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There was a buzz at Cat's Cradle that morning, Lilith noticed when she sat down for breakfast, setting her tray down next to Shannon, Mary on her other side swirling a cup of black coffee in her hand. The three of them sat in silence for a long second, listening to the chatter of their sisters around them. A sense of excited energy settled, crowded around the tables. Lilith recognised it, and before Shannon confirmed her suspicions, she already knew what was going on.

 

 

"There's a new girl coming," Shannon bit into her toast, chewed slowly as she thought. The Halo Bearer and her burden, just another girl to add to the mix for Shannon to protect, another girl that may have to die for her. Lilith understood, since that burden would one day be hers. She liked Shannon plenty, and part of her hoped she'd never get the chance to inherit the halo from her. She'd never admit it, not to her parents or any of her sisters at the OCS. She had a reputation to uphold.

 

 

"What do we know about her?" Lilith didn't expect much of an answer. Mother Superion never told them much about new recruits in advance. Not that that was surprising. Mother wasn't exactly an open book, not since the incident that gave her the scar. Not that anyone knew how that happened either. Those that did, had been sworn into secrecy. So it was even more of a shock to Lilith when Mary spoke up from next to Shannon after a sip of her coffee.

 

 

"Her name is Beatrice. Apparently she graduated top of her class in a catholic boarding school in Switzerland. Speaks multiple languages including Latin, trained black belt in three different martial arts styles," she took another long sip of her coffee, "all that put her very clearly on the path of the OCS, along with the fact she's apparently a certified genius." Shannon was smiling gently, clearly impressed. Mary looked unmoved, but Lilith could see the impressed glint in her eyes. She whistled gently as she picked up her fork and dug into the plate of eggs.

 

 

It was an impressive resume, that's for sure. Lilith just hoped that the girl would live up for it.

 

 

Mary and Shannon were excited to meet her, that much was clear. Lilith wouldn't admit it, but she was too.

 

 

Afterall, it had been a long time since anyone had really challenged her.

 

 

 

 

The first time they all properly met the Beatrice, was in a sparring class later that afternoon. She's shorter than I expected of someone with such a resume, Lilith thought as she watched the young girl wrap her hands from fingers to wrist, stretch her legs and warm up her stances. They were practiced, flawless, perfect with a rigidity and strength Lilith began to get slightly nervous over, despite chastising herself over it. Mother Superion stood a few feet away, just off the matts. Shannon had her hands behind her back, by Mother's side. Mary watched from the back wall with a couple of the other sisters, who had become distracted by the arrival of their new sister from their own sparring.

 

 

"Sisters. This is Beatrice." Beatrice turned, gave a stiff nod to each one of them in turn. A small shy smile gave away her nerves, and Lilith was silently glad. It made her seem human. "She will be taking her vows tomorrow morning, but from this moment forth, treat her like one of your own." There was a grumble of agreement, nods and smiles shared between those present. Superion looked to Lilith, directly in the eyes. "That means no taking it easy on our new sister now, Lilith."

 

 

Shannon tensed. There was a subtle glow from her back, the halo reacting to her stress. She always cared a lot about each of her sisters, even before she became their leader and this all became her responsibility. Hand in hand went the disapproval of Mother Superion's methods. They cared equally about the members of the OCS, but where Shannon led with emotion, Superion led with hard and cold discipline. And violence. Always violence.

 

 

Lilith looked at the young girl in front of her. Young, barely eighteen like herself, but grown up already. Toughened more than people triple their age are. She gave her a smile.

 

 

Then, she dropped to the matts, and swept at her knees with her foot.

 

 

Beatrice was fast. She leapt over Lilith's form, landed gently into a crouch behind her, and kneed her hard in the back, knocking Lilith forward. She barely managed to catch herself, hands splaying out on the matt, but quickly pushed herself back up just in time to dodge left as Beatrice's leg swung past her ear. She wasn't fast enough to move out of the way of a punch aimed at her left side, wide open and waiting. The air pushed out of her lungs instantly, and she gasped.

 

 

"You favour your right side." A British accent. Lilith smiled, rounded to face the girl and saw a calculating look drop from her face.

 

 

"Noted," she replied, and lunged again, catching the punch Beatrice threw and twisting round under her flying arm, slamming her hand up into the exposed underside of her arm. The girl jerked, but to Lilith's surprise she only let out a low groan before she contained it and spun, aiming a fist for the side of her face. Lilith grabbed it out of the air between her fingers and used her body to twist them both.

 

 

A snap sounded through the room. Shannon stepped forward immediately, yelling Lilith's name as she shook herself from the shock of watching the spar. Mary came from where she had been watching another set of sisters fighting. Lilith stepped back, hands up in the air and guilt setting in immediately as she realised what had happened. She'd broken her wrist in the same way before, remembered how it hurt. Beatrice didn't move for a long second. She held her wrist tight with her fingers turning white, breathing in and out harshly once, then twice. Then, to everyone's surprise, she unwrapped her broken wrist. Lilith felt worse when she saw the bruising and swelling already setting in. She took the wrapping, and rewrapped it around her bruising skin, tighter than before. Shannon watched, spoke multiple times to stop her. Beatrice only smiled.

 

 

She clenched her fist, moving her fingers to test the limits. Lilith didn't miss the grimace twisting her lips, but in the end she smiled at Shannon, then at Lilith. Then, she raised her fists and squared her shoulders.

 

 

"Again."

 

 

Mother Superion raised an eyebrow. Then, she nodded once. Lilith lunged.

 

 

 

 

The possessed converged on them fast. Men and women, tall and short, small and big. All with the same black eyes, filled with want for one thing only: their deaths. Mary bristled beside her, and before Lilith could stop her, before she could grab her, her sister was moving towards them. Camilla was yelling Mary's name, Ava's halo was glowing as she fought against want to do, how to get them out. Lilith felt a cold dread settle in her bones, as she watched the horde of people. No matter how skilled they were, there was no way they could fight them all off.

 

 

It didn't seem to stop Mary. Not for a single moment, the rage undoubted as her shoulders tensed and she raised her shotguns, pointing them directly out at face after face. Innocent humans, turned savage. Adriel was no where to be seen, not that Lilith could see him beyond the masses of people trying to kill them. But she felt his presence, and the more she focused, the more terrified she became of the power she felt. Beatrice was speaking under her breath. Lilith turned her head towards her, saw the determined look in her eyes. Her voice began to form words, and Lilith went cold as she understood their meaning through the chaos that thickened around their small group.

 

 

"Get them out of here."

 

 

Beatrice had always been fast. Faster than any of them, and far, far more determined. Lilith remembered the fire in her eyes as they had squared off, broken wrist raised and ready to fight. She saw that same fire now, ready to protect her sisters.

 

 

One thing Beatrice had always been was calculating. Steady and calm, ready for anything with a strategy, a plan. Even when Shannon lay dying, Beatrice managed to pick strategy over emotion. As she watched the young nun, Lilith saw her do something extremely un-Beatrice like. She watched her act without a single thought.

