Author's Note: Hello all and welcome to "Into the Grey". This fic is another continuation of the "Cross" series, so you probably have to be familiar with my other Priest stories in order to understand exactly what's going on here. For those of you who have read my previous fics, welcome back! I'm so thrilled to have received such a positive response to this series and, as promised, I'm finally going to expand on the Priest/Priestess ship I left off with in "Cross". This will be a rather introspective story, detailing some of the important moments in Priest's various relationships with the women in his life, namely Shannon, Rebecca and, of course, Priestess/Rowan. I except this fic to be about three chapters long, with an additional prologue and epilogue. Thanks for stopping by and I do hope you enjoy the prologue!
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Priest nor the characters affiliated with the movie/manga series.
Into the Grey
Three Months after 'Cross'
He woke when it was dark, when the Wastelands were swathed in a gauzy coat of black and the distant mountain peaks only tinged with a hint of grey. The vast silence of the desert was a gift and it allowed him to hear her breathing beside him, allowed him to cherish the low, rasping sound as she took air into her lungs and sweetly, softly, pushed it back out through her parted lips. Priest welcomed the luxuriant quiet. He laid still and counted the minutes he had her to himself, before the world would come trudging in, bringing a new day with it and they would have to be soldiers again.
For the first time in his life, Priest enjoyed the last blush of darkness. It was a period of the most intimate privacy for him. He could be a man alone and not a member of the clergy. Not a Priest of the Order which had won the first war and was now struggling to win a second. And Priestess, no, he could call her Rowan, the name her mother gave her. He could whisper into her ear when she was still asleep, over and over and over again.
They were staying in a safe house on the outskirts of a town called Bethel. It was one of the smaller outposts, closer to the farthest reaches of the Wastelands than it was to the cities. The placement of the safe house was strategic. It belonged to another Priest and had been immediately offered for their use after they had left the city. The snug building had become a rendezvous point, a place for Priests to gather and exchange news or lay low when they felt the scrupulous eye of the Church watching them too closely.
Priest and Rowan had hunkered done in the safe house for a week, waiting for Seth to report back from his tour of the Hives. It had three months since Marcus's return and they were meticulously proceeding with their own plan of attack, with or without the Church's blessing. As the de facto leader of the Order, Priest had spent the first month taking stock of his troops. There weren't many of them left, of course. Seth and Esther. One of the twins. A dozen or so others. Overnight, they each of them had become pilgrims again, traveling the Wastelands in search of vampire herds, making plans, gathering supplies, preparing for a new campaign, a new war that would be waged by outlaws and exiles.
Priest stretched his legs out in the narrow bed, rolling carefully onto his side. Sometime during the night, he had let Rowan pull away from him. She was sleeping all folded up, legs curled against her abdomen, one arm thrown over her knees. Gently, he touched her bare back with the tips of his fingers, the calloused pads sticking to her warm skin. Priest kissed her shoulder, his lips making a faint sucking sound, his teeth clicking together as he bit back the name that rose eagerly onto his tongue.
He savored the rare peace of the moment, falling onto his back, his head cradled by a rough pillow that was stuffed with straw and covered in scratchy fabric. Even in the serene blue-grey of the morning, he could feel the heat stretching out over the desert. It would be a long day, followed by even longer days and endless nights he would spend awake, watching, waiting. And the waiting was the worst part. Waiting for Marcus to strike. Hoping that Lucy and Peter were safe. Missing his children, but accustomed to the subtle ache of his sacrifice.
Priest realized, blinking at the cobwebbed rafters above him, that he had gotten old, that this new war probably wasn't for him, but a younger generation of Priests. But there were no younger Priests. No novices. Only Seth and Esther. One of the twins and a dozen others. And Rowan, of course. Rowan, who was finally his.
But even now, Priest did not want to call her his. It was dangerous. It seemed almost taboo. In that quiet space, when he laid alone, truly alone, Priest considered his vows and hers and the vow they had made together, not so long ago. Rowan told him, many times, that it was not a sin. He needed to believe her and he was envious of her self-confidence, of her soul, which was without ghosts and without guilt. They were in love, she told him. And Priest told her, as often as he could, that he loved her. Because he had said it to Shannon once. Because he had never confessed it to Rebecca. Because he wanted Rowan to hear it while she still could, while they could be together, their time unspoiled, like this dawn now, that was coming as an eager bride over the distant horizon.
Priest closed his eyes, studying the image he had built in his mind of her, her face not scarred by the cross, but smiling, happy, a mix of the young girl he had known and the woman he had grown with. It was hard for him to think of her as older now. Rowan still had youth on her side. She still had a beautiful, tender heart that had always beat for him, as she had told him shyly that first night together. Priest wished that he could tell her the same, that she had been his only, his one. But he couldn't erase his past without first forgetting his children and he couldn't remember his children without remembering them.
Rowan wasn't jealous. She had curiosity in her quick eyes when he talked about them. She asked questions, but was never prying. She had never known Shannon. And she had known Rebecca only as Priestess, as that graven image of cruelty and taciturn indifference that had shaped her years as a novice.
Priest, for his part, preferred to be secretive about them, although they had marked him with traces of the past… and memories.
His eyelids fluttered open and he focused on the ceiling, the cobwebs colored a woolly off-white as morning light seeped under the shades and through the window screens, which fractured the sunrays into tiny diamonds. But it was dark and warm where Priest laid next to Rowan, pressed close to her, as if he could hold her tight enough to block out the world. To ignore the threat of a new day.
"Rowan." Priest spoke her name this time, whispered it to her, hoping that the thread of his voice would reach her in her sleep and always, always she would know that she was loved.
But loving her meant loving the ghosts. And they came to him now, during a time when it was not quite night, but still not day. Priest was caught in the in-between with them. Trapped in the purgatory of his own memory, in the expanse of grey, where all that was permanent seemed uncertain, and where it was hard for him to forget, even though sometimes, he couldn't bear to remember.
Author's Note: Thanks for reading! If you have some free time, please leave me a review. I just love hearing from my readers.
The next installment, which is currently in the works, will feature a bit of Priest and Shannon's past history together. With any luck, I should have the next chapter posted soon. Until then, take care and be well!