A/N: I'm very belatedly cross-posting this here. This is a three-part story, and it attempts to work with the canon through 219, though it does take some liberties for the sake of simplicity and also because I have no idea where Hoshino is going with most of her plot. I hardly know where I'm going with the plot that ended up happening for this fic. Or at least the plot became more than I intended it to be, so now I'm writing a much longer and more detailed fic than I thought I would be. Anyway, I'll put up the second part tomorrow because it was a pain cross-posting from ao3... I wish the LaviYuu fandom was larger /sheds a tear/
Staples of Vocabulary
When Lavi first met Kanda, Kanda almost decapitated him. At least, that's what he thought at the time, though it didn't take long to learn that death threats are a staple of Kanda's vocabulary, and that they are a defensive tactic. Spiny, spitting Kanda, always so keen to be alone, making himself as unapproachable as possible.
Lavi had taken to observing him because the death threats had always amounted to nothing. Kanda's coldness is to hide something deeper, just like Lavi's merriment is to do the same. He's pretty sure they reached that unspoken understanding early on. Whatever Kanda's hiding, Lavi does know it's dark. Dark, with a capital D.
But he hasn't killed Lavi yet. And so Lavi has continued to watch him (get prettier and surlier, yet sometimes, in moments that must be mistakes, kinder?) and talk to him (conversations that usually end before they begin, but sometimes Kanda actually complains to him – about Allen, about Komui, about stupid Finders, you name it – and he sounds like a typical venting teenager and it can be pretty endearing), and just spend silences with him (when Lavi can stop pretending to be chipper and just read, and Kanda can stop pretending he wants to murder everyone and just…do whatever he does when he sits around doing nothing).
The things is, they can actually spend time together without bothering each other, and though it doesn't happen often, when it does Lavi feels…kind of like he's settling.
Though bothering Kanda is just so fun. Especially, especially, when Kanda takes the bait and bothers him back – petulant little snipes that make Lavi want to press his fingers to Kanda's mouth so that he can feel the humor, so rare from those lips. Lavi infinitely prefers this reaction to the one where Kanda's hand goes to Mugen, though the latter is infinitely more common.
A reunion in Edo hasn't made Kanda any softer; he'd greeted Lavi with yet another death threat. Number fifty? Number one hundred? They are like handshakes between them now, or like something a bit friendlier. Kanda would never do hugs, but Lavi's pretty sure he would grudgingly admit, under certain circumstances, that they are friends.
Jokes on you, Lavi thinks, but feebly, because even though he isn't supposed to have friends he's certainly put forth extra effort to wheedle his way through Kanda's walls of indifference.
"Ya know," Lavi says now, and this is an admission he usually wouldn't make seriously – and he doesn't quite sound serious now, but the cheer in his voice is thin. "I'm not feelin' too brave right now."
Kanda makes a vague sound beside him. It's night, dark, and the moon glows like some nightmare sickle in the sky. Its light slices across their faces, finding them in the shadows of one of the outer arches of what's left of the crumbled bridge. Edo is a flattened plane of nothingness out ahead; the bridge is quite literally a bridge to nowhere.
Everyone else is gathered beneath the center arch, deep in thoughts of dread and gloom though they are also restless to keep moving. Lenalee lies unconscious again but now that Allen's here, Lavi knows she'll wake up.
"I can think of somethin' that'll make me feel brave, though."
"What?" Kanda says. Humoring him, Lavi can tell. It makes him feel gleefully stupid.
"Don't want ya slicin' me through, though."
Kanda sliced through that jumbo Akuma like it had been made of butter. If that's the level he has to be at for what's ahead, Lavi thinks he's in for an even tougher battle than what he barely got through on the damn ship.
"If it's so stupid, then don't do it," Kanda advises him, but Lavi imagines he's curious.
Lavi curls and uncurls his fingers, scraping them against the stone behind them. "Nah, I think I'm gonna do it this time."
"By any chance," Kanda says, sounding bored, "do I play a part –"
He answers Kanda's question before it's completely asked, turning and pushing their mouths together. To Kanda's credit, he doesn't make a sound – always so cool in the face of everything – though his head thunks back into the stone very audibly. His lips are tight; Lavi grins against them.
"Yep," Lavi says afterwards, the stones bumpy and uncomfortable against his back once more. He can't stop grinning.
Kanda makes one of his scornful sounds through his nose. "That really was stupid. Idiotic fucking rabbit."
"But'cha didn't run me through."
