I do not own D. Gray – man. If I did... well, there would be fewer dumbasses, I would hope.

– – –

Twenty-one: Killing Loneliness

The days melted into each other, each one the same as the last, each mission as disappointing as the first. It didn't help that half of them were false leads and two of them were complete failures. It didn't help that every time Kanda saw Allen recovering from his wounds, he felt a thrill of warmth in his stomach that shouldn't have been there.

It was as if Lavi's loss – Lavi's betrayal – had opened a wound in him that was shaped very specifically, and that shape matched something in Allen Walker. He hated the idea. Every time he found himself thinking of the younger man, found himself staring, entertaining strange thoughts, or wondering about odd things. He would berate himself and mentally commit suicide. In the end, it didn't help. He thought of things still. And then, after nearly two weeks without Lavi to tame him, Kanda found himself on the same sofa as Bean Sprout, thinking about what might have been the least important thing in the world.

The brat's eyelashes were white. Like little feathers. They fluttered against his cheek every time he blinked, and he blinked often. Kanda could not help but think of doves.

At Kanda's sides, his hands clenched into fists and relaxed themselves. He felt irritated as his own ineptitude. He was supposed to be sitting here in the lounge reading his next mission description, not ogling the under-aged Exorcist beside him.

He had dealt with the idea that there was something that attracted him. He had not yet decided to give in to the attraction.

Bean Sprout looked up at him, silver eyes round with that childlike innocence he had only begun to shake off in the last year. There was something haunted in his expression, like a shadow that danced behind his eyes, like fire hidden in his soul. It burned with such a determination, Kanda almost had to respect him for it.

"Kanda, are you alright?" The boy's voice was just a whisper between them, just enough to be heard, quiet enough to be misheard by his chaperone.

The swordsman wanted to be honest, but didn't know how to be. "Che."

The brat smiled at him. A fake smile. At least Lavi was a good actor most of the time – Allen was as transparent as glass. "I see."

Kanda shook his head, turned back to his mission description. He had gleaned that it was about a place in Barcelona, likely so he could be in Madrid at the time Allen had said they needed to be there without changing the schedule of investigations too much. Other than that, the words were little black blots of ink with no meaning. He didn't even know where the Innocence was supposed to be, or what it did.

"I've been meaning to ask you..." Bean Sprout muttered, turning a page. "What do you think of voyeurism?"

Kanda blinked at the report in front of him. Voyeurism? Was that a disease? A religion? He scowled. "How should I know?"

The brat looked at him again, unable to pretend to be reading, and blinked a few times. His white eyelashes fluttered against his cheeks, perfect, even though the left was marred with the curse mark. A sly little smile slipped across his lips. "Recently you have been looking at me very closely, like you want to see something that you can only see up close. Sometimes... sometimes I feel like you're trying to see beneath my skin or... my clothes..." He shifted a little awkwardly, and the damnable shirt he was wearing made his neck tie fall crooked, ruffled to emphasize the angle of his shoulders. The white fabric made his black left hand look like ebony. There was a gleam in his eyes like he had a twisted plan to weave around the swordsman he shared the couch with, something Kanda would not enjoy. "I would suggest I simply show you whatever you're after, but I my shadow has eyes these days, you know?"

Kanda wouldn't have understood, but Allen's eyes wandered to the blond man at the side of the room pretending not to be trying to eavesdrop. He also wouldn't have understood if the boy hadn't openly leered at him, his dulcet eyes suddenly tempting.

Too much had happened recently, too much had gone wrong. He had lost Lavi twice. And the little idiot he was looking at now had been just inches from death not long ago. It was stupid, and somewhat embarrassing, but Kanda had had enough of it. Enough of frustration and losing. Enough of watching the things he didn't think he wanted slip out of his grasp before he could wrap his fingers around them. What did it matter if he was older than the Bean Sprout? What did it matter if the brat embodied everything he hated about Exorcists? What did he care if part of him hurt every time he tried to think of certain things?

"I'm borrowing your charge." Kanda hissed, and took Allen by the sleeve without so much as even a moment's pause. Link's reaction happened a split second too slowly – he had the brat out of the lounge and down the hall before he heard the shriek of boot-leather sliding on stone. They had turned a corner already, and he turned two more for good measure before he pulled the younger Exorcist up a short flight of stairs to pause at a stone archway, shrouded in shadows. They would have many ten minutes. Probably five.

