They tell you he is dead, but you knew that already; you knew that from the moment his hand went limp and his eyes grew milk-white under the shade of his top hat, his last breath mingling your name and his dying wish. You throw yourself against him even as the police come and the crowd thickens. You tell him not to die, you don't want him to die, as if your selfish wishes are enough to make him stand and start breathing again. They don't, no matter how much you cry and grab and whimper.

Eventually the pull you off his corpse, tell you they're sorry, but sorry won't bring him back – tell you they'll take care of the burial fees, and do you have any relatives that they can call?

But even Mana wasn't bound to you by blood, and now you'd lost him forever.

Keep walking, Allen, always look right ahead, promise me you'll never stop walking, Allen,

but you don't want to walk, you just want to stay right there. Kneeling against his grave. Knowing he's six feet under you.

The marble is cold against your back, cold as his hand had been through his glove, cold as his cheek when you rubbed your own against it. You gaze at the words they engraved on his tomb, but your eyes have long stopped seeing. The only thing you can make out clearly is his name. Mana Walker. Mana. Father. Sleeping forever in a wooden box. You feel like you're sleeping yourself – half in a nightmare, like the living dead that never scared you in all the circus gossip.

"Stop telling those spooky stories," Mana teased the clowns and acrobats; you flailed your hands and told him you weren't afraid of things like zombies, because they didn't exist. "Are you sure?" he asked you, and there was something strange and sad in his eyes. You didn't know how to answer, so he smiled and told you to practice juggling clubs. "Little clown," he laughed, and then he taught you how to walk on your hands, how to balance on a ball, how to do somersaults.

You asked him once why your arm was like that, when no one else's was. The circus accepted it is a deformity, a birth defect of some sort, but it didn't seem that way to you, or to Mana.

"I'm not sure, Allen, but you must not be ashamed of it. It might be a blessing in disguise."

You had disguised that blessing anyway, with mitts and bandages and gloves, not wanting the world to see it. It was always better to be a clown than a freak. Mana grew quiet when you talked like that – he didn't think you were either of those things. He taught you how to make people laugh and smile with your tricks, and how to laugh and smile yourself; that was enough, had been enough.

You whisper his name into your knees, into the ground, into the icy tombstone against your back.

And it answers good evening.

There is no promise in his words, nothing holy about the way the strange man's glasses gleam in the moonlight – but he tells you that he can bring Mana back, and even empty hope is better than the hollowness you feel. You want to find a reason to keep on walking. You want the film of nothingness to lift from your eyes.

Your father had worn a top hat, too.

The moon is a laughing crescent when you stand and do as the strange man wishes.

His name spills from your mouth, and it tastes like reason as it leaves – it cuts a star-shaped curse over your eye, rips through your hand in the shape of a claw, and gives you a new life. A million more souls to save.

You tell him you're sorry, but sorry won't bring him back.

He tells you he loves you, even as your claw closes down on him and rips him apart – but you knew that already.

A/N: Comments would be greatly appreciated. ;; I don't think they ever mentioned Allen's mother, but Allen did say in one chapter that his parents were circus folk, so I'm just assuming she didn't play as big a role in his life as Mana did.