September 27th, 1985.

"I can't do this," Lavi bemoaned, smacking his forehead. Allen paused from where he did his homework on the ground, looking up at the older teenager.

"Do what?" he asked, cocking his head to the side. "Not make a scene as you lounge on the couch?"

Lavi stuck out his tongue, making a point to lounge even deeper into the couch. "No, dude," he replied, stretching his legs. "I can't do this. Dude, we didn't win that shit." At Allen's shocked expression, he barreled on with his explanation. "I've been thinking really hard about this—hear me out, dude."

"I've suspicions that I will not enjoy this listening experience," the English teenager replied drolly.

The red-haired male shook his head. "I don't like having people I've never met come up to me saying shit like, 'hey dude! Wow I didn't know you were a first place rock star!' and whatever! All I ever wanna say is, really, 'sorry, you're mistaken—I'm actually a huge loser that is a current victim of favoritism and happenstance!'" he explained with much gesturing and other assorted hand motions.

"Don't you think favoritism is a bit much to describe it as?" Allen asked, putting down his pencil and facing the redhead entirely. "At first, yes, I thought it was an attempt from my uncle to get my affection, but when he told me about Third and Tyki and the other judges, really—I don't know, perhaps it is a legitimate win?"

"There is nothing legitimate about this," Lavi replied with a disapproving click of the tongue. "I know, Brit—it's hard to admit, but this is bullshit." Allen winced a bit, but the redhead pushed forward. "We don't actually deserve the first place award, Allen, and you know this. Dude, I actually feel shitty for getting an award, for the first time in my life, man!"

The younger teenager rolled his eyes, swallowing back a nasty sort of feeling he couldn't describe. "Not even counting the time you won the statewide aerodynamic science essay competition when you were eleven?" he asked sarcastically, trying to change the conversation somehow.

"It was a regional competition for bio-marine science, first of all," the redhead corrected him with an amused click of the tongue. "And secondly, I was thirteen. But nice try at changing the conversation, babe."

Allen cocked an eyebrow. "Please, don't call me that," he requested calmly, but his interest continued to be piqued. "But, I'm still rather confused. How do you feel like shite for accepting an award that was given to us by the appropriate board of judgment?"

Lavi shook his head, sitting up on the couch. His arms, tanned with light coverings of red hair, gesticulated as he spoke, "That's not what I'm saying," he countered. "I wouldn't feel like shit if it had be given through the appropriate modes of judgment. I wouldn't feel like shit if we'd received the award through a fair and understandable play. I wouldn't feel like shit if this entire sitch didn't seem like a never-ending ploy to shit on our fucking band. There are a thousand reasons I feel awful for this, and they are all pretty damn legitimate."

"I disagree," Allen said, if not a bit weakly. "Not all of those are legitimate—"

"First rule of debate team," the older teenager interrupted him, holding up one long, callused finger. "Don't be a sissy about it. You don't think my argument's legit? Well, Brit, tell me how!"

"Err, well," the English boy swallowed minutely, and wet his lips, "It did go through the appropriate modes of judgment—yes, I understand that my uncle is likely a biased member of the board, but still."

"'But still' my dick," Lavi scoffed. "It's way beyond bias, sweetheart. We didn't participate in the final event, and not even because we quit. We only quit because we were disqualified. We were disqualified because of a rule in that goddamn book that said, basically, no relatives on the judging board guys sorry!"

Allen could feel his stomach pooling with the guilt. "Well I'm bloody well sorry that my estranged, drug-addict uncle turned out to be the mystery man of the fucking year," he snapped, unable to keep this conversation purely polite.

"I didn't say that it was your fault—" Lavi said, but his tone of voice was very irritating.

"You never say these things, Lavi, but you always mean them!" Allen exclaimed, smacking his forehead in exasperation. "'That's not what I said,' 'I wasn't saying that,' 'I didn't SAY that,' then what did you actually mean to say, Sir Wank?"

Allen could tell Lavi was also getting frustrated, and he was pleased that he was finally making an impact against the Jewish male.

"If you'll let me finish," Lavi started slowly, and Allen almost laughed at the hypocrisy. "I didn't say it was your fault. I'm saying that, at the end of the day, Sherman had a fucking point, and we were rather rightly disqualified."

"By you insisting that Sherman was correct, you are thereby arguing, once again, that this was my fucking fault," Allen hissed, standing up. He stood over the seated teen, his arms crossed angrily. "But, please, continue."

