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January 8th, 2019

4pm

 

 

 

 

 

At first it was bright.

 

Surprising.

 

Then agonizing. Skin seared a vicious red, prickled panic shooting up his flesh to pull a sharp seethe from his teeth. It was instinctual, jerk away from the oven more of defiant incredulousness than anything else. What did he do?

 

WHAT did he DO??

 

Dropping the pan on top of the oven, footsteps were quick in the small kitchen, the dead smack center of the lunch rush murmuring in the front of the small mom and pop café. He’d forgotten to use his apron to pull the tray out of the oven.

 

*npc* Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…. What on earth did you do?

 

Eyes reflected at her with a confused sheen, cradling the offended hand with his other in refusal to show her. He didn’t know what to do, pacing. Stunned. Mira pulled his babied hand carefully from the clutch of the other, turning on the faucet and placing it underneath. What was he thinking? He’d been so careful….flinching as the water sluiced over his palm.

 

*npc* Darn it, you got that good.

 

Breath was a bit quick.

 

Dear god he’d burned himself.

 

He knew pain. He knew more pain than most could even imagine. This? This was beyond pain. It was psychological whiplash.

 

Hand was shaking under the water. It was painful, the bright flashes of frayed nerves warping his hearing in and out. There were more flickers that slapped inside his brain like a whip, flashbacks. Burning skin and helplessness. They were getting worse lately, the cold he couldn’t seem to shake out of his bones an annoyance that was coming back to haunt him as well.

 

*npc* You’re working too fast, don’t worry… we handle this rush fine every day. I’ll get Dominic off the floor to finish your orders. Keep this under the water for a few more minutes.

 

He started to protest, the hazel eyes under a brow of incredible character flashed back at him. The mother of three shushed him and went to find the other cook. The humble former priest….assassin…viciously talented mage…. whatever…. shushed by a soccer mom. Mira owned the corner diner and coffee shop, loved his cooking, wanted him to work more hours though he said he didn’t need to get paid any more. His hands now created, worked hard, then went home every day to a gentle and plain hole in the wall to pick up a book and read until he fell asleep. The simplicity of his life now echoed before the world had ended. Maybe someday he could scrape together enough to have his own place, for now… having so little was overwhelmingly enough.

 

Gray watched the skin of his palm with an odd fascination. Where flame used to be, there was now nothing. After a few moments, he wrapped it in gauze from the first aid kit in the break room and continued under the concerned browbeating of his boss, Mira. Dominic returned to bussing tables.

 

The pain pricked at him, lunch rush flying by like it did every day. Kitchen cleaned, sitting in the break nook to finally peel the gauze back and really look at his hand.

 

*npc* You don’t eat enough. Made you a sandwich, let me look at that.

 

She plucked his hand from his bubble.

 

*npc* Let me get something on this before you leave. You should really keep an eye on this.

 

She dressed it properly, a flinch every now and again from the quiet features, handing him his pea coat. He slid it on, picking up the sandwich with a quiet thanks before leaving for the day. He never stayed to chat. Winding his scarf around his neck to keep out the chill and adjusting his hood, he stepped out into the tepid winter and slid the offended hand into his pocket to make his way home.

 

It was a long walk.

 

Sure, there were buses and subways, but he preferred to walk. It gave him time to think, time to breathe, but damn it was cold. He was always cold. Cutting through the park, he sat for a moment out of the wind and pulled his hood closer around his features, studying a winter silenced carousel as he finished the sandwich and dusted his hand of on his jeans. Sigh was quiet, he’d forgotten to take off his apron, frowning slightly as he slipped his hand from his pocket and looked at Mira's handiwork.

 

Irony was not lost on him.

 

Tomorrow was his day off. Library maybe? He wasn't sure. Nothing was better than a day spent reading... lately though, even that was lonely.

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He knew she was there, even before the footsteps got closer. She’d been following him for a few blocks, dressed like a college student, earbuds most likely silent and just for show- which, was why he sat, not just to get out of the wind for a moment, but to see if his instincts were actually still one of things he possessed even though everything else had been taken from him. The non-existent former magus had spent every waking moment becoming and being a killer since the Resonance, it wasn’t that easy to pluck it from his system. It was a cancer, something that still pulsed in his blood even though he desperately wanted it out. So when she’d pushed off the side of the building about fifteen minutes earlier to follow him at a distance, he knew… Question was, why?

 

Hackles had instantly spiked. The magus was impotent. Other than being able to snap someone’s neck or stab them in the throat before they could throw a spell, he was fairly useless; in the grand scheme of fighting other magus anyway. That very thought was why his anger prickled deeper than he still acknowledged it to exist. In the back of his mind the Order didn’t believe everything that had been “leaked”, and Cass was still in the crosshairs. As long as she was connected to the King of New York in any fashion, she was never out of the crosshairs. None of them were. Despite all the façade, he knew better. He knew the darkness, and lately it had been whispering to him again.

 

Even the church had been no sanctuary. It was odd how people clung to things that brought back old emotions. Some of the largest cathedrals in the world still existed in New York, even they held no comfort. Lighting candles, sitting or kneeling for hours as scripture he had engrained in his memory was recited like meditation to clear his body of the anger that burned there instead of flame… especially after the “counseling sessions” he’d agreed to that consisted of really nothing more than him staring at the therapist, looking at his hands and swearing in Italian. Far from cured… his shell not even close to cracked. He was definitely a failure on that part of the terms.

 

He was fidgeting with the gauze on his hand when she plopped down next to him on the bench, not even bothering to pull out the earbuds. They sat in silence next to each other for almost ten minutes. He could reach her from where she sat, faster than she could probably cast. Smashing her throat so she couldn’t speak to throw it, unless she was that good. To be sent after him? Maybe. She wouldn’t have gotten this close unless she could fend off the fact he could melt the skin from her bones at this distance, or she knew he now couldn’t.

 

*npc* You ever want to know what happened to her?

 

Eyes slid to the side under his hood.

 

The college freshman settled back onto the bench, stuffing her hands in her pockets and stretching her legs out to cross at the ankles.

 

*npc* After your world turned to ash?

 

The words that tripped off her lips were very articulate, snide almost. A burning panic rush burst to prickle over his skin, unlike anything he’d ever felt. Yet, he didn’t move, still fiddling with the gauze on his hand. He wasn’t breathing. What WAS this???

 

Mind was racing so fast he couldn’t separate his thoughts.

 

*npc* Think about it.

 

Muscles didn’t even think, ignoring his injuries, the pain, in favor of launching himself at her like a freight train to crush her throat until she agreed to tell him everything. The world spun and shattered at the same time.

 

He couldn’t breathe, the wind had been knocked out of his lungs, streaking pain as he tried to pull it back in. Sidewalk cold, disoriented fingers reached up to touch the back of his head, it was bleeding from the slam to the concrete. The woman’s shadow hovered over him, her toe kicking the side of his arm.

 

*npc* I’ll be in touch.

