A/N: For the March round of D.Gray-man flashfics on LiveJournal. Spoilers for recent chapters. You have been warned.
our gentle ragnarok
Cross Marian was late.
It figures, thought Theodore wryly to himself. That man would be late for the Apocalypse. Being late for its Eve is hardly surprising.
Winters Sokaro sat with his arms folded thickly on the table across from him, glowering at Theodore as if it were his fault their erstwhile comrade was nowhere to be found.
Cloud Nine sat to his right, with her legs crossed and fingers picking nervously at the fabric of her uniform.
The chair to the left remained obstinately empty.
The minutes passed.
At last, Winters let out a deep humph and stood up. "I'm going to get him," he announced, and stalked out the door.
"In one piece!" Theodore called after him, suddenly alarmed by images of Cross' bloody, mangled corpse-- or possibly a bucket of unrecognizable remains, knowing Winters-- inhabiting his spot at the table.
"Are you sure it's wise to let him go?" asked Cloud Nine cynically.
"No," answered Theodore truthfully, "probably not, but I personally am not volunteering to stop him."
Cloud opened her mouth, then prudently shut it and waited with him in silence.
A few minutes later, a familiar red-haired figure strolled casually into the room and collapsed with consummate style into the chair on the left. "Where's Winters?" asked Cross casually, pulling a bottle of fine scotch from seemingly nowhere and taking a long pull straight from the neck. He appeared to be well on his way to a truly impressive level of drunkenness despite the early hour. "Lazy blackguard, always late for everything."
Nine gritted her teeth audibly and reached across the small table to thump him soundly on the head, crushing his rakishly angled black hat.
With an air of injured dignity, he removed it and restored it to its usual jaunty state with his fingers. "What was that for?"
"Being an idiot," she fired back, crossing her arms in the very image of feminine irritation.
Cross wisely shut up.
The door blasted off its hinges and skidded across the floor for several feet before coming to a thoroughly cowed stop.
"Cross!" bellowed Winters, thunder-faced, and barrelled across the room towards the alarmed man in question. His Innocence slid down his arms towards his hands.
In a flash, Theodore and Nine leapt to catch him and prevent the impending rampage written on his face. The Innocence stopped mere inches from his palms and disaster. Theodore resisted the urge to bop him on the head and send him to bed without dinner... that happened a lot nowadays, he figured it was probably an age thing. Most exorcists didn't live to be as old or learn to be as fatherly as he had somehow become.
"Sit down, all of you, right this instant," he suggested.
Everyone complied, miraculously, and moments later there was a full table of four generals organized and ready for discussion-- something which had not happened for quite some time, thanks to Cross Marian's penchant for being unfindable for anything remotely resembling a staff meeting.
"So, what are we talking about?" slurred Marian in the general direction of the ceiling. "Seems to me we're wasting a perfectly good Apocalypse Eve sitting around talking when we could be drinking."
"Seems to me you're drinking anyways," pointed out Nine acidly.
He shrugged. "Tastes better when you're not bored half to death."
"Enough, Marian," said Theodore testily. "First order of business-- I am to inform you of the plan for tomorrow. Upon the Earl's arrival with the army, we are to be stationed in five groups at differing points throughout Headquarters. It is unsure how he will attempt to break our defenses, and likely that he will come with enough numbers to try several methods, so we will be splitting up to cover all major possibilities."
"That could backfire," said Winters. "If he levels his entire force at one point and we're split up--"
Nine cut him off. "We have the advantage of being on defense. Small numbers of exorcists can defend doorways against large numbers of Akuma. If we miss a way in they won't even need to fight us-- they'll just drive us out and pick us off one by one in the open."
"Marshall Cloud is correct," Theodore agreed. "Komui, Bak-san, and the delegate from Rome have spent long hours hammering out a battle plan, and I believe it's a good one. If you have any major concerns with it, take them up with the delegate, not me. I plan to follow orders. Anyone want to say anything?"
