Title: Three Blind Mice

Fandom: D.Gray-man

Author: su-dama/tempusfugit3

Pairing: Lavi/Allen/Kanda

Rating: R for language, sexuality, and a little crack

Words: 16K

Disclaimer: DGM belongs to Hoshino Katsura et al.

Author's Note: Takes place long after Level 4 arc. Beta'd by fallia on LJ. Also, in no way do I intend real life accusations or pit against ethnic groups, genders, or even the characters themselves. Fun fic is fun, people.

-Three Blind Mice-

There was one thing on Lavi's mind, and it would have been young maidens if not for their current location, but—

"Shit. Shiiit," he said.

"You're really not helping," Allen moaned.

"Yeah, listen to the runt," said Kanda.

"Now I'm a runt?!" said Allen.

"My God, don't start that again."

"What sprout means is shut the fuck up, rabbit."

"Oooh, rabbit sounds so good right about now," Lavi said.

Allen went bonkers. "Stop it! Stop it! Oh God now I'm hungry."

What Lavi heard was stop it stop it oh God oh Sodomy and he scrubbed the sweat out of his eyes; the patch had been utterly dispatched in a debacle down south, or east, and he wouldn't be forgiving those two anytime soon for it. His vision was swimming, doubly so for his hearing.

Kanda was a little spiteful. "Tch. Bottomless pit from hell."

Hell, it was so hot. This is why there's a heaven, right?

Lavi and Allen would have broken out in song together, if not for their current location.

Which was the fucking desert. Where everything was going as wrong as wars are right. With wedgies and cottonmouth and the yucky sweat stench coming from leather. Everything gritty like paste between the toes (not altogether unbelievable). And one big, bright light.

They would have broken out in song if Allen hadn't gotten them lost to begin with. Left, right, on and on into nothing. What kind of directions were those? Were their brains broken? Did it seem as if it were forward when it was backward?

The story went that Allen and Kanda were having their usual spitfire banquet of words filled with sexual tension—in Lavi's opinion—during which he pretended to be off in his own little world. Of course, that had been his downfall, and the three blind mice wound up in a race against the devil. The demons had come out of nowhere, shooting like they had never been known to shoot before.

Woe, the boys had been caught up in a mess they were going to be too ashamed to admit to later at Headquarters.

After Lavi's weapon was mauled and crushed and God knew what else happened to it while held against its will, Kanda saved his ass by going ape-shit with his mad samurai skills—and practically killing Allen alongside the Akuma. It was horrible, and it was nasty, and Kanda let Lavi scream you indiscriminating asshole at him for five minutes straight. Allen might have done the same, but he was preoccupied with staunching precious blood-flow.

To make up for their frequent squabbling (for which Lavi was going to have to start charging them by the mile), Allen volunteered to steer them in the right direction, preferably a city with some transport and communication, since a.) Their Finder and golem weren't exactly on the map anymore, b.) They had no fucking clue as to where they were or how they were going to get there and c.) How could Lavi have underestimated the sun?

Kanda said he was being a wuss, he said they would most likely survive. Survive. Not live fitfully.

Allen had said there were only a few miles to…

Oh. The middle of nowhere. Oh Allen.

He deserved some hard lovin'.

--

"Where the hell are we?" Kanda asked like clockwork.

Lavi wrung out his bandanna. "I see…sand dunes. Uh huh, sand dunes."

"Which one is that—? Did I see that—? I swear I've seen that one before," Allen skipped over himself, dragging his leather uniform behind him, carving a nice path for Lavi.

"What the—? Didn't you live in India?" Kanda scoffed. Allen ignored him.

Lavi mused, to add insult to injury for them all, "We'll have to have a service or something. For our Finder. You know, if we make it back. Before 1900."

He did feel bad. It could have been his fault.

He couldn't see Kanda's reaction, but he could always sense a death-glare that could tattoo an elephant's rump. It was Kanda's trademark. How attractive.

Allen dropped his uniform and Lavi walked over it. "Lavi. Let's think about that when we get back then."

"If we get back," Lavi corrected him.

"When."

"If."

"Are you saying this is somehow my fault?"

"Of course he is," said Kanda.

"Of course I am?" Lavi agreed.

"Of course you are," said Allen. He stopped and wobbled toward him. He tried and failed at pulling the coat out from under Lavi's boots. "If I weren't so malnourished, I'd kick your ass."

"Malnourished? Malnourished?"

"That's what he said," Kanda said, sickeningly vindictive.

Lavi turned on him. "Quit bein' the mediator!"

"No. I have to translate your bullshit, and sprout's, because you both—"

"Who the hell told you to translate?!" Lavi yelled, grabbing at Kanda's hair.

"What are you calling bullshit?!" Allen groped for the rest of Kanda's ponytail.

In truth, they had only been lost-lost for about two days now. It was officially Allen's fault, but Lavi supposed he could have stepped up and drawn out another map. It would have been accurate, but alas, how accurate is accurate with no arrows in sight? And he supposed Kanda could have threatened anyone nearby with sword and spit and thus would have easily won them a ride. On a wagon. Wheels were in season. But, as fate would have it, all the people in the village had run them out, calling them the spawn of Satan. Something to that effect.

Kanda and Allen kept pointing fingers, so Lavi had no choice but to join in sometime.

--

At least they could agree on where they wanted to end up.

"Do you think the Mediterranean is around here somewhere?" Allen was already seeing mirages, and he wasn't the only one. Lavi could have bet his life on the black Madonna; she'd been waving gaily at him from above. He didn't know what religious icons had to do with one big, continental sandbox. They were still so far from the Holy Land; their Mecca was far from there still.

Kanda said, "Do you think you could shut up for just one second?"

"Allen, we'd still have to find a port. We'd be better off reaching the Strait. They're nicer over there."

"Who asked you?"

"Then who the hell were you talking to—sprout," Kanda cut in heavily.

"Myself! Guh! You piss me off! Guuuh!"

"Guh," Lavi huffed behind him, too lazy to comment properly.

"Tch," Kanda said when he realized he had nothing else to say. The guy was on a default that made everything seem funnier than it actually was.

When Lavi went into empty peals of laughter, Kanda personally knocked him off his feet.

Not only was the air borne from an oven, so was the sand. As fast as Lavi blacked out, he was right back on his feet trying to escape the scorching sensation. He would never bake again. Technically he would never start, but Kanda would have to pay for this sacrifice.

Allen went to defend him, only to meet Kanda's sword at nose range.

"N-now, now, Kanda, I'm sure you wouldn't—"

"Wouldn't what?"

"Wouldn't…kill me?"

"Allen, I wouldn't put it past him," Lavi said, half out of his mind from the scorch marks across his forearms.

They suddenly were at another impasse. Kanda had that constipated look on his face, and Allen looked too hot to strike.

If they killed each other, Lavi would have to suffer their joint funeral, and frankly, he didn't feel much up to it. And undoubtedly Lenalee would brutalize him for letting them get out of hand.

At least they could agree on where they wanted to end up.

--

Later, as Lavi decided to lead the way with the other two flanking him, he pondered the reality of how much shit they were in. Deep shit. Steaming and totally unforgiving, like how Lavi felt toward the guys.

"Hey. Allen."

"Don't talk to me. Please." Such a gent.

"Hey, uh, Yuu?"

"Don't finish that." Such a meanie. (Not that he expected different.)

"Right. As far as I know, France is that a-way," Lavi said, vaguely waving his hand around, "and this is all your fault, by the way. Just to let ya know. Yuu."

"Want me to bruise you?"

"Sacré bleu, be my guest! Not right now, though. We'll settle it when I can think straight. I'll pop my blisters on you."

"Please to be no fighting," Allen groaned.

"What are you talking about, Allen? It's your fault, too."

"We're not getting into this again, are we? Are we?! Because! I don't think I could take it."

Kanda made a sound akin to the driest guffaw, and Allen said, "Lavi, do kill him for me. I'll owe you. I'll do whatever you want."

A growl: "We duel when I say we duel."

"Whoa. Lavi, Kanda glistens."

He was right; the light bouncing off of Kanda's sweat made him sparkle in some ways. Or was that the evil eye? Or Mugen?

"Allen, the sun brings it out in him."

"Should've known."

"Yeah. So. If I kill 'im?" Lavi wasn't about to forget it.

Allen cried it's so fucking hooot under his breath, his adorable self, and then said, "I'll do anything you want."

"I'm right here," Kanda reminded them.

"Anythin'?"

"I'm. Right. Here."

"Yup! But, don't make it too complicated. I can't even think straight, either."

"I'm right here!" Kanda shouted, stopping in his tracks and nearly spazzing out, fangs and sword reflecting the sun. Lavi had to shield his eyes.

"Allen?"

"Yeah?"

"I know what we'll be discussing later."

"How many fucking times must I fucking repeat myself?!" However, Kanda didn't have a good grip and the sword went flying, cutting off a chunk of Lavi's fringe—

"You-you-you idiot!"

—and landing somewhere inside a sand dune where Kanda spent a minute with his un-skirted ass in the air digging for it as the sand avalanched slightly. Lavi tried not to stare. Allen didn't make a sound.

--

The second night was falling. Twilight was a two-faced bitch in the making, the haze of storm that colored the horizon for a while before inviting the desert critters out to feast. On them.

Allen happened to know a thing or two about deserts in general. Lavi was convinced the snakes were going to swallow him whole at midnight. Kanda was barely tolerating their voices. Each of them had developed a different syndrome.

They were camping at the edge of a dune, attitudes embittered, thinking about canopies and water, the juice of the earth as Allen so eloquently put it. Kanda kept his distance, hunkering down under his coat for whatever reason that related to estrangement, which prompted a curt response from Allen, something Lavi was thrilled to hear. Yes, yes, it is all Yuu's fault, but then Kanda flipped them both off and all went quiet.

The birds were gone. They had seen a flock of buzzards earlier, formally known as a wake—such a fitting term. No, it had been an entire fleet. Lavi wondered what carcass tasted like.

Allen's stomach continued to growl into the night. Music in bed. It was educational.

"Shuddup," Lavi said.

"I can't! My Innocence demands to be fed."

"Pfft. Innocence. What good is it in the middle of nowhere?"

"This sand itches."

"I didn't tell you to take off your pants."

"I had to! They were…sticking to me. I'll put them back on before I fall asleep."

The pants were airing out somewhere nearby and Lavi was tempted. It was cruel. Allen was a tease, and Kanda might have realized it early on, which would explain Kanda's frustrations toward him. His back was facing them, a big distorted black and white smudge with a short fuse in temperament.

