Author's Note: For a random plotbunny, this has certainly been persistent! This is the fifth installment in a story that was inspired by fanart in a thread at 4chan. The title comes from a song by Hitomi Shimatani that I listened to while writing this story. It is also a multi-chapter fic -- which means that there is in fact a lime on the horizon, if I can do it right. (You can cheer now, Dhampir72)

Setting: Same as the previous four -- it basically doesn't have a setting, because I can't quite fit it in. The only thing I can say for certain is that it is set after the Noah's Ark story concludes. I'm going to go ahead and say that this is set as an alternate to the whole Level Four storyline.

Disclaimer: I do not own any part of "D.Gray-man" or its characters. It all belongs to the brilliant Katsura Hoshino-sensei. I'm just playing in the sandbox of this beautiful and complex world.

Warning: Some language. Spoilers if you only watch the anime. Softcore yaoi/shounen-ai. Implications of sex. If boys kissing and talking about having sex with each other squicks you, read no further and use your "back" button!

Part One: Things Are Changing

Lou Fa was walking on air. Her two teammates Likei and Shifu had sneaking suspicions why she was in such great spirits, and just held their silence, amused. It was cute, her crush on the young Exorcist. She didn't seem the least bit put out that Allen Walker clearly did not return her affections in the same manner; she cheerfully plotted winning his heart in blissful ignorance or denial.

Word had come two nights ago that the refugees from the fallen Black Order Headquarters who had been hiding in a convent in Turino, Italy, were being besieged and were likely to attempt to flee here to the Asian Branch via the Ark. There was only one person capable of operating the Ark, so it wasn't much of a stretch to figure out that this meant that the band of Exorcists, who had been crossing Europe in an attempt to hide from the Earl while they regrouped, were going to be coming here. Hence, Lou Fa's head was in the clouds.

There was a sudden commotion behind the three young scientists, and they just barely got out of the way as the branch's head officer, Bak Chan, came running down the corridor, heading for the large chamber by the gateway. On his heels ran his faithful assistant Samo Han Wong. Bak was communicating on a wireless device, and sounded agitated. He was relaying a series of alphanumeric data; it sounded like coordinates...

"Don't start just yet, I have to get Fou to drop the shield in those coordinates for a few moments."

Lou Fa perked up and turned to her two companions, her eyes sparkling. Likei scratched at his head and laughed; "Yeah, yeah, I suppose the test results can wait a little bit."

"Hooray!" She hopped in excitement. "Let's hurry! We don't want to miss this!"

The three of them hurried down the corridor toward the atrium. As they arrived in the cavernous room, they saw a familiar two-dimensional portal begin to take shape some three meters off the ground. A platform was wheeled into place as the portal formed. Lou Fa clasped her hands together in excitement, and seemed to almost bounce in place from the sheer anticipation.

"All right, Komui, send him through," Bak was saying.

The portal remained blank for a minute and a half at least, before it flared as someone passed through it. However, what emerged was not the slim silhouette of the fifteen-year-old Exorcist they were expecting. The man who stepped through was much taller, much broader of build and had a mane of dark red hair cascading out from under his large black hat. His gold-trimmed uniform showed he was no ordinary Exorcist. He was a gensui.

He looked around at the atrium and then looked directly at Bak. On his shoulder rode a bizarre golden ball-shaped golem with a fancy cross emblem on its face and long tail. It matched the description Allen Walker had once given about the golem from his master that he'd had as a sort of familiar, but that he'd parted company with during a battle somewhere in a Chinese bamboo forest.

"Right... that's not Walker," Bak said rhetorically into his communication device. "Is this what you're expecting?"

"Allen-kun is operating the controls; of course he's not going to be the first one through the door," came the voice of the Chief Supervisor, Komui Lee, over the wireless communicator. "Tell Cross-gensui to send his golem to you. If it's really him, the golem will fly over to you, whether he asks it to or not."

Bak complied. "Cross-gensui, if you would be so kind, please send your golem over to me."

"Why the hell should I do that?" The gensui said irritably. However, he hitched his shoulder and the golem hopped off, dropping into flight like an agile bird and fluttering over to hover next to Bak. Lou Fa got a good look at it, and found it to be the cutest golem she'd ever seen. This must be Timcanpy!

"The golem is over here, Komui," Bak said into his device.

"Great! Now ask what the status on the anchoring of both portals is."

Bak relayed the request. Cross smirked. "They're anchored. Baka-deshi is good for one thing only. That's the only reason I let him live all that time. If he weren't the operator of the Ark, I wouldn't have wasted my time."


Cross threw his head back and laughed, then took off his communications equipment and grinned; "Goddamn, I love teasing that boy. He's so amusing! So easy to pick on." He put the equipment back on and apparently cranked it up. "All right, Komui. I'm going back into the Ark; start sending people through. The faster we get this done, the better."

The gensui vanished back into the Ark and the portal stilled for about five minutes. Then it flared again and people started streaming through. After a few minutes, Wong approached a pair of Exorcists -- one a tall slim redhead of European descent, whose face was set with a sour expression; the other a Chinese girl with short, uneven black hair -- and greeted them formally. Lou Fa instinctively gravitated in that direction, sensing these Exorcists were special.

The whole process of transition took no more than twenty minutes to get everyone through, and the other three gensui were the last ones through. The whole portal seemed to collapse after that, and Lou Fa looked around for Allen Walker's distinctive white hair. When she didn't see it, she started to worry, until the portal suddenly burst into life and Walker emerged from it. Then the portal closed down and went dull.

