Haunts of the Heart

Written by xmystorytime.

Disclaimer: I don't own this show. Is that not obvious?


"... you remember when we first met? It was so long ago now, I-I wouldn't be surprised if you don't but... do you still remember? All I could think about was 'how will they save me?' or 'how can I make them help me?'. I didn't realize that I never needed to try..."

--

He was bored.

He resisted the urge to fidget, resisted the urge to twist his fingers together from a combination of boredom and nerves, and instead shut his eyes, resolving that if he could do nothing useful he would meditate; it was, after all, something he had been neglecting, although not by choice.

It would give him a chance to clear his mind of all those pesky thoughts he kept having – like whether the bean sprout was dead or not. He was continually hoping for the former but no one would confirm it for him, a fact which was quite disappointing but somewhat understandable. Perhaps he should have pretended he was the other's friend, so he'd have been able to find out how soon it would be before he kicked the bucket.

Before he could get too into his meditation the door to his ward opened. He cracked open his right eye, watching coolly as two attendants entered, chattering away whilst carrying something between them – no, carrying someone, to be more precise.

"... it horrible?" Kanda caught the end of the question and watched, not really curious.

"He must have been really stupid to have managed something like that..." the one, a male and carrying the teenager's shoulders, said, looking uncomfortable. "It's amazing he's not blind, although its an ugly scar for him to have."

"I know and his hair, too! Ooo!" the one carrying his legs shuddered, an element of disgust to her tone. "It's like he should be old, not young, but the arm – it's like its been sealed on, whatever happened with it..."

"Well, he'll be out of our hair soon so we won't have to deal with the unnaturalness any more." the first one replied and the woman nodded, agreeing. Kanda stared at the conversing pair, disgust and hatred for them growing as they continued to discuss the bean sprout's appearance.

"On three," the male said when they reached one of the spare beds. "One... two... three!" they roughly lay him down and the woman brought the thin duvet up to cover the teenager, until all that could be seen was a pale neck and white hair. "Mind you..." the male paused, obviously continuing their conversation. "That other one had an eye-patch, didn't he?"

"Oh! I looked under that, y'know, I just couldn't resist," the woman giggled. Kanda was slowly digging his nails into his palm, anger boiling over at the sheer audacity the pair had. They weren't even trying to hide it either! "It was -"

"What the fuck are you two doing?!" he demanded, unable to stand it any more. The pair jumped, like they'd been caught doing something guilty. "What right do you have to say those things? Do those things?" He might hate the bean sprout's guts but he certainly knew the teenager didn't deserve those comments – a curse was nothing to be scorned at, nor was God's will and the Innocence.

And Lavi... even he didn't know what was beneath the patch, and probably never would – but he had never asked either, because it was one of those things from the past and most people's pasts were never something that any wanted to remember often.

"I think we might skedaddle now..." the male swallowed, gripping his friend's arm and hastily exiting the room. The door slammed shut behind them and the now pissed off male sunk back in his bed, sulking at his inability to get up and chase them. If only he had Mugen here, if only he had been able to walk – they wouldn't have walked out alive.

"Bastards..." he hissed, staring darkly up at the ceiling. "The instant I'm out of this bed, I'm coming for you." he threatened the quiet room, making a promise to himself that he would hopefully keep... all going to plan.

The reminder that he was trapped in his bed was enough to put a damper on his anger. Slowly he threw the covers back, revealing his legs, and he furrowed his brow as he forced his legs to work. There was a difference from before, his toes were responding each time he wiggled them, but the main muscles weren't really working at all.

He anticipated a few more days before he had regained full mobility in his legs. A few more days was bad, but it was better than a few more weeks.

The doors opened again, this time with different attendants entering. Between the four of them they carried another person, this one significantly older than all in the room. Their going was much slower than the previous pair, who had been content to nearly sling Walker – these ones treated Arystar Krory with full care.

"Careful, we don't want to agitate any of his injuries..." one said, who Kanda couldn't see. Gently they lowered Krory until he was on the bed and then another pulled up the duvet and gently pressed it to his chin. The way the two exorcists had been treated couldn't be more different than night and day. It was... an unpleasant surprise to see the true reality behind nurses.

Remembering that the last he'd known of Krory, the man's lung had collapsed, he figured he'd better ask about him.

"Will he die?" he asked bluntly, gesturing to the exorcist. All turned to him, looking grim.

"No, though he came very close." a male explained. "His lung collapsed when there was no one watching him so we weren't ready for it, but Bookman was able to successfully inflate the lung and he should be fixing up nicely now. He'll have trouble breathing for awhile and he'll be sore, but he'll live."

Pity; a weakling exorcist such as Krory would've been better off dead than alive. Kanda grimaced a second later, knowing his thought wasn't true – as much as he thought Krory pathetic, he was a valuable exorcist. Not many could take the akuma virus for others and live.

Plus, there was the matter that he didn't quite want to address but knew he needed to... the fact that it was possible it was Krory who had saved him when he shouldn't have even been there; Krory who should wake up right now and answer his questions; Krory who remained sleeping, blissfully unaware of Kanda's suffering.

If he'd had Mugen, he'd've used it but the blonde woman had forcefully taken it away from him, using the fact he couldn't chase after her to her advantage.

