Awash

by anza (31.07.06)

A "D.Gray-Man" fanfic

There was still a sip or two in the bottle; he drank them down all at once, throat contracting as the liquid splashed like liquid fire. It burned down, scalding his insides, coiling finally in the warming pit of his belly. Allen waited until he was finished, waited until hie eyes were just a little heavier than usual, his edge just a hair less alert, and then turned on the shower. It made a sick gurgling noise, chugging out brown/red water for a moment before it turned clear. It was another few minutes before it got hot, so Kanda watched as the other exorcist placed all bottles and soap and buckets and towels close to hand. He felt naked - both literally and figuratively - even in the face of Allen's obliviousness, his childish way of puttering around things that weren't his to poke at.

Nothing like the others who'd prodded into his past and almost gotten fingers, limbs or heads snapped off by his overreactive temper and the swift arc of Mugen. Usually a well-placed glare and the subtle shift as his fingers wrapped around the hilt of his sword scared off the more...romantically-notioned members of the female race, but for people like Lavi, Komui and Linali who hadn't stopped until he'd invocated his innocence and practically shoved it down their throats - well, that was just a sign of persistence. Especially on Lavi's part.

He expected Allen to be the same, but the silver-haired boy backed away. He knew fire when he saw it, and the cold fire of Kanda's anger was always burning, ice-edged and nitrogen-flavored. More cautious than most, he hung around the edges, curious but also aware. He was the type that would wait for Kanda to come to him, wait for the relationship to build on its own, through missions and bumping into each other in the halls, for the day when he could tentatively sit down across from the Japanese in the dining hall and receive nothing but the minimal baleful glare.

It was the next morning after their first mission together, and grimly the swordsman reflected all he'd been able to think about was the newness of his companion, the rawness of his power and the gentleness of his fingers as they'd taken the bandages off, bundled them and threw them into the wastebasket, then barely traced the worrying slash that stretched diagonally from shoulder to hip, fingers ghosting just above the bitter blood that spilled reluctantly from the reopening. Kanda badly needed a shower, even if it would hurt like hell, but there was no way he was getting on the train back to the whatever-safehouse Komui told them to scramble back to before some other, stronger akuma caught scent of them.

So here he was, sitting in a wooden chair propped conveniently over the bathroom drain, Allen preparing all sorts of shampoo and soaps and crap on the table like a sadist prepares his materials for his victims.

Well, he'd be damned if he would ever run to Allen begging for friendship. It was just preposterous. But seeing him now, humming just under his breath as he worked to fill the bin with warm water, testing it with just the tip of one finger, then slowly slipping his whole hand in to feel the temperature, Kanda grudgingly admitted it was damned hard to hate him. Of course, he was seeing the silver-haired exorcist after a nice night of sleep (once Toma got back from scrounging something to eat in the surrounding area that didn't consist of jerky, stale biscuits, and snow-melted water), cheerful enough to make Kanda queasy and optimistic enough to break the Millenium Earl, had he been taking a stroll through Allen's brain. They exchanged nothing but occasional pleasantries. Eventually, after the first sudsing and a round of curses that would have made Lavi cringe, Kanda reluctantly spat out, "Would you mind washing my hair as well?"

If Allen took on a group of akuma with that expression, they would have fled from the sheer joyfulness that emanated from him. "Of course!" came the immediate answer.

Still, when Allen moved to face him after scrubbing his back, he felt distinctly uncomfortable. The other exorcist was soaked from the chest down, slacks and sleeves rolled up neatly. Again Kanda could see, even more clearly this time, how the material clung to the silver-haired exorcist, revealing the strong muscles that he'd built up from General Cross' mysterious instruction. Kanda was calling him a child out of spite, really, because he didn't want to admit there was another child-man in the Black Order who'd sold their souls for not a return penny. The combination of both the - he only admitted this scathingly and with very great reluctance even in his mind - strength and beauty of the person before him stirred something in him. Or rather, something stirred under the towel placed in his lap to hide his modesty.

His one comfort was that certainly Allen had to move in back of him and out of sight of his I-don't-even-want-to-say-it! when he had to wash his hair. For now he was contently shuffling shampoo and soap around, refilling the tin basin that would send water and soap running over his aching body, still humming under his breath. Kanda wished he would hum louder - he wanted to know if he knew the song, not that he would ever sing along - but after a moment the song dimmed until it disappeared completely under the Japanese's gaze. Allen turned, a little embarrassed look on his face. "Um," he begin intelligently, "do you need anything?"

Of course. He was cautious. That meant he could feel the hole Kanda was drilling into his back with the sheer potency of his glare.

"Water," he growled in response. Without a word Allen picked up the basin easily and began to tip it over his shoulder. The soap stung all at once when it entered the cut, and the Japanese hissed and sucked in breath and tried to regulate when he exhaled, until it was all over and Allen leaned over the back of the chair, over his shoulder to survey the damage (of which had been minimized, thank kami or God or whatever person had trained Allen), leaning right over so that when he breathed out a sigh of relief to see he hadn't done anything wrong, every hair on Kanda's arms stood up because that whuff of air hit right behind his ear, trickling down to warm his neck.

It's not on purpose he doesn't mean it It's not on purpose he doesn't mean it Oh goddammit why won't you just admit you wanted it to be on purpose?

"Juniper," the other said suddenly. Brilliant eyes blinked under the fringe of silver hair, and the swordsman felt more than a little confused at the turn of conversation.

"What?" he asked, nonplussed.