Lou Fa was so intoxicated by her crush that she didn't even listen to Walker's words as he spoke of the Ark. All she could do was revel in his soft, polite voice and daydream about that voice being used to whisper sweet nothings to her.

Chaos ensued for a short while as people met and greeted each other, long-time friends reunited after a long absence, and order was sorted out amongst the support factions. Lou Fa waited until the area around Allen Walker cleared a bit, before presenting herself before him. He was accompanied at the moment by the red-haired Exorcist with the eyepatch, who had been giving him a noogie and speaking affectionately. This was clearly a close friend of Walker.

"Walker-san! Welcome back!" She grinned brightly, her cheeks flushing.

"Oh, hello, Lou Fa. Thank you. It's good to be back here. I'm glad to see you well."


"Of course." She didn't even notice the slightly strained expression on his face.

"You were worried about me?"

"Walker-san, don't mind her," Shifu said quickly. "She's been out of sorts for a while. Welcome back, we're blessed to have you with us again."

"So..." The red-haired Exorcist tilted his head. "Allen, who's the mousy little pipsqueak?"

"Lavi!" Walker elbowed his friend in the stomach. "Be nice! These three were instrumental in my recovery. They're part of the reason I was able to revive my Innocence and return to the battlefield."

"Three? I see two."

Lou Fa looked over at Shifu, mystified, until she realized that Likei wasn't there too. He was over some distance away, near the Branch Head and the Chief Supervisor. In her inattention, she missed part of the introductions, but snapped back to herself when she heard her name.

"Lou Fa, this is Lavi. I think you guys heard me talking about him before. He's Bookman's successor."

"Oh, Bookman Junior!" Shifu said excitedly. "Wow, a genuine bookman! I don't know that I've ever met anyone from the bookman clan."

Lou Fa bowed politely to Lavi. "So you're Walker-san's best friend, right?"

Lavi smirked; "Yeah, you could say that." Lou Fa completely missed the innuendo in his voice, and the warning look that Allen threw at him for it. Shifu, on the other hand, didn't miss either, and fell contemplatively silent. "Arrgh, my stomach is gnawing on my intestines. It wants food. I can only imagine what yours is doing to you, Allen. C'mon, where's the cafeteria? I'm friggin' starving!"

"I'll escort you!" Lou Fa chimed. Shifu stepped back and begged off when Lou Fa looked at him. He just watched them leave, observing the way Walker and Lavi interacted. There was something there that was more than friendship.

"Shifu," Likei approached. "What's the matter?"

"I'm just trying to figure Walker-san out. That guy with him there, there's something between them. They're not just friends." Shifu shook his head. "I must be really tired. I'm reading way too much into this."

"No, you're not," Likei said. "That's the redhead with the eyepatch, right? Bookman's successor?" At Shifu's nod, he continued. "I overheard the Supervisor telling Bak-sama about them. They are more than friends. They're lovers. They're trying to be discreet about it, but that's why Komui-shitsuchou didn't want to evacuate to the Vatican -- he was afraid that something might happen there that would offend the Pope and strain the Order's agreement with the church. The Supervisor was asking that Bak-sama be quiet about the whole thing as well, not let it get out too much in case word gets back to Rome about it, and to assign them both a room together or rooms adjacent to each other."

"Wait..." Shifu held a hand up. "If what you say is true, then that means that Walker-san is gay, and that Lou Fa..." He grimaced. "I knew she didn't really have a chance in hell with him, but I had no idea that the gap was that wide. Hmm. That would also explain Lavi-san's rather rude comment about Lou Fa. He must have noticed that she has a crush on Walker-san and was a little jealous."

"What rude comment?"

"He called her a 'mousy little pipsqueak'!"

Likei covered his mouth to hide his laughter. "Oh that's bad."

"Walker-san corrected him and made him apologize, though I don't know if Lou Fa heard it. You know how she is."

"Yeah, she's pretty clueless about some things. Brilliant young scientist, but with her head full of clouds, she's pretty much oblivious to the obvious at times."

Lavi chuckled as he observed Allen gorging himself. Some things never changed. Allen had already plowed through about six courses, while Lavi was taking his time with his first. For his own part, he was just glad to be able to partake of good yakiniku for the first time in months. Pork had been hard to come by in Nice and Turino. He also used this time to observe the mousy little scientist's actions around Allen. She sure was infatuated, that was for damn sure. It made him uncomfortable, seeing her fawn over Allen. Allen was trying very hard to be nice but slightly stand-offish, trying to discourage her gently. She was being either extremely dense, extremely stupid, or extremely stubborn. Or, option number four: a combination of the other three. And a tiny part of Lavi wanted to assert his claim on Allen's heart to this little pipsqueak. He didn't like to admit that he was given to jealousy, but he didn't like how it made him feel to watch someone trying to win over his beloved.

His... wait a minute. Allen was more than just his beloved, wasn't he? And yet they couldn't exactly call themselves lovers... could they?

Stop it, Lavi. He loves you as you love him. Isn't that enough? He mentally shelved the whole thought process and returned his attention to his meal. Thinking about unpleasant things made his enjoyment of his favorite food somewhat less enjoyable. They were soon joined by a couple more scientists.

Allen introduced the other two young scientists who had helped Lou Fa in caring for Allen during his stay here at the Asian HQ some six months ago. Their names were Shifu and Likei, and they seemed like nice, level-headed young men, though one of them kept giving Lavi the most bizarre, almost-disgusted expression. This was the same one who had expressed excitement at meeting a member of the bookman clan, so why he was suddenly repulsed by Lavi was anyone's guess.