Such a cruel world he was in.

The attendants left chattering amongst themselves and then it was just the three invalids remaining in the room. The silence came back to haunt the swordsman and he twitched, rolling his shoulders before reaching for his pillow. Now that there were people here who had answers to his questions, he had to wake them up.

And he had plenty, plenty of questions for one Allen Walker.

"Bean sprout!" he called, twisting to look at the limp body. He paused, staring at the way his skin seemed glued to the bones, the way a gaunt face stared up at the ceiling, and the way the clothes hung off of the other, before shrugging and continuing with what he'd wanted to do. People couldn't help how they look. "Oy, bean sprout!"

He gripped his pillow tightly and then threw it across the room. With a soft 'smack', the item landed on Walker's face and made him jerk. It was with pleasure that Kanda watched the idiot wake up, eyes opening and blinking a few times. "About time you woke up bean sprout," he snapped, drawing the other's attention to him.

Immediately a scowl appeared on Walker's face. Were he any other person Kanda would have been insulted, but seeing as he was Yu Kanda he didn't really care. "I need some answers."

"B-bastard..." Walker rasped, struggling to push himself up on weak arms into a sitting position. It was impossible to not notice the thin, scraggly look to the exorcist. "Where are we?" Kanda rolled his eyes.

"What does it look like?" he said sounding bored, impatient to bring Walker up to speed so that he could find out some very pressing answers. "It's a hospital, bean sprout."

"It's Allen! And you've always been good at stating the obvious Kanda," Walker glowered. "Where? Trier?"

"Obviously. But that's not important – just what the hell was going on with that ship?" Kanda stared at the other who blinked.

"... why are you here? How did I get here?" Walker instead asked, making Kanda clench his fists. Still, he remained patient (perhaps that meditation was working already...).

"We were rescued. Some oaf of a male brought us back and sent for help, now we're all recovering and you and Krory have only just been taken out of critical care." he summarized. "Now, what the hell was behind that ship?" the bean sprout blinked and then slowly nodded. Kanda knew he probably was slow, having just woke up, but he'd have to do much worse in the field. Had already done worse. Walker could take it.

"Ah, well... what do you know?" Walker asked after a pause, furrowing his brow like it was an effort to keep talking. Kanda exhaled, not bothering to hide his irritation. It figured he'd have to do so if he wanted information – why couldn't it be easy?

"Nothing." he grumbled. "Nothing except for it had a curse, really." Walker blinked.

"Did you not think look around? Ask?" he asked. Kanda scowled.

"We were a bit busy trying to find you, actually." he snapped. "There wasn't a lot of time for chit-chat." Walker immediately scowled back.

"It's not like I asked you to look for me!" he replied, also annoyed. "Don't try and make it sound like my fault!"

"No? From what I hear, it was your stupidity that got you trapped there in the first place. What kind of person would willingly walk onto a cursed ship? Oh wait, you would."

"If you'd been in the same position you would have done the same so don't try and act all high and mighty!"

"High and mighty?" Kanda repeated, eyes narrowing. "I could have been doing much more important things than looking for you, but instead I had to waste my time -"

"If it was so wasted then why didn't you just leave?! Idiot! Pretty boy!"

"What did you just call me?"

"Oh? Did I hit a nerve?" Walker grinned a cheshire cat's grin. "What're you going to do about it pretty boy?"

For a brief second Kanda forgot that he couldn't walk and immediately used his upper body to shuffle his body until his legs dangled off the bed. He paused when his leg didn't respond to the command to go on the ground and then, remaining silent, he awkwardly tried to shift them back.

But shifting them back was a lot harder than moving them on. "Kanda? Are you okay?"

"Fine!" Kanda spat, shooting him a dirty look. It would only suffice as an entertainment factor for the other, a weakness he couldn't afford to have. "Are you going to tell me about the damn ship or not?!"

"Not if you're going to be so rude!" Walker looked stubborn. Kanda exhaled – that's it! Never again will I try and talk to the bean sprout civilly...

"Fine! Have it your way!" he huffed, finally managing to get his legs back up on the bed. It had required intervention by his arms but they made it eventually. Now slightly cold, he slid the duvet up over his legs and to his waist, before turning away from the one he so hated and gazed across the room to the only sleeping person.

The only sleeping person who turned out to not be sleeping.

"You're awake." Kanda said emotionlessly, although inside he was churning with anger. Krory struggled to sit up, but gave up after he clutched his chest in pain.

"Krory!" Walker said, eyes wide. Apparently, he had only just noticed the other in the room. "What're you doing here? Are you okay?" Krory mouthed something but his voice was so quiet it couldn't be heard. He looked pained. "What?" Walker repeated.

"My chest hurts..." Krory replied, voice merely a whisper. He seemed to be struggling to breathe, unsurprising considering he'd had a hole in his chest. Kanda's gaze fell to the bandages which were wrapped tightly around the other's chest. If one had good eyesight, which he did, one could see the faint blood that the bandages had absorbed, darkening the area slightly.

Kanda stared, seeing it was almost exactly where the heart was. A little bit further to the side and it was likely Krory would have died. He resisted the urge to shiver, or groan in disappointment, at the realization.

"What happened to you?" Walker asked, struggling to get out of bed. Kanda looked at him and for the first time saw the faint wrinkles in the other's skin – hadn't the people said dehydration?

