Sorry for taking so long with this-I was away at writing camp. Lots of fun. Anyway, hope you like!

Also, I'm looking for a beta reader for this. Send me a PM or mention in a review if you're interested? Thanks!

Disclaimer: See Chapter 1

Chapter Two: Pursuing Negotiators

"Are you certain about this, Brother Abel?" The silver-haired healer pushed her locks behind her ears and gazed at Abel, surprised.

The man she had addressed could indeed have been her older brother, with his matching hair and nearly-same blue eyes. But while Abel's were a clouded summer sky's shade, Kamaria's were midnight blue, though both could turn icy in an instant.

Abel was not the healer's biological brother anyway. Most people addressed him as 'Father', but he and Kamaria preferred a sister-brother relationship. As such, though not ordained herself, Kamaria addressed the priest as 'Brother'.

"As sure as I'm sure your tunic is green, Kitten," came his mild-mannered reply, ignoring her return growl. For reasons unknown, the healer did not appreciate being compared to a Cat. Ever.

Unlike many of the Vatican female employees, Kamaria did not wear the nun's uniform. Skirts, she claimed, were a hassle in battle, and in any case, white stained easily. And Kamaria had a penchant for getting her clothes stained. An accomplished doctor, she had saved the lives of people considered to be beyond help more than once.

Some cases, however, she would not take on. A good example would be the time Brother Petros of the Inquisition suggested she try to invent a cure for the Bacillus virus. No one had doubted that she would be capable of taking on the task.

Kamaria, however, had given him a polite but forceful 'no.' She refused to meddle in something that had been a part of people for so long. That fell under her definition of 'playing God.'

No one asked her again.

In any case, skirts had an alarming tendency to get stained around Kamaria, whether they were hers or not. So she clad herself in a healer's green tunic-smock and a boy's trousers and shirt. Add a large knapsack, organized full of herbs and other medical supplies, several concealed weapons, and Kamaria was ready go.

And now, they were on what might well be the most important mission of her and Abel's employment in the Vatican—a mission that might well cause their side's downfall if it was discovered.

The public story was that a Methuselah had attacked Cardinal Sforza just after a bomb had gone off in the embassy, but she had been narrowly saved by enforcement officer Tres Iquus. In actuality, the Methuselah had not attempted to harm the Cardinal, but Tres had attacked believing her in danger—a natural idea after the bombing just minutes before. Cardinal Catherine Sforza had confided later that she believed the 'attacker' to actually be a messenger from the Empire. Someone had to find him, and quickly, before he returned to his home with news of betrayal.

Kamaria's heart thudded at the thought of contacting someone from the Methuselah again. If only she could somehow find a way to ask about…

No. She couldn't think about him. She couldn't.

"Something wrong, Kamaria?"

"Hmm?" She blinked, and found Abel worriedly peering at her, waving a hand in front of his face.

"You've been staring off into space for the last two minutes," Sister Esther Blanchette informed her. The newly ordained nun had hit it off quickly with Kamaria, and often spent long hours talking with her in their native Hungarian.

"Oh, never mind that, Esther. Just going through a mental checklist. Now, where are we going? Do you have a lead on the whereabouts, Abel?"

Abel grinned, and pulled out a map. Placing it down, he pointed out two positions on it. One was their current location. The other was the headquarters of an old dummy company.

"…The wound will heal soon, Ion."

Radu smiled quietly as he tied off the bandage, clipping it in an oddly familiar gesture.

Ion grumbled, muttering under his breath about the humiliation of being shot by Terrans, and then being bedridden from the injury.

"You were lucky," Radu informed him. "A shade to the left and it would have struck your heart."

Ion gasped. "Was that metal marionette really so skilled as to be a danger?" His face reddened in anger that he had even considered such a thing. "No chance! He fired at random without skill!" Punching the pillow to emphasize his point, he yelped a second later as the punch aggravated his shoulder.

Shaking his head, Radu chuckled. "You know who would be standing over you yelling at us both now if she were here?"

Ion grimaced. "How could I forget? You act almost the same way now. Sometimes I wonder who taught who first aid."

Radu laughed, but his heart wasn't in it.

"Are you sure that was wise, Abel? Leaving Esther behind?" Kamaria frowned, straining out her senses. Somehow the healer was uneasy.

"We aren't allowed to involve any nonsenior members of AX in this mission, Kamaria. Secrecy is vital, and the only reason an exception is being made in your case is because everyone trusts you to hold your tongue and heal anyone who's hurt. Besides, once you heard a Methuselah was hurt, you requested to be involved. Esther, on the other hand, still hates many Methuselah, I fear."

"I know. So many of the short-lived race do." The healer sighed as she followed him. "I wish that could change…"

"Me, too. Someday…" Abel's voice had a slightly bitter taint—very unusual for him.

"Well, we've no time now to dwell on someday. We're almost there. Let's go in…and finish this." Kamaria forced herself to switch back to practicality.

They were barely inside the door however, when they heard a howl from upstairs.


"Curses. Are the Inquisition already here?" Abel gasped as he dashed upstairs, Kamaria one step behind.

