A/N: Ok, I'm not even sure if anyone is still interested in this fic anymore. If you are reading this, I'm SO terribly sorry for the wait. Time has not been my friend and other fics have been taking over my writing time. My goal this summer is to finish every chapter fic that I've kept on hiatus for the majority of a year, and this is one of them. Please let me know what you think of the plot, I am in need of outside opinions.

Chapter 7: Fear

Priest led the rebels into Sola Mira with extreme caution though having done this twice now, knowing that the game had definitely changed. With the information Gunther had given them about the regeneration of the hive before his death, they knew enough to plan slightly ahead, Priest and Hicks the only ones who really had a clue of what they were going to be up against. Just before entering, Priest turned his head back, seeing Hicks and the second team of rebels waiting for their signal to advance. Lucy was not among them, thank Heavens. It had taken a good 24 hours of straight negotiation from both he and Hicks to convince her not to fight. She'd been more passionate about the matter then both initially thought she'd be, her confession something he hadn't expected from her.

The conversation still resonated in his mind now.

"I am eighteen, aren't I? I'm allowed to choose whether I fight or not." Lucy said, using a similar strategy to that of which she had used with Owen when he was alive.

"If you're going that route, it still doesn't matter." Hicks countered. "In that case, you're a soldier and he's your commanding officer who's ordering you to stay at camp."

"He's my father and doesn't want me to do anything! Just like you're my fiancé and can't stand to see me out in the field!"

Hicks' face was red in exasperation, his voice raised and his eyes piercing. "What? Where did you get—"

"Hicks." Priest said calmly. Their eyes locked and the younger man took a few deep breaths. They were on the same side, but seeing the look in Priest's eyes told him that he was only making the situation worse. He understood, showing it with a nod, turning his eyes to Lucy for a moment before exiting the shack.

Priest turned his full attention to his daughter, his throat burning with unspoken concern. "You are strong and we know that you can defend yourself." He sighed. "You are very much like your mother. Brave and passionate. You already know that to have bravery is not simply to shed fear, but to rise above it. But this mission is more than an excuse to prove yourself, even Hicks knows that. Storming Sola Mira is the best chance we have at weakening Black Hat's forces before they grow stronger."

She nodded, tears stinging her eyes. She hung her head low, though her voice was still strong. "I feel useless to you, daddy."

Priest's heart broke hearing these words. It was the first time she'd ever referred to him as anything other than "father." As bittersweet as this was, he hated watching her like this. She looked so conflicted, so sorrowful, so determined to make her mark in this war for reasons unknown to him. In these past months of travel, she'd shown great interest in his teachings and was devoted to becoming stronger, though her intentions were always vague to him. He'd expected her to feel that she had to avenge her parents, her pride having grown stronger with her skills as a soldier.

He shook his head and raised his calloused hands to her small shoulders, waiting for her to look up before he continued. His voice was low and sincere, almost thin as to make sure only she would hear him. "You will never be useless to me. We may want to protect you, but we do not mean it out of insult." He leaned closer and kissed her forehead, staying there for a moment. "And I will always want to protect you, no matter how strong you become."

Tears were now silently streaming down her face, Priest wiping them away once he'd looked down at her. She took his hand in hers, holding it there for a moment before speaking. "I know how you feel, I just…I feel the same way. I don't want you to go, but I know you have to. I feel like I should be by your side. I…" She couldn't' bear to look into the boundless depths of his eyes any longer and lunged into his embrace, holding onto him tightly, her words muffled somewhat by his chest. "I don't want to lose you! But more than that, I don't want you to lose anyone else you care about. You've lived only to see so many die, I don't want to see you so miserable." She looked up at him then. "You deserve so much more than this."

Priest was speechless for a moment, truly amazed that his daughter felt this way.

"You lost mother even before she died. You gave up everything to be a Priest and the entire city treated you as if you were a vampire roaming the streets! I finally know you and you've finally found love again! I don't' want to see you heartbroken anymore…" her last sentence was softer than the rest of her confession, unknowing if it was in her place to mention her father's love for Priestess. She cautiously looked up into his eyes and saw only love. His arms were tight around hers.

"Sacrifice is essential in times like these. You are thoughtful, but you've given sacrifice. We all have. I'm blessed to have gained this much. God has given you back to me." He turned his eyes out the window of the shack in the direction of Sola Mira. "God has given me freedom, and so we will fight for it." He looked back at Lucy. "I will bring her back. She is part of my freedom."

They were in. Deep in the caverns of Sola Mira, no vampires were yet in sight. Priest went ahead, having somewhat of a familiarity with the Hive. The new wings would be difficult to navigate, but they all knew the risk.

Suicide mission or not, there was not much else that could be done.

A shiver ran down his spine as he heard a more than familiar voice echo through the caves. He ran to it, knowing that if he found Black Hat, he'd find Priestess. He kept his breathing and footsteps quiet, unsure of how instinctual Black Hat was. The closer he got to devil's voice, the more vampires he sensed around him through the walls, thus the cautious he should have been. But caution seemed to have left him suddenly, rational thinking grasping at Priest's now extremely heightened senses, restraining him from flying in a rage at the human vampire when his eyes closed in on him, a terrifying sight meeting him when he arrived at his destination.