Lavi looked up at him with one dispassionate eye, his lips curled in the deepest frown he'd ever seen them. "You're being real obnoxious, Allen," he said. "And, yeah, I'm saying Sherman was right. But I'm not saying it was your fault, because I know it wasn't. It wasn't your fault, it wasn't my fault, it wasn't your druggie uncle's fault—no one's to fucking blame, because we were set up!"

Allen rolled his eyes. "Indeed we were," he replied blandly.

"In-fucking-deed we were, you're goddamn right," Lavi growled, standing up as well. He began to pace the garage, his body tense with negative emotion. "We were never supposed to win—this was a huge fucking joke between the Earl and Sherman to see how many people they could fuck with at one time. We were doing so fucking well—but then, out of nowhere, your uncle becomes judge, and then we're disqualified? Real rich, right?"

The English teenager just watched him stalk the space with half-lidded eyes and tightly closed lips. He refused to speak until Lavi was finished with his point.

"But, it gets even better—everything's already paid for, the cameras and news already know the deal, and, when we were disqualified, we should've just taken it as is and left. And, well, we did. We leave, right? It should've been a clean cut—the Black Order falls out the music world in shame, and Noah's Ark wins the competition for the like billionth time. But then, it turns out we've got a crew of goddamn guardian angels—doin' god's work and forcing us into a spotlight we never asked for and that we clearly don't deserve. This is a fucking joke!" Lavi snarled, dragging his hand down his forehead.

"A joke?" Allen repeated, an eyebrow cocked.

Lavi turned to him, his face unnaturally cool. "Yeah, a fucking joke," he said lowly, stuffing his hands in his jean pockets. "This whole—whole thing is a joke. It's too unpredictable, it's too risky—I can't—"

"What the bloody hell are you talking about?" Allen demanded.

Lavi strode closer to him, close enough to tower his greater height over the younger teenager. "This band isn't a career," he said calmly. "There's nothing for us here. This entire event should be a lesson, sweetheart—we aren't cut out for this." He shook his head, disgusted. "There are cutthroat jobs, and then there's this bullshit. We're just playing instruments, and all the business wants to do is destroy us. To humiliate us. I'm not asking you to disagree or agree—I'm just telling you how it is."

The two males stood there, in the middle of the garage so cluttered with familiar instruments and objects. Lavi, always trying to be the eternally smart one, the never-wrong sort of bloke, stood over him with a small smile peeking at his lips.

Allen shook his head in disbelief. "You're unbelievable," he said.

Lavi cocked an eyebrow. "Whazzat?" he drawled.

"You sound like a complete asshole," Allen replied, and with one last cold glance, he walked away from the older teenager. His footsteps echoed on the concrete ground, and the sound was the only thing to keep him from going back and shoving his friend in the chest.

The door opened. "Hey Al—whoa!" Lenalee yelped as Allen squeezed past her, stalking down the hallway. "Are you okay?"

Allen did not answer. He didn't think he could.

He opened the door, just as Lenalee asked a likely still standing Lavi, "What's up with Allen?"

He didn't stay for the answer, and he started for the bus stop with a bubbling stomach of guilt.

September 28th, 1985.

Allen didn't usually hang out at the mall's food court when he was having a huge mental upheaval and a growing pool of guilt eating away at his innards, but today was somewhat special.

"I truly hope you are worth the seven dollars I just paid," he said to his new copy of The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice. He'd been anticipating the next novel in the series since 1982, when he gleaned a couple of quid from Cross after winning yet another game of craps and bought himself Interview with the Vampire. While seven American dollars seemed a bit steep to him, he was almost certain this book would be a savage garden of macabre antiheros and rock stars.

However, post his decision to buy the book, Allen was caught at a bit of a standstill. Did he go home to read the book, and sub-sequentially continue his Lavi-induced train of thought concerning this bloody Battle win and what it meant to succeed in a band; or should he just stay in the mall, surrounded by enough people so that if he did continue the train of Lavi-induced thought and had the urge to make any unattractive expressions the fact that he was in public would be more than enough to dissuade him?

He almost grimaced, and that's when his decision was made.

So there he sat in a lonely booth next to the Taco Bell, idly nibbling at his Nacho Bell Grande as he thought about how much of an arse they would be if they went back on the First Place win. And, of course, his eyes roved over the pages of Lestat's preternatural narration. He was quickly starting to find that this Lestat was nothing like the mysterious enigma of the Interview, but he was willing to push forward.