 

 

Led by pure emotion for the first time in her life, Beatrice ran forward. Mary wasn't expecting an attack from her back, so when Beatrice grabbed her firmly under the arms and spun her around she went easily, yelling in frustration as Beatrice pushed her into Ava, Camila and Lilith, who's faces all switched from shock, to confusion, to dread. Camila grasped Mary by the shoulders, steadying her.

 

 

Lilith saw Beatrice for the final time, as her body disappeared, downed, under the mass of people, all of them grasping at any part of her they could catch, tearing at her. She threw punch after kick, but for each possessed she knocked down, two more filled their place. Her eyes found Lilith. Ava was yelling, rushing forward to stop it all, to sacrifice herself, to do anything she could at all to not leave Beatrice behind. Mary was trashing against Lilith's grip, but her fingers were wound too tightly into her clothes. Camila aimed her crossbow, fired measly shots that did absolutely nothing. The look in Beatrice's eyes told Lilith everything. As Beatrice's body fell, Lilith felt what was slowly becoming familiar.

 

 

She faded from the halls of the Vatican, and took Camila, Ava and Mary with her, the sounds of Beatrice's last fight remaining only in their minds.

 

 

 

 

SWITZERLAND

 

 

The photo in her hand seemed from a different life. Mary had given it to her a few weeks ago, in hopes that it would help her have something to hold on to, help her thoughts centre, give her hope that Beatrice was still out there somewhere. Ava tried her hardest, and when she couldn't, she did this. Sat and stared at the photo in her hand, trying to keep the tears at bay. It was a simple picture: Beatrice was stood in front of the statue at the doors of Cat's Cradle. Mary, Lilith and who Ava knew to be Shannon all stood around her with different levels of smiles on their faces. Mary had her shotgun raised up over her shoulder, caught in a laugh by the camera. Shannon's smile screamed pride, a hand settled on Beatrice's shoulder. Lilith was on her other side, arm wrapped around Beatrice's neck, squeezing her hard into a hug which picture Beatrice was trying to hide as enjoyable, based on her controlled expression cracking into a true smile. Ava had never considered that Lilith and Beatrice may have been close, but based on the picture in her hand, it was clear they were, at least before. It made her feel worse, the grief filling her lungs, drowning her like water. The back of the photo was adorned with a small line of writing which simply said, rookie's first mission done.

 

 

It was happier than she'd seen any of them before. Mary laughing, Lilith grinning genuinely, and Beatrice. Her smile made her heart crack in two. She prayed to whatever god or entity existed that she'd get to see that smile again one day. Beatrice, who believed in her undoubtedly. Who had trained her and trained her, pushed her in the right direction to find strength in herself to do what's right. Beatrice who had become her friend, and who could have been so much more if only they had gotten the time together.

 

 

Ava missed her so much.

 

 

The door opened, and Mary came through, stopping abruptly when she saw Ava sat on the beer kegs in the dark of the storage room. Her eyes flipped immediately to the picture in her hand, and her eyes fell with what Ava recognised as grief. Mary hid it better, and Ava realised in the last two months that they'd been here, that she did it for her benefit.

 

 

Two months so far. Two months of being split from the OCS, from Lilith, Camila and Mother Superion, all in different parts of the world and hiding, waiting for the word to be called back.

 

 

Mary had been doing her best to train Ava, but to give her a level of normalcy. The grief of losing Beatrice was heavy between them still, and Mary still had no time to recover after Shannon's death, but they tried their best. It's how they ended up here, in this bar. Mother Superion had settled them here for their protection, but for the sake of reconnaissance too, scoping out the extent of Adriel's following. The bar seemed like the perfect place, where people told the most truth. So all day everyday, Ava worked the bar, poured drinks, chatted away with people. On the odd chance that Adriel came up, though it happened more so than it didn't, with the devil viral over one curse or another, one false healing or another, she would listen and learn.

 

When they weren't at the bar, they trained, and over the last two months Ava got incredibly more practiced at controlling and using the Halo's powers. Mentally, it only made her feel worse, and made her miss Beatrice more and more. Not a day went by when she didn't think about the sister warrior, about the moments they shared together, their training in ARQ Tech. It ripped apart her chest.

 

 

Mary came towards her, giving her a soft smile. "Come on, girl." She placed a hand over her shoulder. "Let's get to work, yeah?" Work, all that really got her mind off Beatrice. Mary's smile turned hopeful at the edges, even though she hated to give into it falsely. "Camila will be checking in tonight. We can ask about Beatrice."

 

 

Ava sat quiet for a long moment. Then, she placed the photo into the pocket of her jeans were it never left her side, and followed Mary out to the bar.

 

 

 

 

PORTUGAL

 

 

Vincent was drunk. Not for the first time in the last few weeks, alcohol was the only thing that seemed to make him feel better. He tried not to think about it, the pressing guilt he tried to ignore. He walked a little faster.

 

 

Hands grabbed him from behind by the shoulders, and threw him out against the wall. Lilith's face was millimetres away from his, jaw tight and teeth bared. A claw nicked his throat, drawing blood.

 

 

He let fear show on his features, but inside he smiled. The plan was perfect.

 

 

"Kill me, and you'll never find your sister." A short few words felt like a knife, stabbing over and over into Lilith's heart. He could possibly mean who she thought he meant. Her hand wrapped around his neck harder, the threat to crush his windpipe obvious.

 

 

He saw the distrust in her eyes. The disbelief. He nodded as much as he could without causing himself more pain.

 

 

"Beatrice." Her name was like ice around her heart, cracking and melting. She could barely breathe, but didn't give Vincent the satisfaction of reading her emotions. "She's alive."

 

 

Her claws dragged across exposed flesh, opening thin cuts over his skin. "If you're lying to me-," He directed his eyes to the car by their side. Lilith followed, raised an eyebrow.

 

 

"Come and see for yourself."

 

 

She could kill him in an instant, if he was lying to her. She she grabbed him by the shirt, and threw him in behind the wheel.

 

 

"Drive then." Her claws never really left their position over his jugular.

 

 

 

 

The drive to Toledo was long, especially with the rage that fizzled in Lilith's chest sharing a space with Father Vincent. The man who killed Shannon, who betrayed their upmost trust and had a hand in Beatrice's fall. It was a relief when they got to the fortress, where Adriel had set up his followers.

 

 

They got inside with a lie, and it was seconds before Lilith was being led by a row of cells. It was a second too late when she saw right through Vincent. He closed the heavy gate behind her. Lilith growled at him, longed to reach through and rip him to shreds.

 

 

"You lied to me!" She screamed instead, mind filled with too much rage to flit through the gate and towards Vincent. His smile made her shiver. He shook his head.

 

 

"I did no such thing, Lilith."

 

 

It was then that she heard the footsteps. Slow, measured, direct. They stopped a few meters behind her, and Lilith felt dread settle in her stomach, making her feel nauseous. She turned.

