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Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.

 


 

 

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.

The Swiss Guards' heavy boots echoed along with their rushed steps on the quiet hallway as all of them dashed to bring the two limp bodies to the Vatican's infirmary. The long marbled windows overlooked to the main courtyard below, where the once lavish travertine stones were painted crimson by the bloodshed they had barely escaped from.

To the piled up bodies below, Beatrice didn't look. She couldn't. For her eyes were on Ava, and Ava alone, as she watched unblinkingly the guards dispose the barely conscious girl on the bed. Immediately, she takes point on Ava's side; hands flying to her neck with calculated precision, stagnating the blood oozing from the wound.

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.

Beatrice barely registers the guards laying Lilith down on the bed behind them and leaving quietly — her focus already on Ava's injuries, categorizing each and every one of them on a scale of urgency. “We need to stop the bleeding.” She says evenly, with a calm she was not feeling. In instants, Mary and Camila enter her line of vision, each pair of hands occupying itself with a wound. "How's Lilith?”

“Better than Ava.” Camila replies, doe-like eyes glistening from the chandelier. “Her wounds were healed before we got here. Ava has it worse.”

“Fucking Adriel.” Mary grunts, eyes hardening as she presses the cloth harder on Ava's stomach.

Beatrice analyses the soaked material of Ava's shirt and counts the minutes in her head. Half a moment later, she frowns. “It's taking too long. The Halo should have been recharged by now. Search her.” She orders, keeping her hands in place as the two women in front of her start lifting Ava's shirt. From her position, she could perfectly see the soft bluish glow emanating from underneath the bloody fabric.

“Divinium.” Camila whimpers, placing her cloth back on a puncturing wound that was just beginning to fill out. "It's slowing everything down.”

"The other wounds won't properly heal with this thing in here." Mary states, pointing towards the prominent blue shard sticking out of Ava's navel. "How did this happen?"

"The sword." Beatrice frowns, feeling an urge of anxiety quicken her heart to a painful degree. "It must have been broken.” She guesses, trying to piece back together her memories. Her mind felt scrambled, focus flying out the window the longer Ava remained unconscious.

"This is the worst deja-vu I ever had." Camila moans.

"It won't end the same." Beatrice states firmly. The words roll out of her mouth with a conviction that was far more favorable to her sisters than herself. Her eyes fall on the Divinium, and the longer she stared at it, the more she convinced herself that it's glow was beginning to dimmer. A few seconds more and she swears she sees it flicker.

The Halo was wearing out. They were running out of time.

"It's getting worse." Beatrice breathes, audible enough to make both figures blink up at her. "We have no choice. We need to remove it. Now."

"Have you lost your goddamn mind?" Mary barks at her, disbelief evident in her eyes.

“This is Divinium, Bea. She can't heal from Divinium.” Camila whimpers at her side, brows pulling in.

“Ava came back from the dead once. We don't know how the Halo reacts to her body.” The words sounded empty, even to herself. But faith was the only thing she had; the only assurance she could cling to. And what was faith if not taking a step into the void and hope for salvation?

The blood on her hands felt suddenly denser, as if it was trying to sink into her flesh. They needed to do something, and fast. Beatrice breathes in deep.

The Lord is my helper; I will not fear.

“Remove it.” She says, with a sinking feeling on her chest. Whatever happened next, it would be her cross to carry.

"This could kill her, Bea. Shannon—"

“She's not Shannon.” Beatrice interrupts, holding Mary's gaze. A lump was forming on her throat but her voice doesn't waver. “I'm perfectly aware of the risks. However, do we have any other choice? The longer we stay here deciding, the longer she bleeds out, and weaker the Halo becomes. Have you forgotten what happens when the Halo is overexerted? The only certainty we have is that she is dying."

She blinks down to the unconscious girl in front of her. Ava was paler. There was more color on her ruined clothes than on her usually flushed cheeks. The smell of blood was burning Beatrice's nostrils. There was just so much of it. In other circumstances, wounds like these wouldn't even make any of them bat an eye; the Halo would sew it close in a matter of seconds. But now, it had yet to be closed. Everything had yet to be glued back together. On that moment, death was a sharp blade hovering above their heads, swigging dangerously faster with each second that passed.

"You're right." Mary gives in, at last. Beatrice finds no satisfaction in it. The older woman steps to the side, getting closer to the fading shard. "This is gonna hurt. Half the blade is buried in her stomach. Hold her down."