Winters growled under his breath, but no one else said anything. Theodore breathed a sigh of relief and continued.
"Each team will consist of one marshall and one or two subordinate exorcists. A squadron of Finders will act as back up. We have not yet decided where each team will be positioned-- we can talk about that later. First, I want to tell you all who you are paired with."
Theodore turned to Winters, who was glowering blackly.
"I work alone," the hammerfaced marshall said coldly. "I don't want a goddamned subordinate wimp getting in my way."
"I highly doubt you'll have any trouble with your assigned partner," Theodore said patiently. "You will be working with Aleister Crowley, the vampire. As you know, he is nearly invincible physically and will not need rescuing."
That was, of course, exactly why he was paired with Winters. Sokaro made a point of not protecting anyone. If his subordinates got themselves killed in battle, it was his viewpoint that it was their own fault for being too damned weak and deserved no pity. Crowley would not want it in any case.
"Yes, sir," she replied instantly, then caught herself. "I apologize."
He smiled. "You have not been a general for very long. Don't worry about it. Moving on-- you will be working with Linali Li and Miranda Lotte."
"All the girls on one team?" interrupted Cross, horrified. "That's completely unfair."
"Shut up, Marian," snapped Nine. "Of course. I assume we will be somewhere near the base of the tower, to protect it structurally with Lotte's ability."
"Likely," agreed Theodore. "Good thinking. I myself will have Noise Marie and Chaoji Han under my command, and we will likely take the roof to take advantage of Marie's ears. Marshall Cross--"
"My turn?" said Cross. His face drooped somehow into an even deeper level of absolute boredom, as if they were talking about land treaties and food shipments rather than the end of the world. "Oh, happy day. I suppose I have my idiot apprentice to babysit."
"Actually, no," Theodore contradicted.
The other three generals sat up a little despite themselves. This was interesting. No one had even considered Allen working with anyone but his mentor.
"No?" echoed Cross, dumbfounded. "What's he doing, then, sandbagging?"
Theodore resisted the urge to roll his eyes like a sixteen-year-old and settled for steepling his fingers and sighing instead. "No, Marian. You will be working with the Bookman and his apprentice. Allen Walker and Kanda Yuu will form a team of their own. I'm sure you've heard this by now, but Allen Walker reached a point of over-perfect synchronization with his Innocence and is now classed as a marshall. He is not present at this meeting because we have not yet informed him of his promotion."
Cloud Nine gasped. Winters grunted.
"You're kidding," drawled Cross after a moment of blank-eyed shock. "You're making that shrimpy, brainless idiot apprentice of mine a marshall?"
"Marshalls in the Order do not command great numbers of troops," Theodore reminded him. "Mostly they are simply asked to carry out missions with greater difficulty levels and to command any exorcists in the area whenever multi-akuma battles do break out. The only other requirement to being a general is achieving over-limit synchronization with one's Innocence. Allen has already carried out missions of equal difficulty to most of what you yourself are assigned, he has taken control of battle situations on more than one occasion, and he has met the synchronization qualification. He is, by every one of our criteria, a perfectly capable marshall already. The only difference now is that he'll have a title to go with it."
"Madness," muttered Cross, pouring another long stream of scotch down his throat and sneering. "Don't come crying to me when everything goes pear-shaped."
"I assure you, none of us are prone to weeping," Theodore reminded him waspishly.
"That's not true," Winters put in unexpectedly. "Nine over there cries like a child at the drop of a hat."
"The death of one's entire team is hardly comparable to a dropped hat," Nine snapped coldly.
Winters made an ugly face. "Same difference."
Theodore held up a hand, interrupting the spat before it could get under way. "Now is not the time. Need I remind you that the Earl of Millenium is going to come through his Ark tomorrow evening with a force of Akuma large enough by his estimation to obliterate all of us, along with the remaining members of his family? If not for the former Noah Tykki Myk having such a fortunate soft spot for a couple of our younger exorcists--"
"Pedophile," muttered Cross, but no one paid any attention.
