prompt: insane/manipulative allen; kanda; lilies; post-everything.
At night, he dreams about lilies.
White petals, velvet soft against his fingertips; a comforting scent (sometimes, he leans in and remembers briefly, in snatches and moments-)
There is a meadow full of curving white lilies in the landscape of his dreams. He does not know if there is an end. He has never tried to find one.
There are days when he wants to set the fields on fire and disappear in a cloud of smoke and ash, wants to be carried away to a land where he will never be heard from again, a place where there are no heroes and dragons. Where boys are free to do as they please.
He wakes up in the morning and the thoughts dissipate with the gray morning mist, chased closely by the rising sun. By the time breakfast begins, surrounded by the press of bony elbows and sleepy voices and the scent of cinnamon and soap, he does not remember the fields at all. Cannot grasp the feeling of being perfectly alone under an empty blue sky.
At night, he lies down to dream about lilies and solitude and the peace of defeat.
A curt command uttered in a low, rough voice. It is achingly familiar. He wants to reach out and touch the sound.
Anger and inflection and more bitter, crumpled anger.
"Get the hell up or I'll make sure you'll regret it."
Allen cracks his eyes open and the gray walls of the Organization's ancient library filter slowly into focus. A dark figure is standing over him, framed by the wide windows. Its silhouette wavers when he sucks in a sharp breath.
He squints, and then realization makes him scramble out of his seat and stare wide-eyed and unashamed.
(Glaring a hole into his forehead, lips twisted and face pale and eyes dark, trembling and splintering and terribly alive-)
His hand reaches out to touch a moment before his mind catches up and he snatches it back, watching warily in case the other boy strikes. He remembers the way unprovoked contact is always a mistake.
Kanda does not seem to have noticed his movements at all.
"You're here," Allen says. He hides his trembling fingers in his pockets and rocks back on his heels.
"Komui wants to talk to you." It is an order. There is no room for refusal, and Kanda turns to walk away an instant later. His thin back looks unfamiliar; the rigidity in his limbs a mistake.
Allen's breath catches when he sees Kanda stumble a fraction, hiding the movement with a wild punch to a dusty shelf (even that burst of fury seems foreign, causes a frown to pull at his lips). The fist connects and the wooden structure wobbles dangerously, but it does not collapse.
"What?" Kanda spits. His hair is stuck to his face in snarls, his coat no longer freshly pressed, and there is sweat shining on his sickly white skin.
"I'm glad you're back," Allen says. He wishes the words could mean something.
There is silence and a blank stare that makes his skin crawl.
He thinks briefly about apologizing, contemplates the possibility of shaking the skeleton in front of him until bones rattle and blood flows and they are reduced to screams and yells and a flicker of adulation that has always been there.
He never gets a chance to open his mouth since Kanda storms out of the room a moment later muttering curses, his native tongue, and Allen chokes back a laugh because this is normal and so very ordinary and it hurts.
The door shuts violently with a crash, sending a tremble through the shelves along the wall. He pulls one hand out of his pocket and studies each line and ridge and pad on his skin, stares until it looks alien again, brand new and not his. He wonders why he didn't reach out in that instant when the world froze and his heart stopped and Kanda looked like he was about to fall on his face.
Allen buries his head in his hands. He tries to ignore what the war has done to them all.
Komui is completely hidden behind a formidable tower of manila folders and stained paperwork when Allen walks into his office, ten minutes late. It has been a while since he has last seen Komui's face. The paper fortress that had been constructed carefully over the years protects Komui well, helps the man retain his distance and sanity and removes names from their faces. It sounds like a useful trick.
"Sit down, sit down. I haven't seen you in a while. How have you been?"
Allen winces. The voice is the same, deceivingly bright and sardonic, but all he can think about is the way Komui looked the last time they were together. At her funeral, which feels like a lifetime ago.
(stifling and black and stuffed full of too many old men with twinkling medals and dripping eyes and blank smiles that stretched their grotesque mouths into skulls, prematurely-)
In his mind, he sees Komui, crumpled in front of her freshly dug grave, refusing to let go of the tombstone amidst the shouts and the chaos and a high class official many times his superior screaming: stand down, dammit!. Allen was not there when they injected the man with sedatives and dragged him away. He heard about it in hushed snatches down the corridors, hidden safely behind a wall with his nails digging into his palms, heart bleeding.
He did not visit Komui in the hospital during the three months the man was forced to stay.