Kanda makes another scoffing sound. And then he moves, and his mouth is on Lavi's, and Lavi doesn't jerk back. Maybe it's because of this that Kanda bites his lower lip, and Lavi is surprised at this. It shivers deliciously through him.
Kanda's eyes are very, very bright when he pulls away. "Idiocy's contagious," he says.
"But Yuu," Lavi says, voice perfectly cheerful, "then I woulda caught it from ya years ago!"
"You fucker," Kanda says, with that deep-seated, chilly amusement that comes when they throw insults at each other. And then, suddenly so serious that Lavi's smile falls away: "Don't die."
An order? A threat? A bribe?
"Can't die with all this bravery I'm feelin'."
Kanda settles back against the wall, saying nothing. A minute later, he leaves Lavi to sit at the edge of their camp, taking over watch from Allen who goes gratefully to Lenalee's side.
Hardly any time after that he turns his back on Lavi again, though this time it's to face Skinn Boric in a rocky wasteland beneath a rainbow-strewn night sky, and this time there are four others he leaves behind (tells to leave him behind) as well.
Don't die, Lavi thinks at him, because he can't be so solemn when the others are yelling their heads off at him for being such a self-righteous prick.
And then Kanda turns his Hell's Insects on them, like the ass that he is, to get them out of his hair.
He doesn't die, even though Lavi had been certain he had. But Allen works his magic and Kanda just shows up out of a door in the reformed Ark, late to everything as usual, with Krory unconscious over his shoulders like a misshapen cape. He's the same old spitfire with Allen, same old wet blanket with everyone else, and Lavi is so relieved.
Of course things get worse right when they seem to be getting better.
It's madness, Headquarters infiltrated and so many people dead and dying, a Level Four somewhere inside and Lenalee marching off to Hevlaska to do what she knows best – protect those she cares about at the expense of herself.
Bookman code be damned, he will never forget the anguish he'd felt after she'd defeated the Level Three and woken from the crystal confines of her Innocence – the way she'd asked him if she was still a part of the world as though the mere thought was some sweet, impossible thing she'd already given up on. And so he can't let her go off alone again.
The Level Four is ungodly, looks like a literal fallen angel or some demented cherub with bloodlust screaming from every bit of it, and yet for Komui and Lenalee and the Order itself Lavi throws himself in its path with a flagpole in hand and Kanda by his side. He's not sure if they're pathetic or heroic, trying to fend off the monster with their tinker toys, but there's a split second before it strikes that he feels Kanda's resolve beside him and the thinks, madly, that they might be able to at least do something.
He comes to in a pile of rubble, and everything hurts like hell. There's a dull thud as Kanda lands a little bit away. He's vaguely aware of the Akuma floating off for Lenalee – No, God, no! – and of Allen, thank God for Allen, always showing up when they need him most. When his vision is straight he forces himself up, can blurrily make out the green glow on Hevlaska's platform, Lenalee's innocence coming to life. Kanda'a already on his feet, grimacing.
"Jesus, Yuu," Lavi says, sagging against the wall and clutching his arm – pain throbs steadily through it, deeper than anywhere else. "What I wouldn't give for some of your regenerative magic right now."
"Shut it," Kanda says shortly. "Are you ducking out, then?"
"Heh, yeah right."
When they're running for Allen, the stairs ringing metallically under their feet, Lavi gasps out, "Feelin' brave?"
He sees a hint of Kanda's teeth. "Bravery's pointless."
Allen crashes into the platform; the Level Four is seconds away. "Wow Yuu, so deep!" Lavi yells over the whistle of impending impact, and he and Kanda grab for Allen's sword to hold him steady.
He comes to back on the ground floor, back in rubble, and this time he can hardly move at all. Kanda drags him over to the wall, then grabs his chin and forces his head up.
"You're concussed," he says, once Lavi is able to find his frowning face in the swimming quality of everything.
"What a surprise," Lavi says, taking Kanda's hand and removing it from his face, because the grip is tight and he doesn't need anything else to hurt right now. His head lolls back against the wall; he's forgotten to let go of Kanda's hand. "Wow, so many people've died."
A bit of a silence, and then Kanda's hand twitches in his – a stiff, uncomfortable sort of movement. "But we haven't."
Lavi lets his head roll around to grin at him. "All that bravery, Yuu. All that bravery."
In the aftermath Lenalee's innocence takes up permanent residence around her ankles, like some weird fashion statement. "Blood bangles," Lavi calls them one time, and she laughs appreciatively, still not sure how to handle her Innocence's new form herself. Crystal type, Komui names it, and Lavi must avoid becoming one by all means.