"Well I'll be," a light, overly condescending voice called out, and Allen furrowed his brow a bit. He couldn't help being curious about the speaker, especially since it sounded like it belonged to a woman who was well used to being a huge bitch for no apparent reason. He somehow got that from three words, but was sure there was a bit of truth somewhere in there. "If it's isn't the little rock star! Although, at a second look—you ain't so little anymore, Mr. Walker."

And, once again, Allen found himself bemoaning every decision he had no control over. As in, winning the Battle, going through puberty, and things of that nature. "Ah, I apologize," Allen started with a smile, looking up from his book and drowning pit of negative thoughts. "But I've no idea who you—oh, what a surprise!"

Allen didn't think that 6 or 7 months could seriously change how one perceived another human's image, but in the 6 or 7 months he hadn't seen Eliade, it's almost unnatural how attractive she still is.

She smiled—well, smirked—down at him, and then she just stood there. Allen looked back up at her, and then to the seat in front of him. She cocked an eyebrow in waiting, and he resisted the urge to pull at his gray Gap shirt collar.

"W-Would you like to sit?" he offered.

Eliade's smirk widened. "I'd love to," she said, but before he could verbalize why in the world wasn't she sitting, the blonde woman continued, "But I thought, from my memory of a little, awkward, oddball shrimp of a kid that he was a gentleman and don't gentlemen get the seat for a beautiful woman?"

Allen blinked, and huffed out a laugh as he put the receipt for the book in the middle of the pages as a makeshift bookmark. "Well, I'd suppose it's in good luck that you are rather beautiful," he joked with a smile, standing up and walking over to stall in front of Eliade. "For you, milady?" He pulled out the seat and gestured towards it with a flourishing motion, bowing forward.

"Why thank you Mr. Rock Star," she said, amused, and sat down. Allen returned to his seat in front of her, and left his book untouched. He had a feeling he was in for a bit of conversation.

She didn't speak at first, instead taking her time to rove over his appearance with striking light-brown eyes. The English teenager sat there, trying not to fidget as he waited for her to speak.

He was still somewhat shocked to be seeing Eliade in all her exceedingly lovely glory, to be honest. He never found himself attracted to anyone, women especially, but there was something to be said for a woman who wore two pigtails and still looked like she was created from marble.

"You may be prematurely gray in the worst way," Eliade started, finally. Allen let out a breath of relief that the silence was broken. "But you've taken this whole aging thing very well, kid. If I wasn't dating Arystar and you weren't about twelve years younger than me, I would consider maybe being interested."

That was only one of the finest compliments a skinny British fifteen-year-old boy could get from a likely supermodel. "Why thank you," he said sincerely. "But, the age gap isn't something a lot of people worry about, I feel." Bloody Tyki. "But, you mentioned Krory! How is he? Oh, I haven't seen him since the time he was destroyed in poker and I had to step in!"

"Arystar is fine…still a total dweeb, but he's fine," Eliade replied with a playful roll of her eyes. Allen grinned, glad to know the odd man was still doing well. "But let's talk about you, Kid Wave. Other than puberty's current success story that is your life, what's the deal, Rocky?"

"Your nicknames perplex me," Allen said quietly, but continued in a normal tone of voice, "Well, I'm just fine. I go to school, I get rather nice grades, I make music. Sometimes I like to sit and read, and I think too many blokes find me attractive. I just got off being grounded about a week ago after skipping school for two days to go to the battle of the bands in Georgia, and then I found out that the competition was basically hacked in our favor and I got into a huge tiff about it with basically my best mate." He ate a chip from his Nacho Bell Grande. "But life's been better than expected. And you, Miss Eliade?"

"Drop the 'miss,' your accent makes it sound super sarcastic," Eliade responded with another smirk. "And somehow, while I'm sure I wasn't meant to know the last part, it makes a lot of sense. I won't say that I've ever heard your music, because I haven't, but there's no way you dopey looking kids got first place in a region wide competition." And she topped off the nonchalant statement with a shrug.

Allen was a bit offended. "We did pretty well," he defended with a small frown. "But then we dropped out the last day."

Eliade cocked an eyebrow in question. "How would you place if you didn't even go through the entire thing?" she asked with a scoff. "That's got to be super unfair to everyone else that competed, like that band Seattle. With a name like that, they should've won."

"Nobody likes bands named after American cities and states," the white-haired teen retorted, giving her a suspicious look. "And it wasn't our choice on whether we placed—it turns out I'm rather intricately connected to the judging portion of the event." He paused, swallowing back the excess saliva in his mouth. "And…I…oh, blimey, I can't."

