Disclaimer: I do not own any part of D. Gray-man nor any of its characters. I can only close my eyes and quietly play dress up with said characters in my head and hope I'm not desecrating Hoshino Katsura's work too much.
For those of you who care, Author's Notes will be at the end of every chapter and any and all questions will be gleefully answer if asked.
Dear Prudence, open up your eyes
Dear Prudence, see the sunny skies
The wind is low the birds will sing
That you are part of everything
Dear Prudence, won't you open up your eyes?
Stumbling back in the dark had taken more time than Cross had expected and getting through the pounding rain was only half the battle. They listened intently to Neah as he wove a horrifying tale of the Earl and his soulless minions known as the Noah clan.
Cross listened to Neah's smooth voice as he told about the true nature of the war: of the Earl's plans, of his siblings, the Noah, and their powers and weaknesses, of Noah's Ark which could transcend space in seconds. He at last spoke a little of himself, of his family and how he came to be mixed up in all of this crazy nonsense.
Neah had only paused in his story once when they'd given Rachel's body over to the priest at the local church. They didn't know where she lived but from what she told them, her home didn't seem like the best place for her anyway.
So now they sat inside the church, listening to the rain beat heavily against the stone walls trying to reach the children inside.
They sat close together in a pew, each bent over in their thoughts, mulling over the day's events.
There were enough seats for them to spread out, but Cross thinks the tragic experience had left them all a little desperate for some human company. He bit back the spiteful laugh that threatened to come out.
None of them had woken up this morning imagining they'd be here.
Lizzy was sitting to his left, her head bent deep in prayer as she gripped her rosary tightly with her bandaged hands. Neah sat on his right staring off into space, watching the way the rain made patterns on the stained glass. Cross ran a hand through his hair, goddammit, why did things have to get so complicated?
He didn't want anyone to die, he didn't want to get to know Lizzy or find a Noah, he just wanted to come and go and maybe get some sleep in between. He rubbed his eyes, he didn't ask for this. He wasn't anybody's goddamn hero; all he wanted was his peace and his books.
After so many long, hard years, he didn't think that was too much to ask.
"You know," Neah drolled slowly, staring at the stained glass window with lidded eyes; it showed the scene of Jesus being christened in the Jordan River. "I don't think I've been in a church since I became a Noah, I guess I was sort of afraid I would explode or something." Cross snorted, but said nothing. He wasn't sure what to make of this kid, though Cross supposed he couldn't call him that seeing as Neah was a year older than him.
Still… he thought observing the Noah's thin, lanky form which was lazily spread in the pew; he didn't act like an adult; he was more like a confused and rebellious teenager. Neah shifted in his seat and continued to stare out the window.
The rain continued to pound outside, they really should go, who knew what the hell time it was and what this guy was up to.
But the seconds just kept ticking by and he couldn't find the incentive to move.
"So what do we do now?" Asked Neah quietly as slowly the church began to darken as the sun went down. It was a good question, one Cross himself had been mulling over for a while. Lizzy had stopped her praying a few minutes before and was now leaning warmly against his shoulder.
There was no immediate danger and it wasn't very cold in here, so why the hell was she sitting so close?
In his mind he thought of million different ways to tell her to get off, but in the end he never said a word and she stayed right where she was.
"Why do you think the Earl does such terrible things?" Lizzy asked quietly, Cross shivered slightly as the sound of her voice reverberated through his chest. Neah rolled his head in her direction and looked her directly in the eye. There was electricity in the air as his eyes burned intensely.
It was a stark contrast from the empty look he'd had early and it worried Cross to a certain extent. What the hell, he thought with foreboding, are we getting into?
"Because he's a miserable sadist, a lower form of life has never existed on this earth. He feeds on the misery of those around him and thrives on chaos. He kicks puppies too, I know, I've seen it." His words hung in the air before they broke up laughing.
There was nothing particularly funny in that statement, but there was something so cathartic about laughing after such an awful day. They settled down after a minute and listened to the last bits of their gaiety echo eerily in the stone church. Cross was pretty sure the priest had left hours before, so they had the place to themselves.
"I don't know, I just- it never bothered me before. I guess, I don't know, I really didn't care. I think I knew something bad was going on, but I didn't do anything about it. Willfully ignorant I suppose you could say." He leaned over and looked at his hands, one pale and thin and the other tightly bandaged around his palm. Cross had only been mildly surprised to see that the wound had been almost healed by the time they had gotten it re-bandaged.
Though if half of what Neah said was true, that was the least of their worries.
"Well why don't you run away or something?" Lizzy asked quietly, removing her weight from him to lean closer to Neah. The space on Cross's shoulder where she had been not a moment before grew cold. Neah looked up at her and smiled gently, the way one smiles when correcting a small child.
"Lizzy, I don't think you quite understand the Noah bond, whether I like it or not, I am stuck with these people for life and after. Even if I slip out in the middle of the night or something, they would find me. I can't-I can't leave. And if by some miracle, I did elude them, they'd go after everyone who's close to me: my mom, my dad, my brother… I can't risk that, I can't risk them." Neah glared down into his hands.
"So don't run away, stand up and fight him." Both turned to him wide-eyed, it took Cross a moment to realize it had been him that had spoken.
H-he didn't want this; to be involved with…them.