The white haired boy stood with his back to the stone, his breath fast and hot and quiet, close enough to Kanda for the swordsman to feel it spreading against his throat. There wasn't that much space to stay out of view of anyone walking in the next hall. "Kanda, I meant—"

"Shut up." It came out as a growl and his right hand released Allen's left – he hadn't even thought about which one he was grabbing – before it took a firm hold on the Bean Sprout's collar. "Shut up. And stay shut. I don't give a damn what you meant to say." He paused to breathe, to catch himself, to ensure himself that he knew what he was doing.

Those snow white eyelashes looked like silver veils. Those parted lips, so close to speaking, looked soft beyond measure.

Kanda leaned down more slowly than he intended and pressed his mouth to Allen's. The touch was more tender than he had hoped for, and those eyes held his the whole time.

Allen, as far as the swordsman knew, hadn't kissed many people, but he didn't immediately fail at the act. His lips parted ever so slightly, but his tongue did not leave the confines of his mouth, he did not try to control or dominate or perform some kind of subterfuge. It was only a tentative brush of contact, and it sent waves of warmth up Kanda's spine and down his chest. The kiss deepened without his will. His free hand caught the one that reached for his hair and held it suspended between them where he could know exactly what it was doing.

Their hands stayed together when their lips came apart. Bean Sprout's expression was almost smug, the light from the other side of the archway making it hard to tell the exact color of his irises. His left hand – Kanda had no way of catching that one – took a firm hold of the swordsman's hair and pulled him closer.

"I don't care how or when or where," Allen's voice was a whisper laced with sweet venom, the words like painful promises though they should not have carried so much weight. His fingers brushed at the back of Kanda's neck. "I want you anyway I can have you."

Kanda felt himself start to sneer at those words, but the tone, the part that made them heavy, was still in the air despite his unwillingness to pay it heed. "You can't get away from Rick, can you?"

"Link. And no. Not long enough."

The swordsman felt himself frown. "Then shut up while we have time." He leaned again, but the hand in his hair acted as a leash to hold him just far enough away.

"Have a fight with me."


Allen's smug expression turned almost gleeful. "In the cafeteria before we leave, fight with me. If we fight far enough, we should have at least a little ti—"

This time, Kanda caught the boy's mouth with merciless force, and felt it reflected back at him at once, perfectly timed, perfectly steady. The hand in his struggled until it reached his neck and then curled into his shirt, leaving him free tug at that annoyingly crooked neck tie that still hung from Allen's throat. They broke and came together again, and a small sound found its way out of Kanda's mouth.

There were a lot of questions that needed be answered, but that could wait. Right now, he had two minutes or less and a plan. And he intended to stay as he was, kissing the last person on Earth he had expected to kiss willingly, his hair falling from its tie with every subtle movement of Bean Sprout's fingers. There was heat in his face and in his hands, a sort of tingle that made every brush of contact feel like a delicious prelude to something more – something he had found himself envisioning more and more often these last few weeks. In his mind there were no details besides the scarred texture of Allen's skin and the warm press of his mouth; he didn't assign them a location, didn't think beyond the idea of simply being wound up skin to skin.

Teeth pressed just a little to his lip, experimenting. Kanda responded with a gentle touch of tongue to the other boy's mouth.

The pounding of his heart in his ears must have drowned the thump of footfalls on the staircase behind him – he sensed the intruder's presence rather than hearing them. Instinct told him to turn on the person with Mugen, but he couldn't. His hands were busy. And even if they hadn't been, Allen's hand had found the hilt of the sword at his hip and now kept it steady, a silent plea against violence.

Kanda pulled away even as Link began to stammer.

Bean Sprout's face was just gently flushed, his eyes just a little lust glazed, his lips a deeper shade of red than normal. Behind Allen's face, the swordsman could imagine the thoughts and desires within him had taken on a physical form that now looked out from his eyes, completely indifferent to the fact that there was now an assistant Inspector watching them. Those eyes were only for Kanda.

"I'm assuming this will just be casual?" Bean Sprout whispered between the two of them.


Link still had not picked an angle for verbal attack, it seemed, as he was still blabbering on in incomplete sentences. Kanda intended to use that to his advantage for the moment.