"He was our back-up," Kanda supplied the information before Krory could. "Although Komui could've sent someone better..."

"I wasn't..." Kanda's neck snapped to Krory, who was looking back at him. "I wasn't back-up. I... I wasn't supposed to be there."

"... then why the hell were you there?" Kanda demanded. He'd thought Krory had been the back-up, why else would he be there? If Krory wasn't back-up, then who the hell was it... and where the hell is that damn back-up then?!

"Chance." Krory wheezed. "L-Lenalee was back-up."

"Lenalee?!" Walker's eyes widened. Kanda's eyes narrowed, however. Lenalee was back-up? She never appeared, if that's the case... does that mean something happened to her? Obviously there's nothing that would willingly make her go back when her friends are in trouble, perhaps...

"She never met up with us." Kanda smoothly cut through what Walker was babbling. "Lenalee never arrived."

"W-what? That's..." Krory looked shocked. "She should have got there before me... had to get there before me..."

"She never came." saying it like that was blunt and the cold words echoed around the silent room. Walker fidgeted with the duvet worriedly.

"I'm going to contact Komui." he declared, reaching into his pocket. To Kanda's surprise he brought out his golden golem and Timcanpy immediately burst out of the bean sprout's hands, fluttering around as if it had never been free for all its life. The next instant it smacked Walker on the head three times. "T-Tim!" Walker shouted, shielding his head.

"I don't think it liked being cooped up for so long." Kanda smirked. "Although it must not have been very bright, to not escape and fetch help was a foolish thing -" he cut off, almost crying out when he felt sharp teeth dig into his fingers. "What the hell are you doing!?" he demanded, flapping his fingers and trying to shake off the golem.

It held on tight and he snarled, slamming it against the wall beside him. The movement was awkward and he lost his balance, falling over his side and out of the bed. In the space of a second he fell and landed on his right arm and back, the breath being knocked out of him.

He gasped, pain bursting up and down his spin.

"Kanda? KANDA!" he heard shouted and Kanda rolled onto his front, stars exploding in front of his eyes. His hands felt something wet and warm and he slowly brought up his right hand, staring in surprise at the red liquid on them. Blood. Shit. He'd probably torn the damn stitches again...

There were hurried footsteps and then he felt someone lift him up under the arms. He scowled, weakly batting away at the grip despite his vision not being steady.

"G'off, I can do it." he snapped, but then his legs were picked up too.

"His back..."

"There's nothing for it – we'll have to take him to surgery."

"But the wounds will just heal before we have the chance -"

"If we don't try he'll never walk again! He'll be stuck like this!"

Kanda growled, hating that statement. Whether or not they did something, he would walk again. He was an exorcist – he didn't have a choice. He felt himself being carried away and he was accidentally knocked against the wall on the way out. Pain exploded down his side and he finally gave in to unconsciousness, urgent calls of his name dying on deaf ears.

--

"... probably don't want to know, but I... I think – no, it doesn't matter what I think. The nurses are still watching me encouragingly but it only makes me feel worse. Y-you should w-wake up, so I don't have any more chances to ruin things for you..."

--

His limbs felt weak, but at least now he could stay conscious for long periods of time unlike before, when he really couldn't support himself.

Such a time was now, in fact... but it also meant he was slightly bored. There was nothing for him to do in this bed, confined to the four edges. He had a feeling that if he stepped out of his bed his legs wouldn't support him for very long, but the most deciding factor to have him remain was that it was cold.

There was even some frost on the window, fogging it up and making it impossible for Lavi to look outside.

He shivered, drawing up the duvet closer to his neck and shrugging his shoulders until it was quite a bit over them. Perhaps he'd be able to wrap the duvet over him and then make his way to Yu's room? He'd be a nice surprise for the other. It could work... actually it was a damn fine plan, he thought proudly.

He was just about to enact it when the door opened. Bookman stepped through and then closed the door behind him, shutting them both in the cold room. Lavi blinked at the elder.

"How's Yu?" he queried, worried but knowing better than to worry. After all, Bookman had been dealing with the exorcist; the fact that he was here meant everything was going to be okay.

"Recovering." Bookman replied and then he sat down on the chair beside Lavi's bed. "There's no need for any more worry, however – his wounds will heal and he will walk. The wood has been removed." Lavi sank back on the chair, exhaling loudly.

"It's about time," he grinned. "I don't think Yu would've been able to cope if he couldn't walk." He tried to imagine how Yu would cope... and found he couldn't. Bookman didn't react to his thoughts.

"Lavi, once you've recovered we'll be leaving."

Those words took the wind out of his sails. He snapped horrified eyes to Bookman who was staring back steadily. He was being serious then. I knew we would have to... but now? So soon? He swallowed in the tense silence, discreetly moving his hands beneath the duvet and then clutching at the sheets beneath him.

It was the only sign of his dismay.

"Leaving?" he repeated.

"Komui gave me a mission that we have to complete once my work here is done." Bookman explained and Lavi's shoulders slumped. Oh... it was that kind of leaving. Of course. "He wants the other three to return to headquarters for awhile, to recover and regroup." Lavi frowned.

