Disclaimer: I don't own DGM.
Despite the serious tone of this chapter, this is a fanservice-based crackfic.
Chapter 1: The Mission
Allen was getting a strange feeling of déjà vu from this situation.
"Probably… The Innocence is probably there…"
"…and the Noah will be too," Lenalee interjected smoothly. That made Allen frown; the last time Komui had started with this before sending the pair of them on a mission – actually, the last time they'd been on a mission together, now that he thought about it; had it really been so long? – they'd listened to a few minutes of "maybe/probably" before they made him get to the point. Lenalee seemed a bit more impatient this time.
"Probably. Just maybe, though…"
"Allen-kun and I are going on a dangerous mission to retrieve Innocence where there may be akuma and Noah facing us, yet for some reason you are unable to send more Exorcists or even Finders to survey the situation. Understood."
Wow, Allen thought, sparing an awed glance at his current mission partner, she's good at this.
"Right… Probably." Komui yawned, an action which somehow managed to send piles of books and papers raining down on his head. Somehow, the Chief Monitor appeared not to notice, despite the frustrated frown sent his way by a certain assistant. "There's a very good reason for that… probably…"
"C-could you please get to the point, Komui-san," Allen said nervously. Next to him, Lenalee lowered herself back into her chair from where she'd been ready to… to… well, knowing Lenalee, it would involve a painful head for her brother. "The booklet…" He flipped through it, scanning the pages with a half-hearted effort as he spoke. "We're going to some… resort on the southern coast of England, right? Why…"
"It's for newlywed couples." Lenalee frowned thoughtfully. "Why… oh!" A pink blush suddenly spread across her cheeks as the metaphorical light-bulb lit over her head. Allen simply alternated his stare from her to Komui, utterly bemused. "Allen-kun and I are going undercover?"
"Proba- yes." Komui scowled. "Normally, it'd be all right to just walk around in your uniforms, but this is a very exclusive resort. They won't allow just anyone in."
"And we couldn't pretend to be staff?" Allen asked.
"Long application required and we really don't have the time," Komui explained.
"And you're sending us because…?" Lenalee raised an eyebrow questioningly. "Are we going to be using the Ark? It can't be more than a day away…"
"Well, that's one reason, and…" The Chief Monitor suddenly cleared his throat nervously and stood, sending a pile of books toppling onto Allen's lap. "You'll see. To be honest, this really wasn't my first choice, but…"
"But?" the Exorcists prompted.
"…we sent Miranda and Marie at first… y'know, real couple and all… and it didn't quite work. Couldn't get in. Now we know the secrets, though, and that'll be fixed for you two."
Fixed? "Nii-san, is there some sort of password we-"
Allen was starting to become very suspicious. This was the second time Komui had attempted to change the subject in this conversation, and that couldn't be a good sign. What was he trying to hide from them?
"Komui-san…?" Allen said nervously. "There's something you're not telling us… isn't there…"
Lenalee nodded, giving Allen a bewildered look that told him she'd figured it out quite a while ago and was surprised it had taken him this long. "Nii-san, you are going to tell us before we get there and find out for ourselves, right?"
"Yes! Absolutely! In fact, this mission requires preparations you must make before departing!" Komui strode out from behind the desk and started to head to the door. "Which we should do right now."
"W-wait a moment, Komui-san!" Allen called, twisting his upper body to look over his shoulder at the departing man. "You still haven't…"
"We're going to make the preparations," Komui said flatly. "Come on. Oh-" He gave a long look to the blonde man standing next to Allen's chair before nodding slowly. "Link, you come too. Your help is required."
"My…" Was Allen's mind playing a trick on him or had the inspector just rolled his eyes?
"Oh, and you should say goodbye to them too, because, ah…" Komui gave the young man a sheepish smile. "You won't be going with them. But before you say anything, just know that I've talked to Secretary Levellier and we've agreed that taking this risk is absolutely necessary for the future of Innocence."
"But to send him with…" Link glanced over to Lenalee and shook his head. "Is Lenalee Lee capable of doing what is necessary if…"
"I trust her," Allen said cheerfully. "If anything happens, I personally will…"
"It's fine, Allen-kun," Lenalee murmured, placing a hand on his arm in warning. "Inspector Link, if my brother says it is necessary, and the Director has given his permission…"
Link gave a fine impression of Kanda and turned his nose up at the trio.
"So shall we go?" Komui opened the doors and stepped aside just as Reever appeared at the entrance.
"Everything's ready, Supervisor." He executed a short bow. "But…" Blue eyes flickered over to the pair of Exorcists. "I can't believe you're actually…"
"It's necessary, Section Chief Reever." Komui straightened his glasses with one finger.
"O-of course, but…" Reever shook his head. "Does this mean… we can't… when…"
"When the mission is over, everything will be back to normal."
Allen and Lenalee exchanged a wary look. If things would have to return to normal, what was going to happen in the meantime?
"Are you coming?" Komui asked the Exorcists over his shoulder. Next to him, Bridget and Link were giving the pair disgruntled looks. "It's happening right now, you know. You don't need to prepare for this."
"We're leaving?!" Allen jumped up from his chair. "But – packing-"
"Oh, no, not that. The preparations. You don't leave until the morning." Komui continued briskly down the hall, forcing Allen and Lenalee to run in order to catch up to him and the other three. "This won't take long; you'll have time to pack."
"And grab something to eat from Jeryy," he reassured Allen. The boy gave a relieved sigh.
It was a short walk to wherever their destination was, a small chapel not too far from the cafeteria. As the five approached, a black-haired head peeked out from between the doors; it was Rob.
"Everything's ready," he whispered loudly. "We've been waiting for you."
"Thank you," Komui nodded to Reever, who disappeared into the crack when Rob's head vanished. "So… it looks like we're here. …Probably."
Lenalee kicked her brother in the ankle and followed the pair of stone-faced adults into the room. As Allen made a move to go with her, he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder; it was Komui, who had stepped behind one of the doors with an unreadable expression.
"Just a moment, Allen-kun. I need to talk to you first."
Allen nodded and moved away from the doors. "What is it, Komui-san? Is something wrong?" he asked cautiously. Komui was staring at the floor with an uncertain expression, fingers clenching and unclenching at his sides.
"You…" Komui frowned momentarily before his face returned to that mask of uncertainty. "You're seventeen now, right?"
Allen nodded slowly. "If I may ask…"
"You've grown so much since you came to the Order, haven't you."
The words were probably meant to be a comforting reminiscence, but they frightened Allen more than he would have expected at hearing them.
"Komui-san… what is this about? Are you worried about sending Lenalee on a mission with me without… because I promise nothing will happen! I'll make sure of that!"
"…I know." Komui smiled weakly at the boy and squeezed his shoulder gently. "That's why I wanted it to be you."
"Pardon?" Allen raised his white eyebrows questioningly. Komui had mentioned something earlier about there being more than one reason why Allen was on this mission; was this it?
"I trust you, Allen-kun," Komui said quietly. "N-No matter what's about to happen."
"Thank you," Allen said shakily, wondering what would cause the normally self-assured and confident Komui to stutter. What awaited him in that room?
"Take good care of Lenalee," the older man whispered, violet eyes still downcast. "Please. Promise me that."
"I promise…" the Exorcist murmured slowly. "But why-"
"She's in your hands now," Komui said solemnly, and with that, he fled into the adjacent room, leaving a bewildered Allen to stare blankly at the space where he'd been standing a moment ago. What on Earth had Komui meant?!
"Wait-" Allen began after a moment of shock that stalled his mental processes. "Komui-san, what-"
The sentence was abruptly terminated as Allen opened the doors, revealing the five people he'd arrived with as well as a small team of familiar scientist faces… and a gentle-looking old man clothed in white robes standing at the front of the room. Lenalee, Link, Bridget and Komui were standing; everyone else sat in the short pews lining the room's edges.
