WARNING: This is rather a bittersweet one-shot. It is about grieving over the loss of a loved one and coping through the holidays.

I dedicate to my grandfather who inspired me to write this. He passed away a year ago today and not a day goes by that I don't think of him.

To all that read this: have a Merry Holiday and a Happy New Year.

Disclaimer applies: I do not own Trinity Blood.

It was going to be a very hard trip to make and she wasn't looking forward to it, but Bishop Laura had always been like a mother to her. The only family that she had ever known and with the Ministry of Holy Affairs giving all their employees the holidays off, Esther decided that it was finally time to go back to Istvan and visit the woman who had raised her like a daughter.

Esther had not been able to visit the Bishop's grave site since leaving for Rome with Abel, after destroying the Star of Sorrow. In the past year, she had been on so many adventures all over the world, that now thinking of going back to Istvan felt more like going home, but without the luxury of having family being there to welcome you back. It was that fact that she dreaded. She would be spending this Christmas alone, a first for her and a first to bring about many confused and mixed feelings.

Bishop Laura had always made Christmas very special for Esther, even though she could never really afford much for the child. After all she was still a Church employee on a fixed income. Esther never got more than one or two gifts every year, but that wasn't the part that she was missing. Bishop Laura had always made sure to fill Esther with as much Christmas spirit and love as she could possibly give. This year though, Esther felt like she was missing a gigantic piece of her heart, the very same piece that had been missing ever since the Bishop had been murdered. It was a nagging feeling that had silently tortured Esther all year, like she was without her left arm, yet she could still feel it attached. It was quite hard to explain to other people, but that's how it felt. Now with the Holiday only a few days away, she could feel it come forth, and the nun found herself wiping tears away more than she should. She dearly missed the woman she had called a mother.

She sat in her own compartment on the train, looking out the window. Waiting for the scenery to look familiar to her or to see something that made her feel like she was truly home again. Everything was completely covered in glistening white snow. Green garland and brilliant red bows adorned random houses, still Esther couldn't seem to find the Christmas spirit that filled her heart in the past years. She hated it. She hated being alone at this time, but what right-minded person would give up their own family to spend with an orphan.

Lady Caterina was spending the holiday in Milan with her brother, the pope. Father Wordsworth was in Albion visiting distant relatives. Leon was spending his time in prison. The Vatican was offering to double the time off his sentence for the Holidays, a generous gift that Leon could not pass up. Even her dear friend, Abel, was spending the holidays with family. A ship was supposed to arrive for him on Christmas Eve and take him to Byzantium. Apparently he had family there. Though he had never spoke of them. Abel was quite mysterious like that. It drove her crazy at times, but all in all respected his privacy. She knew he had dark secrets. She had seen his black wings, his blood red eyes, and not to forget those sharp teeth. She knew that that was his crusnik form, only because the Contra Mundi sprouted similar wings and fangs.

She knew that Abel was far from being a normal human, and that wasn't counting the numerous accidents he had. It was the way he held himself around others. A person would never think that such power could be held in someone so absent-minded. At one time Esther would have never believed it either. Now she was intrigued by it. Sometimes Abel consumed all her thoughts, as she tried to figure him out. He once told her that that form was the mark of his sins. But what sins? Abel was a priest. What acts could he possibly have done to believe that that was a mark? And what was a crusnik? The Contra Mundi had told her that it was a being in need of nothing, but everything at the same time. Not quite an answer, but it was all that she ever had to go on. She had once gone through the Vatican library looking for information. Nothing could be found. In the end, all Esther could conclude was either the Contra Mundi was full of himself and flat out lied to her, or that a crusnik was a very, very, very, very rare being.

She let out a loud sigh and tried to focus on something else. Something that didn't boggle her mind or burden her heart. She had ten days off and more than enough money saved up to enjoy herself. If she could truly enjoy herself while in Istvan.

When she was much younger, on Christmas Eve, Bishop Laura would take her out with the rest of the clergy and they would go door to door signing Christmas carols and passing out handmade candy to the children. She had such happy memories of Istvan, it pained her that it was all marred by the mere fact that there were no more happy Christmases to have anymore. Esther felt the tears starting to swell once again. She wiped them away quickly and steeled her nerves. She would not cry, at least not yet.

Looking back out the window, Esther could see that they were beginning to enter the Istvan. She could see the top of St. Mathis's church. Only a few more minutes and she would be at the train station and finally off this train. She could feel her body trying to fight off the small shivers that wanted to escape. No. She wouldn't break down, at least not now. She was trained in combat and knew how to handle a gun, and yet, as the train pulled into the train station. Esther started wishing that she had never came in the first place. Perhaps it would have been a better idea to just stayed back in Rome. Either way she would have been left all alone. She was nervous. How she wished Abel was here to comfort her.

He had been there when Bishop Laura had died. He had let her cry on his shoulder. He gave her courage to rise above the despair and become the woman she was now. In some way Abel was like her savior. In others he was a man of mystery, while in others a complete sugar addict. When she thought about his crusnik form, she thought he resembled an angel. Perhaps, maybe he was meant to be her guardian angel. She wanted to hope so. Regardless of whatever sin he thought that marked him. Esther knew the good within his heart.

The train came to a complete stop and Esther slowly strolled off the train and looked around. Istvan had changed since the last she remembered. With the Marquis of Hungary dead, there was no more danger in the streets. People were walking across the station, most with smiles on their faces. There was no threat to their lives. There was no military police force attacking the homeless or stealing from shops. All and all, Istvan felt happier. Bishop Laura would have been proud to see Istvan like this. Esther's chest swelled with pride, without her help in the resistance. There would have never been any of this.

