Disclaimer - I do not own DGM
Chapter One - Children
"So why the HELL did you summon me here?" General Cross Marian asked as he strode up the dusty path toward a large brick manor house in front of which stood a brown haired man who appeared to be in his late twenties.
"That's not very nice," the blond haired woman who was walking beside Cross said, slapping him lightly on the arm.
"It's alright Maria," the man said with a chuckle. "I know that's just the way that he is."
Mana Walker was completely used to these outbursts and he merely offered the group a smile. Then he turned to the teenager who was walking along behind Cross and Maria. "Chelsea's in the backyard. Trace, why don't you go and hang out with her?"
"Sure," the young boy said, nodding his head in Mana's direction. Trace Marian had short red hair, which stood up in unruly spikes and piercing blue eyes, which clashed with his hair color magnificently.
Mana, Cross and Maria all watched as the boy made his way around the house.
Then, once the boy was out of earshot, Cross once again whirled to face his brother in law. "So what was so important that I had to come out here right away?"
"There's someone that I want you to meet," Mana said, paying no attention to the slight note of irritation that was contained in the red haired man's voice.
He was used to the fact that Cross was almost always irritated over something and had learned to ignore it.
"And who might that be?" Cross demanded, a gleam in his one visible red eye.
"Just go into the sitting room and be patient," Mana said, offering Cross a smile that he knew would only further the man's irritation. "He should be here soon."
Cross muttered complaints under his breath but, after yet another reproachful look from his wife, he followed Mana's instructions and began walking toward the house.
For which Mana was grateful because he hadn't relished the thought of fighting with him; that never worked out well.
"Now all I have to do is wait for Nicholas," Mana thought to himself, his heart beginning to pound. This meeting was dangerous due to the fact that a secret war was being waged and his brother and brother-in-law were on opposite sides.
But purely on a technical scale. After meeting his wife and becoming a father Nicholas had decided that there really was something in the world worth saving and was now planning to betray his surrogate family.
Which was why Mana wanted to introduce him to Cross; perhaps together the two men would have the necessary skills to defeat the Millennium Earl. Or at least that was what Mana was hoping for.
"I really hope that this goes well," the young man thought to himself with a sigh. He desperately wanted to help his brother escape the world that he had became involved with and hoped that Cross would be able to help.
He also hoped that Nicholas would allow them to help him.
Mana's thoughts were interrupted and he turned as he heard the sound of a young voice calling out to him. A smile spread across his face as he watched a small brown haired child run toward him. His little nephew Allen looked a great deal like his father, right down to his stormy gray eyes. The child's father Nicholas was walking along behind him, at a much slower pace and arm in arm with the child's mother, and Mana offered all three of them a smile.
The moment that Allen reached his uncle the little boy wrapped his arms around the man's legs.
"Welcome," Mana said, smiling down at the little boy. "I'm glad that the three of you could make it."
"You said that it was important," Nicholas said, removing his top hat and running a hand through his mahogany hair. As always the Noah was formally dressed and he looked as though he were dressed for a fancy party. For her part Lyssa was dressed much more casually, in a simple dress of ice blue.
"Indeed it is," Mana said, nodding his head. "And we'll get down to business soon. But first…" Glancing over his shoulder Mana called out, "Chelsea!"
A couple of seconds passed before a young girl came running toward the spot where the others were standing. Appearing to be around the age of eight Chelsea had shoulder length brown hair, which curled slightly at the ends, and piercing green eyes.
"Hello Uncle Nicholas, Aunt Lyssa," Chelsea said politely as she came to stand beside her father. Then the little girl turned her gaze upward. "What is it Father?"
"Could you please take Allen to play with you and Trace?" Mana said, offering his daughter a smile. "The adults have some important things to discuss."
"Okay Father," Chelsea said, smiling brightly as she seized her little cousin by the hand. "Come on Allen!"
Allen pulled his hand free from Chelsea's grasp and gazed up at his father. Nicholas smiled and placed his hand on the young boy's head.
"It's alright Allen. You may go."
A smile appeared on the young boy's face and he followed along beside his cousin.
"Wow," Mana said as he watched his daughter and his nephew walking away. "Such a little gentleman."
Nicholas nodded as he watched his son depart. Lyssa had done a fine job instilling manners in their son and, although Allen occasionally forgot, he was for the most part obedient.
"So who exactly is Trace?" Nicholas asked once the two children had disappeared.
"Trace is my nephew on Callista's side," Mana replied. He had always strived to keep the two sides of his family separate, owing to his brother-in-law's occupation, so Nicholas didn't know anything about his wife's brother.