Full moon tonight.

"Uh, nice drawers by the way."

"Oh?" Allen wiggled toward him, maybe blushing.

"It wouldn't hurt to air those out, too."

"Shameless. Warn me before you do it. I'll gladly leave," Kanda said from his balled-up position.

"I thought you were sleeping, Yuu."

"Not with that racket. Idiot."

"I'd forgotten, um, how cold it gets. Yeah," Allen said, moving off for his pants.

After that, they each huddled in their own territories. Allen probably wanted to cry over his sprained finger and Lavi knew Kanda was resting on the possibility of detainment once they returned to the Order, because it was also Kanda's fault that Lavi's hammer had been smashed in the village and it was definitely his fault that they'd ended up treading sand.

It was Kanda's fault that Lavi had come to prefer Allen over him.

For the longest time, Lavi had been hung up over Kanda's charm and grace, which meant Kanda looked like a girl (stupid pretty long hair) but that Lavi was willing to accommodate him. Years, but a handful of years, had honed their relationship, eventually stopping Lavi from acting on his simmering impulses. Kanda had once implied that one-sided boners didn't get very far, and Lavi had once or twice (who was counting?) more than implied that anyone could be seduced, given the right circumstances.

Kanda had flared his nostrils at him and stalked off, his stupid pretty long hair swaying from side to side.

But that had been on a mission last year, and since then Lavi had been weighing the elements between Allen and Lenalee. True, Allen was younger and cuter and cheerier and, true to his gender type, had a dick.

Okay, Lenalee was cute and cheery as well as a load of other sugary things, but she was also Komui's sister.

Lavi knew better than to put himself in harm's way—on purpose.

He should have whacked Kanda when he had the chance. This suggestive thought possessed him quite interestingly for a while.

--

Into the night, after hours of counting down said hours, Lavi could hear Allen shuffling around, breathing, then shifting sand and cloth.

"Do ya need some privacy?" he ventured, smiling into his crooked arm.

"It's nothing like that."

"Sure."

"I'm freezing my ass off, though?"

"Is that an invitation—?" He broke off to chatter his teeth.

Allen had scooted closer for the heat they had lost from the day, hair obscuring his eyes.

"Do you…mind?"

Lavi didn't think about it. He found himself inching closer. "You know, sharing body-heat is not such a bad idea. It can save lives."

"As God intended it?"

"As I intended it. Now get closer, I have freezer-burn."

"What about Kanda?"

"You can't be serious. He'd rather kiss your feet than sleep against our beautifully chiseled abs."

Well, it came out that way, and Lavi was glad Allen didn't make a big deal out of nothing.

"I knooow. I think he's trying to commit a very slow suicide. I can't watch. It's painful enough with the heatstroke."

"Heatstroke? I've forgotten what the sun feels like already." Which was a blatant lie. Lavi grappled and pulled him into his chest.

"It feels like Kanda's ass in the air when all you want to do is take a paddle and—"

"Allen is a dirty boy," Lavi sang quietly, and Allen pinched his chest. It was a momentary damper. The boy sure had ideas. Powerful reflexes and the like.

--

About an hour later, Lavi hadn't realized he'd fallen asleep until he sensed something crawling over his—

"Lavi, don't move."

—nethers. Well, it could have been Allen's hand, in the Land of Dreams Come True for All Horny Teenagers.

He blinked the tears out of his eyes, sore from the cold. "It's Yuu, isn't it? I knew he'd try killing me in my sleep."

Allen's voice was constricted. "Don't move, don't move. I've almost gotten stung before, and—if you die, y-your gramps will have a heart-attack."

"I was hoping." Really, Lavi felt duped.

"I swear, don't move. Here." Allen had gotten up on his haunches and begun to ease up into a crouch, like a spider. "If you, maybe, I dunno, take off your jacket, and belt—oh, it's moving! This is very good! Wait—dammit, there!"

"Where, where, where?" Lavi listened intently and did not move for all he was worth. Plus, he had a crick in his neck that made things impossible.

"Over your belt. So. Don't take off your belt. Yet."

"Holy Toledo, what the fuck."

"I said don't move."

"I can't talk either?"

"What's wrong with you? I said don't move, that includes no talking… And there it goes."

"Where, where?"

Allen was too, too quiet. Like a person before a eulogy.

"I-I had lost a friend to a scorpion once. My master forced drugs on me in my despair. You know, the dodgy stuff."

"Oh my God, Allen."

"Lavi, hurry! Take them off!"

"What?!"

There was a scramble, and Lavi realized Allen was about to invoke his Innocence. The dagger fingers cast shadows across the sand.

"What is it now?"

There was another scramble, and it was Kanda lifting his sword and a big impromptu whoosh

"I'll haunt you!" Lavi threatened, still immobile, more out of disbelief this time around.

Luck saved Lavi from fatality, if not sterility. The alleged scorpion walked off into the night, ignoring them like the armored soldier it was, tail poised high.

That's what Allen told him, anyway, and Lavi had to take his word for it.

He planned to sleep standing the next time, browsing over his photographic memory of certain dismaying places and their inhabitants. He wondered if it would be smarter to sleep during the day, wherever they could find shade, and then blaze a trail at dusk.

--

Yeah, in fact, he was a dumbass for not thinking it sooner.

Lavi had his alone time when the sun rose to kill, peeing into a salt bed. He whistled, tapped his foot, and then decided he needed to play his cards right.

"Enough of this shit. I'm takin' charge, and I say we go that way." Where he pointed didn't matter at the moment. He just wouldn't fail. He shrugged off his shirt, hooking it over his shoulder.

"I don't think that's wise." Allen was tying that cute ribbon around his hair.

"That way?"

"No. It's just, you'll get a wicked sunburn, and you might only burn."

Lavi looked down at his bare chest, one of the nipples darker than normal, tan line down his sternum. He didn't know why Allen thought this. "You're right. That's why we'll rest now and won't have to sweat our asses off later."

Kanda, characteristically, said nothing, and they moved on to search for a safe spot.

Point one, it entailed walking, walking, walking; point two, it was all for naught and they had to wait till noon to come upon a rock formation. Kanda, staving off a migraine, claimed a lone spot under a very unpromising rock, and Allen hoped out loud that it would fall on him.

"Where are we, Lavi?" Kanda spoke up when no else wanted to.

Lavi could have gone for a little interaction of some kind. The winds were picking up, and he worried they'd be facing a sandstorm. He'd pick vampire bats in a cave anytime. Actually, he'd already done that bit.

"I reckon…Algeria?"

"It had better be Morocco."

"Then why ask me?"

"Because you are our brave leader," piped Allen. He wind-milled his arms as he tripped over a rock.

"I know," said Lavi.

--

Allen was busy picking at the scab around the cut from his fight with Kanda a few days ago. Lavi shook his head.

"I'm hungry." Allen was so hungry that they needed a reminder every hour on the hour. "I can't tell, but do you think it would hurt to eat Kanda?"

"Tch. I'm too refined for your tastes, sprout."

"Lavi?"

"I wish I could say this with such conviction, like Yuu could, but I will anyway. I'm far past my expiration date. Eat your arm."

Kanda grunted in approval at the jab.

They grew silent and still, avoiding each others' gazes, instead listening for any traces of the sea. If it was nearby, they could discern east from west. Lavi made swirls in the cool sand with his bare toes, drawing Allen's scar. He mussed it up and started over again. He did this five times, and just as he was about to make it fancy, Allen mewled, "I use more energy, I need more energy, please, Lavi, give me energy."

"Eat your other arm."

"I mean it. I'm not kidding."

"'Course you're not."

"I will die if my stomach is not appeased."

"I never thought I'd see the day I'd become your personal savior."

"That sounds so pretentious."

"I am pretentious." Tongue, cheek, and go.

"Ag, you're so mean. And to think I saved your life last night."

Lavi rolled his eyes up at him, clenched his jaw in mock-deliberation, and posed with a thumb up. He loved this teasing thing they had going. "Righty-ho, you did, didn't you?"

"Yes, yes I did."

"And you barely missed my balls." Teasing. No, not really. Although Lavi highly doubted he would ever be reproducing, let alone with a female who would gladly have him.

"Yes, yes I—" Allen started. He made to speak further, but then stuck out his tongue instead.

The gripe that came next was sharp enough not to be taken lightly, and Allen was inclined to grow pink, pinker than a baby's bottom.

Kanda had been watching them the whole time. Observing indigenous European animals in the Sahara, seeing them squirm and squeal over the lizards that crossed their path. In the shade, they never knew what might be lying in wait beneath their backsides. Kanda selected his battles without a word during this time as Lavi observed him out of the corner of his eye.

All three boys now sat on their shirts and coats, leaning against grainy rock, the sweat drying on their brows. And Lavi felt unmistakably tacky and sore. Like someone had gone wild on him in his sleep. Hark! An arse-bandit!

"I have an announcement to make," he said, not much out of the blue.

Allen and Kanda groaned.

"Hark! We are lost."

Allen and Kanda seemed eager to launch their fury.

--

"In a sea of sand and sage, we are lost."

"Stop saying that!" Allen yelped, cradling his head under his coat. The sun was old, dusk due.

"Yuu?"

No response.

"Hold me."

"I'd rather choke on sand."

"That can be arranged," Allen said. Lavi wondered if hold me could be arranged as well.

They'd been walking for an undetermined amount of time; could have been days, could have been hours. Or worse, minutes. Lavi swore he would never listen to Kanda again. He should have stopped listening after that time back in Edo.

Truth be told, Lavi had been to the desert before—as if it had been a city visit. Where there was civilization and networks to live off of. He had been able to breathe easy, assured that he'd get his goat milk and oiled hide.

Here, they might have passed the mountains, so they might be in Algeria or the border of Morocco, according to mid-nineteenth century maps; and, if lucky, they might be walking headlong into the Atlantic, so they might get some water, albeit salt, while on their roundabout journey.

And, and, they might be heading toward their doom somewhere off a stone plateau.

"It's a fucking cliff," Kanda barked.

Lavi sighed. "Obviously."

Allen sighed along with him, then: "Let's throw 'im off, Lavi!"

"Don't be too hasty. But. I agree."

"Wait." Kanda was already edging away.

"C'mon, Lavi, there's two of us. We can take him."

"Wait, what. You are not throwing me off a cliff."

"I say mutiny!" cried Lavi.