A flash of gold caught Lavi's attention. Timcanpy was sitting in front of his plate, looking up at him inquiringly.

"Allen... what does Tim want?"

"He probably wants some of your food. He usually does that to me when he wants some of mine."

Lavi shooed the golem. "Go bug Allen; he's got more food to spare than I do, and I haven't had any yakiniku in a long time!"

Tim didn't move.

"Just give him a little piece, Lavi," Allen said. "I'm sure he just wants to try it."

"I don't get it, this thing is part robot, right?"

"Well yes, but robots require fuel of a sort. Shishou developed a golem that can sustain itself by way of food. He just, uh, gave Timcanpy a little too big of an appetite, I think. That's probably the appetite he needs when he's in his largest form, and it just doesn't really adjust when he's smaller."

"How big does Timcanpy get?" Lou Fa asked.

"Well, he can get to be the size of a medium-sized dog, but he doesn't usually. It's very hard for him to fly when he's that big. The smaller he is, the faster and more agile he is. But I remember him being about this big at one point when I first was taken in by Shishou." He held his hands a remarkable distance apart. "Like I said, he doesn't do that usually."

Lavi sighed and plucked a small piece of the pork from the miniature grill and offered it to the golem. Timcanpy happily took the morsel and flew up to land on Lavi's head.

"See?" Allen grinned. "In the rare instances that I can't finish a meal, Tim cleans up after me. He just likes to try things."

Lavi snickered; "Allen, when have you ever been unable to finish a meal?"

"It's happened. It doesn't happen very often, hence why I said the 'rare instances' but it does happen!" Allen set aside the current plate, now empty, and started on the next.

Lavi returned to his yakiniku, savoring it. Considering this wasn't Jerry's cooking, it was pretty damned good. He hadn't had it in so long, though, that perhaps he was just enjoying it because it was almost a novelty again.

Timcanpy, meanwhile, snuck in and grabbed some of the dango off another plate of Allen's, gaining a sharp curse and a swung fist. The golem dodged and flew off with the dango still in its mouth.

"Grr," Allen grumbled. "Didn't even bother to ask. Just grabbed and ran. Typical Tim."

"I guess I should be glad he didn't grab and run from me. I'd be forced to chase him and hammer him to the ground."

"You can't destroy him, though," Allen laughed. "You can smash him into a million pieces and he still pulls back together. I think only Shishou knows how to destroy his golems. And the fact that he hasn't destroyed Tim yet means he's not likely to do so."

"All the better. Then I won't have any regrets!" Lavi pulled out Oudzuchi and waved the small hammer in the air. "Ya hear that Tim? I'll give you a hell of a headache if you swipe any more of my food. Steal Allen's for all I care, but leave mine alone!"

"Thanks, Lavi. I love you too," Allen snorted good-naturedly, though a vein bulged on his forehead. "You can be such a pain in the ass."

"Oh ho!" Lavi chortled. "I haven't even begun to be a pain in your ass!"

The table fell silent as Allen turned beet red, balled up his fist and slammed it into Lavi's shoulder, sending him tumbling off the bench. "Not funny, Lavi."

"Careful, Allen. In some cultures, punching like that can be considered a form of foreplay."

"Don't joke about stuff like that!" Allen snapped.

"Sorry," Lavi said with a grin. "I couldn't resist." He glanced over at Lou Fa, who still looked oblivious. She was still gazing at Allen with starry eyes of adoration.

Is she completely retarded? Does she not get a gay sex joke when she hears it?

On the other hand, the other two scientists were now definitely suspicious. Lavi looked each of them in the eye expressionlessly, challenging them to make a comment, and then when they both submitted to defeat, he returned his attention to what was left of his meal.

By the time he and Allen were done eating, the three scientists had been called away by their duties, which meant that Lavi had Allen sort of alone. The cafeteria had a lot of people in it, but at least it was just the two of them at this table.

"Sorry about that, Allen," Lavi said. "I just... that girl. She's got her sights set on you, and I didn't like it. I thought maybe I'd try and push her off the trail."

"Where the hell's the discretion in comments like you just made?" Allen retorted. "That was about as subtle as your hammer!"

Lavi put his hands together and bowed his head; "I know, I know. I'm sorry. I just got a little jealous."

Allen blinked as he gathered his dishes together. "You... what? Was I coming across as flirting with her? I thought I was pushing her away, insomuch as I can without being rude."

Lavi took some of the empty plates from Allen and set them with his, so as to help him transport the dishes to the drop-off window. "It wasn't you that was making me feel that way; it's that mousy little braided pipsqueak."

"Stop calling her that!" Allen glared at him. "You don't need to be so disrespectful to someone I owe my life to." The two of them deposited the dishes at the drop-off window and Allen grabbed Lavi's arm. "C'mon, there's someone I want to introduce you to."

"Why are you dragging me around again?!"

Allen didn't answer and dragged him through the cafeteria and back to the room where they'd come through the Ark. He kept dragging, despite Lavi's protests, all the way to the ornate wall. There he let go of Lavi's arm.

"Good grief, Allen, you almost dislocated my shoulder there. Go easy on me, I'm just a human, you know!"

Allen had a smile on his face again as he put a hand on the wall. "Fou, are you in there?"

"Well, well, if it isn't the crazy white-haired Akuma-loving Exorcist," said a feminine disembodied voice. The wall began to spark and a figure emerged from it. What emerged looked sort of human, except for her yellow-olive skin and the patterns adorning her arms. She was short, but she carried herself with the air of someone who had no idea how short she really was.

"Hello, Fou. Nice to see you again," Allen said with a laugh. "You haven't changed."

