A/N: Just to clarify, the story is divided into parts where basically one detail changes and that alters the subsequent events dramatically. So each part happens congruently with the other, i.e. sort of parallel universe-ish. I try to make it clear which detail changed by sectioning it off. Hopefully it's not too confusing!
Warnings: Language, mostly. Some sexual content, very mild. I am a Kanda/Lavi shipper so...please keep that in mind in the Alma sections. *sweatdrops* This is also full AU.
Takes places at and around the time of a college frat party. Again, each section branches off into it's own timeline so the story is NOT linear.
A Fraction of What They See
He sees the redhead across the room and thinks: huh, I could really use some right now.
The two glasses of Long Island Ice Tea may have something to do with it. Kanda doesn't care. He is still steady on his feet although his vision is beginning to blur. He scans the room for Alma and doesn't see him. Convenient.
Somewhere in his booze-filled brain a strand of reason is trying to tug on Kanda's subconscious, telling him to stop and he's making a huge, huge mistake. He ignores it, and makes his way toward that smear of red. He takes in the tight green shirt and even tighter white pants. He takes in the loose strands of hair covering the right eye. He takes in the face, especially, and finds desire pooling in the pit of his abdomen.
Want. I want. Now. Mine.
Last week he and Alma had a fight. The bruises are gone now but the bitterness hasn't. That's why they're both at this party tonight – half-attempting to make up and half-attempting to forget. Kanda is more interested in the forgetting part.
You don't date for a year and a half and not have some bumps. Kanda is aware of that. And this is one of those bumps. It happens. His brain is arguing vehemently but his body is giving it the finger. Fuck off. I want it. Go die.
He makes his way to the redhead and stands there like an obvious drunk. The other eyes him curiously. Kanda opens his mouth, to say something, anything, but no coherent words come out. He gives up and just goes for it, grabbing the redhead by the back of his neck and pulling his face down.
The kiss is sloppy and the redhead tastes like more alcohol but Kanda is happy. The other makes no move to pull away but doesn't exactly return it either. Kanda shoves his tongue in and bites the lips and rubs himself against the other's body. He is erect and hot and dizzy with need and drunkenness.
He doesn't see Alma at all.
Alma sees them.
Alma crosses the room and roughly pulls the two of them apart. Kanda staggers and falls backwards, knocking into the beer pong table and arousing a sea of complaints. The redhead pulls his hands back and says "hey man I was just minding my own business" and Alma acquiesces. Alma walks up to Kanda and yanks him by the arm, dragging him away.
A few minutes later they're outside in the evening summer heat and Kanda vomits. Right on the sidewalk. Some splashes on Alma's sneakers. He leans his weight into Alma, and is surprised when warm hands pull his hair back as he retches his stomach clean. The reflux of acid brings tears down his face.
When they get back to the dorm room they share Alma slaps him on the head and calls him an asshole and goes to sleep on the couch. Kanda passes out on the bed, still clothed, and doesn't wake up until noon.
When he does his clothes smell like shit and his head is killing him. He struggles to the shower and the blast of cold water makes him scream like a girl. A second later Alma crashes in, but comes to a halt when he realizes Kanda is perfectly alright. Alma laughs at him, actually at him. Kanda wants to hurl soap at Alma's face.
Instead he pulls Alma in the shower, clothed and all, and just hugs him like he hasn't done in weeks. They stand still while the lukewarm water pelts their head. Kanda starts talking, a monologue of apologies and repentances and forgotten affection. Alma just smiles and says "I love you, Yu," and kisses his mouth, disgusting hangover breath and all.
He never sees the redhead again and doesn't give a damn. He has what he needs with him, and they tread the bump beneath their feet and carry on.
Alma doesn't see them.
Alma doesn't come back until long after Kanda has learned everything there is to learn about the inside of the redhead's mouth. He's also learned that the person he has been practically jerking off on has a weird eyepatch and the brightest green eye he has ever seen. When he finally lets go the redhead has on a smile too complex for Kanda's intoxicated brain to decipher, but he likes it. Very much so.
Kanda doesn't remember how he got back to the dorm, only that he did. He wakes up alone on the bed the next day and discovers a smear of red ball point pen on his palm. There's a name and what looks to be a string of numbers. It takes him a good half hour to realize that it's a phone number, and another half to think he should probably write that somewhere not so easily washable.
Alma doesn't acknowledge him when he emerges from the bedroom. It hurts a little, but Kanda brushes it off. They can talk later. They always do.
Kanda stares at the number on his phone and doesn't dial it. He stares so long that the room steadily grows dark. He touches himself a little while he stares, just enough to get hard.
He doesn't call.
