Here we are.this story is a continuation of Mana; so if you haven't read it first, i suggest you do so before getting all confused. i must add that Cross is not a nice man and may use bad language.

i think it would be a good idea to mention that, other than my origional characters, i have no rights to these characters nor do i profit by them. they are the intellectual property of their creator.

General Cross Marion was utterly peeved. He stretched his long legs and tried to get comfortable. It was freezing and the stone crypt he sat upon gave him no place to lean back. He pulled his cigarettes from his inside coat pocket. It was his third coffin nail that night. He was planning to cut back when things settled down, but for now he lit the thin cylinder and inhaled appreciatively. With his startling red hair and the copious amounts of smoke and fogged breath swirling around him, he looked like a dragon. The description matched his temper. This dragon was utterly peeved. Damn kid…

He spent the last three nights watching the child in the graveyard. Cross wished something would happen to break up the monotony. Each night was the same as the last. The pale boy with the hollow eyes would walk out the stone crucifix, lace his arms around it and start his vigil. He just sat there, staring off into space with dead eyes. Sometimes he rocked and let the back of his head thump softly on the granite. Maybe he'll crack his skull and I can go get some sleep…

It had turned into a routine. Eventually, one of the adults that cared for him would come. He just ignored them; his world had ended. They'd send the big man if he didn't come with them willingly. He'd lift the tiny body over his shoulder and physically haul him back to the house. Cross knew where the house was; he had visited four days ago while the sick man was dying.

The brat was going to do something stupid; he knew it. Cross recognized his expression. He saw it in the house when he came back to check on them. The kid's world had ended; he wasn't going to speak or eat unless forced. He wasn't going to do anything without being forced. He was passively trying to die. If he was older he would have probably taken the initiative and killed himself. He wasn't worried about him though. A sensitive man would have been worried, but Cross Marion was not a sensitive man.

He was practically begging for the Earl; the boy was a perfect target. So, each night Cross would sit here and watch and wait and wish he was somewhere else.

This whole mess started with a routine inspection of the local red light district four days ago. He had just settled into a couch with a charming set of twins and their trusting cousin when an exquisite specimen of the fair sex approached him. She was covered in tattoos. Elegant hips swayed in just the right way. Beautiful.

"Excuse me…" she said shyly as she leaned over the arm of the couch. "Are you a priest?" the question caught him a bit off guard, but she looked so hopeful and he had such a wonderful view down her blouse.

"Yes. Yes I am my child." This could be a fun game.

She brushed her hair behind her ear. "Would you come home with me… we need to confess our sins…" We? Oh please… have a sister… Like a fool whose head was somewhere other than the top of his neck he followed her.

A blond athletic woman met them at the door. "Maddie, is this him?" Cross decided that coming along was, indeed, a very good idea. He paused in the door to get a better view of their backsides, a very good idea. A third girl appeared in his field of vision. She was thinner than he would have liked, but her long white blond hair more than made up for it. This is too good to be true… he thought. Naturally it was.

The colorful woman led him upstairs and to a bedroom. Aw damn… she was serious. He ended up sulking and listening to a dying man's confession. It was all the usual boring things people confess. Like it or not, he was a priest after a fashion. Cross had listened to confessions before; they were pretty much all the same. He was thinking about what he'd like for lunch when the dying man surprised him.

"I killed a man."

Cross stared at him. It had started his mind working and he was instantly suspicious. How could this guy kill someone? He was in terrible shape; there was a cane leaning against the wall. The man was a cripple. It was probably the consumption that had ravaged his body. He tried to imagine him filled out a bit; add a bit of lean muscle, some color to his skin. It wasn't a bad image.

Still, he couldn't see the man actually killing someone; he seemed too compassionate… unless… Cross had to interrupt him and ask; he had to make sure. The Innocence he carried had been reacting like mad since he got to this dump of a town. He could tell the man was compatible though at this stage it was hardly worth mentioning. As he drilled him for information, he listened for a certain set of words, a particular description of how it felt.

The man had answered that he felt cold. That he enjoyed doing it. That set off warning bells, but he also admitted to guilt and remorse, that contradicted it. Cross grabbed the man's surprised face to check for the final telltale sign. His forehead was clear; not a mark, just soft skin. They way the man closed his eyes at the touch suggested to him that the skin was somewhat sensitized. He was an odd case, no definite proof in either direction. Cross wasn't puzzled; a dim man would be puzzled, but Cross Marion was not a dim man.

It didn't matter, he decided. The man would be dead by morning. He gave him some priestly words of comfort. Things someone would need to hear at the end of life; he'd done this part more times than he'd like to remember. Cross left without a word to anyone.

