Lazarus carried Melissa through the town to the apartments, her sleeping form in his arms. He somehow managed to smile, despite what had happened. He gently lowered Melissa onto the bed, covering her up with his duvet before climbing in beside her, not bothering to change his clothes. He kissed her cheek and draped an arm over her, though he couldn't sleep. Though Melissa had disagreed, he still blamed himself for having started the argument the night before, and indeed he found himself to be the cause of nearly every argument they had had. The thoughts swam around his head, keeping him awake, constantly turning over. All the stupid things he had said, the violence and anger he had been responsible for.
That Sunday, Lazarus found himself outside the church, for once following the Mass congregation inside, rather than visiting Gabriel's grave. Not many people in the town followed the Roman Catholic beliefs - Lazarus himself included. Yet something had drawn him from Melissa's side and brought him here. He sat alone in his pew at the back. He listened to the prayers and hymns silently. He didn't join in the eerie chanting of the small community. He simply watched as they rose and sat as commanded by the priest. The priest closed the sermon with the Lord's Prayer.
‘Amen,' Lazarus muttered quietly after everyone else had almost shouted the word in unison. Most people filtered slowly out of the church, a few giving him an awkward glance.
They hid their curious stares directed at the slender man sitting alone at the back, his face shrouded by the shade, though it was obvious who it was. He had put on his white shirt and smart trousers, even bothering to tuck his shirt in. His sleeves were rolled down, but not buttoned up, half covering the scars that encircled his wrists. Though Mass had finished, he did not move, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasped just beneath his chin. His eyes were open, staring vacantly at the cushion hanging from a hook on the back of the pew in front of him. He watched two people walk slowly towards the confessions boxes, taking their places inside the darkened rooms either side of the priest's own rather more comfortable one. He shut the door and slid across the divider and began to talk to one of the people inside.
Lazarus rested his chin on his clasped hands and waited for the man's confession to finish. It had been nearly three hundred years since Lazarus had last set foot in a church with the intent of confessing. He had given up with religion after Gabriel had died, though out of habit and the fear of hell that gripped him for the century after had kept him coming back. Alcohol had taken over though, after a while and he had abandoned the church altogether.
Though he still didn't agree with the religion or its followers' persistent fight against natural progression, he had suddenly woken up with the need to come to church once again. He heard the priest's muffled absolution of the man and the partition slide shut. The man came out with a relieved look on his face and Lazarus shook his head. After four hundred years of loneliness and anguish, he had given up on the idea of hell being something that happened after death.
Hearing the partition slide open on the other side of the box, Lazarus began to wonder what it was he was going to confess to. He remembered how honest you were supposed to be - but that was under the belief that God would not forgive you for hiding something. Lazarus hadn't come here for God's forgiveness. He had come here to forgive himself.
Mortal sins were what he was supposed to confess to here. But out of the myriad of sins he had managed to commit during his life, which ones were indeed mortal sins? He considered the long list that formed in his mind and smiled. Most of them, he decided, would probably have been considered mortal if he hadn't been so drunk all the time. He rose slowly, stretching the stiffness out of his muscles. Pews were not comfortable. He hadn't missed that. And, it seemed, that the only difference between pews now and when he last went to church was that they had a back to them, and less splinters.
He made his way slowly to the confessions box and knelt down on the cushion, waiting his turn. As he waited, he listened to the woman's confession. She had committed adultery, and instead of confessing to her husband, she was confessing to the priest. The last time he had listened to an adultery confession, the priest had asked so many questions under the guise of needing clarification on nearly every detail. The questions he asked that poor woman could have made a hooker blush, he remembered with a crooked half smile. The priest this time was slightly kinder, though Lazarus still thought he should have resisted questioning her so much. Eventually he gave her the absolution she had been waiting for. As she left, he figured that the blush that was sure to be on her cheeks would be there all day.
The priest turned to Lazarus' side and slid the partition across.