Abel would also be proud of her... Esther shook her head quickly. She didn't want to think anymore. She walked quickly out of the train station and onto the streets of her old hometown. The streets were decorated with colorful lights and holiday music drafted out of numerous shops. She desperately wanted to feel the Christmas spirit within her own soul. She ached for it, but no amount of carols and garland were going make up for the loss of her mother

The walk wasn't far from the hotel she was staying at. She intended to take a warm shower and have a hot meal, before making the venture to visit the Bishop. Though her heart took her on a different route. Soon she found herself walking past many head stone. Some were of people she knew while growing up here. Many had small Christmas trees or holiday wreaths. Though the one that she was slowly drifting to was completely barren.

She stopped merely feet from her mother's eternal resting spot. A sharp wind

blew into her face, stinging her already frozen cheeks. She felt numb. What should she say? Or do? She had come all this way to see her and now... she was completely empty. Just like the cemetery.

"Hello." She mumbled. "I'm home." She paused, as if waiting for the dead to answer. "I'm sorry I haven't been able to come home sooner. It's very busy in the Vatican. Much different from here." Esther's eye stung as tears started to form and roll down her red cheeks.

The hole in her heart widen and the sorrow and pain of missing the bishop poured out. Esther fell to her knees and cried. Her hands clutching her chest as she felt her heart would break into a million pieces. It wasn't fair. She wasn't supposed to die so young. The city of Istvan needed her. The church needed her... Esther needed her. She let the pain consume her. She didn't like it, but she truly needed it. It was like a release. All the grief that had slowly built over the year finally released. It was a ride that no one wanted to take, but Esther was sure that she would feel better after this.

Out of nowhere, a warm jacket surrounded the nun.

"Esther?" Abel spoke. "Are you alright?" Esther quickly wiped her red eyes and nodded. What was he doing here?

"Thought you were going to Byzantium?" she muttered.

"I am..." he spoke softly, placing a strong hand on her shoulder. "Caterina mentioned that you were going to Istvan for the holiday. I knew that you didn't have any family here expect Bishop Vitez and it being your first Christmas without her. I didn't think you needed to be alone."

"That's kind of you, but I would have been okay."

"Esther." He called her name out again. "Look at me." Esther shook her head no. "Why not?"

"Because." She mumbled. She didn't want him to see her like this. She had wanted to cry alone. She didn't want to show a weak face.

"Esther..." His voice carried a serious tone. "I know how it feels to loose a loved one. Trust me on this. You don't want to mourn alone. Especially on Christmas."

"I'll be fine." She tried to convince him.

"Sure you are." She felt his arms wrap around her shoulders and his chin rest on the top of her head. Once again, Esther was surprised by Abel's action, but she welcomed his hug. Tears continued to cascade down her cheeks. She made no effort to wipe them away. Instead, she relied on Abel for comfort, like she had done when the Bishop had passed away. He was acting like her guardian angel and savior.

"Esther..." he spoke softly. "I want you to come spend Christmas with my sister and I in Byzantium. You shouldn't be spending it here in a cemetery. What would Bishop Vitez think if she knew what you were planning?" She knew very well what she would say.

"Esther Blanchett you go right this instant and fill yourself with Christmas cheer. Don't let me catch you back here unless you want a paddling."

The thought actually made Esther smile slightly. She could see the Bishop standing in front of her at that moment. Her arms would be crossed in front of her, while she tapped her right foot repeatedly, a slight scowl would be seen in her eyes. The image comforted her slightly, filling the void in her heart a bit.

"She'd be upset." Esther answered Abel. He squeezed her slightly.

"Yes she would." Abel let out a long sigh. "Grief is a difficult thing to comprehend, unless you've gone through it. The measure of your grief is the measure of your love. So the more you deeply love someone, the more his or her passing will affect you. You may think that after a couple of months, or even a few years, that you have gotten your grief under control, but it takes one little thought, one slight memory, or even a event and the grief comes back full force. You can't avoid it. You can't push it away. You have to hang on to your self-being and the support of those around. Hence why I followed you here." Abel released Esther from his arms and edged her to face him. She did as he gestured.

"There." He smiled. "Let's get those tears dried up." Abel pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her cheeks. Esther was completely touched by his kind words and actions.

"Thank you..." she sniffled.

"Your very welcome." He smiled at her. "Now...will you come with me to Byzantium?" She shrugged her shoulders. "I've already talked it out with Seth and she wants you there too. It's our first Christmas together in a very, very long time; it would nice to have others there and it would not be Christmas if I didn't have my dearest friend with me." She let out a small cry again. Abel was always too generous. Always opening his arms up to those in need. She nodded, while wiping another parade of tears away and leaning into his arms for another hug. Esther buried her face into his shirt and cried softly. Abel slowly brushed a few loose strand of her hair back.

"Come on..." he spoke softly. "There should be an airship outside of town ready to take us to Byzantium. If we leave now, we'll be at Seth's before breakfast tomorrow."

She nodded and let him lead her out of the cemetery. She felt a small flicker of hope as she walked with him. Wanting nothing more than to just thank him for his very kind generosity. He truly held real Christmas spirit. It was then that she had a revelation. It would always sad that the Christmases that she had as a child were gone, but it left room for new memories, with new friends.

Suddenly she was excited... spending Christmas with Abel sounded quite amazing. Perhaps they could put a tree up together or sign carols in the street. She felt that old feeling of true Christmas spirit seeping into her veins slowly. She would never forget his kind act that he and his sister...Seth...!

"Wait a minute...Seth as in..." All Abel could do was laugh and Esther suddenly felt an urge to throw a snowball at him.