AN: Since there's sadly very few Trinity Blood fics out there, and even fewer Abel/Esther fics to chose from, I thought I'd make a contribution. Being the coward I am, I couldn't bring myself to write a non-AU yet, but I tried to keep it as close as possible to Yoshida Sunao's brilliant and complex world. I own nothing.
Pax Vobiscum – Bat the Wood Elf
est ad astra mollis e terris via
There is no easy way from the earth to the stars
Esther sat back into the chair, book hanging precariously off the side of the table. Outside it was raining; the drops of rain were hitting the black metal fire escape rhythmically, bringing her into a trance-like state, almost asleep. Her apartment's single, glorious window faced into an alley, so the sounds of the street were but a distant hum. She could occasionally hear the screech of tires, but even that sound had become so familiar that it no longer roused her from her drowsy state. Despite being a dingy apartment in need of more than just a coat of paint, Esther knew that she was fortunate to have evenings where she could sit down and listen to the rain. She had yet to meet her neighbours, but they were quiet and rarely showed signs of life.
In these moments between the realm of sleep and wakefulness, sometimes Esther would dream of being born in a different time, and owning a piece of land far away from the grey city. In these daydreams, sometimes she was a lady living on a wealthy estate, sometimes she was a farm hand, sometimes she was a nun living her days in a world of eternal silence and reflection. What all these dreams had in common were the vast expanses of land she was surrounded by. In her mind's eye, she could look in one direction and only see grass, trees, the occasional wildflower, and not a single other human being. She could scream, cry out, laugh and her voice would be lost in the vast expanse of space. Esther was certain that this world would be less lonely than the one she currently lived in.
Living with overpopulation and overcrowded cities means that others always surround you, but Esther couldn't imagine leading a lonelier existence. Everyone was so focused on himself or herself, convinced that their life had more worth than anybody else's. Everyone was suspicious of his or her neighbour. No one smiled on the street. There were more people per square kilometre than ever before, but everyone lead their own life so closed off from others that it was as though every man was their own island. Esther knew that she was the same, she no longer paid attention to faces as she walked down the street, they were just blurs, shapeless masses. She wished she could live in the country, to see what it was like to have the space to think.
But that would never happen. Space and land was reserved for those who could afford it. England, like the rest of the world was experiencing astronomical real estate prices due to the Overpopulation Crisis. The most Esther ever expected to be able to afford was a squalid flat like this one, unless by some stroke of luck she married into big money, or won the lottery. But she wasn't foolish enough to believe in that kind of luck and waste hard-earned money on lottery tickets like her co-workers did. She would have to remain content with her almost mechanical existence: rise, work, eat, sleep and repeat.
Lost in thought, the rhythmic pounding had nearly put her to sleep when she was abruptly awakened from her trance by the sound of her neighbour's door opening and slamming shut.
"That's unusual," Esther murmured, surprised by the violence of the action. Listening to her neighbour's frantic pacing in the adjacent room through the paper-thin walls, she wondered what could have possibly put her unnoticeable neighbour in such a state. After having lived in the same building for more than a year, Ether had never seen the man who lived in the room next to hers. He was quiet, kept to himself and seemed to run on an opposite schedule. He never played loud music, never had company over, and never brought attention to himself. The only reason she even knew her neighbour existed was because the landlord had told her to avoid him. Esther now scoffed at the advice. How could she actively try to avoid someone who was doing such a good job of being invisible?
Until tonight that is.
Esther wondered what could have possibly happened to make her neighbour react so strongly and so out of character. She briefly considered knocking on his door to complain about the disturbance in order to catch a glimpse of him but squashed that thought. She had no right to invade his privacy.
With a sigh, she got up from her chair and stretched, no longer sleepy but knowing that she ought to get to bed in order to wake up early for work the next morning. Esther stifled a yawn and closed the light in her small kitchen, bathing the room in shadow. Curiously, she approached her only window to see that her neighbour's lights were still on. The light from the other room reflected dully on the glistening surface of the fire escape. Esther could still hear him pacing back and forth. She had a feeling that despite the high cost of electricity, her neighbour's lights would remain on for quite a while.
