Umm... no excuses other than life. But I really appreciate the incredible reviews I've gotten for this story, especially because they reminded me to go back and look over it again! As some of you mentioned, while it's great to have a slow-building story, it is tending to drag a little, so after this chapter, things will start picking up - not only for your sake, but in hopes that I'll actually finish it that way!
No Backing Out Once Inside - Elucidation
Underneath the anger and indignation, Kanda still feels his body's longing to regain the heat that had been pressed against it only seconds ago. It begs to turn around and go back to Allen. Kanda tries to convince himself that doing so is as bad an idea as it was for Orpheus to look back at Eurydice.
Right now it is easier, as always, to nurse his anger and not his longing. He lets it seep into his bones and rattle his mind in search of a diatribe to express the flurry of emotions —thoughts, he corrects himself— that are going through his head. First and foremost is outrage.
How dare he. How dare he buy that woman.
Lavi rolls over, smacking his mouth open and closed a few times to clear it of the stale taste of whatever he'd eaten the night before. He feels the gnawing of hunger and the lull of warm blankets warring to decide whether he should stand and find leftovers from Kanda's breakfast or get a few more hours of sleep. His shoulder is still not back to speed, he reasons, but then rolls his eyes at his own laziness and with a heavy sigh shoves the covers off himself, pausing to scratch at the side of his jaw where a bedbug must have bitten him during the night.
He stretches experimentally, testing the limits of his injured shoulder's mobility and is glad to see the vast improvement from, say, a week ago. He runs a hand through his hair to ruffle it into something other than the fresh-out-of-bed look, goes through his business in the bathroom and spends a good ten minutes looking for a clean set of clothes when he sees the basket of clean laundry Kanda placed at the foot of his bed. He's infinitely glad Kanda isn't around to gloat over him and chide him for his less-than-stellar hygiene habits. In retaliation for being so much better than him at domestic duties, Lavi accidentally stumbles against Kanda's bed and rumples the covers. Ha. That'll teach him.
He wanders into the sitting room and flops down on the sofa out of sheer habit, eyes immediately lighting on the exact word he'd left off the night before. They've been solving cases and tying up loose ends for Arbiter here and there, but the one thing that still eludes him is this whole business with the Noah's. At this point, Lavi knows he's gone through every piece of evidence he's gotten his hands on, and he has found nothing. He hates to admit it, but there's not much left for him to do other than take a step back and wait for them to make another move.
Lavi hears the stomping and creaking of the wooden floorboards in the hallway, the abrupt muffling as the steps fall on the doormat almost at the same time as the doorknob rattles with the key. His brain has enough time to think Oh shit before the door is shoved open, weakened hinges squeaking and pulling apart slightly, and then in the doorway is Kanda, in all his righteous fury.
His hair has become a bit mussed from the doubtless hurried trip, a few strands loosening behind his ears, and his chest heaves. His teeth are gritted, canines looking particularly sharp and pointy. Lavi doesn't have to look at his eyes to know that he is well and truly pissed, and that Lavi is in some deep, deep shit.
"Why hello, dearest K—" he tries, raising a hand in jaunty salutation before Kanda cuts him off.
"You," he snarls, hand trembling above Mugen's hilt as if barely holding back. "You're a shady guy. Anyone associated with the damn Arbiter is hardly to be trusted, but this is a new low even for you."
Lavi's mouth drops open without any dignity. It's a combination of Kanda's words, the suddenness of it all, and most importantly, Kanda's eyes. There is something lurking behind the surface, avoiding exposure. It's so blatantly there, but Lavi can't put his finger on it, even though it makes him want to reach out to Kanda. "Were you ever planning on telling me? I suppose this is how you keep a partner 'informed', isn't it?"Acid drips from Kanda's voice; cold, righteous anger coats words meant to cauterize. "Even if this is your own damn business, it changes everything. I'm not going to sit by and take this underhanded, sleazy scheming from you."
What is it? It's driving Lavi crazy. Half of his brain is trying to decipher Kanda's words, the other half is trying to decipher his eyes. Whatever it is in there, it makes Lavi happy and sad at the same time, and he begs his subconscious to slow down a little so he can pinpoint what it is that he sees. Kanda steps closer in the room, body tense as if a gunshot had just been fired. Lavi tries again, "Yuu—"
"Are you planning on just having her live here with us? Will you need some privacy at night?"