"Allen-kun?!" Lenalee gasped automatically before averting her strangely red face. This only served to confuse Allen even more, making him wonder what everyone else seemed to know and was hiding from him. "Ah…"
"Is everything all right, Lenalee?" he asked hesitantly. Lenalee didn't look up, instead twirling a lock of long, dark hair nervously in response. "You seem… upset…"
"I'm fine," she said in a slightly choked voice. It wasn't enough to convince Allen.
"What's going on here?" he demanded in a louder tone. "First Komui-san acts strangely, now Lenalee! There's something really unusual about this mission you're sending us on, so why haven't you told me about it?! What is it?!"
"Lenalee didn't know until just now, either," Reever admitted sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. The aforementioned girl shifted her weight slightly, still refusing to look at Allen. "Dunno why the Supervisor didn't tell you while you two were out in the hall, though."
"I told him what he needed to hear," Komui said stiffly.
"About the mission or about your thoughts on the matter?" Bridget mused in a calm tone.
"…That isn't important." The beret-clad man flinched anyway.
"M-maybe we should… do this another time," Lenalee suggested. One or two of the scientists groaned; Komui simply shook his head and reminded her that it was necessary for the mission.
"You two are really the only ones who can do this," he admitted. "It has to be you, Lenalee… and Allen is the best candidate for his role in this too." Lenalee's blush intensified and he sighed. "Don't you trust your brother's choice, Lenalee?!"
"I do!" she protested. "It's not that it's Allen-kun…"
"Can someone please just tell me what this is all about?!" Allen pleaded desperately, interrupting the somewhat chaotic conversation in the room. All heads promptly swivelled to look at him, and he swallowed nervously. "Since everyone seems to know already, and… I'm apparently involved…"
A calm, kindly voice responded to him; it had come from the elderly man Allen didn't recognize.
"It seems as if these two are not ready for such a thing," he said, showing a crinkled yet warm smile. "Perhaps another way should be found to accomplish this task."
"But…!" Komui gritted his teeth in frustration. "There is no other way! Short of sending in Finders or some other civilians who would be sitting ducks if something happened-"
"And you would risk the emotional health of two children for it?"
"I'm not a child," Allen heard Lenalee mutter petulantly under her breath.
Komui visibly deflated at the man's question. "No," he admitted. "Least of all these two."
"But this mission must be done, Supervisor," Bridget said stiffly. "We have no other option. A failure to even attempt this will count against all of those involved, particularly you."
Lenalee took a deep breath, then straightened up and met the kind man's gaze. "I'll do it," she said with a renewed energy. "It isn't as if I'm against doing this," she explained in a slightly less confident tone, "and… and I think if it's Allen-kun, I can…"
"You don't need to force yourself, Lenalee!" Komui pleaded. "Least of all for my sake!"
"It's all right, nii-san." Lenalee turned to smile at Komui; that sad, weary, self-sacrificial yet happy smile making Allen's heart clench painfully. "When the mission is over, things will go back to normal, right? You said so yourself."
"But will they," Komui murmured in a tone so low Allen suspected only he had heard.
"Um…" Allen's soft interjection once again captured the attention of everyone else in the room, to his frustration. "If Lenalee has no objections, neither do I. It's for the good of the Order, and everything will be fine, right?" he added, turning his most brilliant smile on the six standing at the head of the room.
The rumble began among the scientists again. Link stared stonily at the boy while Lenalee raised her eyebrows in surprise, not expecting Allen to agree so easily. However, the elderly man merely gave him a weary smile while Komui shook his head, causing his glasses to slip down his nose.
"Allen-kun, aren't you still unaware of what you just agreed to?"
Allen grinned shakily and nodded. "But I trust Lenalee."
"Allen-kun…" Lenalee's expression softened at his words. "Thank you… but even then, I think you should know the situation before making a decision. It's…"
The boy nodded and turned to Komui. "So Komui-san, what is it that must be done before we depart?"
"Well…" Komui's muscles visibly tensed; he wasn't pleased with the thought. "Remember how you two are going to a newlywed resort for this mission…" Allen nodded. "And how we sent Miranda and Marie before, but they weren't able to get in…" Another nod. "We believe our current plans are foolproof, to a certain extent, in order to get past their security systems this time."
"Security systems? Like the gatekeepers?" Allen asked with a hint of a nervous shiver. If this would be anything like the last time he'd encountered one as a stranger…
"Well, not quite." Komui sighed. "It just so happens to be a very exclusive resort, and they won't let just anyone in…"
"We have to assume new identities?" Not that it would be the first time for Allen after travelling with Cross for three years.
"…No, you two will be going as you are. Without your uniforms, but you will still be Allen Walker to everyone you meet."
"…I can't say the same for her," Komui admitted.
"Exclusive…" Allen spared a look at the silent group in the room; he'd almost forgotten he and the Supervisor weren't alone with the lack of interruptions. They already knew, didn't they? "We have to pretend to be nobles, then? W-well, that might be a problem… I'm not sure if even a night of intensive training could break some habits…"
"Actually, they'll accept anyone who can pay the required fee. The one criterion is…" Komui's face became a mask of calm, although Allen could tell he was about to say something he disliked intensely by the slight quirk of his lips. (It resembled Link's whenever Lavi appeared.) "…that you are who you say you are. Honesty, that is."
"And?" Allen was dumbfounded. How could they possibly be more honest about themselves than using their own names and behaving absolutely normal in every way?
"Allen-kun, you do remember what kinds of people visit this place, right?"
"Yes, of course… newly married couples, I'd assume, but-" Allen gave a start as the sudden realisation came upon him. "You can't possibly mean-"
"There is no better disguise," Komui muttered sullenly, "than the truth."
There was momentary silence as the invisible gears in Allen's mind stopped working.
"…So you mean…" Allen finally managed to get out, "…that Lenalee and I…"
"Yes," Komui repeated, slightly more irritated than before. Did Allen really have to say it?
Alas, he did.
The scientists covered their ears in unison. Komui was visibly straining to repress the urge to murder Allen on the spot; it was not that he was really opposed to the union, but merely the result of a conditioned reflex to the phrase of "Lenalee is getting married". If the Supervisor had been sleeping at the moment, Allen would have been in pieces right now.
"Yes," he finally ground out through clenched teeth. "This…" He nodded stiffly to the robed man. "…is a priest from the nearby town. We have asked him to perform the ceremony for you two."
"It is an honour to serve God in such a way," the priest murmured, bowing. "To ensure the success of such holy ones as yourselves…"
"It is we who are honoured," Komui answered him. "Now then, Allen-kun?" he asked the suddenly silent boy whose face was frozen in a mask of shock. "You are aware of the situation; what is your answer?"
"It's all right to say no," Lenalee reminded him gently.
"Hey, Reever…" The brown-haired man bent down with a questioning hum to listen to Johnny. "You don't think Allen'll say no, do you? I mean… he and Lenalee are such good friends…"
"Who knows," the Section Leader whispered. "But you'd better hope he does or we might lose our only way of waking up the Supervisor."
"Yeah, but…" Johnny fidgeted and shot the couple a worried look. "What if it ruins the friendship?"
"Assuming that getting married won't?" Reever asked.
"Oh…" The American man turned away, eyes falling to his lap. "I guess… just considering a step forward could do that." He exhaled in a long, depressed sigh. "So why does it have to be them?"
"Because Lenalee was the only available female and Allen was the only one the Supervisor-"
"No, not the actual reason! Why this? Why to such great friends…"
Reever looked down at the slightly younger scientist and sighed, reaching over to pat his shoulder comfortingly. "It'll be fine in the end," he grumbled, somewhat flatly. "They're flexible; they'll adapt to it and everything will be normal. Including," he added with a surreptitious glare at Komui, "a certain Supervisor's sleeping habits."
"I hope so…"
"My answer hasn't changed."
Every head in the room snapped to look at Allen.
"T-that is…" he added, face flushing hotly, "if Lenalee is all right with this, then… me too."
"Allen-kun," Lenalee murmured, sounding concerned and yet flattered at the same time. "Do you really mean to say-"
"He did it?!" came the scattered cries from the scientists. "He really said it?!"
