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The door of the cell was blasted open, nearly jerking off of it’s hinges. Nikolo whipped around, raising the knife in his hand. The slender figure of Sasha Caverly stood in the doorway, a gun in each hand. The guns leveled, hammers cocking back. Four shots fired into the silence following Sasha’s entrance. Without even a scream, Nikolo dropped to the cold, stone floor of the cell, head ripped almost completely off of his neck. Sasha blew the smoke from the barrel of her gun before clipping it back to her belt and turning to leave the room. Amadeo looked pleadingly after her from his place curled and chained in the corner.
“Rosie, collect the child,” Sasha’s voice was clipped with a Celtic lilt.
“Yes’m’” replied Rosie’s voice from the hallway.
As Sasha exited the room, Rosie entered. Rosie was small and slim, her vibrantly red hair tied back to the nape of her neck. She walked briskly over to where Amadeo lay, crouching down next to him. Amadeo cringed away from the young woman, his arms hiding his face. Rosie smiled sadly, pulling a pair of small sewing scissors from the bun in her hair. Amadeo’s mismatched storm and silver eyes widened and he cringed even farther back into the corner, trying to escape from Rosie. The blades of Rosie’s scissors slid into the keyhole of the lock binding Amadeo to the wall. The lock snicked open as Rosie jerked up on her scissors. Rosie gently stroked Amadeo’s copper-and-bronze hair as she lifted him into her arms. He curled against her, squeezing his eyes tightly shut. Rosie stood and carried the boy up out of this dank cellar, out of the mansion and into the street. Sasha was waiting there for her. Out of Sasha’s pocket came the lighter she used to light the pipe she kept habitually clamped between her teeth. Sasha pulled off her tunic and set it to flames.
“Sasha! Don’t do that! That was a perfectly good tunic. Besides, now you’re completely indecent,” pouted Rosie, glaring at Sasha, who now only wore her black trousers and the bandages she used to bind herself.
“I don’t care,” said Sasha flatly, waiting until the cloth in her hand was properly burning.
After a moment, Sasha swung a leg up, violently kicking the glass out of one of the windows of
the mansion that had been Amadeo’s prison. Sasha drew her arm back and lobbed the burning lump of cloth into the building. She could hear screams, and it made her grin. Sasha knew, through her Shinigami instinct, that the soul reaper in charge of this area would be coming to see what all the commotion was about. She smiled slightly, turning back to Rosie, who still stood a few metres away, clutching that tiny body in her arms.
“Now, run along and take him to his father. I’m going back to work. Just let me see to this, first,” said Sasha, as a tall, slim young man came loping towards her.
Rosie smiled sweetly, before turning in the air twice, letting her pale skirts twirl around her, before vanishing into the Maze of Time. Sasha turned to the young Shinigami standing at her elbow, looking up at the burning house. He wore the red and black uniform of an Intern, and a black tail protruded from the hole in the back of his coat, swishing through the air, razor tip not yet even covered by a clump of hair. Sasha guessed him to be only 19 or 20.
“Where’s your reaper?” asked Sasha tersely.
“She’s on vacation...” said the Intern.
“Do you intend to take care of this mess yourself, or do you need my help?” asked Sasha.
“Help would be appreciated,” admitted the Intern.
“Not a problem,” said Sasha, her black death scythe materializing in her hand.
She swung it experimentally, nearly taking off the Intern’s head. He leaped back, narrowly avoiding having his messy blond hair cut off by Sasha’s lethal blade. Sasha laughed.
“What’s your name, boy?” asked Sasha, placing the dull edge of her blade against her shoulder.
“Good name. Swiss origin. Now come on, let’s get this place cleaned up,” said Sasha, kicking open the door of the burning building and striding inside, ignoring the flames that licked at her tan flesh, Vash on her tail.