Lavi blinks. "Her? Her?"
Realization dawns, and with it, everything clicks into place. Kanda's eyes—what they harbored was betrayal. Betrayal and hurt and insecurity. All because—
"God, Yuu, no. She's not—I'm not—" Man, Lavi sucks at words when he most needs them. "It's definitely not what it seems."
Kanda stills imperceptibly at that. His fingers twitch above Mugen, his stance wary and ready to lash out again if need be. He says nothing, but inclines his head at Lavi with narrowed eyes, the motion clearly bidding him to speak.
"I didn't tell you because it had nothing to do with you. She's for Arbiter. Miranda—she's got some abilities that make her invaluable to our interrogation process. So I asked her to work for us." Lavi's eye begs Kanda to believe him. "She's not for me, jeez, you know me well enough to know I'm not into people ownership or hell, even monogamy. What would we even do with a woman in the flat?" Lavi chuckles, almost weak with relief at having identified the source of Kanda's ire.
Kanda remains immobile, processing Lavi's words and taking his time to accept them. The fire in his eyes dwindles to uncertainty, and Lavi watches him suck in a breath that spreads through his whole body and loosens it just a notch.
"So… you've never…"
Lavi raises an eyebrow. "Slept with her? Hell yes, every time I visited. But she's never been 'mine', even if that is a perception I let slide at the brothel precisely because it was the perfect excuse to keep on visiting and making plans. She's great though, sweet girl, Arbiter will have fun training her."
Kanda frowns. "You didn't deem it necessary to tell me because it's Arbiter business." Lavi nods. Kanda tsks and rolls his eyes. "Don't make that mistake again." Then he cocks his hip and puts a hand on it, demanding, "So what is this ability?"
Lavi grins, leaning back on the couch with his hands interlaced behind his head. "You're not gonna believe this, Yuu. If it weren't for my spankin'-awesome observational skills and memory, I would have never caught it. So, as you know, sometimes I get a little caught up in the excitement of, well, I'd say use your imagination but you don't really have one, so—"
"Would you get on with it?"
"Right, so as you know, I like to throw things—well, it was the oddest thing. The small pillow I'd had right next to me all of a sudden was in the corner of the room. I'm talking about from one second to the next, and I hadn't thrown it, and neither had she, and that was my first clue that there was something odd going on." Kanda's giving him a look that is equal parts wary and curious: not quite sure where this is going, but intrigued at least. Lavi leans forward to scratch absently at his ankle. "It didn't happen all that often, but here and there—something at the foot of the bed would suddenly be a few inches off in another spot, or the clock would jump forward a minute or two."
"What are you saying?" Kanda looks confused.
Lavi leans forward, his eye shining. "Oh, c'mon, Yuu! You can't figure this out?" he's milking the suspense for all it's worth. "I just gave you the clue… things suddenly changing positions with no explanation, the clock skipping forward…"
Kanda opens his mouth and closes it. Then opens it again. "She can knock you out momentarily?"
Lavi deflates like a wilting flower. This is why Lavi's the brain of the pair. "Really, Yuu? You think I wouldn't notice that?"
"Well, what other logical explanation is there?"
"What if it's not logical? Or at least, not based on what we consider possible."
Kanda's eyes narrow and he strokes the hilt of his sword pensively. "You're bluffing."
"Yuu, I swear to you upon my mother's hopefully non-existent grave—"
Disgust jumps across Kanda's face. "You have absolutely no respect for even the most important things in your life," Kanda hisses.
Lavi grimaces. "Not funny? Alright, yeah, that was a little tactless, I probably shouldn't joke about that. It's not like it makes finding her any less important, you know."
Kanda gets them back on topic. "You're saying she can fuck with time? Is that what you want me to believe?"
Lavi drops all the humor like a load of lead has been attached to his face. "I confirmed it. I confronted her about it and then we ran various tests to figure out the extent of its abilities as well as its limitations."