The papers speak of another war – by all outward appearances a 'normal' war, but Lavi knows that 'normal' wars only feed the tragedy and depravity that keep theirs in motion.
Headquarters goes quiet for a while as the fate of the building is discussed. There is suddenly so little to do, and Kanda takes this inaction the worst out of all of them. He must get tired of his own gloomy company, because he looks for quarrels with Allen, gets into more than usual with Lavi, even attempts to rouse something out of Lenalee once, but when Lavi next sees them together Kanda looks something reluctantly close to chastised.
Lavi finds it kind of tragic, that Kanda can be so damn prissy with that pretty face of his. Amping up the cheer in response really does get tiring. Lavi's grins will be wide and honeyed, his eye curved into a clownish crescent, but inside he'll feel like he's screaming, exhausted with himself for putting up with Kanda so much and with Kanda for being such a baby. Usually he can handle it, but sometimes, sometimes, when he gets tired of everything and tired of being a persona, he finds that Kanda's ever-present storm cloud leaves a nasty taste in his mouth.
At dinner this night Kanda complains about the soba, and about Allen's table manners ("Then sit somewhere else, Bakanda." "I was here first. You all joined me."), and when Allen tips over Lenalee's glass of water Kanda complains about idiots and uncoordinated fools and midgets cursed to forever give him headaches.
Lavi's already pressing his napkin into the puddle, trying to help, when Kanda picks up his soba bowl and says, "Don't push it toward me, idiot."
"Gee, Yuu," Lavi says, sweet with a hard edge, "it's almost like ya don't think I'm capable of doin' shit."
Kanda lets out a disparaging little snort. Lavi grits his teeth, drops his napkin down with a wet splat.
"Could you stop whining about everything for ten damn seconds?" he snaps, which gets everyone staring at him.
Kanda's surprise is quickly lost in the narrowing of his eyes. "No," he says coldly.
"Then shut the hell up," Lavi says, colder still.
There's a knock on his door later that night, a brisk one-two that Lavi knows is Kanda. He's incredibly nervous. He'd slipped – he knows, they all know, he doesn't need it pointed out and definitely doesn't want to talk about it.
He doesn't expect Kanda to want to talk about it, though, so Kanda being here is both a mystery and very ominous. He's glad Bookman's out of the room, and wonders if Kanda somehow knew.
Uncomfortable is what Kanda looks like when Lavi opens the door. His shoulders are tensed up. He doesn't meet Lavi's eye. Lavi's tempted to just close the door again and avoid whatever is going to happen.
Lavi blinks. "Eh? Come again?"
"For being critical all the time. And for being unfairly critical of you," Kanda says, tone very formal. He stares over Lavi's shoulder.
Lavi breaks into a slow, stiff smile. "Yuu, this is so unlike you. Did somethin' happen to warm that chilly heart of yours?"
"Did Lenalee guilt-trip ya inta comin' up here?"
Kanda's brows pull down. Bingo. Lavi stuffs his hands into his pockets, fidgety with frustration, hating the way it's making his speech lazier. It's a stupid defense mechanism; everyone can see through it.
He looks at Kanda and Kanda still doesn't look at him, so he looks instead at the hard line of Kanda's mouth, remembering the press of it against his own, and the pull of Kanda's teeth on his lip.
"Fine Yuu. I forgive you."
Kanda's surprised enough to look at him. "Really?" he says. He sounds like he expects a trick.
"Yes really," Lavi says dispassionately, crossing his arms and leaning against the doorframe. "What's the point in being mad? There are better things to waste my energy on, right?"
Kanda dallies, still looking like he expects something more, so Lavi says, "Was that all, or is there a reason you're hanging around?"
Kanda gives him a long, level look. And then he glances at Lavi's mouth. He's so obvious. Lavi knows they're thinking the same thing. Stupidity is contagious and all that.
"No," Kanda says, eyes sliding past. "That's all." He turns away and leaves without bidding Lavi goodnight.
Fucking coward, Lavi thinks. But he stands by silently, letting things slip past as well.
Packing gives Kanda (and all of them) something to do, so even though he may not find it to be the most engaging work, at least he gripes a littlebit less.
"Plus," Lavi says, packing up a load of books after quickly scanning the spines to make sure he doesn't want to bring any back to his room, "moving involves danger, too."