 

 

Her sister, her friend, her rival. Beatrice stood before her, looking just as she had months ago when she disappeared under the masses of the possessed crowd. The same Beatrice, but something seemed fundamentally off. Lilith noticed it in segments. Her face was blank. Beatrice had always been closed off, but never with her sisters, having opened up after some time. There had always been a soft look on her, with Shannon and Mary, Camila and Lilith. Especially and specifically with Ava, even if only her eyes expressed it. Those dark eyes now stared directly into Lilith's, but there was nothing in them. No emotion. No recognition. It made Lilith feel cold from head to toe. Next, were her clothes. Nun armour like the ones she had in the OCS, but made differently, with the mark of Adriel that Lilith had seen adorning his followers, sewed onto her chest, directly over her heart. It was clearly symbolic. The third, haunting discovery, was that Beatrice wasn't wearing her habit. Her hair was tied in a loose bun, but Lilith felt sick. She could count on one hand how many times she had seen Beatrice without her habit on in the last few years, and she knew how much wearing it had meant to her sister.

 

 

She couldn't tear her eyes from how wrong it all seemed. This wasn't the Beatrice she met at the OCS. This wasn't the Beatrice she had fought beside. This was someone completely different.

 

 

She felt a rage boil her blood, a rage for Vincent, and for Adriel, who she knew undoubtedly was responsible.

 

 

"Either she will kill you, or you will be forced to kill her," Vincent spoke from behind. "Either way, Lord Adriel will be pleased with the outcome." She heard his footsteps receding, but her eyes didn't leave Beatrice. Her sister, staring at her like she was not even a stranger. Like she was barely dirt on the bottom of her shoe. A mere inconvenience about her day.

 

 

Lilith heard her own voice before she was aware she was speaking. "Beatrice, it's me. It's Lilith." She shifted on her feet, eyed her sister and looked for any movements on her face. There was nothing. "I need you to fight Adriel, whatever he's done to you." Finally, there was movement. But not on her face. Beatrice's hand reached round towards her back and brought out a long cylinder, the size of her forearm. With an audible click, it extended. Lilith felt dread at the sight of the staff. A sharp blade had been fixed to its top and bottom.

 

 

Beatrice twirled it once. Then, she rushed forward. Lilith almost didn't move out of the way fast enough, flitting behind Beatrice at the last second, and then having to quickly duck as Beatrice swung the staff round her head and behind, the blade hissing as it sliced into the space Lilith's head had previously occupied. Beatrice swung again, this time for her legs, and Lilith jumped high, then ducked low to avoid the blades spinning, singing for her blood.

 

 

She tried to speak, tried to yell, but Beatrice didn't seem to hear. She threw shot after shot at Lilith, expression blank, body not slowing.

 

 

They went on like this for what felt like hours. The only thing that seemed human about Beatrice, was that she was starting to break a sweat. But she didn't seem to tire, and she didn't seem to make mistakes. Not that Beatrice before really ever did.

 

 

Lilith felt fear come up her throat as she realised she couldn't win this. She couldn't win against Beatrice, and she couldn't kill her.

 

 

She did the only other thing she could think of. She ran. And as she disappeared from the fortress in Spain, she felt tears in her eyes and a familiarity in her chest, at leaving Beatrice behind again.

 

 

 

 

SPAIN

 

 

Camila and Mother Superion watched with fear as the dots on the map, all the other OCS outposts, blinked out of existence. They had watched and helped where they could for two months, and now here they were, watching their order go extinct.

 

 

Just as Camila was about to lose all hope, Mother Superion slumped down at the desk beside her, a single light remained. Camila grasped at the hope.

 

 

"Mother Superion." She spoke gently to get her attention. Her mentor looked up, and frowned.

 

 

"Madrid, they're still active."

 

 

Maybe if they had been less heart broken, less disturbed by the bodies strung out across the floor of their convent, and by the loss of Beatrice, they would be less likely to grasp at any sign of hope.

 

 

But they weren't stupid. They were members of the most prestigious order of fighting women in the world. They knew it could be a trap. But it might as well have been a cry for help.

 

 

So their plan became clear. What they didn't expect, is a nun by the name of Yasmine to appear at the OCS convent in Madrid, and beg to see the halo bearer with knowledge of destroying Adriel.

 

 

Camila became quickly glad she hadn't used the scissors in her hand to slice her throat.

 

 

The Madrid outpost was gone. the bodies of their sisters were at their feet once again, and the heavy grief in their bones only grew. But hope sprung there too, and as Mother Superion gave her the order, Camila wiped her eyes and picked up the cross around her neck. The ancient communicator glowed blue as she typed in the code, and prayed that Mary and Lilith received it, where ever they were.

 

 

She had missed her sisters. She didn't want to lose anymore of them.

 

 

 

 

Ava knew she'd fucked up. As Mary rushed round what had been their apartment for the last two months to gather all their things, clear off before any of Adriel's followers came looking, Ava let herself fester in her guilt.

 

 

Miguel's offer had been too good to be true. A group of people, the Samaritans, fighting back against Adriel slowly but surely. A chance to finally get involved again, to stop hiding and start acting. To get revenge, even in small ways, for how Adriel had taken Beatrice from her. It had been too tempting. She did exactly what Beatrice had told her not to do, all those months ago. She didn't trust her team, she led with her anger, and she fucked up. She'd exposed them, and exposed the halo, and she'd endangered not only herself but also Mary.

 

 

Mary rarely got angry with her. She got annoyed, that's for sure, with how many times a day she'd roll her eyes at Ava's remarks, or give her that look. Usually, it was all with a hidden smile, ready to come out.

 

 

This time, the other woman barely even looked at her.

 

 

"Mary," she tried, but Mary raised a hand.

 

 

"You think it's only been hard for you, the last few months?" Her eyes connected with Ava's for the first time that evening, since they had followed Miguel to the hideout and witnessed the follower of Adriel they had captured. Since Ava had exposed the halo by expelling the demon.

 

 

Not that she had been trying to expel the demon. She had punched and punched him, and as she saw Beatrice go down under a mass of possessed, every punch made her feel a shred better.

 

 

"You think I'm not feeling the same? Wanting revenge for my sisters?" Her voice was rising. All that grief she'd put away, for Ava's sake, began to spill out. "We have to control our emotions, Ava." She shook her head, placed her head in her hands, hiding no doubt the tears that had collected in her eyes. "Not for our sake, but for the sake of everyone else."

 

 

"Mary, I'm sorry." Mary deflated. She looked up, went to say something.

 

 

A blinking light coming from under her white cotton shirt caught both of their attention. Mary pulled a cross necklace out, and stared at it for a long time.

 

 

"It's Mother Superion." She took a moment of silence to read the code. Ava watched her, and barely realised that she hadn't taken a breath in for as long as they were silent. "We're being called, to Madrid." She breathed in. Despite the unknown, the fear there that she didn't know what they were going for, she was glad. A call meant finally, action.

