Entitled: Ultimatum Indefinite
Fandom: D. Gray Man
Length: 2500 words
Disclaimer: I do not own D. Gray Man and etc.
Notes: The DGM muse abruptly returned. She intimidates me, so this was written very quickly.
Irrelevance: 'Karma' by Bump of Chicken is the best song in the whole freaking world.
When you held out your hand
made me close my eyes and try
I must have not believed you
because I sure didn't fly
When the girl comes up to him in the street, eyes wet, her lips mouthing a name like it's a prayer, like's it's her salvation, he steps back. She keeps coming.
"Lavi," she repeats it again, and again, lips split into a shaken smile, "Lavi—Lavi, where did you go?"
He looks at her to see if maybe she's kidding, if maybe she's just jerking his chain, but nothing about the salt runs on her cheeks looks like a joke. It doesn't look very funny at all.
"I'm sorry," he starts to say, carefully, when she abruptly leans forward, in a motion that's as daring as if she'd just leapt off a roof into freefall, and wraps her arms around him, tucks her face sideways to his chest. This is the part where he's supposed to catch her.
It feels…odd. Right. Wrong.
"I missed you," she says, all hoarse, and he's frozen even as her elbows lock up, "I—I thought we might never see you again—"
The silver pins on her uniform dig into his skin through his soft, cotton shirt. He grimaces. He doesn't want this girl touching him—he doesn't want to be anywhere near her at all.
"Look," Kem says finally, and pulls away from her in a way that isn't really gentle, isn't really kind, "I think you've got the wrong person."
She stares at him dumbly, lips a little parted, eyes a little red. There are hollows scooped out beneath her eyes, the lines of her cheekbones, and something about her makes him want to look away. He needs to look away.
"Lavi," she says quietly, with a smile she doesn't mean, "Lavi, come on, come back. Don't you miss Allen? And—and Kanda and Reever and Johnny and my brother?"
Now this, he can remember. The faces have turned soft at all the edges, but the names are printed crisp in his mind's eye, and he knows them.
"I don't." he says immediately, because it's true, "That isn't my life anymore. This isn't his life anymore."
She gets really still then, something brief and horrified flitting across her delicate, pointed features. He watches her breath, once, twice, the way her shoulders shift and fall.
"What's…your name?" she asks quietly, and all he can hear is despair.
"It's Kem." He tells her, no last name, he won't have time for one, "Not Lavi."
When her hands begin to shake, she hides them behind her back and studies the ground. Her hair falls forwards over her neck as she does so, slippery dark strands coiled into two, short twin pigtails. He doesn't say anything, and just when he begins to think that she won't say anything at all, she looks up, her eyes very clear. When she reaches out a hand, it hangs steady in the hair.
"I'm Lenalee." She says, her tone subtly more reserved and withdrawn than it had been,
Lenalee Lee, he thinks, and then stops. There wasn't any way for him to have known that. Suddenly unnerved, he flips through his pages and pages of memory, but can only find a gap, like someone had gone through and ripped out the pages, leaving her only mention in the table of contents.
He doesn't want to look at her, and can't begin to understand why.
When he reaches forwards to shake her hand, her fingers close around his own, grip tight with determination.
He leaves Japan the next day, and doesn't go back.
When he tells The Bookman later, the little old man offers no explanation. Shriveled and puckered, he watches Kem's irritated shadow leap and jump from wall to wall, thin lips pressed into a sharp line.
"Did I know her?" Kem asks at last, slouching back into his bed with a sigh, and studying the scars woven into his hands. The Bookman slants him a curious look, his mouth twisting into a sarcastic sneer—before he catches himself. Kem's noticed that he does that a lot; like he's about to say something to another person, and only remembers who inhabits his apprentice's skin at the last moment. Kem doesn't really blame him. The last alias had been there for three years.
"You did," The Bookman says evasively at last, and then, before Kem can ask another question, "Do you remember your time at the Dark Order?"
"Of course," Kem snaps irritably. "I don't forget anything."
The Bookman's narrowed eyes scrunch into wrinkles, "Who always beat you at cards?"
"Allen Walker did," Kem hisses, "Because he's a filthy cheat. Kid kept a pair of aces down his pants, I swear." He grimaces moodily, remembering but not partaking in his past amusement.
There is almost a smile at the frayed edges of The Bookman's mouth, before it is again hidden by the man's sleeve. "He probably had three. And do you remember that night you spent on the ship? The first Level 3 attack ever encountered?"
"Of course." Kem says immediately, picturing the splintering wreck Anita's boat had become, the corpses who fell on broken knees only to stand again with stolen time as their crutch. "We nearly all drowned."
"Why didn't you?"
"Because the Level 3 was taken out by—"
What starts off as a confident statement abruptly runs out, as his mind and tongue slip, and he is left staring dumb at the inn's blank white walls. "Because…" he struggles, trying to coax out the memory, but it is like throwing stones through empty air.
"I see," The Bookman murmurs, turns on his side, and blows out the candle. Kem stares wordlessly across the room at his master's still form, and tries to remember why he'd forgotten.
He begins seeing her everywhere. It isn't as though he's looking for her, exactly, because even as the frustrated curiosity within him builds up to a boil, some pressing, violent urge still pushes him to stay as far from her as he possibly can.
When her hallucination finally steps from imagination to reality, he isn't quite able to look her in the eye.
"You left again, La—Kem." She corrects herself, though not very subtly, and watches him intently for some reaction he will never give.
"Why would I stay?" he asks, testing her, and if her eyes flash, then it is only for a second.
She doesn't answer, and he doesn't wait to see if she ever will. "Who are you?"
She looks taken aback, "I'm…I'm Lenalee."