 

She quivered and was gone. A magus. A phasing magus of some kind with punk ass strength.

 

What did she want, to break him completely? To pull him back into the world that he’d dragged himself out of? To torture him? ARMA trying to punish him? There was no one he could ask for help. ARMA was suspicious of him, the Order would pull him in and kill him. He had nobody.

 

Nobody he could ask for help.

 

None alive knew he had a child, except that thing that had taken her. He’d never spoken of it, ever. It was the sin he’d kept this long. Confessed to no one. That moment in time was only between him and his maker, and now someone in this world was dragging it from him. Manipulating him. Torturing him. To this point, he’d come to a calm solace that she’d died that day, that her soul had been lifted to a better place. Why come to him now? Was she alive? This was a lie, trying to agitate him, to get him to break... it had to be.

 

Heated moisture was whisked from the sides of his eyes by the gauzed hand, finally pushing himself up to sit on the sidewalk and eventually push himself up. Shoulders shuddered moment as he drew a breath, wanting to scream, break things, tear things apart, burn the world down….but he was freezing… he couldn’t tolerate the rest of the walk home until he warmed up and he knew exactly where to find some. Something he needed, but no longer truly believed in. It would give him a chance to calm down, to figure out what had just happened... to prevent him from doing something really stupid.

 

Hands shoved in his pockets and visibly shivering, he made the trek to the large cathedral near his tiny apartment that he frequented, trotting up the steps and pushing inside before he completely lost it in front of the world… These last months, he was starting to come unglued. He had to level off- be away from people, hide for at least moment to give himself permission to fall apart...when you prayed, nobody asked why you wept.

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“I still search for you in crowds,

in empty fields and soaring clouds.

In city lights and passing cars,

on winding roads and wishing stars.”

― Lang Leav, Lullabies

 

She could’ve stopped the attack.

 

Standing there, observing the exchange from the opposite side of the street, Cassandra had watched the two on the bench. Making out the face of the person talking to Rhome was not possible, but she knew by their body language and that of Rhome’s own it wasn’t a pleasant exchange. She had suspected it wouldn’t be given how the person was following him.

 

Aren’t you following him? Will this exchange be any different?

 

That voice in her head was firmly ignored while Cassandra stood there waiting to see what would happen.

 

When Rhome dived, and the magus vanished, she didn’t move. That voice in her head hollered at her to move, to help him, but she remained still — just watching. That bitter, angry part of her taking satisfaction from watching him get hurt. Took pleasure in the way his head hit the concrete and the blood that came away on his fingertips when he touched the wound. When the woman appeared again to kick him before disappearing, she observed in silent fascination.

 

A magus that could phase.

 

That was different. Something worth telling ARMA about for sure.

 

It was only when she noted his hand swipe at his eyes that the guilt swept through her. She could’ve helped somehow. Any of those normally assigned to watch him would have stepped in as soon as they noticed him being followed. Cassandra had watched out of sheer curiosity; some sadistic desire to watch him experience pain like she was feeling. Had his life been in danger she would’ve done something though.

 

Would you? You aren’t acting like yourself.

 

Ignoring that judgmental voice, Cassandra watched Rhome move off and took a moment to call ARMA about the phasing magus. Once done she headed off in the direction she’d seen him go. As she followed him it was hard not to notice the way he shivered from the cold, or wonder what he’d done to his hand, and she hated herself for wanting to comfort him. She hadn’t been assigned Rhome. Even if that had been in her job description, nobody would ever assign her to follow him. Alistair would have their hide if they’d dared to do it. However, she had stopped the person assigned to him today and told them that there’d been a change of plans. . . and so here she was instead of off investigating The Guillotine Murders.

 

When Rhome turned into the Cathedral, Cassandra waited on the steps outside. Debating the wisdom of going inside. She didn’t even really know why she was here. Fingers played with the wolf charm on the chain at her neck as she was deep in thought; green knee-length military coat pulled buttoned almost to her neck except where a silk Italian scarf the color of the Mediterranean hung down. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to get rid of the charm or the scarf. Each time she tried, it emotionally ripped her apart all over again.

 

What am I doing here? I shouldn’t be. . .

 

She shouldn’t be, but her boots were leading her inside before she could re-consider. The large door closing behind her was loud in the oppressive quiet inside. It was lit well though still shadowy the further in she went toward the pews. There were candles lit up front that drew the eye yet her gaze was locked on the man kneeling in prayer.

 

She stood in the middle of the row of pews, halfway between the door and Rhome, unable to go any further.

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Lips moved, it was an ancient language, an elegant one… capable of lilting into a beautiful  cadence that could go on for eternity.  Meant in essence to perhaps meditate on the most base level, to leave this plane of existence for a moment.  For him it was just that, it was a path of forgetting, a symphony he could remember and create in his consciousness that pulled him away from what was actually happening in his world.  Everything fell away, anger and frustration, the ARMA banter and constant abase for his chosen path.  They looked at him with suspicious eyes, for good reason, but he knew those that claimed path of righteousness had done the same or worse.  It burned at him daily, but he had chosen to live with it instead of blindly being a dog on a choke chain.  The flicker of the steps of candles in front of him, shuffle of fabric and sound of the main doors opening and closing through an otherwise quiet sanctuary of troubles had faded in his moments of silence. 

 

Something as simple as an itch was what finally brought him from the world of memorized verse, verse that now held more questions than meaning.

 

The irritation of dried moisture on the sides of his cheeks started to tickle, unconsciously bringing his bandaged hand up to rub fingertips against his lashes as his whispers slowed and went silent.  It didn’t register at first, the pain no longer burning on the palm of his hand.  Fingers opened, silvery eyes perplexed briefly as the other found the edge of his boss’ handiwork and unwound the attempt at first aid.  Even more confused.  The skin, was no longer blistered.  Red, painful, but no longer blistered. 

 

Brow dipped.

 

Healing was never a part of his “gifts”.  He was just immune to heat.  Why was his skin no longer reacting to thermal damage?  As horrifying and mentally scarring as it had been, this was potentially worse.

 

Pause was long, staring at it.

 

Did he dare?

 

Was this some sort of trick?

 

Had the woman done something to him in her sudden ass kickery that he wasn’t expecting?  This had to be a test.  How long had it been since…

 

Instinctual.

 

Breath pulled into tired lungs, looking for something, a warmth that had cooled from his core to leave an ever present frigid emptiness.  Fingertips rubbed together softly, they flushed at first, the white of cold flesh that was just starting to warm from being inside disappearing as he watched. Forehead furled, reaching forward to pinch thumb and forefinger together on the unburnt wick of a prayer candle next to so many others already burning.  He opened them minutely, fingertips flushing until a flicker began to take hold, pulling his hand back slowly as to not allow the wane little flicker to grow.

 

Brow dipped, watching the flame take hold with a “little match girl” fascination, flushing memories loose that had long been forced into protected coffers.  Another, then another, finally opening his hand the second the quivering halo of warmth could be felt under the burned palm, inviting the entire wall of his small corner of darkness to gracefully illuminate each unlit candle in a delicate wave.

