Humanization

Humanization

I.

Disclaimer: I do not own Trinity Blood. This applies for all future chapters.

O O O

Cardinal Sforza's day would have been positively blissful and perfect if she hadn't picked up the phone some three hours ago. But because Cardinal Sforza did, in fact, answer said phone, what had once been a very pleasant and uneventful evening had quickly been tipped on its head. From the moment she had heard the man's voice—smooth and haughty, but polite anyway—she knew that the day would proceed with anything but easy steps.

She sighed and touched her forehead gently, closing her eyes against the red glow of the setting sun. Sister Kate—or, rather, Sister Kate's hologram—stood in front of her near the large window, reading off of a report in her hands.

"Would you like me to repeat that, Cardinal? You look flustered."

Sforza took a deep breath through her nose, straightening up in her chair in the process. She placed her hands on the arms and smoothed her fingers over the red velvet, attempting to sort through her thoughts as Sister Kate recited a summary of the report once more.

"The man's name is Thomas Theilig." Her hologram flickered, and she and her voice were temporarily distorted before it righted itself with a soft buzzing noise. "According to the research that I, personally, have done on him, he's a very religious man and, consequently, a large donator to several churches across Europe. He's been making his way here from Sweden, slowly moving across parts of Switzerland, Norway, Holland, and now Germany." She shuffled the papers in her hand, and the only sound in the room for a moment was the almost-silent whine of the hologram machine sitting on the floor. "Oh, yes—he is, regrettably, unable to travel alone any farther than Germany, and is stranded on an island neighboring Germany's north coast. He said that he doesn't trust his health to keep him on his feet, as he's very…ah…senior."

"And…" Sforza made a half-contented sound in her throat before continuing. "And what was it that he wanted us to do again?"

"Escort him from Borkum, Germany, to Rome, Italy. Or, more precisely, he wants someone to take him to us." She waved the hand that held the papers noncommittally. "Honestly, I don't quite understand why he can't just travel with one or more of his bodyguards, for goodness's sake. He has enough of them."

"Did he state why he wants Father Nightroad, specifically,to take him?"

Sister Kate hummed as she shuffled the documents in her hand. "All it says is that he trusts the church more than he does his own family, because we are closer to God than they. He goes on to say that he's looked up Father Nightroad's name, and he's certain that one who has so much experience and skill as he would be quite befitted to escort 'such a generous donor' as himself."

The Cardinal chuckled in disbelief and fluffed her blond hair—a reflexive action of irritation. "I have to wonder if he understands the funds that will need to be supplied in order to transport two priests from Italy to some backwater German city."

"Uh…two priests, Cardinal?"

She nodded and returned her hand to the velvet of the chair arm, rubbing circles in the fabric as she spoke. "Yes. Abel Nightroad and Tres Iqus." She raised her narrowed gaze to Sister Kate's digital counterpart. "You don't really think that I'd send Father Nightroad alone, do you?"

Sister Kate blushed, stuttered, and then cleared her throat. "To move on...and to also answer your earlier question…I do believe that Sir Theilig understands very well the costs of such a long round-trip journey. He's offered to repay you threefold for the expenses, in addition to the large sum that he is donating."

Cardinal Sforza's left eyebrow quirked upward. "Is he now? Well, he certainly has enough money to just throw to the wind then. I dare say that threefold is extremely excessive."

The cleric woman shrugged her shoulders and tapped her holographic boots against the floor. "I suppose that we should merely count our blessings, if you will. It's a modern miracle that there are the wealthy in our world that are willing to give their money to worthy causes, rather than…'throwing it to the wind.'"

The Cardinal huffed. "Very well." She glanced over through the window, and then around the room. The sun had disappeared beneath the horizon, and the only light that was left was the dim, bluish remainders of dusk currently coating her furniture and herself. As for Sister Kate, her hologram sputtered and softly flashed with a faint green glow. "Send me the information, please." She pointed behind her at the machine that sent and received papers and official documents behind her. "I'm not willing to send out two priests for a fraud."

Sister Kate nodded. "Right away, Cardinal." Her image wavered as she reached out of Cardinal Sforza's view to press some unknown button. "I'll talk to you again soon." And with that, her 2D complement made a loud click before disappearing all together. All that was left was a small green dot that indicated the device was on.

Sforza purposely reached over and turned it off.

O O O

It was completely dark before the message reached Abel.

Esther crowded close by him, peering over his shoulder at the letter. "What is that?" she asked, switching her vision to rest on the side of his face.

He chewed the inside of his cheek. "Cardinal Sforza's summoned me to Germany, apparently." And he, apparently, didn't feel like beating around the bush at that particular time. "And to take Tres with me."

She backed up and frowned. "Germany? That far?"

