Author's Note: Thanks to all my loyal readers (and especially to my beloved betas, Arron and Patti -- you guys are totally the best!) for the wonderful ride. This is likely the last story of this sequence, but I don't know. I've read a couple of doujins and seen some art on Digital Scoop that has gotten the creative juices really flowing. However, any sequel that happens will likely take place some distance in the future, with our boys as adults. Anyway, here's to everyone who stuck with me. I'm not done with DGM by a long road, but I think this story has finally run it's course. OR HAS IT?

I couldn't resist a little stab at George W. Bush. I just couldn't resist. It's very subtle, but it's there. Blame my bitterness of these upcoming elections.

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: If you haven't read all the chapters so far, you might wanna do that. If you have, then I won't repeat myself. However... this chapter is officially elevated mature -- as in, NC-17. There is a lemon in here. It's a mild lemon, but it's a lemon. There is sex happening. Yes. Yes, Dhampir72, you can stop squealing now.


"In a far off wonderland that flashes past my eyes, the kiss of inspiration that was mine
The dust of many centuries has blown across this land, but love will not be scattered by the sand
"
-- The Moody Blues, "Bless the Wings (That Bring You Back)"


"Angelus"
Part Seven: Lighting the Darkness

Allen blinked the sand from his eyes.

Sand? No, it wasn't sand; it was dried skin and the salt of dried tears.

He was on his back, looking up at the white ceiling of the piano room. Timcanpy was sitting on his forehead, patting his eyebrows with its little paws.

"Are you okay, Allen-kun?" Lenalee leaned over him, looking concerned. "You sort of passed out."

"How long have I been out?"

"Not long at all. Maybe thirty seconds."

"Lavi!" Allen sat up abruptly -- and the motion sent Timcanpy flying right into the front of the piano with a loud bang! The keyguard slammed down over the keys. The golem righted itself and turned, glaring at its master. Allen, meanwhile, holding his aching side with the injured rib and gasping for breath, struggled to his feet. "Did it work? Shishou! Did it work?"

"Well, he appears to be here and unharmed, but he's barely conscious," Cross's voice said over the transmitter. "What are you going to do next, baka-deshi?."

"I'm coming in there. I want to see with my own eyes if it worked." Allen turned to Lenalee. "I'm sorry, Lenalee, but... can I get your help...?"

"Of course, you don't even need to ask. Here." She hoisted him up and guided him to the door. With a touch, he changed its target, and they emerged into room 749. Lavi was prostrate on the ground, but he was moving slowly. Sokaro and Cross crouched next to him, watching him carefully.

"I feel hung over..." Lavi murmured. (Or was it Bookman Junior?) His hands were at his forehead. Then his head snapped up. "Allen! Where's Allen?"

Well, that was promising. But no, Allen couldn't be certain just yet. Bookman Junior had fooled him once before.

When Lavi spied him, being supported by Lenalee, the redhead scrambled dizzily to his feet and stumbled over. "Oh my god, I really did beat you up. Christ, Allen, I'm so sorry! I didn't want you to ever see that side of me!" Tears began to slide down his cheeks. "I won't blame you if you hate me for it, but dammit, I tried my hardest to wrestle him down. No control on his vices, that one, because he doesn't understand restraint and attachments. So emotionally retarded that it's not even funny. I guess you could say I'm a complete wreck. I'm absolutely worthless without a false persona in control."

Allen unlatched himself from Lenalee and managed to stay standing upright. "You're Lavi now? You're not Bookman Junior? I got fooled once, and you know what they say: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me..." A stitch in his side prevented him from finishing the statement.

"You can't get fooled again, Allen," Lavi chuckled through his tears. "I know you too well. I'm sorry, I really am. I tried to warn you when he started to take over, but it happened so fast. He just slammed me into a chamber inside my own mind and proceeded to go wild. I swear, he screwed everything up! He even lied about what's on the artifact!"

Allen closed his eyes for a moment and searched his senses. He felt no sinister presence this time. I'm going to throw caution to the wind and assume that this really is Lavi this time. It felt right. I felt "Bookman Junior" disappear when I deconstructed him. I'm sure I felt his anger and hatred melt away into the darkness. And I held onto "Lavi" when I rebuilt him. I'm not entirely sure if "Bookman Junior" was completely erased, but I'm sure I eased his agony. I could feel his anger and his desire to cease existing. I hope he found peace, however it came to him. I'm... I have to believe that "Lavi" is the one in him now, now and always.

Slowly, awkwardly, Allen moved forward, until he was right in front of Lavi. When he tried to put his arms around the redhead, he stumbled and nearly collapsed, panting with the effort and wincing at the pain in his side.

"Damn, Allen, stop pushing yourself so hard! As if I don't feel bad enough!"

"Welcome back, Lavi. I'm so glad you came back to me!" Allen wrapped his arms tightly around his lover's shoulders, clinging to him. "I was afraid you were lost to me forever."