 

Silver eyes watched each flicker, standing slowly at the realization of his handiwork.  Fingers closed at his side, the soft lights just as gently fading as if they never were, the feel of eyes on him casting a quick glance over his shoulder one way… nobody.  Then the other.

 

Cass.

 

She’d been following him.  Offending fingers tightened to a fist.

 

It had been… how long? How long had it been since he’d been tethered to a table and refused to give up his past?  He reached instinctively to pull up his hood, pocket his hands into his jeans and move toward the side of the sanctuary to avoid her.  She’d seen what he’d done.  She’d seen and would report it.  They’d come for him.  They’d kill him this time, or worse, turn him over to the Order.  The new face he knew was a facade for the horrible atrocities.  They'd kill him. He was a relic.  A relic that knew too much.  It was odd, the sudden need for self-preservation.  Why?  He’d never cared for himself before.  Why now?

 

Because Abrielle was alive.  Nobody knew about her but him. Nobody, and now someone suddenly did.  Why toy with him, knock him on his ass in the park if not to torture him? Get him to do something, to betray those he’d promised not to in exchange for leniency?

 

The thought stopped him in his tracks, face snapping toward Cass the instant he recognized the blue.  She was wearing the scarf he’d given her.  Not trashed it, or burned it.  If anyone would understand....

 

He turned, stride taking him through a row of pews straight in her direction.  There was no introduction, no calm “I’m sorry” or “why are you here”?  Within reaching distance his hands came from his pockets, thumbs over her cheeks to pull her into something he hadn’t done in over a decade.  The kiss wasn’t a cheek peck, or a brush… it was desperate and deep. Forehead pressing gently against hers as their lips finally parted, lashes pressed tightly together. He didn’t want to see her expression, was terrified if he opened his eyes there would be hate and disgust on her face.

 

[santo]I need your help.  I don’t know where else to go.  I’ll tell you everything, I just need your help.  Please.[/santo]

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Binding wasn’t always a permanent solution. Sometimes the bind faded, had to be re-applied. . . but this was too soon. No, Rhome’s binding shouldn’t have come undone yet. They’d kept an eye on him enough to know if it was back, but as she stood in the cathedral watching the candles there was evidence to the contrary. The flames flickered to life with the proximity of his hand; growing just a little until he pulled it back. And all she could do was shake her head. How had this happened?

 

Has he been in contact with someone in the Vatican? Was it that phasing magus? Or has he been playing us?, the questions went through her mind filled with suspicion as she watched him in silence.

 

Cassandra knew that he was unaware of her presence. Bitter though it made her feel? She was also thankful for it. Even if she always noticed his presence. . . at least now he wasn’t aware of hers and that gave her time to think about the wisdom of this foolish plan. Alec would be angry if he knew she was here. Alistair even more. But she’d had to come. Hadn’t she?

 

Looking at him raised a thousand questions; ones that remained unanswered even though she’d yelled most of them at him in that interrogation room. She hated the feelings that he evoked in her. That there was still love in her heart for him after the betrayal made her feel angry. Yet it hadn’t lessened. Just as she was re-thinking confronting him, and was about to turn to leave, she felt his gaze on her.

 

Cassandra would never forget that sensation.

 

The way he’d looked at her had made her heart race then, and it did the same now. Made it freeze in her chest before it kicked into high like she’d just ran a marathon. Blue eyes locked on his own gaze without any preparation to shield the emotions there from him. Pain, anger, confusion, worry, vulnerability all there for him to see. The shock of being alone with him — now that he was aware of her — was overwhelming to her system. She was aware of the way he moved away, avoiding her, but more than that awareness was the one when he noticed the scarf.

 

The way his gaze narrowed on it made her skin flush. Part of her was pleased the charm was hidden from his view. Both of the items were signs of the weakness within herself that he’d not only preyed on, but also expanded upon for when it came to him. . .

 

She was the weakest she’d ever been.

 

The shame that rushed through her made it hard to process what happened next. Before Cassandra realized, he was there in front of her and his hands were on her face. . . and his lips were pressing against her own. There was a voice in her head that screamed this wasn’t alright, that she should fight him, but all she felt was the rush of everything they’d been before as she offered herself up to his kiss. Hands lifting to grasp his wrists, to hold his hands against her chilled skin; they both hated the cold so much, and she recalled shielding him with her magic that first day and then. . . all the times afterward she’d basked in the warmth he offered both magically and physically.

 

Lost to the taste and touch of him, it took Cassandra a moment to acknowledge the kiss had been broken. Lids lifted slowly to see that he wasn’t looking at her. His eyes were still shut, and his hands still pressed palms against her cheeks — cheeks that were damp with tears.

 

When had she started crying?

 

His words penetrated the fog.

 

♎ "I need your help.  I don’t know where else to go.  I’ll tell you everything, I just need your help.  Please."

 

The haze started to clear a little; realization of what she’d just allowed to happen sharply cutting through her. It felt like a knife to the chest. A gasp of breath was sucked between her teeth as hands dropped and she jerked away from him. Before she could think about it, one hand raised against to connect with her palm against his cheek now. The harsh CRACK! echoing in the quiet of the cathedral.

 

[cassg]How dare you. . . No, you don’t get to do that. You don’t ge-get to touch me or kiss me or as-ask me for help. .[/cassg] Sucking in another breath, she tried to rein in the anger arcing through her body.

 

Her shield didn’t come up, magic remaining dormant, in response to the emotions raging inside. And that was a shock too — she should be afraid of him. She wasn’t though. Turning around, she shoved her hands through her hair and gripped tightly as she tried to get ahold of herself. Drawing in a couple breaths to help fight against the sting of more silent tears, Cassandra fought for control. . . and achieved it after a couple of long, hard minutes.

 

With that clearing of mind came another realization though: she couldn’t refuse him.

 

Cassandra wanted to tell him to go to hell. She wanted to tell him that she didn’t owe him anything. She wanted. . . to be angrier than she actually was, but that wasn’t happening. She wanted to help him, and knew that whatever made him ask for help was serious. Not only had she heard it in his voice, but she knew it the minute he offered to tell her everything. This was her chance to get all the answers she’d been seeking. Drawing in a deep breath through her nose, she breathed out slowly and then wiped swiftly at her cheeks before turning around.

 

[cassg]Fine. I’ll help you. But first you tell me everything, Rhome. You become an open fucking book. If you lie to me even once? That’s the end of it.[/cassg]

 

She cursed in a holy place, completely uncaring, as she leveled a hard look on him and shoved her hands into the pockets of her coat. Calling him Rhome? That helped give her a little more distance, because thinking of him as Matty would break her again. Now she waited for him to decide what he wanted to do.