"I'm fine. All right." Allen stares down at his gloved hands. He stubbornly refuses to return the inquiry and knows how childish he is acting. It's, just, he doesn't think he cares anymore. It is hard to love a man who hides behind a desk while others are out on the field, who doesn't cry unless it is too late, with the corpse already buried, with nothing left to be fixed.
"That's good. Very good. I'm glad to hear it." There is the sound of shuffling documents and the knowledge that nothing is being done. "I thought it would be best if I told you this, although you have probably heard by now." A pause. "The Order will be closing down in a month."
"What?" Allen is already on his feet before he realizes that Komui cannot see him; the wall works both ways. He sits back down and scowls instead. "Why would they close it down? Aren't there still Akuma out there? What will happen to the - "
A cough cuts him off, and he almost lets an apology slip out, but Komui is talking and talking and talking and he is forced to listen.
"There will always be Akuma, Allen. Nothing we do will ever stop that. But after the last battle, with all of the destruction and damage we caused – and I know it isn't your fault, nobody would ever dream of blaming you - it's just that there simply isn't enough money to support an entire castle full of soldiers. You understand, don't you? Our funding has been cut now that we have done what they wanted. The Earl and his army is gone. We won."
"I'm tired, Allen. I want to spend one night sleeping without worrying about tomorrow's battles. Another group will be taking over our operations soon, and another headquarter will be established. Somewhere. Nothing will change, we just won't be the ones doing it. That's fair, isn't it? What would you rather have me do?"
He bites his lip hard. He does not have an answer.
Komui exhales loudly. His tone is exhausted, defeated, bitter like the strange tea Kanda drinks with every meal. "You are dismissed, Walker. Feel free to take what you want before you go, but everyone will be leaving within a month. I would advise packing up early to avoid the general confusion."
"...Yes sir." He stands up on shaky legs and cannot help but pause by the door. "Sir?"
"What is it?"
"I'm sorry I didn't visit you while you were in the hospital. I know I should have."
A quiet, tremulous laugh. Komui sounds like he is choking. "Don't worry about it. I'm actually glad you didn't come. It was bad enough with Kanda there. You know, I think he made the nurse cry more than once."
"Oh, and could you please send Miranda in after you leave? I need to help her find another place to live. She can't go back to that village where she came from, and I wouldn't send her there. It's a horrible place."
"Sir, Kanda was-?"
"And remember to shut the door behind you on your way out. It gets cold in here. Even with the blasted heater on. I'm glad to be going, you know? I'm actually very tired of this place."
"I…yes, sir. Take care of yourself, sir."
He waits for a response and realizes there will never be one. It suddenly feels too easy, walking away.
Kanda is sleeping on Allen's bed when he returns to his room after an extensive walk around the perimeter. Not that there is anything left to patrol, but a habit is hard to break even in the best of times. And this is far from the best.
The dark haired boy is curled up in a tight ball with his back to the door, a tremor running down his spine that looks so terribly wrong it makes Allen want to squeeze his eyes shut just to keep from seeing it.
He folds his fingers into clenched fists and walks over to the bed.
One hand lands lightly on the boy's warm shoulder, and after a moment, he gives a gentle shake.
"Come on, it's time for lunch."
He catches the sound of a muffled whimper before Kanda jerks awake, fingers clenching around a hilt that does not exist anymore.
"Kanda?" Allen chokes out. He cannot think of anything else to say.
"- Walker?" Confusion. Kanda blinks and the haze over his eyes clears and morphs instantly into irritation. "What the hell are you doing here?"
"This is my room," Allen says, a shaky laugh catching in his throat. It feels like he is swallowing a rusty tack. He runs his hand roughly through his hair and sits down on the edge of the mattress. Kanda pulls away, predictably.
"This used to be my room," Kanda says.
"Yeah, but we switched remember? All of the Exorcists were relocated to the third floor after they decided to conserve electricity and move everyone down to the same level and- Oh, I remember. You were still on a mission when it was announced. You just got back yesterday, right? I think some people helped move your stuff for you, and I would have helped too but they were already done when I got there. So, I'm sorry." He is breathless when he finally shuts his mouth with a snap. He hates rambling, but he hates the silence even more.
Kanda frowns as he mulls the words over. "Then why are you still here, Walker?"
"I didn't want to move. Komui said I could stay on the seventh floor." Allen figures it is close enough to the truth to count. Komui couldn't care less what he did. Nobody does, not really, not anymore.
Kanda says, "I want my room back, Walker."