Rosie ran as quickly as she could through the maze, her high heels clicking against the marble floor. She made two turns and slowed down as she came to a flight of spiral stairs. The clicks of Rosie’s shoes against the floor were as loud as gunshots to Amadeo’s sensitive ears. It seemed an age before they reached the bottom, Rosie shouldering open a door. Bright candle-light flooded across her. She was in one of the open air lounges of Death’s white marble home. Death was lounging on a chaise, wearing a dark red robe, a glass of champagne in his hand. He sat up quickly as he saw Rosie enter, shoving his glasses farther up on his nose. Amadeo had seen Death before. Many times. Generally in passing. Death had always fascinated the young angel.
“Bring him over here,” said Death, his voice commanding.
Rosie strode quickly over to Death, bobbing a curtsy. Death reached out, taking his son’s small body into his arms and cradling him. Long, slim fingers ran through Amadeo’s hair. Amadeo slipped out of consciousness as Death murmured a few gentle words into his ears.
“Where is Sasha?” asked Death, looking up at Rosie.
“She’s gone back to work,” said Rosie, shrugging.
“Will you go fetch her for me?” asked Death, not looking up from Amadeo’s ashen complexion.
“Of course,” said Rosie, turning and running back out of the room the way she came. Rosie was much faster going back to Florence minus her burden. As she arrived back outside the now burnt out building, Sasha was just striding out the door, looking particularly smug, Vash following her closely.
“Hey,” greeted Sasha, sheathing her death scythe.
“Death wants to see you.”
“Yeah, yeah. I know. I’m not back on duty yet. I’m going. Right now. I just felt like I should help Vash out with this mess,” said Sasha, running a hand through her long, white hair.
“No. He wants to see you. He didn’t tell me why,” said Rosie.
“Whatever,” shrugged Sasha.
Without another word, the Shinigami commander vanished. Rosie sighed. Turning in the air and vanishing into the Maze. She was about halfway down the black marble stairs when she heard Sasha’s enraged screech.
Rosie sped up, bursting back out into Death’s lounge. Death still sat in his lounge, Amadeo cradled in his lap. Sasha stood in front of him, looking more than a little piqued.
“I told you. I need you to take care of him. Please. You’re the one with the Oxford Medical degree. I am not,” said Death, his voice cool, but with an ice cold edge.
“I can not take care of children! I’m better off in the field,” pleaded Sasha.
“No. Sasha. It’s an order. I’ve set something up with Time. You’ll be back to work in no time,” consoled Death.
“Fine,” spat Sasha.
She strode to Death, lifting Amadeo and slinging him over her shoulder.
“Where do I go?”
“Just teleport. I’ll guide you,” said Death.
Sasha grabbed Rosie’s arm with her free hand and teleported. Rosie hated the feeling of teleportation by Shinigami means. It felt like you were being pricked full of needles. It was fast, though, and effective. When Rosie opened her eyes, she found herself outside a shanai, a traditional Japanese house. She guessed 1300s, and when Time Lords guessed the time, they were usually right. Sasha set Amadeo down inside the doorway and looked at him appraisingly. Her eyes ran over his every feature, from the mane of ratty ginger hair to his one stormy eye and one silver eye, down his Roman nose, over the myriad scars that laced his thin, emaciated form. The boy wore only a pair of tattered, bloodstained trousers. She couldn’t help but feel sorry for him, but she didn’t let the emotion show. She dragged her eyes away from the tiny boy, looking instead at her best friend, who was looking around at her surroundings with mild interest.
“Take care of him,” ordered Sasha brusquely, turning and striding into the small house.
Rosie and Amadeo stared at each other for a second, hazel eyes meeting blue and silver ones. They simply stared at each other, evaluating, before Rosie took a tentative step forward. Amadeo’s eyes widened even more, and he turned, bolting. Amadeo, despite his extensive injuries, was fast on his feet. It took Rosie almost ten minutes of wild chase to catch up with her quarry. She finally caught Amadeo, lifting him off of his feet and carrying him back to the shanai. The first thing Rosie did upon arriving back at the house was to run a bath. Amadeo sat helplessly in the warm water of the tub, submissively letting Rosie run her fingers through his hair. By the time Rosie pulled Amadeo out of the tub, the water was so dark with dried blood and dirt, that you could barely see the bottom. Rosie sighed, drying off Amadeo’s hair with a towel. Rosie took a pale green kimono from one of the cupboards in the bathroom, wrapping Amadeo in it. She decided then to go and get Sasha and have her take a look at Amadeo’s extensive injuries. Rosie led the small boy into the kitchen, pulling a glass out of the cupboard and filling it with milk from the ice box. She handed it to Amadeo, who simply looked at it without much apparent interest.