"I see," Nicholas said.
"Well come on," Mana said, placing his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Let us retire to the sitting room."
Nicholas nodded and together he and Lyssa followed along behind his brother. Both had curious expressions on their faces as they made their way toward the house.
Meanwhile, in the large backyard behind the manor house, three children were gazing at one another. Chelsea knew both boys, being related to both, however Allen and Trace had never met.
And there was a ten year age difference between them.
"Come on Allen," Chelsea coaxed the little boy who stood beside her. "Say hello to Trace."
Allen gazed up at the teenager, a somewhat timid expression in his stormy gray eyes. The little boy had little experience interacting with other children, owing to the isolated lifestyle of his parents, and he wasn't entirely sure what to do.
"You don't have to be scared kid," Trace said, sinking to his knees so that he could be at eye level with the little boy. "I won't bite."
Allen continued to gaze at the red haired boy for a few minutes before he held out his hand. "Hello," the little boy murmured.
Not sure what to think about a three year old offering to shake his hand Trace took the little hand that the child had offered. "It's a pleasure to meet you Allen."
"You need to lighten up Allen," Chelsea stated as she watched her two cousins shaking hands. The little boy had always acted older than his age of three and that bothered the girl to some extent. "Come on, let's play a game."
"What do you have in mind?" Trace questioned, one eyebrow arched as he gazed at the girl.
"Hide and seek," Chelsea suggested as her gaze shifted back and forth between the two boys.
"I'm not sure that's age appropriate," Trace said, not sure whether it was his age or Allen's that he had a problem with. Either way he didn't think that hide and seek was a game that they should be playing.
"Come on Tray," Chelsea said, a somewhat pleading tone in her voice. She batted her eyelashes as she gazed up into the face of the red haired teen. "Don't be like that. Let's play hide and seek."
Trace's gaze shifted back and forth between the two children for a few minutes before he was finally forced to nod his head. He knew that if he didn't play this game then he would never hear the end of it.
And it was just easier to give in to his cousin's demands.
"Fine," Trace said, a slight note of irritation in his voice. A tone that would have made his father proud had he been there to hear it.
"Yay!" Chelsea exclaimed, jumping up and down in excitement. Then she turned green eyes back to Trace. "You're it! You're it!"
"Of course I am," Trace muttered, making no attempt to argue with her this time. After all it wasn't as though there was really anything that he could do about the situation. All he had to do was play this silly game and then he could get on with his life.
Or at least he thought so.
"Close your eyes and count to one hundred," Chelsea ordered, taking charge of the situation. There was a gleam in her green eyes that Trace would have noticed had he not chosen that moment to close his eyes.
And it would have sounded warning bells in his mind.
"One… two… three…"
"Come on Allen," Chelsea whispered as she seized the little boy by the hand and began leading him away. The game of hide and seek was just a ruse that she was using so that she could play a prank on Trace and she was planning on using Allen to make the prank twice as good.
Slightly confused Allen followed along behind his cousin, allowing Chelsea to lead him toward a large grove of trees located a few yards away. The little boy didn't know anything about the game they were supposedly playing and merely assumed that this was part of it.
Which worked out well for Chelsea's plan.
"He's going to freak out so badly," she thought to herself gleefully, imagining the look on Trace's face when he couldn't find either of them. Unfortunately she wouldn't be able to see this look but the young girl could vividly imagine it and that made her giggle.
Which made Allen gaze up at her with confusion in his large, gray eyes. "What funny?" the little boy asked in his soft edged voice.
"It's nothing Allen," Chelsea said, keeping her grip on the little boy's hand. She knew that she couldn't risk losing track of the little boy because that would cause her prank to seriously backfire.
Which would be decidedly bad.
"…ninety-nine… one hundred…" Having completed his counting Trace removed his hands from his eyes and gazed around. "Alright," the teen muttered to himself, his blue eyes still surveying his surroundings. "I'll look for Allen first. He's bound to be easier to find."
With this thought in mind Trace began to walk around the perimeter of the yard, leaning forward every so often so that he could look under the hedges. That seemed like the most likely place for the brown haired toddler to be hiding but there didn't seem to be any sign of Allen.
"Hmm," Trace thought to himself as he continued his search. Perhaps he hadn't given the little boy enough credit. "Perhaps he's better at this game than I thought."
Trace continued to walk and now his gaze was focused on a large building along the edge of the property, behind and slightly to the side of the manor house.