 

 

[ooc note: let me know if anything isn't okay. her hitting him just seemed. . . a fitting reaction lol]

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The moment, should have been eternal, calm, loving, but it stung of flames. Excruciating, fires of hell themselves that burned away someone he hopelessly loved a long time ago. Someone that held a secret, someone that had brought something into this world that he'd been searching for. That search had led to hopeless pain, hopeless loss and actions unconscionable. Now, it was happening again.

 

No heat, no pain this time.. but he felt it anyway. He'd taken a risk to reach out and was met with fury. One more person disappointed, hurt by his actions when all he'd ever wanted was to protect her. He HAD protected her, and still she distrusted him. Horrible things he'd done had a part in it, but the Mage had surrendered. Surrendered everything. Hope. Loyalties. He'd vowed to turn traitor.

 

But he had no right to ask anything of her?

 

The sting of the slap echoed through every bone, every nerve. Igniting.

 

Igniting.

 

Head hadn't moved back to look at her, eyes had narrowed on the few people that were in the building.

 

[santo]...get out... [/santo]

 

Jaw ticked, veins just under his skin shimmering in blue as he forced every drop of blood to buck the binding clinging on with thin thread, watching the prayers flee in silence. The woman had done something when she phased through him... something awful. Freed? Or damned him?

 

The few picked up their things and scurried out.

 

[santo]You want to know? [/santo]

 

Eyes finally fell on her, the rage building in his gut undulating just under his skin in blue flame. Fingers moved insanely quick, beyond the capacity for rational thought, producing a knife from nowhere and sinking it into the top of a pew with such force it could have broken through skull. He always carried it. In seconds the apron he still wore ignited in a tightly controlled quiet whoosh of white-hot flame and fluttered to the ground in ash.

 

[santo]The truth? The truth... [/santo]

 

Eyes peered at her through dark lashes. His stance was no longer the meek and gentlemanly shy boyish charm. It was a rock, intimidating... and infuriated.

 

Flesh cooled, instead producing a wisp of flame over his form so hot it began to crackle the wood on the pews next to him.

 

Decades of varnish and lemon scented polish bubbling.

 

[santo]I can melt the skin from your bones. I can take anything your brother throws and ignite it. I can level six city blocks. I can slit your throat without you ever knowing I was there. I can touch you and burn you alive instead if you prefer. I can sever your limbs. I can melt metal. Stone. I can turn myself into the fires of hell. Rain fire like a monsoon. I am made to kill. My job is to kill. I'm the one they send when everyone else has failed. I served them because my unchecked power destroyed my family. I have nothing else.[/santo]

 

As quickly as the terrifying show of power appeared, it stopped. Features softened. He was a weapon, that was evident. A weapon that no longer wanted to be one.

 

[santo]Except you. You were a target. You think I still haven't had to do terrible things to keep you alive after I dropped off their radar? [/santo]

 

Fingers twitched quietly at his sides, a speck on his shoe incredibly interesting.

 

[santo]....nothing else about me matters. Forget I asked. [/santo]

 

Hands pulled up his hood, making his way through the pews away from her. It would only be a short time before ARMA was at his door for this. At this moment he didn't care anymore. His priority was finding his daughter, pulling them from the OFL'S hands, and getting her into ARMA'S folds. He trusted Cass. Cass would take care of her, after he would most likely be killed in the process.

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Cassandra had become a statue. His reactive fury inducing an eerie stillness not out of fear, but out of hurt. Hurt at the familiarity of those last words that’d been a mantra in her head that disturbed her waking and sleeping hours.

 

I'm the one they send when everyone else has failed.

 

It wasn’t phrased quite the same way, but the meaning was the same. It’d been what he said when she pointed out during the interrogation that others had been sent. Then it was like a knife, and remembering now wasn’t any different. That mantra had driven her back to old habits and made her start to wake again in cold sweats with a knife in hand. She didn’t know if she’d ever forget them or the emotionless way he’d said them that day. It was a stark reminder of how easily his betrayal had unraveled much of the progress made in her life since being freed by her brother.

 

There was also pain though — for him. What he’d suffered when Resonance came, when he’d gained his abilities. . . that the Vatican had taken advantage of to shape him. That he was still trying to protect her? That didn’t come as a surprise at all and he’d be able to see that on her face. She knew that he was still trying to which was what brought her here today.

 

♎ "....nothing else about me matters. Forget I asked. "

 

When he turned to walk away though? That was when the anger flared again to match his own. The emotion fueled her enough that she used on of her abilities without needing the initial build-up; something that didn’t happen often thankfully, and that she’d have to work on more later she acknowledged. The tiny speed spell made her move fast, leaving a purple-blue trail in her wake as she zoomed in front of him to block his path.

 

[cassg]No, goddamn you. No. You don’t get to walk away from me![/cassg]

 

The words were loud, the last shouted, echoing off vaulted ceiling for any in the church to hear. They’d fled when he’d told them to get out, but some hadn’t gone for or left the confines of the church entirely. Just this area. Some still listened through cracked doors. She didn’t hear the outraged gasps or see the nervous movements as she went on with openly visible anger, [cassg]I deserve all of it. I fucking deserve every bit of truth about yourself that you have to offer after what you did to me. I deserve to know—[/cassg]

 

. . . if you ever actually loved me.

 

Jaw clenched shut on the words before they could escape. They were written all over her face though. The flush that crept up her neck into her cheeks, the quivering bottom lip, the tear-glazed blue eyes that dodged his gaze — all showed him pure vulnerability.

 

This was what he’d done: stripped all the defenses built after what’d been done to her, made her trust him, and planted himself in her heart only to spit all over it. Leaving her heartbroken and raw; struggling even more with her issues of trust. She hated that he’d done this to her, but hated more the urge to shove him onto a pew and take him. Wanting that wasn’t right, but she did nonetheless. The thought made Cassandra’s face turn a brighter red as right hand lifted to fidget nervously with a chain just under her scarf. Oddly that helped rein in the fury enough to let her speak calmly now.

 

Blue eyes still not meeting his own, but instead focused on a bible that’d been dropped on the floor.

 

[cassg]You didn’t tell us everything before.[/cassg] There wasn’t any doubt or accusation in the statement, and she continued in a slightly strained whisper, [cassg]I knew you didn’t, because there’s some stuff we can barely admit to ourselves let alone tell others. I can’t even tell my own brother that—[/cassg]

 

Words cut off with a sharply in-drawn breath as she struggled against the urge to not say anymore. Face contorted with guilt and regret and disgust at something she recalled as she forced herself to look at him. In the eyes that locked with his own there was also disgust with herself in their depths.

 

[cassg]Before we met, I started having memories again. Not consistent, but not the hazy ones in my nightmares. I was exploring them before—[/cassg] She stopped that train of thought, the incident of his betrayal not the topic at hand though she had stopped pursuing that after he’d hurt her as she couldn’t cope with more upset. Instead she continued with the original thought, voice subdued, [cassg]My brother is the only family I have left in this fucked up world, and I can’t bear the thought of telling him that I remember killing someone when that thing was inside me. I don’t mean just some memory either. I can taste the guys fear, feel and smell his blood on my hands after I slit his throat. . . And I can hear the tearing of flesh and meat, and the crunch of bone, as my hand is shoved into his chest. The way his heart beats until the life fades out of him. His pleas still haunt me, he begged and he cried and he just wanted to live and. . . then She cleaned her hand — my hand — afterward and the taste of the blood. . .[/cassg]

 

Cassandra felt the bile rise up; choking on it as she forced it back down. Mouth a thin pinched line and trembling hands clenched into fists at her side. When it felt like she had enough control again, a heavy breath was released before she managed to go on. Wanting him to understand her point.