Beatrice's hand remains on Ava's neck while she spreads her other on Ava's opposite shoulder. Camila does her best to grip the girl's hips and lay her weight on it, pressing Ava down on the bed.

Tension builds on a crescendo as Mary breathes deeply, one hand wrapping a cloth around the end of the shard while the other laid flat on Ava's chest. Brown eyes flicker between her sisters, a silent request for strength, before she pulls.

Instantly, Ava's eyes shoot open and she screams.

The blade falls forgotten on the ground as the three of them rush to hold the girl down. "Hold her!" Mary shrieks, struggling to stop the flood of blood left in the shard's wake.

Beatrice's pulse trembles at her fingertips as she presses the squirming Halo-bearer down. Whatever the blade held back was fully unleashed as the girl convulsed on the bed. Camila wobbled up and down as Ava wrestled against them, digging her heels on the sheets and arching her back as a blood-chilling scream echoed through her mouth.

And then, as quick as it began, they are engulfed in a soul-stirring silence as the girl falls limp on the bed. The change is so abrupt Beatrice feels her ears ring.

Initially, nothing appeared to have changed. But then, skin begins to sew itself back together. Muscles pulse and move as liquid metal, closing deep gashes and filling up puncture wounds. Beatrice watches everything in a shellshocked haze as her eyes follow every injury disappear, silently checking out all the boxes in her mental list until she's down to one.

The Divinium wound.

Silence grows as a vile creature — living and breathing — occupying the whole room and pressing them against the walls. Time becomes an enemy as it stops running, only crawls. The sisters focus their attention on Mary's hands and the periodically lifting of the cloth. Underneath it, the deep puncture left by the sword showed no sigh of improvement and with each time Mary accessed it, Beatrice felt her heart get much smaller, for the blood continued to flow.

Her insides quivered as the seconds ticked away. On a pulse, Beatrice's hands find each other. Bloody fingers trembling as dry leaves as she nervously twisted the ring on her middle finger. Nuns don't fidget, she recalls saying once. And yet, she was. Restlessly.

The clock above her head click-clacked rhythmically and Beatrice's eyes were sneaking towards it every now and then, watching — with stirring angst — as the small needle rotated the seconds into minutes, and Ava still made no visible change.

Afraid. She thinks to herself after three full turns of the clock-hand. She was afraid. No, she was terrified.

Beatrice knew what this truly was. This feeling. This restlessness. She had predicted it way before it had lodged itself inside her heart. Just like a traumatized soldier can flinch to a shooting bullet from many miles away, she felt this longing arrive with the same rush of despair circling through her veins; the same feeling of complete helplessness taking hold of her, forcing her frozen as she watched it happen right before her eyes.

The fear was because she cared for Ava, deeply, in a way she had been forbidden to. It's unknown depth was making her terrified, more than she had ever been in her entire life. Tonight, for more reasons than one. Either she was wrong about the Divinium and they would bury yet another Warrior Nun. Or she was right, and the repercussions of that evening would shift her axis in a complete irreparable way. Either way, she'll loose something she's not ready to loose, and there was no fear greater than that.

Beatrice doesn't know when her eyes fall close and she starts praying. And for how long. All she knows is that the mantras had been repeated to exhaustion, words had lost their meaning, and now, there was only a faint mumbling at the back of her mind, smothering the room around her. The dampening was so great she only hears Camila's call only after she had already repeated it twice.

"She's healing!” The sound rushes into her silence like a running tide, drowning her with it's weight. "It worked, Bea! She's healing! Ava is healing!”

Amidst the chaos, Beatrice rediscovers breathing. She inhales shakily, eyes blinking down to the fading wound, not really believing what she's seeing. At the corner of her vision, Camila makes the sigh of the cross, kissing her knuckles in gratitude. Mary simply sags over the bed, throwing the soaked cloth away with a grunt.

She, however, only keeps on watching. Waiting, as if the shoe had yet to drop and the truth had yet to be broken; cruel reality crashing down with the awareness that she was wrong once again. Their plan didn't work. Ava was dying. One more Warrior Nun underneath the ground. But, none of that happens. Instead, Ava opens her eyes.

"Ava!" Someone says on her side. Lazily, Ava blinks at them, not really seeing what's in front of her. Her gaze shifts from one figure to the other, brows pulling in as she tried to make sense of her surroundings.