He wasn't looking for fortune or glory; he just wanted to make it to see thirty and to avoid any more unnecessary entanglements in his life as he did his duty and nothing more. This terrifying idea they'd been skirting around for the last few hours, this idiotic thought that they could do something in this war, it would do nothing but waste their time and get them all killed.
Really it was just a stupid idea all around.
"If you hate the Earl that much, then you should work with the exorcists to stop him. This will just continue, you know, this cycle of death. He won't stop unless we stop him." His last words resonated dully as the rain provided a steady background to cover up their stunned silence. Cross frowned determinedly, he didn't want this. He'd had it hard and now his life had finally begun to stable out, so why was he getting involved in this? He turned his eyes downward, away from them.
Maybe because he couldn't keep making excuses forever, maybe because he was finally able to escape his father's shadow and make something of himself, or maybe he was finally starting to believe in the Order he'd been chained to since he was born.
"But-" Neah started, they all turned to him and he shut his mouth turning to stare at the floor. After a moment of quiet contemplation he spoke again. "But w-we can't do something like that. I mean, we're just a bunch a kids, it's just that … you don't know what the Earl can do. We would-we would die if we tried to fight the Earl." Neah said heavily, letting his words hover in the moist air.
"So what are you going to do instead? Go back there and quietly rebel against the Earl only in your mind? I'm not denying that this is a hard decision, but sometimes it's the hard decisions that really count." Cross leaned back against the pew and looked at the ceiling. The more he thought about this crazy and damning plan, the more he began to believe in it. Despite the chill, he felt his body warming as he let his mouth run away with his thoughts.
"I've been sitting here thinking about Rachel and how she died, she died willing to give everything to help those around her… and I honestly can't say the same. I've done nothing with my time at the Order; I've been too damn concerned with my own problems to see that there was a bigger world out there. It would be nearly impossible and we'd probably die, but wouldn't it be better to die young doing something incredible than to die old and worthless?" No sooner had Cross finished speaking did Neah stand up abruptly; he looked down at them with fear and confusion.
"I-I can't, I just, I can't do that. It's not-It's not just me. They're hanging Mana over my head and if something were to happen to him… I mean I'd like to help, really, but I just-I just-" Neah stuttered incoherently, trying to come up with a decent excuse other than his own fears. He couldn't betray the Earl, he just couldn't. He shut his eyes as his mind replayed the little girl, Rachel's, demise. Dammit, but he couldn't just sit around and do nothing either.
Lizzy grabbed his hand; it wasn't a desperate pleading gesture. She just slipped her hand into his as if it belonged there. She looked up at him with an easy expression on her face, so patient and understanding.
"We're not trying to force you to do anything you don't want to, I mean, you barely know us and all. But I just want to ask you one thing before you leave. If you leave now and go back to the Earl with your tail between your legs, how well will you sleep tonight or in the nights to follow?" Neah could've laughed; he could've fallen onto the floor in hysterics.
The answer was obvious, he wouldn't.
Not a wink.
For the rest for his life.
Mana had always told him that Neah cared too much for his own good and now it was coming back to haunt him. If he tried to go back to Edo and pretend that everything was alright, he would spend the rest of his life staring at the ceiling and hating himself every minute of every day for it. Was living really worth that?
He looked back and forth between their earnest faces, they really believed this. They believed that with his help they could defeat the Earl. It was insane and absurd and no way in hell possible. But the seed was planted and the damage done. There is no disease more potent or contagious than hope; he felt his heart lift as the idea began to take root.
Maybe they could do this.
A smile graced his face without him realizing. He- he could be friends with these people, he could fight alongside them, learn their dreams and help them achieve them. Sure, they'd probably get themselves killed and yeah the Earl would maim them something awful when he found out.
But hell, they'd have fun and besides, who wanted to die of old age anyway?
"Well I-I suppose I could stop by every now and then and toss around a few ideas..." Lizzy grinned up at him with a beautiful smile and held his hand tightly. He flushed and thought that getting to know her better certainly couldn't hurt either. Cross put his hand on top of theirs and gave them a tawdry smirk.
"Alright, let's save the world." Yeah, Neah thought to himself, this could be nice. They never did make it back to the hotel that night. They spent the rest of the evening in that church exchanging stories about their life, their families and their a word was mentioned about the enormity of their chosen goal, but somehow words weren't necessary. Neah could see it in their eyes, a combination of fear, excitement and just a little bit of hope. Real nice, he purred softly as he relaxed in the comforting embrace of his new friends.
Cross couldn't recall when it was they eventually did fell asleep, all he knew was that he woke up with the multi-colored light streaming onto his face; he was flanked at both sides. Lizzy purred contently, nuzzling into his shoulder while Neah battled some dream, his back up against Cross's other arm and his long legs spewed awkwardly over the end of the pew.
He thought to himself that this was not the strangest thing he'd woken up to and promptly fell back asleep.
When Lizzy awoke a few hours later, stretching away the last bits of sleep, she finally remembered her job as an exorcist. Shaking Cross awake, they hurriedly began to gather their things so they could catch the next train back to the Order. They didn't need their Master sending a search party, something which neither of them doubted he would do. Neah stretched and rubbing his eyes with his palm and calmly informed them that he'd drop them off with the Ark he'd told them about and that there was no need to rush.
The panic gone, they leisurely got ready and twenty minutes later, just as they were about to leave, Neah suddenly ran to the back of the church and grabbed a candle. He lit it with a snap of his fingers, a feat that impressed both Cross and Lizzy to no end and set it on the alter.