He sighed and tucked the folded letter in his overcoat pocket. "Tres and I are leaving at dawn tomorrow. We need to escort a donor to the Vatican City."

"Oh." Sheshranka little farther behind him. "That was…sudden."

He turned to look toward her and smiled that face-shatteringly huge smile. "I must go meet with Cardinal Sforza now, Sister." He nodded toward the end of the hallway. "Would you like to accompany me? If the cardinal had felt that this was private information, she would have indicated so."

Esther nodded. "Sure."

The two set off down the long hall, occasionally turning sharp corners and walking through various rooms. Marble statues and unlit stained glass windows passed by them as they went on their way, until finally the cardinal's wing was upon them.

Esther glanced around her. "Shouldn't Tres be here, as well?"

Abel nodded. "I expect he's already inside. The cardinal would have sent him a digital message, and he's quite punctual."

Esther sighed and folded her arms in front of her, glancing around at the statues and murals as they passed by them. She had been in the cardinal's wing before—when she had been accepted into the church in those first grueling five months—but that didn't stop it from unnerving her.

She honestly disliked this particular wing. Everything was far too cold; from the perfect marble floor to the masterfully designed walls, it was all much too extravagant for her tastes. Back in Hungary, the church she had stayed at was relatively small in comparison to this church. She was humbled by the magnificent culture, tradition, and artwork engrained into every piece of lumber and plaster within its confines.

Abel was a little bit farther ahead of her, she realized, and she hurried to fall back in step with him. "Father?"

He turned his head halfway to her. "Hmm?"

She fiddled with the cuff of her coat. "Where in Germany, do you suppose?"

He smiled and turned back to the hall ahead of them. "Borkum."

She fidgeted again. "Oh." Of course, she would miss Father Abel dearly. And, if the moment called for some overemotional outburst, she would probably miss Father Tres as well.

And because she was Sister Esther, and therefore a member of the Vatican, and therefore a very caring and nurturing and sometimes even—but only when it happened to slip out unnoticed—rather fussy about the important people in her life, she would fret over their absence. If she couldn't be there when Abel was hurt or when Tres was accidentally knocked on the head and shut down, it would eat at her. She would lie in her bed at night in a paranoid cold sweat, tossing and turning in the sheets.

She would worry about the two priests relentlessly until she at least heard word from them.

She was helpful, after all. She knew the techniques of the common nurse, and she could apply antiseptic and bandages to a wound. If Abel and Tres ever required her help, she could give it to them! And she would give it to them well!

She determinedly cleared her throat and puffed out her chest, standing to her full height. "Abel."

Abel blinked and stopped completely in shock, this time turning around all the way. "S…Sister Esther?" He smiled—sort of embarrassedly—and rubbed the back of his neck. "Is there anything wrong? You don't have to accompany me if you don't wish."

Just like that, every bit of composure and presence Esther contained drained away and pooled at her feet. Her shoulders drooped, and she tapped the tips of her fingers together. "Uh…well…that is...I have something to ask you."

He blinked again and pushed his glasses up over the bridge of his nose. "You didn't call me 'Father.' I'm guessing this is serious?"

She swallowed around the lump in her throat. "Yes. Yes, it is. I…"

He shifted his weight.

"If…if you need anything, you know, you can always…come to me!"

He was silent for a moment before laughing softly and patting her head, his large gloved hand pushing down her red hair. "Of course I know that. You're my friend, aren't you?"

She couldn't contain the blush.

He pulled away and began to walk, but she stopped him again.

"But that's not what I meant." She kept her feet planted firmly on the marble floor, staring through the haze of awkwardness at his back and the silver hair that fell over it.

"Then…" he began, turning around slower this time, his visage displaying the most elegant of relaxed poise. "What do you mean?"

"I mean I can help you, Father Nightroad," she insisted, dancing around a thousand other words that were urging her to continue. "I—I know first aid, and I can give CPR if needed," and at this she blushed, because what kind of mental images were those, anyway? "I can really, honestly assist you with any of those things."

Father Nightroad kept his eyes fixed firmly upon hers for what seemed like an infinite amount of time, before he finally smiled good-naturedly and nodded with a slight tilt to his head. "I know of your talents, Esther." He smiled a little wider. "Should I ask Cardinal Sforza if you could accompany us?"

It was a nice thought, Esther figured, but she knew far better than to expect something like that to happen. So she shook her head sadly and began to walk again, the heels of her boots tapping solemnly against the floor. "No, no, you shouldn't bother her with such thoughts." She put a thoughtful hand to her chin. "Though it would be nice, I suppose. I'd really like to travel with you and Tres again!"

Abel turned down a specific corridor, and Esther followed obediently. "That would be nice," he admitted, and Esther could detect a hint of amusement in his tone. "After all, staring at nothing but Tres all day long does wear on one's eyes." He laughed after this, and Esther frowned a little.