“Stay here,” said Rosie, giving Amadeo’s hair a comforting stroke.
Rosie smiled slightly, before going off to find her best friend. She found Sasha in a back room with wide windows and a huge, four poster bed. She sat in a chintz armchair in the corner of the room, pipe firmly pressed between her lips, and a bottle of her precious Vodka in one hand, a book in the other.
“What do you want?” asked Sasha tersely.
“I want you to come and patch up Amadeo,” said Rosie, gripping Sasha’s bare arm.
Sasha sighed, but didn’t argue. She set down her drink and her book, following Rosie out of the room and into the kitchen. The kitchen was empty. The glass of milk Rosie had given Amadeo was standing on the table, still completely full. Sasha looked at Rosie disdainfully.
“I left him right here!” said Rosie, sounding almost hysterical.
“He’s in the pantry,” said Sasha flatly, taking a seat at the table.
Rosie looked somewhat relieved as she opened the pantry door and discovered that Sasha had
been correct. Amadeo was curled up in the back corner of the pantry, eyes wide with fear as Rosie came towards him. Before Rosie could get her hands on him, Amadeo sprinted past her. Amadeo tried to make for the door of the kitchen, his mind racing and heart pounding with the possibility of escape. His elation was short lived, however, as a tan hand shot out and caught him by the arm before he could even reach the doorway. Amadeo found himself being dragged back into Sasha’s lap. A single deep, sapphire eye stared at him inquisitively, as though asking him if he really thought he could get away. Amadeo shuddered, and went limp in Sasha’s iron grip. Sasha, a no-nonsense look on her face, pulled the pale green kimono off of Amadeo’s shoulders, revealing his pale, scarred torso. Sasha’s skilled fingers traced over each of the long, dark scars. Some of them were older, already healed over, but some were fresh, still red and raw. Sasha found a particularly deep wound at the back of Amadeo’s neck, hidden by his ginger hair. She probed it gently with a finger. She could feel bone, and the poor boy whined piteously.
“Rosaline, go get my medical bag,” ordered Sasha.
It took Rosie less than two minutes to get Sasha her bag. Rosie set down the medical supplies on the table.
“Thanks,” said Sasha tersely.
Sasha lifted Amadeo up so that he was sitting on the edge of the table. Amadeo didn’t protest, instead, simply letting a tear run from his eye down the side of his aquiline nose. Sasha sighed, running a hand through her snowy hair, before smiling tightly and wiping the tear away with a finger.
“I’m not going to hurt you,” Sasha’s voice was unusually gentle, especially since most of what she said on an average day was yelled.
Amadeo’s apprehensive expression did not change, but he stopped squirming in Sasha’s lap. Sasha picked her medical bag up, opening it and pulling out a medical needle and some thread. She set them on the table and stood up, setting Amadeo in the chair she had so recently occupied. Sasha picked up her needle, threading it deftly. Amadeo eyed the sharp object warily as the woman holding it walked around behind him.
“Hold still and this won’t hurt at all,” said Sasha, gently brushing Amadeo’s auburn hair over
one of his slim shoulders.
