AN: yes, it's another High School AU. This is actually the first one I've attempted in quite a while. Allen is the main character; multiple other characters, including some minor ones, will be making appearances, so keep your eyes open!
Chapter 1: Hair Impressions
At orientation, Allen Walker's hair was a soft brown color.
On the first day of classes, that same hair was so bleach-blond it might have been white.
Mr. Tiedoll supposed Allen was just trying to make a splash for his first day of high school. He was new, after all, and the school district was a small one; he'd been teaching long enough to know about the clique-ishness of high school students. If one was going to make some friends, making a statement with one's appearance was probably a good start.
His only concern was what kind of friends Allen Walker was trying to make.
"It turned out pretty well!" Rinali said encouragingly.
Allen's mouth was full, so it took him a moment to reply. "It's all right, I suppose," he said doubtfully, pulling down a lock of near-white hair to peer at it suspiciously, as though not entirely certain it belonged on his head. "At least it's not falling out in clumps any more." He hung his head briefly. "This isn't the first impression I wanted to give!"
"Oh, Allen," Rinali sighed, patting his back. "Don't worry about it."
Allen lifted his head and cast Rinali Lee a doubtful look, then resumed eating his sandwich wordlessly. "Everyone'll know exactly what's happened," he said at length.
"Oh, come on," Rinali scoffed. "At least you didn't dye your hair blue or--"
A red-headed student - taller and older - who was sitting under a nearby tree shot Allen a lopsided grin. "Hey, kid! Did you fall in bleach or something?"
Allen threw up his hands. "See!?"
Rinali's mouth half-opened, but before she could search for another platitude the red-head was crouching next to them, folding up long limbs. "What? You mean you really fell in bleach!?"
Allen gave the boy in question something between a sheepish and withering look. "It got in my hair--"
"--and that made it all spotty--" Rinali jumped to Allen's defense.
"--so I had to bleach it properly," Allen finished, spots of color in his cheeks.
The red-head laughed.
"Don't laugh," Rinali said indignantly, but the boy just beamed at her.
"Don't take it so personally! It's a funny story. The look suits you, I think," he told Allen with a knowing air.
"Not at all," Allen sighed. He scrubbed his fingers back through his hair and fine strands, pulled loose, fluttered away in the breeze.
"You're just not used to it yet! What's your name?" the boy asked.
"Allen." The name was offered with a slight smile.
"Lavi," the red-head replied, holding out his hand. They shook, and he turned to Rinali. "And you?"
"Rinali," she answered, now smiling a little as well.
"Heh! You're Lee's little sister!" Lavi crowed. "Frosh, are you?"
It was Rinali's turn to blush; her older brother was infamous, after all. A former student of the same school, Komui had recieved an associate's degree in Accounting at the local college and promptly begun his work for the school board. Everyone familiar with him knew why: to keep an eye on his baby sister until she went to college. Rumor had it he wouldn't even let her leave town, then - or if she did, he'd go with her.
"Yes," she said admitted with a sigh. Beside her, Allen bobbed his head.
"I'm a senior. It's a good thing I didn't try my usual greeting on you." Lavi leered a little; Allen bristled beside her, leaning foward. Lavi's leer transformed into a toothy grin at Allen's reaction. "Anyway, I've got someone to collect before class starts again. You too have fun!"
As quickly as he'd appeared, he was gone.
"... He's a little odd," Allen observed when Lavi had departed.
Rinali tugged on Allen's bleached hair good-naturedly. "I don't think you have room to talk!"
In truth, Allen's hair was a topic of conversation. The school, Earl Gray High, was in a conservative district; most of the students were Catholic or some variation on the same, and most of their families were of middling incomes. The town where many of the students lived existed solely because of the Catholic college located there, so it was only natural. Certainly there were those who would do some strange things with their appearance; on the first day of classes some of the students had sprayed their hair black and gold, the school's colors, and one notable deterrent from the norm had given himself a mohawk for the occasion, but going so far as actually dying their hair? Only Allen Walker. And he hadn't even done it in school colors!
He was new, as well, at least to most of the students. Word had it he'd moved into town with his guardian barely a month ago, and he hadn't been seen around in all that time. No one knew where he lived, anyway, and who cared? He was making a splash!