"No, I can't feel them around here. But there are at least two Methuselah and one normal Terran in here besides us…Not that we count as normal Terrans, do we…"

Even in the heat of fear and a pounding heart, Abel had to chuckle at Kamaria's usual irony.

"For the last time." An icy cold voice came from the room up ahead of them as the pair jerked to a silent stop. "Terran. Put down your weapon."

"No, you put down your weapon," Abel declared, cocking his pistol and placing it at the Methuselah's forhead. Mentally, Kamaria cursed that she could not see over or past her tall friend into the room as he continued. "If you throw that knife, I will do something horrible to you. Something very horrible!"

"F-Fa-ther!" stammered an all too familiar voice. Idiotic newbie…

"It's all right, Esther," Abel smiled over the Methuselah's shoulder, cocking the index finger of his free left hand in a you-come-here gesture.

Kamaria heard someone getting up and stepping forward with clicking high heels and swishing skirts. "Father, these two are Boyars—Nobles of the Empire. We should take them in for questioning."

"Would you excuse me a moment?" Abel inquired of the Methuselah next to him, stepping forward to meet the nun. "Miss Esther—"


It was a mild punishment often reserved for disobedient, excited newbies who didn't know how to obey orders. Kamaria had had it happen to her twice in the past. Each time, she had tried to go after a fallen comrade to bring them in for healing.

"I am certain I told you to wait for us outside. So, not only did you disobey me, but you also engaged in hostile actions. Who taught you to act this way?"

Taking this as her cue to enter, Kamaria ducked under Abel's arm and moved past him into the room. The abashed nun, her hand on the abused cheek, appeared quite sheepish and confused.

Kamaria shook her head, moving past the girl to her presumed patient, the Methuselah groaning on the floor, and gazed disapprovingly at his condition. "Esther, I'm surprised at you. How could—"

Kamaria suddenly stopped speaking. Her face went white as she stared at the Methuselah. "ION?! Then…"

Spinning, she faced Abel and the male by his side.


The blue-haired ifrit stared at her in equal shock. "Kamaria…"

The healer started, her expression shifting back into a blank mask. "It's been a while, Baron of Luxor, Earl of Memphis. I see you haven't changed a bit when it comes to getting yourselves into scrapes."

"Sister Kamaria, you know them?!" Esther was shocked.

"Sister?!" Ion shouted, incredulously.

"It's Healer, Esther, not Sister," sighed the green-garbed girl, staring upward in exasperation. "I told you, I'm not a member of the Vatican. I just treat anyone who needs it and tries to keep things diplomatic. And yes, I do know them—or I thought I did, anyway."

She turned away and knelt on the floor next to Ion. "Carry on, Abel. This Methuselah needs some more treatment. Though you've done an admirable job, Radu Barvon."

"Kamaria, what are you doing here?!" Ion exclaimed.

"At the moment," she retorted, "I am trying to heal a very ungrateful and uncooperative Methuselah. Now hold still, boyo." Carefully, she moved forward and began to unwind the bandages around his shoulder.

"That is not what I meant and you know it," spat the Earl. "Why are you here with the Vatican—ow!"

"Stop yelling out proofless accusations or I'll make it hurt a lot worse. Now shut up, you big baby, and let me take care of that. As for your question, I am here because Father Tres Iquus confirmed that he'd wounded an intruder the night before and we wanted to make sure you survived to negotiations. Besides, I wanted to know what was happening in the Empire. Oh my, this is pretty nasty. Here, let's put something on it to prevent the gangrene infecting it." Reaching into a side pocket on her bag, Kamaria pulled out a tin of lotion and began to gently apply it to the wound.

"Kamaria, you know them?" Abel's voice had lost some of the shock, but not all of it.

"I do, Abel. They are very trustworthy friends. I can see why the Empress chose them to send on the mission. Oh, by the way, Radu, you aren't allowed to set me on fire while I'm treating Ion."

"Hey!" protested the ifrit. "I don't set people on fire!"

Ion laughed. "She's just getting a rise out of you, Radu."

"Oh, I don't know," purred the healer, wrapping a bandage around his shoulder. "I seem to recall him threatening to singe my hair if I tried to get out of bed before I was fully healed."

"Did you really, Radu? I don't recall that," Ion chuckled.

"Do you two have anything at all to do other than roast me?" growled the ifrit, stalking over to them.

"Well…" Kamaria stood up. "There is one thing I owe to you both, after that time."

Before either male could react, she gave each of them a kiss on the cheek.

"That's for friendship and gratitude," she declared over their sputtering. "All right, Ion, you can get up now. I'm finished with you."

Turning to Esther and Abel, she sighed. "I suppose I owe you guys a bit of an explanation. Unfortunately, I don't think we have enough time for one as complete as I'd like. We need to get these two to Cardinal Caterina so they can do their negotiating and we can send them home under the Inquisition's nose."

Abel nodded. "Right. But then you owe all of us an extra big explanation. All I knew was who your parents were and that you'd visited the Empire, nothing like this—"

"Ion." Radu's eyes flicked toward the window as a dull, guttural roaring picked up in Kamaria's ears.