"Well then." Komui pushed his glasses back onto the top of his nose with one finger calmly. "We shall proceed with the ceremony, it seems."
The priest smiled softly and opened the large tome perched on the podium in front of him.
"If you two would please…?" Komui gestured for the Exorcists to stand in front of the priest. "I would assume the vows are first, and then the signing?" The priest nodded. As Allen and Lenalee mechanically made their way to the space on the floor, Komui explained the situation a bit more. "Link and I will be acting as the witnesses. Just repeat what you're supposed to, sign the paper, and then it's all done and you can go pack or eat or whatever you feel like doing. How easy." He took a deep breath, then swallowed nervously and inhaled again. "Just like that."
Komui-san is really nervous about this, Allen thought as he stepped into place. A half-second later, Lenalee voiced the same concern in a low voice, looking almost as worried as her brother. Allen couldn't help but frown at that; was she having second thoughts?
"If you can't handle this…" Lenalee continued, about to walk over to where Komui was standing next to Link, but her brother halted her with an outstretched hand.
"I'm fine, Lenalee," he said in only a slightly strained tone. "This is just something I have to accept… a difficulty to overcome. And," he added, his gaze softening, "it isn't as if I'm losing you this time."
Lenalee nodded and turned away, but her concerned frown remained. Biting his lip nervously, Allen reached over to grab her hand and squeeze it once lightly before retracting it to his side, the familiarity of the gesture feeling oddly normal despite their current situation.
"Everything will be fine," Allen whispered, as much for himself as for Lenalee. With a knowing smile, she returned the hand-squeezing gesture, reaching out to him this time.
"You always say these things with a smile," she quipped, with a similar expression to his own.
At that moment, the priest cleared his throat, directing a knowing and gentle look to the couple in front of him, and began to read.
As the kindly, slightly hoarse voice echoed in his ears, Allen couldn't help but steal a peek at Lenalee out of the corner of his eye. She was facing forward determinedly and unblinking, wearing a solemn expression, yet the gentle and rapid heaving of her chest hinted at the anxiety she was hiding. Unconsciously, his own expression softened as the priest's words faded into the background.
Lenalee is such a strong person, he thought appreciatively. Even if she's scared, she doesn't want to worry anyone. Does that include me? It was a strange feeling; Lenalee never wished others to worry about her, yet more than once she had felt free to be honest around him. There were times when she hadn't, but… it hurt a little to know that she didn't feel free to express her concerns to avoid causing problems for him. Weren't they friends?
Although now that he thought about it, was he any better? Hmmm… Don't complain about her when you're even worse, Allen! If you want her to open up, do the same! Lenalee would be happy about that!
But then he'd be making her worry about his own problems!
The mental conflict raged silently in Allen's mind, but it did not go unnoticed; Lenalee's sharp eyes immediately caught the minute changes in his facial expression, as he went from concerned to disappointed to tense, and then to a worried daze. Without knowing the cause, however, Lenalee could only make a guess as to the reason: the current situation?
If he doesn't want to do this, she thought, eyes flickering back to the priest, then why did he agree? To ease my mind? Why would he think that his feelings would matter less? …Or did he? Is he worried about me? No, no, I haven't given him any reason to be! He should be thinking of his own well-being at this point!
…Allen-kun, I hope everything is really all right with you. I hope you're doing this because you really want to this time.
You matter too, you know!
The pair were jolted out of their internal ramblings when the priest fell silent and motioned for them to take each other's hands. In one smooth movement, the action familiar and effortless, they did so, clasping both hands together, upon which the elderly man smiled at the action and turned to Allen. The boy's throat tightened nervously, not expecting the vows to have come so quickly.
"Allen Walker," he said calmly, "do you take Lenalee Lee, whom you hold by the hand, to be your wife?"
I suppose I do, Allen thought, eyelids blinking rapidly from anxiety.
"Will you love and respect her?"
I do, the thought came unconsciously as Allen stole a peek at Lenalee out of the corner of his eye, and always will. Wait, did I just think-
"Will you be honest with her always?"
…From now on, I should probably work on that one, because I'd like to be.
"Will you make whatever adjustments are necessary so that you can genuinely share your life with her?"
Absolutely. That shouldn't be too difficult…
"Will you stand by her through whatever may come,"
I have and I always wish to, no matter what may happen to us.
"in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,"
It isn't as if I like being in debt!
"from this day forth, until death do you part?"
"I do." The words came out of his mouth with a surprising solemnity and earnestness that showed no trace of his illogical worry.
With another kindly smile and a nod of his head, the priest now turned to Lenalee. She took a deep breath, steadying herself and her shaking hands, as he began.
"Lenalee Lee, do you take Allen Walker, whom you hold by the hand, to be your husband?"
Nii-san must be so angry that I am, she thought, lips twitching upwards at the thought.
"Will you love and respect him?"
You are one of the most important people in my life; of course I will!
"Will you be honest with him always?"
I promise; I hope you mean it too, Allen-kun. That's all I want from you.
"Will you stand by him through whatever may come?"
Yes; I will never abandon you.
"Will you make whatever adjustments are necessary so that you can genuinely share your life with him?
If nii-san lets me I will happily do so.
"in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer,"
I always want to be by your side so neither of us will ever be alone.
"from this day forth, until death do you part?"
"I do," she said softly, grip tightening over Allen's hands.
At that moment, Link stepped forward and opened one gloved hand, revealing what had been encased inside to the priest, and then to the pair of Exorcists: a pair of shiny golden rings.
"Go on," Komui muttered to the bemused couple. "They're part of the ceremony."
"Allen and Lenalee," the elderly man asked after blessing the rings, "what token do you give of the vows you have made?"
The pair looked quizzically at each other before turning to Komui again.
"A ring!" he mouthed. "A ring!"
"A… ring?" they repeated hesitantly. Evidently, it was enough, for the priest beckoned Link to step forward with the rings. The young man stared sternly at their entwined hands for a few seconds until they realised with a start that the situation required them to separate. Blushing darkly with embarrassment – oddly enough, the first since the ceremony had begun – each took the other's ring from Link's hand.
"Put it on the other," Komui mouthed again when the pair of heads inevitably turned towards him. Carefully, Allen slipped the ring he held over the Lenalee's left-hand ring finger. She reached towards his at the same time, but paused at his fingertip, frowning at the obstruction.
The glove! Allen hurried to tug off the white material, revealing the dark and broken skin of his Innocence-infused hand. Without even the slightest hesitation, Lenalee slid the golden band down his ring finger and withdrew.
"If you would please?" the elderly man spoke, stepping to the side to reveal sheets of paper in front of him. The pair hurried over, followed by Komui and Link.
"It's the marriage certificate," the Supervisor explained in a low tone. "Just sign your name here, here, and… ah, here." He pulled aside one paper to point to a line formerly hidden beneath. "The top one is what you'll need to take with you on the mission as proof of the marriage."
Allen and Lenalee nodded and signed their names, followed by the witnesses; everyone then returned to their original positions.
"Allen and Lenalee," the priest now continued, "we have heard you promise to share your lives in marriage. We recognize and respect the covenant you have made. It is not a minister standing before you that makes your marriage real, but the honesty and sincerity of what you have said and done here before your friends and relatives in the sight of God."
It is? the couple thought blankly, resisting the urge to comment on the need for a priest if that were the case.
Within moments, the final blessing had been given, the priest had closed the heavy tome, and the scientists had come over to congratulate the new couple, who had been left to stare blankly ahead in stunned surprise at the suddenness of the conclusion. Link and Bridget remained in place, awkwardly staring ahead at nothing in particular while Komui joined the scientists, taking a place protectively behind Lenalee.
"Congratulations!" the older men gushed, crowding around to shake the hands of the Exorcists and profess their good wishes. Allen and Lenalee gave nervous laughs and thanked them.
"But you know this is just for the mission, right?" the white-haired boy asked half-seriously at the approach of Rob.