"Mutiny! Yay! No more Kanda, no more, no more!" sang Allen.

It was official: Allen had lost his mind. Finally. Lavi had been starting to think the boy was, ohohoho, super special.

"Don't come near me."

"Yuu, it'll be quick."

"Lavi."

"Yes?" He couldn't help the glee in his voice.

Kanda was so involved with himself and their dire situation, along with the drop in temperature, that he couldn't see how idiotic he was acting, not to mention how his long strands stuck to his lashes, how confused his expression was. He lifted the sword into a fighting stance.

"Oh God, Yuu, I didn't mean it." Lavi kind of did, though.

"I did," Allen said once Kanda thought the threat had been temporarily buried.

They shrugged it off to backtrack and peel around the sudden plateau that had been disguised as a rather large dune, that had been cast in shadow, that was a succulent relief after that open air sauna, oh fucking yes, and they had been so distracted, the passing memory proved hysterical a mile out of the way.

Lavi could bet Allen was daydreaming of London's grey skies. He hankered for a monsoon. (Oh shit, had they passed any oases in their stupors?) Did he want a monsoon? Quick. Drown by sand or storm?

Allen and Kanda were no longer permitted within an arm's length of each other, better yet, light-year's length, the both of them like hateful, enamored school children, one he liked, the other he liked very much, and he suspected they both were simpletons for each other behind his back. He couldn't decide between the two, but all he cared to do at the moment was keep them from shedding blood.

The sun might bring out the supreme badass in Kanda, but the sun definitely brought out the delusions in Lavi; it was a mystery the others couldn't see it.

"What time is it?" said Allen, all hopeful.

Lavi felt like impressing him. "I want to spank you."

Unfortunately, it was in Arabic, and Lavi was met with a silence that was tantamount to rejection.

He was also relieved.

"You want to…? That's all I understood."

Good. Too bad.

"You know some Arabic, Allen?"

"Well. Well, er, I picked up a few words in my day."

"In your day." How old was he?

"Yeah. Cross loved to kick me out and demand I make it on my own. One time, we were in Egypt. I had to learn pidgin Egyptian, crossed with Arabic and English? And…"

"Wind up in prison, didja?"

"Yeah. I told a lady I wanted to sell her on the black market? I didn't, and she turned out to be quite important. Haha…ha."

"Poor you."

They called for a rest stop, Lavi grasping Allen's elbow while following him to Nowhere. They were currently straddling a valley, a huge plain that seemed to last. Kanda went in the opposite direction, the inopportunity of Nowhere clearly irrelevant to him.

When Kanda wanted to disappear, he made good on his promise.

"How do you suppose he does that?"

Lavi relaxed against Allen and said, "Yuu likes his alone time."

By the way he said it, though, Allen got the gist. "I'm sorry for asking. Lavi? Are you going to hang on me like that? I need to pee."

"Be my guest."

"By peeing, I mean, I need my privacy."

"I guess you can have all the privacy in the world out here, huh?"

"Exactly."

Lavi turned his back on him and undid his belt. The pieces of his hammer went plop kerplop ping! onto the sand. Unziiip.

"What're you—?"

"We'll piss back to back. When we get out of here, at least we can say we pissed back t' back in the middle of the desert."

"Oh." There was a funny pause. "Okay! I'm too lazy to go anywhere else, anyhow."

--

They waited for Kanda to show his face. While waiting for what seemed a few hours in the bland darkness, Allen volunteered—hesitantly—to massage the knot out of Lavi's shoulder, business-like, and Lavi volunteered to mope over his broken hammer. The stem had been snapped into three pieces.

Three pieces Komui was undoubtedly going to use for somebody's half-assed crucifixion.

"Didn't they just fix this?" Lavi bemoaned. He rammed the pieces into the ground for busywork. If Gramps had joined him in Africa, none of this would have ever happened.

"We won't know until we get there. Komui might let it slide."

This was like exile. "Slide right up my alley."

"That's an image."

"Is that knot gone yet?"

"Hm." Poke, poke.

"Blegh," Lavi said.

"What's taking him so long?"

"I told you. Kanda wants to be alone."

"I didn't believe you."

"Depends on how you believe me."

Allen dug his fingers into Lavi's bare neck. The demon hand, demon calluses.

"How rude."

"I can handle an image of Komui doing—you know—but I refuse to imagine Kanda and his—"

Maybe Allen wasn't as lovesick with Kanda as Lavi had previously thought. Maybe, just maybe, Allen was genuinely pissed.

The cool night begged him to ask.

"So. You're not bent that way?"

"Bent?"

Lavi scooted to see Allen's furrowed brows. He didn't want to have to stoop to stereotypes, nor did he want to make this more complicated than it had to be.

"Bacchá?" Lavi tried.

"Pardon?" Allen leaned away from him, scrunching his nose. Reading his lips? "Are you calling me a-a dancing boy?"

Allen understood. Lavi need not explain. "Are you?" He waited. "Allen."

"N-no. No."

Okay. Explaining wouldn't hurt a soul, but Lavi was prone to disagreeing with conventions of the Victorian Era. He stared. "I knew it."

"Knew? Knew what? Knew what?!"

"It's written in the stars, Allen."

"Look. Myyy…"

"Orientation." Lavi prompted.

"Yes, my orientation is none of your concern, thank you."

There was a harsh crack boom!in the sky just as Kanda happened into their bubble.

"You can stop belly-aching now, Walker."

--

Lavi thought they'd see about the orientation deal. Meanwhile, he also thought they'd find higher ground. The summer storm was hitting them harder than expected, and Allen kept repeating splendid, splendid! every time he got the urge to celebrate. Kanda would jog with his sword hoisted over his shoulder to escape him, bobbing up and down in the shower. He almost scurried into loose sand when the wind whipped wet chunks into his eyes.

"This way!"

"Which way?!"

"That way!"

"No-no, it's higher that way!"

"Can't we just get along, children?"

"Shut up, Lavi!" Allen and Kanda shrieked.

The rain was pounding the sand into molten mounds, craters of water that would have otherwise been convenient. Except for the fact the rain was pretty heavy. And warm. Initially.

Despite that, their breaths were bright puffs from the Arctic, and it must have been the condensed air no one gave a shit about except that it was annoying Lavi, so he ended up giving a shit about the science part of it.

Lavi called viper! as if it were a normal obstacle, Allen pranced over it in Kanda's direction, and Kanda, what a gentleman, grabbed Allen by the shirt and ran with him up the hill, leaving a waterlogged Lavi in their wake. "Hey!" They didn't hear him. "Heeey!"

"You're slow as molasses!" Allen yelled.

Lavi caught up to them, winded, blowing his hair out of the way and remembering they could see his patchless eye. Since the cold was having a nifty affect, his hand shook as he rubbed his face, feeling and probably looking rather pitiful and scared. It occurred to him that his bandanna was missing.

"Splendid! Splendid!" Allen entertained Lavi by cupping his palms together and drinking from them like an alcoholic. He'd never been so jealous of water before.

"Yo, Allen. Gimme a sip."

--

They were perched mid-way atop the hill, and Lavi surmised God was blessing them (borrowing Allen's oh-so-boisterous words). Kanda refrained from any further interaction with Allen, stamping a few feet away to sit bundled up and alone. Lavi knew that sulk from anywhere. He could chisel a statue of it; da Vinci would turn in his grave.

That's how much he remembered, that's how much it mattered. It hurt. In his veins.

Would he ever profess it to the world?

Not a chance, not a—

Lavi sighed. He was losing. "Yuu. Yuu."

"Leave him, Lavi."

"I was just gonna say." He wasn't going to say a thing. The rain was falling, and he had nothing to say that would have been of any comfort. Plus, the one thing on his mind wasn't exactly pleasing.

He rubbed his eye again.

Allen umm'd, chattering. Lavi thought he heard Tiiim somewhere in there.

Lavi could feel his pants fusing with his flesh. "Out with it, Allen."

"I'm sorry."

"Yeah? Same here. We've got a problem, and it's probably my fault I didn't let you push him off that cliff."

"Hah. Uh. Er. No. I mean—"

Lavi tightened his coat around himself in reflex.

"I mean, I'm sorry about your hammer. That was my fault."

"If it worked, we could have been sky high, in town by now. Dammit, we could be spoiling ourselves rotten by the Nile."

"I know. That's why."

"We could be ordering room service 'cause our credentials are that brill', we could be having a grand ol' time with the ladies. But no. That's a little ruined, wouldn'tja say?" He did like feathers.

If only Allen's golem hadn't been put in quarantine. Stupid technical viruses. If only, if only.

"Ah, room service does sound brilliant," Allen said, distracted from the obvious problem. He sighed a woeful sigh. "I'd like Peking duck. Ooh, mushrooms. And gravy. And pudding. Jerry makes the best pudding, I'm so sorry he's not here."

"Er."

"Yes, I am sorry, Lavi."

He didn't answer.

"Lavi, I apologized, what more do you want? Is-is it getting colder?"

Lavi didn't want Kanda to hear him say it, so he licked his blue lip, curling his index finger. Closer, a bit closer. "Remember when," he began sotto voce, "we used our combined strengths?"

Allen understood. "Headquarters?"

"Old HQ, Crown Clown, level four."

"No kidding."

"C'mon, Allen. I blame dear Yuu, but I sure as hell don't blame him that much."

"I do." Allen pouted tiredly.

"You don't mean that. Do you mean that?"

"Would I lie to you?"

"Yes. In total—ever since we first met. A Bookman never forgets."

"Fine. Shit. God. I don't want to touch him. He pisses me off."

Lavi could imagine. He could still taste Kanda, though he hadn't kissed him for almost a year now. Kanda was a sourpuss about it; he denied Lavi, he teased Lavi, and there had to be a way out of this gaping hole of mass destruction.

It was a shame that kissing had been all it was. He had to pretend he liked their arrangement, to shut it off like a rusty faucet, stubbornly dripping even afterward. And what was worse?

What was fucking worse than denial?

Kanda habitually put up his defenses.

It screwed up many things, and it screwed them up too soon. Not that Lavi was holding a grudge or anything angsty like that. Not that.

"Say, Allen."

"I know, I know. Ah bugger." Allen stood to stretch his legs, resisting a tantrum. Think good thoughts: Admit it's not that bad. That sort. Lavi opted to keep those things to himself. For a time. While Allen was impressionable.

They marched and slid and waded through clumps the size of—well, Lavi cursed them for being so uncooperative.

They were probably on a rock, for all they knew. Surely the dune wasn't melting.