Kanda starts like he wants to stand up and storm off, but instead he crosses his arms and goes to lean against his reading chair, which means he's in this for the long haul.
Lavi does, in full detail. Kanda has to wonder how they tested all of this. "Well, it seems she can essentially control a spherical radius of roughly five feet and control time at will within it. She retains complete control and awareness of what transpires in that space, but the people affected by it only remember the last series of events that occur within the space. Time continues naturally outside of that area, which explains the jump in time when you come to, so to speak. Though, the center of the sphere is more or less the subject, or subjects, since we tested it in plural as well, or whatever she is concentrating on. As in, if I try to step outside the perceived area of control, it follows me, and I can't get away from it. On the other hand, if she's focusing on something else as her subject, I can step fully in and out at will, but there is no gradient of control, which is just as well, as I can't imagine what would happen if half of my mind was going forward and the other half backwards." He laughs a bit at the idea, and the break in dialogue allows Kanda to catch that his mouth has fallen open. He shuts it quickly and grudgingly acknowledges that Lavi probably gets a point for that.
"She can only hold it for six to seven minutes, depending on the radius she is controlling, and can manipulate time forward, backwards or even hold it still, all relative to the subject, of course. Also, things that occur to the subject during the time manipulation can't be undone, even if you go backwards in time, because as soon as she releases control, it will come back." At Kanda's confused frown, Lavi elaborates, "If she bites me, and goes back in time to before she bit me and then releases her control, the bite mark will reappear, even if I don't remember it. Physical changes persist. She had to be pretty careful not to get noticed by doing something, going backwards to change something in her routine, and forget that she'd inflicted a mark, or vice-versa."
Kanda twitches slightly in discomfort at the image of Lavi conducing these 'tests', but he supposes that there are more important things at hand.
"It sounds too good to be true. An ability like that would be—"
Lavi waggles his finger and Kanda, and Kanda glares at the offending appendage. "Ah, it's true, it seems just miraculous and all-powerful, right? But I mentioned all those limitations. You can't undo physical changes – so you can't save someone from getting shot, for example. It only lasts a few minutes, and within a very small range. So it's really not this all-powerful power. Still." His face turns serious again, eyebrow dipping down. "It's particularly handy for one thing. Interrogations. Think about it – oftentimes, we rely on luck. Will phrasing it this way strike a nerve and get the perp to talk? But by asking it as such, we end up revealing our hand, and once we do that, we can't go back. If we could go back in time and repeat the question a different way, we might get another answer, go down a different path and get different results. And we could use those results to get even further down another path."
Kanda takes a moment to think about Lavi's words. It's true – sometimes you have to try revealing your hand— we know your buddy-so-and-so said you were going to the docks tomorrow night will only work once, after which you can't go back to another tactic and pretend you don't know anything. Kanda grunts as the full realization of how useful this ability is. He looks up at Lavi with raised eyebrows and says rather dryly, "Well, Arbiter should be pleased."
Lavi grins widely, and yeah, he might be just a bit proud of his find as well. "But this has an even bigger implication," Lavi says, pressing the tips of his fingers together as he glances at the table, where the notes about the Noah are still sitting there, constant nuisances that cackle at him and goad his intelligence and detective skills. "If people like her exist, who can bend the rules of nature… who is to say that these legends about the Noah – that they can change appearances, or walk through walls—aren't true as well?"
"So you're saying we're possibly up against supernatural beings?"
Lavi nods gravely. "It's the only way everything that doesn't fit fits."
Kanda's smirk is razor sharp, and he strokes Mugen again lovingly. "I've always liked a challenge."
Lavi grins in response and rubs his hands together. This is a whole other ball game now.
When Lavi thinks about it, the situation is hysterical. Kanda had thought that Lavi had a bought a prostitute because he'd fallen in love with her! But no, instead of laughing, Lavi had been frantic to clear up the misunderstanding because Kanda… Kanda had been hurt.
After dinner, Lavi usually goes back to his research, and Kanda takes the time to do the dishes. Today Lavi joins him, which is not terribly rare, but Lavi's sure by the long-suffering sigh Kanda utters when Lavi steps beside him that he suspects an ulterior motive.