"I'm sorry, Allen. I thought I was too... and I wish I knew how you fixed things," Lavi murmured, holding him close. There was a prolonged silence as the two of them just clung to each other. "Thank you, Allen. Really. Thank you. I'm sorry I hurt you like that. I didn't want to. I thought my heart was going to break in half when he tried to kill you. I was sure you'd hate me after that."

"I knew it wasn't you, Lavi. How could I hate you?"

"Aww, cut me a little slack! When you're nothing more than an intangible idea, abstract things like logic aren't exactly your forte!"

Allen just had to believe that this was truly Lavi. It would hurt too much for it to be otherwise.

"So how badly did I work you over? I couldn't tell the extent of your injuries, I just know I did a number on you."

"Ah, just a rib and a lung. Nothing serious. If we're lucky and Catherine's there when we get home, it'll probably heal in nothing flat. You're really my Lavi..." Allen felt his eyes sting with tears of relief. "I'm so glad. I was so afraid you were lost forever. I tried to bind you to your blood, Lavi. I don't know if it worked or not, but I thought maybe if I could, then you'd never be fully erased."

Lavi stared at him in complete and utter incomprehension. "What?"

"Nevermind. It's getting kind of hard to talk."

"Looks like it worked, then," Sokaro said, looking over at Cross. "So now what?"

"If we don't do something about the Pope, the entire alliance between the Order and the church will go up in smoke if we don't hand that kid over to them to make an example of. And there's no way the Order will condone that, nor the bookmen. Damn, if I'd known that barrier would do that on that kid, I wouldn't have let him go into it. I figured it'd just knock that silly immature side out of him. I had no idea it'd make him into a fighting machine."

"I wondered why you told them the barrier was affecting only Akuma. I figured you had your reasons."

"I didn't want them to get all panicky. I didn't realize how bad the situation would get. That idiot Komui, he's going to have a lot to answer for, not fully debriefing me!"

"Serves you fucking right, Marian, for not keeping in touch with HQ for so long!" The armored gensui guffawed. "You can't expect them to tell you everything if you don't keep in contact." There was a pause as Sokaro grew serious again. "So it's up to you'n'me, ain't it, Marian. These kids won't be anything but a nuisance."

"Yeah," Cross said finally, looking over at the five Exorcists. "You kids go home. You got the details of that artifact, right?" He looked directly at Lavi.

Lavi nodded once. "There's a lot more to it than Latin and Greek."

"And you can replicate it, right? Down to the last detail?"

"Yes."

"So it won't matter if the original gets destroyed?"

"What? Er, no, it won't matter, but..."

"Good, then get out of here," Sokaro said. "Go back to headquarters and report to the Supervisor. Marian and I will clean up the mess." By now, Kanda and Krory were in the room.

"Get the artifact information back to HQ," Cross added. "That's your mission, isn't it? It's up to us to make sure that diplomatic relations aren't completely trashed."

"You said the artifact was a bust." Kanda glowered at Lavi. "You said it had nothing of value on it."

"I didn't say that, he did," Lavi said defensively. "He lied. He's a lying son-of-a-bitch who doesn't want the Black Order to get what it wants."

Kanda didn't look the least bit convinced. However, he didn't say anything; he merely stared Lavi down.

"What, you think bookmen don't have agendas? You guys are spoiled by Jiiji's easy-going nature and his lack of pretenses because of who he is."

"I never thought of Bookman as easy-going," Lenalee said with a smile. "Not with how he smacks you around!"

"Ah, well, nine times out of ten, I totally deserve it. Hate to admit it, but I am still kind of a kid."

"We already knew that," Krory jeered gently. "Allen, I will carry you. Lavi looks pretty badly worn out as well, so I doubt he has the strength to carry you."

"No," Allen said, carefully inflating his lungs and noting that both lungs filled; apparently the one was only bruised, not collapsed. "No, Krory, I'm okay. I'll be fine."

"Right. That settles it," the baron retorted, sweeping Allen up and hoisting him onto his back, despite Allen's protests. "Whenever you insist you are okay, you never actually are."

"Say, uh, Kro-chan?" Lavi scratched at his head. "Allen needs to use the piano, I think, in order to get us home, and you're a mite too tall for him to play it properly."

"This is a problem?" Krory shrugged. "I can set him down and pick him up again. It is the least I can do in exchange for being so useless in the Vatican."

"Wasn't your fault, you know. It was the barrier," Lavi replied. "I'm not surprised it affected you that much, since your Innocence is parasitic and therefore in your blood; Allen's is too, but he's past Critical Point, so he probably didn't notice it as quickly."

They all filed into the piano room, while the two gensui exited the Ark through the door that led to Saint Peter's Square. As Allen sat down at the piano again, steadied by Krory's strong hands, he focused on the coordinates of the Black Order building. The Ark seemed perfectly happy to acquiesce to his request, though it was a bit rambunctious and bucked a bit when he first started play. Kanda and Lavi were thrown against the nearby wall, eliciting a couple of ugly expletives from both.

"Allen-kun, what's going on?" Lenalee clutched at Krory's cape, while the baron shifted his weight to go along with the Ark's movements.

"This is normal," Allen said. "The Ark is orienting itself. Outside this room you wouldn't feel it, because you'd be moving with it."