A few weeks later, Esther was walking home carrying bags of groceries. To save on energy, the city no longer lit its streets very brightly, which made Esther rather squeamish. Other than a few patches of light, the way to her apartment was bathed in shadows, and her tired eyes imagined some movement in every corner. Her area wasn't a bad one by far, but nonetheless it was never safe for a young woman to walk around alone in the dark. She hadn't expected to be held back at work and having to rush to the store before it closed, which lead her to her current predicament of walking home after curfew. It was only a 'highly recommended' curfew, nothing official or legally binding, but people who valued their person rarely ventured out after dark unless they were with large groups of people.
Esther gave a sigh of relief as she approached her building. Once on the doorstep, she balanced her bags on her hip and fumbled for her keys in her coat pocket, eager to be inside. Her heart stopped when she failed to feel the comfortable weight of the metal keys in her pocket.
"This isn't possible!" Esther breathed, setting down her bags on the concrete and renewing her search for her keys. Patting her coat, her pockets felt frighteningly empty. She turned all of them inside out, but they were all completely empty. Panic started numbing her mind. She stared at her shopping bags blankly, her mind racing. Where were her keys? Had she forgotten them at work? She couldn't afford a hotel room, there was no leeway in her tight budget for such an expense. She had no family, no friends, and no resources.
"Is there a problem?" a distinctly male voice asked from directly over her shoulder.
Esther literally jumped and let out an involuntary 'Hiiiiiii!'. She turned around swiftly, clutching her heart. She hadn't heard anyone approach and nearly had a panic attack when she realised that the person who had spoken was a tall man, definitely over six feet, with white hair and silver piercings lining his ears. He didn't look particularly friendly, and there was something in the way he held himself that hinted at a deep-seated hatred towards the world. Involuntarily, Esther cowered away.
"Are you going in or not?" the stranger asked, annoyance creeping into his voice. He bent over and picked up several of Esther's bags as she tried to articulate her problem.
"I can't find my keys." As soon as she said it, Esther regretted giving out that piece of information. What if he was dangerous? What better way to advertise being a helpless damsel in distress than admitting that you can't find your keys? Maybe the next time she would be seen again would be in a body bag, the police having used her dental records to identify her.
The white haired man nodded and used his own keys to unlock the main door, holding it open for her. Esther hesitated for a moment before stepping inside into the decrepit but warm building. The man stepped ahead of her and climbed up the worn stairs. To her alarm, he was headed in the direction of her apartment.
"I live here," the white haired man gestured towards Esther's neighbouring apartment, "Is there anyone you could call to help you out?"
Esther, realising that this man was her mysterious neighbour and not some crazy stalker, shook her head no. "I have no family in the area."
"Friends? Coworkers?" Her neighbour suggested as he unlocked his own door. Esther shook her head and meekly followed him inside when he gestured for her to do so. Although he looked like an angry rocker, he was soft spoken and polite. Her initial reservations about him were slowly starting to fade away and she felt genuinely grateful for his help. He could have easily ignored her, yet here he was offering her assistance.
Esther took the time to observe him more closely as he placed her groceries on his kitchen counter. His clothing, despite being well worn, was immaculate and had an almost military-like crispness to it. He had taken off his grey jacket and was now dressed only in a white shirt and pants, clothing that seemed a little light for the permanent chill of the season. His apartment was pretty chilly as well, but that was to be expected, she knew that if she had her keys, her own would be just as cold. Esther had often wondered what the room next to hers looked like, so she glanced around the room, taking in all the details she could. Her neighbour's apartment had a layout opposite to her own, but that was where the similarities ended. While she had tried to make the drab space look warm an liveable, her neighbour's room, while impeccably clean, was almost empty, white and sterile. The only things that would suggest that the room was inhabited were the various newspaper clippings lying around the room.
Esther let her curiosity get the better of her and looked at one of the clippings, which was posted on the wall.
"You're interested in the Red Mars Project?" Esther asked, conscious that her white-haired neighbour was staring at her intently.
"I suppose you could say that. I'm afraid we've never met Miss…"
Esther turned red when she realised she hadn't even introduced herself. "I'm Esther… Esther Blanchett."
