So Take Me Out

Lt. Commander Richie

Disclaimer: I only own what you don't recognize.

Chapter 1

I remember a time before all this happened. Back when I remembered the taste of the best hot dog stand out on Coney Island. Back when I could lay out on the roof outside my window and talk to that girl from Greece whose parents owned a restaurant down between Williamsburgh and Brooklyn. I remember being able to count the years of my life by the shoes thrown up on the electrical lines outside our house. Nine pairs of shoes, the last pair tied on my feet for safekeeping. It was New York, after all. The boys would steal my shoes and the girls would just sit by and glare at them.

Back then my hair was short and in-style for the boys at the time. I always wore a beret over it, and suspenders under my vest. Never wore an ascot or ribbon or anything though, I always figured it'd make me look much more like a girl than any of the boys really wanted to admit. Sure they knew I was a girl, but after I beat up Salvatore Balducci for taking my bat they didn't say anything about it.

That day, I had walked seven blocks with my bat and mitt over my shoulder to the grocer and got a bottle of milk, then ten more blocks to the sandlot where we always used to play. Vasili Lebedev was one of the pitchers that day, and he brought his three brothers and their two friends. Of course the teams weren't the full nine, and it wasn't like we actually kept score, but it was fun to spook the horses pulling carriages every time me or Pyotr Lebedev hit a fly ball right out of the lot. We played with Knickerbocker Rules and an old soft ball, but the Lebedev brothers were saving up for one of those new hard balls.

I remember that day we almost had two full teams, but Karl Schmidt had a broken arm and so he climbed up in a tree and just watched us play. I hit seven home runs in that inning, and one almost broke old Mrs. Sweeny's window. The seventh hit a boy across the street about my age in the head. He cursed a couple times, but brought the ball back over anyway. He was a funny-looking kid, wearing a big green poncho like those guys down south of Texas did. He looked like a sailor too, with a big eyepatch over his right eye.

"Watch where ya hit these things!" He had said with a smile, and tossed the ball back to Vasili. I grinned and smacked my bat on the ground, and spat just like I'd seen the batter for the New York Nine do in the papers. Jokingly, Vasili called out to the boy in his heavy accent and asked him to join us. To keep the teams even, he said. The kid looked like he was trying to decide between a couple things, but finally he must have won out over what he wanted, because he pulled off that big green poncho and threw it up into the tree that Karl was sitting in. My team switched to the outfield, and as I handed my bat off to him for the first time I grinned at him and pulled his bandanna over his good eye.

"You better be good, because if you're not then those Lebedev boys will tan your hide like a new glove!" I'd said, and shook my mitt in his face for emphasis. "What's your name anyway, Pádraig Rua?" Ailbhe Mac Gearailt on my team pointed and laughed at the boy, before he combed his unruly red hair back with one hand and then pounded his fist into his mitt. The boy gave me a glare and took my bat, before pushing me out of the batter's box and fixing his headband back to the way it was supposed to be.

"Dick." He had said, before spinning my bat around a few times. I remember how the game went, because that new Richard boy hit our ball all the way across the street so many times we may as well have just moved our game out onto the cobblestones. But it wasn't until two trips to the outfield later that it happened. What it was that made that day so memorable... What made that day the last day I'd ever see of my favorite sandlot seventeen blocks from home.

I had noticed a couple shady-looking types hanging around behind the backstop, a big guy and a little skinny guy. Both of them had worn white coats like the high-end doctor-types that stood around smoking pipes outside gentlemen's clubs downtown. I took the plate, and I swung my bat a couple times just for good measure before Sergey Lebedev wound up a pitch. He threw, and I smacked it so hard that it looked like it had split. The ball flew straight up and over the backstop, and the skin hit the ground in a small dust cloud. The boys all groaned, even Dick. I had grinned and waved at them, shouldering my bat.

"I'll get it." I had said, making my way for the corner of the wooden backstop. "I'll put the whole thing back together." Turns out I never had a chance to even grab that ball. Those two in the white coats grabbed me soon as I went around the corner. The small one had tried to snatch a fistful of my hair, and I whacked him as hard as I could with my bat. He let go, and I had tried to run away... But the big one grabbed me and pulled my bat from my hands. My momma had always told me it wasn't very ladylike to scream, but I wasn't much of a lady so I opened my mouth and screamed as loud as I could muster. The boys came running, and Dick was the first one around the backstop.