"Uh... okay," the young woman blinked and shook her head. "I'm going to just trust you on this, Allen-kun."

"Oww, I hit my head!" Lavi was complaining. He had slumped against the wall. "Yuu, gimme a hand?"

"Hell no," Kanda retorted. "Get up yourself. You're not injured. The beansprout's in worse shape than you."

"You're so cold, Yuu." That whiny voice was like music to Allen at this point, though he wasn't sure how much longer he'd be able to put up with all these annoying quirks as cute proof that his lover was back, before he snapped and belted him for being annoying.

Slap!

"Ow! Yuu, 'the hell was that for?"

"For being stupid; for being an asshole; for attacking the Pope and screwing everything up in doing so; for worrying everyone else; but mostly, for bitchslapping me into the wall in the Vatican."

"Hey now, that wasn't me!"

"Whether or not you were in control doesn't matter to me."

"Damn, Yuu, you're ruthless."

There was another lurch as the Ark found its coordinates and latched on. This time, when it locked down, the resulting movement caused even the piano to move a little bit.

"I guess the wards are repelling the Ark like they're supposed to; it felt like it was bouncing off of something," Allen said as explanation when the others looked at him. "I don't know. Ow!" He doubled over as his ribs twinged. "I've had worse injuries, why does this one hurt so much?"

"Because it is so superficial," Krory said as he hoisted Allen onto his back again. "The more severe an injury, the less it hurts, it seems."

"I really don't need you to carry me, you know, Krory."

"I do not recall giving you the option of deciding, Allen. This is my choice. Shut up and deal with it." The Romanian grinned over his shoulder at Allen. Krory could be as polite as anyone, and usually was more polite than necessary, even more so than Allen; but when the situation warranted it, the baron could be quite forceful and finite.

Kanda opened the door, and stepped through without hesitation. Lenalee and Lavi followed suit, and then Krory and Allen.

"Okay, who turned out the lights?" was the first thing Allen heard upon emerging into pitch black.

"Idiot!" There was a bonk! noise as Kanda swatted the redhead; "It's just nighttime and we're outside."

"Outside?"

"You can start by opening your eyes, Lavi!" Lenalee giggled. "You'll see better that way."

"Don't wanna!"

"Beansprout, why are we here?"

"I guess these were the only coordinates the Ark could land on," Allen said wearily. They were at the foot of the path that lead up a winding trail to the spiral building of their home base. "I imagine that there are protections against any coordinates closer to the building, since the last raid."

"Oh well, it's not far at all," Krory said optimistically as he started up the path.

"I just hope that idiot gate guard doesn't give us trouble again," Allen murmured, resigning himself to being carried. He felt a touch to his leg and looked over to see Lavi walking beside them, looking at him with concern.

"Are you sure that it's only your ribs? I've seen you take much worse injuries than that."

"Well, anything I say won't be taken seriously," Allen said with a trace of bitter peevishness, thumping Krory's shoulder, "so what does it matter? I think it's only my ribs, but no one cares what I think it is!"

"I am not going to repeat myself again," the baron retorted good-naturedly. "I have my reasons for doing this."

"That reminds me Lavi," Lenalee said. Her smile sent up an alarm in Allen's head. He'd seen that kind of smile on her before; not very often, but enough that he knew what was coming. Lavi had no idea, though, apparently.

"Mm?" The redhead looked at her, and she laid him flat with a well-aimed kick. "OW! Son of a... why is everyone picking on me?!"

"That's for beating up Allen-kun, since he's in no condition to do it himself right now."

Lavi made a whining noise as he picked himself up off the ground and caught up with the others.

Krory's pace proved to be very quick indeed, because he and Allen were in front of the building long before the others. Allen tapped his transmitter and hoped for the best. "Komui-san? Can you hear me? We're right outside the door. Please, uh, just open up. We're tired and we've had a hell of a time."

"Man, Kro-chan, I wish I had shanks like you!" Lavi was gasping for breath by the time he and Kanda arrived at the door. "I had no idea your stride was that long!"

"Allen-kun?" Komui's voice sounded over the transmitter after a delay. "Where did you say you were?"

"We're in front of the main door."

"How did you get back so fast? I thought I told you to only use the Ark in a dire emergency."

"It was a dire emergency. I'll explain more later; please, just unlock the door."

"Right, but you're going to have to come straight to my office and report, because I just got a call from the Vatican about one of my Exorcists attacking the Pope."

"Crap," Lavi grumbled. "I'm going to be in such deep shit for this for a long time."

Lenalee put a hand on his shoulder; "Nii-san will listen to what you have to say, Lavi. He cares about the Exorcists, you know. He won't throw you to the wolves. He'll do what he can to protect you, and he won't abandon you."

"Thanks, but I'm not really worried about what Komui will do to me," Lavi said resignedly. "I know how he is with Exorcists. But damn, Jiiji is going to kick my butt right into next month for this."

The doorway groaned and creaked as the gears started to turn and the door lifted. They were brought face-to-face with none other than Froi Tiedoll-gensui.