Alma and he have another fight. This time no punches were thrown but Kanda feels like his heart is being squeezed through his esophagus. Alma is slipping away, bit by bit, and Kanda sees it but doesn't know what to do. They have almost been dating for a full two years now. In theory they should be talking more seriously, but all they're doing is pushing each other away every day.
Kanda is terrified.
He stares at the number for a minute before he calls. Someone picks up. Kanda forgets his own name.
He is in the redhead's room, moaning into the pillow as the other takes him from behind. He bites the pillow cover and gets a mouthful of synthetic fiber. Alma's face flashes in front of his eyes. It doesn't go away, not even when he comes. He finishes and wipes himself clean and leaves without saying anything else. The redhead smiles, but doesn't give chase.
They meet three more times before Alma finds out. Kanda dodges Alma's angry fists only far enough for Alma to get angrier. They shout at each other and Kanda hears "fucking whore" more times than he breathes. People are calling the RAs to intervene but Alma storms out before anyone shows up. Kanda gets a severe warning about dorm disturbances and is lucky he isn't kicked out entirely.
Alma goes to Housing and applies for a switch the next day. Kanda just crashes on an acquaintance's couch until everything Alma owns is gone from the room.
He deletes the redhead's number from his phone. Then he cries without tears and feels like his soul has left his body to follow Alma Karma to the afterlife. Two years of living and loving and companionship fades into ashes and unspoken promises. Kanda regrets, but he can't, for the life of him, figure out when and where things have begun to go wrong.
two point five
Kanda gets sick at the party and drinks nothing but Coke and seltzer water. Alma chugs a beer and fends off all the new freshman girls throwing themselves at him. Booze and a stellar reputation do that to people. Kanda knows. You don't get to be student council president and star quarterback and son of that Fortune 500 CEO without catching quite a few pairs of eyes. Too bad Alma swings that way – Kanda's way – actually, scratch that, that's not bad at all.
Halfway through the party he and Alma makes up and makes out in the middle of the room. No one pays much attention. They break apart for some air and someone bumps into them. Kanda turns to look.
"Sorry," the other apologizes. Kanda takes in the red hair and the eyepatch and the scholarly physique. He looks so out of place at this party, Kanda thinks, curiosity piqued.
Alma's eyes light up. "Wait," he says, scrutinizing the redhead's face. "Don't I know you?"
He actually does. The redhead comes from a prestigious family and has run into Alma at fundraiser functions when the Karmas were in the Hamptons two summers ago. Lavi is his name – just as unusual as the eyepatch, Kanda decides. His smile is a little irritating, so Kanda doesn't speak to him and lets Alma do all the talking.
On their way back to their room Alma rants about coincidences and seems genuinely happy. Kanda is glad for him, although what he thinks about this Lavi character is still up for debate.
Alma and Lavi become fast friends. Kanda doesn't really speak to Lavi until he shows up in Kanda's core class on Tuesday. Lavi asks him for coffee afterwards and Kanda can't think of a reason to refuse, so he goes.
They talk about philosophy and history and cooking and everything in between. Kanda discovers Lavi's bookworm demeanor isn't just looks. The redhead knows eight different languages and is fluent in six. He also has photographic memory and a way too high IQ, but doesn't come off as condescending. Lavi pokes at the calluses on Kanda's hands – formed from years of martial arts and kendo – like they're ciphers to be decrypted. "The luck the Karmas have." The redhead says after, his smile a little wistful.
Kanda pretends he doesn't understand and drinks his tea. Lavi pretends he's never said it and drinks his coffee. They sit until the atmosphere is platonic enough to talk again. They then talk about trivial, harmless things, and stay so until Alma calls. Kanda pays and leaves. Lavi sits back and takes out a book, and doesn't think about anything more.
Alma is trying to convince him to go to this party but Kanda doesn't want to. So they don't. They go to an all-night diner instead and have scrambled eggs and pancakes. Alma licks maple syrup suggestively from his fingers and Kanda smirks. They leave the diner drunk on too much soda and gut-spilling conversation. Kanda feels the familiar love and thinks, everything is ok.
Three weeks later they get in a fight again over something stupid, and for the first time Kanda feels the weariness in his bones. He gets angry, really angry, at Alma, at their bipolar relationship, at all the things built up over the years that never gets resolved because they simply can't. Instead of another fist fight Kanda just puts on his jacket and leaves. He wanders the campus aimlessly until the school security picks him up and deposits him back in front of the dorm. Kanda just sits in the lobby until morning.
He meets Lavi Bookman Jr. in his afternoon Civ class. The lanky youth is slouching in a chair too small for his frame, legs splayed out and an utter look of boredom on his face. His hair is a mess but Kanda sees the too sharp, too intelligent green eye scanning the room, taking mental notes, making swift judgments, memorizing. It lands on Kanda and the redhead grins. Kanda looks away immediately, but not before he feels a faint blush rising on his cheeks.