"What, doesn't he think I want to do that too?" he said, pouting at being left out. He understood better than Bookman did what those words meant – it meant late night games, poker, food fights... and he was going to miss out on it. He yelped at the hard smack he got on his head, not seeing Bookman move until it was too late.

"Foolish apprentice! You don't deserve to have that!" Bookman scorned. "You cannot be trusted! On the one mission you are without me, you allow yourself to be taken captive and go missing for days! You don't figure anything out! It's all down to luck and brawn!"

"Taken captive?" Lavi blinked. Taken captive? The only time I got taken was on that ship, with the demon but he shouldn't know about that! "How do you know about that?" he got another hit.

"You might have gone missing but Kanda could still contact HQ!" Lavi gaped. Yu could've contacted HQ? Then why the hell didn't he?! Wait... missing? And sudden it all became clear.

Unable to stop himself he started to laugh. He threw his head back and his arms clutched his stomach as he giggled away.

"G-gramps!" he gasped. "That's not it at all!" Calming down, he saw the look he got from Bookman and grimaced, deciding he had to explain. "What happened that night... I approached the ship but I was attacked before I got there. I was... knocked out and I fell into the river." he coughed, ignoring Bookman's raised eyebrow.

"I was taken with the current and rescued by a man, who took care of me until I woke up. That was over several days and then Yu arrived, and caught the trail of the ship, and then I followed him once I heard. I was never captive." there was a pause.

"Idiot! Like I'd believe that!" Lavi scowled.

"But it's true!" he wailed, hardly daring to believe that the one time he told the truth he wasn't being believed. It was unfortunate that he had no one to prove it... no, he did! "I'll prove it to you! Once we're out of here I'll take you to him." Bookman remained silent and Lavi took that as his agreement.

Not wanting to remain in a place where he would be abused he forced his aching body to move out of the bed. Wrapping his duvet around him securely, he pulled a face to Bookman and then shuffled over to the door. It took a bit of fiddling and shuffling for him to open the door without dropping the duvet, but he wasn't a genius for nothing.

He poked his head out and shivered. It seemed even colder outside than it had been in his room, if that were possible. Without a look back he stepped out onto the wooden floor and made his way down the deserted corridor. He wasn't sure which room was Yu's but he'd find it.

Somehow.

It turned out he didn't need to worry – the instant he passed by a room he heard loud voices shouting at one another. Familiar voices. A wide grin on his face he didn't hesitate in opening the door and barging in.

"Allen!" he yelled, stumbling in and scanning the room. Spotting the white-haired teenager he dashed over and wrapped his arms around his friend, knocking him off balance and sending them both tumbling to the floor. His duvet slipped but at that point he didn't care.

"L-Lavi!" Allen said, looking uncomfortable. He had never really liked hugs, Lavi remembered. The red-head pulled himself up off of Allen and then helped his friend up until they were both standing. For the first time he looked at his friend and he was dismayed at how thin and ragged the other looked. He brought his gaze back to Allen's face and forced a smile, before turning to look at the other arguing person.

Covered in bandaged but standing, was Yu. He was glaring at both Lavi and Allen and Lavi pouted.

"What's that look for?" he demanded, bouncing forwards. "I'm pleased you can stand again Yu! Can you walk too?!"

"Idiot rabbit!" he scorned. "You always manage to barge in at the wrong time!"

"It's a talent." Lavi smirked before a noise caught his attention. He turned to the third patient and another wide grin nearly split his face in two. "Krory!" he scrambled over the cold floor, stumbling to the side of his friend's bed.

"Lavi..." Krory said weakly. Lavi remembered that it was Krory who had saved him, and the rest, and his grin changed into something a little more fond.

"Thank you Krory," he said, lowering his voice slightly. "If you hadn't been there, we would've probably lost the Innocence and our lives..." he paused, blinking. "Just why were you there?"

"That's what we're just discussing Lavi," Allen cut in. Lavi glanced to him and saw he'd returned to his bed. "We're talking about just what was going on. There's a lot I don't know and there's a lot you three don't know..."

"Oh? It's catch-up time? Looks like my timing was per-fect," he said, giving Yu a look before moving over and settling beside the bad-tempered youth. Yu merely 'che'd and tried to push him off, but Lavi wouldn't budge. Eventually the long-haired exorcist gave up, to Lavi's immense delight. "Hey Allen..." Lavi asked, remembering something that had always been bothering him.

"What?" Allen blinked.

"What was up with the note you left us?" he asked, his tone taking a slight whine. "I mean, talk about cryptic! If you were gonna leave us a note at least include more information!"

"What note?" Allen stared. Lavi stared back.

"You know, the note that said 'its hidden within sight'. The one that Yu and I slaved over to try and figure out what the hell you meant." Lavi said and Allen shook his head.

"I never left any such note." he replied. Both Lavi and Yu stared this time.

"It was your handwriting, bean sprout." Yu scowled. "You must have written it."

"I'm telling you, I didn't write that note!" Allen defended. "I think I'd remember writing something like that!" Lavi frowned, leaning against Yu as he thought about the possibilities.

"But..." he drew attention to him. "If you didn't write that note then who did?"

"Who gave it to you?" Allen asked and Lavi and Yu shared a glance.

"You don't think..." Lavi frowned.

"We didn't speak to her long enough to be certain." Yu replied.