"Of course not."

"Lavi, is this Fou. She's the guardian of this branch. She's the main reason I was able to revive my Innocence, and she taught me a lot about hand-to-hand combat too."

"So, Walker, this is your boyfriend?" The guardian said with a droll smile.

Lavi's jaw dropped open and Allen blinked in astonishment. "How... how did you know about that?"

"I'm not human, you know. I have my ways of knowing things."

"You're not omniscient, nor omnipresent," Lavi retorted. "Guardian or not, you have your limits. Or has the Asian branch been lying all this time?"

Fou grinned. "I like you. What's your name?"


"Lavi, huh? Interesting alias. What's with the eyepatch?"

"To cover an unusable eye," Lavi retorted. "Not that it's any of your business."

"Hmm. Yeah, I like you, Lavi. You're a good match for Walker," Fou said finally. "Baka-Bak is just old-fashioned."


"He didn't much like it when that Komui person told him about you two."

"Well that explains how you found out," Allen said finally.

"Of course. But seriously, Bak is just old-fashioned, and I told him as much. It doesn't matter if you fall in love with a male or a female. People don't fall in love with someone just because they can or cannot procreate with them." She grinned. "I went to bat for you, Walker."

"Are you trying to blackmail me?"

"What?" The guardian looked shocked. "Blackmail? No! I just don't like being in your debt, Walker. Trying to even the scales. Did you think I'd forgotten who it was that dispatched that Akuma with just a flick of the wrist after interrogating it?"

"Ugh," Lavi said with a grimace. "Philosophy on a full stomach. Recipe for blowing chunks."

Allen leaned against the wall, holding his side while laughing; "You really don't like philosophy, do you?"

"Nope, not particularly. I'm a bookman, remember? I like facts, not speculation." Lavi acted on a brief urge and pinned Allen against the wall by planting his hands on the wall above each of Allen's shoulders. "Speculation's okay in some cases, but I like to leave it to actual philosophers. The real question here is, what are you going to do now?"

"He could kick you in the... well, you know," Fou drolled. "You left yourself vulnerable, Lavi."

"The toll is much less expensive than you might expect," Lavi said, pitching his voice to a deep and throaty timbre. He seemed to have forgotten that Fou was even there, less than a meter from him. His entire focus was on Allen.

Allen let out a tiny sigh; "Lavi, you're so narrow-minded. And so bloody predictable!" He slid his arms around Lavi's torso and pulled him close, bringing his mouth up to Lavi's in a soft but passionate kiss. Lavi dropped one arm and used it to encircle Allen's waist; the other arm remained planted against the wall.

Fou waited with barely-contained impatience while they got this flare of passion out of their systems. When they were done, she interrupted with a loud clearing of her throat. "So, anyway."

Allen cleared his throat as well. "Anyway, Lavi, I just wanted to introduce you and Fou." He put his hands to Lavi's face and pulled him close for one more kiss. "I have work to do. Shouldn't take long, but, I need to do it."

"Dammit," Lavi grumbled, refusing to let go. "I hate it when you have work to do and I don't. I've been in the Order longer than you, I'm older than you, and you're still injured from that fight with those Level Threes."

"And I've reached Critical Point, Lavi. You haven't. I'm sorry, but I have to give a verbal report over the wireless network to the Vatican." Lavi made a noise that sounded remarkably like Kanda's disgusted noise. Allen clenched his hands in the fabric of Lavi's shirt. "I can operate the Earl's old Ark, Lavi. No one but a Noah should be able to do that. If I don't report everything I do with the Ark, they're going to start labeling me a traitor."

"Yeah, I know. I just want to be included in stuff. I hate spinning my wheels while you go off and be a mock-gensui. I've got nothing to do!"

"Is that right?" Fou said as she crossed her arms. "Wanna spar with me? I enjoyed fighting with Walker when he was here, and you look pretty agile. I'll give you a run for your money."

"That's actually a really good idea. You were complaining about your low synchronization rate, Lavi. She'll put you through your paces, and run you right up against your limit. I really think my fighting skills improved immensely from working with her. Just don't kill him, Fou." Allen grinned. "I'd rather keep him around a bit longer."

"Yeah, yeah. Go on."

Allen got Lavi's attention by kissing him tenderly again. "I'll leave you in her capable hands now, my beloved." He turned to leave... and froze. After a moment, Lavi and Fou looked over and followed his gaze.

Fou's expression changed. "Well. Looks like someone doesn't need to be let down gently after all."

Lou Fa was standing halfway across the chamber, with her two friends behind her, looking abashed. For her part, the young scientist looked completely crushed. Allen's stomach sank through the floor at the look of absolute hurt and betrayal on her face. This was the last thing he'd wanted to do. He'd wanted to let Lou Fa down gently, not shove in her face that all her attempts were futile.

"We, uh, tried to warn you, Lou Fa," Likei muttered, not realizing that the acoustics of the atrium meant that his voice carried.

"Lou Fa..." Allen started to say, and found he had no words at all. Not even an apology. After all, what exactly could he apologize for?

After a long moment, Lou Fa pulled herself together and bowed respectfully; "I'm sorry, Walker-san. I wasn't aware. Forgive me for intruding."

"Hey," Fou said crossly. "Who's property are you trespassing on anyway?" She thumped the wall. "You realize I sleep here; why is it only intruding when Walker's here?"

"That wasn't quite what I meant," Lou Fa murmured somberly. "I meant in intruding on his... er..."

"She means because of her flirting," Lavi said.

"Ah, well, no harm, no foul," Fou said flippantly. "I've told you before, kiddo, that men ain't worth the trouble. Least of all someone like Walker."