"--we would not have had any notice at all and would likely have lost tomorrow's battle almost instantly."
"We're still probably going to lose," Cross pointed out with a lazy wave of the non-scotch-bearing hand. "There's what, thirteen of us left? Even with that tall Noah... whatsisface..."
"Tykki Myk," Theodore supplied wearily.
"Right, him," Cross continued without missing a beat. "Even with Tykki Myk-- stupid name if you ask me-- on our side, he's just a human now and is essentially useless. Skin Boric and those freaky twins being out of commission is good and all, but the Earl and his scary little girls... Rhode or something and cat-girl--"
"Lulubell," corrected Nine, clearly exasperated.
"Whatever. Those three plus a good million Akuma--"
"Doubtful," interrupted Theodore, "our most generous estimates of the remaining forces the Earl has to command after we destroyed so many of the giant combined Akuma is perhaps ten thousand at most."
"--whatever, against thirteen exorcists-- most of which are children and unfortunately moronic-- and a handful of Finders. I repeat, we are probably going to lose."
Theodore took a deep breath, then let it out and smiled. "Perhaps. Are you planning on running, Cross Marian? It would seem you're good at that."
Cross frowned. "Below the belt, that... but no, I'll probably stay here. Someone's got to watch out for that idiot apprentice of mine."
"Probably?" echoed Nine.
"If you leave, I will find you," grated Winters, "and you will shortly wish you'd stayed with the armies of Akuma and the Earl."
"Hmm," said Cross, a faintly alarmed expression on his face. "Remind me to kill everything before running away, in that case."
"You'll miss the party if you do that," Cloud Nine said with a smile.
Theodore stood up, cutting off a budding off-topic conversation yet again. "The supervisor will inform us where he wishes our teams positioned first thing tomorrow morning. Marshall Cross, it is recommended that you are awake for that, so I would exercise some moderation with that scotch if I were you."
"Moderation is for the weak," muttered Cross, but he capped the bottle-- now mostly empty-- and stowed it somewhere within the voluminous black folds of his coat. "I'm going to bed. Anyone care to join me? Not you," he said hastily in Winter's direction, resulting in a black scowl and a string of knuckle-crackings, "or you," to Theodore, who merely chuckled, "but you, Nina darling, are welcome at any time of the day or night."
"Don't call me that," protested Cloud Nine. She rolled her eyes, but could not hide her blush.
Theodore knew she would likely take him up on that offer.
When did I get so old? Nobody invites me for pre-battle romps anymore. Pity, I could really use one right about now... might be my last chance on God's green earth to have some fun.
Cross, true to his word for once in his life, strolled out of the meeting room in the direction of his quarters.
Nine took her leave, bowing formally before holding herself to a stately walk out of the chamber with obvious difficulty.
Winters simply gave a brief, ill-tempered nod and left at his usual powerful pace.
Theodore tilted his chair back and stared at the plain stone ceiling high above.
The world as they knew it was slated to end tomorrow evening, right around suppertime. He had no idea what to think of that, even littler idea what to expect from the battle. He wished he'd had a little more time to spend roaming the European and Asian countrysides, drawing everything he saw worth giving ink to... he'd always wanted to go to Africa, and that seemed sadly out of reach now.
Ah, life. Even when you're long and busy you're still too short.
With another sigh-- it was starting to become a habit, he'd have to watch that-- he stood up and cracked his stiff spine a couple of times until he felt all right to walk. Then he left the room and resolutely did not think about how unlikely it was that he'd ever see that stone ceiling again.
In his chambers, the great old mahogany clock against the wall gave a creak and a groan and tolled the bells for midnight. The Apocalypse was no longer tomorrow. It was today.
Froi Theodore went to bed for the last, time alone and comfortless, to count his regrets and his blessings both.
A/N: This was supposed to be serious and somehow didn't quite manage to make it there. Ahahaha. Oh well, I love Theodore being snarky and Cross being an idiot so... whatever. XD