"Splendid rain, isn't it?" Allen cheered, plopping down beside Kanda. Allen was encountered with a startled snarl.

"Now, now, Yuu. We don't want you dying of hypothermia."

"Splendid!" Allen cheered again, either ignoring that remark or definitely referring to it.

--

An hour later the winds headed toward the coast. The rain stayed for an extended visit. It was wet. All was wet. It was icky. All was icky.

Lavi forgot he had fingers and toes. Alleluia, alleluia, he'd imagine the best of times.

"Splendid rain, my ass!" Kanda sneezed, shoving Allen with an elbow, causing Allen to grab for support. In essence, causing Kanda to lose the grip his butt had acquired with the sand and to almost go cascading down the beaten slope like a human ball. Almost.

The pup hugging Kanda's side looked like he wanted to whimper. Kanda grumbled a string of what sounded like Japanese insults.

Lavi didn't feel like the future Bookman. In complete contrast, he felt like dog doo-doo in Siberia. He crawled over to rein Allen in for another attempt.

Kanda knew there were inborn boundaries for the sake of heart. And survival.

Bastard.

--

"Master used to say, 'This, too, shall pass.' And then he'd—"

"Watch it, Allen, you shouldn't jinx it."

"Thistooshallpassthistooshallpass. There."

"Nice. Thanks a lot."

"Psht. And then Cross would say, 'Hohoho, get me a bottle of rum, boy—'"

"Would you two shut it? People sleep at this hour."

"Oh my God, Lavi, Kanda's human. Who knew?"

"I did, partly."

"I'm right here."

"We get that."

"What Allen says."

"Mugen," Kanda said, moving to find the hilt in the sand. It didn't surprise Lavi that Kanda still had it in him.

He covered Kanda's ears. "Go on."

"Oh. That's it." Allen's last-minute hood was plastered to the crown of his head.

"That was a lousy story. That can't be it."

"Er, 'tis!"

"Don't give me that British crap."

"Kanda shouldn't've interrupted."

"Excuses."

"Really!"

"Cross fed you to the lions, didn't he?"

Allen appeared to be weighing the gravity of his answer. The effects it would have on his two companions. Lavi tried the but-I-care-about-you head tilt. Allen averted his eyes.

"Sometimes they weren't lions."

"Tigers?"

"Eh."

"Bears?"

"You don't have to put that much effort into outsmarting bears."

"Men. Men?"

"Don't tell anyone else."

"Who would I tell?"

Allen scowled.

"Honestly, it's between us."

"Men. Yes."

"Bloody hell. You didn't go to Arabia, did you?"

"I fought tooth and nail and managed to talk my way through many a rough spot."

"So they never—?"

"You have no idea how proud I am they never did. It's like…"

Proud. It put a smile on Lavi's face.

"Oy. Allen. Guess what?" It stopped raining.

It only took them a half-hour to disband their huddle; they had fused together, somehow, like Lavi's pants.

Kanda had showed a mixture of relief and disgust when Lavi had pulled his hands away back on the mysteriously shrinking sand-dune. It was evident that Kanda didn't know how to vent his concern, and Lavi wouldn't be the one to siphon it out of him. He secretly enjoyed Kanda's glossy movements, how he attempted at showing very little but left little to Lavi's imagination despite that.

He wondered what it would be like to love him. Friends, best friends, lovers.

It could have been like that.

Lavi decided to leave the door open for his quasi-friend-lover-person.

Just in case.

Lavi knew that Allen knew that Kanda knew Allen's dying secret, and Lavi especially knew that they were all human beings and subject to sensitivity.

For instance: if Lavi shut the door, Kanda would brood by it—maybe peek past the doorframe, darken the threshold. The actual entering was out of the question. But brooding was his forte; he had to do it well. Moreover, if Lavi slammed the door in his face, or moreover even quietly while the other hardly noticed, Kanda would eventually never bother again. He wouldn't bother knocking or kicking the door down.

Who could stand that?

--

Dawn was upon them, the rain having inexplicably dried out the land even more. The monsoon was long gone, but it was iffy whether it would rain on their parade again.

Or, yeah, it was now that they'd die from thirst.

Thirst first, hunger second. Was that right?

Lavi smacked his cracked lips. The sun was making love to their poor mortal bodies, and it liked it slow and deadly.

"I wish…"

"What do you wish, Al?"

"Don't call me that."

"It just came out."

"I wish… Damn."

"You forgot."

"Yeah, I forgot."

"This place is gonna do us in."

"Oh. Now I know."

"Eh?"

"I remember. Do. You do Kanda. I eat him."

"You're—"

"My brain is fried. You can't stop me."

"Allen. You're…evil."

"Let's be quick. Kanda's practically running away."

"No shit, commandant."

"Don't patronize me, either."

"Yes sir!"

"All right. Arg. Ugh. I hate you."

"I hate you, too." Filthy liar.

"When I start heaving stomach juice, theeen you do 'im."

"Now. When you say…"

"Seriously?"

"But, but, but how? I have no usable weapon. Big Hammer's dead—because of you—and I dunno."

"Kanda trusts you." Allen nodded sagely.

Lavi chuckled. "Well, yeah, he does, doesn't he?"

"I'm not the one with the dirty mind."

"Oh please."

"'Pretty please,' said the dirty boy, red, lively, and gay! 'Hey hooray,' said the dirty boy, 'I'll make the pretty boy pay!'"

They stopped short and looked up to see Kanda's twitching face not too far away. In fact, they could now consider him a ninja of sorts. Pretty ninja boy, indeed. Hair lashed into a bun, fringe slicked back with sweat. Shirt wrapped around a long neck that exposed a tint of red from the burn and red from his tattoo. Hm. Cleavage would have made him a mirage and ruined the whole shebang. Was ruin too strong a word?

Lavi blinked at the twitchy frown. "Halo thar, matey."

"You," Kanda flicked a finger at Allen, "stay."

Lavi was happily dragged off toward the front of the line, the poor pup scoffing in the background.

The change of events was suddenly awe-inspiring. Troublesome.

Kanda's fingers were hot and sticky on his nape.

"You're kinda hurting me…"

"Good."

"What? Jealous? Ow!"

"I have nothing to be jealous of."

"Then what the fu—?"

"I wanted to ask."

"My hand in matrimony? Oww!"

"Shut it. I wanted to ask." Kanda's fingers loosened, voice softening. "How does he do it? How?"

Lavi mulled it over in his mouth, chewing on his tongue before telling Kanda what could get his ass handed to him on a platter. "He's not you."

--

Turned out Kanda had it.

The bandanna.

He found out just as a camel—then camels—appeared on a heat-wave half a mile beyond a ridge. The orange sand had dwindled into a flatbed of shine. Historically, the area had once been an icebox. Amazing how history was moot to everyone else but Lavi.

The caravan of nomads was speechless at the three foreigners; the leader in a lumpy turban gestured for the rest of them to halt and breathe, especially the three boys, minus one, who were in hysterics.

They looked ridiculous.

"Oh my God I thought I was going to die please save us please food do you have any food on you—?!"

"Listen to my friend he's gonna diiie I promise you he's very special and—hey." Lavi gulped down his dry tongue for a fresh start. "Hey—'hem—we are in desperate need of camel."

His Arabic wasn't that fluent. Oh fuck it, Bookmen were made of awesome.

"Listen. Do you even speak Arabic?"

"You're not from around here, are you?" one of them said.

"The virgins at the pearly gates have blessed us, Allen." Lavi reached to pat him.

Allen was preoccupied trying to catch his breath on his knees. Then he spit resolutely into a crack in the ground and wiggled to his feet. "Thank. You. Mana."

Kanda was avoiding the camels at all costs, it seemed, and nobody was going to get him to talk. He crossed his arms, nose in the air, and Lavi mimicked him.

"Oy. Ah. I'm not that good, so I'm just going to…"

"Sound like you're dying, Lavi, that always helps." Allen was being the ever present English chap.

"I am dying." He turned his attention back to their flummoxed audience. "You see, w-we came out here without ride or food, and we want that. From you. Food?"

"Are you saying please? You have to always say please."

"All right, Allen." He reverted to basic Arabic. "Please?"

"Is it a custom of yours to beg, foreigners?"

"Uh." Lavi paused.

"What did he say?"

"Something I know you'd butcher."

"Do you want me to tell them to bugger off, 'cause I will."

"Empty threat, Allen."

"Ah I know."

"Can we go with you?" Lavi asked them. They liked to stare. A few of them fidgeted and slid off their rides.

"Why would you venture into our land unprepared?" The leader tapped his temple, and many of them squawked at what was commonly known as a stab at the trio's retardation.

"Sor-ry. We'd thought a little humanity would get us this far!"

"Lavi. Let me handle this."

Allen cleared his throat and chanted bluntly, "We stink, but you stink, and your mother stinks. Hmph!" He nodded, pursing his lips at Lavi. "I'm done."

"You do know you offended their mothers. Right? Oh Allen. You're hopeless."

"Of course I know."

"We're done for."

"Don't give up hope yet."

"Well I'm sure I wouldn't be too thrilled about my mother stinking—"

"Oy."

They turned their heads slowly at Kanda having spoken with that snake's tongue. An entire army would have stopped, dropped, and rolled at his command.

"Fools."

And to their shock, to their hot and bothered speechlessness, Kanda spoke in Arabic to the leader who was probably contemplating where he'd last placed his machete.

For a moment, Lavi was relieved. Very much so to the point of bubbling emotion. The next moment, he was hearing mini-Lavi's voice in his head cry out mutinyyy to the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Kanda was fluid with his words, and he angered them both by healing Allen's boo-boo. More than that, he exuded diplomacy.

It was creepy.

"They know not what they say," Kanda implored. "Pardon my stupid, stupid companions, if you will."

"They were speaking in our tongue," a bearded man said.

"They speak falsely. They are less than bright in social gatherings. I, for one, am positive the short boy is not even full boy."

"Wait a moment. Kanda!"

"You see? He tries so hard to prove his masculinity."

"Kanda, you-you—!" Allen grew redder in indignation.

"Like that, he rambles on…"

"What are you saying about me?"

"I wonder." Kanda smirked, and Lavi felt the need to scratch an itch. He was amused.

Allen huffed, tearing his wide-eyed gaze from Kanda to Lavi, making another resolve. "I've had it! Lavi, we're selling him."

"Whaaat? You've got it all wrong, Allen!"

"What-what? No-no, I don't think so."