On a whim and morbid curiosity, he went back to the house the next morning. It was awkward. The athletic woman answered the door, baby at her breast. Cross was glad for the glimpse, but it wasn't the time or place. There was also a possessive husband. Not that it had ever stopped him before. There was a bet floating around the upper levels of the Order as to whether he would die by Akuma or by angry husband.

It was silent there in the house, thick with grief. He met the men of the house with brief words of condolences. They were busy getting the burial arranged. The body was already out of the house. It would be in the ground by the afternoon. The three women were crying; he hated the sound of women crying.

"I just wanted to check up on you." He explained lamely; the Innocence hadn't stopped resonating after the man died and he suspected it was the child the man spoke of. He needed to look in to it. "I'm here if you need to talk…" Oddly he ended up helping a foul mouthed girl make coffee and comfort food.

The kid was in the kitchen, like a little ghost at the table. Cross didn't even see him till one of the girls pointed him out. He was staring straight ahead; there was nothing behind those wide brown eyes. It was disturbing, no outward signs of grief, no tears, just nothing; it was soul deep grief, so intense and so all consuming that he had shut down. He had already resigned himself to follow his father.

It made Cross sick. It was weak, pathetic, and so incredibly stupid to shut down so completely. He looked at the apple he was slicing; he guessed they were making pie; he didn't really care but planned on eating it regardless. He gave the core a quick practice toss and lobbed it at the boy's head. Brat…

Cross couldn't have been more surprised when he caught it. The boy didn't notice he did it; he didn't look he just raised his hand and left handedly took it from the air. He let it fall to the table. The tattooed woman called the boy 'baby' and pet his brown hair. She patiently pulled him to the other room and set him on the couch. He didn't fight or resist he was operating on automatic.

"I was ready for screaming…" She told Cross when she rejoined him in the kitchen. "I was ready for crying. I was ready for just about anything but this…" She rubbed the bridge of the nose. The foul mouthed girl patted her shoulder; with an understanding smile and softly muttered four letter word she left to give them some privacy.

Cross sat, reached across the table and covered her hand with his own. She had roses etched on it. "I'm so sorry, Ms…?"

"Madeline. Madeline Walker." She sighed and almost cried. "He tried so hard to make it to our first anniversary." Cross raised an eyebrow; he had suspected a girl of her profession to wed for a sugar daddy. Their differences in age were obvious enough for it to make sense. But, he wasn't rich and the tone of her voice hinted at a very deep loving relationship. Cross found it sweet in a novel sort of way.

"I expected something different with Allen… I knew he was going to take it much harder than any of us. After we told him, we let him see him… Mana's body I mean, before the funeral guys came to take it. It was only fair, he deserved a goodbye. He went pale, had to sit down on the floor. He reached up and touched his hand, he said…"

"Its alright, you can go on…" Cross encouraged the pretty widow, desperately avoiding lewd thoughts and wishing he had met her under different circumstances.

"I'm not sure what he really said… I think he said 'I'm coming too.' God I hope I'm wrong…that I misheard or something."

Cross made a thoughtful sound and pretended that he cared. "Don't leave him alone. Keep someone with him at all times."

"Right… I'll stay with him; pick up where Mana... left off..." She abruptly broke down and let out a heart wrenching sob. "My honey!" she howled. "I've lost my honey…"

Cross shifted awkwardly in his chair. Her grief was making him uncomfortable. He wanted to go back to his room at the inn, order food and a pretty girl to eat it with, but the heavenly smell of the pie in the over would hold him there in the warm kitchen. This was his good deed for the year; he would stay and listen.

"My husband! Gah! My honey… my sweet honey. I didn't tell him!" she was near screaming. "I didn't tell him… didn't want him to be upset, wanted him to die with no regrets, but… I think I was wrong! He would have been happy if I told him… and now it's too late! I lost my chance. He would be happy if he knew; he'd be proud…" she hunched over, wrapping her arms around her stomach.

"Ohh…" Cross whispered as he realized what she was talking about. "You're carrying his child, aren't you…"

She sobbed hysterically and let her head thud on the table. "Then you have to keep going. I'm sorry, but he's gone. No matter how hard you wish, he can't come back. If anyone tells you different, they're lying. Run from people like that; they can't bring him back. It will only hurt you and you have to live for his children; the one you carry and the boy in the other room. Do you understand what I'm saying?"

"Yes… put them first." She sniffled and took a few moments to compose herself. "Thank you… for letting me get that out of my system." She examined him with reddened eyes. "You're not a real priest are you? Not in the normal sense, anyways… I've got you figured out. Still…" She wiped her eyes and pushed her hair from her face. "Please, stay and eat with us."