They get assigned partners for a group project and Kanda curses his luck. He is curt and rude but the redhead just ignores his jabs and keeps on talking. Their conversation starts off solely about work; Kanda only gives Lavi his school email, and stubbornly refuses to give out his phone number.
"You know," Lavi says, "I'm trying to get an A here, not trying to hit on you."
Kanda knows he's being a terrible partner but doesn't relent. Lavi sighs and gives up. He scribbles his own number down on Kanda's notes and says "call me if you want" and leaves.
Kanda crumbles the paper and throws it away.
They get a B on the project and Lavi grumbles how it might've gone better had they met up more. Kanda ignores him. He and Alma had another fight the day before, and they are both in their cooling off stage. The cycle is getting shorter but more frequent. Kanda doesn't know if that's a good thing, or what it means. He just knows he is getting more tired by the day.
"You look awful," Lavi quips. "Have you been sleeping at all?"
He hasn't. Kanda spends more time staring at walls than in the bed he shares with Alma. But all he says is "mind your own business" and glares, waiting for the redhead to give up again.
Except this time Lavi doesn't. He comes closer to Kanda and says, "You know, I don't have to want to fuck you to care about you, Kanda. You look like you could use a friend right now."
"Who said anything about fucking?"
"Every time you look at me you act like I'm going to jump you."
Kanda feels mean. He wants to hurt. "Don't flatter yourself," he says. "I wouldn't fuck you with someone else's dick, let alone mine."
He waits until Lavi turns and walks away before looking back up. The words linger in the air, and Kanda, just for a second, feels the tremor of a closed door.
That night he lies in bed and doesn't sleep. Alma is snoring beside him, although they aren't touching. What is happening? he thinks. What is happening to me? To us? Two years together and this is what it distills to? Two people stranded on a bed, barely breathing; they might as well be on different planets.
He doesn't know whom to blame, and doesn't care to. He just knows he doesn't want to let go. Not yet. Not when there are still happy moments. Not when Alma is still beside him, still here, still his.
When he falls asleep he dreams of red, but never wakes to see.
Kanda rips the paper out and puts it in his pocket.
He calls the number on Saturday night, a week before the project is due. Lavi answers on the third ring. "Hello?" Kanda hears the hesitation. "Who's this?"
"Me, idiot," Kanda says, inexplicably irritated. Alma looks up from his laptop, expression curious. They're in their good cycle right now. Kanda hears Lavi's breathy laugh on the other end, then:
"Well, excuse me, partner, how am I supposed to know you would actually call?"
They talk about work for the rest of the conversation. Kanda is to meet Lavi the next day to go over more research notes. He hangs up after twenty minutes and Alma asks "Who's that?", a bit too casually.
"Just a guy I'm forced to work with."
"Just a guy, huh?"
Please don't, Kanda thinks. But the tone sticks.
"I don't want to fight," he says after a minute, biting his lip.
"Neither do I," says Alma.
They're in the library, working, when Lavi suddenly puts down his pen with a clatter and says, "You really gotta stop looking at me like that."
Kanda wants to ask "what're you talking about" but knows that's just being disingenuous. Instead he just stares at the redhead harder to prove a point. Unlike what he expects, Lavi doesn't look away. At all. In the end it's Kanda who has to avert his eyes. Again, he remembers, feeling the heat rise to his cheeks like the first time in class. He coughs, mouth dry, while Lavi just laughs in that stupid, knowing way and Kanda suddenly wants to lean across the table and – do what? He isn't sure.
"That's gonna break." Lavi says, motions to his hand.
Kanda's gripping his pen so tight that his knuckles are white. He releases forcibly and pain shoots up his palm. "I'm going home." He says, abruptly stands up and gathers his things. He hears Lavi sigh but doesn't look back.
Later when he's emailing his share of the work Kanda finds himself staring at the send field. He is beginning to understand, and he hates it so much it hurts.
The next time he and Alma fight Kanda knows it's done. They're done. He can't do this anymore.
"Let's stop this." He says to his two-year love. There is no hate in his voice. Sometimes people grow apart. This time it happens to be them. It's just unfortunate that what they had was something quite beautiful.
Alma agrees, too. "Yeah," he says, almost as toneless as Kanda. "Let's. It's way past due."
When Kanda dials Lavi's number he half-expects it to go to voice mail. Lavi answers on the third ring again and Kanda swallows. He feels a little shitty doing this so soon but he knows he needs it, before something in him permanently breaks.
"Can I stay over tonight?"
"…I can only offer you the floor."
He hears the affirmative and hangs up. On his way out Alma says to him, not maliciously, "Just a guy my ass." Kanda almost smiles.