With a sweep of half-loose hair and one last, hungry look at Allen, the swordsman turned and glared at their intruder – who looked less intimidated than Kanda would have liked. Maybe it was difficult to take a man seriously with his shirt rumpled and his hair a genuine mess, but Kanda did not care. He only cared that Link understood the situation exactly as he needed to.

"He wasn't alone, didn't do anything strange, and tastes like mango. I'll be ready to go in an hour."

He took the stairs two at time to increase the distance between them. He was not quite far enough away not to hear the word 'mango' echoed in a shaking voice some seconds later.

– – –

It was nearly fifteen minutes before Allen had Link convinced that no, the Church did not need to know the specifics of what was going on with Kanda any more than they needed to know how often Link spent ten extra minutes in the shower alone. After that, the blond was curious for curiosity's sake but kept quiet, though he sometimes started to say something and then reconsidered before falling into awkward silence.

Allen still dragged him to lunch, and ordered a meal he would be at least half satisfied with. He did not want too much food, otherwise he would have trouble running away from Kanda when the time came.

He was halfway through his second dessert when it did. The swordsman sitting just one space over and across from him said something clipped and snipped at him – just a little poke at his pride – and Allen quipped back, insulting the man's hair. They went back and forth for nearly three minutes (it may have been a record in wit on Kanda's part) before the Japanese man finally became too disgruntled and annoyed and drew his sword in anger. Allen parried a few blows, his own ire rising. Slowly, making a great show of things, he allowed Kanda to back him toward the door and eventually into the hall. There, he ran. He ran as fast and hard as he could, only half concerned that the swordsman would not manage to keep up despite his longer stride. He went down two flights of stairs and down a narrow hallway, up a flight and down a different one, two more flights and out a door that lead from the main building to the graveyard – where a thousand unmarked graves made him dart to the left and the eastern wing.

It was by far the least direct path he had ever taken to his room, but he eventually found himself there, breathing in gasps and sighs, a presence just two steps behind him. The moment the door opened another hand pushed it next to his head and he stumbled inside – only to be caught and turned and pulled against the other man's chest. The door closed and they stood against it. Kanda's scent, his warmth, his closeness, nearly drowned him.

"How did it end up like this?" The question was out of his mouth in little more than whisper despite his will. He could feel the arms around him tighten, and wondered what that meant, exactly. Allen felt his chest clench.

"It doesn't matter."

"Yes it—"

"You should just be selfish and accept it."

Allen turned to look up at the swordsman to study whatever expression he found on the man's angled features. He could not read what he found very easily, too distracted by his own thoughts and too willing to project them behind Kanda's eyes. There was one thing he had not expected to find, and it made him hesitate. Kanda was not supposed to look like he was in pain, not without being wounded.

"Che. Don't look at me like you pity me, Bean Sprout." The words were just audible.

Allen shook his head. "I don't. I can't. I just don't understand you."

"That's not unusual." It wasn't a complaint in the slightest, the little lift of Kanda's lips proved it. "But I don't need you to understand me."

It was difficult for Allen to not act defiant towards the swordsman, more out of habit than actual concern. "Then what do you need?"

Kanda didn't answer verbally. His lips, soft and yet demanding, pressed momentarily to Allen's mouth. When he pulled away it was only for a moment, only to let his liquid eyes take in Allen's expression before he bent a second time, his fingers wound up in shirt like he might lose his grip if he loosened his hands. There was something strangely ardent about how he held on, almost restraining himself, almost desperate. Though something in the older man seemed off, Allen could no more bring himself to ask than he could bring himself to worry about Link finding them in the most likely place possible.

So he let his fingers just barely touch Kanda's hips, let them trace gently upward along the crisp fabric of the swordsman's shirt. A shiver went up Kanda's spine and Allen felt it echo down his back. Desire twisted in his gut. His heart fluttered half-pleasantly and his eyelids followed suit; the two of them separated and a breath caught in the space between them like a feather paused mid-fall.

"I hate you."

Allen felt a smile curl his lips genuinely. What else could he expect from Kanda? Nothing. Ever. "Of course you do."

