A Brief Respite

Komui looked over the Finder standing in his office; one of the men that was investigating the escape of the Noah prisoner.

"Sir, there's a trail of claw marks running down the wall."

"Claw marks?"

"Yes sir…claw marks…and footprints…"

Komui sat upright in his chair. "What?"

The Finder mumbled nervously, "W…we found footprints too, sir." He was becoming increasingly uncomfortable. After all, it was Lenalee's anti-akuma weapon that would give someone the capacity for that type of maneuver.

Komui shook his head. What is going on here? I can't believe that Allen would betray us because of the girl. But even if that was true, why is Lenalee with them?

"They couldn't have gotten far," the Finder asserted.

"Begin a search. We need to find them." Komui readjusted his glasses, taking a moment to collect his thoughts. "And send the available exorcists as well."

The Finder shifted his weight in discomfort. "And what do we do if they resist?

Looking the Finder square in the eye, Komui spoke sternly, "My orders are for you to bring them back. Period."

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The sound of a bell resonated outside of the train, signaling its immediate departure. The group within one of the locomotive's many passenger compartments breathed a collective sigh of relief as they felt the train lurch into motion.

After an awkward period of silence, Allen cleared his throat, "I think we're safe now."

With the excitement the escape waning, Road latched onto Allen's arm and let her head to rest against his shoulder. She smiled to herself when Allen made no attempts to avoid the contact.

"Well," Tyki started, "that worked out better than I thought it would." He tipped his head respectfully to Lenalee, who was sitting next to him opposite Allen and Road. "Ah yes, my thanks to you…"

"Lenalee," she replied, rolling her eyes at the Noah's exaggerated gesture.

"…Lenalee," he repeated her name as if to engrave it in his memory, "without your quick and…practical…thinking, that might have been a bit messier than I'd have liked."

Lenalee flinched slightly at "messier," but replied, "So do you care to fill us in on what the plan is from here?"

"Of course," Tyki nodded. "As I said before, one of the new family member's, Jesper, is the reason that we're in this situation to begin with. Because of his ability to track down our kin I have to take into account the possibility that he is aware of our location."

"Wait," Lenalee interrupted, "so this Jesper person knows that Road is with you right now?"

Tyki shrugged, "I can't be sure, but that may well be the case."

Allen furrowed his brow "But you were sent to…deal with Road. If he knows you're both with each other right now, then won't he realize you're disobeying your orders?"

Still resting against Allen, Road chimed, "You know everybody…I'm sitting right here." She was getting tired of being talked over.

Ignoring her, Tyki continued, "Like I said, it is very likely Jesper is aware of our proximity at this moment. However, I don't act as carelessly as you might think. I have already accounted for this." He leaned to the side, resting his chin on the knuckles of his closed fist. "Before I left, I met with Jesper in private. I told him that I didn't think I could go through with the Earl's orders; that I had known Road far too long to end her life with my own hands. So I asked for his help." He gave a playful wink to the small Noah. "Right now, I'm banking on him assuming you're my captive, Road."

"And you think Jesper will believe any of that?" Lenalee questioned.

Tyki retrieved a cigarette from the pack in his jacket and placed it between his lips. "If he doesn't, he doesn't. It was the best I could come up with at the time." Feeling content with his explanation, he leaned back and lit his cigarette.

Lenalee cringed at the scent produced by Tyki's smoking. "You know, those things are pretty bad for your health."

Tyki glanced at her with amusement. "Whatever. If this doesn't work out, I won't live that long anyways."

Lenalee narrowed her eyes. "Well it's bad for my health too. Put it out."

He chuckled at her reaction as he distinguished the cigarette on the compartment's wooden windowsill. "Maybe I should've rephrased that. If this doesn't work out, WE won't live that long anyways."

That possible conclusion plunged the passenger car back into silence. He cursed his morbid sense of humor as he watched his candy-loving comrade nervously shift in her seat. He leaned forward and placed his hand on her knee in an attempt to calm her nerves.

"Look, I will try my best to reason with him tomorrow; to try and convince him to tell the Earl that you're gone, and to let that be the end of it. But I can't possibly predict what his reaction will be to such a request, especially considering the treasonous nature of it."

"What if he refuses?" Allen asked almost rhetorically.

"Then I'll kill him." A brief wave of excitement flashed in his eyes before quickly dissipating. "Of course, I'll have to give all the credit to one of you."

Allen crooked his head, "Eh?"

"If that's the path we have to take, I'll need to use you as a scapegoat for Jesper's death. After all, casualties between the Black Order and the Noah family should come as no surprise to the Earl."

Allen noticed with slight disappointment that he was no longer being clung to by Road. Instead she was staring blankly at the floor. "Are you alright, Road?"

She didn't look up. "Maybe…" she started, "…maybe you should just go back."

The small traveling compartment seemed to get even smaller as all eyes fell upon her.

"Look, I'm really…happy…that you're all trying to help me, but this is…too much. I can make it on my own from here."

Tyki was speechless. Did he really just hear Road give a completely selfless suggestion with everybody but herself in mind? Just what exactly had happened to his selfish, carefree companion?

"Just get off at the next stop and I'll…" Road stopped as she felt Allen place a comforting hand on her shoulder. "What are you talking about Road? We got ourselves into this mess."

Lenalee nodded in agreement.

Road protested, "But even if Tyki's idea works, what about the Black Order? They'll still be looking for us. For you."

"We'll worry about that later. It'll work itself out in the end."

She was still unconvinced but felt too tired to protest, instead opting to reassume her previous posture against Allen's shoulder.

Lenalee slumped against her corner of the compartment bench. "So where are we headed? You said the other Noah was meeting you tomorrow, right?"

Tyki shrugged. "It doesn't matter where we go. He'll find me regardless."

"Then we'll get off at the next stop and find a place to stay the night," Allen concluded.

As the compartment quieted once more, Allen turned to the window. Watching the darkened landscape whip by, he reflected silently on Road's final question concerning the Black Order. It was a troubling one. Even if they could get Komui to pardon their actions, Road would still be subject to further incarceration. And that would be unacceptable.

No, he would have to stay with her until they could work something out with the Black Order. As long as it took. Since she was now technically an exorcist, surely they could be convinced of her potential value to the Order.

Oh well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it.

Until then, he just wanted time. Time to help Road control her new powers. Time to ease her back into human society. Time to sort out his mixed up emotions.

He wanted more time…with her.

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** Evening Dawn casts resurrection on "Only Human." **

Sorry this chapter was so short considering the extreme hiatus that this story has undergone. I had no idea how to break up the next sections of the story and if I didn't designate this chapter to itself, I'd have never made any progress.

Thanks to all that have taken, and will take, the time to review. I really do appreciate it.