even when false tongues sting me

There was nothing like the silence inside a church.

It was not peace, not exactly, but something close enough that allowed you to rest. Even before Mana, Allen had been fond of churches. They had always made good shelters, as long a she kept his arm hidden. Sometimes he even got lucky and had a nice priest or a compassionate nun giving him unspoiled food.

Some of the warmth he got from that before had been corrupted when he met his master, and that had only increased after he joined the Order, a quiet bitterness that Allen did his best to ignore, whenever he had the chance to sit inside one.

The chapel at the Order could be considered, almost, a small church. While it had no windows and thus there were no stained glass to gleam red and blue and golden with the sun (it would be too dangerous to have such kind of weaknesses in a place that could, perhaps, one day be attacked), the candles lit the place enough, lilies surrounding the cross upon the altar, the wood of the confessional made of warm, reddish oak.

He was sitting there, alone, sitting on the back row although he had more than enough space to choose. Few people in the Order actually followed the Roman Catholic Church, something that had surprised Allen a little, back when he had just met Cross, but after just weeks in the Order, he had understood: Innocence cared not for race or religion, and thus the Order cared little to nothing of the traditions held by the people it brought to it, as long as they were conformers.

Still, he sat on the back, hands linked together, index fingers against his lips, as if he was praying, leaning over his knees, trying to recall the sense of comfort that churches had brought for him when he had been a child, when he had thought that inside it, no-one could hurt him and he didn't have to fight. At least for a few hours, he had been save.

But you know that isn't true, right?

He did his best to ignore the voice inside his head, unsure if it was his voice or someone else's, instead unclasping his hands, moving one to pat Tim's head gently.

Allen didn't know any prayers, and even as he tried to recall the bits and pieces of the ones he had heard, he somehow doubted that his master would have liked having him praying for him.

"It's not as if he'd go to heaven anyway," Allen muttered, annoyed at himself for the fact that he couldn't even say something true without feeling guilty for badmouthing someone that... "And it's not as if he is dead."

Tim nuzzled against his hand, and Allen petted him again, sighing a little as he focused on the lighted tapers, taking slow, deep breaths to try and calm himself. He wasn't sure how long he had been inside trying to pray, just distantly aware that he was getting hungry. Still, he had no desire to be with anyone at the moment, and he had answered as many questions as he had been asked. Link was waiting outside for him, and Allen needed, desperately, some time alone.

So when the door creaked opened, electric light shining inside the pulpit, he stopped himself from sighing, instead picking up Tim to put him on his shoulder, ready to stand up as he saw a shadow walked towards him with a slow carelessness that made Allen turn his head, realizing it wasn't Link.

"Thought you'd be here," Lavi said, shrugging, his voice sounding so loud against the previous quietness.

Allen was surprised to find himself welcoming the distraction from his thoughts, even moving to the side so that Lavi could flop by his side, hands inside his pockets, half sprawling over the pew.

"I'm surprised you were allowed to come in," Allen murmurs, his voice low, glancing at Lavi from the corner of his eye.

Lavi shrugs again, smiles, and when he answers his voice is much lower than his usual tone.

"Said it had to do with Bookman stuff," and Allen heard the silent 'and it actually is' that Lavi didn't seem to want to ask.

Allen thought that he should make it easier on him but he did not. He was tired of answering every question with 'I don't know'.

"You prayin'?" Lavi asked instead, looking at the altar, at the cross that imposes over it, the Savior bleeding and torn and Allen had never been able to look at its face for more than a few seconds before his stomach churned.

Instead he shook his head no. "Just thinking."

"Ah," Lavi said, and then nothing more for long, long minutes. Tim nuzzled against his neck this time and Allen smiled a little, picking the golem from there, putting him besides him on the pew, allowing him to chew half heartedly on his gloves.

Allen had to fight another wave of bitterness at the way the silence felt heavy, now, another thing that had been stolen from him, just like his trust in Mana's love or the comfort he had found in churches. Now he wasn't even able to sit down with a friend without feeling judged.

"I don't really know many prayers," Allen found himself adding, just to stop the agonizing silence.

Lavi hummed, thoughtfully. "I know plenty."

"You do?" Allen questioned, smiling despite himself. Of all the people he knew, he would have considered Lavi to be the least religious one of them all.

Lavi gifted him with half a grin and a shrug before he took his hands from his pockets, resting his arms on the back of the pew, and Allen did his best to ignore the voice that told him that he should distrust Lavi's friendly behavior before he got burnt.

"'course I do, Allen. More than you can count," then he winked, mock-whispering. "And in several languages, too."

Despite himself, Allen snorted. "You don't seem the type."

"Where d'you think the prophecies come from, huh?"

They both sort of winced at the same time at his words, but it was a strange comfort, Allen thought, to be able to have an almost joke with Lavi like that.

"I could teach you," Lavi said after a few awkward moments again. His arm was still on the pew, but his hand had strayed from the soft wood, instead playing with his hair, threading long, blunt fingers through it.

Almost without meaning to, Allen leaned against that almost caress a little, fighting against the sudden wish to close his eyes and just sleep. Instead he hummed thoughtfully, considering the offer.

"Do you pray, Lavi?"

"Sure do," his friend shrugged, still playing with his hair. "iSalve Regina, mater misericordiae. vita, dulcedo, et spes--/i"

"But do you pray?" Allen interrupted, voice careful.

Lavi's hand stopped for a moment, but then he shrugged again, his fingers now rubbing at his scalp, Allen sighing. "Noooot really. Seems like a waste of time?"

"Ah," Allen answered, but then he said nothing else, still leaning a little towards Lavi, more focused on the way Lavi's caresses were actually relaxing him than anything else. He breathed in slowly into the sweet scent of flowers, the more intense scent of incense.

Lavi, however, continued, his voice still low, just a whisper.

"I mean, yeah, there's a god or we wouldn't have Innocence... but, y'know. It doesn't seem as if he's listenin' to us."

Allen sighed, unsure what to say against that and not wanting to think of what those words could mean. He wasn't sure, himself, if he believed in such a powerful existence that yet did nothing when good people died or who allowed the Earl to roam free. He found himself sighing again, opening his eyes, unsure of just when, exactly, Lavi had shifted closer to him. Now Allen was half leaning against his arm, Lavi's fingers still caressing his hair.

Lavi suddenly looked at him and smiled a little. "Why don't you sleep for a while? I'll wake you up."

He probably shouldn't, the worlds Cross had told him coming over his head over and over again.

Instead of breaking apart, however, Allen just nodded, leaning his head against Lavi's shoulder. If he had been tense when doing that, soon Lavi's clever fingers moving over his scalp, then near his ear and over his neck, summed with the lack of sleep on him, Allen fell deeply asleep.

So he had to have imagined the kiss on his forehead, or Lavi adding, his voice even softer.

"But I do wish I could pray for you, Allen."