"Ah, it is you kids. Good. Just wanted to make sure. Seemed a little fishy to have an Ark suddenly appear and then to hear Allen-kun's voice calling for the doors to be opened." The gensui's eyes went right to Lavi. "I hear some serious uproar happened in the Vatican. The explanation on this ought to be good, since diplomatic relations are likely to be in shambles, with the two least diplomatic gensui left to deal with the Pope."

Lavi looked like someone had just kicked the ladder out from underneath him. If he'd been a dog, his ears would have gone flat against his skull and his tail would have curled under his belly... he probably would have been crawling on the ground in a grovel as well by now.

Tiedoll-gensui escorted them up the stairs, up several flights, directly to the Supervisor's office. Cloud Nine was also there, with her student Catherine. Komui was on the phone, with his right-hand-man Reever standing next to his desk. Krory set Allen down once they were inside the office. Allen instinctively gravitated over to Lavi, and was just about to speak to his lover, when he saw Lavi's face go a shade or two paler. Following his gaze, Allen saw what had Lavi so alarmed, though he didn't quite understand why Lavi was so spooked.

At the far end of the room sat none other than Bookman himself. The old man was eyeing Lavi rather severely. The redhead wilted under his stare.

Allen grasped Lavi's hand and squeezed it. "I'm here with you, Lavi. You did nothing wrong," he murmured to his lover. "They'll understand that soon enough."

"Take a seat, Lavi." Komui said as he hung up the receiver.

Lavi perched himself on the sofa, and Allen sat down as well, trying not to hold his side, though he could tell by the way she was looking at him that Catherine wasn't deceived.

There was a long silence as the Supervisor regarded the Exorcists. Lenalee and Krory gathered behind the sofa, joined by Miranda Lotto, who had heard the commotion and had come to see what her nakama had discovered. Kanda remained on the far wall, feigning indifference.

"So," Komui said, his voice flat, "I'm told that a number of hours ago, a redhead with an eyepatch, wearing an Exorcist uniform and claiming to be Bookman Junior, physically attacked and injured His Holiness, Pope Leo XIII. We have only two red-haired Exorcists, one of whom is a gensui. And frankly, there is only one genuine Exorcist that would ever presume to call himself a bookman." The Supervisor was clearly furious. "Lavi, when I sent you on this mission, I was under the impression that you could maintain diplomacy and policy no matter the circumstances. I certainly didn't suspect you capable of doing this! Exactly what were you thinking? The Vatican is practically calling for your head."

Lenalee quietly and surreptitiously put a hand on Lavi's shoulder. Lavi shrugged her hand off; "I'll take what's coming to me on my own, Lenalee. I don't need your pity."

"You won't take it on your own," Allen said sharply. "We were all there, we saw what happened."

"Well, someone needs to explain this," Komui said coldly. "This is not a small matter. That was not some minor priest you attacked, Lavi. That was the Pope. You do realize how indebted to the Papacy the Black Order is, don't you? Without the blessings of the church, we have no power whatsoever."

"He came out, didn't he." Bookman's gravelly voice split the sudden silence. His statement, though phrased as a question, was in no way even questioning.

Lavi looked over at the old man and then looked down. "Yeah."

"Hmm." Bookman's eyes swept the room silently. "Supervisor, I must apologize. This appears to have been caused by my failure to follow through with procedure. I didn't realize he was stupid enough to actually risk that by entering into that barrier. You see, this young idiot has an inherited predisposition toward sudden fits of inexplicable rage at the drop of a pin, and a tendency toward expressing that rage with his fists. He comes by that honestly, just as he comes by that bright red hair."

The room was dead silent as everyone turned their attention to the old man.

"You're just like your father, Lavi. Trigger temper, flame-colored hair and all. The only difference is that I got you early enough to channel that innate anger through the use of personae. On your own, you're a walking time-bomb."

Lavi's jaw unhinged; "Wait, Jiiji! You knew my old man?"

"Knew him? I practically raised him. He was one of my potential successors at one point, but his blind rages made him unfit to be a bookman. You are the spitting image of your father, I might add. Did you think it was a coincidence that when your mother decided to disappear, that she chose the Bookman Clan, instead of an orphanage, to leave her son? She owed us that much, for supporting her after your father abandoned you both. But I digress a bit.

"I assumed you would be too intimidated by the prospect of losing yourself and wouldn't be tempted into the barrier without me there with you. That was my mistake. I should have known better. You're bloody well nearly fearless. However, either the barrier has weakened considerably, or somehow you managed to retain yourself, because you clearly have reverted." Bookman approached the redhead and got right in his face, looking him over critically. "So how did you manage it?"

"Allen did it," Lavi murmured. "I have no idea how. I was too busy fighting with Junior. Next thing I know, everything's dark, I hear Junior fade, and then I wake up and I've got a hangover the size of China. The barrier wasn't weakened at all. I just was clinging so tight that it couldn't erase me right away. I was very nearly dissolved entirely when Allen yanked us onto the Ark. Thirty seconds more and it would've been too late."