Black Hat was looming over Priestess, speaking to her in a growl, amusement glinting in his glowing yellow eyes. Priestess was staring daggers at him, her eyes burning with strength and anger. Priest's heart throbbed at the sight of her, her body bloody and battered, her stance crippled, her arms tightly wrapped around herself in order to keep upright. She couldn't even stand as she was now heavily leaning on the wall behind her. Vampires were hunched over behind Black Hat, watching the spectacle with distaste and restraint, their heads whipping left and right as if they were dogs held back by a chain to a dog house. There were also what had to be young human vampires standing at attention, their yellow eyes focused on the confrontation. There was no chance at escape for her unless Priest took action.

Before he could even think to move from his spot, he heard Black Hat say, "Your God will no longer show you mercy. He is no longer with you. See the truth."

"You have given up! You live in lies!" Priestess choked back, her voice dry and thin. Black Hat struck her, knocking her off of her feet on onto the cold ground. Priest shouted in anguish, charging the human vampire.

Hicks and his team were regrouping after having beaten a guardian vampire, the beast's blood seeping thick into the cold air. Hicks wiped his brow and checked his guns.

"How many men are down?" he asked their medic.

"Two dead, two injured." He replied, kneeling by one of the dead bodies.

Hicks nodded. "That attack was bound to catch some attention. We better keep on our toes." Just then, he heard a human scream. It sounded like Priest. "Men, whoever's willing to fight the devil himself, come with me. Quickly."

Inhuman screeches and cries rang through the caverns and in her ears. She numbly felt claws at her flesh, dragging her further into the darkness. She had refused to ingest blood, making her weak beyond anything she'd ever experienced before. Suddenly the claws were gone, fresh blood pervading the air, both vampire and human. Hands were on her now, strong arms lifting her from the ground.

Gun shots echoed close by and names were called out. Her eyes were half open for a brief moment, catching a glimpse of Priest's dirt ridden face, blood staining the creases in his skin, eyes piercing through the darkness in a slight strain. The last thing she felt before slipping into unconsciousness was the sunlight on her skin and warm lips on her forehead.

Priestess woke with a start after having been unconscious for what felt like years. She was breathing heavily, her eyes wide, her mind slowly loosening its grip on her lungs, her nightmare having felt much too real. Images from the dream still haunted her mind's eye. She'd been drowning, suffocating in a thick, red pool of blood, Black Hat holding her down, determined as he had been in turning her.

When she calmed slightly, oxygen meeting her lungs, she barely had the strength to move her head let alone look around. She quickly noticed that most of her uniform was folded and sitting just feet away from her, her boots neatly among the pile. She was left in her black pants and thin black shirt. Somehow, the situation rendered importantly puzzling to her, not having been in this little clothing in some time. It was then when she realized where she was. She'd been in Sola Mira, Black Hat looming over her like a hawk before she'd passed out. How had she gotten back to a unit tent?

She heard voices outside the tent, one of them unmistakably Priest's. Her heart stopped and her stomach flipped, threatening to make her sick, but she doubted that could happen now, knowing what she had unwillingly become. Her nerves drove her body to sit up, unfamiliar and alien adrenaline pulsing through her body. She couldn't let Priest see her like this; get close to her like this. What would become of them? What could she do?

Her fears came true as he entered the tent, surprised to see her awake. His face looked absolutely wrought with a bitter sweet relief, his eyes already stinging with tears. She couldn't tell if he knew her terrible truth or was simply relieved that she was alive. He searched her eyes as he rather hastily stepped towards her and knelt down. They were a deathly yellow shade, but still held the pure entity that was his Priestess. He felt her fear; could see it plainly in her gaze. He was honestly scared, too, but could not let her know now. His faltering would only lead to her mental destruction.

Priestess could see the men's shadows outside. They were surrounded, probably for their own safety.

"You know." She heard herself say, her voice shaking.

Their eyes never broke contact. Priest nodded, promptly embracing her. He held her tight to him, waiting patiently for her to respond, knowing of her weakness. He feared her death more than he feared what she had become, like the others. The raid on Sola Mira had been successful in bringing her back, that was all that mattered to him now.

She finally returned his love, her hands gripping at his back, her face buried in his chest, resisting his neck at all costs, feeling a dull pang in her stomach telling her to feed. Somehow reading her mind, he whispered in her ear reassuring words of passion.

"I'm going to protect you, I will not let anyone harm you."

She reeled in all of her strength to speak. "I'm a threat to all of you. I can't stay here. I'm not sure I can ever live with myself."

Her weakness tore his heart to shreds, but the truths were too real to completely ignore.

"We'll find a way." Priest said, hands caressing the back of head, soon the side of her face as she moved to look into her eyes. He spoke again. "You found a way. You didn't end up like Black Hat. You're still you."

A small hope rose in her heart, believing his words. She hadn't succumbed to the evil Black Hat had.

"…What does that mean?" She said.

Priest shook his head. "I don't know yet."

Let me know what you think, good or bad, any criticism is good at this point. I really want to finish this fic, so knowing that there are still people reading or interested in reading will hopefully help me with my goal. Thanx fellow Priest fans :)