They Think That They See Flowers
A Trinity Blood Fan Fiction
by Darth Stitch
DISCLAIMER: Trinity Blood was created by Yoshida Sunao (R.I.P.) and is now an anime directed by Tomohiro Hirata and produced by the studio GONZO. I'm just a poor schmuck who wanted to see more romance amongst the all the high adventure, action and intrigue. Heh. Again, although this is not a songfic, the title is taken from the first stanza of the song "Let Me Hear" from the Trinity Blood OST.
AUTHOR'S WARNINGS/NOTES: Again, for those new to the anime/manga series, Trinity Blood is set in a post-apocalyptic world where the Roman Catholic Church/the Vatican is portrayed as a military power as well as a spiritual one. The series also strongly implies major and controversial changes in the Church, such as women being bishops and cardinals as well as romantic relationships and quite possibly marriage between members of the clergy. If this disturbs you, do not read any further.
DEDICATION: This is dedicated with much affection to my officemates – Star, Ella, Mommy Erica, Granny, JP, Ces, Aya, Jian, April, Amiel, Lemuel, Gracie and Bianca who read or patiently listened to me as I came up with these stories, laughing at the antics of Abel and Esther in Milk Tea & Thirteen Sugars and then all of them wondering what the heck was going to happen next which spawned Beautiful Disaster. They also offered their insights which helped create this fic. Also much thanks to Tantan who indulgently lent me pen and scratch paper when the Muse hit and allowed me to finish the story during our off hours – hail to thee, O Patron of the Art of Fan Fiction. Everyone here who's reviewing at FF Dot Net have them to thank for the latest installment in what looks like a rapidly growing fic series. Oi vei!
Contrary to popular opinion, Abel Nightroad was not, as Cardinal Caterina Sforza had so colorfully put it, a "featherbrain."
He just found it easier to deal with people, most especially his colleagues, in that way. Most of them had already seen one way or the other, the real reason why he was codenamed "Crusnik" even as he took great care to ensure that few people knew about his unusual abilities. Now seeing one's colleague turn into a lethal black-winged Angel of Death generally tended to freak people out. Abel had long ago figured that they found it easier to forget THAT part of his nature by playing the role of a sugar-addicted, bumbling, clumsy, absent-minded idiot.
All right, so he did love sweet things (he thanked God every day for granting mankind the genius to create candy and chocolate) and those 13 sugars in his tea. The rest was pure acting talent (honest!) which helped him out a lot, especially when it came to one Sister Esther Blanchett.
The memory of her frightened, tear-filled blue eyes when she finally saw him in the more terrifying aspect of his Crusnik form had haunted him for many nights. When he'd apologized to her, he had sadly told her that the monstrous creature that she'd seen was the mark of his sins and even as part of him hoped that she would finally get over what he'd sensed was a growing infatuation for him on her part, he was also afraid of her rejection. Which was one of the reasons why he played at being the clown more than usual when they'd accompanied young Ion Fortuna back to the New Human Empire…er, other than the wicked delight he took in interrupting the young Count's attempts to woo Esther.
Which reminded him – he still hadn't confessed that to the good Father William Walter Wordsworth a.k.a. "The Professor" yet. That would probably be worth a thousand Our Fathers and Hail Marys for penance, if he was lucky.
So maybe Esther had surprised him (or maybe he surprised himself) with what was now humorously referred to around AX as the "Infamous Romantic Snowstorm Incident" and Abel still cringed at the memory of what he'd managed to confess to Cardinal Caterina Sforza.
Abel scowled at his computer screen. He was supposed to turn in the formal written report from their last case today and he was getting distracted by thoughts of a certain little red-haired nun.
It was really unnerving how incredibly protective he was of Esther. Normally, Abel preferred to handle things without having to shift into his Crusnik form at all. If people thought him weak, then it was all the better, because he really wasn't into this business to win any ego contests anyway. If pushed, he normally approved the activation of the nanomachines in his body to 40 capacity which was usually more than a match for most Methuselahs.
If Esther was around, his first, instinctive reaction, in much the same way as he'd done when they'd first met, was to amp things up to 80 percent. In a nutshell, that meant sporting those great black wings and generating enough destructive power to level Rome if he felt like it and treading the edge of a very, very fragile line between sanity and madness.