"Would you mind explaining this to me?" Komui interrupted. "Frankly, I'm confused and not understanding this at all, and I'm the one they're all screaming at."

"There is a protective supernatural barrier around the Vatican. It is especially strong around Saint Peter's Basilica, since that's where it is centered. The barrier itself is far, far older than our recorded knowledge of Innocence. There are details I cannot and will not reveal, but suffice to say, it is generated continuously and maintained by the holy relics within the great basilica; in particular, the remains of the first pope himself. The barrier is tied to and reinforced by the incumbent Pope throughout history, but it is primarily generated by the Tomb of Saint Peter. It is meant to protect the Pope himself and the Holy See from the likes of the Earl. Because Innocence is the polar opposite of the Earl's dark matter, and because it was only discovered recently in comparison to the history of the Vatican, the shield of course blocks Innocence as well. It also blocks most spells, benign or otherwise."

Komui nodded when the old man paused to see if he'd digested all that. "Go on."

"The practice of using personae utilized by the clan is done by using benign spells to bind the persona to something tangible. This makes the persona automatic and overrides many of the natural impulses. Case in point: this idiot, without a persona, has a natural tendency toward being stand-offish and analytical. He tends to react slowly but accurately, except when his ire is sparked. By training his subconscious with the persona of Lavi, he has lightning-fast reactions and a general inclination toward magnanimity and teamwork. He would not have blended in well with the other Exorcists had I left him as he was. As 'Lavi' he works well in a group or alone, and doesn't get angry easily.

"The point of the persona is that it is automatic, meaning that the wearer will stay true to the personality in nearly every single possible situation. It is a subconscious alteration of personality quirks. Therefore, it doesn't require acting. It makes blending into a society that much easier. Unfortunately, there is a price to it; the more personae a bookman takes on, the harder it is on him when the persona is used up and discarded. I won't say a piece of the soul is lost, because that's not true, but there is a piece of identity that is lost when the persona is abandoned. Memories are retained, for what is a historian who forgets? However, they can be difficult to interpret if they are laced with emotions."

Bookman paused and observed Lavi. "I will say this much, Lavi. You were definitely the most promising I've ever had. It pains me to do this, but it seems you've given me no choice. Look at me, boy."

Reluctantly, Lavi raised his eye to meet the old man's. Bookman reached out and placed his hands on Lavi's temples, pressing them with his fingertips. "I hereby strip you of your rank as Successor of Bookman. I hereby strip you of any clan affiliation. Henceforth, you are not a bookman, but merely a supporter." As he spoke, he tapped at Lavi's temples in a rhythmic pattern.

There was no response from Lavi. Allen throttled down a wave of panic at the glassy look of his eye.

"Now then," Bookman said, stepping back a bit. "Tell me who you are. Tell me your name and occupation."

There was only the slightest of hesitations as Lavi found his speaking voice. His answer was firm and resolute. "My name is Lavi, and I am an Exorcist for the Black Order."

"Good!" Bookman snapped his fingers loudly, and Lavi blinked. "No intervention on my part is necessary. However you were restored, it was done better than I could have done. I could not even find any traces of any other personae. And as the head of the bookman clan, I believe this will suffice as punishment for your behavior." He gave Lavi the slightest shadow of a smile, as if in apology. "There may be some side effects, some memories forgotten, but they should all be procedural only. And the memories are not completely lost yet, merely disconnected."

Komui pressed his hands to his face; "This isn't helping much; I've still got infuriated cardinals on the horn calling for us to hand over the attacker. And now you wash your hands of him."

"I don't recall washing my hands of him. I demoted him. He is still under my aegis, I believe. I did not cast him out entirely. It is my understanding that while the Black Order relies on the Vatican, it is not answerable to the Papacy. I think that if you assure the Holy See that the Exorcist in question will be suitably punished, they cannot ask for more than that."

"Hmm," the Supervisor murmured after a pause. "I suppose you're right. Anyway, the more important thing is this artifact. I take it, since you were in the Vatican, that it was confiscated by the Holy See. I hope that you were at least able to get a good look at it, Lavi?"

"Yeah, I saw it. And I can duplicate what was written on it. I couldn't read all of it, it was really, really eroded, but there was both Latin and Greek, and something else. I'm not sure if it was Sanskrit or what. You know, I don't want to be a pest or anything, but I'm thinking someone should take Allen to the medic ward? He's got at least a bruised or cracked rib."

"I was wondering why he looks like he's in excruciating pain," Catherine said from where she stood just behind her gensui. "Allen, let me have a look at you. I also wanted to talk to you about something else." She bustled over, grasping Allen by the arm and gently helping him up.

"Don't worry, Allen-kun," Lenalee said reassuringly, when Allen looked down at Lavi with a questioning expression on his face. "Krory and I will stay here with Lavi. And Kanda can help us explain things a bit more too."

"Uh, okay." Allen surrendered to Catherine's insistence and followed her out of the office. The nurse was silent as she escorted him to a nearby medical room. Allen chose not to break the silence, not really sure what to say to the matter anyway. Silently, Catherine conducted her examination, utilizing her Innocence to help her isolate the injury.