He nodded. "I'm Abel. You're welcome to stay the night if you have nowhere else to go, on the condition that I can use your food."
Esther blinked and then smiled, a look of intense relief crossing her features. "Thank you so much. I must have forgotten my keys at work; I've never done anything quite this stupid before. You're more than welcome to use my groceries, I'm sure you haven't eaten either."
"No, I haven't eaten anything in two days, so this is a god-send." Abel replied, taking the products he needed out of the bags and shoving the rest in his empty refrigerator. "You don't mind if I cook something for the both of us?"
Esther frowned, "Not at all, but why haven't you eaten in two days? How are you still standing?"
"They wont give me my rations coupons, something about me not being enough of a productive member of society." He rolled his eyes. "I'm assuming you live in this building?" Abel smiled slightly, decidedly glossing over her second question. Esther didn't notice.
"Err… yes, I live in the flat next to yours. All I'd have to do is tear a hole through the wall and I could sleep in my own bed." Esther replied a little longingly.
"Please don't do that. I really can't afford repairs." Abel chuckled nervously and began cutting up whatever vegetables Esther had bought. "This shouldn't take too long. You can look around while you wait."
Esther blushed but took advantage of the permission to snoop. There wasn't much to look at, and Abel's bedroom was as stark as the rest of the apartment so she started to read the various articles lining the coffee table.
They all had something to do with genetic modification, cloning, and the Red Mars Project, an ambitious venture that several world powers had attempted a few decades ago. Some articles proudly announced the development of test tube babies that aged slower than ordinary humans, which had a higher pain tolerance, greater intelligence. Esther scanned the articles with interest. An article dated over 40 years ago announced a break-through in genetic manipulation had been achieved in India. Other articles showed activists protesting similar developments in Berlin, London and Quebec. One article with the bold and distressing headline claimed that the test-tube babies developed to be the administrators for the Mars Project were killed in an unfortunate accident. More street protests followed, several editorials reaffirmed the need to ease the population crisis by sending people to Mars while others denounced the project altogether.
Abel placed a plate in front of Esther and sat next to her on the couch. "Quite the controversial topic, isn't it?"
Esther looked at the plate in surprise. She had been so absorbed in reading the clippings that Abel had the time to cook what looked like a delicious meal. He handed her a fork, which she accepted gratefully.
"This looks delicious, thank you." Esther murmured, and began eating quietly.
"So, Esther. What's your opinion on the Mars Project?" Abel asked lightly. His tone and his question seemed innocent enough, but his eyes were as hard as stone, daring her to give the wrong answer.
Esther chewed slowly, considering the articles and what she remembered hearing about the colonisation project when she was much younger. "Well, I guess I understand the need to ease the overpopulation crisis. We can't say that we're living in the lap of luxury, the Earth's resources are definitely being taxed." Abel nodded darkly, urging her to continue. Esther chewed thoughtfully on the tines of her fork. "But I don't know how I feel about sending colonists to Mars. Anyways, the project failed when the administrators died a decade ago, so it's a moot point."
"But what if the administrators had survived?" Abel asked softly, "What if the project could go on? The UN is putting forward a motion to revive the project and create more test tube babies. What if they succeed?"
That piece of information surprised Esther. She had though that the project had been buried 10 years ago when the Administrators died, but obviously her host was better informed than she was. She considered the question for a moment, taking a few thoughtful bites of the meal Abel had prepared.
"I don't know," Esther admitted, setting her fork down, "I can't say I'd agree with the government playing God and sending people against their will to an inhospitable planet. It's just a band-aid solution for the real problems we're having."
Abel raised an eyebrow. "Which are?"
Esther flushed under the scrutiny of her host, suddenly aware that he hadn't taken a single bite since he started questioning her. "Err… well, if the government invested as much time an energy into sustainable development of resources and getting rid of poverty, we wouldn't have to send anyone to Mars. "
Abel didn't seem to disagree with her answer because he began eating his meal, staring blankly into the distance.
"So what's your opinion on the subject?" Esther ventured, setting her empty plate on the shaky coffee table.