"Of course, of course!" he responded. "It's just that we've never really had a wedding here and all, so…"
"It's fun for them," Lenalee explained, nudging Allen in the side when he continued to stare warily at the men. "It isn't every day that they get a break from work to attend a joyous occasion, even if it's actually a sham."
Allen nodded, suddenly understanding. "Almost makes you wish a wedding would really happen here."
"Hmm…" Lenalee smiled slyly. "Perhaps… hey, nii-san, what are you looking at me like that for?! I was talking about Miranda!" she protested at the figure looming over her shoulder.
"Of course. Ahem." Komui withdrew from Lenalee's personal space bubble and cleared his throat sheepishly. "If only we hadn't sent them first…"
"So, Allen!" Johnny leaned in close to the couple, a suggestive twinkle in his bespectacled eyes. "You excited about the mission this time? Three weeks alone with Lenalee? Sharing the same bedroom?"
"Huh?!" Allen blinked, bewildered. He hadn't considered that aspect of the mission! "W-well…" he began, a dark blush spreading across his cheeks, "we-we're s-still friends, s-so…"
"Oh!" A tap on the shoulder made Allen spin around to meet a dangerously smiling Komui. "That's right! Once this is all over, we'll be going to the Vatican to get this situation fixed with an annulment. I'm sure you know what that means, Allen-kun!"
"I wasn't thinking of it!" Allen shouted defensively as Lenalee cried, "Nii-san, Allen-kun and I are not going to suddenly jump in bed together like that!" The scientists immediately deflated in disappointment.
"They're not going to have sex," one of them muttered sadly. The others nodded, looking like naughty children who weren't allowed to have cookies anymore as a punishment.
"Thank God," Komui muttered under his breath. "So just… avoid all that sort of thing, all right? Not that it'd be acceptable under any other circumstances, but it would be particularly destructive in these next three weeks. I'm sure I won't need to remind you again, though, Allen-kun?"
Allen gulped and nodded quickly; he'd faced Komrin robots before! "You don't have to worry, Komui-san! I would never touch Lenalee in an inappropriate manner!"
"Allen-kun is such a gentleman," Lenalee murmured, sounding just a touch disappointed despite the upward twitch of her lips in an amused smile.
"But Lenalee, didn't you say you liked it when Allen was informal-"
Allen turned a bemused look on Lenalee. What did that have to do with-
"Anyway!" Lenalee interrupted loudly, face darkening with embarrassment once every set of eyes focused on her. "…Since everyone's here, would anyone like some coffee?"
"No way!" one of the scientists reprimanded. "You're the guest of honour here, Lenalee! You shouldn't be doing such a thing for us!" A loud chorus of agreeing voices echoed around her, and during the distraction, Allen managed to slip out of the crowd and make his way to the door.
"I'm going to get something to eat," he mumbled to Lenalee as he edged his way past her. "I guess… we'll see each other tomorrow morning, then?"
Lenalee nodded before turning her attention back to the protesting men to apologize and continue to insist on making coffee. With one last fond glance at his Exorcist partner, Allen nearly managed to depart unnoticed.
Alas, one person's attention had always remained on him.
"You're not going to join the others?" Link asked curtly, nodding towards the crowd of white-clad men. Allen shook his head and smiled politely.
"I was thinking of going to the cafeteria instead," he explained. "Since I'm feeling hungry…"
"And leave your new wife behind with a bunch of men?"
Allen coloured at the Inspector's choice of words; this new relationship would take some time to get used to.
"I'll see Lenalee in the morning. Besides, she's happy to stay and serve coffee. Someone brought in the trolley, it seems…" With a gentle sigh, Allen pushed open the doors and went through into the hall. "I suppose you'll be following me, then?"
"It's my duty," Link answered, closing the door behind him. "…And Jeryy is making a strawberry mousse cake tonight."
Allen laughed softly as the two made their way down the hall. "Lenalee will be disappointed that it isn't chocolate, won't she. There probably won't be time for her to bake one after this…"
There was a momentary silence as Link pondered a question he'd been mulling over for months, ever since he'd been introduced to the boy. Without thinking, the words slipped off his tongue into the quiet hallway.
"You… really do care for Lenalee Lee, don't you?"
Allen didn't answer, or even turn around, yet his lack of response but for a warm, gentle smile provided the answer the Inspector had already known from the first time he'd thought of it.
Back in the chapel, Lenalee had already discovered the coffee trolley and proceeded to begin making some of the warm drink when Komui broke away from the cluster of scientists. He started towards the back of the chapel, shrouded in shadow, when a familiar voice made him pause and turn around.
"Are you really all right with this, Supervisor?"
"Hm?" Komui smiled weakly at Bridget's stern tone. "Fine, fine! It's only for three weeks!"
"That your sister will be away with a man she is now married to?"
The smile nearly slipped at that comment. "I trust Allen-kun to keep his word. We've known him for almost two years now; he's hardly a stranger, and besides…"
"Besides?" The woman raised an eyebrow questioningly.
"Even if… something does," Komui admitted, gritting his teeth at the disgusting thought, "i-if it's Allen-kun… he understands. Lenalee and I won't be separated because of him."
The assistant merely nodded thoughtfully, and after a few moments of quiet, Komui decided the exchange was over and continued to the back of the chapel. There, half-hidden in the shadows of the unlit pews, was a small, slumped figure.
"I assume you have what you need?" Komui asked in a low tone.
"What has happened here tonight has been added to the records of history." The withered Bookman looked up at the Supervisor, a calm expression on his stern face. "I would ask that you do not let him know of this for now. I will explain it to him when the time comes."
Komui nodded. "Only we here shall know of what was necessary for this mission, besides those who do not know already."
"Any superior officer and Hevlaska," Bookman agreed. "Then it is settled."
As Komui returned to the center of the room, seriousness rapidly changing to excitement at the thought of coffee from his precious sister, the old man watched the celebration with an unreadable smile.
"The results may truly be interesting indeed," he murmured to no ears but his own.
The moment Allen and Link arrived in the cafeteria, they were greeted by the sound of a very excited, very loud young man's voice.
"ALLEN!! YOO-HOO, ALLEN!"
The boy flinched reflexively. Link shuddered in disgust.
"Hi Lavi," Allen answered in a much softer tone, making his way over to the table where the Bookman Junior sat with the other Exorcists – in fact, all the non-General Exorcists who could possibly be there. With the sole exception of Kanda, the four waved to him cheerfully.
"Allen, where've you been?" Lavi asked, slinging an arm around his friend's shoulder as Allen sat down. The younger Exorcist resisted the urge to answer this action with a punch to Lavi's shoulder and merely smiled politely, if weakly.
"Well… that's…" Allen paused, frowning momentarily. What was he supposed to say to this? He couldn't exactly tell Lavi that he'd been out getting married!
As if reading his mind, Link started to answer for him. "Getting ma-"
"Getting mission details!" Allen interrupted quickly, turning to briefly deliver his best you-are-so-dead smile to the Inspector. "Lenalee and I are leaving on a mission tomorrow morning, so Komui-san called us to his office." He held up the black book of mission details as evidence.
Lavi doesn't need to know the rest, he decided.
"Oh, to the resort…?" At Allen's affirmative nod, Miranda clapped her hands in delight. "It's such a beautiful place! If only we'd been able to… to…"
"M-Miranda…" Marie murmured, worried. A dark gloom had settled over the table.
"…perhaps if I hadn't been so useless…"
"No, it's fine!" Allen chirped. "Uh, it's not as if I really have anything else to do than go on missions, right? We really don't mind… and maybe you can go there again one day!"
Miranda nodded weakly and made an attempt to smile.
"Where's Lenalee?" Lavi asked suddenly, twisting his upper body to look back at the door Allen had entered from. "Since Jeryy made cake tonight, we thought she'd be the first to get here…"
"The last I saw of her, she was making coffee for the scientists," Allen answered truthfully.