 

 

 

 

Across the country, in a bar bathroom in Portugal, tears in her eyes, Lilith saw the same message. Nodded once, wiped her eyes. Then, she typed her own message back.

 

 

 

 

Mary had returned to packing, Ava helping gather the last bits in more of a hurry now that they had a purpose, the cross began to blink again. Mary furrowed her eyebrows, picked it up.

 

 

Ava heard the moment she stopped breathing. The moment a sob rose from her chest and rushed from her lungs. She sat heavily. Ava began to panic, fear taking over any hope she had felt already, any she began to accept. She crouched in front of Mary, and tried to read her face. There was a smile rising there, on Shotgun Mary's lips.

 

 

"Beatrice, she's alive."

 

 

Ava felt like for the first time in the last two months, her heart remembered how to beat.

 

 

 

 

Adriel heard Vincent approach. "I know where they are going." He spoke into the silence.

 

 

The angel nodded. Smiled, a sinister smile of twisted pride.

 

 

"Good." He thought for a long moment. The smile grew. "Send the girl."

 

 

Vincent had a sudden urge to argue. He bit his tongue instead. "Of course, master."

 

 

 

 

Ava couldn't get to Madrid fast enough. The message had given then coordinates, but it was the second message that she was more concerned about. Beatrice, alive. Unfortunately, it seemed to raise more questions than answered, for her and Mary both. How was she alive? Was she back with the OCS? Was she injured? What happened to her after she was attacked by the possessed mob? For the hours they spent travelling, Ava pretty much vibrated with questions and anxious emotions of learning absolutely anything.

 

 

She was more shocked when they finally found Camila and Mother Superion again, and found that Lilith was there too. Lilith, who had sent the message.

 

 

"Beatrice?" Ava said as a way of greeting, after they had all shared a couple of hugs. The room fell into silence, and Lilith wouldn't meet her gaze. "You said she was alive!" The aggression came as a shock to Ava herself. Mary placed a hand gently on her shoulder, but there were too many emotions mixing. Ava couldn't bring herself to be calm.

 

 

Lilith nodded. "She is." Hearing it in person, words out into the world, made Ava's knees almost buckle. "But she's not our Beatrice anymore."

 

 

"What in the hell are you talking about?" No one called for her use of language, and then she knew it was bad.

 

 

They sat for a long time together as Lilith retold the story of following Vincent to Toledo, to where she encountered Beatrice. As Ava listened to her describe her, any hope she had clung onto on their journey to Madrid got weaker and weaker. Beatrice, memory gone, emotions destroyed, in Adriel's grasp. No one spoke for a long time.

 

 

"We need to go to Toledo." Ava whispered. She heard how desperate she sounded, and didn't care.

 

 

To her surprise, Camila was the one who shook her head. "As much as it rips me apart inside. We can't." Ava opened her mouth to argue, turned on Camila in an instant. She paused when she saw the tears on the corners of Camila's eyes. She grasped her hands. "I love Beatrice. And we will get her back. But she would want us to find a way to defeat Adriel."

 

 

Ava swallowed. Mary gave her a sympathetic look. "And what, you just happen to have that?"

 

 

A voice she didn't recognised spoke up behind her. She turned, to see a young nun dressed in light colours, a nun she didn't recognise. "Actually, we do." She held out a hand, and a soft smile. "My name is Yasmine, and I've sworn to tell you, halo bearer, that the weapon to defeat Adriel is right here in Madrid."

 

 

"And what is this weapon exactly?" Mary asked.

 

 

 

 

The answer to that question turned out to be quite simple. The actual plan, however. It was never as easy as it seemed.

 

 

The Crown of Thorns was in a museum. Ava almost laughed when Yasmine had said so, with Mary rolling her eyes behind her. She finally had the opportunity to conduct a heist, exactly like those action movies she'd watched. She tried to ignore the empty segment of her heart that yearned for Beatrice to be by her side.

 

 

As they toured the museum to find the crown, as they prepared their weapons, their final plans, as they sat side by side and waited for nightfall to enter, Mary put a hand on Ava's shoulder. Camila gave her a small smile, tapped the comm in her ear and gave a thumbs up. Lilith barely said a word, but it was clear. They were going in as a team, side by side, but also as family. This was the first step to save the world, but more importantly to them all, to avenge Shannon and Beatrice.

 

 

The plan was clear.

 

 

They didn't plan for Adriel's people to show up. More specifically, they didn't plan for a small, lithe figure dressed in black to show up, face covered by a chainmail mask.

 

 

A chainmail mask Ava had seen only once before, on only one person.

 

 

There was no one else in the museum except them. Ava had grasped the crown, watched it light up in her hand. Mary circled her with her shot gun out, keeping her eyes on the door. Camila's voice echoed in her ear, relaying information from Yasmine and Mother Superion as she kept an eye on the cameras. Lilith hovered near the doors with her claws extended. It was a sight that Ava and the other's had not yet become used to, but it was all incredibly impressive.

 

 

Camila's voice caused panic to rise in her chest.

 

 

"There's someone coming towards you, left corridor." Mary turned immediately, nozzle of her gun pointed where Camila had directed. Lilith phased towards the archway and lent into the wall just past the door, ready to strike. Ava attached the crown to her belt, and raised her fists. It had been too easy, she thought. Something had to go wrong.

 

 

But she knew that walk. She knew it as soon as the figure appeared in the corridor. She knew the move as the figure reached round the side of the doorway and grabbed Lilith, flipping her hard over a shoulder and to the floor, where the tiles cracked beneath the force. She knew the face behind that chainmail mask. Mary fired off a shot, but the figure dodged hard to the right, and struck out with an open hand directly at Mary's exposed throat. The woman choked, and fell as she gasped for breathe. The stranger kicked her hard in the head, and Ava gasped as Mary fell back, coming in and out of consciousness with a groan.

 

 

Lilith, who had recovered from the earlier attack, appeared behind the figure, grasping them tightly in a chokehold and pulling her back. She wrapped her legs around their torso, and used the momentum to throw them both back, yanking the figure over her head and to the floor. The fighter made no noise as they collided with the ground, and they were up almost immediately, pulling free a knife from a holder across their chest. Only then did Ava notice the symbol of Adriel sowed into the leather of the armour. Her stomach collapsed. The knife in the stranger's hand sunk expertly into Lilith's shoulder, was pulled free, and then was dragged paper thin across Lilith's neck. Or it would have, but Lilith ducked her head at the last minute, grabbed the knife and twisted it free. It fell from her grasp, but she didn't give up as she grappled with the fighter, gripping and pushing at their face. She flipped, kicked hard at the face of her opponent, and knocked  them into the falls of the museum where they landed with a crash.

