unless we get them to merge again."

Rosette nodded, feeling the warning throb of an approaching migraine. "That's what I'm now asking how to do. And you just said you'd figured out how to do that."

Elder scowled. "I have. Give me a chance for a dramatic build up, here!"

She rolled her eyes. "Sorry."

"That's better. Now, as you know, the Glue Factor for a split creature is the one person, place, thing, or idea that both halves feel the same way for. In the case of myself, it was pretty girls. Remington, it seems, was harboring now-not-so-secret feelings for Sister Kate. As for Chrono. . ." –He smirked when Rosette blushed brightly, opening her mouth to deny whatever he was about to say—

"It seems he has no Glue Factor."

. . . The girl's jaw, which had already been slackened, dropped.

"W—what?" Rosette finally managed to choke out, falling into a chair across from the old man's with a dull 'thud'. "NO Glue Factor? So he's stuck this way fo—?"

"Of course not," the Elder snorted, apparently offended. "Do you think I'd actually leave you all to that horrible fate? Inconceivable; I'd be fired! No, no Chrono seems to be lacking a Glue Factor.

But we can MAKE him one."

He grinned widely, as if awaiting applause for this ingenious discovery. But by the look on her face, the inventor could tell he had already lost his young friend. 'Kids.'

"All right, I'll try again," he sighed laboriously, gesturing to his napkin doodles. They depicted a door, one stick figure labeled Chrono, an arrow showing said stick go through the door, then the figure splitting. "Now, on the day in question, Chrono was apparently deep in thought—at least, before entering my house. Judging by the marks you can now see on my door, those thoughts included quite a bit of head-bashing. I can only assume he was having one of his many internal struggles. Teen angst and all, you know."

Rosette arched an eyebrow, having latched onto a detail. "Many?" she repeated, apparently concerned. "Over what?"

The Elder smiled slightly, but didn't elaborate. "After collecting his thoughts, he obviously entered and—thank God—shut the door. That was when the Doppelganger 1000 malfunctioned."

"I think you mean exploded."

"After the damage had been determined," the man continued (a little more loudly), "I promptly tried to discover the cause. Remington 2 and my clone were easy enough to explain, but the Sinner and sealed Chronos? In the end, I marked it to his differing body chemistry and left it at that. And I was right in that assumption. . . I just didn't carry it far enough." Blowing out his cheeks, he leaned back in his chair and helped himself to another mouthful of scone. "The breakdown didn't just rip his body and mind in two—it tore his emotions in half, as well."

Cold dread—a close friend—began to paw at the girl's stomach for the umpteenth time, refusing to let go. "Meaning. . . ?" she ordered, knuckles whitening as she clenched her skirts, comprehension dawning as the dots connected. 'Oh NO. . . you CANNOT be serious.'

The Elder (as if having read her thoughts) nodded, realizing that she now understood. "Meaning that—though his love for you was great enough to be shared by both, the two love you in very different ways. The one we call 'Little' Chrono apparently wants to be your mate, while his 'big' counterpart still views you as the orphan he befriended back at Seventh Bell: perhaps even as his own child."

Rosette swallowed thickly, trying not to dwell on how wrong that all sounded. "And so. . . when you say we need to MAKE his Glue Factor. . . ?"

". . ." The old man grinned like the lech he was, failing to contain a cackle. "You're either going to have to seduce the Sinner, or cool down the Sealed."

Silence. (The nun stared at him, blankly, like a doll.)

And then—

"WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT?"

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What was she going to do?

Rosette paced incessantly outside the hospital wing, waiting for Sister Kate's return; she had left to make sure the Elder was still breathing after the beating he had so recently obtained. (The blonde exorcist's fists stung, but she ignored the pain. It had been worth it.)

"This is SO not funny," she grumbled, glaring at the ceiling. She was sure God must be having a great time up there, making her life miserable. "And what did I ever do to you?"

"Perhaps it's what you haven't done," remarked a cool, calmly furious voice from behind her. (Rosette barely managed to hold in a groan as she turned around.) Sister Kate glared down her nose at the younger girl, dark eyes flashing behind her glasses. "In addition to the many other things we now must discuss, I hear you've been skipping out on mass again, Sister Rosette."