"Why were the scientists there?" Lavi gave him a puzzled frown.
"Um… I don't know…" Technically true as well; had the scientists just been there to enjoy the ceremony?! That seemed a bit unusual…
"It seems the cake will be served soon," Link murmured low enough for only Allen to hear. He received a questioning look for the comment before the boy turned back to the low chatter of conversation with the Exorcists. Scowling, Link repeated his sentence to no avail.
Allen was startled into silence halfway through a sentence by a finger jabbing into his ribs.
"What?!" he hissed, whirling around. "Link, what-"
"Weren't you hungry?" Link said stiffly. "Was that not what you came to the cafeteria for?"
Ah… Link's not-so-subtle way of telling Allen he too was hungry and wanted to get something to eat. Sometimes, the Inspector's indirect manner could be irritating, Allen thought, although its opposite, blunt honesty, could be equally annoying. He'd had enough of that from Lavi and Kanda, at least.
"Umm, Link and I are sort of hungry, so we'll just be getting something to eat," Allen murmured apologetically to the others before excusing himself. The braided man promptly followed on the Exorcist's heels, and soon they were lost in the crowd around the ordering station.
Lavi watched the pair with a slightly disgruntled expression, having wanted to continue the conversation, when the object of the dialogue provided an even better distraction with her appearance.
"Hi Lavi, Kanda, everyone," Lenalee chirped, sliding into Allen's now-unoccupied seat. Everyone responded with their equally cheerful greetings. "Allen-kun hasn't come by yet, has he?" she asked them. "He said he was going to get something to eat earlier, and it hasn't been very long…"
"Yeah, he's over there with Link." Lavi nodded to where the counter would be visible were it not for crowds of people blocking it from their view. "That sure was fast, though…"
"What was?" Lenalee asked in a slightly strained voice. Had Allen told-
"Making coffee. You weren't making some for the scientists?" The red-haired man frowned. "Then why…"
"Eh? …Oh!" Lenalee blinked, startled out of her worries. "Yes, I was…"
"That wasn't all you were busy with?" At the suggestive waggle of the one visible eyebrow, Kanda kicked the Bookman apprentice under the table without even twitching a muscle above the waist. "Ow! That was mean, Yuu-chan!"
"Yes…" Lenalee nodded slowly, seemingly distracted. "Well, and getting mission details…"
"So you were hungry too, Lenalee-chan?" Miranda asked slowly, almost fearfully in an attempt to avoid causing offence. "You must not have eaten dinner…"
"I had a late lunch," the younger woman replied, "but I heard Jeryy was going to serve cake tonight – he told me this morning – and…" A dark flush spread across her cheeks. "He said I'd really like it, so…"
"Oh, that's what Link came here for, too! Hi Lenalee!" As if magic had been performed, Allen appeared out of the crowd, holding a tray piled high with whole chickens, potatoes, vegetables – likely the Inspector's influence; Lavi, at least, remembered that debate – and, of course, mitarashi dango. The scowling blonde man was just behind him, his tray filled with significantly less nutritious desserts. "I didn't expect to see you here! After we agreed to meet in the morning…"
"Well, you know about the cake," she murmured, eyes falling demurely to the table. "I didn't remember at the moment, what with the scientists, and… Allen-kun," she added, a hurt edge to her soft tone, "were you hoping to avoid meeting me before then?"
"What?! No, no! I-I mean… I'm not unhappy about seeing you here!" A little embarrassed, he admitted to himself as he slid into the seat next to hers – formerly Link's, which left the Inspector sticking out of the group on his other side somewhat awkwardly – but certainly not unhappy! Although perhaps that wasn't entirely true… while the mere sight of Lenalee warmed his heart and made his day just a little brighter, Allen had been hoping to use that night of avoidance to come to terms with the situation so he could look at her without-
"Allen-kun, do you have a fever?" Miranda asked suddenly. "You seem somewhat flushed…"
"Uh…" Allen stared blankly at Lenalee for a moment while the thought processed. She darted a nervous look at him briefly before her previous blush intensified ever so slightly; Allen was sure he was the only one who noticed. "No, I'm fine…"
"Hm?" Lavi leaned in a little closer, apparently unconvinced. Lenalee shuffled forward unconsciously to allow this. "You sure everything's okay, Allen?"
Allen nodded quickly and turned to his dinner, which Link had conveniently shoved closer to him, before anything else about that night could slip out in his thoughtless humiliation.
"Are you looking forward to Jeryy's cake too?" Lenalee asked him a few minutes later, having gotten rid of her temporary blush. "He didn't say anything about alcohol, so you should be able to eat it, right, Allen-kun?"
"I am now," Allen admitted, swallowing a large bite of mitarashi dango. "Although I didn't know about it until you just mentioned-"
"When I mentioned it," Link muttered from behind him.
"…right, when Link wanted to come with me to the cafeteria because of it." It was Lenalee's reminder that made the thought stay in his mind, however. "Jeryy-san told you about it earlier?"
Lenalee nodded. "He knows I like those, even if they aren't necessarily chocolate… Now that we'll be leaving on a long mission tomorrow, it almost feels as if it was specially made for that purpose."
"As if God wanted you to have one last bite of cake before you left?" Allen's lips twitched into a playful smile. "Of Jeryy-san's cake, anyway?"
"God would've had to know what was coming," Lenalee murmured wryly. "I don't think Nii-san would have told anyone else about the mission this morning." She paused, a thought suddenly coming to mind, and then suddenly whirled away from Allen-kun to focus intently on the table. The boy was left to stare puzzled at her, wondering what had just happened. Why had Lenalee suddenly…
"…what was coming…" The cake! Dinner suddenly became far more interesting for Allen, too. The cake had taken on a new meaning once recent events were considered, one that was certainly just a strange coincidence, but nevertheless a symbol of change that, try as they might, Allen and Lenalee could not ignore.
Yet it felt as if nothing had changed. Allen felt the same whenever he saw or spoke to Lenalee, and Lenalee experienced no discomfort in looking at Allen or hearing his voice. It was easy to imagine life returning to normal once the mission was over, or even right away…
…but to 'return' would mean acknowledging the invisible yet ever-present bond that somehow managed to spark embarrassment neither had ever felt when in the presence of anyone else, let alone the other! Even if they could forget that anything had happened, that they were anything more than best friends and perhaps a little more, something would inevitably come along and remind the pair of the truth.
Well, Lenalee decided, we'll just have to try. After all, they'd soon be on their way to the resort, and surely it would be far easier to fool their minds into simply pretending they were married! Some acting would need to be done to convince others that their feelings were really those of genuine newlyweds, after all; any 'reminder' would simply play into that farce.
Until then, we'll just have to forget, she thought, violet gaze flickering momentarily to an equally-lost-in-thought Allen. A cake is a nice gesture, that's all.
Allen's own thoughts reflected those of Lenalee's, naturally. No matter how we're connected, we're still the same people we were before. Deep down inside, our feelings are the same!
They were friends, nothing… well… perhaps a little more than friends, although neither would have admitted that out loud, not where Komui could hear. How difficult could it be to last through one dinner – one night – until they could reflect on the situation at length and best decide how to behave in the future?
Unfortunately, very difficult, as it turned out.
"I propose," Lavi said just moments later, causing Allen and Lenalee both to choke at his choice of words, "a toast."
Oh no, the newly married couple groaned internally.
"As two of our dear friends are departing on a mission tomorrow from which it may take them some time to return from," the Bookman apprentice continued, reaching for his glass (which apparently contained some form of alcohol, the others realised), "let us toast to their good health and happiness."
"Che. Sounds like you're at a wedding, not a going-away party," Kanda grumbled.
Allen nearly bashed his head into the table at that comment.
"…So Jeryy, if you could please do the honours…"
The Indian man appeared at Lavi's shoulder, champagne bottle in one hand and nine glasses on a tray in the other. "Yes? I'd love to!"