It could not have been guilt that filled the swordsman's eyes like unshed tears. It was something else, like loathing or indifference. But the palm that pressed to Allen's cheek and pulled his face higher was ginger like the boy might break under too much pressure. "Do you... hate me?"

"What?" The British Exorcist strangled a laugh. "What does it matter? Worried I'll bite your willy out of spite, Kanda? The Lord knows you're like to grow it back if someone did." The humor in his statement fell on deaf ears. The hand on his face slipped back into his hair and smoothed through it in a caress Allen had never imagined that hand capable of. He wanted to simply stop talking and tilt into the larger man, to press their mouths together and give in to whatever instinct told him. Instead, he faltered. Kanda patiently waiting for a real answer unsettled him. "No. I... I don't hate you."

"I see."

"What does that have to do with this, though?"

The swordsman frowned ever so slightly. "Nothing."

Allen searched those dark eyes for something, anything, that would tell him what to do. When he found nothing, he stopped short, confused. "Kanda, if you want this to mean something—"

"Shut up." The words were filled with bittersweet things, Kanda's eyes with pain they had previously lacked. He didn't move away.

The British Exorcist closed his eyes to the words. How did he go about saying that even if they were hardly friends, they were still comrades? He didn't know how to start. "Whatever. Just... just kiss me, Kanda. There isn't a reason to talk about these things. Not when—" He couldn't speak through the swordsman's lips, couldn't stop the hands that pulled and pushed and edged him away from the door. There was no fighting the other man's intentions, not when they were basically in line with his own. The things that shocked him were his own lack of nervousness, Kanda's gently trembling fingers, and the pressure of his bed frame on the backs of his legs, familiar and yet so very different. There were universal truths in the world – things that he could not imagine, things that had to exist.

The awkward catch of air in Kanda's throat, like a twisted, muted little gasp, could not have been real.

Allen did not know how long they sat there on the edge of his mattress, fingers sliding through his hair and down his arms, palms pressed to his chest as if questing for a heartbeat, kisses pressed to his lips and his throat at different intervals. It felt like a small eternity. It felt like forever and no time at all. But slowly, despite their equal willingness to push boundaries Allen had not known he'd had, their enthusiasm faltered. The eyes that looked up at him were unrealistically moist, hazed with a fog that sent a pang of jealousy and guilt through him.

Anger didn't follow – it couldn't. Curiosity, confusion – the two mingled in the back of his mind and nudged the veil of desire out of the forefront of his thoughts.

Kanda stared at him. Allen stared right back.

"Che." The sound was a half-curse.


The swordsman shook his head in an unusually childish display of frustration. His hands found the British Exorcist's shoulders and pushed him back, bearing down on him, until Kanda straddled his hips, hair falling like a tattered black curtain around them.

Allen waited. Kanda's expression told him exactly what he needed to know.

"You can't." Allen said softly, and watched the dark eyes above him widen in surprise. "You want to, but you can't. It's nice, but you can't. Not without..." He didn't know how to articulate the idea without wounding the swordsman's pride, and paused. It took only a moment for him to realize that it didn't really matter if he did anyway. "Not without showing me something you don't want me to see. It's fine, Kanda."

"No it isn't."

Allen didn't want to argue with that hollow whisper, but he knew he had to. He let his hands fall to the mattress, let the older boy pin him. The illusion of control was important. "Yes, it is. If you want to tell me things then tell me. If you want to cry then cry."

"It doesn't work that way."

"I'm just an idiot bean sprout with a martyr-complex and no sense of self-worth and a dishonest smile, what am I going to do to you?"

Kanda blinked down at him, caught off guard, his own thoughts hanging in the air between them. His face tilted down just slightly, so that his bangs hung between them, blocking his eyes from Allen's view. He breathed slowly for a moment as if to steady himself for something painful. "I can't... get it out of my head." He didn't go on at first, as if he expected Allen to interrupt. "That idiot..."

Allen bit his tongue.

"There are things that you don't ever say to people when you can, and you tell yourself that you do not expect them to be there tomorrow, so what's the point. But then they are gone, just as suddenly as you told yourself they were going to be." Kanda shook his head ever so slightly. "And then you can't regret it."


"Shut up. I'm talking."

Allen almost laughed, almost reached up and punched the man straddling his hips. It had never occurred to him that the swordsman was the least bit childish, but now he could see that he was, a little, hidden behind everything else. Most of the time, Kanda conducted himself like a normal, semi-mature young man, and others...