"It's just a bruise. I don't see any fractures or cracks. Still... would you mind telling me how you got a rib injury? Does it have to do with the whole incident with the Pope?"

"Yeah, kind of. Lavi became Bookman Junior, and lost his temper, so I had to open the Ark and pull him in. He got really angry with me and basically, in a round-about way, he attacked me. He really is an amazing fighter. I'd have enjoyed much better if I hadn't been on the receiving end of it."

The French woman pursed her lips in concentration. She uncorked her Innocence bottle and activated it. "I'm not sure if this will work or not, I haven't figured out what all its limitations are, but it can't hurt, especially you." She handed him the bottle. "Go ahead, drink all of it."

When he finished and handed it back, she perched herself on a stool. "The other thing I wanted to talk to you about... well, it's a little more sensitive."

Allen blinked owlishly at her.

"I may be assuming to much about you and Lavi-san, but... you know, there are ways to make it more comfortable. Lubricants, for one."

Allen felt his face flame. "Uh..."

"I'm sorry, I don't mean to presume; I'm just concerned that you might hurt each other in your ignorance. Anal intercourse isn't easy, and it's extremely uncomfortable, if not painful, if you're not fully prepared. Unlike vaginal intercourse, there is no real natural preparation; frankly, that part of the body isn't used to having something stuck into it, so it doesn't have any natural lubricants to ease such." She stopped a moment. "Good god, Allen, are you okay? You're about as red as Lavi-san's hair!"

"I, uh, can't, er, believe... how can you, er, talk so casually about it?"

"What, you think I'm totally ignorant? Come on, my brother's had a few flings with other men, and it's not like I'm completely innocent myself. I am betrothed, you know. Banns posted, the whole nine yards. The only reason Pascal and I are not married yet is financial. It costs a lot of money to get married."

Allen tried to figure out how to politely ask her why any of this mattered, but she got to the point almost as soon as he thought it. "What I'm saying is, I'm not a virgin, haven't been for a couple of years, and believe me, my fiance is a lusty man. He likes to try different things. You name a position, we've probably done tried it. And my point here is that I'm not a stranger to anal sex. I don't particularly like it, but I have an alternative. But I'm not ignorant to it, and I know how uncomfortable it can be. So I'm just saying, there are techniques to make it easier."

"Er," Allen rubbed his face, trying to will the fierce blush down, "Jerry kinda advised us with 'stretch, lube, go slow.'"

Catherine sputtered with laughter and covered her mouth, biting down on the back of her hand to suppress the laughter. "Oh, god, that man. I honestly can't tell if he's homosexual, bisexual or what. But he's precious, really. His wonderful cooking aside, he's such a wonderful person. Ah, but now I digress. He's right, that's a pretty good way to look at it. I'll just add the word 'repeat' to that mantra. How are you feeling now? Has the Aqua Vitae helped?"

"Yeah, actually. It has. I feel much better. Amazing!" Allen pulled in a deep breath of air, relieved that his ribcage no longer hurt.

"Had that been an actual crack or fracture, I'm not sure Aqua Vitae would have been much help. It seems to work mostly with blood, and it appears to work best on you, for some reason. I'm assuming it's because you are parasitic, and it's so Innocence-laden that the Innocence within it responds to yours. Bruising is really just an injury to blood vessels, so I'm not surprised that Aqua Vitae worked for you."

There was a long silence as Allen stood up and put his shirt and coat back on.

"Petroleum jelly," Catherine said, standing up and flipping errant curls back from her face.

"Huh?"

"That's a good sufficient lubricant. And it's common. It's also a good all around ointment, which is why it's stocked in all Exorcists' rooms. It's great for rashes and burns."

"Ah, uh," Allen coughed. "Thanks. I think."

"I'm only trying to help, Allen. I don't mean to pry."

"I know. Thanks. No, really, thank you."

As he left the room, he very nearly walked into Lavi.

"Oh, there you are. Come on, let's go. I think I need to hide for a while. You don't mind, I hope, if I hide in your room with you."

Allen laughed; "Since when have I minded?" At Lavi's sharp glance, he retorted. "No, don't answer that." He linked his arm through Lavi's, relieved that they were home safely, and that "Lavi" was here to stay.

They stopped by the cafeteria only long enough for Allen to grab something quick to eat before heading to his room. It was already at least two in the morning as it was, so hardly anyone was in the cafeteria.

"I'm just glad Catherine was able to fix your ribs for you so quickly," Lavi said as they arrived in Allen's room. "I still feel bad about that."

"Stop kicking yourself over it," Allen said as he shrugged off his coat and hung it in the wardrobe. "They were only bruised anyway." He shrugged out of his vest and shucked his boots. "It's so good to be home!"

He was stopped when Lavi's arms appeared around him, embracing him from behind.

"I'm sorry, Allen. You'll have to forgive me for this," the redhead murmured throatily, nipping at the back of Allen's neck, "but I must have you now. I fear it cannot wait."

"Huh?"

Lavi spun him around, kissing him aggressively. "I need you right now. You needed me once; I need you now."