The blonde woman reached out and pat his head condescendingly, leaning forward with a grin of devious intent. "Aww, little Rock Fraud, it's okay," she cooed. "Tell Mama Eliade all about it."

"Rock fraud—okay, regardless," Allen sighed, looking down at the bold, dark cover of The Vampire Lestat. "I feel so guilty. You're correct, it's not fair to the almost a hundred bands that participated, and while I'm fairly certain that Noah's Ark was going to cheat anyway—well, it all just feels so wrong."

Eliade hummed, stealing one of his nachos. "Despite it all being a fraud and you four are horrible people for letting this happen—no, no, it's fine, I took a psychology class at Maryland State once, this is supposed to help you," she explained with a rather mean smile, and Allen struggled to keep his face neutral. "Did you enjoy receiving the trophy? And, despite the crippling guilt that keeps you up and prevents you from returning to a normal lifestyle—do you, in any small amount, think that maybe you performed well enough to place in any way?"

"Maryland State must be a truly abysmal school," Allen replied, shaking his head in disbelief. "Do I think that we performed well enough to place at all?"

He thought about it—he really did.

They were good, Allen thought. They were good before he joined, and they were good including him. The Black Order, koozbane name aside, was a rather upbeat quartet (Kanda wasn't upbeat but surely Lenalee and Lavi's enthusiasm made up for his glowering outlook) with more skill than expected in their chosen instrument. It's almost natural that they came together and that the songs they made were of more exemplar skill.

But, Allen forced himself to tape on to his thoughts, they were not…great.

He mused about his fellow band members, lips pressed in a thin line as Eliade helped herself to the rest of his Nacho Bell Grande.

Kanda's a perfectionist. But only with Mugen—he wasn't exactly fond of waiting for the rest of the band to catch up to his level, and only worked in perfect tandem when it was beneficial to advance his skill. Otherwise, he didn't really put in his best. Perhaps.

Lavi was the complete opposite of a perfectionist. The redhead was a near genius in every subject, including the drums, but he experimented. He always experimented, even with songs they made with set notes and tabs, and he didn't seem to take the entire thing very seriously. Of course, now Allen knew why, but it was still a bit of an affront to the band's efforts so far.

Lenalee was probably the most enthusiastic and important member of the band, with a voice that was great and her active attempts in getting the band to perform anywhere. From their first silly performance at Noise Marie's club, to their opening for Noah's Ark—it was all really Lenalee's efforts that got them out there at all.

And, Allen thought about himself. He played the keyboard, yes, and he fancied himself rather good at it. He felt, sometimes, as the secondary leader, or the beta male of their four-man-band. But, sometimes, he thought himself as just going along with the ride. He was great at talking to people and could easily get what he wanted, but he had the worst habit of separating himself from the band if he thought something was in danger of not working out and that he was the reason why.

They were great friends, they were great musicians…but they did not make a great band.

They were good, however.

"Perhaps…not," Allen said weakly, threading his gloved fingers through the top of his white hair. He groaned. "This is much too deep thinking for me—but, now I'm rather annoyed!"

Eliade, with a small dot of sour cream on the corner of her lip, swallowed before speaking. "Annoyed about what? Your failures? Your bogus win? The fact that you're a solid seven on the hot scale to ten and everyone thinks you're gay?" she asked.

Allen was slowly remembering that being beautiful did not make you a nice person. "No, no, and I have no idea what to say to that last one," he tried not to roll his eyes. "But, Lavi, you remember him, yeah? Lavi told me yesterday that he did not believe that we deserved the win, and chalked it all up to the fact that at the end of the day, in his words, being in a band was much too unpredictable and not a valid career choice for any sensible human being."

"Do you agree all of a sudden?" Eliade snorted in amusement. "Listen, Baby Bop, I'm not saying that you four should completely forfeit everything that makes you a group of cute kids with instruments, but think really hard about what you've done in the past year or however long you've been a 'band,'" and Eliade made the finger quotes. Allen was sure she was not a nice person at this point. "And, in my humble, million-dollar opinion, I don't believe that a career is a predictable, controlled thing that you should aspire for at your young age of sixteen."

"Fifteen, but thank you!"

Eliade looked at him one more time, nodding in approval. "Not bad for fifteen at all," she praised. "But, no, seriously. Your career, or whatever it is you do for the rest of your life, should be whatever puts some sort of smile on your face. Nothing is predictable, and nothing works out one hundred percent in the beginning. It's your decision on whether you love playing the xylophone enough to continue doing it for the rest of your life, and if it also makes you money—well, that's a bonus, if nothing else."