To repent for all the mayhem that moving the Science Division has caused, Komui's ordered a break from that floor for a few days. Kanda and Lavi are in the library; Lenalee and Bookman are still meowing so they're with Komui and the scientists; Allen said he'd help Jeryy with the cafeteria, his ulterior motives plain as day.
"Hardly," Kanda says. "Nothing happened." He dumps a handful of books into his own box; Lavi refrains from commenting about his lack of due respect for literature.
"You kidding? When he finds me, Bookman's probably gonna slaughter me for laughin' at him so much. Bunny ears and meowing, and a zombie."
"Your sense of humor is disturbing."
"Aw, Yuu, you just don't understand 'cause you don't have one."
Lavi hefts his box securely into his arms. They've made impressive work of the library – about two-thirds of it is empty shelving now, leaving the vast room looking hollowed out and skeletal. The boxes they collect, labelled, in the hallway, which will be moved over when the furniture is.
"You gotta admit," Lavi says, as they carry their boxes out of the astronomy section, "seeing me as a kid was pretty funny, wasn't it?"
"It was horrifying. You looked even more annoying than usual."
"I thought I looked pretty cute. You were cute, too! Little Kanda Yuu, little Kanda Yuu," he sing-songs.
Kanda merely grunts and drops his box with the others.
"You were probably a cute kid, weren't you?" Lavi says, having to walk fast to tail him back inside. "Tryin' to be grumpy with your squishy kid cheeks."
"Shut up, Lavi."
Distantly, Lavi registers the use of his name and knows it's a warning, but this is nothing more than a little blip in his brain that he sweeps aside.
"So you were a grump, even back as a kiddo. Even before Komui?"
Kanda just walks, swift steps through empty shelves, Lavi falling behind.
"Didn't have a friend like me to try to cheer you up? Though that doesn't matter, huh, 'cause you're still grumpy with me."
"Don't," Kanda says, turning a corner.
"Aw, Yuu, don't tell me you really didn't have any friends –"
"Don't!" Kanda says, the words rasping their way out. He spins around. The look he gives Lavi is lethal, but also agonized. "Don't. Say. Another. Word."
Lavi freezes. He knows he's just screwed up unthinkably. Kanda's teeth are bared – he looks like a rabid animal about to strike. He looks like an animal in pain.
"Oh shit. Yuu. Shit." Lavi backs a step away, then another. For the first time since they met, he is actually afraid of what Kanda could do to him. And he's afraid of what he's done to Kanda, who's brought a hand over his face as though trying to block something from his sight.
"I'm sorry. Oh God, Yuu. That was so stupid, I had no right, I had no idea what I was talking about."
He knows Kanda's been here since he was young, and that is all. He knows, just in the way he knows Kanda, that it is not something to ask about, and not something he will be told. And he knows that becoming an Exorcist so young – becoming an Exorcist at all – never means a happy time before.
Stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. He's seen hints – he's heard of that person, That Person, some kind of haunting force, a plague Kanda's been carrying since who knows when – why didn't he just think?
"You're an idiot," Kanda says, words so hard and cold Lavi can feel them in his stomach like knives, like Kanda's sword.
Kanda's hand falls back to his side, and his eyes go straight through Lavi. Lavi watches him struggle to reign in the torment, looking at something Lavi knows only he can see.
He sees when Kanda's breathing slows, sees the faraway look in Kanda's eyes turn dull, sees the mask return. Watching all of this, he feels like he's intruded upon something immensely private, and like carrying the guilt of his intrusion will weigh him down forever.
"I'm sorry, Yuu," he croaks. "I'm sorry."
Kanda turns his head away.
Somehow, in a twist of fate Lavi is unable to follow, they end up sitting on the floor, heads bowed, shame swirling. What Kanda's shame is about, Lavi has no clue – Kanda is never repentant about anything – but Lavi knows the feeling of shame well enough by now to recognize it in others.
His own is for making Kanda wear that horrible face. That…that had been real, that had been what's hiding underneath it all, and Lavi thinks he understands why Kanda tries so hard to hide it. How can one person stifle so much torture, though?
The silence has snuck in like a chokehold; the shelves are sentinels crowding around them, tall and toothless. A couple of feet away are Kanda's boots. Lavi can just see them, his eye on his own lap.
"Apology accepted," Kanda says tonelessly.
Lavi peeks, but Kanda hasn't raised his head.
"Liar," he says, hardly making a sound. "You're lying."
Kanda gives a minute shake of his head. Its meaning is lost on Lavi.
"Don't speak of it again. This didn't happen."