With an exaggerated giggle of delight, he proceeded to pour the sparkling liquid into the glasses, serving one to each Exorcist the moment it was filled. When the dark hand offered one to Allen, the boy froze, trying to find a way to politely refuse.
"…Actually," he apologized, hands spread in a 'what-can-you-do' gesture, "I'm still underage…"
"Still seventeen? How cute! You'll never grow up, will you, Allen!" Jeryy's affectionate smile told him it was meant to be a compliment, or at the very least a good thing; still, the Exorcist was just happy to have found a way to avoid the consumption of alcohol.
"You're not having any, Allen?" Lavi asked. Across the table from him, Krory was staring at his champagne and poking it gingerly as if it were some sort of foreign food or Komui-made concoction.
"Underage," Allen explained cheerfully.
"And," Link added when Lavi opened his mouth to continue, "the Black Order will not bend those rules."
"It's all right, isn't it?" Lenalee ran her fingers distractedly in a spiral pattern on her glass. "Allen-kun, do you want something else to drink instead?"
"Milk?" Kanda said, grinning nastily. "Beansprouts won't-"
"Make it chocolate," Allen responded, gritting his teeth at the other man. Before the fight could escalate, Lavi and Link took the responsibility of grabbing the back of each boy's shirt and pulling them backwards, snapping the visual connection. Lenalee settled for giving the pair reproachful looks instead.
"I'll get some milk for you, Allen-kun," she said, beginning to rise from her seat, when Jeryy's hand on her shoulder halted the teenager's movement.
"No need," he assured her. With a snap of his fingers, a young, white-clad assistant holding a carton of milk was promptly summoned to the table. After a few minutes of wrangling through the crowds, he poured the dark liquid into Allen's glass, hands trembling as he watched his boss nervously.
"Thank you," Allen said appreciatively.
"So," Lavi boomed, "the toast!"
The glasses clashed, the drinks were sipped, and neither Allen nor Lenalee could keep their eyes from hesitantly travelling to the other, gauging their partner's reaction to the post-wedding tradition.
Immediately after, Jeryy, anxious to return to work, decided it was time for another accidental tradition: cutting the cake.
…In reality, he'd asked Lenalee to cut and serve it – and taste it first, of course – but after the ceremony and toast, it was difficult for the new couple to think of it as anything else.
"I can't wait," the cook gushed as he escorted Lenalee to the table where the dessert was displayed. It was truly a marvellous piece, three tiers of rich cake covered in pale pink icing and decorated with strawberries around the edges. "This is a new recipe, but it looked so delicious and I made it just for you, Lenalee-"
"I really appreciate it!" Lenalee answered, her smile so wide that laughter nearly formed automatically. "Did you know I was going away on a mission tomorrow?"
"Komu-tan told me!" Jeryy winked. "Just in time to make this!"
So it sort of was for a special occasion after all… oh dear, I just hope nii-san didn't say anything about-
"If you like it, I'll make another one just like it when you get back!"
…he didn't. Lenalee breathed a sigh of relief and approached the cake, picking up the knife lying next to it. "Okay then, I'll cut it now…"
In one skilled, smooth motion, she brought the knife down through the bottom layer…
…and instead of slicing cleanly through the spongy food, the blade stopped barely a centimetre into the icing.
"Ah…" Lenalee looked sheepishly at Jeryy. "I can't…"
"What?!" The Indian man rushed over and grabbed the knife handle behind Lenalee's hands, tugging at it. "It's stuck?! Oh dear, did I put on too much icing…"
"It's all right, really…" Lenalee's face contorted into a worried frown nonetheless. "Maybe it got caught on a strawberry or…"
"No, it's the icing; it really was thick and… Oh, I know!" Jeryy turned around to face the table, where the Exorcists and Link were looking curiously and anxiously at the cake. "Allen-kun! Would you mind coming over here and giving us a hand" (he winked suggestively at Lenalee) "for a moment?"
"Sure…" Allen trotted over to Lenalee and the cake. "What's the problem?"
"The knife is stuck," Lenalee explained in an apologetic tone.
"Could you please help her?" Jeryy asked. "Allen-kun's strong, right? Just help her push it down. I'm sure that with your combined strength, it'll cut!"
"Eh?!" Allen blinked, startled. "Isn't that dangerous?"
"Not if you control it! Go help her, now! There won't be any cake otherwise!"
As Allen took his position behind Lenalee and reached around to grab the knife, her shoulders slumped. "I'm sorry about this," Lenalee murmured awkwardly. "You don't-"
"It's all right," he interrupted, placing both gloved hands on hers. "If I don't, you and Link won't be able to eat any cake, right? Since you've been looking forward to this, it wouldn't be right…"
"Thank you." Lenalee turned her head to smile at him, and Allen felt his heart speed up slightly. Praying Lenalee wouldn't notice despite her close proximity, Allen began to apply pressure downwards, encouraging Lenalee to do the same. Within moments, they could feel the resistance fading, and the knife slowly inched downwards before suddenly meeting the cake itself and slamming into the plate beneath.
From the table, a clapping noise could be heard.
"Isn't it sweet?" Lavi whispered, fake tears welling in the corner of his eye. "They're all grown up now…"
"It does look like newlyweds cutting a wedding cake, doesn't it?" Miranda laughed.
Two faces instantly flushed red and Allen quickly withdrew, leaving Lenalee to hold the knife still embedded in the cake.
"I guess… it did, didn't it?" he laughed nervously, scratching the back of his head in embarrassment.
"We really are, aren't we," Lenalee giggled softly, yet her violet eyes still stared worriedly at the cake. "So that makes this cake… our…"
"Oh!" Jeryy's cry startled them both. "It was just a lump in the icing! The rest of the cake won't be so difficult to cut!" He effortlessly sliced two pieces, serving them on plates that were shoved into the couple's hands. "Go back and eat now! I'll cut the rest for the others!"
"Thank you," Lenalee and Allen repeated in unison, retreating back to the dinner table in a daze. This was their wedding cake?
It was not until they sat down at the table that Lenalee noticed something very important:
"Jeryy!" she cried suddenly, nearly jumping out of her seat. "You lied! This is a chocolate and strawberry mousse cake!"
"It was made for you, after all!" the cook called to her, doing a little dance of eagerness in his delight.
"Thank you," she whispered gleefully, staring at the slice with a hungry expression.
Thank you, Jeryy-san, Allen echoed silently. For thinking of Lenalee on such a day.
The cake was delicious, and to Lenalee's excitement, the cake had been large enough to leave an entire layer intact by the time everyone had eaten their fill. Jeryy promised to freeze it for her, in case she wanted any upon her return; Allen couldn't help but wonder if Lenalee remembered the significance of such an act.
"…but there's no way she'll wait a year to eat it," he muttered under his breath, chuckling as Lenalee helped place the cake into the awaiting box. "She'll probably want it all to herself, too, not that she'd admit it…"
Ah well, he wouldn't ask for any. It was Lenalee's cake, after all.
And so everyone departed for the comfort of sleep in their own bedrooms, the separation much more friendly between Allen and Lenalee this time as they were actually able to say their goodbyes and good nights, and 'I'll see you in the morning's. Still feeling somewhat embarrassed with recent events prominent in their memories yet feeling strangely content about the situation now that a bit of time had passed, they settled down comfortably in their own beds to sleep.
…Or attempt to, anyway. In fact, it was remarkably difficult to sleep when such events weighed on one's mind, pressuring the owner to reflect during this perfect opportunity. How could they resist?
Married. The thought arose unbidden into Allen's consciousness, and his closed eyes clenched even tighter as if to drive it away. Naturally, the effort failed. Lenalee and I…
I never actually thought it would happen, not with Komui-san being the way he is, but…
A rustling from the floor interrupted the boy's thoughts, to his relief.
"You're thinking about that, aren't you," came the slightly disgruntled and tired-sounding voice.
Allen shook his head, then, realising Link couldn't see him in the darkness, verbalised his response. "Just a little," he admitted, "but…"
There was a brief silence as Allen pondered the answer to that question. Oddly enough, he found he wasn't as sure of it as he would have thought. "No," he finally said, "not as much as I think I should be."