Allen looks around at the exposed span of space, the blank walls, the utter lack of life illuminated by the dull gray light. It has not changed at all since the day he moved in.
"Yeah, okay. You can have it back. This place creeps me out. I don't know how you sleep here every night."
Kanda snorts and mutters, "idiot", and a half smile slips onto Allen's face before he catches himself, wipes it off. And he thinks he will never be brave enough to say the truth.
He says, "See you later, Kanda."
waiting here for you all right so maybe I did.
The Order is quiet now. There are no playful scuffles in the hallways, no deafening chatter during meals, no falling asleep at night with the knowledge that you are safe, surrounded by a mass of warm breathing bodies who might just love you.
Allen thinks the change of pace is kind of nice.
He likes walking down the corridors without running into a hurrying soldier, getting knocked over, bruising a disgusting shade of bluegreenblue. The lunch line is non-existent. He can sit wherever he wants now; there are only a handful of people left who have yet to clear out. The need to plaster on enthusiastic grins and spew out encouraging rubbish is gone, and with it the need to smile altogether.
One day, he opens his eyes and finds the castle deserted.
Everything is still and quiet and empty.
He rolls back over and falls asleep.
It is déjà vu, that flicker of recognition, that spark of life that runs down the insides of his eyelids.
A familiar dance. He knows the steps now, can count, 1 2 3…
"Goddamit. Allen. Get the fuck up."
His eyes snap open and he glimpses a pale smudge of white, framed in shadows.
"…Kanda?" he whispers, knowing it is true as soon as the words are out of his mouth.
The patent glare he receives sends a warm shiver up his spine. He clutches sheets to his chest and sits up hurriedly.
"Who the hell else would it be?" Kanda snaps. "We're the only ones here."
"I thought you left, a while ago." On that day you sent me to Komui. After I gave you back your room. And you didn't say 'thank you'.
Kanda scowls at the ground. He growls, "I did leave."
Allen sits up and stretches, his bones popping obnoxiously loud in the silence. He knows Kanda hates the sound. "You can have your room back. This place still gives me the creeps."
A fine eyebrow flies up into Kanda's jagged bangs and Allen's mind scatters for a brief moment. "Then why are you still staying here, you idiot?" Kanda's voice is rough and hollow and he thinks he just might melt.
"I'm glad you're back," Allen says, ignoring the question. He searches under the bed for an old shirt and pulls it on while Kanda stares out the window, face drawn and gray and so very pretty (not afraid to admit that now, now that everything is gone). The bank of clouds outside the pane is letting in a weak, sickly light. From where he is sitting, the boy standing in front of him look waxy and white, skin almost like a corp-
"Kanda," he says. Too sharply. But he is relieved when Kanda turns away and narrows his dark eyes; spits out, "What?" like they are on a jostling train with a mission briefing in one of their hands, bits of countryside flying by - like they are sitting across from each other in the noisy cafeteria, surrounded by laughter and yells and sweet shining faces. Like they are in a million different places but not here.
"What?" Kanda says again, angrily. And the boy really does hate anything half-assed, won't let a sentence just drop off and die in peace.
Allen fumbles, fidgets, and comes up with the perfect thing to say. "I was just wondering why you came back here."
Kanda frowns and chews on his lip.
"There's nothing there," Kanda says blankly. Allen is a little surprised that he got a response at all.
"What," he grins. "You mean the world?"
Kanda shrugs, freezes halfway through the motion, and nods once, sharply. Allen can see bones shift under threadbare cloth, and his fingers twitch with the sudden urge to touch, but he is not stupid. Not yet.
"Are you sure it isn't because you missed me?" he teases. And maybe he wasn't all that smart to begin with.
Kanda snarls and reaches for a hilt, fingers closing in on empty space, and for an instant, he looks surprised. They are both forced to remember with a sickening jolt - the sun, the empty sky and the black blood and the way they won the war but lost the battle and the screams -
"I love you," Allen blurts out suddenly. His head hurts and he thinks he might throw up.
Kanda grimaces and backs away, hits the wall with a thump. The words wrench away a shudder from his thin frame.
"Fuck off," Kanda says quickly. "I hate you. I fucking hate you. Don't you dare touch me. You're weak, stupid -"
Allen wants to say, Your eyes give you away.
"I love you," he says again, insistent. His headache is starting to fade. He stands up on shaky legs and takes a step closer.
"Kanda, you came back for me. I love you."
He takes one more step (a hitched breath) and ignores the pounding in his blood and veins and gut, ignores the words (stop).