"Wait, Sophia gave you the note?" Allen interrupted. Lavi nodded, looking back at his friend and Allen laughed a shaky laugh.

"That's... well..." he swallowed, looking a bit sad. "Is she still alive?" Silently Lavi shook his head and, surprisingly, Allen's expression didn't change. It was like he'd expected it. "I guess she had no choice then..." he trailed off. Lavi blinked.

"What happened?" he asked and Allen shook his head, smiling his normal false smile.

"Nothing. Before you came in I was just about to explain about the ship," he said and Lavi perked up, attention successfully diverted. This is what I've been waiting for, no doubt about it! "Over a century ago, there were still some pirates out on the high seas. They plundered and pilfered, taking no prisoners and looking for loot from any ship they came across. They were feared by all." he fiddled with his blanket.

"One ship, however, was different – although a pirate ship it had a fair captain and crew, all of whom just loved to play the part without actually doing all the serious things." he paused. Lavi raised an eyebrow.

"So, what, they were fake pirates?" Yu grunted.

"Ah, something like that," Allen looked a bit sheepish. "They pretended to be pirates and attacked ships for loot, but they always let the crew free or dropped the loot into the ocean, to stop other pirates getting to it. Unfortunately, for most it's impossible to tell the difference between one ship and the next... and one day they were attacked."

Lavi could sense where this was going. "They put up a good fight, but in the end they were defeated and the crew sunk to the ocean. The strong currents below sent it through the sea, into a river... but in his last moments the captain swore revenge on those who had done it, fuelled by the regret that he hadn't been able to save his crew. He was so very proud of them..."

"How boring." Yu commented, looking away. Lavi sniggered.

"Says he who was listening intently." he commented and Yu elbowed the red-head. Lavi yelped, hands going to clutch at his side. He gestured for Allen to continue.

"A few months back, a traveller stumbled into a person's house and found out about this fierce battle. It was nothing special but because it was the first and only battle in those waters, people had remembered it. The traveller made a few rude comments..."

"... which were enough to bring the ship to the surface once more, reacting from the captain's pride in his crew." Lavi finished. Allen nodded. "But how did it get to be involved with the Innocence?" Allen shrugged.

"That I don't know. Perhaps the Innocence was in the water and it got swept along before being trapped in the remains of the ship, then bringing it to the surface and causing the phenomena to happen." he offered.

"Maybe..." Lavi agreed, believing it to be the more plausible. "Or a demon could've been passing by with Innocence and dropped it in his stupidity." he sniggered, making Allen crack a smile and Yu snort. Krory wheezed a laugh.

"Either way, it's over now." Yu said, bringing them back to the present. "The ship's destroyed and we have the Innocence. We succeeded in our mission."

"Hey, we did didn't we?" Lavi grinned. "Even after all that mishap..."

"Mishap?" Allen asked, leaning forwards. "What happened whilst searching? Kanda hasn't been very forthcoming..." Yu's shoulders hunched and he shot a dark look to Allen. Allen ignored it with ease. Lavi shrugged.

"Well, it's a bit of a long story..." but he relished in telling it, starting with his frantic rush to Komui's office, knowing that that he would soon be leaving and thus unable to do this for awhile.

He would probably miss it.

No.

He would miss it.

--

"... with Allen and - Oh! You wiggled your – Lenalee? Lenalee? Oh... well, I didn't really expect to be the one to wake you up anyway, I'm not that important, I'm only here until someone better takes over. Y-your brother would be a good one to do so..." she trailed off and sighed softly.

Every day she'd been in the infirmary, informing Lenalee about what had happened that day (it was never anything interesting, obviously), but other than the occasional twitches and obvious responses, the female exorcist had never woken up. Not once had she opened her eyes and smiled and thanked her helper.

It only served to make Miranda extremely depressed at her failure. It's not like it's surprising, really, I always fail at everything I do, I didn't really expect to make a difference now, but – but – those nurses have been so encouraging, and it's not like I have anything else to do - after all, I'm just plain useless.

I have no friends... no, Allen's my friend, Lenalee too! They were the first to thank me, I'll never forget that moment...

"Do you want a glass of water Miranda?" Miranda jumped, black-rimmed eyes widening. With a soft cry she lost her balance and fell off the chair – it was only the nurse's quick response that stopped her from falling on the floor.

"I'm so sorry!" Miranda wailed, apologizing. The nurse laughed it off, squeezing the top of her arm gently before letting go.

"Are you alright?" she asked, concerned. Miranda nodded miserably. Unlucky Miranda... that's me. "That's good. Do you want a glass of water?" she repeated her question and Miranda gulped. If I say yes it'll mean more work for her, but if I say no it'll seem like I'm not grateful for the offer! Oh why is it never easy to just say one or the other?! "I'll get you one anyway, it must be tiring talking day after day." The nurse eventually decided, patting Miranda on the shoulder and then moving away. Miranda watched her go, heart aching.

Why do I have so many words I'll never say?

She sighed again, not noticing the dark cloud above her as she turned back to the bed. She reached out and took Lenalee's hand once more, squeezing. She didn't expect a response and she didn't get one, but she didn't let go either way. She tried to remember what she'd last been talking about.