At the end of that first day of classes, as girls swapped notes about what new guys from different middle schools were cute and who had gotten cuter over the summer, Allen Walker came up. Everyone agreed that the white hair with his light, light blue eyes was a real eye-catcher. A little short, maybe, but he was in great shape. But Rinali Lee was pretty close to him already, wasn't she? Maybe they'd known each other before?
They were right, but it would take a few weeks for the explanation for that to get around.
Allen had to run to catch the bus after class, so with his bookbag slapping his back, slung over one shoulder, he sprinted past the last lingering students towards the bus runs. As usual, his classes sounded vaguely intimidating; the teachers promised this year would be harder than last year, but if they kept up they would do fine. At least today was only the first day! Allen's 'homework' was to write a paragraph describing himself for his English teacher and to acquire a red pen for his math class. His Spanish class had a substitute - for the first day! - but with the promise that the teacher would be back two days from now, which was when Allen would have the class again.
Allen turned the corner outside and slammed full-tilt into another student. Allen staggered back, catching his balance before he fell but just barely. The other student rocked back barely a step.
Allen looked up a few inches to see a girl - no, a boy; there were no breasts, and that body wasn't soft! - with long black hair bound back in a low ponytail, narrow, sharp features, and the natural tannish skin of an Asian. "Watch where you're going!" the boy snapped.
"Sorry," Allen blurted, "did I hurt you?"
"No," the boy said fiercely, indignant at the very suggestion that Allen at full speed could possibly hurt him.
"Oh," Allen said breathlessly. "Well, then, I'm sorry I ran into you, I've got to go!" He slipped by the student and took off for the busses.
He'd forgotten all about the incident by the time he was on the bus, but the incident didn't forget him.
Allen lived at the very edge of the Earl Gray High district; one neighborhood over and he'd be going to another high school instead. The ride was thirty minutes by bus, but Allen wasn't going home just yet. He got off a stop twenty minutes from school, walked a quarter mile, and found himself at another bus stop.
His stomach growled, so while he waited he ate the last of the sandwiches he'd packed for the day. When the public bus came - mostly populated by college students who lived off-campus - he rode it into the heart of town, getting off two stops before the college itself.
A block's walk took him to Anita's Diner. He went around to the back and let himself in.
"Allen!" Before Allen could say a word he was greeted by Baku, the assistant kitchen manager. He was barely out of high school, but he had the significant advantage of speaking Chinese, Spanish, and English proficiently - something his fellow kitchen staff did not have in common. He was quickly promoted from fry cook to assistant manager because he could communicate what jobs he wanted done with i all /i of the staff - unlike anyone else.
"We could have used you today; the lunch rush was mad! I think it's because all the students are back in town," Baku informed him.
Allen, as it happened, was his replacement.
It was completely illegal, but technically only Allen knew that; he'd presented a false birth certificate (he didn't have a real one) and a fake driver's liscense (he couldn't drive) upon applying to the Diner that both showed he was 17 years old. Half of the kitchen staff weren't legal immigrants, anyway, but as long as no one was doing anything otherwise illegal, like selling drugs, it was an open secret. Everyone knew Allen wasn't seventeen, but as long as he did his job well, no one worried about it.
"What did you do to your hair?"
Allen colored slightly. Baku's hair was light in color too, but he'd bleached his hair on purpose for some reason or another. "I had an accident with bleach at my other job," He explained.
"Just another reason to quit there and work full-time for me," Baku said, businesslike, and just like that, the subject was dropped. "Now, how late can you stay tonight?" Baku asked, pulling down the time sheet for Allen to sign. "Miguel called to say he wasn't feeling well and couldn't come in, so I'm short on pasta side ..."
Allen was no cook, in truth, but he could follow a recipie. For a job in a place like Anita's Diner, that was all he needed.
Allen reflected that he wouldn't be able to stay as late once classes really got started, and he smiled. "I can stay after close, but no later than one o'clock; I have to catch the last bus home," he reminded his boss, pulling on a hair net and his 'Anita's Diner' cap.
"You know I'll get you out of here on time," Baku scoffed. His other hidden talent, after all, was administration; he could manage time like no other. "All right, it's slow now, so jump in and get warmed up."
"Yessir," Allen grinned, and threw on his apron before starting for the line.
Working in a kitchen was wonderful. After all, the only time-proven way to make sure the food was correctly prepared was to taste it ...
Which meant that Allen would be eating all night.