Beatrice doesn't know how her hand found it's way towards Ava's forehead, but the movement makes Ava's gaze finally focus on her, and it also makes her do something that dooms Beatrice almost completely: she smiles.

Every blooming begins with a seed, and hers, Beatrice thinks, began with that smile. Ava's smile. So open, so wide. Carrying a liberty that Beatrice, up to that moment, had only dreamt of ever having for herself.

Smiling back was not an option, and yet she did it anyway. Just like the flowers have no will but lean towards the sun, Beatrice felt her lips part into a smile. Not as open, not as wide, certainly not as free, but just as warm.

"Hi." Ava whispers.

"Hello." She replies, just as soft. "How are you feeling?”

"Tired." She mumbles, eyes falling shut once again. And just like that, Ava falls back to sleep.

At last, relief washes over her. Collapsing, like summer rain, on her shoulders and down her back; rinsing her entire body clean, renewing each bone and muscle back to life. Beatrice takes a recomposing breath, slow air in, slow air out, making the fear slowly sink like water on sand inside her heart (still there, only deeper) and, after what felt like years, she can finally think again.

Thank you, she says softly to the heavens in her most private voice. For this could only be described as a blessing. A miracle. To her left, Camila voices her thoughts.

"And she's making it look easy." Mary laughs, rising to her feet. To Beatrice, it sounded resentful. But on her side, Camila laughs along, so to that, she says nothing.

"This was a team's work. Good job, everyone." Beatrice compliments, nodding firmly at them. In front of her, Mary gives her a dismissive wave. At her side, Camila grins widely, eyes twinkling as she clasps Ava's hand into her own, giving it a squeeze. It's only then Beatrice notices her palm still rested on Ava's forehead. Cleaning her throat, she curls it back.

"How's Lilith?" She asks again, with more awareness.

“Fucking fine, I hope. Because I’m not doing that again.” Mary complains, rubbing her neck. They all were a little bit sore after tonight. Considering what they had been through that evening, feeling only soreness was nothing but another miracle.

Rising to her feet, Camila circles the bed to seat by Lilith's side, checking her pulse with a pair of fingers. After a moment, she nods. “She is. Pulse is strong. It seems that the both of them are on the same page now, healing something internally. They just need time.”

Nodding, Beatrice blinks down at Ava, taking in the new color on her cheeks with a sigh. Apart from the blood and grime, she looked well. As if her life had never been on the line. Leave it to Ava to almost flatline on their hands and not look like it.

"We'll give them time." She says, firmly. "Meanwhile, it would be best if we decided what to do.”

"First," Mary begins, lifting up a hand. “Remind me again how exactly we got here? Alive? Because we were losing, Bea. Badly."

"Yeah." Camila agrees weakly. "There was just so much of them.”

Beatrice frowns, trying to assort her memories in a logical order. She remembers the gore, the blood, and the horror. Those were not easy things to forget. But the details were slipping through her fingers like sand.

"We were separated." Beatrice starts, eyes unfocusing as she recalled the battle. "They just wouldn't stop coming and I was being overwhelmed fast. I remember being hit," She lays a hand on her stomach. "and falling on the ground. Adriel was onto me. He saw me shouting out orders. He was ready to kill me and then…" She blinks down at Ava. "Ava appeared. What happened after I can't remember.”

"I remember dragging Lilith out of the hot zone. Wraiths were all around us. And then, there was this light..." Mary voices out loud, lost in thought. "I think it was Ava.”

"It was." Camila nods. "Whatever she did, she made the whole room light up like a sun. I had to close my eyes, it was so bright. When I opened them again, the wraiths had been expelled and Adriel was…" She drifts off, frowning.

"Gone." Beatrice finishes, looking down at Ava.

The word echoes in the air around them, filling it out, making it thick. The three Sisters stand in silence for a moment, staring blankly at their Warrior Nun — minds heavy with thoughts.

An angel — or whatever he was — defeated by a nineteen year old girl.

Beatrice didn't need proof to believe in the Word. While she had initially sought the church for the salvation of her immortal soul, the palpable presence of Heaven — in the form of Divinium, or indirectly, demons — did little to solidify her faith. Working for the OCS had not created her belief in God, only had made it stronger. But, despite her faith, the extinguishing of a being the ancient scripts spoke about in Holy reverence was not settling in peacefully on her mind.

