-Rewind-

"Why?" he asks himself angry; most of the things she had told him, hid what she really wanted to tell him, and what he really wanted to hear. And as quickly as he said that he murmured softly "Forgive me father, for I do not mean to be so angry". He tried to calm himself, but it pained him to see her hide everything from him, and he wondered if those 7 years working in District 13 had done something to her. But all he could remember was relief, when she returned from District 13 unharmed, but she had changed, more than he expected, more than he ever wanted her to change.

He was scared to lose her, because already she was hiding so much from him. He sees her eyes and they are always looking for a way to escape, the sadness she carries, he wants it gone, but then he also knows that he is the cause of her sadness, ever since he found out that she loved him. He wishes that he could love her back and reassure her, but Shannon meant almost everything to him, she was his past, and he couldn't live without his past, he's already losing the memories of his brother -the brother who he never got to truly know, who was too young back then, to develop a character of his own-, if he lets go of Shannon's memory, he's scared he'll forget her.

Illessa had already been there for him, her whole life, watching over him when she could, and he would do the same for her, her happiness he never saw for 7 years, and for most of those 7 she was in District 13, the nomad-land. It would be rare to even see a trace of a town or village there; it was filled with rural areas, and large mountains with wide desert-terrains.

He had heard that in her District, she was the second priestess there, but the nickname never left her, because over there, they still called her Priestess, since the other priestess preferred to be addressed by her own name, and had died of stomach cancer by Illessa's second year in District 13. He wasn't comfortable with the fact that she had grown close to District 13, because he didn't want her hurt, if she loses any one of the District 13 priests.

Seeing her lose herself on the celebration, tore his heart to pieces. She was too young to keep losing people, he remembered that the only reason she returned from District 13 was because her mother had died. -The Church called her back, because they had already eliminated every vampire living there, and they had disbanded the members and scattered them around the other Districts.- Illessa was never good at dealing with deaths and pain, and preferred to keep them to herself, but he never learned how she found out that her mother died. She never told him how….

The week after she came back, she was already 26-and-a-half, with one of the male priests who was with her from District 13. When he asked her why, she never told him about how she knew that her mother had died; he had received no answer from her, since she was avoiding him, -well, everyone actually, only speaking when needing to speak. And speaking if she needed something.- but her companion from District 13 told him rudely, -Not exactly rude, but he was probably frustrated at how many times Ivan had tried to ask her about her mother- "You are sometimes my fellow priest, an oblivious fool who knows not when to keep his mouth shut" and let out a sad sigh.

Ivan was about to reply, but then the priest from District 13 continued "Priestess Illessa might have mentioned to you that she was born in a rural village, right?" Ivan nodded, still confused as to what the Priest meant by asking him if Illessa told him. "District 13 was located around the area of her long-forgotten village. Her mother was still turning when she appeared on the gates of our district, and had asked for Illessa" and paused while stroking his chin slowly.

Ivan felt -if only for that moment- a feeling of bitterness and jealousy swirl in his chest at how intimately the Priest had uttered Illessa's name, but just like it had come, it faded away, as he tried to focus about what happened with Illessa. "Priestess Illessa knew, and somehow, I think she always knew that her mother would come to her, as something not human. It wasn't even five minutes until her sword was found piercing her mother's chest, while holy water was sprinkled over the corpse, as she murmured a prayer, and left to get a shovel so that we could bury the body." he stopped, and Ivan almost thought he was done, as his heart filled with understanding towards Illessa. "After that day, she began praying more, and avoiding us even more, she barely spoke with us, and was always withdrawn. She avoided our company for 3 weeks, and only appeared during my birthday to congratulate me, and during our missions, but she seemed to have lost her voice because of that incident which occurred on her birthday."

Ivan froze, as the words "her birthday" echoed throughout his ears, he clenched his left hand, pressed it to his chest, and murmured a quick prayer before closing his eyes and trying to relieve the pain. He saw the priest smile in understanding, before he left Ivan alone with a pat on his shoulder. It was too much for him to handle, and he wondered why she didn't tell him anything more, and marveled at how strong she had become during the years they were apart. But as tears began to prickle his eyes, he wondered why she had to keep losing people throughout this whole war.