"Um, I don't know if you know this but Marie took the mission I failed on. You probably already did know, probably thought it was typical I failed... but I didn't mean to! I really did try, but my Innocence..." tears came to her eyes and she sniffed, hastily rubbing at them. "I can stop time, I can reverse it, but I can't defend myself or others when needed... I never thought such a wonderful thing could be so ineffective..." she swallowed, her throat sore.

"In fact, I'm thinking-" the doors burst open, cutting off what she'd planned to say. She twisted, hands gripping the back of the chair as she stared at the door, where someone staggered in and then collapsed on the floor. Her eyes widened.

"Marie!" she shrieked, dashing out of the chair and then tripping over its leg. She and the chair tumbled to the floor but she immediately got to her feet and made her way to Noise Marie's side. "Nurse! Nurse!" she called, kneeling beside him. "Marie..."

He slowly turned to her but her gaze was drawn to the blood pooling around him. She swallowed.

"Miranda..." Marie's voice was faint. Miranda's gaze snapped back to him and he smiled weakly at her before trying to push himself up on his arms. Not sure what to do she sat there helpless, until something inside of her took over and forced her arms to reach out and help Marie into a sitting position.

"Miranda, what's wrong?" the nurse who had gone to get the water said, and then her eyes widened when she saw the patient. "Head nurse! We have a new patient!" she called, hurrying forwards and then pulling one of Marie's arms over her shoulder. "Miranda, take his other one, we're going to get him to a bed." Miranda stared.

"I-I can't -" she swallowed, recognizing that Marie needed help, and bit back her protests that she'd be more of a hindrance than a help. She pulled his arm over her shoulder and together they lifted the large male. Miranda staggered under his weight, very nearly dropping him, but clung on at the last moment.

"Over to this bed, come on!" the friendly nurse guided the way. It wasn't fair, thankfully, and for the first time Miranda managed to do something without any incident (if you didn't count stumbling into the bedpost and stubbing her toe, anyway.) They put Marie down on the bed and it was then the Head Nurse, a fierce woman protective of her patients, along with several others appeared.

"What's the damage?" she asked, sliding on gloves and looking professional. The nurse pulled up Marie's shirt, where the blood was soaking through.

"Several deep cuts, one long one running from shoulder to waist, possible broken ribs, possible internal bleeding..." she listed off the injuries and Miranda swallowed, her hand slowly going to feel at the scar across her stomach. Even now, weeks on, it still twinged when she thought of it.

Perhaps it always would, perhaps it was meant to be a reminder of her failure.

"Alright. You, get some needles. You, get some thread. You two, help me take him into the surgery." the Head Nurse glanced at Miranda who blanched.

"N-no! You don't want me to do that! I'll just screw it up, I'll probably knock him off before help him up, I'm never any good, if you want success you shouldn't go to me," she babbled, trying to make the Head nurse see sense. Her efforts were wasted. Miranda was guided by her nurse friend to one end of the bed.

"All you have to do is push, I'll lead the way." the nurse reassured her before heading to the other end of the bed. She bent down, doing something with the wheels, and then started to pull the bed from where it had been. Miranda hesitantly pushed against it. I shouldn't be doing this, I can't do this, why are they asking me? Surely there are more people to help, surely there's someone more reliable than me – she accidentally bashed against another bed. It made her jump, which jerked the bed and made Marie groan.

She was all set to go about panicking, but a look at her nurse friend made her swallow back her reprimands and start pushing again. She furrowed her brow, putting all her focus into guiding her friend to where he should be, and before she could understand what had happened they were in the surgery room and she was being asked to leave.

It was only once outside of the pale doors to the surgery and making her way out of the infirmary that she realized she hadn't screwed up once she'd forgotten about being ugly, unlucky, just plain useless.

--

It was dark.

The lone figure skulked down the corridor, footsteps making the slightest of sounds. It paused outside of two closed doors, one hand slowly rising to gently push against the door on the left. With a soft snick the door opened, revealing a darkened room.

Through the window the moonlight provided the light, illuminating everything in a silver and increasing every shadow around the room. The figure didn't notice the way the light gleamed off of the clean surfaces, the way its stunning beauty would have left anyone else breathless.

Said figure was already crossing the room, pausing beside each bed as if looking for something. Each time it moved on, not finding what it wanted, until it reached the seventh bed on the left side. Here it stopped, finally finding what it wanted, and moved until it was stood beside the bed.

Behind it, it felt the edge of a chair but it didn't need to use it, it wouldn't be there too long. Hesitantly the figure reached out, in the dim light searching before finally finding the thin and bony hand. It was cold.

It shuddered, eyes closing in dismay. It hadn't wanted to believe it, hadn't wanted it to be true... it'd deliberately avoided this place so it wouldn't have to see its most precious one still as a corpse.

But that night, it hadn't been able to stop itself from entering.

Slowly, it leant over until it had its forehead pressed against the patient's. Even her forehead was cold against its – everything about her was cold. She had no life, although it could feel the faint puff of breath. She was breathing, at least.

"Lenalee..." it whispered, eyes shutting in dismay. "Lenalee, I'm so sorry. If I hadn't sent you away, if I had known who you would encounter I swear, I never would have let you go." the words were spoken so quietly that they weren't audible from the next bed over, but they were spoken. The figure increased its grip on her hand, eyes stinging with the familiar hotness of tears.