"Yes-yes. Because you don't sell to nomads. That's unfathomable."

"Ah, you're right! We'll trade 'im."

Good grief. He should have said unspeakable on the off chance Allen would shut his trap.

"Excuse me?" Kanda frowned.

"Perhaps your English isn't as good as your Arabic. We are totally trading you. Right, Lavi?"

He sighed, playing along with the development. "Totally." There was a rhythm to the chaos.

"And I know those words, too! Don't underestimate me, my friend!"

"I am not your friend." Kanda recoiled in that short-circuited way.

"Exactly!" Allen bounced on the balls of his feet and then did a clownish bow. Or was it a curtsy? The scar on his face was conveniently obscured. "Trade, yes? Dark friend is pretty, healthy, and, um, manly. Maybe. I think. Good for men and women. Trade now, yes?"

The group of people Allen was conspiring with grew brighter in agreement, pondering what Allen had in mind.

If Kanda lived past the age of nineteen, no, past today, Allen would be Mugenized, which was entirely gruesome in all respects, since Allen was adamant about digging their graves in one motion. Lavi didn't want to die a virgin and unloved, and it was high time this scene was laid to waste.

"Well, okay, I give."

"Lavi!" Kanda barked, possibly betrayed.

"Whaaat? I'm tired, I'm hungry, I'm achy, I'm hungry, and you're off your rocker if you think Allen's not gonna make do. In other words, he hates you to pieces, and I don't blame him for it, you sorry, sorry man."

"Hear, hear!" Allen shouted, clapping and signaling for the leader to designate the trade.

"Valuable?" the leader asked.

"Yes!"

"Come off it, Allen. Yuu's not worth anything to you," Lavi whispered, watching Kanda fight the hands that grabbed him. They were quick to distract him to steal his sword. How they did that, only they would know.

"I know that, you know that, but ignorance is bliss. Dammit, comeuppance is a bitch."

"Dear, sweet Allen, you amaze me," he breathed.

"Splendid. Hey, no damage goods now, trade first!" he finished in Arabic.

"Say please, Allen."

"Please! Although damaged goods does sound appealing."

"My conscience is telling me this is a bad way to go, but it's also telling me—well, apparently, young chap, you're quite the devil."

Fire burned in Allen's eyes. "Fufufu, watch me triumph."

Scary.

--

Lavi was curious; how much was Kanda worth? Distinctly amused, he might say Kanda was worth every grain of sand. Realistically, he understood the staple of the desert to be water. Water was valuable no matter which way they went, and it didn't need a priest to be holy. Neither did the bread.

Allen continued to grin, mainly at himself and his capacity for altruism.

Supposedly he gave up Kanda for all the reasons in the book; somehow, how he said it came out almost Noah-like, and Lavi shivered against the hump of his camel. Road Kamelot was tangible.

The original rider hummed something as he walked in stride with the camel.

"Morocco?" Lavi tried for the fifth time.

"New country, yes."

"Succeeess," he whistled.

The bearded owner repeated him. "Suck-this?"

"Ahahah, sorry, no." He shook his head and snapped his fingers at Allen's big grin which paled in comparison to the silly ribbon in his hair. "Snap out of it, you're beginnin' to look like a loon."

"I'm dreaming of dango. Leave me be."

"You're not gonna let this go on. You're not gonna abandon Yuu just because he called you a hermaphrodite. Are ya?"

"Is that what he called me? And what's a hermaphrodite? Sounds Greek to me."

Sweat broke anew.

"Hoshit."

"That doesn't mean I speak Greek, Lavi."

Spark, spark. "Shite, are you in deep. Does that sound like Greek to you, brainiac?"

"Lighten up. You're misunderstanding this."

"Yeah, we're totally on the same level. We're totally connecting, you and I."

"I hear your sarcasm, and I object."

"You can't object."

"Yes I can."

"I object to your objection!"

"Thou playeth dirty."

"Aye, two can playeth at that game."

"Psht. Don't-don't worry about him. We'll sneak him out when everyone's asleep. Yeah?"

"Eh? Um."

"I told you not to misunderstand. These hands?" Allen flexed his fingers and blew on his nails. "They are experts in the occupation of the pick-pocket."

"That's not an occupation."

"Ignore that technicality. Point being, Kanda is floundering at my mercy."

"I haven't seen Black Allen in a long while. I guess it was overdue."

"However. What I told them about Kanda may get him in over his head, and, I'm not evil enough to put Kanda in those kinds of positions. Permanently."

"His sword was taken from him, ya know."

"I know."

"He's gonna kill you dead, ya know." Like, dead.

"I know."

"Real' nasty barbaric stuff."

"We'll see."

So much for hatred.

--

Finally, another night was creeping up their spines, and so was apprehension. Partly guilt.

Until Lavi realized he was in deep.

Kanda had heard what he'd said before, what Lavi had said to Allen before they pissed back to back.

Kanda knew of his fancy, and that it wasn't a passing one.

Kanda knew because he could understand Arabic, of all the languages in the fucking world.

Oh fuckity-fuck-fuck, why did Kanda have to be so goddamned smart? Lavi would give anything for a dumb-dumb of a lover with chronic word-stink.

Wait. Didn't Allen just trade that dumb-dumb of a lover with chronic word-stink for—?

Hoshit. What did they do? Because all of them were passing inscrutable looks Kanda's way, taking into account that Kanda just so happened to be a bit tied up at the moment.

--

"I'm sorry, maybe you should be the one to get him. I'll walk onto the next village."

At the miserable expression on Lavi's face, Allen may or may not have realized a few things, too. "Did you do something bad?"

He could illustrate with a potent silence. He did.

--

Allen's pet peeve was letting things go, and Lavi's pet peeve was not letting things go, though which did not preclude him from having a penchant for the former.

"Lavi."

"Allen."

"Lavi."

"Allen."

"Lavi, Lavi, Lavi, tell me!"

He could be like Allen, for his fancies. And he liked Allen due to his fancies. Harsh, but not harsher than the beatings Kanda was going to be giving the both of them after he was set free. He had put up another struggle earlier that had gotten his cords tightened.

Lavi blew into his palm, testing the smell. "Does my breath stink?"

"Probably not."

"I'd like to think that."

"No. I learned that you can go without cleaning your teeth, and after a while of eating as well, it'll balance the chemicals or something like that so it's rather natural?"

"Where the hell."

"Science division."

"Random. Wanna find out?"

"Yes and no. They never fail to throw the best information my way."

"Reever told you that?"

"Mm, 'cause he said if I'm ever alone with Lenalee, haha, out in the middle of the bloody desert, I won't feel so self-conscious. Now tell me what you did wrong."

"You are selective with what you forget."

Allen bristled, pressing his fringe against his scar defensively. "Are you, what, taking notes?"

"Observation of the species. Go on."

"I wish I could hit you. I'm just too full."

"Eat any more of their food and they'll castrate you."

"That's not going to keep me from asking. I've been nearly snipped before! Now what did you do?"

Lavi had his turn to feel defensive. Even though his facial curiosity had nothing to do with Kanda, his hand went to automatically drape the discoloration of his right eye. He was tired of the vertigo. He saw blue spots after dusk.

"Not a thing, Allen, not a thing."

"Well. That solves everything."

"It's a lucrative statement!"

"I had no idea."

"Ergo, I win, you lose, and we hitch Yuu out o' here as soon as possible before one o' them move in to consummate the deal."

"As in…? Yes, that would be a pity."

"If we get back, I'll have Komui check your head."

"When we get back, I'll have Komui check your hammer. Good luck, by the by."

Lavi licked his finger, sickened, and stuck it in the air. "I'm proud to be an Accommodator." He wished his suitcase hadn't been demolished in the fire.

--

Lavi had not always known that Allen smoked. It was brought to his attention, however, by Allen's noticeable habit of sucking on the first thing available, which happened to be one of Lavi's hammer handle pieces. Furthermore, Lavi wouldn't have noticed this noticeable habit if he hadn't indulged his eyes with Allen's now indiscreet movements.

Allen thought Lavi wasn't watching. But it was dark, save the moon and stars, and they were listening for Kanda in the tent nearby.

"When did that start?"

"Hmm?"

Lavi gestured to his own lips. "That."

Allen pulled the piece out from between his lips. "You know how I hate Cross?"

"Naturally."

"You know how he smokes like a chimney?"

"Too right."

"It's like this. You have no idea how much I crave a fag right now."

"Should I be takin' that the wrong way?" He was biting back his amusement.

"I dunno. I don't care if it makes me awful. It's not my fault he smoked till half the land was breathing his bad air."

"You should've said your little lungs can't take that shit."

"Can't or couldn't?"

"Is there a difference?"

"Why you."

"Oy, hear that?"

"What? What is it?" Allen sat up on his haunches and opened an ear.

Lavi ran a hand through his hair. He wondered the sort of number Cross Marian had done to the kid. Skeletons in the closet? Probably. No doubt the kid had been introduced to an assortment of hookers and thieves.

"Al, could it be you're actually a smoking alcoholic prostitute who is quite fluent in Arabic and dismal in social skills?"

"Lav, could it be you're actually Cross's illegitimate son?"

"Touché."

Allen relaxed again into his blanket. He paused, eye squinting. "I didn't mean that. You're not a bastard."

"So. You're still a smoking alcoholic prostitute."

"Heh. True, that."

"Duly noted. So, like, I'm bored? How 'bout you, baby?"

And that was how Lavi decided he'd switch gears, blow Allen's mind away, utter nuances into the air like the sycophant he aspired to be, in the back of his mind. Something like that.

"What about pretty face?" Allen rolled away from him, curling into himself. Lavi stared into the curve of Allen's backside.

"You haven't called him that in a long time. I'm not, not with him anymore."

"Could have fooled me. Not that I'm saying that—"

Lavi contemplated the mystery; he could finagle his way in there, that space. Whichever, whatever. He suddenly hated their stupid misfortune. It was stupid. Silly. Ugly. But possibly not too, too bad that they'd suffer for all eternity.

"You always knew?" That he was hot. That he was hot for one and then hot for the other, and that, crap, he just wanted to feel this one? He wanted, he wanted.

"It took…a while, but, I figured it out."

"I like girls, too, ya know. They're adorable when they're not crying."

"Don't I know it. You're not exactly quiet about it. You did just say you were with Kanda."

Lavi couldn't tell if Allen was feeling bitter or better about the old score. So he asked, getting a lopsided shrug in response. He watched him. "Allen?"