It is only a kiss, but Kanda collapses like the dead.
Allen is reading in one of the abandoned towers of the castle, a dizzying drop below him and the clouds not so far up above. The book is dusty and crumbling and heavy on his lap. It is strange to think he can take it anywhere now, there are no librarians to yell and chase after him.
Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Kanda stick his head out of the trapdoor on the floor, freezing when it catches sight of him. He had wondered, distantly, if it was wise to leave the boy alone. It does not seem to have mattered at all.
"What the fuck was that?" Kanda hisses. He brushes his old coat off and stands straight, looks proud. Allen thinks he can break him in half with one hand.
"What are you talking about?" Allen asks. He marks his page by dog-earing one corner and grins when Kanda glowers.
"You know exactly what I am talking about. And stop bending the pages."
"Oh, you mean that?" He waves one hand vaguely in the air, dismissive. "It was nothing. I was just fooling around. You know."
"No, I don't know."
His breath catches. He thinks Kanda is the most beautiful when the boy is about to kill, but he can't let anyone know that.
He chuckles weakly and holds up his hands. "All right, I'm sorry. It won't happen again. Will that do?"
Almost too fast to see, Kanda slips forward and pins him up against the wall with a curse. It is a loose hold that he can easily slip out of, but he presses his cheek against the cool stone instead, lets his eyes flutter shut. "I hate you," Kanda mumbles into his ear. "I hate you, you fucking bastard. I hate you so much that I don't know what to do anymore."
Tell me what to do.
"Don't leave me," Allen says simply. "Just, don't leave me. It'll be all right. I promise."
"Shut up!" Kanda shouts. His voice cracks painfully in the still air. "You don't know that. You can't know that. You just hide away in an empty castle and pretend you're happy and -"
"I'm not the only one," Allen interrupts. He lowers his eyes. "Kiss me?"
He is dropped faster than a sack of bricks, his knees colliding with the ground, a sickening crack, his mind already tracing over tomorrow's bluegreen bruises. Kanda backs away with a hand pressed against his pretty mouth, as if that will protect him, almost stumbles over the latch of the trapdoor. Kanda looks like he is about to be violently sick.
"Or not." Allen sits up and feigns boredom. He examines his nails, notices that they are all chewed bloody. "You know, I don't really care either way."
"Why?" Kanda asks, and there is an edge of desperation to his voice, a quivering he cannot hide. "What are you trying to do here?"
Allen shrugs carelessly and picks up the book again. He finds his page, unbends the corner, lets his eyes wander over foreign words that hold no meaning and are therefore safe.
"Killing time," he says absently. "That's all this is. I'll leave soon. Maybe I'll find a pretty girl with a nice smile and settle down somewhere. Maybe I'll get married and have fifty children out in the countryside. Something."
And Kanda is looking at him with something like pity in his eyes, and Kanda is chewing on his lip until it drips red, and Kanda is mumbling –
"I don't actually hate you."
"Oh." The squiggly lines on the paper blur, and he shuts his eyes quickly. "Good."
The door creaks open and closes with a soft thump. He is alone once again, and it strange how the room feels colder even though nothing has changed.
The sun is setting by the time he stands up to leave. A bitter wind slips in under the warped glass pane and he shivers, pulls his coat tighter around him. Winter has come and he never even noticed.
The book lies forgotten behind him as he descends down the rickety wooden steps into the cavernous halls of the castle. Each step echoes in his brain and he almost screams for it to stop, but that would be insane, so instead he calls out a name.
Something feels off. His skin crawls and tightens unnervingly. It is completely dark in the narrow corridor leading to the dorms when he arrives there. As far back as he can remember, the torch by the end of the hall has always been lit, has always been burning warm light. He cannot remember the last time he replenished the oil, and it is then that he realizes that Kanda has been doing it all along.
"Kanda?" he repeats, louder. The word disappears into the darkness.
He peers into the gloom and sees nothing, no glinting eyes or sour glances or perfectly pale hands. His heart leaps in his throat.
He starts to run.
Once, when he was a child, he owned an ugly wooden doll with straw hair and button eyes and a crooked mouth drawn on sloppily with charcoal. It slipped into his nightmares more often than not, haunted his dreams, drew his eye in the darkness to its place on the table, hideous as always. There was nothing in the world that he hated more.
One day, he lost it.
"Why are you crying?" Mana asked softly, kneeling down in the snow and enveloping him in a smoky hold. He buried his face in the scratchy fabric.