Allen blinked at him, uncomprehendingly. "What are you talking about?"

"Priceless," Lavi growled against his lips, his hands moving down Allen's torso to rest on the waistband of his trousers, "now you're playing innocent? Fine, I'll spell it out to you: You could say that I want to make love to you. But, perhaps it's easier and more accurate to say that I want to fuck you until my heart explodes."

"I cannot believe I'm hearing these words out of you, Lavi," Allen chuckled as he returned the intimate embrace. "Well, let's do it right this time. I don't really want to be sore like that again."

"I know, I know; I suppose I can hold it in long enough for that."

"I'm still embarrassed that Jerry's the one who told us how to do it right!"

"Lube, stretch, lube, go slow. Got it. Where's the lubricant anyway?"

"Well, if you'd let go of me, I'd get it."

"Hell no! I'll get it myself. I'm not letting you out of my arms."

"Dammit, Lavi, stop being such a pain in the ass!"

"That's what the lube is for!"

"That's not what I meant and you know it!"

Allen twisted out of Lavi's grasp and pushed him toward the bed. "I'll get it, damn you. This is my room. Why don't you concentrate on getting undressed?"

"Oh fine, be that way! What kind of lube do you have?"

"It ain't fancy, but it'll work, I'm pretty sure. Catherine assured me it'll work just fine."

"Cath--" Lavi sputtered; "Catherine?! You told Catherine about this?!"

"I didn't have to -- she asked me about it. Come on, Lavi, just about everyone in the Black Order is aware of us by now. You said yourself that they assumed we'd been sleeping together for a long time. It's not exactly a huge secret anymore, and it's certainly not a jump in logic to assume we'd reach this point sooner or later."

"Yeah but... You talked to Catherine -- dammit, Allen, that's like talking to Lenalee about it!"

"Not it's not! What, you think Catherine's a virgin? You know she's practically married, right? Banns posted and all. She's trying to get her fiance up here to the HQ, to work with the research team."

Lavi scrubbed his reddening face with his hands. "You know what? I'm never going to be able to look her in the face again!"

"She's a nurse, Lavi. She knows about this kind of thing, you know. It's not like it's that uncommon; it's just not talked about."

"And yet you talked about it!"

"Only because she asked. She was concerned we'd hurt each other. Anyway, this is what she recommended." He held up a jar of something slightly gross-looking.

"What the hell is it? It looks nasty! It looks like someone left mayonnaise out too long!"

"It's just petroleum jelly."

"Really? Does it stink?"

"It smells like ointment," Allen chuckled as he tossed the jar at Lavi. "Besides, what are you planning to use, your nose? That wasn't exactly what I had in mind."

"Not funny!"

"Au contraire, mon amie, I thought it was quite clever."

"Yeah, you who comes up with wheels of cheese that are dumber than hell," Lavi retorted. "Whatever. Now strip."

"Yes sir!" Allen made a mock salute, and set about removing his clothing. It was warm enough in the room that it wasn't uncomfortable at all. Though, frankly, the thought that he was possibly putting on a show for someone other than Lavi wasn't very appealing. He looked around for Timcanpy.

"Uh, I just realized something," Lavi said, echoing Allen's thoughts. "Where the hell's that golem? I really don't want it recording us."

Allen doubled over laughing, grabbing onto the bedpost as he did so.

"What's so funny? I'm serious!"

"I know you are, that's what's so funny! I was just thinking the same thing when you said that. Hey, Tim, come on, get lost. Go hide in the shower or something. Come on, give us some privacy."

The golem unfurled itself from where it was perched on the bookcase and sulkily flapped into the washroom, where Allen shut the door.

"That takes care of that."

"You're evil, Allen." Lavi's eye glinted mischievously, and he crooked a finger, beckoning. "Come here."

Allen came over and sat down beside him on the bed. For a moment, he let himself drink in the sight of his lover's naked body, skimming over the scars and focusing on the curves and angles. Lavi was put together rather nicely, all things considered. A light dusting of russet hairs freckled his chest and abdomen. Further down, the hairs got darker red.

"I just noticed you have a five-o'clock shadow, Lavi," Allen said with a grin.

"What?" Lavi brought his hand to his chin. "Oh, yeah. I need to shave. Ehn, I'll do that later. Much later. Okay, let's get this started; I'm not going to be able to hold this forever, you know. Lay down."

Allen blinked at him. "Uh, why?"

"You'll see. I figure we might as well kill two birds with one stone. This can be foreplay. Come on, come on, open your legs. I need to be able to reach, you know."

"This is a strange conversation," Allen said with a nervous laugh.

"This is a strange situation," Lavi retorted. "Deal with it. Don't be difficult about it. This might be cold."

"Ugh! Yeah, it is."

"Relax, you're a little bundle of heat; it'll warm up in no time. Good thing I have long arms, eh?" Lavi leaned over and stretched out alongside Allen. While his fingers worked adroitly at their important task of "lube, stretch, lube, stretch," he employed his lips in keeping Allen's mouth occupied. With his tongue, he explored Allen's teeth, wrestling briefly with Allen's tongue.