 

[cassg]I’m telling you this now ‘cause you’ve got to realize we all have secrets. Shameful incidents that are difficult to share let alone acknowledge. Resonance put us all through the ringer, but those experiences weren’t nonexistent before. Just a different kind of horror. And even though I still feel the guilt and horror with each memory. . . that wasn’t me. And what you did to your family? That wasn’t you either.[/cassg]

 

She glanced now to the exit he’d been heading toward.

 

[cassg]And just like before, there are people who take advantage. They conditioned me with drugs — they knew about my past addiction — to make me more susceptible to brainwashing. To mold me into a tool while someone else there turned me into a vessel. You? Those same people used your grief and guilt as manipulation. Something that wasn’t in your control, that was an accident, to mold you into their weapon. You’ve been one for them since.[/cassg] She paused, then added, [cassg]I had my brother to cut my leash. You didn’t have anyone and they knew it. Until now. . .[/cassg]

 

Chin lifted, she faced him again. A couple steps taken so they stood barely an inch apart as arms crossed over her chest. There was a challenge in the stance of her body.

 

[cassg]I vouched for you.[/cassg] The words were firm and clearly spoken in the silence surrounding them, [cassg]I told them that you could be useful. That you’d been manipulated and used by The Vatican just like I’d been used, just like the Order had used them before. . . I told them that you could be trusted to stick to your word even after you hurt me. That you could be rehabilitated. If you walk out that door? You betray me again and make the choice — something you didn’t have before — to let them continue to use you. And they will. They’ll use anything they can to manipulate you to keep that blood covered leash around your neck. I don’t think you want that anymore.[/cassg]

 

The other words didn’t come out. That she didn’t want it for him anymore either. That she cared enough about him to not want to have to hunt him down. If he did this, she’d have to tell ARMA. She’d have to help find him. Her judgment would be questioned again. Once already had she let Alec root around in her head to prove her loyalties to them, but she couldn’t endure the shame that would stir the whispers up again that’d only begun to quiet. If she were honest with herself though? She didn’t want to have to hurt — or worse kill — him. If he chose to leave there’d be a man-hunt especially with his powers seemingly unbound.

 

Letting her words sink in, she went straight for the heart of the matter. Not hesitating even a second as her voice became imploring and concerned.

 

[cassg]What did she say to you? Let us help you. . .[/cassg] She trailed off, shook her head, then whispered, [cassg]Let me help you, Matty.[/cassg]

 

Now he’d know that she’d been following him for awhile, and that she’d watched that encounter and not interfered to help. If he was angry she’d understand. Cassandra just hoped that he wouldn’t tell her to fuck off before walking out. That would lead to only more problems.

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"No, goddamn you. No. You don’t get to walk away from me!"

 

He felt the enhanced movement before he saw it; knife pulled from the pew and back to the sheath it had come from. Instinct. He moved on instinct, hand slowly letting go of the hilt to return to his side. The expression that met her raised words was one that few alive knew. Indifference, blue flame instantly coating his skin like a shield to melt her anger before the soundwaves of her protest reached warped to his ears. The flinch around his eyes through the almost invisible iridescent blue was slight. He’d heard her words before. A different time, from a different person, when he was living a different life.

 

He did get to walk away.

 

"I deserve all of it. I fucking deserve every bit of truth about yourself that you have to offer after what you did to me. I deserve to know—"

 

No she didn’t.

 

He’d saved her life, that’s what he’d done to her. She didn’t deserve to have to share his burden. It was engrained in his psyche, he didn’t share burdens; he took them on. He’d given a vow to take them on. Confessions were not two way streets, and he went through them with the indifference he was trained to for. This time, listening to her words, stung. He’d seen her anguish and frustration before in someone’s eyes when he’d refused to reciprocate the confessions. There was a reason. Reasons that were just as fitful now as they had been ten years ago. Fifteen years ago. He was the wrong person, at the wrong time. Expression puckered slightly in defeat, looking off to cool on the shadows of the side aisles, the intense blue flicker keeping her from coming any closer and making him at least feel a little like there was distance between them.

 

"You didn’t tell us everything before."

 

[santo]..no[/santo]

 

It was matter-of-fact, not flippant but delivered with as little emotion.

 

"I knew you didn’t, because there’s some stuff we can barely admit to ourselves let alone tell others. I can’t even tell my own brother that—"

 

Silver looked back at her through lowered brows. She had no idea the bear she was poking.

 

"Before we met, I started having memories again. Not consistent, but not the hazy ones in my nightmares. I was exploring them before—"

 

Gaze moved to the crackled edge of a pew. It felt like a confession. He needed to make it feel like a confession. Hell, it was, but he wasn’t sure if it pulled him out of memories he didn’t want to share or drew him closer in.

 

"I’m telling you this now ‘cause you’ve got to realize we all have secrets. Shameful incidents that are difficult to share let alone acknowledge…. And what you did to your family? That wasn’t you either."

 

Again the eyes moved back to her, darker. Dangerously darker.

 

When she advanced, he actually took a step backward, unwilling to drop his “shield” until it was clear it would hurt her by the proximity she was forcing herself into. It released with finite control, skin starting to cool but radiating the heat that was normal for him. He stiffened, hands at his sides so deadly trained. This close, he could finish his job, return to the Order fold, take penance for his delay and beg for forgiveness, accept his punishment. The conditioned brain wanted nothing more than to finish it, end these painful questions and exchange them for the physical punishment that would follow from the Vatican. He could also tell her what she wanted to know, return to his roots, face the psychological damage. He thought he’d gotten through the worst of the crack that was splitting his soul, all the horrible things he’d done on both sides fighting… black dog and white dog in a vicious lock.

 

"I vouched for you."

 

He finally blinked, the irises still a hot mercurial silver.

 

[santo]I saved you.[/santo]

 

His tone echoed hers... the ethereal answer to the unspoken question that had made her features so vulnerable before. He couldn't admit to her that she was everything in his world, he couldn't. It was a death sentence to anyone he loved. His life was an eternal struggle not of his doing. Now, he had to make a choice...

 

Which one would he feed more? Neither. Both dogs were going to kill each other fighting. He DESERVED to die for what he’d done. It hadn’t been his fault though, had it? Yes, and no. He didn’t know. Expression flickered in a dangerously conflicting fight. They WERE trying to bring him back into the folds, knew he’d jumped ship but couldn’t find him until now. He didn’t trust them. He didn’t trust ARMA either.