Allen was pleasantly surprised. After all that biting commentary and mind-boggling questioning, Eliade really managed to top off this conversation with a nice, useful moral.

"So," he started, a small smile on his face. "What is it that you do for a living, Miss Eliade?"

"Drop the 'miss,'" she said, once more, and smirked widely. "And, I am an accountant."

Allen's face dropped, hard. "An…accountant?" he repeated.

"An accountant," Eliade said proudly. "And, not only that, but I enjoy my job. Did you know Arystar's shop's returns are almost in the tens of thousands? What a great guy."

"I can sufficiently say I didn't see that coming," Allen said honestly with a small laugh.

Eliade lifted her shoulder in a small shrug. "Most people think I'm some sort of huge bitch or supermodel, but I get that because I'm gorgeous," she replied. Then, her hands flat against the surface of the table, she stood up more sensually than Cross on the female prowl. "All right, Hardknock Star, I've got to be going."

The fifteen-year-old grinned. "It was lovely talking with you M—Eliade," he corrected himself at the sight of her raised eyebrow.

"Great speaking to you too, Mr. Solid Seven," she said, leaning over and patting his cheek. He struggled to look anywhere but her cleavage, and for the most part succeeded. "Do what you think is best. I don't care about what's right."

Allen nodded, and waved as she left.

Eliade paused, and turned around.

"By the way," she called from halfway down the food court. "That book sucks, and ends with this really shitty cliffhanger about his first concert. He almost dies, also."

And she sauntered away, leaving Allen and a few other mall goers completely dumbfounded and a little aggravated that the ending was spoiled.

Allen looked down at his newly purchased book. "I'm doing something else," he sighed, and walked towards the entrance of the mall.

Stepping outside into the cool autumn air, he considered what he could do or who he could hang out with.

"Oh," he hummed in interest, and patted his pockets down for change. Successfully finding a quarter and a dime, Allen walked to the sidewalk payphone and picked the phone off the hook. Slipping the change inside, the English teenager waited for the tone before dialing up one of his favorite people with a devious smile.

Kanda found it inconvenient when his phone rang about ninety-nine percent of the time, but somehow it was especially unwanted when he was jerking off in the shower to ease off unnecessary energy.

"Fuck," he groaned in annoyance, pumping his dick a couple of more times before stepping out the quiet stream. This was the second time someone had tried to call him in the last five minutes, and it was weird. He had no idea if he should ignore the call and finish off his hard on, or answer the phone with a boner to cut steel.

Riiiing. The sound was incessant and very fucking irritating, so Kanda cursed and grabbed a towel to wipe his hands before he left the bathroom.

Reaching the kitchen counter, Kanda wrapped the towel around his waist, and hoping his erection would die down by the time the conversation ended, he answered the phone with a snarled, "Who the fuck keeps calling me?"

"Well, a good afternoon to you too, dear," Allen's sarcastic tenor sounded, and Kanda's blood chilled.

Oh fuck, he thought with an indecipherable widening of his eyes. Fuck, fuck, fuck.

"What the hell do you want?" he grumbled, keeping his free hand well above his somehow still-hard dick. "I was in the shower, dork."

"Well that's a better explanation than I was expecting," Oh this just wasn't fair. How could anyone have such an annoying yet…attractive…voice over the phone? "But, regardless, I've wasted two quarters waiting for you to answer!"

"Tough luck," Kanda replied, his hand trailing idly over where his wet skin met his blue towel. "You still haven't told me what the hell you want from me. Make it quick, loser." The pads of his fingers dug into his skin, dipping minutely underneath the thick towel.

"Wellll, if you're so excited to know," Allen drawled, and Kanda bit his tongue. "I'm currently at the mall near the News, and I wanted to know if you, by any chance, wanted to…chill? That's not the word—no, hmm, uh—"

Kanda rolled his eyes. "You're gross," he replied. "You called me at, what," he leaned over to look at his cat clock given to him from Chaoji, "five in the evening because you wanted to 'chill?' No way, dickweed." He navigated lower, his fingers threading through coarse, short hairs.

"Oh, Kanda, please?" the British dweeb begged. "I don't want to go home, and it's a Saturday, and I'm not grounded and—and I'll buy you dinner."

What a deal breaker—the kid never bought food for anyone that wasn't him or his stomach born from the seventh circle of hell.