"Richard!" I had screamed out, even trying to reach out to the boy. He was a last hope, one last person that could possibly get these guys off me. But then I got clubbed over the head with my own bat, and that's about when I knew no more for a while. When I came to I had one ankle chained to a cot in a darkened room. I didn't know it then, but that room would be my home for about eight years.

I was ten when they first put me in there, they being the Black Order. At the time, they said that the only way I could possibly be getting all those home runs while having the frail body and disposition of a girl was because I had something called Innocence. If I had been any other girl, they would have been right. But I originally banked it on my just being a better boy than most of the boys I knew. For three years they gave me three square meals a day and unchained me every other day to test me. Every time they did, they gave me back my bat and told me to activate it.

I kept track of the days on a wall, and a week and a half after my fourteenth birthday something finally happened. The two researchers recording what I was doing were cracking jokes, and someone said something about my being forced to synchronize with an Innocence. I had heard what happened when they tried that... After all, they may have thought me stupid because I was a girl but I certainly wasn't. But when he made that joke I slammed my bat against the nearest wall. Instead of a simple hole in the drywall and wallpaper, a huge explosion shook the building and the whole wall was blown out.

That time was the first time I tried to escape. They had tethered me to the wall by my ankle chain, but I hit it as hard as I could with my bat and the chain shattered. I made a run for it, my unkempt and uncut long wavy blond hair finally feeling a breeze for the first time in a long time. I couldn't help but smile, and then laugh, when I broke another wall and then another while attempting to escape. All three years they had kept me there I had managed to keep myself sane by remembering what it felt like to run bases, what it felt like to have my friends again with their accents and quirks and all those things.

That first attempt was only one of many. They told me, after they caught me and subdued me, that since my Innocence was an equip-type that they were simply going to take it from me so that I couldn't do any more damage with it. However, when they brought me out to test my synchronization rate they gave me back my bat again and I made it closer to the exit than I ever had before. After that, they kept me in a semi-lucid state for about two years. My meals were fed to me intravenously, and I was occasionally woken up long enough to keep my muscles from degenerating.

When I was conscious enough for coherent thought, I was never really fully... There for a while. All my time spent asleep had made my imagination grow wild, and I dreamed up stories of knights in shining armor fighting wars against the man I knew of only as the Earl. I was never told much about the Earl, but in my mind he was a tall and thin man with sharp teeth and claws, that dressed like the old men that hung about the upscale restaurants downtown used to. But my favorite things were my memories, and out of all of them besides home my favorite was that ballgame and my brand new friend.

Four and a half months after I turned sixteen, they must have thought that I would be tamable because they took me off the medication and nursed me back to a normal health. By the time I turned seventeen, I could run as fast as I used to and hit just as hard. They began to give me missions then, but kept a tracking bracelet clamped around my ankle at all times and never sent me out with any less than four Finders. I was just fine with that, because after my tenth mission I took my bat to the tracker. At the time I was deployed in Mexico City, looking for the Chupacabra... And the broken ankle that I gave myself got infected. The Finders found me about a week later in the care of an old native woman, and my bat was taken away once more and I was put back in my old room.

I refused to cooperate with the Black Order because they abducted me from my friends, my family and my life. If I could go back to that sandlot and make the Lebedev brothers come with me to get that ball, I might not have to think back at the days that I could laugh with my best friends and get free pirogies from Mrs. Stefanidis next door when mom was too tired to cook. But, you know, now I have to cooperate. They outfitted me with a new uniform just a few days ago, and then put me on a ship to France with seven Finders and my wrists and ankles shackled together. After that I was boarded into the First Class of a train headed to Paris with one other woman in the compartment.

"You do not want to be an Exorcist?" I couldn't see the face of the woman across from me since I couldn't see through the eye screen of her burqa, but I could certainly see the ornate silver sword sitting in her lap. I rolled my eyes and gestured to the door with my bound hands, not moving my head from the wall.

"The thug out there has my Innocence so I can't break these and bust a hole in the train to make a break for it." I paused for a moment, watching as the woman fiddled with the sword in her lap. "Besides, I'm in the wrong country anyway. They'd catch me and drag me back kicking and screaming before I even got on a boat back home."