 

…but he trusted Cass.

 

She’d hit every nerve. He couldn’t tell her that. He couldn’t tell her anything. She would hate him forever for the things he’d done.

 

"What did she say to you? Let us help you. . ."

 

She was met with silence, a cold glare. She’d been following him. Somehow he knew that. He was a “parolee” after all. But her? Maybe he’d been wrong to trust her? The feeling ran a chilled sting up his spine. Hands found his pockets, heels taking several steps backward before he turned and moved in the other direction. He didn’t even give the satisfaction of telling her to fuck off. There were other ways out of this damn cathedral than the path she’d blocked.

 

"Let me help you, Matty."

 

He’d heard that before too.

 

Expression buckled. Black dog… white dog… he didn’t know where one started and the other ended anymore, turning to go back to her and at least give her the courtesy of...

 

It was so fast… Instinct. He was a killer. He’d been raised a kind soul, he’d been hammered into a killer. With that… came senses that were beyond human comprehension. They anticipated, the quiver of the air directly behind Cass that caught his eye producing an instant physical response followed by something no other human being had ever experienced… It was a blue galaxy, his hand grabbing her arm and jerking her forward against him inside a shell of his physical fire as it powered up several feet out from his flesh. The solar flare erupted outward, sucking the air from the immediate space and eliciting a blistering scream from someone that ended in a clatter as he released the spell and Cass before moving after the sliding form.

 

It had happened in less than a second.

 

Knife sang, footsteps silent as he advanced. She’d followed him. Followed him to torture him, to get close to Cass. Sent. Sent to catch him like a dog... to kill Cass too?

 

The woman was struggling to breathe, elbows dragging her body away from him on the floor, skin burnt, the same woman that had given him shit at the park… and potentially triggered the resurgence that just toasted her.

 

[santo]Tell me where she is.[/santo]

 

Words were calm, the air around him wasn’t, still quivering with heat. He wasn’t brutal. He didn’t throw punches or torture… the magus could, and would if it came down to it. It rarely did. At that moment, refined had collided with a decade of compressed rage. The knife spun through his fingers at her silence, yanking her from the floor and into a pew, laying the blade flat against her throat, pressure just enough to threaten breaking the skin. She was still struggling to take a breath, having come out of a phase to see his offense, not fast enough to go back into obscurity. Singed. If she’d caught the full brunt, it would have burned her to ash.

 

[santo]Stay away from Cass! I will kill every one of you![/santo] he repeatedly slammed her head against the wood bench. He was out of control. It felt…

 

…good.

 

[santo]I will find her! Even if I have to burn everything they've built to the ground! You tell them that! I'm coming for them![/santo] head was slammed again, then again, hand hitting the wood as the woman mustered enough wherewithal to finally check out of their plane. She wasn’t coming back, not now anyway.

 

Breath was erratic. Nowhere for the anger to go… it made his skin shake, body sinking into the seat as he seemed to lose touch with reality for a moment... calming like he'd trained so long to do. Planning. Thinking... then was out of the pew and grabbing Cass’ hand, already moving toward the side door.

 

[santo]You want to help me? We have to go.[/santo]

 

Somewhere safe. Not ARMA, they would be watching for them to flee there. One of his safe spaces. He would tell her everything. She'd seen a glimpse of his demons, moving forward there would be no way to continue to hide them... he had no choice now.

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Inside the cathedral’s walls, along an aisle between rows of pews, they moved in a strange dance.

 

One step forward, one step backward. An emotional struggle that displayed itself outwardly with the steps they each took. The music that created their rhythm was silent except inside their own minds and hearts. The heat of his flame-shield creating an atmosphere that only heightened everything.

 

♎ "I saved you."

 

Those three words weren’t the ones she’d wanted to hear perhaps, but the significance wasn’t lost to her. Cassandra had more questions; many that she hoped to be able to discuss with him. Not now though. Now she had to get him to trust her. To keep him from heading out the door and making her be part of a man hunt that she didn’t want to happen.

 

Before she knew it though, his steps in their dance became quicker. One, two, three backward in rapid succession before he turned and began moving toward the door. She’d known that admitting to following him might make him flee. She didn’t know exactly why it had though, but what she did know was that she wasn’t going to let him run. She couldn’t.

 

Racing after him at normal speed now instead of using her magic. Not seeing the reason for it presently. There was hope that those three words earlier might still convince him to listen to reason.

 

[cassg]Look. . . it’s. . . it’s not—[/cassg]

 

The sudden speed with which he turned to face her, jerked her close to him, barely gave her time to react. Before she knew it she was pressed against his chest; face against his thick jacket as she inhaled the scent of him heightened by the heat. Heart racing not from fear, but from need she took a breath and was just about to demand to know what was happening when she heard the scream. It was filled with agony, bringing back another scream from a memory that she’d only just revealed to him. Whoever had been on the receiving end of what he’d unleashed had suffered greatly.

 

[cassg]Wh-what. . .[/cassg]

 

She trailed off as the hold on her released; the signs of the spell used evident in the burnt pews and flooring around them. Even more though in the form of someone trying to get away only to flounder. Standing there as he went after her, she took several deep breaths and shook her head as one hand found her mouth. Usually her instincts were solid, but distracted as she’d been by him and the emotions they’d slipped.

 

Of course, her hand also remained there as she watched in horror the scene that played out.

 

♎ "Stay away from Cass! I will kill every one of you!"

 

The burnt woman was dragged from the floor to the pews, the air around him quivering with heat and rage as he yelled. Cassandra took a step forward.

 

♎ "I will find her! Even if I have to burn everything they've built to the ground! You tell them that! I'm coming for them!"

 

Each word was punctuated by the thunk! thunk! thunk! of her head against the wood. The noise echoing along the walls and into the ceiling above. It brought about the sounds beyond the doors of panic and pushed her to move forward again.

 

[cassg]Stop! Stop! You won’t get anything that way![/cassg]

 

She took a breath, shaken from the rage she’d just witnessed in him. She’d never seen him that way before.

 

Cassandra’s mind was working, processing everything slower than she’d like, as she tried to pull herself together. She had to contact ARMA. She had to tell them what had just happened. Someone would report it. Unless the OFL covered it up before ARMA could get here. But there would be witnesses to their presence at these events. Her name had been yelled as loudy as his own. Sucking a breath, she was about to point out that what needed to be done when suddenly she was being dragged out of the cathedral.

 

♎ "You want to help me? We have to go."

 

The right thing to do was to call ARMA. However, at the moment she wasn’t able to think clearly on the right thing. And on top of it her mind was registering that if one had been sent here there could be more on the way. This place wasn’t safe. Running was the smartest option. She could call this in later, of course. Grabbing onto that as a possible good idea, she took a breath and looked up at him with a face gone pale. All the color gone to heighten the wideness of her blue eyes in her face as she nodded.

 

[cassg]Of course.[/cassg]

 

She pulled her hand from his own — knowing that she’d need both free if defense was necessary — moving now toward the door with steps that became steadier by the second. She stayed behind him though, letting him lead the way.