Either Ava had been successful in killing him or not, Adriel had been defeated. And that alone is something entirely unprecedented in the Halo's history — maybe even in the whole Catholic history itself.

Everything was going to change now. For all of them.

"What will we do, Bea?" Camila asks her, voicing the common train of thought circling through their heads.

Beatrice sighs, glancing at the two unconscious girls in front of her. "Our choices aren't exactly abundant.”

"Do you think it's safe to let them rest here?" Mary asks her, cleaning her bloody fingers on a clean cloth.

"With Duretti being Holy Father?" She shakes her head. “His main concern is his reputation, we know that now. I rather not think the number of ways things could go south if we remained under his care.”

"You think it's his interest to remove the Halo?" Mary crosses her arms, glancing at their unconscious Warrior Nun.

"I believe it's his interest to do anything to protect himself." The words are clipped in her mouth. On a different day, Beatrice would scold herself for her insolence. But at that moment, she could not give a fuck. "I don't trust his intentions with Lilith either.”

"To Cat's Cradle, then?" Camila asks, hesitant.

"For now, it's our only choice." She exhales, quite suddenly tired.

"Well, we aren't exactly welcomed there anymore." Mary scoffs, shaking her head. "We were reassigned, after all.”

"Perhaps Mother Superion might help us." She suggests, not exactly hopeful. “Pull us some strings.”

"And maybe, some wheels." Camila grins, looking expectantly at Ava for an easy laugh. Her smile dimmers when she's reminded the girl couldn't hear the joke.

Beatrice ignores the interaction, feeling her stomach clench tightly. Instead, she meets Mary's gaze. "Find her. See if she can assist us.”

Mary nods. "Here's to nothing." She says as she leaves, the door closing silently behind her.

Within the silence that grows with Mary's exit, Beatrice feels her shoulders suddenly double it's weight, hampering her balance and making her sway lightly on her feet. That evening's adrenaline rush was begging to wear off — high-lighting different bruises scattered around her body. She could already tell it would take longer than usual to recover.

Inevitably, her gaze returns to Ava — as it often did these days. Within the slow rise and fall of her chest, Beatrice finds a breath of peace, feeling the fear sink just a little deeper, an inch farther away than before.

"They're gonna be okay." Camila says softly, rising and circling the bed to approach her.

Despite her exhaustion, Beatrice's mouth spreads into a small smile. "I know." She replies confidently, with a brief nod. She did know. "Will you be okay?” She asks after a moment, noticing the younger girl curl into herself.

"It's just…" Camila starts, folding her arms tighter. "I feel like we just unturned a stone we weren't meant to unturn.”

"What do you mean?”

"What if we made it worse, Bea?" Her voice lowers to a half-whisper. "Destroying an angel? Opening gates to hell? What if there's retaliation?”

Beatrice sighs. “You're scared something might happen to us.”

"I am! We barely made out of this alive, Bea." She whimpers, shoulders pulling in. “Something is happening with Lilith that we don't know what. Ava nearly died. Again. With everything that’s happened, how can we know that we’re even safe?”

“We don’t.” She admits, honestly. “At least, not until Ava wakes up. We don’t know what happened, only she does.”

Camila shifts on her feet, restless. "Do you think they will be asleep for long?"

"They earned their rest. Now, it's up to us to have patience and do our best." Beatrice says calmly, resting a hand on Camila's shoulder. “God has a plan for all of us."

With a sigh, Camila drops her arms. "You're right…” She nods. “I'm just so worried.”

"I know." Beatrice smiles softly. "We all are.”

Camila curls her lips into a smile, before it turns sheepish. "Is it strange to say I miss them already? It's too quiet without them.”

At the question, she finds her gaze drifting to Ava's sound asleep face once again.

"No." She replies after a moment, watching her own hand brush a few brown strands back. "I miss them too.”

A knowing smile flashes Camila's expressions, one Beatrice pretends she didn't see, before she asks. “Do you think we'll be able to travel tomorrow? If everything goes well with Mother Superion?”

"Early morning would be best.”

Camila nods. "I was thinking about cleaning them. Perhaps a change of clothes? It will be a long ride to travel full of dirt and blood.”

Alarms go off inside her mind, but Beatrice nods. "Good idea."

They walk together towards the infirmary's cabinets, finding clean cloths, a sponge, a basin, and surprisingly, a pair of white pajamas.

"Better than scrubs." Camila comments, filling up the basin with water before walking back to Ava's side. "You should clean yourself a bit, Bea. I can handle this."

