AN: My first thought when this one came out of the 2013 Matchmaking Icon Meme (see my profile for details) was: "Great. These two are so going to empty Black Order's pantry." But then I started to wonder when the story should take place, and the ending result was more interesting than I expected. I think I actually ship them now. My sister does, at any rate. I'm kind of proud.
No spoilers for Pandora Hearts (can't believe it either) since this story takes place before the manga starts. Important spoilers for DGray-man, up to chapter 135: "Rest with Occasional Cloud" (volume 14). I'm afraid this story won't make much sense unless you've read the latter.
Disclaimer: Pandora Hearts' author is Jun Mochizuki and the copyrights go to Square Enix. DGray-man was written by Katsura Hoshino and published by Shuueisha.
From Prisoner to Prisoner
Allen could feel the Ark shiver when he sang. It was an unnatural comfort that made him feel uncomfortable in his own skin. This suspended ship, with its shifting architecture that obeyed Allen's every wish, was like an extension of his being that the boy had been unaware of until now.
A ship that the Earl used to own, controlled by a music score that only Allen could read. This score, written in the code he had invented under Mana's guidance as a child...
Allen hugged his knees tighter. The stench from his mountain of leftovers was getting to him. He was still famished, but he had a knot in his stomach that wouldn't let him swallow anything more. It was a wonder that he had managed to keep it all in for so long.
The boy glanced over at Timcanpy. The small golem's appetite, at least, had been satiated. It was snoring away next to its master on the piano bench. Allen appreciated the company and faint noise – it made this white world feel a little less empty.
He should head back soon…
A sudden tremor made him start. Allen looked round, searching for the source. The next quake almost made him fall off the bench. The boy jumped to his feet. All was still, the room as quiet as ever. Timcanpy hadn't even stirred. Yet another convulsion shook Allen's frame, like the aftershock of a mighty punch.
Something was trying to force its way into the Ark.
Allen ran towards the invader. The Ark was still unstable after its rebuilding and uncertain travelling, and whatever was trying to enter was strong. Allen could feel each shock all the way to his gut.
The Ark was connected to both the Black Order and Asian Branch. He had to stop the intruder before it could get to them.
Doors and corridors materialised and vanished in a mad kaleidoscope as he ran. Part of him was terrified of the ease with which he commanded this alien ship, but Allen was too distressed at the prospect of an attack to give it much thought. His Innocence activated effortlessly, Crown Clown's mask and coat covering him like a second skin without slowing his race.
His feet carried him to a familiar wooden door – the one Allen had opened at random while looking for an exit with Kanda and the others. The one that led to nothing but darkness…
It burst open.
Giant claws emerged from the darkness, followed by a feral grin. Allen used his own claw to stop the creature from coming closer, and was met with a furious growl when they clashed. The exorcist's eyes widened when his curse awakened and revealed the being before him for what it was:
Allen's good eye saw a monstrous black rabbit. The left one saw a little girl.
"Out of my way!"
Allen was sent flying, too shocked to react when the creature head-butted him. Dizzy, he saw the rabbit tear at the opening with both hands, widening it with sheer brutal force. Allen opened his cursed eye and watched as the frail girl summoned chains from the darkness behind her to propel herself into the Ark.
The door slammed behind her, and she was left panting on the floor.
"Who are you?" Allen asked breathlessly.
She wasn't an Akuma. This frail girl looked nothing like the tormented souls he had seen hovering over the Earl's evil mechanics. She wasn't a Noah either; members of the Noah clan looked like humans even to his cursed eye.
Was she using Innocence too? Or something else entirely?
The rabbit fixed Allen with a fierce red glare as the girl met his gaze with striking amethyst eyes. She snickered:
"How rude of you to ask right after attacking me," she bared her teeth. "Care to try again, brat?"
Allen watched her warily, more than a little taken aback. She looked no older than thirteen. She showed a surprising amount of boastfulness for someone who had just appeared out of nowhere, literally. How long had this child been trapped behind that door?
"…You have a point," he told her with a soft smile, and deactivated his Innocence. When in doubt, politeness was always the safer option. "Sorry about that. In my defence, you did break the door."
There was little change in the rabbit's face, but the small girl stared at him in open disbelief. She got to her feet, a little unsteady on her legs after her break in. She tried to hide the slight tremble by holding her legs close together, and threw a suspicious look at the wooden door:
"Looks like it's all fixed." She stared at her hands with narrowed eyes. "Even my powers have stabilized for now..."