"Mana told me that you should light a candle when someone um dies. It not only pays tribute to the life lost, but also helps guide their souls into heaven." He blushed and rubbed his neck, a trait Cross would come to associate with Neah's nervousness or embarrassment. "At least that's what Mana told me."
They stood there for a moment in reverence, staring at the ceiling and wishing Rachel the best and promising her that her death would not be moment passed and Cross gave Neah a friendly shove, calling him a girl. Neah defended his manhood as he summoned the gate leaving the town of Derry behind and the small candle flickering in the shadow of the rising sun.
Cross immediately began tearing into the mechanics of the Ark and only the promise of a more extensive tour later on got him out of the thing. Neah hovered a little awkwardly behind them, answering questions hesitantly and occasionally looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching them.
Cross didn't have to think too hard as to whom Neah was fearing.
He just sighed and put his hands behind his head and hoped that they had made the right decision. Last night had been fun, but Cross wondered if this could actually work, if the three of them even stood half a chance of pulling this impossible task off. Lizzy surprised them all by embracing Neah in a tight hug as they arrived at Headquarters. Neah just stood there stiffly, accepting the hug with a bright blush.
"I'm glad I met you." She whispered softly before making her way back over to Cross. A smile and a wave and Neah was gone. They stood outside the gate all alone wondering if everything that had happened had been just a dream. The blood soaked Innocence in his pocket informed that it had been all too real and that there was one last task to complete before they could really put all of this behind them.
Taking a deep breath, they entered their base. They must have been quite a sight staggering into Headquarters with their dirty, blood smeared faces and ripped and ruined clothes. Or maybe it was the fact that two hated enemies were holding hands.
Lizzy gripped Cross's hand tightly, ignoring the stares and thinking of the terrible news they had for their Master. Cross wanted to pull his hand away, wanted to take the long way to his Master's room to avoid the stares, but he couldn't seem to find the will to let go of her. The problem with loneliness is that you don't often realize you were lonely until after you've really connected with someone.
Too many people had hurt him in his life and he had been content to go through the rest of it all by himself. He wasn't doing this because he liked it, he reminded himself stiffly, he was doing this for the world. He let go of her hand and, with only a moment of hesitation, wrapped his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. She stiffed at the contact before leaning into him as he led her down the hallway to their Master's room.
He could only imagine what people were going to say in the cafeteria today and in the weeks to come.
General Devdas opened the door and nearly spit out his tea upon seeing who had arrived and just what they were doing. They softly explained how they had found a girl with parasitic Innocence who had been slain by an Akuma before they could help her.
Lizzy had sworn she wouldn't cry in front of her Master and instead buried herself in Cross's chest, hoping he wouldn't see her shameful tears. General Devdas nodded with understanding. With an affectionate pat he sent them off to their rooms, they deserved their rest. After they left, the General sighed and poured a little amber colored pick-me-up into his cold tea.
What a day, what a day, the General sighed sipping the pleasantly burning tea. He twirled the bloody Innocence in his hand, maybe one day they would understand that life was not kind and that it was hard enough just to get by.
They were good kids, he thought, they would go places; only now they wouldn't be alone.
If only the General could've known sitting in his office on that rare sunny English day with his half a cup of tea where exactly his young pupils were heading to and how a simple mission had started a chain reaction that would send ripples through the war for years to come.
For those of you wondering, Neah got off fairly easily as well.
Yes, he was teased and ridiculed by his fellow Noah, but the Earl just nodded in understanding. After all, how could he expect his youngest Noah to combat seven exorcist and two Generals on his first mission? He apologized to Neah that he couldn't be there to help him, but a disease nicknamed Captain Tripps had sprung up and he had a lot of grieving souls to steal.
Neah just smiled, he was very good at that, remember?
"Did you like it my boy?" Neah shrugged casually to hide the shudder that racked his body. He had a feeling the Earl wasn't just referring to his pleasant train ride.
"I guess if you like that sort of thing." He said, shoving his hands into his pockets. This would be tricky, not only convincing the Earl of his loyalty, but in staying off more missions like that. He would never again allow his hands to be stained with the blood of innocents, this he swore on his life.
"Aw was sweet little Neah upset about getting his pretty little hands dirty." Amora Montana, the Noah of Desire, said patronizingly as she roughly pinched his cheek. "I bet you didn't hurt a fly did you?" she purred, disappointment coloring her sultry voice.
The other Noah really didn't like him, it seemed that even before they sensed he was different from them. Only now he was in on the joke too.
"Now Amora, my dear, leave your brother alone. Neah, I know you're still getting used to life here. Don't worry, it'll come to you eventually, but for now we'll take it nice and slow. Alright?" Neah nodded thankfully and ignored chicken sounds his siblings made, they were just jealous of his favored position.
As he sauntered back to his room, Neah let a rather devious grin grace his normally sweet face. The Earl had just given him exactly what he wanted. Neah would help with missions alright; the Noah would show up only to find their prize already in the hands of the enemy.
And who would suspect little Neah?
Neah, who never left the Ark and was far too meek to ever think of defying the Earl? He rubbed his left palm absentmindedly where the Innocence left a discolored scar on his palm. One day, it could be tomorrow or years from now, the Earl would find out that his cherished Neah had turned against him and only God himself could save them then. Shaking the worries from his head, he continued his leisurely stroll down the hall and wondered what his new friends were up to.