"Are you certain?" Beatrice asks, politely. She had no intention of making part of that, and for some reason, she knew Camila was aware of her discomfort.

"Yeah. It's not my first time doing this." Camila says casually, soaking up the sponge with water. "Ava, I hope you don't mind me cleaning you up a little." She says to the Warrior Nun, pushing the girl's ruined shirt off.

Beatrice turns around almost instantly — ignoring the prickling burn rising up her neck as she brings an empty basin to the infirmary's sink, filling it up with clear water.

Blinking up to the mirror, she tries not to wince. She looked awful. Her right cheek was smeared with dirt from when Adriel had knocked her down and a slash was cutting her left one, painting her skin with thin crimson streams, curling down her jaw.

In other words, the past hours were reflecting perfectly on her appearance.

Sighing, she removes her headpiece. The wet cloth feels cold on her skin as she rubs the gore away — clear water quickly turning red. She wipes her face, hands, and a little of her gear. After a moment, she settles with being partially clean. There was so much she could do without mirroring Ava's treatment.

Daring a peak at the mirror, she sees Camila finishing dressing Ava up with the new clothes. The sigh that leaves her mouth is both full of relief and disappointment. The precise meaning of that, Beatrice decides to think over on another day, for her eyes had caught glimpse of something important that they had forgotten.

Turning around, Beatrice walks towards the abandoned Divinium blade on the floor.

"No handle..." She comments absentmindedly, carefully turning it over in her hand."The rest must be downstairs. We should retrieve it.”

Camila frowns at her, walking towards Lilith. "You think it's safe?”

Beatrice sighs. What exactly was safe these days? "The wraiths were expelled, so no danger in that. And, if Adriel is alive, he probably wouldn't make the same mistake twice. Not tonight, at least. Either way, we do need another sword." She wraps the blade into a clean cloth, it's blue glow leaking through the thin fabric. "I'll be back soon. Take care of them?”

"You know I will." Camila smiles.

"I do." Beatrice smiles, chest briefly warming up with pride. Camila truly had grown since her first day among them.

With a parting glance at Ava's face, she walks out, closing the door softly behind her. Nodding to herself, she heads downstairs — internally preparing herself to the horror Adriel's forces had left in it's wake.

 

 


 

 

By the time transportation had been arranged, the sun was starting to rise.

Beatrice sat quietly at the white van's back, watching from the parking lot the sun begin to paint the sky with pink and oranges. She waited patiently while the clouds drifted lazily through the heavens, and beneath them, Vatican City slept soundlessly, not yet fully aware of the tragedy that had happened during the night.

Would they be recognized? Is their organization a secret still? Is Cat's Cradle safe? What would happen to them? All these were questions for later that day. At that moment, all Beatrice could do was what she was already doing: watch and wait.

Rome's sky was vibrant — casting it's light on Vatican's West offices' windows, making them twinkle like gold. The upper floor's travertine stones shined bright as paper under sunlight, contrasting with the shadowed level bellow. Underneath them, laid the main courtyard. Now, cleaned. Before, soaked in blood.

Search for the blade's remaining pieces had not been the difficult part. While it didn't glow away from Ava's presence, long years of service to the OCS had trained her eye to distinguish Divinium metal from others quite easily. Even in the dark, Divinium never quite fitted in amidst other earthly materials. There was always an aura, a humming, whenever it was near. Almost like a whisper; telling, even to those who didn't understand, that it didn't belong in that realm.

The difficult part, Beatrice thinks, had been the bodies.

With Adriel’s presence, the wraiths couldn’t be exorcised. Not in the way they knew. It had taken them a moment to realize that there was no pacific way to win. The first act had been Mary's. The first shot had also been hers, along with the first body. Secondly, Lilith. And by then, Beatrice could only act, never think. Only shout, never feel. Achieving the impossible to honor her vows and do what was necessary to save her friends, to survive. And, even then, she doesn't know how they did it.

Beatrice blinks down to the unconscious figure laying beside her. Ava had saved them. Someway. Somehow. Even more questions reserved for another time.

At the silent van, Beatrice sighs. She had hoped Ava would have regained consciousness by now. When Mary had returned to the infirmary, a few hours ago, with news of Pope Duretti offering them an olive branch (at least, for now), Lilith had began showing signs of waking up, while Ava remained as dead to the world as before.