"Okay," Lavi says, aware he's being given much more than he deserves.
He wants to reach out and touch Kanda's knee. Another stupid thing, but he really wants to. He's said too much but maybe if he can show his apology it'll make it worth more. But he can't – this didn't happen, after all.
Why the hell does it have to be Kanda that he cares about like this? Is there any point to caring about Kanda like this?
Don't interfere with the actors, goes the Bookman code, but it's hardly the same when Lavi feels like an actor as well, trying to figure out his next line, wanting so much to be interfered with.
"Let's finish," Kanda says, getting to his feet. He holds out a hand for Lavi, and Lavi has no idea how to react.
"Rabbit," Kanda says, familiar annoyance trickling back in. He twitches his fingers, a beckoning motion.
Lavi takes his hand, gets pulled up. Kanda lets go right away, and Lavi just feels…sad. About the chasm he tore open, for Kanda, for things he doesn't even understand.
I'm just here as the Bookman's successor. I'm on their side by chance. I'm here to record, to document, to archive.
I mustn't become a Crystal type. My involvement is simply for the purpose of observing; the outcome of this war doesn't matter. I won't linger here when all is done.
My heart is an obstacle. I am an impartial observer, not to confuse myself with the actors.
I belong nowhere.
Pointless. Pointless and useless. Useless and pointless. He can repeat them all he wants, but…
Kanda's hair tie swings around; he's jumping and using his sword to slice away the pegs tacking up the diagrams high on the walls. It's one of Komui's past, long-forgotten experiment rooms. Even the ceiling is covered in swathes of paper.
Lavi is being generally unhelpful, sat atop a cabinet and watching Kanda work instead of offering the help his hammer could give, though he knows he'll have to get up eventually for them to finish.
It really is like the day in the library never happened. Which leaves him helplessly confused because the tense, verging on reckless thing between them is still moving, but how can it when he's done something so irrevocable?
Yesterday in the cafeteria their hands had touched when they'd both been reaching for a napkin, and Kanda had glared at Lavi as though Lavi had spat in his soba. And Lavi had tried something – he trod on Kanda's foot beneath the table, and Kanda had kicked him in the shin so hard he'd teared up. After blinking back the tears and valiantly keeping all sounds inside save for a raspy "The curry's spicy today" to Allen's inquisitive look, he'd seen the smirk on Kanda's lips. Kanda had been enjoying himself.
Kanda sheathes his sword and kicks the papers he's gotten down into a pile, and then gives Lavi a very unpleasant look. "Have you decided to be useless today?"
"Yuu, c'mere," Lavi says.
Kanda stops at his knees. "What?" he says impatiently.
"C'mere," Lavi says, and he curses himself silently because his voice betrays him, going soft and almost beseeching.
Kanda's eyebrows flicker up, but a second later he is frowning again. He takes another step, and it forces Lavi's legs apart farther, knees at Kanda's hips. "What?" he says, chin up to meet Lavi's eye.
Lavi reaches behind Kanda's head, watching Kanda's eyes flit to one side. He undoes the tie, his hands remarkably steady, and Kanda's hair tumbles down. He works his hands slowly into it – so soft, and so warm at Kanda's scalp – and waits for the moment Kanda looks at him again. And once this happens, he kisses him.
It's warm and soft and he feels some resistance inside of him melting away, longing being fulfilled.
And then Kanda shoves at him, and his back and head hit the wall, and Kanda's mouth is against his urgently. Lavi lets out a startled sound, but Kanda's hips are against his thighs and Kanda's fingers curl into his shoulders and both are a delicious pressure. He kisses back without restraint; they are messy and noisy and graceless, and Lavi's heart feels so alive.
"Sorry," Kanda says in a rush of breath against Lavi's lips later, a hand behind Lavi's head, cradling it from the rough stone.
Only then does Lavi loosen his grip on Kanda's hair, where his fingers have twined to what must be painfully tight, and Kanda can pull back a little bit.
"S'fine," he says. His head does kind of hurt where it hit the wall, but at the same time it just feels warm where Kanda's hand is. Kanda's lips look like they've been kissing, red and puffy, a sight that almost splits Lavi's brain in two.
Kanda leans back in, and this kiss is slower, and sensual, and it goes on, and on, and on. Lavi knows he shouldn't be doing this, which is exactly why he does it.
They do very little differently when they aren't kissing.
There's always more packing to do, and in Lavi's case, more reading and recording to do. Kanda slips away from everyone when he hasn't been ordered to fill boxes and lug them around. They can go days without seeing more than a few minutes of each other, with how big Headquarters is and how packing jobs are divvied up.