As he neared his room he even began to whistle.
There was something so… wrong about all of this.
Lizzy wasn't used to this type of human contact and it certainly felt strange sitting next to Cross of all people. But here he was now, sitting next to her at the lunch table, looking just as uncomfortable as she felt. She almost felt like starting an argument just so things would start making sense again. She never sat down and talked to many other people here at the Order so she wasn't sure how small talk was supposed to go.
What were they supposed to talk about? The weather?
It was easier when Neah was here, she smiled at the thought. It had only been a few weeks and already she had found Neah's sweet and caring personality growing on her. When the three of them were together, it seemed there was no end of things to discuss. It just felt so natural to laugh and joke with the two boys. But so far, she had yet to find that easy camaraderie when it was only her and Cross.
She sighed a little and twirled her hair. She was trying, she really was, but it was just so hard to talk to him sometimes. Just a glance in her direction would enrage her for no good reason. It was insane and ridiculous and Lizzy wondered not for the first time if the three of them were just kidding themselves. So they were going to stop the Earl? She snorted. They were kids, junior exorcists none the less. And they thought they could end a war that had been going on for a hundred years?
What had seemed like a good idea in the pouring rain now seemed akin to suicide.
And it wasn't just that, she thought grimly, turning her eyes to look at the silent boy beside her.
Maybe this whole friendship thing wasn't meant to last, maybe some people just weren't meant to get along. Maybe she and Cross were just too different to be friends. It seemed Neah was the only thing keeping the two firearm Accommodators from tearing into one another. On days when Neah wasn't here, days like today, they seemed to merely tolerate the other's presence, acting more like statues than friends.
Maybe something's just weren't meant to be.
"So," Cross said coughing into his fist awkwardly. "How was your last mission to France? You were in Le Havre right?" She rolled her eyes as a few people in nearby tables leaned over expectantly.
The Order could be a dull place when there were no missions to go on and thus the betting pool was often the remedy for such boredom. The progress of her, not sure what else to call it, relationship with Cross had become the new hot topic and people were betting on everything from how long until they got married to who would be the first to die violently and painfully.
She'd actually been approached by people asking about the odds, not that she would ever stoop to such despicable lengths.
"Yeah, that's right. It was nice, I suppose." She looked up at him and noticed he was actually giving her his full attention. Now she wasn't sure what to do. She had planned on ending the conversation with that, but now it seemed that he was expecting more. She sighed in her head and wondered why the hell people demanded so much of her.
"The only thing that bothered me I guess is the landscape, I mean it's um it's a shame really. It's such beautiful country; right on the water with a picturesque view wherever you look and now it's become an industrial haven. I could barely find a speck of living grass in the whole city." She looked down and the table and drew nervous circles with her fingers. She raised her eyes after a moment, watching him watch her. His eyes drifted up to the ceiling.
"It seems to be happening everywhere, the last few places I've been seem to be the same." His eyes wandered back to her and she found herself unable to look away as he continued talking.
"It's easy sometimes to forget what the outside world is like. I mean in here, we have our own little sanctuary, our own rules and our own little culture. Going out there, seeing how much things have changed, it can be a little weird you know." He smiled awkwardly and she found herself smiling back without thinking. She just kept looking into his eyes.
This was the Cross she had met in Derry, the guy who wasn't a complete ass, who had consoled her following Rachel's death and had proposed that they save the world together. She brought her index finger to her lip as she studied him. If he just stayed like this and ceased with his usual boorish behavior, they just might be able to make this work after all. She nodded.
"Yeah, it seems like it's been awhile since I've been able to go outside and really be a part of society. I mean it's strange how much I miss now that I'm locked up here." She said with a light chuckle. "I used to know everyone important in London, all the best shops and such and now I don't think I could find my house anymore, funny isn't it?" Not that she had a home to return to, but he didn't need to know that.
"Yeah, real funny." He replied, raising a dry eyebrow. Lizzy kept the smile frozen on her face, but internally she was getting a little annoyed. There he went again with his goddamn condescending attitude, like he was so much better than her or something. Calm down, she said to herself, every friendship has its bumps, you just have to… have to what? Just live with it?
If there was one thing Elizabeth Aliena Logan did not do well, it was to 'just live with' something. So, of course, being the proud, independent woman her parents never wanted her to be, she dropped her smile and frowned at her companion, determined to speak her mind.
"Now tell me what you find so amusing about that? Do you have a problem with the way I lived?" She demanded, not trying very hard to keep the spite out of her voice. She clenched her fists as he just continued to look at her with that aggravating look of his that said that he really didn't give a damn.
"No, it's just you." He said, propping his elbow on the table and leaning his head on his hand as he stared at her.
"I don't get you sometimes, one minute you're acting like a normal person and then suddenly your back to acting like some privileged bitch who deserves better. I know you didn't want to be 'locked up' in here with us but I'll have you know a lot of people volunteered to come here, to serve God and actually do some good. Maybe you should think about that next time you say things like that." She nervously wrung her hands under the table. Oh dear he was right. She hadn't meant it like that but hearing him throw it back at her she sounded like such a-
Wait, what did he call her?