A large chunk of flesh had been taken from the back of the boy’s neck, now only half healed over. Sasha, ignoring the wave of pity that crashed over her, tenderly began stitching up the wound. Amadeo flinched as the cold metal of the needle touched his skin. Finishing the stitches, Sasha requested that Rosie bring her a bottle of rubbing alcohol. Her request immediately carried out, Sasha dabbed some of the pungent liquid over her work, warding off infection. The burning of the liquid seeping into the stitches caused Amadeo to shudder and let out a piteous whimper. Sasha stroked his hair soothingly, before deftly bandaging his neck. Sasha repeated this careful process innumerable times, until she had finished with the last of Amadeo’s injuries. During her work, Sasha had noted a peculiar swelling and bruising around Amadeo’s left shoulder. Softly touching the area, she felt around for a break in the bones. To her relief, the bone was not broken, but simply dislocated. Sasha pressed the palm of her hand to the front of the boy’s shoulder.
“This is going to hurt,” murmured Sasha.
She felt Amadeo tense, ready for the pain. Sasha’s movement was quick, and a loud pop signified Amadeo’s bone snapping back into place. Amadeo’s jaw clenched against the sharp pain, and a few tears slipped from his eyes. Out of Sasha’s medical bag came a brace, which she fitted to the boy’s replaced shoulder to keep the bone in place.
“There. All finished. You were very good,” said Sasha, unsure how to talk to the boy so recently placed in her care.
Amadeo simply gazed at Sasha with wide, questioning eyes, as if asking her why she was doing this for him. After a moment, Sasha broke the silence, turning to Rosie.
“Get this boy some food. He needs it. Then put him to bed. He looks like he hasn’t slept in days.”
“I gave him some milk, but he wouldn’t drink it,” said Rosie, motioning to the still-full glass standing at the end of the table.
“Well, give him a stiff brandy and send him to bed,” said Sasha, stowing her medical bag in a cabinet and walking out the door.
“I can’t give Amadeo brandy!”
“... why not?”
“He’s 14 years old, for heaven’s sake!”
“Does that matter?”
“Whatever. Give him food and put him in bed,” were Sasha’s final words on the matter.
Sasha left the kitchen, striding down the hall to her own room and flopping down on the bed. It had been a long, strenuous day. Sasha opened her thoughts, simply relaxing into a sleep-like state of meditation, observing the surrounding world in the form of a spirit. Sasha’s dreams brushed against Rosie’s mind, revealing the redhead’s frustration at not being able to get Amadeo to eat anything. Sasha moved on. She had seen Rosie’s thoughts before many a time. It wasn’t long before Sasha touched Amadeo’s thoughts. Curious, she delved in, reading the boy like an open book. She perused through childhood memories, not bothering to stop and examine them. That was when she found the fear. Cold, dark, mind-numbing fear. Sasha began digging into the fear, wondering what caused it. Instead of finding a single event that had caused this fear, she found a cavity. A cavity in his memory. A place there should have been life. Sasha tried to dig into the cavity, but found herself stopped by an immense power. This was not the boy’s power, obviously. He could not have known that Sasha was in his mind. Something or someone had tampered with the boy’s brain. Sasha could almost imagine herself drowning in that fear. Fear of loneliness. Fear of darkness. Fear of dying...
Sasha snapped awake, a hand shaking her shoulder. Light was spilling into the room. A small hand was rested on Sasha’s shoulder. Long, ginger hair tickled Sasha’s nose as she stared up into a pair of hetero-chromatic eyes. Over Amadeo’s small shoulder leaned Rosie.
“What?” asked Sasha, finding her voice.
“Sasha! You’re awake! You’ve been asleep for three days! We’ve been worried about you!” Rosie’s voice was almost hysterical.
“I simply wanted a little rest,” said Sasha, lifting Amadeo off of herself and pulling him over her shoulder.
“How is the boy doing? Have you gotten him to eat?” asked Sasha, feeling the boy’s bones pressing into her shoulder as he clung to her.
“Oh! Yes! A bit. He’ll only eat rice and miso soup. And sake. He loves sake,” said Rosie.
Sasha simply gave her best friend a flat stare.
“You let the boy have sake.”
“You’re the one who suggested giving him a stiff brandy!” replied Rosie, indignant.
“A stiff brandy is not the same thing as 4 bottles of sake,” said Sasha, catching a whiff of the boy’s alcohol-drenched breath.