"Huh," Kanda grunted, and thought about it. This was not a good idea, considering how he was seconds away from jacking off to the sound of the asshole's voice, and would probably need some time to really sit and think about what it means to give the five-finger-fist salute to the thought of one of his…friends…and it would not be good to masturbate to Allen and then go to pick up the subject of his fucking wet desires so they could 'hang out.' He would be in Kanda's house, in Kanda's room, and he would probably see some shit that he wasn't meant to see. Then again, it was free food, and it's not like he was planning on doing anything later. Fuck, he should not do this; this was not a good decision. "I'll see you in thirty minutes, doofus."

"Wicked! I'll be sitting outside the mall on the bench next to the parking lot entrance!"

"I call where we're gonna eat, freak." And Kanda hung up the phone.

Then he walked awkwardly back into the bathroom, back into the shower, and gripped his dick like it was a fucking scepter.

"Fuck," he groaned, and jerked his fist over his erection rapidly under the semi-warm spray of water.

Another bad decision for Yuu Kanda, the dumbest fucker to ever have a functioning dick ever.

"You seemed very at ease today," Allen commented as they walked into Kanda's apartment. "It was…nice."

Kanda shrugged vaguely and threw his keys on the kitchen counter. "Yeah, well," he started, stiffened, and then growled a curt, "Whatever."

Allen blinked, perplexed, but then shrugged. Kanda would always be extremely odd, which was probably what made him so endearing.

But, honestly, Kanda did seem very chilled when they went to Denny's. Or, at least, he wasn't super snappy and only insulted him every other word that spewed from his lips instead of the usual always. He ordered a burger, ate half and gave the other half to Allen without saying anything, and left a two dollar tip for Toma. Even though Toma wasn't even their waiter.

He must've done something that really let a load off him, Allen surmised. He appreciated it, whatever it was. He didn't need any more stress in his social life, especially with his only other male friend, and the only one that he wasn't at odds with.

"Hey, dork," Kanda snapped, and Allen blinked in surprise. He really lost track of his thought for a moment there. "You can go in my room. My television's broken, and my record player's in my room or some shit. I don't know what the fuck you want to do and why you thought it would be fun to be here, but whatever."

Allen was being let into Kanda's room? Their relationship really has advanced since the beginning.

"We can do whatever, it makes no difference to me," he said with a smile, and walked the short distance into Kanda's sleeping space.

Kanda huffed, rolling his eyes. "I need to find my shit, so don't fucking touch anything you little asshole," he said grumpily, and stalked off into the living room area.

"Don't touch anything," Allen scoffed. Now why would he do anything like that?

He turned around and looked about the room with a curious eye. The last time he'd really seen the room was on Kanda's birthday, and it seemed rather messy. Now, it was cleaner, but there was a pair of pants and a dark blue towel thrown on the floor. The desk was fairly well organized, covered with notebook paper and piles of guitar song books. A single lamp sat on the surface, flanked by a pencil cup and an analog clock. It was curious to see how someone as stern and irritable as Kanda could occupy a space and still let it look so lived in.

Allen wandered deeper into the small room, catching sight of a dresser next to the older teenager's bed. It was pushed against the wall, a dark shape against the flat white.

He came closer to the dresser, somewhat intrigued by a seemingly unfitting piece of paper against the surface.

A yellowed envelope was settled on the top of the dresser, the top edge nearly torn to pieces in the effort to get the contents out. Allen resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the sheer Kandacity of it, and continued with his observation.

"Jackass" was hurriedly scratched out in pen, instead reading Yuu Kanda, underneath it in the center. Apt. 3, Foxhill Apartments, Hampton, Virginia. His eyes roved to the top left corner of the envelope, feeling a sort of foreboding in his heart settle thickly.

"Alma," he breathed, reading the name aloud. "Karma."

The name struck no chords of remembrance in his mind, but somehow he knew he just entered personal territory. His curiosity itching, Allen looked at the rest of the dresser, only finding a couple of twelves and a leather bracelet. The floor between the dresser and the bed was also a no-go, being almost creepily clean in that one spot.

The bed, while slightly messy, donned covering dark enough to notice anything unusual.

Things like, well, the paper trapped between the pillow and comforter.

Allen stepped to the bed slowly, paranoid of the older teenager's untimely entrance. He honestly did not want to piss off Kanda to the point where it stopped being a joke and started ruining their friendship.

With a steady hand, he slowly pulled the paper from its place. He immediately realized two things, though, once it was within his possession: it was a letter, and it was heavily wrinkled, as though it were balled up at some point.

Licking his dry lips, Allen brought the paper a little higher, so he could read without squinting.

Hey, it started in a legible scrawl, which Allen was thankful for. What's happening, asshole?