"Excuse me," she growled, leaning forward to address him more closely, a sneer dancing on her face. "While I value you opinions above all else." She said mimicking his dry behavior and accenting it with an eye roll. "I would appreciate you not referring to me or my lifestyle in such a way. We are supposed to be friends remember? And friends do not call friends by such profane names." She lowered her lids, observing him as he stared at her, the corners of his mouth twitching in annoyance.
"I'm sorry; I was under the impression that friends were supposed to tell friends when they were being selfish and conceited. I'm terribly sorry, did I hit a nerve?"
God her weapons were so close…
"Hello children!" they both pulled back as their Master was suddenly between them, patting them heartily on the back. Lizzy looked at him in surprise, her anger temporarily forgotten, as she wondered where the hell he had come from and how he always managed to be there when things got heated between her and Cross. "Have I mentioned how wonderful it is that the two of you have resolved your differences and become friends?" he pulled a tissue from his pocket and lightly began to dab his eyes.
"It brings tears to see my eyes to see my young pupils doing so well." Cross snorted quietly and leaned back on his hand, his aggravation replaced by his usual bored expression. The annoyance which had temporarily abated now returned with full force. What the hell was his problem? Did he think he was that goddamned righteous that he could lecture her on her duties as an exorcist? Master patted her head.
"And since you two are doing so well together, I'm going to ask a little favor of you both. The latest batch of Inductees decimated my training room this morning. General Fleming is out with pneumonia and I'm afraid I must cover his group as well." He shrugged his shoulders and sighed wearily in a dramatic fashion that had Lizzy wondering how many times he had practiced it in front of a mirror.
"So now I simply don't have the time to clean my room and my next batch of students begin their training at five so, if it wouldn't be too much trouble, could you two clean up the training room so I can at least hold session in there?" He put his hand on his hip and wagged his other finger at them cheekily.
"I only ask you because I trust you two more than any of these other kids. They're all sweet mind you, but they haven't much practical experience if you know what I mean." Cross smirked insolently.
"I suppose we're also expected to complete this alone right?" Lizzy threw him a light glare, what the hell was he smiling about? She herself could find nothing amusing about wasting what little free time she had cleaning up the messes of some spastic kids. Master only grinned wider.
"Of course my boy, the room isn't very big and with everybody being so busy, you needn't bother anyone else. I'm sure you'll be done far before five and besides-" he leaned down and wrapped an arm around their shoulders, pulling close them so they were leaning against his shoulders. "It's always more fun to do these sorts of things with a friend am I right?" He straightened up and clapped his hands.
"Right then! Thank you again, I owe you both one." He said, grabbing their hands and pulling them to their feet, gave them a light push towards the door. She knew her Master was spirited, borderline psychotic at times, but this seemed a little much even for him. He brought his hand up and gave them a cheerful wave as they stood by the door.
"Bye, bye children, this means a lot to me and remember to have fun with it!" he said cheerily. She gave a half-hearted wave, slightly depressed that she would have to spend so much alone time with Cross. Damn, she wished she could see Neah and ask him to help make this bearable, but he was literally on the other side of the world and out of reach. She sighed and resigned herself to an afternoon of awkward, mono-syllabic conversations and barely restrained arguments.
General Devdas continued to beam until the two kids exited the cafeteria to which he, and probably the rest of the cafeteria, sighed in relief. He swore he had to follow these kids constantly to make sure they didn't blow up at each other. It was maddening really. They were so close to crossing the bridge and reaching the potential they could only achieve together, but their collective stubbornness kept getting in the way. Hopefully a little forced labor will help them work out their differences.
Froi Tiedoll, a skilled young exorcist under aforementioned General Fleming, was walking past with his tray and passed just in front of him, a light smile playing on his face. "Curious, I just saw General Fleming in his office looking perfectly healthy. It's also strange that you would request two exorcists to do a job normally required of the Generals." Devdas grinned.
"My dear boy you appear to be overestimating my generosity. Not only have I diffused a fight that surely would've have taken down half the quadrant, but I now have free laborers to do the job I'm supposed to be doing." He patted the boy on his head.
"That is why you want to be a General, Froi; you would not believe the amount of work you can get out of by coercing young students. Now while those two clean my room, I believe I'm going to go back to my room and nap, would you like to take care of my paperwork for me?" Froi smiled and continued on.
Devdas just shook his head and hoped that finally those two would be able to get over themselves and actually become friends.
And it didn't hurt that his training room would get cleaned either.
It's good to be a General, he thought before going off to an important appointment with his couch.
Cross stepped back and observed the room. Master really hadn't been exaggerating when he had said that the kids had devastated it, it looked like a goddamned warzone in here. He sighed wearily and rubbed the back of his neck, thinking of how they would approach this. First they had to remove the excess rubble. How would they move and where would they put it? Maybe he could borrow something from the science department…
"Any ideas?" Lizzy huffed next to him, looking as defeated as he felt. There was no way they would finish this before five. He understood that his Master wanted them to bond and shit, but couldn't he have suggested a walk outside instead?
"Well we can't do anything until we get rid of all this debris, after that I guess we should try and scrub the scorch marks off of the walls. We could probably find new targets in the supply closet, so we'll probably have to set those up as well." Lizzy leaned her head back and moaned.
"Christ, this is going to take forever." He chuckled a little, despite how high and mighty she acted at times, she was just as human as the rest of them. Who knew?