Lavi snorted; "Nice!" He nudged Allen's shoulder. "Go on, you have work to do, right? Standing around here gawking won't get your work done."

Lou Fa bowed again; "I apologize for any unwelcome signals I might have sent you, Walker-san."

"I'm sorry for... er... not being more clear," Allen said finally, rubbing his neck self-consciously. At another nudge from Lavi, he started off toward the science and communications section of the branch. Lou Fa and the two other scientists took their leave without another word.

"I'm sorry it turned out like this. We tried to tell you, Lou Fa," Shifu said gently as they walked away. Likei nodded somberly.

"I know," Lou Fa said as she wiped tears from her eyes. "I'm sorry for not listening." She sniffled and wiped more tears away irritably. "I wish these tears would stop, too, because I don't like looking weak in front of Walker-san. He's so strong and capable; he must think I'm just a weepy little brat."

Likei put a hand on her shoulder; "I don't think he thinks less of you for it. If anything, he probably is angry with himself for upsetting you."

"How did you find out anyway, Likei?" She took a deep breath to try and counter the sob that was building in her chest. She would not let that out until she was safely cloistered away in her room, her face buried in a pillow.

"I overheard the Chief Supervisor telling Bak-sama about an unusual romantic development between Exorcists, one that had potential to ruin their good relations with the Vatican. He asked Bak-sama to tread carefully with regards to those two Exorcists, and to grant them some space so that they can maintain discretion. Bak-sama asked who it was, and Komui-shitsuchou said it was Allen Walker and the successor of Bookman. Bak-sama asked who the successor was, and Komui-shitsuchou said his name was Lavi, and that he was a redhead with an eyepatch. And since there's only one Exorcist here that has red hair... well, it's not hard to tell."

"Doesn't Cross-gensui have red hair too?" Shifu inquired. "It sure looked like it to me."

"Yeah, but he's not here. He stayed behind in Turino, remember?"

Lou Fa cleared her throat; "Come on, guys, let's get going. These results won't analyze themselves."

Two and a half hours later, Allen left the communication room rolling his eyes. Cloud Nine-gensui paced along at his side, shaking her head in disgust.

"I really hate the Vatican," she said bitingly. "A bunch of lazy incumbents who have no damned clue how desperate our situation is, who want us to jump through their circus hoops in a certain order. Protected as they are in the Vatican, they have no idea how dangerous the Earl is."

Her monkey chittered in her ear, and she scratched its head. Glancing at Allen, she smiled faintly. "Sorry, Allen-kun; I just really hate dealing with the Vatican. It gets my blood up in the worst way."

"I can tell," Allen said with a half-hearted smile. "And I have to say that I agree. I'm not too thrilled to be labeled a traitor. I did what I had to in order to save everyone, and somehow the Vatican thinks that means I'm a double agent. Shishou won't tell me anything about that damned musical score. He's the one with all the answers, and he conveniently stayed behind in Turino!"

Cloud nodded sympathetically. "Like I said, they're so safely cloistered away in their sacred city that they have no idea of how dangerous the Earl is. The Vatican is the one place the Earl has never been able to set foot. No one knows why. No one even knows if it's simply because he's never tried or because something is keeping him out. We just know he's never been recorded within its boundaries, nor has any Noah or any Akuma. Theoretically, it's the safest place in the world to be, but it's also dangerous for Exorcists to be too close to the Pope, because he's likely to try and view us as his personal army."

"That was a brilliant idea of Bookman's," Komui said, catching up to them. "I hadn't even thought of that."

"Just goes to show you how highly regarded that historian clan is by the Vatican," Cloud said. "I still don't know how Yeegar-jiiji managed to seal an agreement with them." She glanced at Allen. "Also demonstrates how highly Bookman must regard you, Allen-kun. For him to step up to your defense like that."

Allen laughed nervously. "Are you sure he did it for my sake?"

"What do you mean?"

"Isn't Lavi like a son to him?"

There was a silence as the gensui and the shitsuchou both paced along on either side of him. Allen was just starting to feel hugely uncomfortable when Komui spoke.

"I think it's a mistake to assume that Bookman thinks in that manner, Allen-kun. Those bookmen have a completely different way of looking at the world. They have their limits as to what they'll do even for each other. Ninety percent, or more, of Bookman's actions within the Order have been because of you."

Allen digested that. They fell into silence as they walked toward the Atrium. Before long, Bak fell in with them. Cloud was just about to take her leave of them when they reached the large chamber and saw what amounted to chaos in the making.

A giant whirlwind was spinning furiously in the center of the cavern. Fou could be seen on its edges, and then she flashed upwards, cutting an arc through the air and landing within the center of the hurricane. Almost instantly, the vortex of wind dissipated, revealing Lavi at its center, with Fou standing poised in front of him, one of her arm-blades against his throat.

"That took me all of thirty seconds to find the weak-spot. That thing is flashy and big, but it's cumbersome and I fail to see how you can use it in battle. And, judging from the look of things, it takes a lot out of you to do that."

"The Wind Seal is extremely difficult to control. It seems to be very wild. None of the other Seals were this hard to master." Lavi wiped his brow with his sleeve; he looked exhausted.

"And yet you insist on using it?"

"I just unlocked it. I want to be able to rely on it if I need it. I don't want to do another All Seals Combination if I can avoid it. I got the feeling from my Innocence that if I ever do that again, it won't forgive me."

Fou crossed her arms. "All of these attacks you've shown me are huge, high power and barely controlled. I did notice that you didn't use the Earth Seal or the Wood Seal, however. Care to explain why?"