"Let me know if I'm going to fast," Lavi said at one point, his voice husky and rasping with his building lust.

"You're fine."

"Fine? That's it? I beg to differ!"

"Hey, go easy! Remember that third rule, go slow?"

"Grr."

"That was barbaric, Lavi!"

"Ah, well, I'm probably a barbarian anyway. I'm certainly a mongrel. Good thing I won't be breeding, eh?"

"Careful!"

"Oops, sorry. Went too fast?"

"No; your fingernails..."

"Now you're talking too much, Allen."

"Mnmph!" Allen flailed his arms a bit in surprise at the force of the kiss, combined with Lavi's ministrations down below. It was almost enough to send him over the edge. His whole body was starting to feel like one giant roast. He was pretty sure he was red all over now from the internal heat.

"Hey, easy there, Allen," Lavi said gently. "No need getting all worked up. We've got all the time in the world. You're nowhere near ready, I don't think. I may not be hung like a horse, but I don't think I'm that poorly endowed! Hey, calm down! Breathe deeply, don't hyperventilate! You're starting to worry me, you know."

Allen sucked in a shaky breath, filling his lungs; he held it in for a few heartbeats and then let it out slowly. "Sorry, Lavi; I just got a little... I don't know, spooked."

"What are you, a horse? Calm down, it's not like we've never done this before."

"I know... Lavi, maybe you are going to fast? I don't know, I just... something feels rushed."

"Right, okay, I'll slow down."

Time began to liquefy as the blood went straight to a certain extremity. Allen lost track of how long they'd been like this. Running his fingers through Lavi's damp hair, he bit down on a moan of ecstasy. Unwittingly, he also bit down on Lavi's lip; the sharp intake of breath and the sudden parting of lips alerted him to his mistake, and he blinked the sweat from his eyes; "Sorry, Lavi. I..."

"My bad, I should've gotten out of the way of your teeth. I'll try to remember that for next time."

Allen brought a hand up to his forehead, pushing his sweat-soaked bangs out of his eyes. "Damn, how much longer?"

"Heh heh," Lavi chuckled throatily. "I was just about to ask you if you thought you were ready. I think it's been long enough. You feel ready to me... but it's up to you."

"God, Lavi, just get on with it, I'm on fire with anticipation, you idiot!"

"You asked for it!" Lavi shifted position, bringing himself up, pressing Allen's knees apart and using both hands to shift Allen's hips. Allen's hands both fell to the sheets beneath them, grasping them as if they were handles. There was a moment of hesitation, and then an encroaching pressure as Lavi pressed in; at first, his body didn't want to yield, but he forced himself to relax, and...

Oh god!

"You couldn't wait, huh?" Lavi snickered, grabbing hold of the blanket and using it to wipe off the white fluids that now flecked both of them. "Eager little bastard, I'll give you that."

"Sorry."

"Don't apologize." Lavi gathered him up into his arms, shifting position to ease some of the awkwardness.

Talking ceased; it was kind of pointless to try talking now anyway, with lust squeezing unusual sounds from them, and forcing them both to lose track of words. Time seemed to become another substance entirely, flowing in every direction but forward. At one point, Allen gave up trying to commit anything to memory. His limbs were starting to feel heavy, as were his eyelids. As such, his reaction to Lavi's climax was subdued and a bit delayed. Without realizing what he was doing, he bit down, his teeth landing on Lavi's shoulder and sinking in just enough to split the skin. At that point, reality walked out the door in disgust.

When he finally got his head on straight and came to himself, Lavi was laying beside him, not on top of him anymore. It was over. They were both drenched in sweat, and the bed was wet in patches from... well, not sweat!

"That bad, huh?" Lavi murmured. "You practically fell asleep on me! Was I boring you?"

"No, not at all. I'm so sorry, Lavi. It just all caught up with me. The Ark, and the Vatican, and the stress and all. Plus, I think Catherine's Aqua Vitae tends to make the patient sleepy."

Lavi hitched his shoulder. "You bit me, you know. That's going to leave a mark. And if you think I'm going to ask Catherine for something for this, think again!"

Allen chuckled tiredly and wrapped his arms around his lover. "I love you, Lavi. I'm so glad you're here with me."

"I'll be here for as long as you can put up with me. Hopefully, that's going to be a while."

"Oh, at least the rest of my life, I'm sure. I'm yours for as long as you'll have me."

"God, not another wheel of cheese out of you! What the hell, Allen? Since when have you been so mushy?"

"Bah, I'm too tired to fight with you about it. I need to sleep." He closed his eyes rolled onto his side. He felt the bed shift a bit as Lavi moved over to lay next to him, curling around him spoon-fashion.

"Good night, my beloved little beansprout," Lavi murmured into his ear. "See you in the morning."


VIVA EL FIN!


After-word and notes:
That lemon was not supposed to happen. I blame Dhampir72. (That squealing you guys hear? That would be her.) Also, the lemon was written almost exclusively while listening to Henry Mancini's "Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet" if you're interested. Listening to it on repeat while reading the story might be kinda nice, since, you know, I tend to write best to music.