But Allen bent now, scrubbing at his legs, pausing briefly to roll his pants leg up a little more. Exposing just a little more of that pale, pale skin, water running down it, slipping down to trace the smooth curve of his lower leg, tracing it just so. And when the silver-haired exorcist bent down lower to pick up one foot, sponge slipping through the space between each toe, then scrubbing the bottom of the foot, Kanda leaned back a little, face upturned the ceiling as he tore his sight from the other exorcist kneeling right at that height - for -

His foot curled sharply, and Allen let go and stood, attentive to his moods. He wasn't sure if he was blushing, but after a moment where their eyes met - his eyes weren't really blue, they were so light they might be silver, what a strange color, not that everything else about Allen was normal, per say - Allen slowly bent again and sponged the other foot without incident. Kanda, wide-eyed and concentrating all attention on one point in the cracked tile in the floor just right of the other exorcist's bare foot, couldn't shut his eyes until Allen was safely behind, all temptation gone, finally.

Did the other sense something?

Allen tilted his head back carefully, shaking the ponytail out, running his hand through it a few times just to feel it. And then he was wetting it, and Kanda was watching the silver-haired exorcist's concentrated face from upside-down, admiring the backward hue of his eyes by the dim light of the dying electric lights. The other exorcist worked slower now, recognizing it wasn't every day that the Japanese was forced or even willing to let anyone else touch his hair.

No, he hadn't noticed anything.

There was a cool press of shampoo, and then the same same fingers that had killed akuma were rubbing in circular motions all over his head. It was all at once bewildering and relaxing. Slowly he could feel his alertness slipping away from him no matter how hard he tried, until he was leaning against the back of the chair, letting the parasite-type exorcist have his wicked way with his hair. Those fingers weren't too strong, weren't too sharp, weren't too weak, they just scratched and soothed in just the way a good shampooing should feel. Kanda had the sudden image of things all his worries flying away into the blue of the sky, and he was slowly being left without anything to hold him back from being as happy as he wanted to be.

Drowsily he said, "You're really good at this," before he could stop himself. Shit, that had come out really dreamily, hadn't it?

Allen didn't mind, though, just like he didn't mind many other things. "I used to wash General Cross' hair."

THAT was a turn-off. The Japanese felt indignant all of the sudden, indignant for Allen's childish innocence. What other things had that General made him do? Some of his distaste must have shown because the silver-haired exorcist laughed softly, and added, "Only when he was so drunk he couldn't move, and I'd have to drag him into the shower and do the same for him as I'm doing for you now." There was a way that he said the word you that made whoever he was talking to feel special, just for a moment. Kanda savored the favor, let it fly butterfly-light in his chest for a second, before he crushed it viciously. Such feelings were for weaklings.

"Hmph," he growled. The other exorcist made no reply.

But when those fingers left off massaging and picked up the water basin instead, Kanda felt a distinct sense of regret. Those fingers raked through his hair once or twice more before picking up the brush, slowly untangling the knots. That felt good too, and briefly, the Japanese closed his eyes. They snapped open again before it could seem like it was on purpose that he truly was enjoying someone else washing his hair for once, being pampered in such an obvious way. The brush was gently untangling a knot when Allen asked, "What do you usually wash your hair with?"

"Soap."

The brush stopped, scandalized. "S-soap?" And then Allen stifled what was very clearly a bout of laughter, because he was still snickering when he took brush to hair again. "It's nothing - just that General Cross would never allow anything but the best shampoo to touch his hair."

It was Kanda's turn to be silent. But inside, the butterflies were dancing again, because Allen had laughed at something he'd said. And children should laugh, he thought with a twinge of something like pity.

"But really," Allen continued after a moment, "you should take better care of your hair." The Japanese opened his mouth to snap back a sharp retort when the silver-haired exorcist's next words caught him.

"It's really beautiful, Kanda."

The mouth clamped back shut, and the Japanese pouted. It wasn't fair - wasn't fair that with four words, Kanda couldn't argue. Allen rinsed the hair through one more time, and then began to towel it vigorously. Halfway through, the Japanese took over, one-handedly drying his hair as Allen attempted to hide any attempt that they'd been there.

In the flurry of towel and hair, Kanda frowned, furious. It hadn't been a week since he'd met Allen Walker, yet already something in that boy struck a resonating chord in him. Perhaps a sympathetic one, given their same line of thankless work. He ran over the whole bath, remembering it with a more fierce blush, knowing the other exorcist wouldn't be looking. By the time he let the towel drop into his lap, hair in disarray, every emotion he'd felt was packed away, pressed delicately between the pages of the library in his head. They were unnecessary - but precious too, in the scant moments he had to look back over them.

"Walker," he barked, and the boy turned obediently, like a dog. "Thank you."

He expected a smile and a polite "You're welcome", but in a moment Allen was lunging towards him. The movement caught him off-balance and it was so sudden that he didn't have time to blink, only time enough to widen his eyes, hands gripping the towel in his hands, closing around it like a vice. It wasn't possibly, couldn't be possible that Allen was going to - ?

But the silver-haired exorcist stopped so they were cheek-to-cheek, and inhaled slowly. "Definitely juniper," he murmured, caught the bucket of shampoo and bathing materials with one careless hand, and beat a slippery retreat to the door. Kanda listened as the footsteps retreated to the very end of the corridor, and just knew there was a very confused, very bashful, and very blushy look on his face at the moment.

And of course, very thankful for the towel dropped strategically in his own lap.