“It was only one bottle!”
“... anyway... I’m going to get dressed. Take the boy out and give him some food. I’ll be out in a second,” said Sasha, throwing open her closet door and pulling out a hakama, sash and robe. Rosie took Amadeo by the hand leading him out of the room and down into the kitchen, where she sat him at the table, searching through the ice-box to find something for breakfast.
“What do you want to eat?” asked Rosie, looking over her shoulder at the spot where Amadeo very well should have been sitting.
The boy had run off. Again. Rosie sighed, jogging from the room, just as Sasha, now fully clothed, was about to join her in the kitchen.
“Did you see Amadeo run by here?” asked Rosie.
“No. Should I have?”
“Probably. The little bugger has taken off again,” said Rosie exasperatedly.
“Well, you’d better go find him,” said Sasha, lighting her pipe and sliding it into her mouth.
“Aren’t you going to help me?!”
“No. I’m eating breakfast,” said Sasha, shouldering past Rosie and into the kitchen.
Rosie stared after her best friend frustratedly for a moment before storming off in search of her young charge. It was nearly an hour before Rosie found Amadeo. She found him sitting at the edge of the garden pond, his feet dangling into the clear water. He cringed as Rosie reached out to him, attempting to escape from the redheaded monstrosity looming over him. Rosie took Amadeo by the hand, pulling him to his feet. Pearly tears slid down Amadeo’s face.
“Shhh, please don’t cry! I’m not going to hurt you, and neither is Sasha. I don’t think I told you this, but I’m Rosie, and the woman with the white hair is Sasha. Your father, Death, told us to take care of you until you get better,” said Rosie quietly, walking with Amadeo back to the house.
Amadeo didn’t respond, but his tears slowly calmed. Back at the house, Sasha was seated at the low table, lounging backwards, drinking out of a bottle of vodka.
“Why is there no food in this house?” she asked as Rosie sat Amadeo down at the table.
“I don’t know. We’ve just been getting food from a little cafe about a mile from here,” said Rosie, filling a glass of milk for Amadeo and pressing it into his little hands.
Amadeo simply looked at the milk, a suspicious glint in his eyes.
Sasha’s voice made Amadeo jump.
“It’ll make you better,” said Sasha, “Drink it.”
Amadeo brought the cup to his mouth, shivering as the cold glass touched his lips. Rosie watched exultantly as the white liquid poured down the boy’s throat.
“Sasha, you are a miracle worker,” said Rosie, wrapping her arms around her friend’s head.
“I got the kid to drink milk. Now, where’s this cafe you went to?” I need breakfast.
“I’ll show you!” exclaimed Rosie, gripping Sasha’s arm and dragging her to her feet.
“Stay here. Don’t run away. We’ll be back soon,” said Sasha to Amadeo, patting him on the head.
Within a few minutes, Sasha and Rosie were walking down the cobblestone path towards the town. The town was collection of about 20 rather beautiful, elegant buildings, not counting the surrounding homes. The cafe Rosie had spoken about was at the center of the town. People bustled in and out, eying Sasha and Rosie curiously. Rosie’s rubescent hair stood out in the small crowd in the cafe. Rosie’s eyes widened as she caught sight of someone she knew.
“BAR WENCH!” Rosie launched herself past Sasha, wrapping her arms around the neck of a tall, slender young man with a shag of long, black hair, and unusual, plum colored eyes.
Sasha wasn’t surprised at the look of pure terror that crossed the teen’s face, smirking slightly. Sasha’s keen ears picked up a few snickers from some of the young men behind the bar.
“Rosie, I see you’ve made a friend. Care to introduce me?” asked Sasha wryly, her Japanese flawless, barely affected by her heavy Celtic lilt.
“Sasha, this is my Bar Wench. Bar Wench, this is Sasha. She’s the one I was telling you about the other night,” bubbled Rosie, her arms not leaving the boy’s neck.