Not a very good idea.
Lord knew that he'd come close enough to that when he'd faced the poor mad Marquis of Hungary who had been intent on killing Esther at the time. Abel had only held himself back by sheer willpower and by focusing on what he was supposed to actually do at that moment, which was to save lives, not take them.
This only spoke volumes about what he really felt for Esther.
Oh Lord, Caterina was not going to let him live this down. Not to mention that the good Professor W was going to keep on giving him that smug, irritating know-it-all smirk for the next two or three weeks!
Okay, so maybe Abel was strongly tempted to summon his scythe and snarl at poor Professor W with fangs bared. He knew that this was going to blow his meek and mild-mannered persona to smithereens but it was almost worth it.
Well, Abel always had a temper. It was, in fact, his worst sin. He'd just gotten better at controlling that admittedly short fuse of his over the years. However, he knew that he still had buttons that could be pushed to get it going quite easily and he did have enemies who knew how to take advantage of that weakness.
This was not the time to think about them – he had to focus on his report! Abel fought the urge to bang his head against the keyboard and just pushed his spectacles up over the bridge of his nose, trying to concentrate. Today just really wasn't one of his better days.
"We're out of sugar again!" Esther wailed out loud in their office.
Father Leon snorted. "Don't look at me, Sister Red – we all know who's the sugar addict around here."
Abel normally would have protested his innocence at that point but he was really too preoccupied with his report to care at the moment.
Naturally, Esther turned on Abel then and started nattering something about his health and a need for him to cultivate some sense of consideration for others. Abel found himself closing his eyes for a moment because, truth be told, the sound of her voice was very soothing to him, especially since he'd been wrestling with the written word – and in Latin, no less – for the past two hours.
And doing that was a huge mistake because his fine-tuned Crusnik senses also made him very aware of her sweet scent, which had traces of the mildly floral bath soap that she used.
So perhaps Abel couldn't be blamed if his tongue parted ways from what was normally his very healthy common sense and he found himself answering her:
"Yes, love, I know."
And then, everyone fell silent and when Abel opened his eyes, he was greeted by the delightful spectacle of Esther turning into this most adorable shade of pink. Mentally, he replayed the last few seconds and found himself stifling a sharp curse, not to mention feeling that slow hot flush of embarrassment creeping over his own cheeks.
Father Leon crowed. "Ha! I knew I was right about you two! Pay up, Professor W!"
"That's all right, Dandelion," the traitorous Professor said magnanimously. "I'll just collect what I owe from Lady Caterina."
Esther, bless her, was the one who recovered first. "Are you people actually betting on us?!"
"Hell, yeah!" Father Leon said boisterously. "We gotta have something to do with…er… all the lack of excitement…uh… around here… c'mon, Professor, help me out."
The Albionian priest was carefully not looking in Abel's direction, muttering something about not wanting to annoy vampires who had other vampires for dinner.
Okay, perhaps there was just the faintest tinge of Crusnik red in Abel's eyes as he glared at his two colleagues.
Esther didn't notice that because she'd already thrown up her hands in exasperation, muttering, "Honestly! The nerve of some people!" And then, she flounced off in a flurry of red hair and white skirts.
Abel followed her out into the hallway, closing the door behind him. The apology died on his lips when Esther faced him with a heartbreakingly vulnerable expression in her eyes.
"Don't you dare apologize," she began steadily, "if you actually meant what you said a while ago."
"I…" he began and fell silent, because he wasn't sure what he wanted to say. That he didn't mean it? That he didn't mean to give her any false hope?
That he didn't mean it when he kissed her when they were stuck in that shack? That he hadn't felt so whole or so at peace in that moment when he'd held her in his arms, against the cold? That just for a moment, he'd finally set aside his old grief for his lost Lilith and just saw Esther?
Because he knew he'd be lying through his teeth if he did. This was even worse than that last few moments he'd had with Sister Noelle, when he'd given an innocent affirmative answer to what seemed to him was just an ordinary question: "Do you like me?"
And he did. She was his friend. And he couldn't bear to look at her, in her disappointment and know that he couldn't really offer her anything more than his friendship. And then Noelle had been killed and he couldn't even do that for her, to save her, to preserve that precious life of hers.