"The Earth Seal is strictly defense. The Wood Seal is neither -- it's a nature-manipulating Seal."

"Hmm." Fou glanced over at the approaching Exorcists and support faction members. "Well, you look like hell, Lavi. You should get some rest. I'm tired too, so I'm going to take a nap."

Lavi followed her gaze, and his strained expression lightened when he saw Allen. "Are you done finally?"

"For the time being, anyway," Komui said. "And now we have an assignment for you, one I don't think you'll mind at all."

"Assignment?" Lavi rubbed his forehead in a gesture of confusion as he holstered Oudzuchi Kodzuchi. "Aren't we in lock-down?"

"Not a mission; an assignment."

Allen walked forward to meet up with Lavi, noting that Lavi was more tired than he was willing to admit; his knees wobbled like they were made of jelly. Allen pulled Lavi's right arm across his shoulders and steadied him. He placed his left arm low across Lavi's back to give him some support.

There was a time when Lavi would have refused such a gesture; now, however, he seemed eager for the physical contact.

Allen noted out of the corner of his eye that Bak had a sour look on his face. Komui looked benign as usual while he waited for Lavi to give him his full attention. When the red-haired Exorcist did so, the Supervisor started in on his order.

"You are hereby ordered, by the Vatican and by the head of the bookman clan, to which you belong and owe allegiance, to conduct constant surveillance of one Allen Walker, who is being suspected of treason by the upper branches of the Vatican."

Lavi's eye widened. "What the fuck? Treason?! What kind of opium are they smoking now?"

Komui shrugged. "Allen-kun can operate the Ark. As far as our records show, only the Earl or a Noah can do that. There's a belief that Allen is therefore a Noah."

"That's insane!" Lavi clenched a fist. "Noah are vulnerable to Innocence."

"Yes, Lavi, we know that, and we know that Allen-kun has passed Critical Point with his Innocence. However, the Vatican is not convinced. They want Walker under surveillance until further notice because of the situation with the Earl and the two Arks."

"Fucking idiots," Lavi grumbled angrily. "What the hell do they know about anything?"

"Still, they're the ones calling the shots, and we need to respect that," Bak said, his words clipped and somewhat biting.

"No one in the Order seriously suspects Allen-kun of being a traitor, Lavi. But we have to do as the Vatican orders. And anyway, we lucked out," Komui added, "because the Vatican doesn't know that you two are even friends, nevermind more. As far as they know, you are as impartial as Bookman himself. Thus, Bookman suggested that you be assigned as Allen-kun's chaperone. This of course means that you will be expected to share a room."

Lavi blinked. "What? Really?"

"We've assigned you two a room, so it's time we show you to it," Bak said tersely. "Come along, then."

"Nice digs!" Lavi said as he stretched out on the large bed. "A little strange that they've configured it this way, though. I guess they assumed we were already sleeping together."

Allen paused and glanced at him. The bed was quite large, and was the only bed in the room. It could easily fit three people comfortably in it. As it was, there was no reason why he and Lavi couldn't share the bed, even as friends, which they were certainly more than...

A prudent blush crept up Allen's ears as his thoughts wandered. He'd been plagued by dreams for the past couple of weeks now, since the fiasco between Nice and Turino in which he'd nearly died of exsanguination and Lavi had nearly died of injuries incurred by his Innocence. Not prophetic or nightmarish dreams. No, these were... well, simply put, they were erotic. And explicit. They usually left him drenched in sweat when he awoke, and sometimes with embarrassing other anatomical reactions. And they were persistent. Each night they got more and more explicit and detailed, and harder to endure. It was becoming pretty clear to Allen that he wanted more now out of his relationship with Lavi than just hugs and kisses.

"Um, yeah, Lavi... about that..." Allen cleared his throat. "I think we need to talk."

"Talk? Talk about what?" Lavi sounded like he was about two-thirds asleep. "Can't it wait?"

"No, Lavi, I really think we need to talk. About sex."

The room fell completely silent as Lavi pulled his headband down across his eyes deliberately. For several minutes there was no sound at all except their breathing.

"We don't need to talk about it, Allen," Lavi finally said. "What's the point of talking? Just leave well enough alone."

"I can't leave 'well enough' alone, dammit! Things are changing between us, you know! Do you think I'm some kind of completely naive... machine?"

"No, but I do know something that you're forgetting."

"What's that?"

"You're a minor. You're fifteen. You know what that makes me? That makes me a pedophile."

"Good god, Lavi, you're still a teenager too! You're only three years older than me!"

"I'm still an adult; you're not."

"What, so a fifteen-year-old can reach Critical Point, can develop into gensui-level, can fight with the Earl face to face, and take on an army of Akuma, without anyone thinking that unusual, but he can't make love to his beloved? What kind of screwed up logic is that?"

After a long silence, Lavi chuckled tiredly; "So, war and sex are the same thing to you?"

"I'm not ignorant, Lavi. You think I don't know how sex works? I'll remind you that Shishou is the biggest male slut anywhere."

Lavi sat bolt upright, yanking his headband down. His eye was wide with horror; "Don't tell me...! Cross-gensui didn't...!"

"Didn't what?"

"He was supposed to teach you to be an Exorcist, not... not...! Jesus fucking Christ!"

Allen blinked in confusion; "It's not like I participated in anything, Lavi, I just know about it."

Lavi stared at him for the longest time, before he sighed with relief and flopped back down. "Good. There are some lines that shouldn't be crossed. Master and apprentice is one of them. Not to mention the fact that you hate his guts. There's nothing romantic about molestation."