"Would he have gone into the carriage house?" Trace muttered as he walked toward the building. The stable and carriage house sat side by side and the red haired teen made his way toward them, wondering as he did so if the little boy had actually gone inside.
It seemed unlikely, as the doors were heavy and difficult to open, but perhaps Allen had found an alternate entrance. He was tiny after all and could crawl through spaces that adults could not.
"Allen," Trace called out as he pulled the door of the carriage house open and stepped inside. He was hoping that the kid didn't really know the rules of hide and seek and that he would answer the call of his name. "Are you in here kiddo?"
His calls were met with silence and, with a sigh, Trace began searching the building for signs of the toddler. He opened the door of the carriage and gazed inside but there was no sign of Allen so he moved on.
And as he continued to search Trace was forced to marvel at the fact that he had yet to find any signs of either child. He had expected to find Allen easily but that was not turning out to be the case.
And Trace was beginning to grow somewhat frustrated by this fact. He hadn't even wanted to play this stupid game and yet here he was, searching for two children. And having no luck at it.
"Why?" he muttered as he left the carriage house and made his way to the stable next door. "Why do things like this always happen to me?"
With a sigh Trace began searching the stables for any signs of either of the two children. And as he searched the teen began to get the feeling that perhaps this wasn't just a normal game of hide and seek.
It seemed that there was something more going on.
A couple of hours had passed, during which a tentative alliance had been formed between the two Exorcists and the Noah of Praise. Tensions were running high in the room but Mana was pleased that his brother had decided to join their side in the war against the Millennium Earl.
It was what he had been hoping for when he had organized this meeting.
"Honey," Maria said, her blue eyed gaze going to her husband. "I think that I'm going to go out and check on the children."
Cross nodded, knowing that his wife just wanted to see the little boy that belonged to the Noah. Maria was a sucker for small children; always had been.
"Make sure they're not causing any trouble," Mana said with a chuckle as Maria got to her feet and walked across the room.
"I will," Maria said, smiling.
After leaving the men in the sitting room Maria made her way out to the backyard. The blond haired Exorcist was fully expecting to find the group of children playing in the yard but this was not the sight that met her gaze as she stepped out of the house.
There was no sign of any of the children and Maria felt a chill run down her spine. In the troubling times that they lived in it wasn't safe for anyone to be out on their own, especially not children.
"Trace!" Maria called out, hoping that the children had just stepped around to the other side of the manor or something along those lines. "Chelsea! Allen! Where are you?"
Maria waited a few minutes but received no answer to her repeated calls to the three children. Getting a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach Maria turned around and made her way back inside.
"Is something wrong Maria?" Mana asked as the blond woman stepped back inside the sitting room. There was a scared look in her eyes that alarmed him. "What is it?"
"I can't find the children," Maria said, her gaze shifting between the three men. "I called for them but they didn't answer."
Lyssa gasped, upset over the news that her little boy had disappeared. She turned concerned brown eyes toward her husband.
"We should probably go out and look for them," Nicholas said, getting to his feet.
Mana nodded his head in agreement and even Cross got to his feet, although he looked less than pleased.
Together the group of adults made their way out to the backyard and, just as they emerged from the manor, they caught sight of Trace walking away from the stables.
"Trace!" Cross snapped, immediately gaining the attention of his son. The red haired teen quickly jogged over to the spot where the four adults were standing.
"Your mother was calling for you," Cross said, his one visible eye focused on his son. "So why didn't you answer?"
"I'm sorry Mother," Trace said, his gaze going briefly to his mother before returning to his father. "I didn't hear her. I was in the stable looking for Chelsea and Allen."
"And why exactly are you looking for them?" Mana questioned.
"Chelsea conned me into playing hide and seek with them," Trace said, a slight note of irritation in his voice. "And now I can't find either one of them. I've looked all over the yard but they're nowhere to be found."
Mana's gaze immediately went to the large grove of trees, fairly certain that he knew why Trace couldn't find the two children.
"Don't worry," Mana said, placing his hand on Trace's shoulder. "We'll find them. You just wait here."
Trace couldn't help but think that the game had gotten out of hand as he watched the adults break into groups and begin searching the grove of trees. Mana, Lyssa and Nicholas chose one direction while Cross and Maria chose another and the four adults set out in search of the two children.
"It was just supposed to be a simple game," Trace thought to himself as he sat down to await their return.
As Cross pushed low hanging tree branches to the side he grumbled to himself about the situation. The red haired Exorcist wasn't at all happy about having to traipse through the forest looking for two small children who weren't even his.