Even when they are together, oftentimes they won't kiss each other. Kanda still likes not having to interact, and Lavi still likes putting a pause to his own blabbering. Lavi laughs when Kanda and Allen get into their tiffs. He'll even flirt with Lenalee, even when Kanda's around, but neither of them take him seriously and he doesn't take himself seriously either.
It's like only when the monotony of being stuck at Headquarters gets too great will they turn to their new activity, the thrill of it a good way to ward away the stagnancy and leave them refreshed. It's like a reset button, sort of.
Except…except every now and then Kanda will make little pleased sounds in his throat while they kiss, which fills Lavi's insides with something warm and wanting. Kanda is touchy, grabby even, and Lavi feels giddy from the attention, from being so focused on. Kanda's eyes will find his so intently that Lavi has to kiss him again because he doesn't know what he's supposed to say.
Sometimes Kanda will be okay with kissing for a while – when no one else is nearby, in a room or some untraveled hallway – and sometimes he's only okay with it for short moments – a turn in the staircase, someplace grungy like the bathrooms. But whenever he's done, he's done. Compartmentalized back into place, like the rooms they're slowly packing up. Kissing Kanda becomes a nonsense phrase again, instead of what Lavi had just been doing.
His fingertips start to forget the feeling of Kanda's hair, his palms start to forget the hardness of Kanda's jaw, arms forget the feeling of being around Kanda. Even his mouth forgets, and each time it relearns he feels something pop and burn in his chest, something that is like fear and surprise and excitement all at once. He realizes it's the feeling of longing for what you are currently experiencing.
Why do we even do this? he wonders in the in-betweens. What the hell do I see in him, and what the hell does he see in me?
It would make for an interesting study if he wasn't one of the subjects.
When Cross Marian calls Allen the Fourteenth, Lavi is floored – it honestly feels like the floor's rushed up to smack him in the face. Of all people, of all possibilities, their Allen Walker, Mister always-saves-the-day? Mister revived-his-Innocence-from-basically-nothing? The same Allen Walker whose Innocence literally patched a hole in his heart, a Noah? Clearly someone believes it – they wouldn't have him bound and the room circled by Crows otherwise.
Not only this, but the General also claims there's another side to the war, and when Lavi asks, Bookman dismisses the question outright despite looking pretty concerned himself. And a few hours later Cross Marian is gone, presumably dead of bloody murder, his Innocence left behind, a rat somewhere in their midst.
So in all, it's a pretty big bite to chew on. Plus, Bookman brushing him off like that really gets under his skin. He's supposed to be documenting the war, isn't he? How the hell does being kept in the dark help with that?
Lavi doesn't tell Kanda about any of it, because there are secrets he must keep as his own. He knows Kanda has them too, can see it in the way Kanda looks through everything sometimes.
But everyone knows within days anyway, about Allen at least, and Kanda seems to take the news as a personal offense.
"Seriously, what's up?" Lavi asks, when Kanda comes back from London with not only a new Innocence for Accommodation but a darker storm cloud than ever thundering around him. "You know he didn't ask for this. He's on our side."
"That's not the point," Kanda says, looking pissed off that Lavi is trying to talk to him about this – he'd much rather just be irrationally angry, Lavi knows. But he came to Lavi's room today, and stayed because Bookman's off doing one of the things he doesn't have to tell Lavi about, so Lavi thinks he's entitled to push it.
"Yeah, Yuu? Then tell me, what's the point?"
Kanda gives him a dirty look from his perch on the floor. "The point is he is what he is. The Fourteenth is a Noah, and they aren't on our side."
"Then again," Lavi says tiredly, "whose side are we all on, anyway? You've said it yourself, haven't you? You don't give a shit what happens to the Order, you're just looking for someone."
Kanda's eyes flicker with shock, and then they take on the faraway look Lavi's come to loathe and dread. When it appears, it's like nothing exists for Kanda, like nothing in the world could hold any meaning against whatever he is longing for.
Lavi hides his face behind his book, and he doesn't know when Kanda focuses again or if Kanda tries to get his attention back because he's too stubborn to look.
And yet, when he exists for Kanda, he exists under such intense focus that he can forgive Kanda the lapses, and forgive himself the self-consciousness Kanda's attention makes him feel.
"Fight with me," Kanda will say these days, when they're at the Order at the same time between missions, and Lavi demands that they go hand-to-hand.