I heard from the gang that you're doing pretty all right down there in Hicksville, USA. I mean why wouldn't you be? Other than how you're a total pussy, you're pretty tough, dweeb. You're dumb as shit though, it's fucking hilarious how stupid you are. I managed to graduate All Hollows with a B average, and you became salutatorian? What the fuck is up with that? Virginia has some mad low standards, brother.

Speaking of low standards, I found out you have a crush from Tokusa. How cute, little old Yuu having feelings for someone. It really is adorable though, how in the years you left New York, you've been trying to get a life of your own. Well, I've been doing pretty fucking well myself, brother. I have a job—pretty bomb, right? Ex-juvie turned well-to-do citizen. At least I didn't start a band, right? Yes, that was me making fun of you, so don't strain your brain over it.

Congrats on your win with the Battle, loser. Emphasis on the loser—people love you waaaay too much, dweeb. But I don't expect you to take this hand out, mainly because you're such an independent woman. I told Madarao this, and he just did that weird shrug-blank face thing he's real good at. Fuck him, he's so fucking mysterious.

Also heard from Zu that you've been calling him about once or twice a month. I'd complain about that too, but I don't have a phone, so it's pretty useless. Even though I'm sure I've been living in the same crappy-ass apartment in the Bronx forever, so it makes no sense why you can't write me like I'm doing you. Actually, you make no sense, so there's no sense in trying to make sense of your lack of sense. Well, other than how me and the gang agree you're just a big old girl under that "masculinity". Explains how you'd get pissy once a month back then. Zing!

Anyway. I got your address from Tokusa, who got it from some guy you know, apparently. I'm just writing to say hi, and to say that you should visit. I mean, you will visit. I'll kick your ass otherwise, brother.

Love you,
Alma K.

If I don't get a reply in a couple of weeks, you've got some bad karma coming your way. Get it?

"Hey, brat," Kanda called from somewhere else in the apartment. Allen looked up with a start, clenching the paper tightly in his gloved hands. "I've got Pepsi and I've got Coke. I was gonna put a bowl of water on the floor, but I thought it'd be nicer to give you a choice."

His heart attempting to burrow out of his chest, Allen held a hand over his chest to restrain the deafening motion. "How does one have both Pepsi and Coke?" he yelled back, hurriedly placing the paper between the pillow and comforter. "That's rather odd, aren't they enemies?"

"They taste exactly the fuckin' same, that's what they are." Kanda walked to the doorway, holding a red can of Coca-Cola. "So, really, it doesn't matter what I give you." He held out the can, and Allen almost reeled back in surprise from the lack of projectile throwing and other expected methods of transport with Kanda.

"Th-thanks," he stammered, but then shook his head. Who is Alma Karma? He wanted to ask terribly, but instead busied himself with opening the can. Bringing the metal to his lips, the teenager grimaced at the bitter, lacking taste of Coca-Cola. There was a reason he stuck to Pepsi, and it wasn't because the two tasted the same. "Ugh, this is disgusting."

"Your haircut is disgusting," Kanda replied readily.

"Thanks for noticing, you're so very sweet," Allen replied sarcastically. He held the can in his hands, looking everywhere but at the older teenager in front of him. "I," he started, eyes stuck on an old acoustic guitar with more snapped strings than not. His words caught in his throat, and he hurriedly took another gulp of disgusting, terrible Coca-Cola.

Kanda raised an eyebrow. "What's your issue?" he asked, circling around Allen with a lot more grace than he ever really gave him credit for. He stepped in the small space of the room like he was walking through an empty auditorium; those sure steps heavy with confidence.

Allen sort of envied him.

"Nothing," he replied, stepping out the way so the other male could do…whatever it was he was trying to do. Allen watched him move around the room, observing behind a can of soda. There was something about Kanda that was, well, queer. Not in the homophobic, American way—but rather the appropriate, weird sort of way.

He was all long limbs and taut muscles, Allen thought. Tall and fit and ridiculously attractive with dark blue eyes and carved Oriental features. Allen would never truly believe Kanda was a hundred percent Japanese, but he won't deny the possibility of him being at least half.

Kanda usually seemed so tense, as well. With a near-permanently clenched jaw and tightly wound arms, the bloke always looked ready to start a fight in a bar. Today really was one of the first times the older male hadn't seemed ready to commit mass murder, and it was a wonder what kind of difference a bit of calm could make.