"Yeah, well standing here isn't going to get this cleaned any faster. Might as well get this over with as soon as possible." He put his hands in the air and stretched, still feeling the last fading twitches from their fight in Derry. He watched Lizzy bend down and pick up a piece of wood which bore the faded traces of a painted Akuma face. It was smiling; really sometimes Master was too much. As she turned over the plank in her hands, he noticed the dark red scabs all along her hands which were slowly, but surely, healing over.
"How are they doing?" She looked up and he clarified with a light blush on his face. "You're um hands I mean." She shrugged uneasily and threw the piece over her shoulder into a little pile. They slowly got into the routine of grabbing material and setting it in the corner. After a few minutes, he had given up any hope of her answering when finally she spoke.
"They don't really hurt all that much anymore. I was more concerned about Neah anyway. I mean, you saw what Rachel's Innocence did to his hand." Cross nodded, it was strange the whole Noah thing and he was still having trouble wrapping his mind around it. To think that Innocence, God's power, would do that to someone. That there was a group of people loyal only to the Millennium Earl who were secretly pulling the strings of history while they hid in the shadows. That someone, someone as sweet as Neah Walker could be caught up in all this.
Cross had spent many nights awake replaying everything Neah had said to him, thinking about what it meant and wondering what he should do with such precious information. The most logical course of action would, of course, to be to report it immediately. To have someone that close to the Earl on their side could very well be the thing that ended this war. But here he was, almost two weeks later still keeping quiet about Neah's existence.
It was strange; he was doing so many illogical things lately. His eyes wandered to Lizzy.
"Yeah, but he took it in good grace, you saw how he was proudly showing it off the other day, like it was some glorious wound received in battle." Lizzy smiled at him and it felt nice. He was good-looking and he knew it; he had gotten used to the fact that pretty girls were always smiling at him.
But they didn't smile like she did and none of them made him feel like this.
"He's an idiot you know." He looked up surprised to hear her talking; she straightened up and brushed her hair out of her face looking over at him. "Neah is, you know, with what he's doing with us." She sighed and looked up to the ceiling. "I mean why would he do something like that?" she sighed.
"I've been thinking a lot about this promise we made and Neah is the one who suffers the most if this fails. I mean if we're caught, we'll be reprimanded I'm sure. Worst case scenario we'll be ex-communicated or something. But Neah-" she closed her eyes. "Neah stands to lose everything, his family, even his life if he's caught conspiring with us. It makes me wonder what kind of person you have to be to work toward something that can only hurt you the end." She looked over at him with wide eyes. "It makes me wonder if I can ever be that brave, to be willing to give so much for someone I barely know." Cross stared down at the piece of wood he was holding and smiled a little.
For all they argued, even before all this, he had thought she was brave. He may not have liked her, but he had always respected her.
Really, he was surrounded by idiots.
"You are brave. You just need to stop living in your fabulous past and do something with it. Quit acting so superior and start using your skills to actually help people." He felt the tension spike and he couldn't help but sigh. Great, now what did he say? Was he being insensitive to her delicate female emotions or some crap? Seriously, what was it with women and their damned feelings?
"And who are you to lecture me? You aren't exactly Mr. Personality yourself in case you haven't noticed so you have no right to talk to me like that!" She snapped and it echoed across the room. He sighed angrily; there was no talking to this girl sometimes. He was trying to be nice here, trying to tell her that she didn't need to act so self-important to get people to like her but would she listen? No. Instead she gets angry and decides to start another fight. Jesus, can't she handle a little constructive criticism?
"I might not be perfect, but at least I don't go around pretending that I am! You really think you're all that great? That you're something special? Well I hate to break it to you princess, but you're an exorcist same as everyone else. I don't care who the fuck you were out there, in here, the only thing that makes you better than the others is your synchronization. You're just as human as the rest of us, so start acting like it!"
He could practically see the steam rising from her ears as she glared at him. This was getting them nowhere fast. Not only were they slacking off on their work, but their chance of ever becoming friends was slipping away faster than sand through an hourglass. He should calm down, try and reason with her and explain to her what he really meant. But dammit, the woman was being so unreasonable!
"Don't you think I know that you asshole?" He furrowed his eyebrows, not expecting such an answer. "Don't you think I realize that I'm not good enough? I couldn't-I couldn't even save a little girl from a damned Akuma, so don't you stand there and tell me that I'm brave or I'm conceited because I'm not! Because I couldn't-I couldn't even save a little girl." She shouted, breathing deeply looking at him with saddened eyes. The heat of his anger was cooled by the mention of Rachel.
Christ, he could still feel her small hand in his and feel her blood splattering onto his face. He looked away and closed his eyes, trying to block out the memory, but Lizzy just kept talking.
"You really are a jerk sometimes, you know that Cross? You can stand there and have the audacity to yell at me when we're both just such failures? I mean, what the fuck is wrong with us that we can't-we can't save someone? We're supposed to be fucking exorcists and how come we can't even do that?" She shouted and Cross remained silent. What could he say? He knew how she felt, Rachel's death had haunted him as well and he was sure he would see her broken body and hear her awful rasping screams in his head for years to come. Lizzy slouched over as the fight went out of her.
"How-how is it that we can stand here and fight while little girls are dying because of us? Why do we have to be so fucking weak that can't even save one life?" He looked down.