"I'm so sorry..." the tears spilled out of its closed eyes and, seeing it didn't make a difference whether they were shut or not, the figure opened his eyes.

Only to see another pair of eyes stare back at him.

"Brother..." Lenalee whispered, her voice hoarse. "Why are you apologizing?"

"L-Lenalee..." Komui murmured and then, unable to stop himself, he let go of her hand and wrapped his arms around the small body, enveloping her and burying his face against her shoulder. She still felt cold, but he could feel the way her arms slowly wrapped around his waist, hugging him back.

"It's okay, brother, it's okay. Don't cry." she whispered.

And Komui smiled through the tears.

--

"Stop rocking the fucking boat." came a tense voice. Allen was drawn out of his thoughts and, as the words sunk in, he glanced down to his fingers. They tightly gripped the edge of the boat, were almost white against it, and he hastily let go. In doing so he realized he'd managed to crack the boat's edge slightly.

"Sorry." he said, pulling his hands into his lap. He couldn't stay still, however, because he soon found he could see the docking bay near the end of the tunnel.

He shifted in his seat, excitement building up as for the first time in months he returned home. He might not have been away for as long as others had, but there was just something about the boat being guided up stream and seeing people standing on the platform waiting for them.

A grin blossomed on the teenager's face when he saw two people stood there in white coats, waiting to greet them. It was obvious when they were spotted because they started to wave, and as they got closer Allen couldn't help but laugh at the pink bunny mug he could easily see.

"Komui! Reever!" he yelled, getting to his feet and waving back. His actions rocked the boat and that seemed to be the final straw for Kanda – with a snarl he too stood up and tackled Allen.

"That's it!" he snapped, pushing against the other. Allen yelped, not expecting it, and the pair tumbled backwards. There was a mixture of shouting and yelling from all present, followed by a spectacular splash as all those in the boat tumbled into the water.

Allen's eyes opened, blinking underwater. He kicked and soon broke surface, coughing out all the water he'd swallowed when going under. He gasped for air and, once he'd recovered, started to tread water and look around. Further down he could see Krory being helped out of the river by Komui and Reever, and when he glanced the other way he saw Kanda break surface as well.

They were all okay; that was a good thing.

He turned his gaze to the capsized boat and winced. Swimming over to it, it didn't take long before he'd set it the right way and then he started to make his way to the dock. An angry face was there to greet him.

"That was your fault bean sprout!" Kanda snarled, eyes blazing. Allen gave him a dark look.

"My fault? You're the one who tackled me!" he snapped. "We'd have been perfectly fine if you hadn't snapped and pushed at me!"

"Allen! Kanda!" a commanding voice cut through their argument. Dripping with murky water, the pair of exorcists turned to where Komui was frowning at them. "Cut it out."

"He started it-" Kanda started but Komui made a cutting motion with his hand. Kanda subsided, grumbling to himself. Allen glared at him before shaking his head, making little droplets of water fly everywhere. Once finished he turned to his three friends and a grin broke out on his face once more.

"You came to greet us!" he said, stepping forwards. Komui smiled softly as Reever nodded behind him.

"Of course, why shouldn't we?" Komui asked mildly, taking another sip from his mug. "They're all waiting for you."

"W-what? Waiting?" Allen frowned. Reever grinned, moving around Komui and putting his hands on Allen's shoulders.

"This way, this way!" he said excitedly, guiding Allen towards the winding staircase. Allen was too surprised to stop and, once he'd registered his position, he twisted around. Krory was following, a hint of a smile on his pale face, and behind them Komui and Kanda walked.

To Allen's dismay, even through the dim light he saw Kanda was still limping. He remembered what the doctor had said, reminding himself that the limp wouldn't be permanent – maybe a year or so, the kind woman had said – and that it could have been much worse... but there was something demoralizing at watching the second-fastest, and one of the best, exorcist limp so slowly.

"Don't look away! You'll trip up!" Reever reminded and Allen decided that he might as well go along with it all. It couldn't be anything bad, after all. It was just a pity that Lavi couldn't be here, a pity that Bookman had decided that Lavi needed some 'extra training' and taken him away without giving him much of a chance for rest.

Allen would have liked to have Lavi with him, but he couldn't complain – after all, he'd soon be seeing all his other friends.

Especially Lenalee.

After hearing she'd encountered a Noah he'd been worried... but he'd also been reassured at her good-health. When he'd inquired about all of his other friends, he'd been reassured of their well-being as well. He had nothing to fear... except maybe the evil grin on Reever and Komui's face.

His stomach flip-flopped, unease filling him inside and out. He tried to reassure himself that things were okay because Reever wasn't trying to stop it, but he also knew that anytime Reever and Komui worked together on something was a time to be feared. They turned the corner and Allen suddenly realized where they were going.

"Why're we going to the cafeteria?" he asked, craning his neck back.

"You're always hungry, aren't you?" Reever raised an eyebrow. As if to agree Allen's stomach rumbled and the exorcist turned red.

"Never mind..." he murmured, realizing they knew him better than he had thought. He had wanted to go to Jerry the instant he got back, he'd just been worrying about hurting everyone by acting like he didn't want to see them. It seemed he'd worried for nothing – they were even encouraging him!