The rest of the trip to Paris was spent in silence, as was the carriage ride to the canals, and the trip down the canals themselves. An explanation was given at one point that we were being transferred... The woman with the sword, Fatima Al-Wasse'e bint Karim al-Baghdadi, was being transferred from the Middle Eastern branch. I was being transferred from the North American branch. There were Exorcists being pulled in to HQ from all over the world, and apparently the Generals were working overtime to find more compatible people.

We met with a small group of researchers and the Supervisor but I wasn't set loose until we were on a floating lift in the center of the building, and when they finally did I rubbed by wrists rather angrily and tried to snatch my bat back. I jumped and jumped, but the Finder holding it was much taller than me even though I was wearing heels.

"What has happened here?" Fatima was actively turning around and looking at the building around us, and so I stopped my jumping and looked around. It was true, actually, the place looked like it had been blown apart. But I never got a good look, since the lift sunk down into a dark space. The Finder with my bat tapped me on the shoulder, and I turned just as he thrust the worn wooden object into my hands.

"We're in the middle of a move. As soon as Hevlaska determines your synchro rate, you'll both be helping us do so." The man speaking was the tall and white-clad Supervisor, who was sipping from a blue and pink coffee cup that looked as though it had been painstakingly glued back together. I clutched my bat tightly, ready to hit the scientist that I figured would come at me with something to measure with. I never really expected a giant... Thing to suddenly rise up and grab both Fatima and I. It was the strangest feeling, being lifted into the air by the thing the Supervisor had called Hevlaska. Fatima was the first to scream as a tendril grabbed her sword, but I simply never let go of the handle of my bat. I knew what they were doing... But the other Exorcist must have been new to it because she was struggling and trying to reach her sword.

"Fatima Al-Wasse'e bint Karim al-Baghdadi. Synchronization rate is at twenty-five percent... Forty-seven percent... Sixty-one percent... Seventy-nine percent... Eighty-three percent." Hevlaska then turned her head towards me, and put Fatima down. "Elena Ruth. Synchronization rate is at thirty-seven percent... Forty-nine percent... Sixty-five percent... Seventy-nine percent... Eighty percent." The thing, which I still refuse to call anything other than that, then put me down and backed slightly away. One of the Finders started towards me to reclaim my Innocence once again, but the Supervisor held up a hand. After that it was bureaucratic nonsense and a couple pledges of allegiance for a while, but after a time we were brought back up to the main building. We were released on one of the slightly more intact floors, and pointed towards the cafeteria.

"I'll have a Coney Island-style hot dog, a plate of spaghetti and meatballs with lots of Parmesan and meat sauce, a plate of Athens-style Pirogies, a bowl of meat Solyanka and a glass of milk, please." Oh, how I've missed the taste of one of those good old Coney Island hot dogs. The cook said I could have anything, so I ordered a bit of everything I once loved. Fatima shook her head and made a gagging noise, pointing to where her mouth must have been.

"Americans and their food." She said, coming up to the window next. "I will have a plate of Kibbeh nayyeh, a plate of Tabbouleh and a dozen Pita, please." I laughed and walked away with plates balanced all up my arms, my bowl of Solyanka in one hand and my glass of milk in the other. As soon as my spaghetti began to tip I lunged for a table, and all my food landed relatively safe and at least upright. With a grin I slid into my seat, and grabbed my hot dog. It was piled high with relish, ketchup, all the good stuff that any Atlantic boardwalk dog would have. I bit in and closed my eyes... It was just like I remembered it! So perfect in every way.

"Che. Don't moan when you eat. It's disgusting." I opened an eye and raised my eyebrows, attempting to glare at the guy across the table from me. I chewed and swallowed, and put down the half of a hot dog I still had left.

"Che." I muttered, adopting a bored expression and combing bits of blond hair everywhere. "I have no perspective on life and need to get ear plugs or move." The two of us glared at each other with a passion... But then Fatima sat down next to me and sat her three plates down in front of her. She seemed to look around for a moment, before reaching up and pulling her burqa from her head. I couldn't help but stare at the face revealed under it, and Fatima almost had a Pita full of Tabbouleh in her mouth before she realized that the guy across from me had yet to close his mouth and had dropped his chopsticks.

"She is..." Fatima asked, looking at me before looking at the guy across from us.

"A he, yeah." I said, before picking up my hot dog and stuffing it in my mouth again. Fatima dropped her Pita suddenly and scrambled to pull her burqa back over her head, and with a mouth full of food I lunged across the table and pushed the guy backwards. He yelped in surprise and hit the ground hard, and Fatima managed to get her covering back over her head. I sat down again and began to chew, and as the guy across from us got back to his feet I swallowed and put my spaghetti plate on top of my first empty plate.