 

 

Whatever held the chainmail mask to their face unclipped. It fell away, landed heavily on the marble flooring and left the face of the stranger uncovered. Lilith stopped in her movements, guard dropping as she blinked and blinked, utterly confused as to what she was seeing. Mary had managed to sit up, blood dripping at her temple as she wiped it with her fingers. Her eyes squinted. Ava couldn't breathe, could barely stand as she took in the person stood in front of her. Mary's voice cracked, as she was the first one to speak.

 

 

"Beatrice?"

 

 

Ava's heart stopped, stomach twisting as she saw nothing change on Beatrice's face. Nothing moved, no emotion in her eyes, no recognition. There was a bruise forming on her cheek, and a cut under her eye, but other than that she looked exactly like she had that day at the Vatican. Exactly the same, apart from the fact that she looked at them with a blankness not even used on strangers.

 

 

Beatrice didn't respond. She used their shock against them, and dove towards Lilith, slamming into her stomach and crashing them into the floor. Mary tried to grab at her legs as she ran by, but she jumped over her reaching hands and landed directly in front of Ava.

 

 

Ava couldn't move. She looked over Beatrice, search for anything that might be wrong. All she saw was Beatrice. Her Beatrice, stood in front of her again after she thought she'd died. She wanted to cry.

 

 

A punch knocked her clean to the floor. Hands reached for the belt at her waist, and for a second she was face to face with Beatrice, only millimetres away from her. She reached out, fingers inches from touching her cheeks. Those brown eyes looked up at her.

 

 

"Beatrice," Ava whispered into the brief silence. Her fingers caressed her cheek gently. For a split second, so fast she almost missed it, something flickered in Beatrice's eyes.

 

 

"AVA!" It was gone. Beatrice ripped the crown from her belt and flipped backwards as Lilith phased over to grab her from behind. Then she was running, sprinting out of the museum and back the way she had come, not stopping to pick up the chainmail mask lost in the fight as she ran off with the crown in hand. Ava watched. Something came over her, and without a single rational thought she jumped up and began sprinting after Beatrice. She heard her own voice yell vaguely behind to Mary and Lilith, to get back to the van and follow them.

 

 

She hoped they heard.

 

 

Beatrice was fast. She didn't slow down until they made it back down onto the streets of Madrid, and then began to weave and dodge through side roads in an attempt to loose Ava. The halo bearer wouldn't lose Beatrice again. She couldn't, she thought as she remembered the last two months of thinking the sister warrior, her friend, was dead. She wouldn't do that again.

 

 

Beatrice came to a sudden stop ahead of her. Ava was able to be confused for a split second, before a figure jumped towards Beatrice, and slammed into her heard, knocking her into the solid wall of a nearby house. Ava screamed her name, an almost primal response as she watched Beatrice crumble, and fall unconscious on the street floor. It wasn't until Ava had checked her over quickly, noticing her soft breathing, that she turned and saw who had attacked her.

 

 

Miguel held up his hands in surrender.

 

 

"I'm sorry, I saw her with the crown and reacted." He kept his distance, eyes uneasy as the halo glowed in Ava's back, her face twisted in distrust.

 

 

"What in the hell, Miguel?"

 

 

There were sirens in the distance, red and blue lighting up the dark night around them. Miguel shifted from one foot to the other.

 

 

"You must have a lot of questions, I know. But we need to get out of here."

 

 

As confused as she was, Ava hated to admit he was right. She turned from him and back to Beatrice, her friend still out cold. Her head was bleeding, and for the first time, Ava noticed that the nun wasn't wearing her habit, hair out and tied up in a messy bun. It gave her pause. She shook the shock of being so close to Beatrice again off. Grabbed her by the arms and pulled her up.

 

 

Miguel appeared next to her, and although Ava tensed, she could see what he was asking. She nodded, and Miguel grabbed Beatrice gently into his arms, following Ava as she began to lead him back towards the way they'd entered the museum.

 

 

Camila cried out when she swung open the door to the van and noticed Beatrice in Miguel's arms. Lilith and Mary helped the three of them up and into the vehicle, as Yasmine slammed on the gas and tore down the street, just as the police rounded the corner. There was yelling as Yasmine drove, Lilith, Mary, Camila, even Miguel all speaking at once, but Ava couldn't hear them. She looked down at unconscious Beatrice, and caressed her face gently. She let herself smile, even slightly, for the small victory of having her physically back. Then, she turned on Miguel.

 

 

"You have a lot of explaining to do."

 

 

With a look at the sister warriors around him, Miguel let out a sigh. Then he began to speak.

 

 

He had been looking for the halo bearer for weeks, and suspected who she was. He had been sent here for her from Adriel's realm by a god called Reya, to help her defeat Adriel. But no matter how much they asked, he wouldn't tell them how, or why. The bigger problem, was that their hideout had been burned by Adriel's followers, so only one place remained. With the crown of thorns now with them, Ava gripped it tight in her fist, it made the most sense to head to where the arc was, the only contact between their world, and Adriel's. They set Miguel dirty looks when he spoke out with a, "It's not Adriel's realm", but didn't say anything more about it.

 

 

The even bigger problem, was Beatrice. Their sister, who had sacrificed herself for them, was alive. And completely within the clutches of Adriel against her own will. Now that she was close to her, Ava could see it. The red mist of wraith demon, shrouding her. She never doubted that Beatrice had stayed loyal to them, but it didn't make her feel any better to know that a demon now sat in her friend's soul.

 

 

Lilith was the first to voice a concern no one wanted to speak aloud.

 

 

"What if he finds us, through her?" A tense silence settled over them all. Camila, sat next to Ava, looked down at her sister with sorrow in her eyes. Lilith felt regret for even speaking, but she shared a look with Mary. It had to be addressed.

 

 

Ava didn't entertained the thought of leaving Beatrice. Not again.

 

 

"We keep her unconscious until we get the fucking demon out."

 

 

The conversation ended there.

 

 

 

 

Jillian Salvius didn't want to let them in. Ava begged her over the intercom, pleaded with her to help them, but the woman, twisted with her own grief, wouldn't budge.

 

 

Not until Miguel spoke up from the back of the group.

 

 

"Tell her, that her son is here."

 

 

The gate opened faster than lightening, and there she was, Jillian Salvius running from her home towards them, eyes searching them all for the little blonde boy with the glowing blue skin who wasn't among them.

 

 

Or so Ava thought, before Jillian stopped in front of Miguel, and let out gut wrenching sobs of relief as she brought him into her arms.

 

 

The sister warriors watched. Lilith and Ava carried an unconscious Beatrice between them as Ava struggled to tear her eyes away from her friend, Camila by her side and not being able to do it either.

 

 

The second the girl began to grown, eyes fluttering, the moment of reunion was broken. Beatrice blinked, and opened her eyes.

 

 

They were black.

 

 

She ripped her arms from around Lilith and Mary, pushing them away from her and following it up with a roundhouse kick Mary managed to dodge this time. Camila pulled her crossbow free, but Ava held up her hand to stop her, doing the same with Miguel (or rather Michael, she supposed) who had raised his pistol, ready to shoot. Beatrice's dark eyes searched each of them, body poised to attack. Ava lowered her hands, and approached her slowly. Lilith was getting up from the floor, her voice catching her up with a warning tone, but Ava shook her head.