Abel knew that he couldn't bear to look at Esther, in her own disappointment, unable to offer her what she needed, especially when he knew that against all common sense, despite what he was, what he'd done, who and what he'd been, and all the dangers that he faced, he wanted simply to say and to give to Esther what he never could to Noelle.
No, Abel and common sense had long since parted company in that moment when he had first kissed Esther in that shack.
Maybe he really was a featherbrain…
Esther's blush had deepened. "Forget I said anything, Father Nightroad, you must think me very forward." There was a world of hurt in that swift retreat to that familiar formality and he knew that he couldn't let things just go at that. Not with that look in her eyes.
Good Lord, he was doomed, wasn't he?
"Sister Esther, to make up for not leaving you any sugar packets and for saving me from another two hours of conjugating Latin, I'm treating you to tea," he declared, taking her hand and quietly delighting in the look of startlement in those big blue eyes, which was much better than the pain he'd seen in them a while ago. Thank God that it was just after payday and he did have considerably more in his pocket than four lousy dinars.
And then, because he did have a mischievous streak in him a mile wide, he leaned very close to her, almost close enough to kiss, he gave her his best silly grin and said, "And yes, I did mean every word of what I said a few minutes ago. If you do actually want me to apologize for it, I would but you did say I didn't need to if I meant it."
Esther blinked. And then, he was pleased to see her slowly smile up at him. "You meant to call me by that word."
"The proper term is 'endearment' and it does rather suit you, doesn't it?" Abel said with his best angelic expression, which was about the only thing keeping him from sweeping her up in his arms and kissing her silly. Now that would probably scandalize the entire Vatican and probably end up with his fellow AX members collecting on a lot of bets.
Esther quickly reached up and pulled at the black ribbon holding up his hair. It came off quite easily and Abel could only watch with bemusement as Esther happily wrapped that ribbon around her wrist.
"Er… would you mind giving me my ribbon back?" Abel asked, knowing even then that it was a lost cause.
"I'm holding this hostage until you get me that tea," she announced sunnily. "And it better be good as Sister Kate's!"
Abel sighed in mock exasperation, knowing quite well he'd be prepared to give her anything, as long as he could see her smile like that. "Minx."
"Is that another endearment, Father Nightroad?" she teased.
Keep smiling at me like that and I just might use up the entire dictionary, he thought and let her drag him off for that tea.
Things were just perfect.
Perhaps, they were a little too perfect. The café they'd gone to was a nice, cozy little place where the waitress was used to Abel's sugar habit and had Esther's favorite coffee cake as a dessert. And then, Esther mentioned that she never truly got the chance to see Rome at all, because she'd been training so hard and so, Abel took it upon himself to show her what he could in the few hours that they had left in the day.
Abel called it the "Four-Dinar Tour" which sent Esther into giggles and that was mostly what they were doing, laughing and joking like a pair of children. And just for those few precious hours, Abel allowed himself to forget about his mad twin brother Cain, the Rosen Kreuz Orden trying to take over the world, Vatican intrigues, terrorist activity, mad "vampires" on the rampage, ad nauseam.
The sun was beginning to set when Abel and Esther had snuck into the famous Colosseum. In the fading light, the sense of its long history was almost overwhelming and the two of them walked there in complete silence, hand in hand, unwilling to disturb the ancient edifice's ghosts.
But then, Esther's soft voice suddenly broke that quiet, "I have a bad feeling about this."
Abel was also beginning to feel uneasy himself but he tried to cover that by giving her a look of mock-horror. "Esther! You really shouldn't have said that!"
"It's just asking for trouble," Abel said, trying to make light of things even though all his instincts were suddenly screaming danger. "I think it's time for us to leave."
Esther gasped and then immediately reached for her gun. Abel saw why just a scant second later and also took out his own weapon.
Nine pairs of hellish feral eyes glared at them from the gloom. Nine massive wolf-like shapes emerged from the shadows, fangs bared and claws clicking softly on the stone.
Abel knew the old folktales, had also even heard of rumors of genetic experiments but whether this was legend come to life or science gone mad, he knew only one name to call these creatures.
Then, the largest of the werewolves growled a word, somehow managing to make those massive jaws shape that single syllable.