"I-I don't know," he said softly kicking his feet against the floor. "That's something you're going to have to take up with God. But-but I don't think you're weak. You can curse all you want, but there's nothing wrong with being human." She looked up at him, but he ignored her gaze and went on collecting debris. "You can be so weird sometimes. I see you walk around the base acting like you're something special, like you're so much better than everybody else and it always makes me mad to see you belittle people like it was nothing." Another piece of wood was thrown in the pile as he continued.
"And then I saw you in Derry, I saw you fight first for the people on the train and later for Rachel, I saw you fall to your knees in grief as you lost someone you wanted to protect and, most of all, I saw you smile at Neah, offer him help. Despite knowing who he was and what he had done, you were willing to put everything else aside and see him for who he really was." He finally looked up at her.
"I don't know all the details of your story, but I know you didn't come here willingly and I know things got tense at home because of it. But watching you these past few weeks, I keep trying to reconcile these two people, the girl who sneers at other people's work and the girl who cried over a little girl's death." He sighed and shook his head.
"I just don't know why you have to act like a bitch when you could make a difference here. You're an amazing shot, but you spend all your time trying to live your old life when you're so much better than that." Lizzy didn't say anything, but just stood in the center of the room with her head hung low and her long tresses covering her face. He bit his lip, wondering if maybe he had overstepped his boundaries.
He had thought maybe something open and honest, something that Neah would've said, would help bring her down from whatever was causing her to act so out of character. It hadn't taken him long to realize that bitchiness wasn't her normal behavior, the real question was why she tried so hard to act that way? Still, it was a little imposing, even for him, and if they wanted this to work he should at least try and be a little considerate of her feelings.
They had to be able to work together if they wanted to defeat the Earl and so unraveling her trauma seemed the best way to achieve this.
"Hey um Lizzy, I uh hope I didn't upset you or anything it's just-" damn he was so bad at this kind of talk. He'd never had to console people before, much less girls; he had no idea what to say. His worry rose to panic as he saw her gasp hoarsely and raise her fists to wipe her eyes. Shit!
"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry! I-I-I didn't mean it really, I can be such an idiot sometimes, really, I was just um rambling you know, I wasn't even saying anything meaningful, so just ignore me!"
"It was so hard coming here," she said wiping away her tears. "I-I, my family they-" she bit her lip and turned away. "I was devastated, I didn't know what to do. I never really fit in there anyway. I was too independent for them, I wanted more than a rich husband and a big house, but-but they couldn't see that. They were-they were disappointed in me, they didn't say it, but they didn't have to. Coming here, I thought-I thought I was doing something wrong that-that God was punishing me for my presumptuousness or something." She wiped her face with her sleeve and looked at him tearfully.
"I want to help people, I really do. I believe in the Order and I believe in Neah because… because I have to! I have to have something to believe in or I think I'm going to die, I have nothing out there. I thought if I pretended I did, if I acted braver than I felt then I could get through this, but-but it's only made it harder." She laughed a little and looked at him sadly.
"Look at how pathetic I am, what do I have to complain about? I'm alive here while girls like Rachel are dead in their graves. I guess-I guess I really am pretty pitiful. What an exorcist I am."
Cross fiddled with his hands and rocked on his feet, trying to alleviate the discomfort in his body. He wasn't good with this sort of thing, was he supposed to go over and hug or did she want her space? He wasn't much for physical contact anyway so what then? He wanted her to stop crying. He didn't like how it made him feel and-and he didn't like to see her unhappy. He liked seeing her mad better than seeing her sad.
"I don't think you're pathetic." He said anxiously, taking a hesitant step forward and then another. "We all have family problems and it's something we have to deal with on our own. But-but there's nothing wrong with feeling…upset over that, I mean I understand. Me and my old man, w-we had a hard time too." She sniffed and looked up at him with those big, chocolate eyes of hers.
"You have problems with your father?" He rubbed his neck.
"Well um we did, he uh he-he kind of died a few months ago." She gasped and her hand flew to her face in surprise and sympathy.
"Oh my God, I'm so sorry, I didn't-I didn't mean to I mean I didn't know-" He breathed in through his teeth and looked at the ground still rubbing his neck. He never talked about his dad to anyone. How could he tell her that he had laughed when he heard of his father's passing, that he spent every moment living in that man's house in constant fear, that beneath all the fear and loneliness, he had nursed a secret hatred for the man that he was ashamed of?
"Trust me; it was no loss to anyone. The only people who probably mourned him were the bars who lost their most loyal customer." He sighed and rocked on his feet.
"My dad was a perpetual drunk, a walking hell once he had a little alcohol in him. I-If we're being completely honest here, he was a bastard who hit me whenever he saw me and never spoke to me unless it was to tell me how stupid I was. I spent all my time in the science department hoping he wouldn't find me, hoping I could escape the beatings and abuse for a day."
Well there, he had said it. This would be the first time he had ever directly told someone what his father did to him. This was the first time he didn't lie when he spoke his father's name. What had changed? hy was she so different?
"It must have been lonely." Lizzy said softly, he blinked. Lonely? He hadn't really thought about it. He'd had his books, his work and, later, his training as an exorcist. He had always been too busy to dwell on his situation and had merely accepted it as an unavoidable part of life. He'd never had any friends, but that didn't mean he was lonely right?
"I guess we were both lonely. You were hiding from your father, while I was hiding from my status." She laughed a little. "I guess Neah isn't the only one with a messed up family." He smiled.