"Sorry," the nun retorted dryly, shoulders slumped in irritation. She really wasn't in the mood for this. "You know how my gang gets when I keep them waiting."

Kate prickled, drawing herself up to her full height. "Sister Rosette! How dare you even THINK things like that! That is entirely inappropriate!"

"Yeah," Rosette agreed lazily, clearly feeling obnoxiously rebellious, "but what have I ever done that wasn't?"

The abbess scowled. "Come with me, young lady."

And when she spun loftily, marching in the direction of her distant office, Rosette had no choice but to follow.

X

"Have you ever heard the phrase 'don't shoot the messenger'?"

It was nearly 4 o'clock in the afternoon, now; but though the sun remained bright and it's cheerful rays seemed all-too-happy to reach through Sister' Kate's huge glass windows, their warmth fell short of the glowering Sister Rosette—who gave a jerky nod upon processing the inquisition, irked by her superior's patronizing tone.

"Then why did you beat the Elder to within an inch of his life?" Kate asked with an exasperated sigh, tenting her fingers and resting her drained chin upon them. "I know he's not mad at you—and that he probably, on some level, deserved what you dished out. But it's not like you to be so hard on him, even after he does something scandalous. What could he have possibly said to you to make you so irate?"

Rosette's grimace didn't falter as she dropped herself into a chair. "Do you want a list?"

The head nun's thin lips pursed. "Rosette," she warned. "I'm trying to be fair about this. I know things have been twice as hard for you as they have been everyone else. I'm worried about you. We all are. But I can't help you unless you let me."

"I'd rather talk to Azmaria," the teen returned, though not as acidic-sounding as she might have liked. Instead, she sounded worn out— and somewhat pathetic. Kate seemed to soften slightly, but shook her head.

"Azmaria is out on a mission," she replied briskly, shuffling a few papers around on her desk. "I don't expect her back until tomorrow morning. I don't mind if you wait to talk to her, but in the meantime I will NOT have you taking out your anger on anyone else—not even the Chronos. Do I make myself clear?"

Rosette's head dropped another inch. "Yes ma'am," she grumbled, moving as if to stand—

Before pausing, mind screaming that she'd overlooked an important detail in the conversation: 'Wait a minute—did she say that she was worried about me, just now?' And upon looking back, it seemed that she had. Rosette blinked at this, as if confused by this revelation—the revelation that the abbess did, in fact, care about her. Which had been obvious from the start of her time at Magdalene Order, of course, but. . . never had Rosette stopped to think that maybe—with all of her life experience—Kate might have something to say that was worth listening to. Perhaps she did now? 'She seems to be trying to help. . . in her own way. . .' Looking up, Rosette cast Sister Kate a strange glance—as if she was seeing the older woman in a new light.

Kate noticed this with a flustered double-take. "Yes?" she then pressed, setting aside her letters with a furrowed brow.

And before she could stop herself, the blonde felt the words pouring from her mouth.

"TheEldersaidthatifIwantChronotogobacktonormal,IhaftamaketheSinnerfallinlovewithmeorlittleChronofalloutoflovewithmeandIdon'tknowwhattodo!"

. . . The head nun faulted. "P—pardon?"

Rosette, suddenly unable to keep from wringing her hands, stood; once more pacing back and forth; trying her best to intelligently repeat herself. "The Elder," she finally managed, though weakly— nails biting into her own palms, "he said that if I want Chrono to go back to normal, I have to make the Sinner fall in love with me. But I don't want to do that! That would involve. . . you know. . ." She clawed her at her skirts in embarrassment. "But if I don't do that, I have to make Little Chrono fall OUT of love with me. How would I do that? I'd have to be so mean and—and I CAN'T hurt him. I never could! And so— I don't know what to do!"

Sister Kate, clearly taken aback by this abrupt confession, stared at her for a long moment— then pushed carefully away from her desk; leaning back in a thoughtful manner. "Fall in love with you? Fall out of love with you?" she echoed, flabbergast. "But why?"