"It's gone." A sniffle. "I can't find it anywhere."
He could hear the smile in Mana's voice as the man said, "I thought you hated it. You told me so, reminded me of it at least five times a day."
"I do," he whimpered. "But…"
"But?" Gentle prodding, a soothing hand on his back. He swallowed thickly, blinked back tears. Opened his mouth to say
"But it was mine."
And Mana had laughed.
"Kanda?" He wanders into the boy's bedroom, trips over a chair, bites back a curse. His toe throbs and he ignores it. His eyes adjust to the dark quickly and it is empty and cold in this room, too. He refuses to give a name to the tightening sensation in his gut, the piano-wire severing his muscles and making each of his movements a nervous twitch.
"Hey! Where are you?" He stumbles down the dark hallway, calling out over and over again a name that is starting to sound a lot like a prayer, but he doesn't remember any of those. He cannot ignore it anymore, this feeling, and it is panic that blooms in his stomach and seizes control of his lungs and leaves him winded and gasping and lurching forwards.
"Kanda!" Doors are slammed open in quick succession, each one revealing its empty chambers, its dusty corners, its untouched wooden floors.
He slows down when he reaches, at last, the end of the hallway. The white door is familiar, and so is the plaque nailed to the front of it, although no one has dared enter it in a year. He has been avoiding this room ever since –
He stops himself.
It is Lenalee's room.
He takes in a deep, shuddering breath and pushes the door, gently. It swings open without a sound.
A soft glow of light in the corner betrays the occupant of the room, a dark form huddled in the corner. Inexplicably, his chest aches at the sight.
A dark head jerks up. And. The eyes looking up at him are red-rimmed and wounded.
"I didn't mean to come here," Kanda mumbles. The dark-haired boy looks down, at the ground, eyes unfocused. "My flashlight went out and I turned left at the wrong corner and I found -"
"It's okay," Allen says. He takes a cautious step closer and it feels like approaching a wild animal.
"And I didn't mean to stay. It's just that I can't leave. Every time I try…" A laugh, the first Allen has ever heard from him, and it is trembling. "My legs won't support my weight. Fuck."
Allen has never heard so many words from him before either, but the knowledge doesn't make him content like he had thought it would. Everything is horribly skewed in this moment. In this room.
"It's all right," he says helplessly. He is aware of how horribly inadequate he is, has always been. "It wasn't your fault."
"I was standing right there."
"So was I."
"She fell down and I -"
"I know." He knows where this is going, has gone down this path before.
"I could have stopped it, if I had turned around sooner, if I hadn't been-"
"It's not your fault," Allen says, again and again and again, and the lie starts to taste like bile on his lips.
"Shut the hell up."
And for once, he is forced to comply.
"I'm sorry," Allen says, an eternity later, and kneels down in front of Kanda. "I'm sorry I made you come back. I'm sorry you love me."
"Bastard," he hears, choked out. "You are an absolute bastard."
"I'm sorry," he says again. He reaches out to brush fingertips against Kanda's flawless cheek and the boy stiffens at the touch, tries to pull back. "You can hit me if you want," Allen adds absently.
Kanda's eyes darken.
"What if I want to kill you?" Kanda asks. "What would you do then?"
Allen pauses for a moment, scours his heart out, and makes a decision. It feels good to have a choice again.
"I would let you," he says. "Because you love me."
"I hate you."
"That's fine, too."
A pause. Kanda lets out a shaky breath and drops his head onto Allen's shoulder. It is a warm, comforting weight, a bony reminder of what could have been. Their lives gone by.
Allen thinks he could die here. In this instant. With this boy. The thought is frightening but not very surprising.
"You make me feel normal," he confesses, and this is not love.
Kanda nods, accepts him wordlessly, and digs his pointy chin into the hollow of Allen's collarbone. The movement sparks eye-watering pain, but Allen does not try to shift away. He does not try to move at all.
"What do we do now?" Kanda asks, a faint murmur on his skin.
Nothing has changed, not really, yet he feels like the stone walls are crumbling down around them; they are standing in the middle of a meadow full of white lilies, the sky a limitless blue expanse above, the world a stepping stone beneath their feet, towards-
"We'll go. Wherever you want," Allen says, closing his eyes. And it feels like a promise.
Kanda considers this, opens his mouth, says -
(Nobody actually lives in the old castle by the edge of the woods anymore, and no one has for quite a long while.)
"I want to go home."
"I'll make you one."