Despite everything, it was Esther who again first spoke, somehow managing to sound calm and steady even though her eyes were wide with fright, "What do you want?"
"Thou art an abomination – mortal and vampire alike. All are a pestilence on the face of this very earth. Our Mother hath made Her judgment and we are Her instruments. Thou shalt die this night."
At that, one of the werewolves sprang and Abel could only appreciate how well she'd done in her training when he saw that she'd been able to shoot the thing down without missing a beat. But three more attacked, suddenly disappearing from sight, seeming to move faster than was physically possible and Abel knew at once that guns wielded with ordinary human reflexes, no matter how well trained, were going to be useless in this fight.
Nanomachine Crusnik 02. Release of restrictions to 80 percent. Approved.
With a snarl, Abel allowed his wings to unfurl and shield Esther from the attack while he lashed out with his scythe at the same time. Two more werewolves lay in pieces on the ground. He made sure to keep himself between the werewolves and Esther, knowing all too well that they would be able to catch her easily if he asked her to run for it. He pivoted to take care of the third wolf, only to be attacked by another coming from the other direction.
He heard Esther scream and everything went blood-red as he roared in fury.
There was nothing else but the rage and the blood and the savage song that his scythe made as it sliced through flesh and bone. He was heedless of the claws and the fangs that tore at his own robes and into his skin, the wounds healing too fast for him to register the pain. He continued to wield his scythe, to lash out with blue bursts of energy, only aware of the driving need to protect Esther, to keep her safe, no matter what.
And then, when the red haze lifted from his vision, he was left standing alone, blood and gore spattered across his robes, on his face and even in his hair. The Crusnik glared at the only werewolf remaining – the large alpha male who had spoken before.
Abel stiffened at the use of a title he had not been addressed by in 900 years.
"Night Lord." There seemed to be a touch of awe, even reverence in the werewolf's voice. "Son of the Mother. Thou hast fought well this day. We shall meet again."
Then, the alpha werewolf disappeared.
Abel heard a strangled sob from behind him and he only looked at Esther long enough to realize that she wasn't hurt before he found himself sinking to his knees, still unable to shift back to normal, bloodlust and battle rage still singing in his very veins.
"Don't look," he rasped, closing his eyes, unable to bear the fear that would be in her eyes, not wanting to see her terror of him and the thing that he was. "Please. I don't want you to see…"
The words were pathetically inane – she'd already seen everything, hadn't she? It was already too late.
He shuddered as he felt her gently touch his cheek, tracing a line from his temple to his chin, felt her fingers thread through his long silver hair. He found himself nuzzling her palm and almost pulled her closer to him but stopped when he realized his hands were still taloned and diamond-hard.
Dark blue eyes gazed at him steadily, misty with tears but there was no fear or terror in them. Hesitantly, he touched the small hand that she still kept against his cheek and he found himself tracing the edges of the black silk ribbon she'd wrapped around her wrist.
His black silk ribbon.
"You're all right?" Esther whispered tremulously.
"I should be asking you that," he returned, his own voice still raspy and metallic.
And then, he gasped as she suddenly wrapped her arms around him and held him close, not caring in the least how monstrous or frightful he looked at the moment. He felt her tears slide down his hair as she rested her cheek against the soft strands.
There would be time enough to think about the alpha werewolf's strange words, to ponder the implications of having these new players in the game they were all caught up in.
But for now, there was just the two of them here in this moment and he could only hold her in turn, but very gently as if she was the most fragile, precious thing in all the world.
"I'm just glad you're safe," she said softly, again echoing what he was thinking.
"Love," Abel murmured and this time the word didn't just come out on its own. It was all he had to say, all he needed to say at this very moment.
She pulled a little away from him then and smiled and then said the most wonderful thing he'd ever heard in 900 years.
Author's End Notes: ACK! Is THAT a Massive Plot I see looming over the horizon? ('Stitch keels over in horror) Er. Blame my officemates – they all keep asking me "What happens next?!"
As for the werewolves, well anyone who plays any of the werewolf RPGs in White Wolf or knows something about Vampire the Masquerade RPG will spot some familiar elements. While I'm not directly drawing from the RPG, I do acknowledge that they did inspire me for that segment in this story.