"I'm hungry. S'pose Kanda's worth more bread?"

They groaned in tandem about the regurgitation reflexes Allen had brilliantly demonstrated earlier.

"Would you like a rehash? I'd prefer kissing Yuu's toes." Not that he'd tried or anything.

Silence.

"Not hungry anymore?"

--

"You know, Lavi."

"Eh? Eeeh?" Lavi peeped, having just fallen asleep in a very strange position that the native ostrich would applaud.

"I wouldn't say this otherwise, but, as the sun and sand have gotten to my spirits, and as I'm…drunk off my bum—"

"No you're not."

"I'm pretending to be."

"Go on."

"As such, the pain in my gut is killing me."

"Damn, what a shocker."

"Um, I think we'll leave Kanda be for the night."

"Clever goose. No fucking way."

"Come, come. It won't hurt a bit!"

"Eh? What's this I hear? Hell hath no fury like a Kanda scorned?" (Traded off?)

"That's ridiculous."

"Really? Really?Were you sleeping when he chopped your bedtime pal to pieces?"

"Y-yes."

"He had a good run, though, mate."

"She. Lucy Ann was a she."

"Uh huh."

They bowed their heads in silence in honor of Lucy Ann. Lavi thought of Allen's outrage the next morning at Headquarters.

"But, anyway, do you see my point, Allen?"

"I see it. And I object."

"Prat."

"It just reminds me of what a demon Kanda is himself. He deserves a few…ramifications."

"Playin' on words, are ya?"

"Yeah, I was known for it when I was younger."

"I thought your stomach hurt?"

"Oh, oh God it hurts so baaad."

"What the hell did you ever do to Yuu to goad him into terrorizing your little Lucy?"

"Huh?"

"Admit it." Lavi crawled over and snuggled along Allen's spine, winging it with first his hands, then arms. "He saw your knickers and couldn't man up, heh."

"Well."

Lavi prodded Allen's bicep.

"Erm, well."

Lavi prodded some more for his own entertainment, and when Allen repeated himself once again, he reached a hasty conclusion. He stilled.

Allen went rigid as he sensed Lavi's revelation, the wool blanket shivering over them. "Kind of, well…"

"You and Kanda?" His Kanda? Wait.

"N-no."

"For shit, Allen."

"You're mistaken, Lavi," Allen whispered, not looking at him.

Lavi jabbed his finger into Allen's arm again in order to keep his mouth from rattling off what he was about at the core of his mind, what he was really thinking and feeling and suddenly hating for the umpteenth time. He wouldn't be emotional; he wouldn't judge. It was the pedestal pulled out from underneath him, the one he had unintentionally perched upon to look down on Allen and Kanda and all their friends—but mostly Allen, and Kanda—to pursue the former, and to forget the latter's memories that Lavi and Kanda had both been capable of making and labeling their own, that's it. Goddamn it.

His hand went to his breastplate to rub it, like everything was erupting there.

"Sure I am. Shit happens."

"Yeah, it does, doesn't it? My underwear wound up in Kanda's bureau—hilarious laundry attendants—and he came around to treat me to his version of the Rapture, in my sleep, no less. Honestly. It was horrid enough for everyone to hear of it, but the way poor Lucy Ann was ripped to shreds and then… Hmph, vicious brute. So. How long do you think Kanda's gonna last? Let's wager."

--

"I can't believe you're still mad about that."

"Lucy Ann was my dearest friend!"

"He was a doll."

"She. She was a doll and dolls are lovely."

"Then I'm sorry Yuu skewered your lovely boy toy."

"Lucy Ann." Argh, argh, Allen was pissy.

"The luckiest inanimate object to ever sleep with Allen Walker."

Soon after, it occurred to Lavi that this boy was really a whore for vulnerability.

--

A few days later Kanda was nowhere near salvation, as Allen and Lavi had chosen to remain accomplices for the main course of their, er, sojourn up north. Lavi thrilled over the fact there was supposed to be upcoming woodland, unless they were indeed heading east, in which case Allen swore his vengeance would be complete. Even so, north sounded good and fresh, and Allen reveled in the sunlight that made him insane.

Lavi was banking on Fate and may it bring them roses. And a forgiving Kanda.

Could it be that Kanda was really whispering sonnets under all those blushes and glares?

"Lavi. He's staring at you again."

"Yeah. Because my head isn't on backward."

"You should be grateful you've eaten."

"I will be grateful when Yuu doesn't take my life."

"That is true."

"He'll take yours instead. That is my wager."

"Bullocks! Time's up."

"Nope, never." He grinned smugly to himself about how he'd gotten Allen to open up a little more.

"It's too late, anyway. Look, we can grab him anytime we want. Of course, it'll have to be in the dead of the night or—"

"When no one is actually tryin' to ravish him."

"Yes. I've thought about that," Allen hummed, rubbing his chin seriously.

"Wow. Serious idiot is serious."

"Bastard."

"Prat."

"Kanda's the serious idiot."

"I believe you."

"D'you think if I tell them that, they'll just hand him over?"

"You could earn yourself some bad karma." Maybe some customary Saharan wit.

"Okay." Apparently Lavi was also meant to believe that Allen had already earned himself enough bad karma to last him into the next century.

Allen trotted over to the camel with the veiled Kanda and young girl. He was permitted only within a certain distance; by this he laughed nervously. "Uh, Kanda?"

There was nothing aside from an upturned nose.

"I was thinking."

"That's surprising."

"You spoke!"

"Whatever that rabbit is saying, he's most undoubtedly preparing you for the way I will take my time in quartering your body. Then, while loving every second of it, I will hang your parts up as my trophies, blood drained and given to that vampire."

"That's so mean. Crowley's not a vampire."

He went silent again.

"Now you stop talking?"

"I'm not done. Because I know how these people will fight to the last drop of water to have me, I cannot do a thing. Except. I pray I am given an exit. Your ass is mine. Not even a stampede of Akuma could stop me. Your nightmares will not compare."

"I never knew you prayed."

"That's beside the point."

"Hm."

"Don't fucking hmm me. This is your fucking fault."

"You're a serious idiot," Allen chirped, graciously leaving Lavi out of it.

"I'm seriously going to fuck you up. Call me an idiot again and—"

"Idiot."

Kanda looked to be devoting all of his energy toward ignoring Allen, or more true to nature, not killing him. Lavi trudged behind them, vigilant for hellfire.

"Wait till the end, Walker."

"I don't think you'll be there, Yuu. Have you ever been sold to a brothel? It's rather traumatizing."

Lavi wondered how traumatizing, since Allen was up and walking about as if no one had ever bad-touched him. He thought of Tyki Mikk's sly grin and Cross Marian's wine.

"Wouldn't you know?" said Kanda.

"Idiot, I can save you," said Allen.

"You can't save him," said Lavi.

"I can, too, I can."

"Our days of leisure are over, and so are your lies, Allen," Lavi groaned.

"You obviously aren't listening to me."

Just then the girl riding the front of the camel scowled down at them. She said something in Arabic that Lavi didn't bother to translate, and Allen did a double-take, blinked, smiled sweetly, and pulled out the ribbon from under the turban the nomads had gifted him. Lavi could easily translate this to: As you wish, my little buttercup. Allen had a knack for endearing young girls.

"You can stop flirting with her. Not all chits are Roads." Lavi caught up with them.

"Again, your accusations pain me. I am simply partaking in a courtship that will someday save Kanda from that brothel."

"Who said he was goin' to one?"

"It's inevitable." He smiled again at the girl.

"I'm right here," Kanda said, as if continuing the circular conversation from days ago.

The girl was rubbing the ribbon tie across her cheek, reddening at the touch.

"If she comes off on that, you're butcher's meat," Kanda growled.

Allen continued to act like a dime novel genius.

--

"Hey, genius!" Lavi shrilled.

"Hey, idiot," Kanda said darkly.

"Hey, I have a name."

"Dime Novel Genius!"

"Idiot."

"Bah," Allen said.

Kanda was blowing the mesh veil out of his face. "How long will this courtship go on? Don't take my threat lightly. It is not a threat, it is your reality."

"I know, I know."

"I don't think you do," Lavi said.

"I'm doing what I can."

"You're getting down with that desert chit."

"As I said, I'm doing what I can. And she's not a chit."

Kanda's voice delivered the overhanging threat quite nicely. "Do it faster. So I can draw and quarter you and the sun will finally shine on your lifeless remains. Do it faster."

Do it faster.

"Lavi, tell Kanda he's a mean butt and if he wants to draw and quarter me, he better make good on his promise."

"Kanda. Junebug. You're a mean butt."

Undignified silence.

"And Allen says you should draw and quarter his butt, too."

Allen and Kanda choked. Thunder and lightening would have been appropriate.

Lavi whistled to an English ditty, and predicted that things could reach epic proportions from here on out.

--

They were setting up camp. Meanwhile, Allen was sharing his bread and dried berries with the desert chit. She must have been a handful of years younger than the former, which was, according to those with eyes, scandalous.

Kanda was still tied and veiled, eerily quiet. He was lucky; he had managed to keep intact despite his sullen beauty. Virginity might be Kanda's prized possession, but if it was, he would never say those exact words.

Only that—

"Oy."

"Oy vey."

"Shut up and tell me. What the fuck does he think he's doing?"

"Oh Yuu, you're so sweet and contradictive. Are you concerned about dear Allen?"

"I'm concerned about his—"

"Butt?" Lavi said helpfully.

"Motives."

"Sure. From what I can tell, Allen is now sacrificing himself for you."

"Why should he do that?"

"Do you want to be sold to a brothel?"

"Are there fucking brothels in these parts?"

"Are there human beings?"

It sounded like Kanda was considering it. Deeply. "Right."

"I know."

"It defeats the purpose. It negates reason. Why should he sacrifice himself when he's the idiot who sacrificed me in the beginning? That fucking angel-faced moron has no brain."

"He told me it was fried."

"No excuse."

"You're one bitter sweetheart," Lavi observed happily.

"What. Why the fuck should that make you happy? Stop it. Stop grinning like you've just—"

"We could do it again." They had never done it, like that, but Kanda could take a few hints. Lavi began to untie him.

"Shut your mouth. I don't want that brat to hear." Also, Kanda talks a lot when he's nervous.

"Yuu." Lavi snuggled deeper into the tent beside him. "Allen's not your average sixteen-year-old."

"Have his balls even dropped?"

"You act like I've seen them."

Lavi could feel the faces Kanda was pulling in the shadows.