"It's a big change in one's life."
Allen gave the shadows a slanted look; Link was rather talkative today, wasn't he? "Only for three weeks."
"You really expect things will return to normal?"
"If Komui-san lets it…" Allen laughed nervously. "If you mean between Lenalee and I, sure. We knew what we were getting into, and we're still friends…"
"Really?" The Inspector sounded somewhat amused, a rare thing for him. "It certainly didn't appear that way at dinner tonight."
"W-well…" Allen was suddenly grateful for the darkness that hid his sudden blush. He was doing that a lot tonight, wasn't he? "A-anyone would be embarrassed at hearing some of those things… being reminded… a-as long as we can forget-"
"You believe it will be so easy to? With just the toast and cake, not to mention the usual crude innuendos-"
"It will!" Allen insisted, although the worried expression on his heated face belied the forceful certainty of need in his voice. "We've always been fine around each other, right? It's been nearly two years; one small thing like this won't change what's really important!"
"Your love for her?"
Allen choked at the blunt question. "W-what!?"
"Love. You practically admitted it earlier today." Ah, there was that haughty tone that was so familiar to Allen after so many months of stalking- er, guarding… "It is true, correct?"
"I care for her," the younger boy muttered, bringing his left arm up to rest on his forehead, "but… love…" A flash of gold caught his eye; it was the ring, snugly settled around his deformed finger. Unbidden, Lenalee's face flashed into his mind at the sight.
"You don't? Really?"
"…well, I never really thought about it…"
Link gave a snort of frustration and Allen heard the sound of rustling covers again; when the voice came again, it sounded a bit fainter, as if the man had turned onto his side away from Allen. "Two years of this and you never bothered to determine such a thing? Do you lack curiosity?"
Allen shrugged, somewhat uncomfortable at the continued line of questioning. "I'll think about it tonight," he muttered. "Can't come to a conclusion that quickly, right?"
Link's answering grunt showed dissatisfaction – was the Crow member himself curious?! Allen couldn't think of a previous moment when he'd even seemed nearly this human! – but said nothing more on the topic.
However, the conversation wasn't over if the Inspector had anything to say about it.
"So Allen Walker is easily embarrassed by crude sexual innuendos? How fascinating."
Despite being delivered in that monotone voice, Allen shivered nonetheless. He suddenly felt very thankful for his three-week journey away from this man…
Lenalee, however, had no one to speak to but herself, and it was far more difficult to avoid a thought when that was the case.
It's my wedding night, she thought, fingers tightly clenched around the sheets she was curled up in. Moonlight streamed through the window above her bed, illuminating the pale white fabric she stared at without really seeing it as she lay on her side in a fetal position. Something that's supposed to be special, shared between me and the man I married… would marry… that would never happen to me because nii-san wouldn't let it…
…but it did, and here I am, on my wedding night, alone in my bed.
As the thought faded, she began to mentally reproach herself for thinking so selfishly of her own position when Allen must certainly be no better off, but the memory of their departure blossomed before her eyes.
…Oh. He's got Inspector Link, of course. Wonderful; it's our wedding night and he's sharing a room with a man. If the circumstances were any different I'd suspect I'm in for many long years of loneliness and emotional suffering.
Instead, tomorrow begins our three-week mission and once that's over, my future will be what it was this afternoon, before nii-san ever told me about this in the first place. Maybe it'll even be the same in the morning, when it's just me and Allen-kun…
Why was that thought enough to make her blush? Before tonight, it would hardly have elicited a reaction, yet now her thoughts strayed in an unfamiliar direction that wasn't entirely comfortable, either.
Damn those scientists! she thought angrily, teeth gritted, before immediately uttering a mental apology for her inappropriate outrage. No, that's a bit much, I don't really mean it. But if it hadn't been for those comments…!
And what had those comments done, exactly? Reminded her that, no matter how much she pretended it didn't exist, there was and always would be a gender gap between her and Allen, something that could rarely be bridged by friendship for the realistic fear of it turning into something more? Something more that could strengthen that connection, however inappropriately, or cause it to crumble forever?
No matter how she tried to forget, Allen was a boy – nearly a man, but for now, still just seventeen – and she was a woman. They were friends, but the ceremony that day… no, simply being told what she needed to do… had brought reality crashing down between them.
How can everything go back to normal now, she thought, whimpering softly and pulling the covers closer to her, when we can't pretend that problem doesn't exist anymore?
And even worse, I'm not sure I even want to…
Morning dawned bright and early, tendrils of light slipping through thin curtains and under Allen's eyelids and waking him with slow, soft bursts of brightness he couldn't ignore. Making a sound of disgruntlement in his throat, those eyelids fluttered open moments later, slowly focusing on his surroundings.
The comfortably furnished train cabin rattled with the occasional bump, yet the warm being resting on his shoulder did not so much as stir even at the more jarring movements. Her cool breath tickling the exposed skin of his neck, however, caused more stress to the boy than any sharp movement of the train. It wasn't uncomfortable, exactly… but each exhalation caused tiny white hairs to stir, and on more than one occasion, he shivered reflexively. His body was so sensitive to such a small thing!
With a relaxed sigh, quiet enough to avoid waking Lenalee, Allen leaned back into the cushioned seat and reflected on that morning's events.
Komui had awoken him well before dawn to catch the first train; he'd barely had time to pack his morning essentials and even change into proper clothing before he was to meet Lenalee in the entrance hall. Somehow, despite the early hour, she looked as neat and awake as ever. After saying their goodbyes to Komui, Link, and the few scientists who had been awake at such an ungodly hour, the pair had been shoved onto a boat to the nearest train station. The moment they'd sat down on the cushy bench and their heads had touched, sleep had retaken them both.
So here Allen was, a few hours later, awoken by the rising sun while Lenalee – his wife, as he'd come to accept – remained in a deep sleep.
Well, he wasn't going to wake her just to satisfy a need for conversation. Allen gave her a gentle smile and shifted back into the cushiony material. The heavy weight on his right shoulder told him there was a third presence there, one who might have been awake, but even had Timcanpy been in a state to not mind being played with, his owner was wary that even the slightest movement would disturb Lenalee's sleep. Therefore, he was content enough to stare at the wooden wall across from him and think about nothing in particular (probably food, however, as this was Allen's mind, but perhaps a stray thought of another kind would intrude once in a while).
In the middle of a particularly enjoyable dream about mitarashi dango (and, strangely enough, Lenalee, though he couldn't recall her making those for him before), the compartment door opened, startling the boy out of his fantasy.
"Oh!" The woman, an average-looking woman with mousy-brown hair in shoulder-length curls and a waitress uniform, gasped and immediately clasped a hand to her chest in surprise. "I'm so sorry, sir! I didn't realize…"
"It's fine!" Allen assured her in a low tone, cautious of his sleeping partner. "Um… pardon me for asking, but are you…"
"The breakfast lady," she admitted sheepishly in a way that reminded him suspiciously of Miranda. "For first-class customers, we have the option of breakfast in one's own compartment… you can remove a table from under your seat." She gestured to the wooden frame. "I didn't know, though…" Brown eyes flickered hesitantly to Lenalee before returning to Allen. "Your wife…"
Allen opened his mouth to explain that Lenalee was just his mission partner, but reality quickly intruded and forced him to close it again. For once, the waitress was right!
"It's all right," Allen said weakly. "Will you be by again later, or should we just go to the dining car later?"
"I'll check in on my way back," the woman assured him, and, a humiliated blush colouring her face, gently shut the compartment door again. Allen continued to stare at the door for a few moments, mind processing the intrusion, before he finally sighed again and directed his gaze to the wall once more.
"Isn't it funny?" he murmured to himself. "We haven't even begun to pretend and people are already mistaking Lenalee and I for a married couple…"
No, they weren't making a mistake. Was there some sort of mark that some people could see and others couldn't that told others of their relationship status? Allen frowned; that was a disturbing thought.