Allen thought of their arguments, of the fights that usually ended with one of them bleeding, the other bruised and annoyed. Maybe Kanda wasn't really grown up at all. "Enough talking; you aren't saying anything. I got it way back when you stopped kissing me." Allen hated himself for being adult in a situation like this one. "Just... stay here with me, in this room, on this bed, until someone comes in and finds us here alone. And stop thinking that if you don't do this right now, we'll never have the chance again. We both have reasons we can't die." He felt his stomach clench up into a little ball of annoyance and lies. "I'll wait."

The swordsman didn't thank him, but he smiled behind the shadow of his hair.

– – –

Lavi did not know what he expected of their nomadic wandering across Europe, but he knew an empty bed in the morning was not on his list after the first three towns. Consistently, every morning would begin with Tyki by his side, and the knowledge that no matter what happened, the Noah would be beside him as surely as the sheets would be on the mattress beneath them.

When the pattern changed, the redhead was not entirely sure that he should get out of bed.

Memories crept up on him like imaginary figures lurking in shadows. The woman Tyki had killed. Yuu tied up in the cellar. Blood flavored kisses. If Tyki was out there, tearing apart an innocent, Lavi had decided to accept him, to ignore the cold feeling that filled his heart like ice water.

The room they were sharing felt impossibly large, and the moment Lavi's bare toes touched the dark gray carpet the walls seemed to withdraw another mile. The empty space on his side of the bed stretched on and on to the closed, locked door, still but for the flutter of dust in the morning sun, gold in the room of deep browns. He crept out of the covers and moved away from the door. The bathroom would be a safe place to start his search for Tyki, even if it didn't actually house the missing Noah.

Empty. The whole room, the bathroom, the closet. All of it empty. Lavi did not allow himself to become worried or frantic.

Instead, he spent nearly an hour picking out an outfit that was decidedly un-Lavi-like and combing his hair into a position that did not look pillow-sculpted. His two-eyed reflection studied him from inside the bathroom mirror for almost ten minutes, gently miss-matched eyes cool and awake and thoughtful, like the gaze of a poet set in the face of Lavi's less boisterous twin. It was almost creepy and almost nostalgic. He did not think he really had the time to think about the nuances of his identity, though, when Tyki was not there too sneak up behind him and remind him of the choices he had made and the past he had buried with all the others.

Lavi gathered what he thought he might need if he had to make a run for it in the middle of town – which constituted a small bundle of clothes and a handful of money – before he slipped out the door and down the hall. The gray carpet gave way to wood. The light paint gave way to textured, flowery wallpaper. He kept both of his eyes directed straight ahead, just in case Tyki came barreling down the hallway at him in fear that he might wake up alone.

No such romantic hogwash happened. Lavi found himself in the main body of the inn without seeing a soul.

In the back of his mind he wondered exactly how far they had come and how far they would go, but he didn't let the passing worry show on his face. Instead, he allowed a lazy sort of grin to curl his lips and narrow his eyes. Like a swashbuckler was his thought, but he wasn't altogether sure he could pull the look off without the eyepatch.

The maid that came out of a service door paused for a moment and looked at him before a smile spread across her square, boyish face and cast a delightful glow to her features. "Ah, Mr. McLaughlin said you might be off looking for him! He went to catch breakfast with his brother in town – said he'd be back b'fore noon if he had any luck. You know the bakery across from the church? He said they'd be there, likely." She blinked at him curiously, not staring, and bobbed her head in agreement with herself. "Was it... Larry? Sorry, I'm not good with names."

"Lavi." He said instinctively. "But don't worry about it, I'm not good with them either."

She nodded, and her dark hair moved across her chin with the motion. "Well, sir, I'm sure you should join them – if they aren't finished yet. Have a good morrow."

Lavi smiled and watched her go back the way she had come before he went out into the morning sun.

The bakery, if he remembered, was south from the inn. Shirley would be surprised to see him, Lavi imagined, but he didn't let the thought stop him. If he was going to live with a Noah, sleep with a Noah, and love a Noah, he would damn well do everything in his power to ingrain himself into that Noah's life. When he thought of it that way, like a cutthroat sort of war with nature, it made the smile on his face that much easier to maintain.

