"Suzu-san?" a soft and small voice asked.
The white haired fighter glanced over her shoulder and down at the redheaded girl looking up at her. Allowing a faint smile to cross her face, she bent down to meet her eyes. "Yes, Abigail?"
"Why does Michael-san hate me?"
Suzu bit down to keep the smile on her face as she slowly lowered herself to sit on the bed behind her. "Abigail... It's not that he hates you."
"Then why is he always so mean to me?"
She sighed and stared at the young girl for a long moment. "He's had bad experiences with humans. He doesn't trust them."
* ~ * ~ *
A thin bar of light pierced the darkness. Out of reflex, he recoiled from it. Light didn't mean good things, for as long back as he could remember, though granted, that wasn't very far back.
How long had it been since he'd been awakened to this pain-filled existence? A month? A year? Time held little meaning in the darkness, and in the light... In the light, time was probably the furthest thing from his mind.
The first time he could remember a break in the darkness, he hadn't been where he was now, wherever that might be. Back then, the darkness was tight and confining and absolute; in short, he'd been in a coffin.
He remembered voices as the darkness lifted that time. "My God, look at him!" "They don't die. What were you expecting?" "Not this!"
But the voices didn't make sense till he heard a single word that sent chills down his spine and made him pay attention: "...prophecy says a child born of a human and... one of them could save the world." "Imagine what several could do then."
The next part was humiliating. He couldn't count the number of women - nuns, he was later to find out - were set atop him and goaded him to perform. He welcomed the darkness of the crypt the priest consigned him to. It was quiet and the only company he had to keep had been dead for centuries.
The next time the darkness was broken, it was by a beautiful, fair main in a priest's cassock. Blond hair flowed down his back, and blue eyes glittered as he stared down at him. "My dear, dear little lost angel," he intoned, stepping in the cell with him, closing the barred gate behind him, "how strange this must all be for you."
He opened his mouth to speak, to ask this beautiful stranger who he was, if he knew him, if the stranger could tell him his name at least. "You may call me Father Lucien" echoed through the cell before he could speak. A hand shot forward to grasp his face, slamming his head back against the stone wall hard enough to make his vision swim.
When he recovered his senses, it was to the rough sensation of the priest shoving his way inside his body. Pain blossomed white-hot through his lower body and the back of his head as the other man pounded into him. As he spent himself and pulled out, blood liberally covering his member as he tucked his cassock back into place. The priest walked out of his cell, tossing an "I'll be back to see you again" over his shoulder. He was as good as his world; the next three instances of light had been Father Lucien.
And he was willing to bet this would make visit number five. He pressed his body up against the cold wall in the far corner and squeezed his eyes tightly shut. He could hear footsteps begin to make their way across the floor.
That wasn't Father Lucien's gait or step; the priest always moved slowly and was careful to be sure he could hear him coming, making his footsteps echo through the crypt, probably to better savor his distaste for what was to come; this stranger's was quick but nearly silent. As the door of his cell creaked, he peeked his eyes open, curiosity getting the better of him.
A tall figure in a long cape stood before him, a sword held before him as he stared down at him. The hood of the cape hid his face and hair. Beneath it, he wore a lord's hunting clothes; he'd seen some like them, though not nearly so nice, his first time out of the darkness. And the sword he carried, it blazed, fire licking off its long blade. Symbols and etchings decorated the blade and the hilt as it led up to a hand encased in a black leather glove.
The figure just stood there for a long time, watching him as he watched back, then it sheathed its sword at its side in one easy movement. It pulled off both its gloves and tucked them through the belt at its waist, and slowly it began to walk forward.
It - He stopped when he cringed, when he was a few feet from him, kneeling down before him. In another simple movement, he unclasped the cape and pulled it off himself. He could only stare as the strange man settled the cape around his shoulders, wrapping it around his nude body. As he leaned back to the distance he'd been at before, fire red hair caught the light and a face he faintly recognized - more than he remembered anything else - gazed at him. The face was a study of neutrality, but the dark blue eyes were thick with worry. He recognized this man on some level, remembered him when he couldn't even remember himself, but no name came to his mind for this person.
The other man slowly reached out and brushed shaggy hair out of his eyes then ran his hand down his cheek. Without conscious thought, his face turned into the touch, eyes sliding part of the way closed, but not shut enough that he didn't see the look of relief on the redhead's face.
The man slipped closer to him, hands now gently touching his shoulders. When he didn't flinch again, the serious face broke into a smile, transforming it. "I'm going to take you out of here," a faintly nasal voice stated; God, it too was familiar. "Do you think you can walk?"
He considered this a moment. "No," he croaked out. Speaking hurt.
The redhead nodded. "I didn't think you'd be able to." He slipped the rest of the way forward until he knelt directly beside him, one hand lightly touching his hair, his face. "I didn't think I'd ever see you again, Michael."
Michael? Was that his name?
He whimpered slightly, not able to stop himself as the redhead slid an arm behind his back and beneath his knees, lifting him from the ground. The stranger adjusted him slightly, so that the cape covered his body more closely. His touch was firm but easy as he brought them up the crypt stairs and into the light of the church above.
Silence reigned in what was supposed to be a sacred place. Sacred no more, he decided, weary eyes catching a glimpse of the bodies of his priestly tormenters, as well as some of the nuns he remember, littering the floor, cut down with a single slice across them; several of the cuts were burned as well, as from a fiery sword. Something must have shown on his face because the stranger whispered down to him, "You don't have to look. It's over now. You can rest for a bit, old friend."
Suddenly, that sounded like the best idea he'd heard in forever. He let the blankness pull him down as he felt the stranger's warm arms around him.
Completed: 13 August 2002
Goddess... I've been working on this chapter who knows how long. After some long consideration, I decided to stop this one here and save the rest of Michael's past for later chapters.
At the rate I'm going, I probably will never get this ready for publishing. What do you guys think if I posted it to FF.net or MediaMiner.org?