A van had been offered for their use. Plane tickets, apparently, was too much to ask, Mary had complained. With Ava unconscious, the Swiss Guard had to help them once more. A favor, Beatrice had thought, that was entirely due to their strict code of conduct. She doubted that after knocking a handful of their men out cold they would be as willing to assist them as that.

Mary and Camila stayed behind accompanying Lilith as she regained consciousness while Beatrice followed a guard cary a limp Ava to the van. A mattress had been laid inside the vehicle to lay the halo-bearer on it, where she still remained as Beatrice waited for the rest of them to return.

In the half an hour window she had been sitting there, Ava had moved a handful of times. A rarity. Beatrice couldn't look for too long, her gaze drifting off to the heavens. Such strange feeling that it was watching the girl laying as still as a corpse. The second Ava had stepped inside Cat's Cradle's walls she had be as energetic as a humming bird — unable to stop in place, as if her heart would cease in her chest if she did.

In her wait, Beatrice caught herself touching Ava — brushing her forehead, feeling the warm skin, adjusting her pillow — anything to make the girl stir and look a little less dead. Ava was cleaner now, no sight of blood in her white pajamas. Almost dying a thing of the past. But still, the obscured feeling inside her chest urged her to check all the same.

"I see you're alive."

Beatrice blinks up to a smirking Lilith looking at her. No blood, no gore, no wounds. And just like that, another weight is lifted from her shoulders.

"I could say the same." Beatrice smiles, hopping down from the van to give her sister a tight hug.

Lilith had never been one for physical touch — just as herself — but at that moment, both of them made an exception. The taller woman grips her in a strong hold, pressing her close; a movement stained with memories of the past hours. Beatrice repeats the gesture, feeling the same fear stir underneath her skin, before stepping back.

"Couldn't find anything less humiliating to dress us?” Lilith asks, pulling the white shirt away from her body as if it stank.

"It suits you.” She smirks.

Lilith rolls her eyes, but smiles. "A penitence for blacking out, is it?”

"You did take your sweet time waking up.”

"Apparently," Camila says in greeting, arriving with blankets in her arms."The only thing she needed was a nice sponge bath."

"You better not tell a soul about that." Lilith threatens, glaring at a grinning Camila.

"I make no promises." Mary laughs, reaching them with bags.

"From you I expect nothing less." Lilith rolls her eyes. "But 'et tu, Brute'?" She directs at Camila, who was placing the blankets and bags inside the van.

"Don't worry.” Camila smiles, patting Lilith's arm. "You looked cute.” She says casually, not noticing Lilith turn three shades darker.

"You're insufferable. Both of you." She complains, receiving a pair of grins. Her expressions turn serious as she glances inside the van. "How's she?" Lilith asks Beatrice.

Beatrice sighs for the millionth time that day, watching Camila carefully lay a blanket on top of Ava. "Better." She blinks at Lilith. "Alive. Could be much worse.”

"You're sure we should return to Cat's Cradle?" Lilith asks, crossing her arms.

"We don't really have anywhere else to go." Camila replies, taking a seat beside Ava. “Apart from our other Sister Warriors, it must be mostly empty.”

"What did Mother Superion say?" Beatrice directs at Mary, who sighs.

"That she'll be meeting you there." Mary replies, massaging her neck. "Something about making some wriggle room with Duretti."

'You', not 'us'.

Beatrice squints at Mary, suspicion growing at the back of her mind. Her hunch only solidifies as Mary averts her gaze.

"I'm surprised he's even helping us at all." Lilith snarks, not noticing their exchange.

"That's more because of his reputation than his empathy." Mary replies, bitterly. Beatrice remains quiet, analyzing with her gaze."He's Holy Father now, after all.”

"Who knew that's what it took to get on his good graces." Lilith deadpans. "We might as well get our peace back.”

"That's a hella lot of faith there, Sister." Mary chuckles. Laughter doesn’t reach her eyes. Beatrice frowns deeper.

"I can't believe we spent this entire time believing he was the bad guy." Camila says sadly, fumbling with the edge of her habit. "After everything, he was just selfish.”

Silence grows quickly between them, minds flashing with the past few days. There were a number of things Beatrice chose to worry about that day, Father Vincent was not one of them. But, apparently, not everyone had made the same choice as her.

"And meanwhile,” Mary snarls, closing her hands into fists. “Vincent is out there.”

And just like that, Beatrice connects the dots.