 

 

She could hear the halo buzzing in her back.

 

 

Beatrice looked towards her. The blank look in her eyes shifted, a split second of pain shining through, as it clenched Ava's heart at the sight of the fear she had glimpsed. She gripped Beatrice by the hand.

 

 

Before the girl could push her off, the halo pulsed and exploded out. The two of them fell back, and the last thing Ava heard was the shouts of her name mixed with Beatrice's as the world went dark around her.

 

 

 

 

When she woke up, Mary was sat at her side. Camila was looking her over, smiled when she saw her open her eyes. Lilith was on the other side, settled between two hospital beds, one with Ava in it. As she sat up slowly, she noticed who was lying in the other.

 

 

Beatrice was staring at the ceiling with her eyes wide open. Ava felt like the world fell away from around her, seeing the brown of her eyes for the first time in months. She got up out of the bed immediately, and rounded towards Beatrice.

 

 

The girl barely looked up. She barely moved. Ava gripped her hand, but Beatrice didn't respond to her touch. Then, heart breaking in her chest, Ava felt Beatrice pull her hand away. Empty eyes found hers. There was recognition in them this time, but not much else. The soft look Beatrice always saved for her was absent, the pride and warmth in her expressions non-existant. Ava almost cursed whatever God, for this supposed game he was playing with her. For giving her hope, only to tear it away again.

 

 

"Beatrice?" She whispered. Brown eyes looked up.

 

 

Ava blinked, fear spreading through her as Beatrice barely reacted. "Beatrice?" She spoke again. Nothing, barely a flicker. Panic set in, as she held onto Beatrice's arm, her shoulders, speaking her name. She didn't realise she was crying until Mary held onto her shoulder and pulled her away.

 

 

"What happened to you, Bea?"

 

 

Jillian Salvius was in the room before Beatrice could respond, but looking at her, still lying with unfocused eyes and not even a shred of emotion, it didn't seem like she had intended to say anything.

 

 

Camila's eyes flitted between Beatrice and Ava, nothing but sadness in her glance. Mary stayed by Ava's side, hand on her shoulder for support and face covered with guilt, while Lilith remained in her seat at Beatrice's side, eyes never leaving her sister's empty expression.

 

 

"I understand you're upset, Ava." Jillian addressed her, while she walked over to Beatrice and began to check over the exposed skin around the hospital gown. Only then, did Ava notice the scars there, still pink at the edges, still fresh. "But it would seem that Adriel's possession has left Sister Beatrice with some complications." She moved over to Beatrice's vitals, and tilted the screen over to see it better.

 

 

Ava couldn't breathe. Mary's eyes were cast down beside her. No one moved. It seemed they all knew what Jillian was going to say. Ava was the only one out of the loop.

 

 

Hearing Beatrice's voice almost sent her to her knees.

 

 

"It would see my memory is intact." There was a rasp wrapped around the English accent, as if Beatrice had barely used her voice in months. Maybe she had. "I remember everything I did." The sentence seemed like it should be accompanied with the expression of guilt, but Beatrice barely blinked. She paused. Lilith spoke up for the first time since Ava had woken up, voice softer than she'd ever heard Lilith speak.

 

 

"She has no emotions."

 

 

Ava's heart dropped in her chest.

 

 

 

 

They took turns sitting with Beatrice in the infirmary. Lilith, Camila and Mary that is, but never Ava. Ava never left, only sat in the chair by Beatrice's bed and spoke to her as she would have if nothing was wrong. Filled her in on anything and everything she could think of. Beatrice barely looked up, barely reacted. At times, Ava didn't know if she was even listening, didn't know if she was there at all. In body perhaps, but definitely not in mind.

 

 

Mother Superion took a call from Duretti, and left for the Vatican with Yasmine, for what was Duretti's attempt at bringing together the highest members of the church in defence of the world against Adriel. The rest of them were left to their own devices, trying to come up with a plan to place the crown of thorns of Adriel's head, to trap him forever. Not that Ava could think of that, when the girl who she'd thought was dead, the girl who she felt a lot of something for, was laying in front of her with her emotions taken from her.

 

 

Mary was sat with her alone when Beatrice spoke up for the first time. Ava had slipped away to the bathroom, and Mary couldn't hold in her thoughts any longer.

 

 

"This is all my fault."

 

 

Beatrice looked towards her blankly. It was haunting. The sister warrior had never been one to show massive amounts of emotion. She kept her heart close to her, a wall built high around it. But they had broken through it. At least partly, they had been close enough to see the real Beatrice, the softness of her, the care she had for her sisters, for Ava. It was terrifying to see nothing but the closed off girl Mary had met that first night at Cat's Cradle. Even then, she hadn't been like this.

 

 

Mary looked away from her. She didn't really expect Beatrice to respond.

 

 

"I let my emotions get the better of me, and you had to pull me from the fray, at the cost of your life." She breathed in, fought back sobs. She looked up, waited.

 

 

"At least you have emotions." Was all Beatrice responded with, and it would have been funny, the quirk of her eyebrow as she said it, if not for the absolutely lack of nothing she said it with.

 

 

"I'm sorry, Beatrice."

 

 

For the first time, Beatrice looked towards her. Her eyes were piercing.

 

 

"It is the job of a sister warrior, to die for her team. Even if I could feel regret, I don't think I'd feel it for laying down my life for the team."

 

 

Mary wasn't one to cry. She hadn't really, not since Shannon's death. She had let anger take her instead, push her towards revenge. She cried now, held onto Beatrice's hand. When Ava walked back in, she looked concerned, but she had the decency not to ask.

 

 

Camila rushed in mere seconds after.

 

 

"It's Mother Superion." Ava and Mary shot up. "The meeting went south, Adriel's followers infiltrated. They need extraction."

 

 

Everyone moved at once.

 

 

 

 

Ava watched Beatrice suit up into her old armour. Watched her skilfully pick up every knife, sheath it into the holder across her chest. Watched her pick up her old staff, retract it, inspect it, sheath it. Lilith, Mary and Camilla watched beside her.

 

 

"Do we really think this is a good idea?" Camila asked gently.

 

 

Ava frowned. "No," the other three replied simultaneously, shared a look. "But have you ever successfully stopped Beatrice from doing anything she set her mind to?" Mary added as they watched the sister warrior stretch out her limbs, before she turned and headed towards them. They all gave her a smile. She blinked back at them.

 

 

"Let's go then."

 

 

So go they did. And fight they did. Adriel's followers were crowded around the door. Ava yelled some profanities, and laughed maniacally as they began to chase her, all but four, who remained at the door and continued to try and get in, towards Duretti, Mother Superion and Yasmine.