Of course I figured that the guy's Innocence would end up pointed at me eventually, I just never figured that it would end up chopping a lock of hair off into my food. I looked at my plate of spaghetti, the meatballs drowned in Parmesan and dusted with blond hair. Then I brought a gloved hand to my face and grabbed the chopped lock, crossing my eyes to get a better look. In a sudden crash my Solyanka went flying through the air and landed on a brunette woman's head, and my bat was pointed at the guy across the table. We were both standing on chairs and glaring at each other, and I blew the little shortened hunk of hair a few times just for effect.

"You got my hair in my pasta. I haven't had spaghetti in eight years, and you chopped my bangs into it." I was beyond angry... I hadn't had this much hatred for someone since the very first time I had my Innocence taken away.

"You pushed me out of my seat for no reason." I scoffed, and shifted my grip on my bat. It wasn't going anywhere if this came to blows.

"Fatima thought you were a woman and therefore thought you were acceptable company to remove her burqa in. Do everyone a favor and get a bowl cut to match your bangs." A collective gasp seemed to come out of the room, and beside me Fatima continued to eat under her burqa. Someone in the crowd let out a loud wolf-whistle, and I curled my lip. With a mutter I shouldered my bat and turned away from the guy with the sword, turning my nose in the air.

"You don't have to..." Fatima began, but I made a shushing noise and tried to continue to look cool. With a final humph I jumped down and sat back on the bench, grabbing my glass of milk and taking a sip.

"Hello Kanda!" A girl with short black hair smiled and sat down next to the still-standing guy with the sword, grabbing him by the coat and pulling him down to her level. She smiled to me and Fatima, and then looked around at the spilled food and bits of hair that still floated everywhere. "Kanda will be Kanda. You get used to it." I took another sip of my milk and nodded, raising an eyebrow at the boy that came up next and sat on the girl's other side. "My name's Lenalee Lee. Are you new?"

"I am from the Middle Eastern branch." Fatima supplied, one hand carefully darting out and filling a Pita with Kibbeh nayyeh before pulling it back under her burqa. I shrugged and took another drink before reaching down under the table and pulling out my bat.

"I've been in the basement of the North American branch for the past eight years. They kept me drugged up for two or so, though." The white-haired boy that had sat down next to Lenalee and had begun tucking in had paused, half a bowl of noodles hanging out of his mouth. "When I was awake they figured I couldn't be trusted so they took my bat and wouldn't let me out of my room." I shrugged and took another drink before lacing my fingers behind my head and looking up at the ceiling.

"That's so..." Lenalee began, and I sighed.

"Boring? Every time they gave me back my bat I bashed stuff up and tried to run off." There was another clatter at the table as someone else squeezed their way in, and it sounded like several blows were exchanged.

"Someone said something about bashing things?" Someone asked, and I finally looked back at the table. Situated across from me was a redheaded guy with an eyepatch and pierced ears... And I blinked twice before I realized that I had seen him before. He was in one of my last memories, even though he had a big green cloak and more baby fat in his cheeks... And it was then that I realized that I was crying.

" P-Pádraig R-R-Rua?" I asked, and one of my hands found my bat. His one eye widened in surprise, and he dropped his fork. There was probably enough confusion at that table to keep someone out of it for a month. "Richard?"

Okay, clarification may be needed for anything and everything in this, right? This begins in 1844 because eight years later it gets into the whole Ark saga and all that jazz. Pádraig Rua is an Irish term, meaning 'Red-headed Patrick'. When Elena originally uses it against Lavi, she's making fun of him and calling him Irish because of his red hair. The boy that laughs at him that also has red hair totally gets it. The 48th Log is Deke, right? Well at ten or so years old the Log's name is Dick. So there. She calls him Richard because Dick is short for Richard. Fatima Al-Wasse'e bint Karim al-Baghdadi is a correctly-formatted and laid-out name in Arabic with all the right honorifics and notations. It literally means 'Fatima the vast and all-encompassing, daughter of Karim, from Baghdad'. All the food named is actual food, and if it sounds Russian or German or Greek, there's a pretty good chance that it is.

This is now a one-shot, after my leaving it to rot for almost a year and a half. I had so many ideas for it. Still do. Just didn't have the drive to really write the entire thing, yanno?