Cross ate with them and left. He had taken care of the woman. She was probably strong enough to resist any temptation the Earl might offer. He just had to watch the child. That night was his first in the graveyard.

He practiced blowing smoke rings and watched the child from the corner of his eye. It was so boring and the flesh under his half mask was itching. He almost wanted the Earl to show up; he almost enjoyed their little meetings. Cross had the bad habit of taking unnecessary risks, just to liven things up. For four nights he watched and waited. Someone always came and carried the boy home; usually the brother of the foul mouthed girl.

He always greeted him warmly and made small talk in his stilted English; Cross enjoyed talking to the big man. He learned his name was Ernest, or Ernie, whichever name suited him at the moment. He was also a circus performer; Cross found it fascinating. The man was taller than he was and on some level that bothered Cross.

"Allen is not eating, ya." He told him on their fourth meeting. "Is not sick, but can't keep anything down…" Cross nodded, not really giving a damn but hoping that would keep the weakening boy at home, where he was less likely to do something stupid.

"How old is the kid?" Cross had asked him. The boy was really small; he didn't know why he asked. It wasn't like it mattered but curiosity got the better of him.

"Is about twelve." That didn't seem possible. Cross wasn't really an expert, but he looked under ten. He watched the man heft the child's limp form; he did look sick. It had been another long night.

I have to got out of here… this stupid town is getting to me. He thought as he retired for the remainder of the night. It felt so good to get his shoes off; he wondered if he should put in an order with the uniform personnel for a new pair or just treat himself and buy his own. A cockroach scurried past his bare foot; I'm getting really sick of this place.

Despite the lumpy mattress and thin blankets, Cross slept a good refreshing sleep in the cheap inn. He needed more money; he hated staying in such squalid settings. The next day was the same boring routine as the day before, and the day before that. Sleep, eat, find some idle way to pass time till nightfall and then head out to the cemetery.

This is it, he thought. Last time out here… if the damn Earl hasn't appeared by now then he's not going to. He stubbed out his smoke on a headstone. Few more hours and I'm out of here. There are plenty of other things to do. He wasn't going to bother exposing the boy to any of the Innocence he carried. That was the usual procedure for a General at the discovery of a compatible person; test their synchronization and recruit them on the spot, usually by force or any other means necessary.

Cross didn't want the trouble of hauling a runny nosed, moody brat all the way back to headquarters. It just wasn't worth it; he'd sent word to the Order via Timcanpi and let someone else come out and handle it. He paused; he hadn't actually seen the little winged annoyance for days. He probably was eaten by a cat again. He had put so much time and effort into making him; it irked him that the stupid fleabags found him so irresistible.

As if reading his mind, a light wet thump landed on his hat. Reaching up he found the golem's tail and yanked Tim down. Cross suppressed a laugh. "You did get eaten again… you're lucky it hacked you up." He made himself as comfortable as possible on the ground by a thick headstone and started to pick bits of hairball off him.

Cross would never admit it, even under torture, but he was very fond of the little gold creature. After a few drinks and if he could catch him, Cross liked to pinch his tiny little hands between his thumbs and forefingers and make poor Tim do a little dance. He got bitten every time, but it was still too funny to stop. If anyone saw him playing with and doting on the little creature he would have to kill them. He had a reputation to maintain.

He wasted a full hour cleaning the damp fur off Timcanpi, and another half hour tossing the golem from hand to hand. He swore loudly when it finally wiggled free and chomped down on the meaty part of his hand. Tim settled on his knee; it was amazing how something with no face could look so indignant.

Brushing the little thing off, he stood. It's too cold, nothing's happening and I'm not going to waste my time anymore. He turned and walked from the stupid cemetery, happy with his decision. In the morning, or late afternoon if he decided to sleep in, he would pack and get out as soon as he could.

Cross was three blocks away when he heard the scream. A strong and clear call of a name. No… he froze in the middle of the street. Shit, he didn't… He closed his eyes in frustrated resignation. "Bastard…" he hissed fiercely. "Son of a bitch! He waited till I was gone."

He turned and started walking back. There was no need to run; he was too far away to save the boy, but he could at least kill the Akuma. By the second block Cross felt a cold chill that had nothing to do with the snow; he broke into a dead run. Tim zipping along by his side. He had to get there, fast; something was strange.

Cross stood transfixed at the gate; as if something was physically restraining him there. All he could do was watch the horrifying drama unfolding before him. "Well, I'll be damned… this just got interesting."