He found her later on, during the end of the 1st week of her arrival. She was sitting beside the willow tree, where they had their first training session together, where he had known he could trust her with his life. She had been cradling her knees with a faraway look in her eyes, and before he could do anything, she had asked him "Ivan, do you remember the day I confessed my love for you here, by this willow tree". He blinked before replying softly "yes". She gave him a small smile "How do you reject someone who already knows you're in love with someone?" and asked him curiously with sad eyes. He replies "if this is about how I rejected you-" but he's cut off by her finger on his lip shushing him softly as she murmured "No, it isn't; but I'm asking you, how do you do it, if there is a chance that maybe it would work out between the both of you".

And somehow he feels something restricting his throat, and contracting his heart painfully, he wonders what she's talking about and hears her utter "Marcus confessed to me, he says once we're relieved of our duties as warrior priests, he'd like for us to be together romantically, and he told me he's willing to wait years even if my answer would be no. I don't want him to go through what I'm going, so I'd like you to tell me how I can reject him without hurting him, nor showing him that there may be a chance between us."

He's trying to form words, but his heat hurts so much that he can't answer, the words aren't coming out at all, so he sighs, before joining her on the ground. He sits on another side of the tree, his back leaning against the tree bark. He is smiling remembering happy memories that could be almost considered innocent and untainted by the war, back when Jeremiah was still alive, and Elijah wasn't a Vampire-hybrid, who was also dead. 'Time really is a cruel thing' thought Ivan before beginning softly "It wasn't easy, if that's what you mean" his words calm.

He could feel her raise both her eyebrows, the familiar wry smile on her lips when she didn't believe his words on her face, as a chuckle escaped her lips, sounding so carefree of her troubles. He hoped the sad look had left her face as he continued "No, really, I think killing vampires was easier than telling you we could never be. Because I never truly cared what the vampires thought when they died, since they never cared how many of us would die just to satisfy their hunger. Though they are living creatures, they can't feel emotions, but you can Illessa" and by now he's turned his head so he can see her.

She looks surprised, as if she never expected those words to leave his lips, and he chooses to continue speaking while gazing at her eyes, the beautiful shade of hazel-brown -that were too beautiful sometimes he believed- "You mean a lot to me Illessa, being one of the only people willing to die for me whether you were in love with me or not, you believed in me from the moment we came, and maybe it was because you were so young that you grew attached to me easily, but you were one of my first and closest friends. I would still rather die that hurt you"

The smile that graced her lips as she cried silently made his day, because she truly seemed happy at his choice of words. And whatever she told him of rejecting Marcus left his mind by the next day.

Though she did reject her companion from the 13th District, her and Marcus remained close friends, and even though he didn't like that, he was glad that she was still smiling at the end of the day, because her tears was not a sight he could bear to see.


-Forward-

And as he slowed down his vehicle, the memories never left his mind, his feelings towards Illessa only seemed to intensify after they parted many years ago, and the feeling of jealousy that he had towards Marcus only increased when he heard that they would both be staying at the Church to help around whenever they could.

The relief he feels now is somewhat unbearable because he really is truly happy that she chose to abandon the Church and follow him, he feels guilty at being relieved but they made a vow, and he still remembers the exact words to this day. "I swear to our Father in the Heavens above that I will only use my powers and skills to fight vampires and defend the weak, and not for any evil. I swear that as long as I am still breathing and vampires are still attacking the humans, I will do all that I can to protect people, and fight for the Church as long as the vampires remain". And the only reason he left the Church because they were causing him to break his vow to God, and in his eyes, any one who dared to do that was not worth believing in any more. God always came first, before the Church and everyone else, all the other priests understood that as well. And he's glad that she chose to leave the Church willingly to follow through with her vow, and not just because she had once and somehow still does, love him with all her heart.

He knows he's not worthy of her heart, for she's done more than enough for him. He knows that one day, she might have to part this life, and that he wouldn't be able to handle that; losing Shannon and his brother in a row, killed him on the inside, and perhaps it helped that he hadn't seen them in a long while, but the feelings of hurt and loss, still lingered in his mind every single day.

He is scared that by the time he finally learns to accept his feelings for her, that it might be too late. He wants her alive no matter what, and if he has to die to make sure she lives, he's gladly willing to do that. His daughter has someone who loves her deeply, and is Illessa lives, then maybe she can watch over her, because he can't imagine a world where one of is closest friends, and most trusted comrade is no longer living because of his actions and decisions.

He hopes that this journey can start in a good way, and prays inwardly, for God's light to watch over them throughout their mission, so that they may leave victorious in this final battle. But could hope leave them both living, and still strong? The only answer he receives is silence...