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(Reviewed and updated as promised)

 

It wasn’t what she wanted to hear, he knew that. It was something that he couldn’t say. As soon as the words hit the air they would be doomed, if they weren’t already. It was never in the cards for him, karma working against any shred of happiness he could ever hope for. It’s why he went into service. Lonely, but allowed him to make others strong with hope without dragging them into his hell. She seemed to WANT to jump into the flames with both feet.  He couldn’t allow that.

Then the moment was gone.  Threadbare and real, but still gone.

 

Hairtrigger reflexes that had saved his life so many times exploded on full display of someone he never wanted to see them. She saw him as someone worth saving. This type of violence was not worth saving… the crush of pain in his throat as she tried to make sense of what was happening even more hurtful. Something snapped at that moment, greed and pride and lust mixing together into a toxic poison. He hated at that moment, hated that this person had tried to harm her, was trying to drag him back into the quagmire. If she hadn’t information that he needed, he would have killed her. He had MEANT to kill her the second she’d come after Cass, even the moment she refused to divulge the truth about his daughter.  Where he thought his world had calmed, the crack was only growing wider. Hatred. Pain. He was no longer a robot that prayed every night in a mantra to take away the guilt. There was no guilt as he forced her to talk, and it frightened him for the first time.  Fear was an emotion he had abandoned the night of the Resonance, and only made the rage worse.

☸ "Stop! Stop! You won’t get anything that way!"

Breath exhaled instantly, Cass’ voice the snap of a chain on a rabid dog, giving the woman time to take her leave and avoid his wrath.  Brows dipped, gaze falling back to the pew where she had been tortured before the ashamed eyes met Cass’, lowering back to the pew as he sat in silence. She was disturbed by him, which he knew immediately, it felt the same as the frigid cold of the interrogation room over a year ago.  It mingled with the scathing feeling of guilt; he was hurting her.  His presence simply hurt her.  It made it hard to breathe, too many things tangling together: didn’t know if his sudden resurgence of power was a sputter in the pan or only brought on by the proximity of the woman that was bent on antagonizing him, didn’t know who this woman was, or what she really wanted.

 

Instinct smashed against the melancholy, they had to go. Now.  The pause he felt from her while they moved to exit the Cathedral made his features flinch slightly, sadness in his eyes hidden by lowered lashes as the insistent business-like movement continued.  Fingers motioned for her phone as they strode past the locked donation boxes, checking it to make sure it was on and then sliding it through the slot to ditch it for the time being. Flock often put found items in donation boxes, most kept them for a year, she would get it back later.  It would be able to track because it was still on.  Amateur, but still a diversion, however small.  Small diversions had saved his life before.

The alley was quiet, eyes scanning for movement through back doors, cutting through several businesses by merely slipping nonchalantly into loading docks and out through back hallways. A short circle around a phone kiosk brought cash out and a burner phone acquired, dipping down into a subway drop. Onto trains, over platforms, sometimes straight through the train to the next platform. He was a ghost… a ghost trained to disappear, and she was learning very quickly how good he was at it.

What became evident, was the surge of heat was fleeting. He’d first noticed it in the alley behind the church. Skin cooling, a step up from a subway stairwell onto the street brought an immediate seethe as the wind caught his bare skin. A shiver, and the distant sadness etched his features again. It had been a set-up. A set-up that would have had ARMA taking care of a “threat” and by proxy Cass taken care of for good.  There were more of him, he knew it, and that potentially would be a media shit-storm for the do-good organization, and the new face of OFL. There were deeper rumblings here, and he was a stick in the bicycle spokes that needed to be snuffed. With it, the anger returned. Hatred. Gods it was pure hatred that seethed in his gut, the stairs on a fire escape taken two at a time the final stop in their almost hour long trek. Sliding open a window, he waited until she was inside and then hopped in after her, closing it, blinds down and light flicked on. It was one of a half dozen places he kept around the city. He knew he wasn’t supposed to, but he also knew it wasn’t ARMA’s first priority to keep him safe if OFL came sniffing. 

It was simple, modest, and screamed of lonely. One room with a small kitchenette and bathroom. Neat blinds, bare walls, essentials on the countertops that didn’t spoil with time. One towel, soap, a razor, a few changes of clothes hanging on a hook near his bed. Small table, two chairs. Several books at the bedside. It was the life of a pauper, a priest, a ghost. There was no personality, no joy, and no life.

Fingers were freezing, pulling the burner phone out of his coat pocket to hand to her, opening the vent on the small radiator to heat up the room.  He was methodically checking everything, every inch to make sure there were no signs that anyone had been there.  There was a question, and it was intent on his features. Some things were moved.  Door was unlocked and he scanned the hallway, closing it back up to lock again. 

[santo]Call ARMA, have them come here to get you.  I can take care of myself.[/santo]

It was said with such restraint and distance. He should say something more, everything that was boiling beneath his skin that she wanted to hear and he wanted to tell her. There was no coming back from the damage he’d done in the Cathedral.   Hands hovered over the radiator in attempts to warm them up, waiting for her to make the call- he didn’t want to leave until he knew she was safe.  He was shivering, breath was shivering.  It was obvious the bind was still firmly in place, yet another one of the rainbow of magus powers that could exist. Phase and negation. Interesting one.

 

He couldn’t wait long.  He had to leave.  He didn’t want to leave!  The duality was bordering on a gasoline soaked tinder box ready to explode.  If he stayed, she would be safe- and he would most likely end up in a box- pine or bars.  If he left, he could save his daughter, and Cass’ fate was uncertain.  Hands drew over his face, then settled back over the heater.  He would wait as long as he could.

[santo]I couldn’t tell you what you’ve wanted to hear,[/santo] even he couldn’t believe it had come forth from his own tongue.  He was struggling, clearly to keep from shivering and with what to say.  Eyes watched the window, senses on the door.  A caged lion that needed to flee.  [santo]Not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s clear the world has nothing for me. I tried to serve, to pay into a life of service in hopes that something would matter. I’m trying to do the right thing now, and look where we are…  again.[/santo]

His head shook slightly, fingers starting to warm as he watched them, unaware how truly prophetic his words were.  Eyes turned to her slightly, the mercurial silver that was always there when he was primed as a magi had returned to the soft dove gray of well… a mortal. Gaze moved back to his fingers.  Hands closed tightly into fists, watching the pink erupt into the frozen digits before they extended again and a sigh oozed out slowly. Features were so intent on his hands, just waiting to flinch when the world exploded at his words. Things had already gone to hell.  He knew worse was coming.  He had to go.

 

He had to go now.

 

It was evident he wanted to say something else, but it was held back by a will so powerful it was self-destructive. Even his daughter, he couldn't even love her because of fate. The sniffle was soft, back of his hand rubbing the cold tip of his nose, waiting… until the last second.  Posture shouldered away from her like a beaten dog waiting to be thrashed again.