She turned back to him: "Did you do this? This passage looks different from the usual gaps. And I've never met anyone like you before. What's with that freakish arm of yours?"
Allen winced. She sure didn't mince words. And she was the one who scolded him about manners?
"This is Innocence…" he put a hand on his deformed arm without breaking eye contact. "You've never seen it before?"
"No." She wrinkled her nose: "I don't like it."
Allen clenched his fists. It wasn't like these words were anything he hadn't heard before, but they still hurt.
On top of that, the further this conversation went on, the more surreal the situation felt. Allen never knew whether to look at the girl or the rabbit when he talked, and the nonchalance with which she mocked him combined with her dual, monstrous form made him want to lash out.
"I don't like this place either," the girl observed the white room and endless corridors with disgust. "I'm so hungry..."
To Allen's eternal dismay, his stomach picked this moment to growl in approval. The boy sighed in self-aggravation:
"What would you like to eat?"
The girl brightened up immediately:
"Do you have meat?"
"Sure," Allen said, eyeing the nearest door to his left nervously. He had already taken most of the food he could find in Headquarters' pantry. A little more wouldn't hurt, would it?
"Give me a moment."
As soon as the words had left his lips, the door revolved and turned into an iron double-door with metal handles.
In a matter of minutes, Allen had taken three chickens, thirty beef chops, a loaf of bread, eight sandwiches, a basket of apples and ten dango into the Ark. Then he did another travel for the water he had almost forgotten, and brought back some sausages while he was at it. By then, his unexpected guest was already halfway through the biggest chicken.
"You're not so bad, brat," she acknowledged with her mouth full.
"It's Allen," the boy corrected before turning the door back to its original shape. He joined her on the floor and helped himself to a sandwich.
The girl nodded as she munched:
"Since you made up for your offense by giving me food, I'll grant you permission to call me Alice."
Allen couldn't help but roll his eyes. Thankfully, she was too engrossed by her chicken to notice.
He watched her inquisitively. Even though Allen saw her bring the meat to her mouth and eat it, some of it always ended up in the giant rabbit's paws and under its sharp teeth, like an elaborate magic trick.
His eyes were drawn to her human form. Alice had undergone a complete metamorphosis: she had gone from brash and sharp to childlike cheerfulness, humming to herself as she ate. Her cheeks were flushed, her eyes bright and lively.
She had long, flowing dark brown hair, with cowlicks on the top of her head that almost looked like cat ears. Two thin braids framed her face and brought out her pale complexion and vivid eyes.
They sat a while in companionable silence, simply enjoying the food, neither caring about the growing mess of their leftovers or the fleeing time.
"So," Alice asked before sinking her teeth into an apple. "You're the one who controls this place?"
Allen paused before swallowing his dango. There was a lump in his throat. Dimly, he realized he had been grateful for the distraction of Alice's arrival. Even if she had asked out of curiosity and Allen had known the question was coming, he couldn't help but feel disappointed that she had brought up the subject at all.
He didn't want to talk about it. He didn't know the answer himself.
"I'm not used to it," he confessed, averting his eyes. "I'm mostly experimenting."
He heard nothing but loud crunching in response.
"That won't do," Alice grumbled at last. "I can't stay here..."
"Well, I think I've gotten the hang of opening doors, at least," Allen offered with a smile. "Is there anywhere in particular you'd like to go?"
Alice raised an eyebrow at him:
"You're a weird guy," she commented between quick chomps. "You're not scared of me?"
"Let's just say experience has taught me not to judge based on appearance alone," Allen chuckled, thinking of Krory. "The two of us had a rocky start, but you seem friendly enough. I may not look it, but I've seen my fair share of monsters. I don't think you're one."
Besides, the boy had played enough poker games to be confident in his ability to read expressions. Alice had shown genuine confusion when Allen had mentioned Innocence, which meant she wasn't connected to the Earl.
Alice blinked, looking disgruntled. Then she barked a laugh, and the walls resounded with the giant rabbit's mirth.
"You're in luck, kid," she told him. "Most Chains eat humans to survive. But I'm above that."
"Creatures from the Abyss," she waved her hand at the wooden door at her back. "Like me."
Allen followed her gaze. Was this what the darkness behind that door was called? The Abyss?
"It's been a while since I had a good meal though," Alice scowled at her fruit. "There's not much to eat in the Abyss."
Allen frowned at the memory of his barely avoided fall into this world of darkness. From where he had stood, it had seemed bottomless.