"I think the UN is a useless organization and that its supporters should be shot." Abel stated venomously. "No one should be allowed to play God the way they did."
Esther glanced at her companion, rather surprised by the hatred that was rolling off of him in waves. She tried to understand what could possibly have made him so angry but couldn't come up with anything based on their previous conversation.
Abel leaned back into the couch with a sigh, shovelling larger bites into his mouth in an effort to calm down. "I really shouldn't start talking politics, it's the most sure-fire way to drive off any dinner guests." He stated apologetically.
"That's alright, though I'm not quite sure I understand why you hate the Mars Project so much." Esther observed that despite his earlier outburst, she didn't feel the least bit intimidated by the white haired man. Abel seemed to be someone you instinctively trusted. That, and Esther was struck by how beautiful he was. Even his eyelashes were silver.
"I was involved in the UN Aerospace Force and the Mars Project a few years back. I have nothing pleasant to say about my experience." Abel admitted, finishing the last bit of his supper. "Would you like some tea?"
"Yes, tea would be wonderful." Esther replied and handed him her plate when he urged her to remain seated. "How old are you? Aren't you a little young to have been involved with the Red Mars Project?"
"Believe it or not, I'm in the early forties," Abel stated gravely as he set some water to boil. "I'm remarkably well-preserved."
Esther just laughed. "No, seriously, how old are you?"
Abel smiled a little sadly, "Twenty-eight then. You?"
"Twenty. But you'll have to take my word for it, because a lady never reveals her age." Esther smirked. Abel just shook his head and poured the tea into two cups.
"How long have you been living here? I've never seen you before." Esther asked curiously as she gratefully took the warm liquid from Abel's hands. "You're a very pleasant neighbour to have, I never hear you either."
Abel sat back into the couch and smiled, pushing away the newspaper clippings in order to set down his cup. "I've lived here for about five years, but I travel quite often."
"Really? Where have you been? I've lived a few years in Budapest, but when my adoptive mother died I decided to come back to Britain," Esther admitted.
Abel gave her a sympathetic glance at the mention of her adoptive mother. "I'm sorry for your loss. As for where I've been… I've been quite a few places," Abel replied vaguely. "But as much as I hate London, it's home I guess."
Esther nodded understandingly and sipped her tea, allowing a comfortable silence to settle over them. All too soon they were done and Abel was offering to sleep on the couch.
"No, I'm terribly sorry to impose on you like this, I refuse to allow you to give up your bed. I'm sleeping on the couch." Esther's tone allowed no room for argument, and so Abel dutifully brought an extra pillow and blankets.
"I need to get up early for work tomorrow morning, I hope that doesn't bother you." Esther murmured once she had settled underneath the covers. "Once again, thank you for putting up with me like this."
"Not at all, I'll be getting up early myself." Abel replied, leaning on the doorframe to his bedroom. "And I appreciate the company."
Esther smiled. "It's too bad we weren't formally introduced earlier under different circumstances."
Abel outwardly agreed and bid her goodnight.
He wasn't about to admit that he'd been watching her from a distance for quite a while now and knew her schedule by heart. He always kept an eye out on his neighbours to make sure they weren't a threat to his peaceful civilian life. Nor would he admit that the first time he had seen her red hair he had hoped against all odds that it was Her, that She had somehow escaped as he had. He had been sorely disappointed when he realised that his neighbour was just a simple human girl.
As Abel slipped under the covers and stared at the ceiling of his windowless room, he wondered what had possessed him to invite Esther to stay over for the night. As a general rule he hated humans, but she had looked so lost and scared when he saw her outside that it would have been cruel to abandon her. And surprisingly, he had enjoyed her presence. Perhaps he was getting lonelier than he thought. He turned over and borrowed under the covers, wondering whether he should continue being civil to this human girl.
"What harm could it do?" Abel muttered, but inwardly felt as though he were setting himself up for disappointment. Humans are not to be trusted, no matter how much they remind you of Her.
I know I probably shouldn't be working on a new fic while I have one already in the works, but it was just too tempting. Please review to let me know if I should continue with this idea.