"When I get my hands on them…" he muttered darkly as he followed a subtle trail. After tracking Akuma and the Millennium Earl this trail was blatantly obvious and Cross knew that he would find at least one of the missing children at the end of it.
After about fifteen minutes of searching Cross and Maria came upon a thick hedge. Walking quietly the two adults made their way around to the other side of the bush and there, sitting side by side, was Chelsea and Allen.
"There you are," Cross growled as his gaze fell upon the two children.
Allen made a soft little 'eep' sound as his gaze fell upon Cross and Chelsea felt like making the same noise. This hadn't been part of the plan; not by a long shot.
"Uncle Cross," she began in a small voice.
"Don't Uncle Cross me," the red haired man said as he continued to glare down at the children. "You know that you're not supposed to leave the yard."
Chelsea's green eyes widened; she hadn't even thought about the boundaries when she had led Allen into the grove of trees. She'd been too caught up with thinking about how great of a prank this would be.
Allen was somewhat frightened by this large man with the harsh sounding voice and he gazed up at Cross with large, tear-filled, gray eyes.
Cross was completely unimpressed by the child's tears but Maria took one look at the little boy and her heart melted. Pushing her husband aside she knelt down in front of the two children.
"It's alright," she said in a soft voice, reaching out and wiping a tear from Allen's cheek. "I won't let him hurt either of you. But everyone's worried so let's go back."
Chelsea nodded and got to her feet, offering Allen her hand as she did so. The little boy immediately latched onto the hand that was offered to him, holding on as though he were a drowning victim and it was his lifeline.
"You take them back," Cross growled, still irritated over the situation. "I'm going to go and find Mana and the others and tell them that we found the brats."
Maria nodded and then turned to Chelsea and Allen. "Come little ones. Let's go back."
Half an hour later the group was reassembled in the backyard and Mana was gazing down at his daughter, a stern expression in his brown eyes. "You know that you're not allowed to leave the yard. What were you thinking Chelsea?"
"I forgot," Chelsea said in a small voice, her downcast gaze focused squarely on her shoes. She didn't want to see the expression in her father's eyes. "It was just supposed to be a prank."
Mana opened his mouth to say something further to his daughter but he didn't get the chance. A shriek echoed through the air and all eyes turned toward the sky.
Where they saw an Akuma floating ominously.
"Damn it!" Cross swore as he pulled back the side of his coat to reveal a very large firearm. Gripping the handle of the gun the Exorcist General drew the weapon and aimed it squarely at the bird like level two Akuma.
Cross pulled the trigger of the gun and watched as a bullet sailed toward the Akuma. The creature managed to dodge the bullet at the last possible second but this didn't phase Cross in the slightest.
He merely smirked as he kept his gaze locked on the Akuma.
The creature made a move to attack but was stopped dead in it's tracks as the bullet, which had changed course, struck it in the back.
"My bullets never miss," Cross said as he watched the creature explode. He quickly holstered the weapon and then turned back to the others.
"I thought that we got rid of all of the Akuma in this area?" he growled, his voice still showing irritation.
"I think I know the reason why it appeared," Nicholas said, walking over to the spot where his son was standing and lifting the child up into his arms.
"Why?" Mana asked, his gaze shifting to his brother.
As though in reply to the question Nicholas grasped his son's left arm and gently pulled at the little white glove that covered the child's hand.
"No!" Allen whimpered, pushing at his father's hand.
"It's alright Allen," Nicholas said, his voice soothing as he spoke to his child. He knew that Allen didn't want anyone to see his left hand but he also realized that it was necessary. The others needed to know why the Akuma had attacked them. "It's all going to be okay little one."
Allen still didn't look happy about the situation, as was evident by the scared expression in his eyes, but he ceased his fighting and allowed his father to pull off the glove that covered his left hand.
The first thing that the adults saw when Nicholas removed the glove from his son's hand was the fact that his hand was a harsh red color. And the next thing they noticed was what really made an impression; a small green object that appeared to be embedded in the back of the child's hand.
"Innocence…" Cross, Maria and Mana all muttered as they gazed at the child's hand.
Tears appeared in Chelsea's eyes as she saw the little piece of green in her cousin's hand and she realized what could have happened if the Akuma had shown up even a half an hour sooner. "I'm sorry," the young girl sobbed, throwing herself against her father. "I didn't know."
"Shh," Mana said, rubbing his daughter's back in a comforting manner. "It's alright. But this is why we have the boundaries."
"I'll do better," Chelsea said, wiping at her eyes and gazing up at her father. "And I'll protect Allen."
A/N - and here's the first chapter of a VERY unusual fic. Hope that you enjoyed.