[santo]Cass, I do love you.[/santo]

Lower lip rolled through his teeth, a small lift of his eyes to her at the confession before returning to his hands. Waiting. There was an apocalypse on its way… he was certain of it.

 

[santo]I always did.[/santo]

 

The world around him was moving.  He had to make a decision. NOW.

 

Breath halted, lashes pressing together.

 

Time to go.

 

He could feel the electricity of movement, his mortal senses just knew; a sixth sense, instinct highly tuned to behavioral patterns- especially those that were trying to kill him.  He moved suddenly, swiftly, window and blinds snapping upward.  Impeccably skilled muscles pulled him onto the sill despite the biting cold.  But still, he paused, the fight of too many things across his features, there was more…  he could trust her. 

 

He had to go!  He could NOT end up in a box!  Not now!

 

He could trust her.  He knew he could.  He had to.  Teeth grit, the growl pushing through the vicious apprehension.  Words were quick. 

 

[santo]Abrielle.  She’s ten, Order has her.  They claim she’s a fire mage,[/santo]  tears glinted at his outer corners, they had sprung almost immediately when his secret hit the air.  Expression was ashamed… teeth tight before he forced the rest out, voice cracking,  [santo]She’s a fire mage…like... her father.  I can’t get imprisoned by ARMA, I have to get her.  If something happens to me, don’t let them hurt her.  Please.  Cass.[/santo]

 

Fist hit the side of the window sill clearly in frustration.  He would not stay and make her put herself on the line for him again.  Legs went over the sill, blinds falling back down, window snapped shut on a world he had to leave behind.  He went up instead of down the fire escape, the depth of how physically powerful he was rarely seen.  He had his own methods, and they had not failed him yet.  Where they had been used before to end life, this time perhaps they would save them.

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Chaos was the theme of her life.

 

Cassandra had come to accept that even before Resonance had changed the world. It wasn’t as if life before had been the smoothest existence for her. Of course, it’d certainly been promising a potential of becoming so just before everything became screwed up and now it continued on that unsteady path. As proven by the situation she found herself in now: what should’ve been a simple encounter where she talked to Matty had turned into a case where she’d have to call in ARMA — assuming they hadn’t been contacted by any of those lingering at the church — to explain what went down. . . and why she was here.

 

[cassg]If we went in together, it’d look better for you. We’re not the terrible organization the Order makes us out to be. We do believe in redemption, in second chances. . . don’t mess up the one you’ve been given, Matty.[/cassg]

 

He wasn’t listening though.

 

Blue eyes watched him as he moved around the room. Read the tension in his body along with the cold in him. Had it been temporary? A ploy by the enemy? That seemed a possibility though not something she could prove right this second. His obvious cold though spoke volumes to her. He was preparing to leave, to run again, to. . . to start a hunt for him that could end poorly. The thought terrified her, and she hated herself for the feeling. She didn’t want to feel this way for him. Not after all that had happened. However, she knew better than anyone the manipulation that could be done when one was at their most vulnerable. She also knew how much one could hate themselves for something they thought was their fault.

 

She stood away from him, leaning against the bar of the kitchenette with arms wrapped over her stomach. It was cold in the apartment, but the heat being turned on was welcome. More than perhaps the words that both of them wanted to hear yet were afraid of hearing or saying.

 

♎ "I couldn’t tell you what you’ve wanted to hear," even he couldn’t believe it had come forth from his own tongue.  He was struggling, clearly to keep from shivering and with what to say.  Eyes watched the window, senses on the door.  A caged lion that needed to flee.  ♎ "Not because it doesn’t exist, but because it’s clear the world has nothing for me. I tried to serve, to pay into a life of service in hopes that something would matter. I’m trying to do the right thing now, and look where we are…  again."

 

Crease appeared between brows as they pulled together. A sigh dropping heavily into the ensuing silence as she stare at his back.

 

Finally, after a moment, she murmured, [cassg]It’s not as easy as trying to do the right thing. You have to keep at it. Running away doesn’t help. It only complicates matters further. If you want to help, if you want to redeem yourself of all you did for them. . . you have to stop moving. Keep helping ARMA. Help us bring them down. Prove yourself.[/cassg]

 

He wasn’t the only one wronged by the Order or the Vatican nor the only one manipulated by them. ARMA was full of people who’d put their trust into the wrong hands. Everyone was trying to clean their hands of what’d been done during those times. They could help him. Hatreds, past issues, and more put aside in the name of bringing down a common enemy. The war wasn’t as public as it’d once been, but it was still going on in the shadows. A different type of war was what ARMA was aiming to wage. Then again, none of that mattered if he wasn’t willing. The idea of him being hunted down like a rabid dog though. . .

 

Cassandra couldn’t help the shiver that ran down her spine or the nausea that rolled around in her stomach.

 

♎ "Cass, I do love you."

 

Lower lip rolled through his teeth, a small lift of his eyes to her at the confession before returning to his hands. Waiting. There was an apocalypse on its way… he was certain of it.

 

♎ "I always did."

 

Before she’d been able to say more, the silence following her words was filled by him again. The words dropped like a bomb. She could tell that he was getting antsy. Knew that he sensed something, understood the fear of needing to run and not wanting to be locked away, but in moments she was equally floored by another revelation.

 

♎ "Abrielle.  She’s ten, Order has her.  They claim she’s a fire mage,"  tears glinted at his outer corners, they had sprung almost immediately when his secret hit the air.  Expression was ashamed… teeth tight before he forced the rest out, voice cracking,   ♎ "She’s a fire mage…like... her father.  I can’t get imprisoned by ARMA, I have to get her.  If something happens to me, don’t let them hurt her.  Please.  Cass."

 

A daughter? He had a daughter? And hiis daughter was alive.

 

Staring at him in confusion, she watched him hit the sill with his fist; not reacting as her mind was still processing. As he was climbing out the window, she finally spoke. Her words were only loud enough for him to hear.

 

[cassg]I would never let anyone hurt a child. I will see her protected, and ARMA will too.[/cassg]

 

Cassandra didn’t know if she was supposed to tell ARMA that bit of information, but it was vital enough that it seemed necessary to do so. For now though, she waited at the window until he was out of sight then picked up the phone and called her brother.

 

The idea of explaining this to him made her cringe. He would have to trust her. She’d take the reprimand she’d be receiving for changing his watch, but the simple matter was that the magi who’d been assigned to him before wouldn’t have been effective in this situation either. Cassandra was highly skilled, and quite powerful, yet she’d not fared well. As she waited for Alistair to come pick her up, knowing he’d send a few magus to examine the church, she sat on the edge of the bed and debated about what to say, how to explain, and prayed she could make her brother understand.

 

Part of her also wished she’d responded to Matty’s admittance of love. . .


FIN

 

[OoC Note: Couldn't remember exactly what specifics Cass knew about his family in regards to the daughter thing so just winged it. Stupid brain fog. Let me know if this is incorrect/needs adjusted. For now, post completed. =) ]

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