"What? Allen's squeamish."

"That runt is going to be squeamish once we're out of this mess."

"But just look at the way he serenades that girl. He's certainly a romantic."

"Allen fucking Walker must die."

"Serious idiot," Allen called, "I'm not deaf."

"But you are dumb."

How lame. They could do better than that. They were blinded minstrels.

"Yuu, Allen's pissed you drew and quartered Lucy Ann."

"The hell?"

"Lucy Ann. The luckiest inanimate object to ever sleep with Allen Walker."

Kanda was warm. "You've got to be shitting me."

"You don't remember her?"

"I remember the fit he threw."

"You should lower your voice. He's still teary about it—"

"I'll make him teary."

"It's sad. Lucy Ann—"

"Shit, Lavi. It was a doll."

"Apparently a doll that was covered in love—and Allen—and then ripped out from under him."

"Are you, in your own fucked up way, sexualizing this?"

"If the mood calls for it."

Kanda went digging through the blanket in their pallet, now unbound and veil-free.

"Oh? Here? Yuu, that's so—"

"I'm looking for the rope you hid in here."

"Bondage!"

"To hogtie you with."

"Is that a new position?"

"God I will strangle you now shut the fuck up before I body-slam you if you need any confirmation of my wrath."

"Not yet. Hold that thought till our story takes a turn for the better."

Kanda skipped the strangling and body-slammed Lavi to confirm his wrath. Someone blacked out and someone came to within moments of entanglement.

Lavi wished he could say that everyone scattered and thus they were set free in the dead of night, bursting with joy and singing to the Queen till their heart's content. That Allen was saying splendid, splendid! That Kanda had Mugen back. And that, gyrating, Lavi would resume his jests for threesomes.

Instead, Allen was saying, Yes, girl, we marry, we bang, Kanda had Lavi's knee in his grip, and Lavi was torn between the two, and he wasn't exactly sure why he had to feel torn about anything. He was tempted to gyrate against that hand the most.

"Y'hear what Allen's sayin' ?" he said, rolling.

"Yes. From what I gather, it's filthy. He—"

Lavi pushed Kanda over and lifted the tent flap. "Allen, are you sexing her up?"

"I am doing what I can," his disembodied voice answered.

"He's doing what he can," Lavi assured Kanda.

"He's doing what he…" Kanda started to repeat, oddly winded. Something dawned over his blackened eyes. "I hate that idiot."

"We all hate each other, but we can still get along like brothers."

"Go fuck him, then."

Don't worry, I will was at the tip of Lavi's tongue. He tasted it, the sour longing on that bit of tongue.

"Someday, I'll forget about you," Lavi lied.

Kanda was a serious idiot who could not swallow it and stalked out.

--

It was in the wee hours of the morning when all mouths were snoring and all eyes were closed. Partly. Lavi attempted sleep with one eye open and both feet bootless. The cold was a bastard of an enemy. The chill frosted his insides. He was on alert.

Alert for, say, whisperings of the heart, like what Kanda could be doing with Allen on the outskirts of their camp bombardment. Lavi felt that, if Kanda could suggest a few so-called distasteful things about Allen's choices, then Lavi could chew them up and spit them back out without the headache. A streak of thought made him drool in his sleep.

He had to search for Kanda. To get to Allen. Who was such a trooper in all of this. That Lavi couldn't hold in his thanks.

And he was massively haggard and in need of one form of sex or another. This was how it was going to be.

"Kanda. Kanda? Kanda? Where—?"

He tripped over his boots that had been kicked to the front of the tent. He almost brought the house down stretching himself up.

"Kandaaa. It's fucking late. Umf!"

He stubbed his toes into the old brush the nomads had used for a fire. Pins and needles.

"Guh Goddamn you fucking piece of shit I oughtta—"

"Lavi, shhh."

"Wha-wha—?"

"Lavi, over here."

"I'm half 'sleep—bleedin' hell."

"Just get your ass over here!"

Lavi was half-asleep, true, antsy and confused. He was definitely confused by how Allen was tugging on Kanda's hair as if he were being condemned to the gallows.

"Lavi, Lavi, I think we, um," Allen began, but he was snubbed by Kanda.

"Bookman, we're out of here."

Allen refused to release his hair, and Lavi found it intriguing.

"Er, why? Wait, I have to wake up. Oh, all right, so we're leaving. Now?"

"Now."

"Cripes. They're gonna notice, they are."

"No, they won't." Allen smiled, looking like a minion as he crouched beside a sleeping camel.

Lavi collapsed onto his knees. "Say what?"

Kanda answered for him. "While you were snoring your mouth off, we poisoned the girl."

"You did. Huh. What."

"What?"

"What the—what the fuck, Yuu."

"It's fine, Lavi," Allen said gleefully. "She's not dead."

Lavi spluttered, gave up, hid his face in his hands, and said, "My God, my God, your noodles are so twisted you killed your conscience."

"It's not like that," Kanda said.

It was, because something in Lavi was discouraged, and he was thinking about blaming that brute for it.

"Hush, be quiet."

They listened for breath.

"I dun hear anythin'," Lavi murmured.

"That's the best part," Allen countered, "we're free. I drugged the girl and she went right to sleep. No problem. She's out cold."

"Thanks to me," Kanda reminded him.

"Er, yeah, but you would have seriously poisoned her if I hadn't said anything."

"Why are you tearing his hair out like that?" Lavi asked dryly.

"Oh, I am, sorry. I had to prevent him from reclaiming his sword."

"I hardly think he wants to leave it here."

"Yeah, same old. Though, I thought, you know, in return for drugging their little girl, we ought to leave the sword as a sort of peace-offering?"

"My God, my God, I don't know whether you'll live much longer, Allen."

"Dammit. I'm doing what I can."

Kanda snubbed Allen's shoulder, which was returned nonchalantly. "I'm still here, sprout. I'm not leaving Mugen."

"You can get another one when we get to—"

"No."

"Bloody hell, Yuu, forget the damned sword."

"Are you defending him, rabbit?"

"Of course I am! He's helpless without me!"

"Nice, Lavi. I'm so grateful for your support." Allen winced.

It finally occurred to Lavi that those two were interestingly resourceful. "Where did you get the poison?"

And those two glanced at each other as quick as a slingshot, making it seem truly damaging to the naked eye.

"Ha ha," Allen said.

"Eh," Kanda said.

"Oh really," Lavi said.

"It's not important," Allen and Kanda said together, nodding mum.

All three heard a snore that resounded around the camp. Lavi would have to reconstruct their steps when they were far, far away and into the sea. Yeah. Then Lavi could be as antsy as he liked.

"Gotta move." Allen tugged on Kanda's hair, an initial motion to get them going.

"I will bite," came the provocation, and Allen made a face, dropping the fistful of hair and gesturing for Lavi to retrieve the necessary items for their journey.

As Lavi clambered weakly through the camp, he mulled a thought over, voicing something else that should have come to mind minutes ago. "Did you drug everybody here? Bloody hell. Are they alive?"

Allen would not say a word as they rifled through the tent and fireside.

Of course they were alive.

Of course. So Lavi would go along with grabbing what they could and skedaddle to where he hoped was far, far away and into the sea.

They could swim for France.

He realized he was shivering and chattering his teeth as they easily departed without a backward—oh, what the hell, Lavi turned around to check the site. He draped a blanket over his shoulders, like a cape of a bandit. Argh, he shall be an arse-bandit someday!

"Are you positive you didn't kill them?"

"Holy fuck, Lavi, hear them breathing," Kanda gritted through his teeth. He was oddly more annoyed than ever, shaking his fist at the fading stars, just about to clobber him.

They flat out ran.

--

Mulling over it for the past hour, Lavi slowed to a jog and then a full stop on the outskirts of vegetation. They would be nearing the coast. Some holy power loved them. They should praise him. In some way. Fashion or—form.

"Allen? Are you sick?" Lavi called back. Allen had been slinking behind him, gripping his side. He had tied his coat around his waist, looking like a girl with experienced hip action, only not so glamorous.

Kanda had stopped for him as well. "What's wrong, runt?"

"S-sorry."

"Don't tell me sorry. I don't need to hear it from you."

"Sorry." Allen caught up to them.

"You—"

"Er! We can rest," Lavi assured Allen, both glaring at Kanda's pouting. He jerked his head in the direction of trees northerly, sizing up the land. "Where there're trees, there's water. Perhaps miles in width, but, c'mon. All right there, Allen? You're not gonna give up now. Well! Don't fall a…part."

Because Kanda was such a bitter thing, Lavi batted the back of his head and motioned for Allen to use Lavi as a crutch.

"Don't be shy with me." He attempted to urge Allen another step.

"That's-that's fine."

"Whatever. You can sleep out here with the snakes," Kanda said, obviously enjoying Allen's pain.

"You can use me, Allen. Even though you're a murderer, I don't mind." Lavi lifted him properly to his feet. He felt the grains of sand against his own.

"Use you for what, exactly, that's the particular—I did not murder anybody."

"That's cold," Kanda said, possibly smiling with his back turned on them, relaxing Mugen parallel to his shoulder-blades in that oh-yes-this-is-mine swagger.

"Wait. What if we did?" Allen asked.

"You didn't, I was yankin' your chain," Lavi soothed.

"But what if we did?"

"Keep your head on, mate. We'll get to the woods and you can rest there."

"We'll go hungry again, won't we?"

"Nah, we'll be—watch your foot—fine."

"I don't think there's much vegetation we can eat there."

"You could do us a favor and forget your food obsession," said Kanda from up front.

"I'm quite aware that you've been a high-strung asshole since birth, Kanda, but eating is what keeps me alive, thank you very much."

Kanda did not say a thing.

Lavi watched those shoulders through narrowed eyes. He was seeing spots again. "That argument could be used for anybody."

"So? Kanda being a jerk 'n all, he's like this bitchy hag—"

"Yuu's not old enough to be considered a hag."

"Okay, a shrew."

"That's not any better."

"It's not supposed to be."

"Go on."

Kanda kicked dirt at them, but they'd counted on it. "Say another word."

"And we shall perish?" Lavi ventured, smug.

"It's not like I don't already have that to look forward to," Allen sighed into Lavi's shoulder.

"Tramp," Kanda grumbled.

"Ogre," Allen grumbled back.

Something had changed; something was changing. Lavi could taste everything in his half-asleep string of convoluted thoughts.