Allen about choked. "You thought that he... with me...? Oh god, Lavi! How could you think something like that?"

"What choice did you leave me? You practically said that he taught you about sex!"

"I said no such thing! Shishou didn't teach me a single damned thing! He forced me to learn things, but he didn't teach them to me. I'll tell you something, Lavi: you learn pretty damned quick what the whole act is about when you're subject to night after night of listening to different women making all kinds of weird noises and then crying 'Cross-sama!' at climax. You figure it all out pretty quickly."

Lavi put a hand to his stomach, suddenly very nauseous at the thought of having to endure that every night for three years. No wonder the kid equated sex with fighting and war! "Good god, that man has no shame, has he? Still, all that aside, it doesn't make it okay for me to... for us to... it doesn't change the fact that you're underage."

Allen heaved a sigh; this was going nowhere in a damned hurry. Lavi was stubborn as hell and certainly wasn't going to give an inch, at least for today. And anyway, Allen was too tired and stressed from being interrogated over the wireless network by the Pope's cronies. Frankly, he didn't want any more stress and headache, and he didn't want to argue with Lavi.

"I don't mind sharing the bed with you, Allen. In fact, it sounds kind of nice. I just want to be clear that there's a limit to how far I'm willing to go right now."

"What time is it anyway?" Allen rummaged around in his pockets for a pocket watch, failing miserably.

"Ehn, probably around eight or so," Lavi said. "I think it was around four or so when we left Turino. Gah, I am definitely tired. And sore! That guardian, she can really move. I haven't been this muscle-sore since... well, I'm not sure. I guess since fighting that damned Noah in Edo. I kept getting thrown around into buildings and stuff."

"Looks like I'm not the only one who hasn't gotten back to a hundred percent yet."

"Ehn," Lavi grunted. "I suppose. But I didn't lose litres and litres of blood."

"No, but you did sustain some pretty significant burns. Second degree, I believe. And you had a lot of internal damage."

"Oh, and you didn't? You who had his whole right side ripped wide open!" Lavi got up off the bed and went over to the dresser, where he began stripping off most of his uniform. "I think I'm just going to go to bed. I'm just that tired." He paused. "I don't think I snore, but if I do, feel free to punch me."

"Aww man, I wanted to go get something to eat," Allen grumbled. "But if you're going to go to bed, I guess I can't very well do that."

"Why not?" Lavi retorted. "I'd rather not listen to you moan and whine all night about how hungry you are."

"Uh, what part of 'constant surveillance' are you not quite grasping?"

"Huh?" Lavi stared at him uncomprehendingly for a full thirty seconds, before he grimaced. "Aww, fuck, that's right. I was just so eager to get some sleep I totally forgot." He pulled some of the uniform back on, to make himself presentable in public. "Right, then, let's go get you fed. Then I'm going to dive into bed and sleep for the next two weeks."

As they got to the cafeteria, they saw Arystar Krory and Miranda Lotto sitting at a table together, deep in conversation. This was a welcome sight to both Allen and Lavi, who had known Krory the longest of anyone in the Order. Krory, a reticent Romanian baron with a shy nature and a tendency to be a wallflower in crowded situations, was starting to open up to Miranda, another shrinking violet who preferred intimate company to crowds. Miranda had also come to adore the tall baron as more than just nakama. While it seemed unlikely that Krory would ever come to love Miranda as much as he had loved Eliade, it seemed that at least he was starting to open up and connect with Miranda on a deeper level than casual friendship.

Allen squelched the urge to take and hold Lavi's hand. They had to maintain discretion. But seeing his nakama getting chummy just made his heart feel lighter.

"Lavi, you look like hell," Krory said as the two approached the table that he and Miranda were at.

"Thanks, Kro-chan, I love you too," Lavi griped, yawning and massaging his neck. "I'm beat to death here, but Allen's stomach is making all kinds of noise -- there's no way I'll be able to sleep if he leaves it empty. You parasitics and your bottomless-pit stomachs. Gah."

Miranda covered her mouth as she laughed. "Lavi-san, you look like you're going to fall asleep standing up! Why don't you go to bed?"

"Cuz I'm under orders to keep an eye on Beansprout," Lavi said flippantly. "And his stomach is so loud that I'd never sleep if I don't let him fill it up."

"Under orders?" Krory arched an eyebrow.

"Keep an eye?" Miranda said simultaneously.

"Beansprout?!" Allen exploded at the same moment. "Dammit, Lavi, stop calling me that!"

"What happened?" Krory asked.

"The Vatican's full of complete idiots," Lavi responded bitterly. "They seem to think Allen's a Noah because he can operate the Ark. So they want him under surveillance at all times, and Panda-jiiji apparently nominated me to do it."

"And the Vatican agreed to that?" Krory said incredulously.

"Why not? They don't know anything about me." Lavi gave the baron a warning look. "They think I'm still a puppet of the bookmen, and that the bookmen are impartial. Jiiji's got a lot of sway on the Vatican, apparently." He rubbed the back of his neck self-consciously. "I do owe him big-time for this, though. Guess this means he's giving up on me."

"I don't think so," Allen said as he gave Lavi's shoulders a downward push, insisting he sit down at the table. "I think he's just using logic. He probably understands that the only person I'd agree to have in my presence at all times is going to be you."

"Doesn't sound to me like anyone cares what you want, Allen," Krory said seriously. Allen shrugged and headed toward the order window to place his order.

"On the other hand, having one or both of us maim somebody from the Vatican because he won't give us any privacy, isn't going to help our cause," Lavi replied. "Allen's not as meek and mild as he looks."