…Or maybe, he realised with a quick glance down at Lenalee's left hand, she'd seen the rings. His was covered by a glove, but with Lenalee's head on his shoulder, it didn't take a leap of faith to make the assumption that they were, in fact, husband and wife.
Which they were.
Allen wondered if he'd ever get used to that thought, even after this was all over and done with.
Around noon, the train arrived at their destination, and the two now-fully-awake Exorcists grabbed their bags and hopped off onto the platform. It was not until they'd set everything down on the ground and watched the train depart that they realised something very important:
No one had told them where to go from here.
The thought struck both of them at the same time, and grey eyes met violet ones in equal expressions of shock and horror.
"A… golem…" Allen managed to say, pointing to Lenalee's suitcase.
"We only have Timcanpy," she answered weakly, not even bothering to look at the golden twinkle nestled into Allen's shoulder.
"Walker? Are you Mister Walker, sir?"
Allen turned around to see the source of this unfamiliar voice, a plain-looking, reedy man in a perfectly pressed black uniform. "Pardon?"
"Ah! The description fits perfectly!" Black eyes hidden behind tiny spectacles scanned a slightly crumpled piece of paper in one hand, then darted back up to Allen. "It's a pleasure to meet you, sir." He executed a deep bow, then turned to Lenalee, taking one of her hands in both of his. Allen eyed the action with slightly possessive concern. "And this, I assume, is your lovely new wife?"
"Um…" Allen managed to tear his eyes off Lenalee's hand long enough to exchange a wary glance with its owner. "Yes…?"
"Wonderful! My name is Alfred, sir." He released Lenalee and bowed deeply once again, nearly causing his top hat to fall off entirely. "I am the carriage driver for Miss Cassandra Morgan – the owner of the newlywed resort, you see. I have been sent to escort you there."
"Thank you," the Exorcists said, slightly stunned at the reception.
"Are these your belongings?" Alfred walked over to the rather plain luggage sitting on the station floor. Lenalee couldn't help but feel a pang of shame at how worn the suitcases were, or how inexpensive they must appear. Alfred, in nicer attire than the Exorcists themselves, must have seen far better!
Allen nodded, but reached for the items. "We're going now, then?"
"Oh, no, sir, please, no need to carry these." The chauffeur made an attempt to swat the boy's gloved hands away. "I will be happy to take them to the carriage for you."
The Exorcists murmured their thanks once more. As the thin man effortlessly grasped all six bags(!) and asked them to follow, Allen gave the retreating back an incredulous glance. A tug on his sleeve made him blink with surprise; Lenalee was already following.
"Just let him do his job," she whispered just low enough for Allen alone to hear. "We're apparently going to a very expensive place; how did the Order manage to pay for this…"
"Sorry, Lenalee." Allen gave her an apologetic smile. "I'm not used to this sort of thing."
"Don't be too dumbstruck by the resort, then," she told him playfully.
"No, it isn't that! I've been to rich places before with Master…" His expression sobered as he remembered the deceased man and the torture he'd put Allen through. "Master had many wealthy friends. They never treated me very well, though… everyone usually thought I was a servant. Not badly, either, though!" Allen added quickly upon seeing Lenalee's shocked and sympathetic look. "Not like this, that's all."
"Me either," Lenalee admitted. "Jeryy taught me about how to behave, but… well, let's help each other avoid looking like idiot commoners, all right?"
"Happily." Allen grinned at her and she smiled back eagerly. He barely had time to notice the sly sparkle in Lenalee's deep eyes when she slipped an arm through his, pulling herself closer. "Lenalee, what-"
"Acting like newlyweds." Her tone was as playful as that sparkle, though, and despite being just a little uncomfortable with the close proximity to her, Allen found himself relaxing a little.
"Isn't this a bit much in public?" he asked, eyes scanning the crowd.
"Is it?" Lenalee frowned, biting her lip thoughtfully. "Well, we are supposed to be-" We are "-newlyweds, and they don't usually act very considerately in front of others…"
The conversation was abruptly terminated at the sight of the carriage. Alfred had already begun to hoist the luggage into the rather large compartment, but he had finished by the time the couple were able to tear their gazes away from the subtly yet richly decorated vehicle. Even then, Allen's eyes strayed to the finely made object more than once before the departure.
"It is but a short journey to the resort," Alfred explained, stepping onto the ground to hold the carriage door open for Lenalee. He bowed his head and offered a hand for her to take as she raised her long skirts – unfamiliar to Allen after seeing her so often in the preferred shorter ones – and stepped inside. Allen wondered if the soft gasp of wonder was just his imagination; Alfred showed no sign that he heard anything out of the ordinary. "We shall arrive in less than half an hour."
"Thank you?" Allen said weakly, unsure of how to respond. Deciding a smile would be sufficient, he followed Lenalee into the compartment – and immediately noticed what she'd reacted to.
The interior was likewise decorated in understated tones and simple shapes, yet the materials used must've cost more than Allen would ever have considered such things could cost. It was very spacious – it might have been able to hold all the Exorcists, Allen suspected, with the obvious exception of Hevlaska, and still left room to spare – and, despite curtains on the windows, quite well-lit. Lenalee was settled in the middle of a bench at the back end; when Allen sat down next to her, he found himself sinking a few centimetres into the comfortable cushion.
"I could fall asleep here," he muttered, awestruck.
"It's more comfortable than the beds at the Order!" Lenalee agreed. Her violet eyes remained slightly unfocused, still taking in the opulent interior.
"Then shall we be off?" came Alfred's voice from outside, and the carriage lurched forward. Except for that one brief bump at the beginning, however, the ride itself was remarkably smooth; had Allen not spent a good deal of time looking out the window with Lenalee and seeing the English countryside fly by, he would probably have forgotten they were in a carriage at all.
A few minutes into the journey, Allen's stomach growled loudly, to his embarrassment. Unconsciously, he sank even deeper into the cushioned bench, silently praying Alfred hadn't heard. It was bad enough that Lenalee had, and she already knew of his eating habits!
"Allen-kun?" Lenalee murmured awkwardly. "Um… we should be there soon, and there will probably be lunch…"
"Thanks," he said quietly, feeling even more self-conscious than before she had spoken. "…It's just been a while since you woke up and we ate breakfast… and…"
"You restrained yourself to avoid looking like a pig in front of the waitress?" Lenalee's sly smile elicited a rather strong reaction from Allen considering the circumstances.
"No! Not at all! …She barely had anything left, and since she came by before when you were asleep and…"
"You waited to eat with me? Allen-kun, you didn't have to!" Yet Lenalee sounded touched by his consideration all the same, which was enough to make him temporarily forget about his growling stomach.
Well… that, and Timcanpy's amused grin hovering just a few feet away in the air. No one could see that and not be distracted!
It felt as if barely any time had passed at all when the carriage door opened about twenty minutes later – they had stopped, although neither Exorcist had noticed – to reveal Alfred's beaming face. A gust of warm wind stirred loose strands of Lenalee's long hair as it brought the mixed scents of the countryside, fresh grass mixing with sweet-smelling flowers, and the salty tang of the ocean to their noses.
"Sir, madam," Alfred announced triumphantly, "we have arrived!"
A/N: Comments time! Well, as stated at the beginning, this is a crackfic. Starting next chapter, the humour should present itself.
The vows… ah the vows… I actually got them from Google. I'm pretty sure they're not even Catholic, let alone traditional Catholic/Victorian era ones (and they'd be part of a mass), but I thought these suited Allen and Lenalee remarkably well, so ignore the historical inaccuracy, please.
I humbly apologise for the lack of Timcanpy; he will appear more later, I promise.
A cookie if you can guess what romantic scene I had to force out due to pairing interference. If you have no idea what I mean, good for you. Otherwise, chances are that innuendo was accidental but I'm conscious of it.
Otherwise, I hoped you enjoyed this; please, PLEASE review with any comments/criticism/whatever you would like to say to me. Thank you!