"He's not all that…unhandsome," she clarified.

"No, you're right," Abel agreed, scratching the back of his head. "It's just that he's an android, and his facial expression never changes."

"So…opposed to some sort of statue for company—who never complains or needs looking-after—you'd rather have a clingy human being?"

Abel faltered, stuttered, and then laughed out loud at this. "I think you're getting something wrong about Father Tres. He is far from a statue. He always criticizes my performance, he insists that everything I'm doing is 'incorrect by so-and-so milliseconds,' and, even worse, when he gets thrown on top of me, he just about breaks my ribs!"

Esther watched a white gargoyle as they passed by it; it sat still and quiet, with the features of its mug twisted into a feral, protective snarl. Tres was nothing like a statue—Tres was more human than robot. "I wonder…if Father Tres takes showers."

This definitely caught Father Nightroad off guard, because his steps hitched, and he almost tripped over his own foot. "S…Sister Esther! That is…a very inappropriate thought process!"

A dark blush spread across the expanse of Esther's cheeks, and she threw her hands up defensively. "That's not what I was thinking about! I mean, I was just wondering, and I don't think Tres even has anything…like…that…anyway."

Abel coughed into his hand and stared straight ahead, toward the large double doors to the cardinal's office. "Well…I assume that he would. He…he has been modeled directly after the human male anatomy."

Esther didn't say anything for a moment, and when they finally reached the double doors, she grunted gently in half-satisfaction. "I guess that means he does take showers."

O O O

There wasn't a person in the room—except for maybe Sister Kate, because she had suggested it, after all—who could quite concretely explain why Cardinal Sforza had actually agreed that sending Esther Blanchett along on the journey was a good idea.

It had all started so flawlessly, really: she and Abel had stridden effortlessly into the room, both of them working their very hardest not to chance a look at Father Tres. The whole aura of the room hadn't affected either of them in the least, because Esther was trying her best—which, admittedly, wasn't very hard—to not imagine Tres naked, and Abel was trying his best to not imagine Esther naked. And how his train of thoughts had switched from Tres in the shower to Esther traipsing about in nothing but her own skin, he couldn't be too sure.

So, of course, neither of them really paid any attention when Sister Kate and Cardinal Sforza began arguing over some trivial matter. And if they didn't notice that little discrepancy, then they surely didn't notice when Tres stepped in and offered for Esther to accompany Abel and him, because she would be highly beneficial. And because they didn't notice this awkward turn of events, Father Abel certainly did not quip in his mindless piece, which was how he thought that was a splendid idea.

And that was how it came to be, in all actuality. Abel, Esther, and Tres, off again on another threesome and a backwards-ass mission that would undoubtedly lead the three of them—or maybe two, because Tres didn't care much for things such as crushes or sexual tension—into either insanity or premature senility. Whichever came first, really.

"Thomas Theilig? It sounds disgustingly…average."

"Father Abel, that's not very nice."

"Neither is wondering whether Tres takes showers or not, but then again, we all have our little flaws."

Tres decided that, undoubtedly, he would rather not be stuck inside a small aircraft with Father Abel Nightroad and Sister Esther Blanchett. The two were infatuated with something, and when humans became infatuated, uncanny things were oft to happen.

Esther snatched a magazine out of Abel's hand. "You've been reading this for far too long!" She tried, unsuccessfully, to conceal the darkening of her cheeks with the cover of it.

Frivolous, Tres amended. Frivolous things happen that potentially hinder the success of our mission.

A few minutes later, when their personal compartment fell eerily silent, Abel crossed and uncrossed his legs, sighed, and opted to look out the window at the passing clouds solemnly. "I don't understand why we need to take apublic transport," he muttered. "The church could have very well provided us with afaster transfer."

Tres turned to Abel, and he felt something click unconsciously in his head as he faced his attentions toward the man. "We are to be inconspicuous," he replied flatly. "We do not want to intimidate the donor."

Abel huffed, and then pouted. "Who asked you?" he mumbled, only half under his breath.

"You did, Father Nightroad."

Esther giggled behind the magazine that she had virtually absorbed herself in. "Father Tres knows his way around you, Father Abel."

Said human Father straightened himself and folded his arms across his lap. "Yes. Too well, I'm afraid."

The airplane made a sudden jerk, and the magazine fell out of Esther's hands. She stared at it for a second before bending to pick it up, but Abel quickly snatched it off the floor.

Esther frowned. "Give it back."

Abel grinned charmingly. "You've been reading this for far too long." And with that, he began to read contentedly.

Esther harrumphed and turned to face away from Abel, instead staring through one of the compartment windows at the empty aisle.

Tres closed his eyes slowly. Ridiculously frivolous, he reminded himself. But the dynamic seems harmless enough.

About five seconds later, Esther made a mad grab for the magazine.