"I know." he gestures impatiently, "I get that, okay? But—who were you to him?"
She hesitates, "I…I don't know if I understand what you're asking me. We were friends. We are friends." She looks at him meaningfully, and he wonders if she'd like to rip him from his own skin. "But you already knew that."
"I didn't," he tells her honestly, "I can't remember anything about you at all. It's just a big blank."
She looks at him for a long moment, and then turns her head to the side. She looks a little like she might be dying. "You're lying."
"I'm not," he says, because he isn't, and runs before she has the chance to cry. Some part of him cannot stand that, even as he cannot stand to be near her. When he looks back, she's put her face into her hands, her shoulders curved in and small, breakable, and her name again filters through his mind.
He leaves China, and doesn't look back.
When he sleeps, he plays mind games.
It's a funny sort of puzzle, the kind where mirrors flip around to doors with answers, each guarded by a monster with his own face. He's taking on number ten, thirty two and twenty one, when an alias he's never seen before steps out from the reflection pool.
Kem can tell right away that this one is Lavi. He's tall, taller than the childish twins of his past, and humming with color. He moves differently, wears his face different than Kem, pulling the muscles into an ever-present grin.
He doesn't look very happy.
"You stay away from her," Lavi says quietly, green eye bright, cutting, the kind of sharp that makes him bleed, "Don't. Don't touch her. Don't even look at her. And stop trying to remember."
"Why?" Kem folds his arms, staring down his reflection, noting the other lacks some of his scars, "It's a problem, that I can't remember anything about her. It's screwing me up, I don't get why something's happened, can't even guess at her name, half the time. I can't even look at her without wanting to run."
"You should run!" Lavi snaps, his red hair long, longer than Kem's and falling into his eyes, "And you can't have these memories. They're mine."
"They aren't yours." Kem snarls, furious at Lavi's impertinence, "You—you don't even exist anymore."
"They're mine," Lavi insists, and then Kem wakes up.
He doesn't see her for another year. She's even more lovely at seventeen, just edging into womanhood, some parts of her softer, other sharper. She meets his eyes and he flinches, but she doesn't let him look away.
"Kem," she says quietly in greeting. When she crosses her legs underneath the table, her toe bumps into his shin. He swallows.
"Simon," he corrects, and concentrates on cutting his meal into tiny, tiny pieces. Her collar is high, creeping up her neck to tickle her jaw line with black lace, and he can't look at her without feeling dizzy, like something's shifting within him.
It's getting harder, to keep coming up with new identities. The lines have started to blur, and as he creeps into fifty he's starting to wonder if maybe it'll all be too much. His own personality is paper thin, and weaves between his past selves as he shivers in the background. He has a weak soul, and no chance of lasting a Battle Royale for his own body.
"Lavi," she says back to him, and he just looks at her, until he feels himself black out and fading away, strangled to the back corners of his being. It's getting crowded.
"He's—" Simon puts his hands over his eyes, though the room is very dim, "He's…here."
She doesn't say anything, and the dinner party continues around them. He stands shakily as they all toast the queen, and then almost falls back into his chair afterwards.
"Lavi?" Lenalee asks very quietly, and when he looks at her, her face is so full of terrible hope, that he has difficulty breathing. Lavi is stirring, breaking his fingers from their knot work at control, and pushing Simon out of the way. It isn't the first time this has happened—Lavi got out for three days, once, when Kem was dying.
"Hey," Lavi leans forwards across the table towards her, everything in his posture shifting to face her, "It's been a while."
She stares at him in confusion, then slowly begins to smile, a dazzling, heartbreaking smile, that makes everything suddenly worth it. "Oh."
"'Oh?' That's all you got?" he teases her, reaches forwards and brushes his fingertips over a scar on her lower left cheek, small a white and perfectly flawed, then lets his hands fall down to the table. She looks at him helplessly, obviously unsure.
"I—I just. I don't know what to say." She looks at him shakily, hungrily, and it's enough to make his fingers twitch. "You just…left. You didn't even say goodbye. And then I saw you again and you weren't even you and you suddenly pop back into life in the middle of a dinner party. I guess that last part shouldn't really surprise me, because that really is your style, but…but why did you leave? Why—do you even remember me?"
He gives her a funny little smile, tastes the wine, the food, lets the world seep back into him, "I would never forget you."
Her eyes widen. He takes some of the food off her plate, playfully, because it's been so long and he isn't quite used to seeing her cry. "You're leaving again, aren't you?" she asks him softly, head bent to the table.
"I—" he doesn't know what to say to her, doesn't know the words that will make it all better. "I'm sorry. I can't really…control the aliases anymore. There are nearly fifty souls all shoved into one body, and until I can figure out how get the others to leave, I'm stuck sharing."
She closes her eyes, but looks up with an expression of forced cheer, her smile almost blindingly bright. "I guess we'll just have to make the most of it then."
There's dancing after dinner.
He can't match her well, too jerky and too fast and too recklessly careless, and most of the time it's up to her to lead, but somehow it works.
He doesn't have enough seconds to drink her in. He presses his fingers more tightly into the dip of her back. When he asks, "When I come back, will you still be there?" he really isn't kidding. She starts to grin, then pauses when he doesn't start laughing. She trips, and has to grab onto his shoulder to keep herself from falling.
"Because you're all I've got," he spits out in a rush, because she just needs to understand, "And. And really, if you're not there, there isn't much point."
He adds a little laugh, because she's starting to look scared. "Are you alright?"
"No." he almost feels giddy, "No, I'm not." He closes his eyes, and tries to breathe her in.
"Lavi?" she asks softly, pressing her fingers against his shoulder, trying to clutch him there with her.
And the man in front of her turns and blinks down, his eye a quiet, dull green.