Kanda's a pretty sight when he's fighting him this way – invigorated grins that always carry a streak of meanness, muscles taut and hair whipping around like an embellishment. They don't half-ass anything when they train together like this, yet they fight under an assurance of I won't really hurt you…too badly.
"Maybe you should've worn your bandana," Kanda says today, steadily backing Lavi up toward one of the beams, fists and feet merciless.
Lavi laughs, parrying Kanda's blows and keeping his eye out for an opening, hair sweaty and limp all across his face. "I could take you with both eyes patched," he says, and he ducks, grabbing Kanda's wrist, and swipes a kick at his ankles.
"Get him, Lavi!" Allen shouts from the sidelines, fists pumping. "Feeling the burn yet, Bakanda?"
"I feel your asinine voice burning my eardrums," Kanda snaps back, having just twisted out of Lavi's grip and jumped away. Allen makes a rude hand gesture, and Kanda glowers at Lavi. "I want to spar now."
"Are you kidding?" Lavi says, flipping his hair out of his eye. It's getting pretty long – even more so now that he doesn't bother with bandanas all the time. "You just don't wanna risk me bloodyin' your nose again."
"Tch," Kanda says, and they lunge for each other.
"You're too reckless," Lavi says later, voice nasally because he's stemming his own bloody nose. He sits on the ground, wall at his back, Kanda above him. The arena's empty; Allen scampered off when Johnny ducked in and mentioned Lenalee had just returned from her latest mission. "You focus too much on powering through to deal blows. It's not bad to dodge."
"I have my style, you have yours," Kanda says. He hands Lavi a clean cloth, and wrinkles his nose when Lavi hands him the bloody one.
"But the point of training is to learn from how others fight to make your own style wiser."
"Wiser? I'm just hitting things. If I hit them harder than they hit me, then I win."
Lavi tsks, knowing Kanda's just being difficult to be difficult.
"Or you just don't like running away."
"I'm immortal," Kanda says, ducking down. He hooks a finger beneath Lavi's chin, tipping it up. His eyes are full of humor, and Lavi almost holds his breath. "I don't have to."
"Okay, Yuu," Lavi says, pushing Kanda away. "Whatever you say."
"How's your nose?"
"Um, it hurts?" Lavi grins. "Wanna kiss it better?"
"I'll punch you again," Kanda says, but he sits and waits for Lavi to stem the flow, pretending to be annoyed but Lavi knows if he had something else he'd rather be doing, he'd have left already.
Their first time is awkward, and painful on Lavi's end, though they do talk their way through it. This is what Lavi remembers most about it – the fact that they both try and they both listen, and Kanda is exceptionally patient with him. But it's still lackluster. Their second time is a little better – "Just move your hand," Lavi says, gritting his teeth and making Kanda touch him.
The third time is, like such a beautiful cliché – and maybe there is a reason the saying exists after all – a charm.
Pleasure, Lavi thinks in a haphazard way, is worth the pain, if the pleasure is like this. His legs are open wide and Kanda is against him and inside of him and it's hot and tantalizing, shivers just out of reach like the first time Kanda bit his lip but more and he needs it. He feels limp and coiled tight all at once, Kanda's hair is all over the kiss stains on his front and Kanda's breathing is fast and breaks into near-curses, and Lavi's voice jumps as Kanda moves him – Yuu – Yuu – ah! Kanda – Kanda – Yuu –
"Do you ever – shut up?" Kanda groans out. Lavi laughs and comes in the same breath, his ears rushing with a sound like ocean waves.
He falls asleep with Kanda holding him like he thinks a lover would hold someone, and when he wakes up in the morning, Kanda is still asleep. They're strewn across the same pillow and under the same sheets the way lovers would be.
Lavi's sure Bookman knows, and though he doesn't chastise or forbid anything outright, he expresses his dissatisfaction with a special kind of brittle silence whenever the two of them converse casually in his presence. Lavi feels like he's being tested, and that he's probably failing, but he thinks – recklessly and foolishly, reveling in his naivety – Oh well.
"It might not be a good idea for you to spend so many nights here," Kanda says.
"Why?" Lavi says, lounging on his side on Kanda's bed, a book open and his cheek propped in his hand. He keeps his eye very determinedly off the bell jar in the corner of the room. "Are people gettin' jealous that I've snagged the super smokin' babe that is Kanda Yuu?"