‘In nómine Patris et Fílii et Spíritus Sancti. Amen.' Lazarus muttered quietly, crossing himself. The old Latin was easier to remember than he thought. He almost regretted not learning more than his prayers and hymns in Latin. ‘Pater noster, qui es in cælis,' Lazarus continued, his soft voice nearly inaudible behind the screen. The priest listened intently, impressed and somewhat relieved that someone had taken the trouble to learn the Lord's Prayer in Latin in this modern world. ‘Sed libera nos a malo. Amen' he finished before looking up at the priest through the shaped holes in the partition.
‘Forgive me Father, for I have sinned,' He said, raising his voice a little for the priest. ‘I have not confessed for several years, though I can't remember how many. Since I was a young man. I have no good reason for this. I simply fell away from the church, I gave up. Forgive me,' he said, though his voice was nearly emotionless.
‘Carry on; you shall be forgiven now, for confessing. What are your sins?' the priest replied.
‘I don't ask to be forgiven for my sins, only for my lapse in faith.' Lazarus said. The priest raised his eyebrows.
‘You shall be forgiven, child. Confess and the Father will grant you absolution.' The priest told Lazarus.
‘I don't know where to begin. I'm not sure what I should class as my mortal sins and what not to. I have killed, Father, but it was to protect the person I love most. Is that still a mortal sin?' He closed his eyes, trying not to think of Connor.
‘Murder is a mortal sin, child, regardless of the reason. You committed it with full knowledge of its grave nature, the fact it is a sin, and you consented to go through with it.' The priest's expression was hard and even through the small holes, Lazarus could see. He nodded.
‘Then yes, I have killed. That is only one mortal sin of many. Have you got a drink, Father, I fear we may be here a while.' Lazarus smiled and looked at the floor as he dragged up old memories of his life before Melissa. The priest's eyes widened slightly, but encouraged Lazarus to relate everything. Lazarus looked up again, still smiling and began to tell the priest all about his sins.
When he was done confessing, he spoke the ritual words that completed the confession: ‘Lord Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.' The priest gave a sigh and wiped his forehead with a handkerchief, exhausted by Lazarus' lengthy list of sins. He gave Lazarus his penance and finished his part of the confession: ‘God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church, may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.'
‘Amen.' Lazarus muttered, rising to his feet. ‘Thank you, Father,' he said as he left the confession box. The priest nodded and walked back out into the church. Lazarus was not quite done. I might as well go the extra mile now that I'm here, he thought to himself as he dropped his loose change into the collection box beside the box of candles, more than making up for the one he had taken the night before.
The priest watched from the lectern as Lazarus lit the candle and did his penance kneeling before the rack of little candles. The flames danced as Lazarus' breath disturbed them. His blonde hair fell into his eyes as he looked at the floor, reciting the prayers he had been given. He spoke half of them in Latin, the fluid language making the priest smile. Lazarus finished his reel of prayers with one that the priest had not mentioned.
‘Réquiem ætérnam dona eis, Dómine, et lux perpétua lúceat eis. Requiéscant in pace. Gabriel. This is my final farewell, I wish only to forget you now,' he murmured, blinking back the tears that threatened to fall onto the parched stone beneath him.
‘Amen,' the priest finished for him, walking towards him. He rested a hand on Lazarus' shoulder. Lazarus looked up at the priest.
‘Well done, Lazarus.' The priest said.
‘You watch the news then, huh?' Lazarus asked. The man nodded, his expression grave.
‘Murder may be a mortal sin, but you posed a good question; "is it really a mortal sin when it was committed for the right reasons?"' he seemed to ask the stained glass Jesus that watched them.
Lazarus walked slowly back to the apartment, a small smile on his lips. He felt a bit lighter, a bit happier for having confessed. It wasn't as though what he had told the priest was something he had been hiding from Melissa, it just hadn't come up in conversation and she hadn't asked him about the years between Gabriel and her. He threw his keys down on the kitchen counter and leant against the work surface with a sigh. He found something to eat and sat down on the sofa, turning the TV on to watch cheap films until Melissa woke up.
I figure I should probably cite my courses for info about confessions and the Latin prayers and whatnot, because I am not what you would call religious, even in the loosest sense of the word. so here they are.
Thank you to the Catholics who care enough to put their religious... uhm practices up online. I'd say nonsense, there, but I don't wanna offend ;)