Though they have running water, like nearly all flats in London nowadays, even in the summer it's never warm enough to wash anything, and with winter getting closer and closer every day, the water is downright frigid. Kanda takes the pot of water he's had sitting on the stove throughout dinner and puts it in the sink, dipping a coarse woolen cloth in it. Lavi watches, close enough so that their elbows touch and he can smell the leather of Kanda's coat, as he scrubs their tin dishes and rinses them with the hot water. When he hands it to him, Lavi takes the plate and dries it thoroughly to put away in the cupboard.
"Um, so, Yuu…" Kanda's face turns a fraction of an inch towards him, which in Kanda-speak means You have my full attention. Lavi proceeds. "You know you're the only partner I'll ever need," Lavi begins. Kanda groans and dunks the mug in the water with more force than necessary, bits of water splashing both of them.
"We are not talking about this," Kanda mutters, turning his face away from Lavi. Despite that, he's completely still, not even the natural swaying of a body at rest, and a glance at his hands in the murky water shows them pale and white, gripping the mug tightly. Lavi remembers Kanda's eyes, the hurt and fear in them earlier that day and he needs to say this just as much as Kanda needs to hear it.
He leans forward, trying to catch Kanda's gaze. "Look, I didn't mean to make you think that." He doesn't say, You totally freaked when you thought I was bringing someone else in here to potentially replace you. You were afraid of being alone again, and uncertain of your place, and hurt that things could change without any warning, and you didn't know how to say any of that because you're have the communications skills of a nun with vows of silence. Instead, he says, as earnestly as he can, "No one can replace you. We've got too much to do, and no one is going to distract us from it. After all we've gone through together, Yuu, I won't ever want anyone else around me. I need you." It's rather too close to the truth for Lavi's comfort, but Kanda won't see that, so it's alright for him to say it.
"Will you stop saying such ridiculous things?" Kanda grouses, bending down to scrub at the dishes with more force than strictly needed.
"I'll think about it. Embarrassing you is one of my most finely-honed skills, but I need practice to keep it so." Lavi grins, more or less satisfied with the slight pink tinge of Kanda's exposed neck, and turns back to his masterful drying.
"So you think I'm untrustworthy?" he hazards a few minutes later.
"I wouldn't trust you further than I can throw you," Kanda replies without even glancing up.
"Well, you're a pretty strong guy—"
He's pretty sure the plant on the windowsill wilted a little from Kanda's glare.
"You left without even saying goodbye yesterday."Allen hops down from the crate he was sitting on, hood almost falling backwards. He tugs it back securely around his head so that it covers his hair again and trots a couple steps to fall into line with Kanda. For his part, Kanda isn't sure how he feels about Allen meeting him at the morning market. He briefly considers changing his route, but this is where he finds the artisans that make the bread he and Lavi like, the cheapest fruit, and the only shop that sells the sword polish he requires for Mugen. Damn.
"If you expect me to make small talk like bureaucrats and oligarchs then you better get your head out of your ass and look at the real world."
"Well that's a good note to start a relationship with," Allen sighs all-sufferingly and aims an exaggerated plead for help at the sky, complete with fingers interlaced in prayer.
Kanda turns around slowly, noticing his suddenly-slack jaw and replacing it with a sneer. Anything to hide the sudden panic that shot through him. "Relationship? There is no relationship. What kind of candy-coated world do you live in?"
Allen looks hurt for a moment, shoulders hunching and face beginning to close up, and then a little frown worms its way onto his face and he looks at Kanda more closely. Kanda tenses and draws back.
"Right," Allen says, nodding once. His eyes soften, at what, Kanda has no idea. He breezes past Kanda with a wicked smirk and shoots back, "I agree. This is purely physical, of course."
"Damn right," Kanda answers automatically, and then stops. Allen keeps on walking, a hooded figure with sharp hips and thin, strong wrists matching slim, booted feet. A figure that haunted his dreams in France and muddled his head with memories of the metallic glint in his eyes and the snarls of his mouth, the strength and constant pushing and pulling of his words.
It is purely physical… isn't it?
You all deserve kittens for your patience. I will be genuinely surprised if any of you guys actually read this after all these years.