Kanda rolls his eyes, unfolding himself from his meditation position on the floor. Lavi feels kind of foolish about it, but he feels a special sort of satisfaction in the fact that Kanda can meditate facing him. It makes him feel trusted, but also he can see what Kanda looks like when he's most at ease – he looks truly peaceful, and Lavi feels his own breathing slow just seeing it.
Of course, peacefulness with Kanda never lasts too long.
"Don't say such disgusting things, makes me want to puke."
"What, ya disagree that you're super smokin' hot?" Lavi says.
Kanda scoffs, but his smirk is indulgent. "I don't disagree, but it's still gross hearing you say it."
"Hm? Then what should I call you? Man Candy? Buns of Steel? Super chiseled –"
Kanda stops in front of his bed, puts his hand over Lavi's mouth. "Stop talking."
Lavi licks his palm. Kanda looks long-suffering, but sits down.
"If you keep spending nights here it won't escape the Bookman's notice for long."
Lavi thinks they might be touching on the subject that they aren't supposed to be doing this because of what he's supposed to be becoming. He sits up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed.
"Honestly, Yuu? Gramps already knows."
Kanda looks like he's been hit in the face, or like Lavi's dipped the ends of his ponytail into his food. "What?"
"I didn't tell him. But he definitely knows."
This is the most flustered he can remember ever seeing Kanda. It's a very humanizing look on him. Lavi tries not to grin.
"Don't worry, he's not gonna say anything. But it's fine, I can leave tonight." He shuts his book and gets to his feet. Kanda blinks at him.
"You're goin' to Paris tomorrow, right? Better get some sleep for your mission." And then, just to make sure Kanda knows he isn't angry (because Kanda can be pretty stupid), Lavi bends down and gives him a kiss.
He means it to be short and simple, but Kanda touches his cheek to keep him there, and somehow he ends up with a hand on the back of Kanda's head. When he pulls away Kanda goes with him a little bit, and when their lips finally separate it takes a few more moments for him to open his eye. Kanda's eyes burn into his, and there is nothing guarded there.
Lavi has the fleeting thought, before he croaks out a goodnight and flees, that this is the most frightening feeling and he's never wanted anything so much.
Tomorrow he's going to China and Kanda's going to Jordan, part of a mass dispatch that will happen once the last team returns to Headquarters in the early morning.
Tonight he's back in Kanda's bed, and they've been reveling in each other because it's been a while. Something's going on, more Akuma everywhere, the Exorcists are always busy these days.
Kanda had been the one to find him, just minutes after he'd returned to his room, retrieved Innocence delivered and Komui dealt with. Kanda had taken him away with Bookman watching on, and Lavi had been a little bit afraid because there had been so much haunting Kanda's expression. But once they were alone together Kanda had held him and undressed him and been so warm and pliant in Lavi's hands that Lavi had let himself stop worrying, too tired for it.
"I just want –"
And this is an admission that is fully honest, that Lavi's voice goes tight and thin on, that he makes because…because where does Lavi stop and where does he – real him, him beneath it all – begin? This isn't all Lavi anymore, or Lavi has bled into real-him, something's gone too far wrong.
"– I just want some small part of my life to not be owned by my destiny as Bookman. Isn't that hypocritical? I just want one thing to not be about tragedy."
He says it in the exhales between their mouths when Kanda pulls back. Kanda had been the one to kiss him, too, and it had been so tender, so sweet, that Lavi can't do anything but spill his vulnerability into the thin bit of air separating them now.
"I want that part to be you." He looks at Kanda's mouth when he says it, because he's afraid that he's saying it in the first place, but also because he's afraid of what he'll see if he looks Kanda in the eyes. Because he knows, he knows, God he knows that what he'll see will make him want to spill more than vulnerability.
He breathes out a humorless little laugh and touches the tattoo that has long since started sneaking its way down Kanda's arm. "But Yuu, you aretragic. You're a walking fucking tragedy, aren't you?"
He expects…so many things at once. Kanda could do a myriad of things – make him leave, snort out something defensive, detach in a flurry of ice because Lavi knows – even though he's aware he doesn't know the half of it – he's treading on that thing he's not allowed to.
Instead, Kanda puts a hand on his neck and kisses him again, just as tenderly, and Lavi chokes back a sob.
He doesn't know that he won't see Kanda again for months, and that in the in-between they will suffer so much as to nearly forget each other, and that salvation will come in the form of a Beansprout as poisoned from the inside as either of them, if not more. But since he doesn't know, this night is a night he is happy, in that sad way happiness likes to plague him, longing for what is real and solid at his fingertips that he isn't supposed to have.