"Of course not," Krory said. "Did you forget that I was there in that one chamber with the rest of you? I saw him fighting that crazy two-faced Noah. He hauled off and punched them in the face with his right hand because his left hand wouldn't let him make a fist with it. Remember?"

"No," Lavi blinked. "When did that happen?"

"He and I did it at the same time. Oh, wait a minute." Krory paused. "That's right, you were probably still on top of the column, with the key. When you found the real key, it broke the twins' illusion, which meant that Allen and I could see them. So we paid them back for the punches they'd dealt us."

"Oh, that? That was because he was annoyed and angry, and Lenalee was in trouble." Lavi waved his hand. "He said something about it to me later. But seriously, he's not that meek, and I know he doesn't like the Vatican now that they've accused him of treason."

"I still can't see Allen-kun mauling anyone," Miranda said softly. "He's too nice."

Lavi snorted. "Who's to say he'd be the one doing the mauling? He just probably wouldn't lift a finger to stop me."

Allen returned then with a large bowl of rice, some fried chicken and pork, and some mitarashi dango. "This should tide me over until morning."

"Hmm," Lavi grunted, feeling the full of his exhaustion start to weigh on him. He reached over and grabbed a kabob of dango from the plate. "You owe me for this, by the way, Allen. I could be asleep right now. And you could've used a golem to call for room service. I'm sure Komui would've made an allowance for that."

Allen blinked; "I... didn't even think of something like that. Why didn't you?"

"Too damned tired to think straight." Lavi bit into the dango and chewed tiredly, swallowing with some effort. "Bah, sweet things. No wonder you're so sugar-sweet, Allen. You eat too much of these things."

Allen noted that both Miranda and Krory had turned somewhat red and were looking at their own plates, determined not to look at either of them. Since he was sitting next to Miranda, and therefore across the table from Lavi, who was seated next to Krory, Allen kicked him in the shins.

"Ouch! What was that for?"

Allen just glared at him.

"So, uh, how long are we going to be here?" Miranda said, managing not to stutter. "At this headquarters, I mean."

"Well at least until our home is stabilized and we can return there." Lavi folded his arms on the table, scooted his chair back a bit, and rested his head on his arms. He wearily closed his eyes and waited for Allen to eat his fill. The others around him carried on their conversation while he dozed, trying to maintain as much consciousness as necessary but also trying to catch some rest. He hadn't realized just how bloody tired he really was until now!

Finally, he felt someone touch his elbow, and jerked awake. Allen was standing behind him, grasping his arm gently. "Let's go, Lavi. You've been very patient, and I'm sorry it took so long." He helped Lavi stand up, pulling an arm across his shoulders to help support him. Lavi just let him do it, even though he really didn't need the support. He liked the close contact with Allen. And he was pretty damned tired.

Still can't believe this kid wants to have sex already. Geez. And it's not like I don't want it too, but damn! Someone needs to show some restraint. And besides, I got no freakin' clue exactly how to do it with another male. It'd be fun to learn, I suppose. Hey, watch yourself, Lavi. Don't give him any signals that you really want it too. He closed his eyes and calmed his blood.

He promptly lost all track of time, and when he came to himself, he was already sitting on the bed in their room. Even more confusing, he was already out of his uniform and in his pajamas. When had that happened? Allen was standing by the dresser with his back to Lavi; he was undressing. Lavi just watched absently, his fog of exhaustion clouding his normal reaction to such a sight.

Allen really was built very sturdily, if you looked carefully. He seemed slim and awkward now because his body was still changing. He was still maturing, physically. But looking carefully, it was easy to see that his muscles were all well-toned and firm from regular exercise. He was quite attractive, really. When he was silent and occupied, he exuded a strength and masculinity that sometimes got lost in the face of his normally-docile demeanor.

In his exhaustion, Lavi didn't keep a tight enough rein on his thoughts.

I'd definitely "hit" that. Not sure exactly how, but I'd definitely try.

Good god. What the hell was wrong with him? He was lusting after a fifteen-year-old... He flopped down on the bed and pulled his headband down over his eyes. This was starting to bother him. Dammit, Allen! Why did you have to bring up the subject of sex in the first place?

He heard Allen's footsteps approach the bed and then felt the bed shift as Allen crawled into his side. Finally, heaving a sigh, Lavi maneuvered himself around so that his head rested on his pillow now. Allen pulled the top-sheet and blankets up over both of them, gentling tucking in around Lavi. He dropped a tender kiss on Lavi's forehead.

"Good night, Lavi. Sleep well."

Lavi reached out and twined his arms around Allen, pulling close to him. "I love you, Allen." Just in case you thought my refusing sex with you meant otherwise...

Allen just shifted a bit and rolled over. Unable to keep his body from relaxing with the comfort of the soft mattress, combined with an adored bedmate, Lavi sank into the darkness of sleep.

Author's After-Word: The reason for this story being multi-chaptered unlike the others is because of the (potential) lime. I felt that having the lime in the same chapter as the parts where Lavi is so adamantly against sex might therefore cheapen things a bit. It also kind of, to quote one of my beta, "ruins the budding intimacy tone of the story." So, I've chosen to end the chapter here, in a natural stopping point, and I will resume the story in a second chapter. I can't guarantee the lime will be in the next chapter, because I believe that it would be out of character for Allen to bully Lavi into doing something he doesn't want to do, and right now Lavi's pretty adamant about not going that far.

But in regards to the planned lime: I can hear Dhampir72 cheering! And she should -- she's the reason I'm attempting it. Hehe.