The minute he's inside Lavi's dorm room he pulls their body together and kisses him. He gets a good swipe with his tongue before Lavi shoves him away. Kanda is honestly surprised by the strength – never would've guessed from just looking. His dick gets harder from that thought.
"You don't even know if I'm gay or available," Lavi glares at him. "Or interested, for that matter."
"I don't want to be your rebound."
"I just want to fuck, not propose."
He feels Lavi relents, just a little. Kanda takes advantage and pushes, and they fall on the bed in a heap of limbs.
Afterwards he passes out on the cluttered floor like Lavi prophesized. The next morning he wakes to a blanket on top of him and the redhead sitting on the bed, reading. Kanda stands up and stretches, hearing his back crack and sees Lavi looking at him from the corner of his eye.
"You know, most of my one night stands usually leave before I wake up," Lavi says.
"I'm going," Kanda huffs, offended, until he sees the flicker of a smile on the other's lips.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm not the one who took it last night."
"That is not what I meant."
They've barely talked, about anything. Kanda doesn't know what he feels at the moment, only that the emptiness he had is fading. His heart is almost light, normal, even, something Kanda hasn't been for a long time.
"Yeah," he says. "I'll be fine."
He sees the guy with the scar on his nosebridge and thinks: huh, why is he staring at me so?
Kanda usually isn't one to retreat from people's stares. He's used to it; hard not to with a face like his. But this time it's something else. He watches the other walk toward him. Fuck, he thinks, and looks around for Lavi but doesn't see the redhead anywhere. Fuck.
The guy stops in front of him and says "sup, beautiful" like they're old lovers. Kanda frowns, resisting the urge to back up. "I'm Alma," the guy continues, his smile wide and disarming. "You are?"
Kanda doesn't answer. It gets awkward really quickly but he has little choice. Alma takes a step forward, hands reaching for…something. Kanda doesn't find out because someone materializes beside them and intercepts. He looks over and sees Lavi. The redhead is smiling, but Kanda picks up on the tension right away.
"Hey," Lavi says. "What's going on?"
Alma does a double take. "Holy crap!" he exclaims, attention on Kanda momentarily forgotten. "Bookman, right?"
They all have a long chat and Kanda learns just how poor his background really is. He also learns, for the first time, how easily this Alma Karma put Lavi on the defense. More than once Kanda feels Alma touching him – a brush of the hand, a too close reach – and wonders if something else is going on entirely. Lavi is wound so tight he is shaking. Kanda puts a hand on his lover's leg, massaging it discreetly. Meanwhile Alma keeps talking, his smile genuine, but he never stops drifting toward where Kanda is.
When they finally extract themselves from Alma and the party Kanda feels like his nerves has been shot through a blender. "What the hell?" he says once they're outside. "Who was that, really?"
"Just a Karma," Lavi massages his temples. Kanda can see the sweat gathered on his brows.
"I don't know what that means."
"What a Karma wants, Karma gets." Lavi gives him a look. "And he really, really wants you."
"Well too fucking bad."
They are quiet for a while after that. A breeze picks up as they make their way back to the dorms. Kanda is glad that summer is finally over, although the upcoming semester is going to be tough.
"You know," Lavi muses. "Had he met you first, I wouldn't have stood a chance."
"Stop being stupid."
"I mean it."
Kanda stops abruptly, angry. "I'm not some fucking baseball card for you rich assholes to trade and show off."
"You're right," Lavi apologizes, taken aback. "I'm sorry. I don't know what I was – I'm sorry, Yu. It's just, I never thought a Karma would follow me all the way out here."
"He didn't follow you anywhere. It happens."
"Does it?" Lavi's smile is deprecating. Kanda interrupts him before he says anything more.
"Enough! There's no point worrying about shit that hasn't happened. I'm here, with you. And that's it."
"You're right," Lavi says again. He puts an arm around Kanda's shoulder. "I guess I'm just being…"
Lavi laughs. "I was going to say 'insecure' but that works too."
They resume their walk and Kanda wanders, briefly, about all the decisions fate has made and what might have been. He dismisses it just as quickly, leaning into Lavi's embrace. Pointless, he decides, and lets it fall where it may.
*the title of the last section "i" refers to the imaginary number i.
P.S. I usually don't ask for reviews but for this one I would love to hear your feedback. I wrote this mostly to explore the possible relationships Alma, Kanda, and Lavi could have with each other, and it's quite a challenge! :) Is it too confusing? Is 2.5 too subtle? Are the characters/situations believable? Am I crazy? (uh, actually, don't answer that) If you don't want to leave a visible review you're more than welcome to PM me.
I do have happier and more conventional stories in the works so I won't just be bringing out new age, semi-poetry stuff to the Laviyuu verse. XD Peace out.