“Pleasure,” said Sasha, offering her hand for “Bar Wench” to shake.
Sasha’s grip was firm, her hands rough and calloused.
“Sasha Caverly,” Sasha introduced herself.
Sasha was relieved that she’d been supplied with a name. Calling this young man “Bar Wench” would simply have been awkward. Releasing Jiro’s hand, Sasha gripped Rosie by the collar of her mauve kimono, dragging the Frenchwoman off of him.
“Okayama-san probably has better things to do than spend time being clung to by you.”
Sasha bodily dragged her friend back to the bar, ordering in a voice that brooked no nonsense. About half an hour later, Sasha swept majestically out of the cafe, dragging a squirming Rosie with her.
“Bye, Bar Wench!” she called, as Sasha pulled her out the doorway.
And then they were gone. Jiro sighed, returning to his place behind the bar. One of Jiro’s co-workers, a 19 year old called Shunsuke, nudged him in the ribs.
“Is that the girl with the crazy drunk story?” he asked.
“She was sort of pretty...”
“What, with that crimson hair?”
“I suppose it is kind of ghastly, but did you SEE her companion?! What a beauty!”
“If you say so...” Jiro sounded somewhat skeptical.
“Are you kidding me!? That woman was gorgeous! You must be crazy not to think so!” exclaimed Shunsuke
“Either he’s crazy, or he doesn’t like women,” snickered another of Jiro’s co-workers.
Jiro’s fist connected with his jaw.
Sasha reclined on the porch of the house she shared with Rosie and Amadeo. She was holding the small boy on her lap. Fresh bandages covered new wounds. The first thing Rosie and Sasha had seen upon entering their house was a splatter of blood. Sasha found Amadeo curled up on the floor of the kitchen, his left side split completely open by the bloodied knife in his hand. Sasha swept him up, snapping at Rosie to get her bandages and boiling water. Sasha had calmly stroked Amadeo’s bloodied hair as she bound up his side. After finishing the treatment, Sasha instructed Rosie to bathe the boy, which she had done without complaint. Amadeo now lay against Sasha’s chest a clean, white kimono clinging to his thin form. Long fingers ran between strands of copper hair. Earlier, Sasha had discovered that this simple act would calm the boy, drying those tears that would so often slip from his eyes.
“So, earlier. The cafe. How do you know Okayama-san?” asked Sasha, sick of the silence.
“Bar Wench? Oh, well it was the other night, while you were asleep. The first night we were here. You told me to feed the boy and put him to bed, but we didn’t have any food in the house, so I took him down to that cafe. It was really late, like 11:00, and Bar Wench was on the graveyard shift. I ordered some miso and sake, and gave them to the kid. I drank a couple of sake bottles myself. Four, I think. Anyway, by about 1, I was as drunk as a lord. I’m not quite sure what I said to him, but he ended up with the nickname ‘Bar Wench’,” shrugged Rosie.
“I don’t think he appreciates it,” said Sasha, smiling at Rosie’s drunken antics.
“That’s okay! It’s a cute nickname,” said Rosie, smiling cutely.
“Whatever you say,” shrugged Sasha, discovering that Amadeo had fallen asleep in her arms.
Sasha stood up, lifting the boy easily over her shoulder.
“I’m going to put the boy to bed.”
Amadeo’s room was small and simple, the white walls only bearing one decoration; an opened scroll of old paper bearing the character ??, strength. Sasha carefully laid Amadeo onto the futon, covering him to the shoulders in a white blanket. Sasha shut the curtains, darkening the room before walking back to the door. Looking back over her shoulder, Sasha’s lips turned up into a slight smile seeing Amadeo’s form relaxed and untroubled. Shutting the door quietly, Sasha padded down the hall, checked up on Rosie, who had crashed on her own bed, before moving on to her room. Lying down on the blue satin covers of her canopied bed, Sasha let herself slip away from reality.
Cold. . .
Dark. . .
Fear. . .
Pain. . .
Sasha searched these emotions, trying to sort them one from another, trying to find the sources of each.