"Is there anything…at all in there?" he asked carefully.
Alice shrugged: "Other Chains, mostly. Not friendly ones, either," she added with a predatory smirk.
Allen shuddered slightly as he looked up at her grinning alternate self. She seemed confident in her ability to take care of herself. And from their brief scuffle, he tended to agree.
"A lot of water and trash, too," Alice went on. "You can find food here and there, but nothing that would taste this good."
"You don't seem all that eager to go back," Allen pointed out.
The young girl's features hardened at that, and the room was filled with the black rabbit's throaty growl.
"Of course I don't," she spat. "I thought I'd finally found an exit… but this isn't the place I'm looking for."
"What do you mean by that?" Allen asked, and immediately chastised himself for it when he saw her discomfort. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to…"
"There is something I'm looking for," Alice went on as if she hadn't heard him, glaring at her boots. "And it's not here. This place smells…wrong. Even that room the food came from," she pointed her chin towards the door at Allen's back. "It makes me feel cramped. I'm positive I've never been here before. So I'll head back."
She threw her core to the other end of the corridor with a determined sweep of the arm:
"If I have to go back to the Abyss to find a contractor, so be it."
Allen looked from the frail girl to the innocuous wooden door. A wave of cold washed over him.
"Is there anything I can do?"
Alice's morose expression disappeared as she gaped at him. That only made Allen feel worse. She clearly wasn't used to anyone offering help. Her scowl slowly settled back into place, and she shook her head:
"You're no good. I don't like your smell."
Allen flushed, but his cry of protest died away when he noticed her staring at his Innocence.
"I think it's coming from your arm," Alice said, confirming his suspicions. "Like I said, I don't like it. I'm not sure what effect it would have on my powers. And I'm not any Chain," she added with a note of pride. "I'm picky about contractors."
"…Thanks for the food, though," she said belatedly, in a much smaller voice.
Allen marvelled at the change. She looked bashful, a deep blush colouring her cheeks as she tried to avoid his gaze and blinked in obvious confusion, seemingly startled by her own gratitude. Even her bestial self looked softer when it wasn't baring its fangs. Unexpected warmth filled Allen to the tips of his toes.
"You can come back whenever you want," he told her softly. "I'll leave that door open for you."
Alice's blush darkened. She fidgeted under his gaze. Allen beamed as he finished his serving of dango.
"…You don't look very happy to be here either," Alice mumbled. "Can't you leave?"
Allen's smile froze on his face.
Of course he could leave. The Black Order was only a door away. So was the Asian Branch. He could go home to his fellow exorcists whenever he wanted. Back to destroying Akuma and fighting the Earl. The path he had chosen.
Keep moving forward.
He couldn't answer.
"Come with me," Alice blurted out.
Allen threw her a frenzied stare. She was still very red in the face. There was a glow to her eyes, something fragile, tentative and expectant. Like a feverish outstretched hand, a promise – a curse – hanging in the air.
"Come with me, Allen," she repeated more firmly. "You can fight. I could protect you from the Chains. We'll both get out as soon as I find a contractor." Her gaze hardened. "You could be free."
Allen shivered. Hearing his name spoken in her dual voice, simultaneously a growl and a whisper, was alluring. He was fired up by her words and chilled by their implications.
You are a prisoner here.
His words fell between them like a ton of bricks, breaking the heated silence. Allen had to clear his throat before his voice betrayed him further.
"I can't… I have duties to fulfil here." As controlled as his voice sounded, he couldn't do anything about the intensity of his stare. "I'm sorry, Alice."
Seeing the disappointment on her face hurt more than he was prepared for. Before he could say anything more, she ducked her head and stood up abruptly.
"'Duty,'" she snarled, and Allen couldn't tell her voice from the rabbit's anymore. "What a joke..."
It was like a stab. Allen looked at her set shoulders and clenched fists with growing anguish.
Alice would walk back into this prison she hated so much to escape the sterile world of the Ark, and fight for her desired freedom to the end.
Allen couldn't even bring himself to try and dissuade her. The world outside didn't feel any realer to her than this empty ship.
The boy could feel it himself: the foreign song in his head, this accursed music score that rewrote his childhood and painted Mana's memory in unrecognizable colours. Allen's future all mapped out before him.
Keep moving forward.
He was never free.
"Forget it," Alice turned away. The door opened to eternal darkness. "I don't need anyone."
Just like that, she was gone.