"Are you kidding me? On my dad's worst day he never looked like the Earl. You've seen pictures of him; can you believe the ears on that guy? He could probably poke somebody's eye out with them." Lizzy snorted and brought her hand up to face in embarrassment. "Don't," he said gently, letting a tentative smile rise to his face. "Stop pretending to be something you're not." He put his hand behind his head.
"Besides, if you're going to look like a pig, you might as well sound like one."
"Takes one to know one." She retorted back, but there was no venom in her statement and she had a broad smile on her face as she wiped away the rest of her tears. He smirked.
"Now come on, now you've hurt my feelings." He said holding his hands over his heart. She laughed and waved him off as she began collecting wood again. He smiled again and noted how genuine it felt. When was the last time he had smiled like that, smiled at someone and really meant it?
It felt nice.
He cast one last glance over at her, before continuing with his pile. This just might work out after all. So they chatted lightly as they went about their work. Drifting from subject to another, not really caring what they were discussing, but just enjoying each other's company for once. Cross was glad he could get past Lizzy's icy exterior and actually talk to her. Lizzy was just happy to see him stop yelling. Pretty soon, as their Master had predicted, the chores were done before five and the training room was as clean as it would ever be.
"If the exorcism thing doesn't work we can have exciting careers as janitors." Cross said casually, giving her a teasing grin. She folded his arms and flipped her hair.
"Maybe be for you, but I've got a world to save." Same old Lizzy.
"Alright well," he said, slowly pulling back on his coat which had been thrown off when the walls were being scrubbed. "I'm not hanging around here any longer, who knows what other chores Master will give us if we stay here." Lizzy nodded in agreement and tugged her hair out of its tail.
"I was-" he paused, was it too early? No, dammit go for it. "I was going to try and get a few hours practice outside; I mean you don't have to, but if you want you can-you can join me." He said awkwardly, looking at the floor. He jerked a little in surprise as she walked up and linked her arm in his.
"I would love to," she said sincerely. "We both promised we get better after all, for Neah and for all the Rachel's of the world. So let's go and get as strong as we can be." She said with a smile, tugging on his arm tighter.
Cross wasn't sure what to make of this; he looked down at their connected arms and then back up to her. He wasn't really sure how to handle this type of situation, he'd never let anyone this close before.
Well, he might as well make the best of it, see where this road leads. It should prove interesting at the very least and who knows? He might have some fun along the way. He had told himself he was doing this because he was an exorcist, because it was his job, but maybe there were other motivations, maybe he could do this for her. He smiled back.
"Really now, what will the betting pool say?" He asked as they strolled out of the training area arm in arm. She raised an amused eyebrow.
"Are you kidding me? I bet five pounds last week that we would become the best of friends, with the way things are going, I'm gonna be rich." He looked at her incredulously.
"I did, I thought I might lose that five pounds for a while
but the tides are turning and things are looking up. Next time Neah comes, lunch is on me." She said with a wink.
Jesus Christ, what a girl. He began to laugh, laugh at the utter ridiculousness of the situation.
"You really are a bitch you know that." He said with a smile, giving her a light push.
"And you are a bastard, but between the two of us, I think we can be one real pain in the ass to the Millennium Earl." She swayed her hips and grinned cheekily.
Oh yeah, he could definitely get used to this.
"Come on children, this is a church! I'll have none of this disgraceful behavior in my Order! If you were my students you'd be scrubbing pans for a week!" A voice boomed behind them. Lizzy turned around and looked up with owlish confusion. It was so funny, Cross almost laughed.
General Fleming put his hands on his hips. "Well? Haven't you anything to say for yourselves?"
"What are you doing out of bed General?" Cross couldn't restrain the laugh this time and covered it with a bow. The look on the General's face was priceless.
"We're sorry for our conduct General, we'll be better next time." He said, pulling Lizzy away and down the next hallway. He couldn't keep the grin off of his face as they ran away from the perplexed man.
"But-" Lizzy started "But how? Master-Master said that he- pneumonia, there's no way-" He chuckled as he threw her a sideways grin, putting his hands behind his head.
"You're still fairly new to the Order Liz, let me tell you a little bit about how it works here and how sneaky Generals can be when it comes to their students' welfare."
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play?
Dear Prudence, greet the brand new day
The sun is up, the sky is blue, it's beautiful and so are you
Dear Prudence, won't you come out to play. ~ The Beatles
Well, another chapter down. If anyone is still reading this, I hope you enjoyed part 2 of the 4 introductory chapters. Before I continue any further I'd like to make one comment, while Lizzy is indeed an OC, one who has absolutely no root in DGM, I'd like you to at least give her a chance. My opinion on OC's is that, if done well, they can just as real as any 'actual' character. She was originally supposed to be a background character, someone to serve as a balance between the other people, but she refused to be so mundane and evolved in her own right. One of the greatest compliments my beta paid me was by mentioning that, had she not read DGM, she would've believed Lizzy was actually a part of the series. So please (holds up hands) don't hate just because I made her up.
On a random side note, most of my people, from exorcists to random people, are based on classic novels/authors, comic books and movies so Lizzy is named after and based on Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. You can have fun guessing name origins if you're nerdy enough!
Thank you to April Marciano for being my first actual reviewer, I'm keeping my lips sealed as to plot points, you're just going to have to read! Until we meet again
Dear Prudence (c) is the property of the Beatles