The Japanese teen dragged out his desk chair and sat in it with an unfurling slump. He dropped a small plastic bag on the top of the desk and opened the first drawer on the side. He pulled out a variety of things; Allen didn't really pay too much attention. He spread them out near the small bag.

"Can I sit on your bed?" Allen asked, swallowing back another acidic sip of Coca-Cola.

Kanda gave him such a 'are you a fucking idiot' look over his shoulder that Allen almost rushed to plop down on the oddly soft bedding.

After a couple of minutes of Kanda doing whatever he was doing at the desk and Allen looking at the bare walls, the older teen spoke up.

"What would you do…if you…missed someone," he ground out, his shoulders tense enough to strum. "But you hated every fucking thing about that person…and they wanted you to go back…but going back would fuck up everything?"

Allen struggled to not choke on his soda, and when some of the liquid slipped from his lips he was quick to wipe it away.

"W-what?" he stuttered, and struggled to get out some words that wouldn't make Kanda force a knife through his chest. "I, uh, I must say this is rather unexpected, but, erm, why?"

Kanda groaned loudly, his head falling forward onto the desk with a loud thump. Allen winced, and hurried to fix his statement.

"If I missed someone, I don't know what I'd do," Allen said, forcing his thoughts into a form of semi-sensible speech. "There are only so many things that could happen. If I missed someone a bit, I'd likely not do much. If I missed someone a load, I'd also try not to do much. Sometimes I think that missing people, anyone, can be perceived as a form of weakness—like, as humans, we don't want to miss a person because missing them means we weren't strong enough on our own. But, really, maybe missing people should be more celebrated—as in, accepting that the person made such an impact on you, and choosing to actively contact the person as in to show your appreciation."

The black-haired male had turned around, scowling but oddly curious. "But I hate the shit out of this person," he countered. He stood up, and stepped over to the bed with long-legged strides. The long-haired male sat down next to him on the bed by the pillow, inciting a bit of a squeak from the mattress. He held a long, brown cigar-esque stick in his fingers, and he stuck it in his mouth before reaching on top of his dresser for the pack of matches.

He lit the end of the cigar-structure, and took a deep inhale.

The bitter smell was immediately thick between them. "If you hate them," Allen replied, pulling off his shoes and bringing his socked feet on top of the comforter. "Then that still means they left an impact on you. I don't exactly understand how you could hate someone and miss them, but it's more important, I'd guess, to first think about why you miss them and then why you hate them."

"I hate them because they're fucking awful people," Kanda replied. He held out the cigar-thing towards Allen. "Take a hit, dweeb."

"But why would you miss someone if they were so awful?" Allen asked, and, with the marijuana-cigar-contraption trapped between his gloved index and thumb, he took a deep inhale, opening his lungs. "Is this about someone you know?" He passed the, erm, well— "What in the world is this thing you've wrapped your devil's grass in? It's much too long to be a joint, and it looks like a cigar!"

"It's a blunt," Kanda said blandly, taking the blunt and partaking in another long hit. "And, no, it isn't about someone I know." He blew out the smoke in a billowing cloud. "Let's not talk about this shit anymore. Entertain me, brat."

Allen blinked. "I'm sorry," he replied with a wide smile, a fuzzy feeling already clouding his brain. "But I don't know any nice tricks at the moment. Do you know any smoke tricks?"

Kanda snorted in disdain and took another hit.

He opened his mouth in a circle and rings tumbled out from between his lips.

The English boy clapped, delighted. "Blinding," he said, grinning.

Kanda smirked, smug. "I've got a couple of more, if you think you can handle it," he retorted, handing over the blunt.

Allen could handle it. "I can handle it," he said, his voice a tad deeper than he meant for it to go. "In fact, I'll try it myself."

He took another hit, and opened his mouth in a way similar to a circle. The smoke escaped in a wild dance, and he laughed.

"You fuckin' suck," Kanda said, but he looked like he might be smiling.

Allen grinned back. "But I tried," and he passed it back to Kanda.

Sorry dudes, the anita part is actually next chapter. I forget this was the minute sexual realization chapter as well as the inklings of the end. Hopefully you guys weren't tripping over your nuts for anita lmao because I def wasn't

I'm really sad to say this but the only reason I was able to get time to write this was because of the hurricane. My neighborhood got banged, but some places in nyc were straight up fucked. If I seem melancholy, I'm sorry guys, I know I'm usually more energetic, but this fucking sucks. I've been real unhappy lately, it seems.

However, I like this chapter. I liked writing it, I like reading it, and I hope you guys like it too.

Stay safe, stay cool, buddies. Kaza outtt