He smiled softly. It was such a nice thought.

"Here we go!" Reever said as they reached the doors which lead in. He shoved Allen and the boy stumbled forwards, out of the dark corridors and into the blinding light of the cafeteria.

"Welcome back!" came a deafening shout. Allen froze, eyes blinking rapidly as he adjusted to the scene. In front of him stood what seemed like the entire Order, all smiling at him. He took a step back, hesitant – was it really all just for him? Krory stepped up beside him and then Kanda too, and Allen realized it was for all three of them.

His eyes started to feel hot and he forced back the tears that wanted to fall. He shouldn't be touched like this, he should've expected it – the hallways had been deserted, after all – but he hadn't and now he was feeling overwhelmed by all the smiling faces.

Krory was already sobbing loudly but a look at Kanda showed his annoyance with the entire thing. Allen turned back to the group of people and for the first time saw his friends at the first of it.

"Miranda! Johnny!" he said, smiling brightly at the pair. Miranda 'eep'ed and then gave a shaky smile back, like she hadn't expected him to greet her, whilst Johnny waved with a big grin. Allen then searched for the one he wanted to see, needed to see to prove he was actually home -

"Start the music brother!"

His gaze snapped up. Flying from high she fell, arms out wide. Before he could realize the scene she had halted right in front of him, a wide smile on her face.

"L-Lenalee!" he said, eyes wide. He'd forgotten how fast she was now.

"You owe me a dance," she said, eyes tearful, and then threw herself on him, wrapping her thin arms around his neck tightly. He struggled to adjust for a few seconds before relaxing and wrapping his arms around her waist. "Welcome home Allen..." she whispered into his ear.

There is a place made of walls and beams, but inside is coated with love and dreams.

They say that home is where the heart is, that to call a place a home is to really recognize that it's not the house, it's the people who live in it.

He wondered when he'd begun to call it 'home', when the foreboding walls became welcoming and the insanity within a comfort rather than fear. Perhaps it was when Jerry would willingly pile him with as much food as he could eat, or when he had only been there for a few weeks and was already being treated like a long-lost family member, or when Lenalee first included him in her coffee rounds, or when he realized everyone seemed to be working for his well-being...

He'd never really had a place to call home before. He'd thought he had one with Mana, a home that was just the pair of them in their own world, but he'd been cruelly pulled from that one. He'd always wish to go back to that time when life felt like a fairy-tale but sometimes... he was grateful; if he hadn't left that home, he wouldn't have found this one.

"Kanda, don't think you're escaping by the way! You owe me a dance."

"What?!"

Allen laughed.

Fini.

Hey la lo, hey la ho, our hearts go with you where you go
Hey la hey, hey la hey, may sunlight warm your back upon the way.

- The Pearls of Lutra: a Tale of Redwall, Brian Jacques


A/N: Well. This is it. The big one. It's over, and I dearly hope you all liked the last chapter. It was a pain in the ass to write because I struggled so hard to try and put it back to normal without it being cheesy or making light of what happened, but I think I failed with the party. Ahem. Hopefully I explained/wrapped up everything, anyway. I'm sorry it took so long to get out but I had at least one exam every day for the past two weeks, and then once it was over I had a sudden over-flow of coursework due in through the week so I was like 'OMG -dead-'. I love the way this entire story has turned out and I am so pleased that everyone seems to like it - I certainly never expected such reception when I first started, but I'm glad I managed to make people enjoy the tale.

NOW. QUESTION TIME.

I asked some questions over the story that I'll answer now. Not that many are interested, I suspect, but I might as well in case there actually were some who wanted to know. Heh. From Chapter 5, the reason the gang people called Freddy 'Frantz' was because of the meaning behind the word. Frantz means 'free' and Frederick means 'peaceful ruler', basically. It was mainly irony because Freddy wasn't free - the gang people were being sarcastic when they said it. If you don't understand, feel free to PM/email me. :)

As for the second, the double meaning to 'Broken Recovery', it was basically making a reference to a slow recovery with set-backs by our favourite boys, and the appearance of Miranda (remember she has an attack called Time Recovery?). I was making reference to the idea that she couldn't use Time Recovery to heal Lenalee. Again, don't understand just email/PM. XD.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS.

Thank you so much to the following: AnimeLover411, AnimeFanAmber, InfinityOnTheRun, KaraxLavi13, Ghost of the Crescent Moon, artist-girl731, Kiarra-Chan, knux33, Devils Melody, Nella-the-Yaoi-Fangirl, AiraMiru, cheesynoodle, blahrius, signrain, Evee-chan, silverfire113, zenbon zakura, xXJustAnotherFangirlXx, Evil Snail Overlord, JamieGlasgow4, Kira Temeki, MD, yuki-tenshee, tbiris and lysori, because all of you took the time out of your lives to leave a review, most of you reviewing more than once. You were there almost every step of the way and all of your sweet comments really, really made me feel that warm fuzzy feeling inside...

Thank you so much to everyone who favourited/alerted, because there's so many I can't name you all but I definitely know you're there. You also made me smile.

Finally, thank you to everyone who read the story, who found it within them to keep reading on again and again. I might write because I love to write, but an author is no author without an audience.

Thank you, everyone.