"We'll get him." She promises, meeting Mary’s gaze. “We will make him pay for Shannon. For Ava. For all of us.”

The girls nod around them but Mary doesn't look at them.

"May I have a word with you?" Mary directs at Beatrice, but speaks to the floor, not waiting for an answer before start walking out the parking lot.

Beatrice frowns, but follows.

Mary is waiting for her at the courtyard’s entrance, leaning behind a pillar. She waits until Beatrice get’s within hearing-range before speaking.

"About Vincent…" Mary begins.

"No." Beatrice interrupts. She should have known that this was what the resentment all about.

"I must, Bea."

“You must?” Beatrice asks, temper flaring. “We don't know what happened, Mary. If Adriel is alive. If wraiths and demons still linger to this world. We don't have enough information to hunt blindly.”

"I know he killed Shannon.” Her voice is trembling, full of rage. “That's enough for me.”

"You're being reckless and you're putting yourself at risk.” Beatrice crosses her arms. “All of us at risk.”

"She'd do the same thing for me, Bea." Mary pleads, softer now. Sadder. "Shannon would take the very same risk for me.”

"I'm sorry, Mary." She meant it. She did. "But I can't support you on this madness.”

Mary sighs, heavily, full of memory. She tries searching Beatrice’s expressions for any change of heart, but her Sister's gaze was elsewhere. Within the silence that grows between them, Mary changes tactics — drifting her eyes towards the van. "If it was her, what would you do?”

Beatrice freezes. Entirely. Fear bursts out of her heart and into her veins as liquid ice — turning her insides into wastelands as her gaze slowly lifts to meet Mary’s.

Her mouth opens, closes, then opens again. "It's not the same.” She attempts, poorly.

"We both know it is.” Mary smiles, softly, full of knowing. It makes Beatrice tremble even more. Mary is kind enough to give her a few seconds to breathe before she speaks again. "Tell me, if it was Ava under the ground, and her killer on the loose, what would you do?”

Beatrice stays silenced. Speech, at that moment, not being necessary. They both knew what she would do. What lines she would cross.

"That's what I thought." Mary says, smiling without her eyes. "Take care of them, okay?”

Beatrice swallows, feeling her throat raw, then nods. “Only if you take care as well.”

Mary’s eyes soften, just a bit. A twinkle on the water of a very deep well. "I'll keep you updated.”

Beatrice nods again, feeling her heart fold in half. Mary turns to leave, but she stops her, gripping her forearm tightly to meet her gaze.

"In this life or the next.” She says; voice firm, unwavering. Not Beatrice, but a Sister Warrior, bidding her goodbyes.

Another ripple glows on the surface before Mary presses her hand. “In this life.”

And just like that, she leaves.

"Where's Mary?" Lilith asks her as she approaches the van. The taller woman's eyes were searching over Beatrice's shoulder, frowning at her lack of company.

Beatrice waits until she fully reaches them before sighing. "After Father Vincent.”

"What?"

"By herself?" Camila frowns.

"And you let her?" Lilith exclaims, dark eyes full of accusation.

"She's aware of the risks. I couldn't convince her otherwise.”

Lilith shakes her head. "I'm going with her."

Stepping to the side, Beatrice blocks her way.

"Move, Beatrice.”

"No. I'm not happy with this either. But, we can't take any more risks." Lilith is not looking at her, but she can tell by the clench of her jaw that she was listening. "Until we know for certain, both you and Ava are under extreme danger. If you follow her, you're dooming yourself.”

"She can't go alone, Bea."

"Her odds of survival are higher if she is. We don't know what's happening to you, wether you are a walking beacon to Adriel or not. It will be safer if you stay put.”

Lilith's hands were curled into fists, jaw clenching shut with frustration. After a moment, she sighs. "Fine. But I don't have to be nice about it.”

Beatrice gives her a small smile. "You may lay all your frustrations on her when she returns.”

Lilith snorts. "You bet I will." She says, turning around to get inside the van. "You drive.”

Beatrice nods, taking a deep breath. Her gaze meets Camila's, who gives her a sad smile; doe-eyes watering.

All at once, Vatican City starts feeling claustrophobic; bleak sky above her head and thick air filling up her lungs like water. Inevitably, her eyes find Ava once again, her oscillating chest slowing her breathing back to normal.

Without a word, Beatrice closes the van's back doors — silently dreading the amount of hours that laid ahead of them.