 

 

Mary and Lilith shared a look. Beatrice simply cracked her neck once, and rushed forward. Lilith was twisting the neck of one of the men just as Beatrice rounded on another, kicking at the back of his knee, hearing the snap as he screamed and went down. A punch directly in the jugular made him choke, and he collapsed, struggling. Mary knocked him unconscious with a boot to the face, and spun to smash the butt end of her shotgun into the nose of another, who cursed (for a man of faith, that was NOT good), and fell backwards. Lilith kneed him hard in the stomach, and sliced her claws over his back. He collapsed. The last attempted to fire his gun, but Beatrice was faster. She pulled a knife free, and with expert aim, threw it directly into his left eye. He barely made a noise as he fell.

 

 

When Mother Superion opened the door and saw Beatrice, she lost her words. She grabbed her by the shoulders, looked her in the eyes. When she still saw nothing but calculated logic, not even a shred of feeling, the hope that had grown died off.

 

 

"Ava?" She asked her sisters.

 

 

 

 

Ava was fairing a bit worse than the rest of them. If that's how you could refer to hovering really fucking high up in the air, as the fear rising in her chest made the halo lose confidence and fizzle out. The others saw it immediately when they got outside, and heard her yelling from up above. They all looked up in time to see the Halo dim, and with their hearts in their throats, watched and could do nothing as the Halo finally gave out, leaving Ava to freefall to the ground.

 

 

The moment Ava's scream cut off as she hit the floor, something snapped inside Beatrice.

 

 

Pain flooded her immediately, fear a close second as she heard screaming, only to realise it was her own. She was running before she even felt her legs move, pushing past Mary and Lilith, rushing towards the halo bearer. Towards Ava, who wasn't moving. There was blood on the ground, thick. Way too much of it. Beatrice felt her heart stop, felt the heart jarring pain of loss fill her chest. She sobbed, she couldn't breathe. All she could do is grab Ava and pull her towards her chest, cradling her head in her hands as she pressed her lips to her forehead. There was blood on her hands. She sobbed harder than she thought was possible. She sobbed until she couldn't breathe, could feel her whole torso ache.

 

 

"I'm so sorry, Ava. Please, I'm so sorry. Come back to me." She tried to take a breathe, but all that came out were more tears. "I don't want you to die, please."

 

 

To Beatrice, there may as well have been nothing else in the world but Ava, Ava in her arms, her blood on her hands. Lilith was holding onto Mary, both of them crying hard. Mother Superion could barely stand as she watched.

 

 

Then, there was a shift. The halo hummed, then began to glow. Ava began to move.

 

 

"You know, I quite would like to avoid that one myself." She was laughing, laughing, and then the realisation hit her. It was Beatrice's arms holding her. Beatrice who was speaking to her, begging her not to die, sobbing into her blood matted hair. Beatrice.

 

 

"Bea?" Ava pulled back from where she had laid on her shoulder, and came to face with something she'd never thought she'd see again.

 

 

Beatrice was smiling. Her face was cracked into the widest grin, all teeth and joy and pure happiness. She was crying, and she held Ava's face gently, pulling her into the hardest, warmest hug she'd ever experienced, letting go only when Ava let out a hiss of pain. Ava felt so much all at once, she didn't know what to do. She pulled herself back to look at Beatrice's face, eyes flitting around every inch to find the crinkles by her eyes, the smile that couldn't disappear. She saw her friends over her shoulder almost collapse in relief, at her alive, and at Beatrice's return all the same.

 

 

"Bea, you're back." Beatrice smiled wider, nodded softly.

 

 

"I'm back." She pressed her forehead to Ava's, breathed in in relief. "I'm sorry I ever left."

 

 

Ava had a sudden urge to lean forward and kiss her. They had almost been there before, when she'd come through the concrete at ARQ Tech and Beatrice had caught her. The love in her chest, the need for it, it almost made her explode. Beatrice grasped her tight, and pulled Ava into her. She buried her face into Beatrice's neck, and let herself enjoy the feeling of being back in her arms. For now, and forever, it would be enough as long as Beatrice was by her side.

 

 

 

 

Not everything was perfect of course. Adriel was still out there, and they still had to find a way to stop him. Beatrice still moved around with so much guilt hidden in her soul, it was hard to ignore for anyone, especially for her. She'd hugged her sisters tight, apologised over and over again as they apologised to her. They relished in having their sister back, but shreds of that guilt still remained. Ava thought it might for a long time.

 

 

She made it her personal mission still to help it disappear faster.

 

 

They came up with a plan.

 

 

The meeting with Duretti which ended in a massacre, as bad as it sounded to think, didn't end in complete disaster. They knew Adriel would be presenting himself to the world along side Pope Duretti in the coming days on live television, in the church Krisitan Chafer had built for him. They could plan around it, and plan they did. They would sneak in, expose Adriel as a fraud for using Dr Salvius's science to create the plagues, and then Ava would place the halo on his head, trapping him for eternity.

 

 

If only Ava could focus fully on their meeting as they discussed, but all she could focus on was that Beatrice was smiling, or frowning, or shocked. All the emotions, all the life, returned to her. She never wanted to see her without those again.

 

 

And if only Michael didn't try to bring up the supposed bomb she was destined to detonate, the bomb being him, fated to kill them both. It would make her feel a lot better about the mission anyhow.

 

 

But he wouldn't give up. So there he was, standing in front of her and explaining how when they got the chance, she should grab his hand, and detonate the bomb instead. He was close to her, his chest glowing. All Ava felt was dread, anger that he'd even suggest such a thing. Before she could even say no, a voice spoke up from behind her, from the door to her room.

 

 

"Absolutely not."

 

 

Even now, stress, anger, pain all in the forefront, Beatrice's voice made Ava want to smile. She turned in shock to the sister warrior, and her heart beat faster at the sight of uncontrolled rage showing clearly on her face. She was over to them in seconds, and was putting herself between Ava and Michael before Ava had taken another breath. Her heart threatened to explode.

 

 

"Leave, Michael." Ava couldn't see her face, but could imagine based on the livid sound of her voice what she looked like. Michael knew what was good for him. He didn't argue, simply gave Ava a final look and then walked from the room.

 

 

They were alone.

 

 

For a long couple of seconds, Beatrice remained with her back to her. It was only when Ava noticed her shoulders fall and rise erratically did she notice that Beatrice was crying.

 

 

She grabbed her by the hand, and spun her round to face her.

 

 

"Bea?"

 

 

"You are not allowed to die on me," she said suddenly, as if there wasn't enough time to say it. She came impossibly close, and Ava was suddenly overwhelmed by their closeness. She went months, thinking Beatrice was dead, wanting nothing more than to be in the same room as her again, and here she was, maybe a centimetre between their bodies, and it still wasn't close enough.

 

 

"You died on me, I think that's hardly fair of a demand," Ava risked a smile, felt warmth squeeze her heart when the corners of Beatrice's mouth turned up in response.