"His feelings were split in the explosion, too," Rosette murmured, dejected. "That's what Elder told me. And that both halves love me, but in different ways. So if I ever want Chrono to unite, I've got to get him to love me the same way—either platonically or passionately." The girl flashed wide, sparkling blue eyes at the abbess, so uncharacteristically frightened that Kate was temporarily spellbound. "I don't know what to do, Sister Kate! I don't want to. . . but then, I don't— I just don't know!"

". . ." Kate pondered this, patiently. Then, leaning forward, she gently summarized. "So, essentially, this has come down to a question of your own feelings, hasn't it?"

Rosette, blanching, nodded; sinking weakly into her chair once again. She looked like a child—a lost, terrified child.

The abbess watched her for another long minute, as if waiting for her to continue the conversation. When she didn't, Kate frowned, gingerly pressing the question. "Do you love him?"

The blonde's clammy cheeks flared, but for once—thank goodness—she didn't react violently. Yes, it appeared that fatigue had finally overcome her; she simply dropped her gaze and gulped. "I. . . I don't know," she admitted quietly. "I guess I've. . . never really thought about that before." And it was clear that she didn't want to think about it now.

Regardless, Sister Kate felt her mouth quirk upwards, forming a serene, tender grin. Standing softly, the older woman walked over to the teenager and allowed a comforting hand to fall upon her shoulder. Rosette looked up, surprised—both by the action, and by the wise smile.

"Then don't think about it," Kate advised with an amused chuckle. "Love isn't meant to be analyzed. Just let your heart do the talking. . . and I think you'll know what it's been trying to tell you all along." The abbess removed her lingering touch, gliding to and opening the door. As she slipped out, a stunned Rosette heard her add: "After all, you've been acting on it for the past four years—

You just need to let your brain catch up."

A beat.

She poked her head back in. "Oh, and you've 'earned' yourself kitchen duty for the next week."

The door snapped shut again before the raging blonde could protest.

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-FAQ-

1:

Q: "What the hell happened to you! Why didn't you update for so long?"

A: One, like I said, I lost inspiration for a while. Mostly because volume 7 took SO LONG to come out. . . also, because I fell in love with other series, and wanted to a bit of writing for them. Thirdly, because of family reasons. My parents are in the middle of divorcing, and my mom needs my help around the house and stuff. We're also in the process of moving, so there's a lot of chaos around here.

Still, I'd hate me, too, if I left myself with such horrible cliffies for so long. (sweatdrop)

2:


Q: "Nechropedophiliac. Awesome word, but are you aware it means that someone likes having sex with dead kids? Did LC really mean that, or was he just throwing a word together?"

A: Ah, the necropedophiliac remark. I was pretty proud of that.

I originally threw that in as a shout-out to my friend Lessa; it's an inside-Chrono-Crusade-joke. We use it to describe Chrono. So yes, we know what it means. We 'invented' the word, persay. As for LC, did HE know what it means? I dunno. He probably had a vague idea of what he was calling BC, but what does it matter? As long as it was insulting. ;)

3:

Q: "Why is it the LC has figured out that it is better to confess his feelings to Rosette and keep Magdalene a memory but BC hasn't? They were once in unison, no?"

A: Whoever said that it was "better" to confess his feelings? And I don't intend that as a crack against you; I just mean it as "food for thought" for upcoming chapters.

In any case, it's not that he's "figured it out," Little Chrono is just working on the emotions he received in the split. Like this chapter explained, all of Chrono's feelings were torn in two—so essentially, whenever the Chronos fight, it's like one of Chrono's internal arguments with himself personified. Part of him knows that it's better to move on, but the other part of him doesn't want to. Does that make sense?

Next Chapter: "Perhaps Satella was right. . . perhaps Chrono's not really here at all."

Finally, I have a question for all of you—

Anyone gonna be going to the Anime Central convention this year? I will be—so keep an eye out! I'll be cosplaying as Rosette again. XD I hope to see some of you guys there!

Love ya! (huggles)