Allen had a lexicon of very colorful words, while Kanda fought bravely with a snippy tongue, sometimes faltering over his words when completely taken aback by the something-that's-changed. Background noise, at least.

And they continued to rattle off various epithets that, in hindsight, wouldn't hurt a fly, while Lavi pondered whether to tell them about his insights. Location was priority, no doubt about it. More specifically, they needed to keep moving toward their goal without the buildup of bruised egos.

Though, Lavi liked to bruise them and be bruised back. He gripped Allen tighter.

--

In Africa, nothing is to be taken with a grain of salt. Nothing.

However, Lavi was about to ask them to do just that, inspecting the foliage of the sparse wood. The coast, wetter and windier, was less boring than the sand-dunes, conservative and conventional, and this was sort of a laugh. He picked an unknown green stem from the ground to nibble on. He had to spit it out.

"Yuu? Allen?"

Allen drooped from Lavi's shoulder onto the damp ground, mumbling odd tidbits that served as assurance. He bunched himself up against a tree trunk, going, It's okay, it's okay, tell us, I'm sleepy.

Nonsensical endearments from a pragmatic child. Definitely assuring.

"Er, yeah, haha, well."

"Spit it out." Kanda turned to piss into a shrub, pulling his coat off.

Lavi got a sense of déjà vu and counted the seconds till the fallout. "We might still be in Algeria. We may have a long way to go yet. Sorry. Sorry, it was my fault. I'm a sod."

Kanda hissed at him, or what sounded like a hiss, and went to find a likelier spot deeper in the trees.

Allen was looking at him from below, scowling and serious. "What rubbish."

"Yeah."

"Now you take the blame?"

Lavi sifted the dirt with his boot sheepishly. "Aw, kinda."

"You take half the blame?"

"I'll take a third of it."

"We have no idea where we are." Allen seemed to compromise with himself. He got to his knees.

Lavi couldn't look away from him, hands sweating and neck freezing, lips cracked. He licked the dried blood and old spit where the skin had split in places. There was a thicker humidity in this region, purple lowlights in the atmosphere, miles above them and to the east. Winds. They might be in Algeria, with tails between their legs. If so, they could swim for Italy and steal a gondola.

(The Mediterranean sharks would be a wee dodgy.)

No one would repeat this mistake. Because they would have been drowned and eaten by the Mediterranean sharks, right? And they'd haunt the sea, calling out to the moors and shipwrecking poor souls, like lonely Sirens.

"Lavi."

Allen was getting up, breathing hard, staring intently. There was something strange in the rise and the attempt. Somehow, Lavi understood.

"I have something to tell you," Lavi barely said. It was his secret, on the tip of his tongue like all else.

"Right. All right." Allen fisted Lavi's shirt, climbing up toward eye-level. Dominating him.

"I don't want this anymore. I don't want this duty anymore."

"I know."

"I planned to disappear, ya know?"

"I know."

"I came to Africa to disappear and to forget the Innocence and it was a coincidence. And it all went to hell."

"All right."

Allen hung on his collar, a death-grip, a fallen decency. Lavi didn't know what to think about this, how to avoid any freak-outs or meltdowns that would cause Kanda to react violently, rationally from Kanda's perspective, to barge in for ruination.

But Allen was violent, forcing his chapped lips on Lavi's, touching him, sensing his immediate mortification and then the growing fascination with warm and frozen flesh and male and musk and unclean breath and salt and attraction. Allen had clearly kissed others before this; maybe he had kissed his Kanda, and since when did Kanda become a possession? And maybe Lavi no longer gave a—

"Shit. Lavi, kiss me back." Allen nosed his cheek, trying so hard. For what, what was it?

Lavi didn't have the heart to object, if he ever had that piece of heart to begin with; he did it on instinct, streaming off memories of Kanda's body. Kanda, how Kanda used to feed his curiosity, how he made Lavi want him, all over, and then smiled, eyetooth shining. He would taunt Lavi with steel words, with the pretense of a warrior, and he would let gloved palms roam over his own angles, then those bare fingers. Feathers. That was why. This was everything. Lavi had pretended he didn't care too much.

He wondered if it would be the same. How loveless it was for being clinical.

"Allen."

"It's okay, keep doing just that. Don't mind it."

Allen didn't blame him at all, he didn't blame Kanda, he didn't blame anyone here and now. Or. Really?

Lavi couldn't be the evermore grateful. I love you, I love you, I kinda love you was plying at his mind, the Siren within him. He put wet kisses over Allen's lips, corners, tip of the nose, eyelids. The eyelids were the best part, with the ghostly lashes. Allen made a delicious sound, and Lavi wanted to eat him whole. Swallow him up. Allen would be somebody to warm his belly, and stay there for the sake of helping Lavi out in the coldest of places. That nice homebody.

"Lavi," a whisper said, in his ear, tentative.

He wanted to push Allen away. But, he wasn't allowed. Because.

Because Kanda was in his ear, his hair. This wasn't right. So it was so wrong that it was right, and that's how it would come together. Another set of hands were on him, smudging him into Allen's body. Those other hands were callused. Hard on him.

They shaped him upward, settling on Lavi's shoulders, and they were all trembling. It was the cold and the bodies. He couldn't think, he knew he couldn't think with Kanda touching him, while Lavi felt Allen, and Allen touched down, down, down over Lavi's navel. God, everything was too hard.

"I thought—"

"Nothing, quiet," Kanda said, and it was useless. Lavi wasn't going to say another word; he was too busy being in love. He would later work on this, research and organize.

Two people are better than one, he wanted to admit aloud, like he had admitted he had wronged them, kind of.

Kanda peeled the jacket off of Lavi's back, down his arms. Lavi's eyes snapped shut after the initial shock. (Allen could warm his stomach; Kanda could kill him. But he would never. He would only lodge in Lavi's throat, like bad candy, and it would take ages for him to cough him out, to be rid of him. That's how it was.)

He felt Allen urge him, against his pelvis, into his groin. He felt Kanda exchange looks with Allen, beside Lavi, over his shoulder, soon over his head. Maybe it was his imagination. He was being pulled, pushed into these puffs of air. He couldn't open his eyes at will, and his brain was careening behind them.

Someone asked him something. Sweet. Brusque. The same was asked, but Lavi didn't understand them. Later, he would recall, and analyze it, and think how it was possible to miss it: Walker, you're loud and move him faster, Kanda, go faster, you idiot, it's Allen.

Someone whispered something unnecessary. In succession, there they were. Lavi hovered over Allen, biting at his throat, breathing on the trails, leaving bruises only because he must in order to prove to himself later that he had done them himself.

Kanda was on him. It was Kanda's leanness on his back; Lavi hadn't realized that keeping his eyes open would have been a trial. He thought, with what sentiment he had left, that Allen would inch away from his handicap. Allen would say, It's okay, let me see, it's okay, open up, open up for me.

His eyes did not open, though; he could not let himself realize Allen enjoyed looking into him, or he would have opened up all the way.

The smell of wantonness. It smelt of moss, and sea. Allen licked him on the inside, underneath. Lavi's hands were under that shirt, going, going for Allen's heart. They could do an exchange, like a partnership. Because maybe Lavi needed it before he lost his mind.

But Kanda overwhelmed him, behind, against his ass. Lavi heard him say nothing apart from quick breaths, losing composure. Allen's legs were—was it possible that they were up?

It's okay to go together, it's okay, God, good, together.

They ground into him. No one dared undress. Hair traveled down his face, red and black, black and red, and white, right there. He realized he could smell dew, and it was dawn. It was good. He wasn't arguing, unable to articulate anything coherent or even compulsory. He didn't have the time to feel sorry when Allen bucked suddenly into him, Lavi's eyes still squeezed shut with Allen breathing like that into his collarbone. And he didn't have the guts to feel sorry when Kanda demanded room with one word, and grunted, and came hard, leaving bruises on Lavi's hips. It was very, very good.

Lavi knew why he did this. He knew Allen did it for the opportunity, having shyly bided his time like one with a lot on his mind always does. And as Kanda had stumbled upon them, he knew Kanda had no choice in the matter. What choice. As if Lavi would have put it past him. As if Lavi would have put it past himself.

It wasn't until their breaths had slowed that Allen said, "Happy to blame you."

--

They were read the facts of their absence:

"Exorcists Bookman Junior, Allen Walker, and Kanda Yuu had been sent with haste to prominent establishments throughout the Sahara in search of Innocence and Akuma, where they would meet their African Branch Finder. There had been a confirmed sighting and killing due to Akuma in the region by these Exorcists, but a detour was implemented to escape with their lives, the Finder deceased. Exorcists Bookman Junior, Allen Walker, and Kanda Yuu were essentially left to their own devices, without technology, and Junior unarmed. It has been reaffirmed that their absence became a missing-persons case for approximately a month between June and July of year 18--. Upon their return, they were treated for exhaustion, exposure, and noncritical wounds."

"I would say that about sums it up," Lavi said sagely.

"I concur," Allen said. He'd just learned that word.

Kanda nodded solemnly, biting his lip.

Komui crossed his legs on the desk, dubiously glancing back and forth between the paper and the threesome. Lavi flushed, trying not to twiddle his thumbs. Allen was maybe thinking about it, sitting so stiffly.

Komui cottoned on. "Nothing else happened? I wasn't born yesterday. You can tell me if you lost your parts in the desert."

"Mine are very well attached and lively, I might add," said Lavi.

"I concur," said Allen.

Judging by the silence, it was evident that Kanda was in a heated battle with himself. They both could see the conniption fit in his eyes.

Komui raised an eyebrow. "Oh you three. No addendum? This is not yet the official report."

"I've already written a record."

"Dear Lavi, you're so responsible."

"I mean, it's the same record, so don't try turnin' my room inside out lookin' for the thing."

Komui raised the other brow.

Lavi raised both brows in turn. "Honest. True story."

Allen couldn't help his nervous laughter. Kanda grumbled something and pretended the trip had been a complete and utter Spanish Inquisition. And it had been, somewhat. Except for the climax.

"And there's nothing to add? Then am I to presume those marks, besides the burns, are innocent bruises from, say, a scuffle you might have had?"

"Splendid," Allen said.

"Right you are," Lavi said.

Kanda grew very hot beside Lavi on the couch, like the desert sun, only less bright and less cheery. (But he should have plenty to be cheerful about, that sexy ungrateful cod!)

Komui prodded further. "All right, I can accept that. Lenalee will be thrilled to know you three are back on your feet once again. Also, I wanted to ask, truly off the record." He relaxed. "How was your trip?"