 

 

"That's exactly why I get to demand." And then there was no more space between them. Beatrice's lips found hers, and they were kissing. Ava wanted to appreciate it all, to store every detail to memory and never forget it, but the moment their lips touched, her mind went white. She wrapped her arms around Beatrice, never wanting her to move away. Everything faded out. There was no Adriel, no apocalypse around the corner, no demons or plans to worry about. There was just them, together finally with no fear of anything.

 

 

When they finally pulled back, Beatrice caressed her face gently as she rested her forehead to hers. "I'm not leaving you again."

 

 

It sounded like the best promise Ava had ever been told. She hoped they wouldn't have to break it.

 

 

 

 

That night, they slept side by side, wrapped up in each other. The final night, before what they all hoped would be a new beginning.

 

 

 

 

In the end, the plan was simpler than they had intended. They broke into the church dressed as the first born children, and dispersed sister warriors in the crowds.

 

 

They would wait there, along side some of the Samaritans Michael had managed to gather, until Adriel could be exposed. Then, they would fight until they had to, and an opportunity presented itself for them to get out safely. Ava was to phase to the roof of the church, and install a communicator to allow Camila access to the server room, in turn so Dr Salvius and Mother Superion could control the plagues, outing Adriel as not an angel, but a devil.

 

 

The first part came surprisingly easy. The guards went down quietly, and they were in, walking the corridors of Adriel's church, dressed up as his followers. It was kind of exciting, the sneaking and the breaking in, and Beatrice, Mary and Lilith had all rolled their eyes at Ava's excitement, but laughed all the same. As they neared the main chamber, where the main ceremony would take place, they had to split off. Mary, Lilith and Beatrice would head inside and prepare to attack on command. Camila sprinted off in search for the command centre, where she could prepare to hack into the security system. Ava aimed for up, phasing up to the roof to set up the communicator. Everyone was ready. Camila rushed away, Mary and Lilith pulled to the main chamber.

 

Beatrice caught her eye, hood covering most of her face. Still, Ava saw her smile. "Okay, warrior nun." She paused, and for a second Ava became concerned.

 

 

Then, with a quick look behind them, Beatrice grabbed her by the hand and pulled Ava in to her. The kiss was quick, but it said everything she wanted to say. Ava understood. She pulled away, and gave Beatrice a soft smile.

 

 

"In this life, or the next." Beatrice finished.

 

 

Ava was half way down the corridor, when she responded. "In this life." Then she was gone.

 

 

 

 

It would be cruel to think that Beatrice missed the period of her life recently where she ceased to have emotions, but as she felt sick with worry over Ava, somewhere above them, she thought only that.

 

 

Instead of overthinking, she put her training into work. Push down feelings, focus on the mission. Trust your team, trust Ava. Everyone knew what they were doing.

 

 

At least they did, until they couldn't control the plagues, and Adriel killed Duretti on live television. The fighting happened quickly.

 

 

Plan B, if the plagues failed, create a distraction. Divert Adriel's attention, and give Ava time to place the crown on his head.

 

 

So it is exactly what the sister warriors did.

 

 

Chaos exploded around them.

 

 

Beatrice noticed snippets of fights her team was having: Mary, firing shotgun blasts off where she could, breaking noses with the end of her weapon where she couldn't. Lilith was hard to keep track of, disappearing in one place and reappearing in another, ripping off limbs, tearing into flesh with her claws, dodging out of the way of bullets and shielding her sisters from shots they didn't see coming. Michael and Camila had tag teamed Adriel, crowding him but keeping him in place. Beatrice was sure that she saw Vincent go down, but she couldn't bring herself to feel any remorse for him.

 

 

Ava was slowly descending from the ceiling above, and Beatrice almost took a knife to the ribs as she struggled to take her eyes off the scene: the halo bearer floating down, crown of thorns glowing in her hands.

 

 

Adriel was distracted, and when she looked to see how Camila and Michael were fairing against him, she was shocked to find him looking directly at her. 

 

 

"Remember this, Sister Beatrice. When I kill all of your sisters, you helped me do it," he yelled across the room. Beatrice let her shame, her guilt, her fear, turn to rage. She rushed him, and delivered a solid hit to his stomach. When he was crouch in front of her, turned in in pain, she looked up to Ava, and gave her a nod. 

 

 

The second it touched Adriel's head, a scream tore from his throat. His hands attempted to grasp at it, but it acted quickly. His body folded, and he collapsed.

 

 

Beatrice didn't have the ability to see demons. But she didn't need to. She felt it, the shift in energy, as the wraiths were pulled from the bodies, and fizzled from existence along with Adriel's consciousness, his control gone. The sister warriors and the Samaritans stood in silence, looking at each other. Then, unsurprisingly, Ava let out a shocked laugh. Michael followed, and soon they were all laughing, unable to believe.

 

 

It had worked.

 

 

Beatrice could see only Ava. She ran towards her, and wasted no time in hugging her tightly to her, laughing into her neck. Soon, Mary, Lilith and Camila all wrapped their arms around them and around each other. They even managed to pull Michael into the fray.

 

 

They had done it.

 

 

 

 

6 MONTHS LATER

 

 

Beatrice stood in the dinner hall at Cat's Cradle.

 

 

Every chair was filled, the sister warriors eating with ease, laughing and talking amongst each other. She began walking slowly, out and down the corridor, passing the training rooms. She spotted Mary in one, standing across the edge of a matt with her arms crossed, yelling positions and commands as sisters fought each other. They shared a smile and a wave before Beatrice moved ahead.

 

 

She walked by the weapons room, leaned in slightly to see Lilith with a shotgun in her hands, presenting it to a room of young recruits, eyes narrowed and face scowling. Ah, the "I'm a mean teacher," act. Beatrice smiled, waved and walked past. Lilith didn't smile back, she had a reputation to uphold, but Beatrice saw the softness of her eyes.

 

 

She made it outside, squinting into the bright sun of afternoon Spain. Camila spotted her first, where she was stood by the statue near the doors. She came over, and linked their arms together. She began to give her the run down on the recruits as they neared the bus, where a couple of young looking girls were coming out of, looking around at the convent with wide eyes of wonder.

 

 

In front of them, Mother Superion and their warrior nun, Ava, greeted each of them. From what Beatrice could hear before they even got close, Ava was cracking terrible puns, and Mother Superion was trying her hardest not to smack her with her cane before the new girls.

 

 

Beatrice wrapped her arm around Ava's waist, and settled beside her.

 

 

Mother Superion gave her a smile. She had to remember to remind them that Michael and Jillian were visiting this week.

 

 

"Good afternoon, Beatrice." No sister, no more vows. Despite the lack of title, Beatrice knew it made her no less family to the order than she had been before. She returned the smile. "Come to see the new recruits you'll be training?"

 

 

All eyes turned to Beatrice.

 

 

She smiled.

 

 

"I've come to warn them about our crazy halo bearer, actually." She nudged Ava, who opened her mouth in dramatical offence, but a laugh rumbled up her chest.

 

They looked at each other, smiled.

 

They had all they needed right here.