And it made catching sight of the two darkly clad men outside the bakery seem like some sort of challenge.

He waved at them. Tyki waved awkwardly back. Sheryl sipped his tea with purposeful slowness, his horse-face drawn into a condescending sort of smirk. Maybe the guy was an arrogant ass – Lavi didn't know and didn't care – he just wanted to know what the two of them were doing together. Promises had been exchanged that involved staying as human as possible. Sheryl's presence didn't bode well for those words.

"My, you look genuinely like a cat who spilled the cream, Lavi. Has something happened?" Tyki asked gently, and gestured for him to pull up another chair from a near by table if he felt so inclined. The redhead did. "Ah... I didn't exactly tell you where I was going this morning, did I?"

"No, you didn't." Lavi answered coolly, and placed his chair between the brothers and plopped himself down on it. "I was thinking you'd run off or something. I dunno, changed your mind. But whatever, I'm paranoid. Shall we flag down a waitress for another cup for tea?"

Sheryl nodded. "By all means. We were just discussing the next family gathering. Tyki seems to think veal is tasteless."

"Tyki is tasteless. He doesn't know a clove of garlic from a head of garlic."

The subject of their conversation frowned deeply. "An error that has been remedied. Though, I believe we should call breakfast short today – Sheryl has things to do and I have assignments to avoid. And you, Lavi, have some secrets to keep from me. But first... you said he had been spotted where?" Tyki asked his brother, and brought his tea cup to his lips with exaggerated care. It felt to Lavi that their whole conversation up until now had had nothing to do with whatever Tyki was bringing up, and veal had been the farthest thing from their minds.

War. They had been discussing the war.

"Spain, though I can't imagine why." Sheryl answered. He knew why. He knew something was happening there. "This time of year the surf is good, but there's little other reason I could think to visit."

Tyki nodded. "The surf?"

Sheryl smiled wanly. "Indeed."

Something was happening in Spain. Something important. Something having to do with the war. Lavi could read it. Tyki could not grasp as much. Sheryl wanted to say more, but was unwilling to share with the apprentice Bookman so close. It, however, was enough.

Lavi would figure it out before Tyki did. And then, he would know.

"It's rather unfortunate, really, the whole ordeal." Sheryl told his tea cup, and began to stir it ever so slowly. His expression remained quietly amused, teasing. It was just another layer, another secret, for Lavi to unravel. "The dead are not good at dying these days, are they? Though you are no exception. But first him and now this? It's really getting to the point that one has to wonder if you really try anymore."

Tyki stiffened. He did not like where the conversation was going. "Sheryl—"

"That's three, Tyki. Three. What are we supposed to do about a number like that?"

Lavi wanted to say something to break the sudden tension, but found that he could not. Not even a whisper. He was the third, then, he realized, but who were the other two?

"Watch yourself or there might be questions later."

– – –

The only thing Barcelona did for him was get his hair tangled. The sun and wind made his skin feel tight. Just like anywhere else with a breeze, really. The city didn't stick out to him in any way, not even a little. Kanda had seen too many places.

The way he thought of it, there was little new in the world and even less that he cared to see regardless of age. Perhaps it was that indifference, coupled with the black of his coat, that brought a little girl to him in the middle of a busy street, a flower clutched between her tiny fingers. She offered it to him and smiled, seeming to understand that Spanish would not be the best language to speak to him in. He doubted she knew a world of English. But her smile, sweet and small and innocent, struck him as something universal.

He took it and tucked it behind his ear.

Allen laughed, light and cheerful, and thanked the girl for him. She babbled something with a lot of soft sounds and skipped away.

"It's so nice here." Bean Sprout said, stretching his arms over his head in an expression of terrible unrest. "The weather is perfect, the sea is so blue, the people are friendly—"

"Making retirement plans already?" Kanda asked, and turned away from the idiot Brit. Truly, now was not the time to be thinking about the weather. Also, not time to be thinking about how bright Allen's smile was. Not at all. There would never be a time for those things, not while there was a war.

"Not even close. But I do like it. The breeze is lovely."

Not the word Kanda would have used.

Link remained silent through their conversation, and a few steps away, perhaps trying to give them privacy. After the event on the stairs he had become somewhat less willing to intrude on Bean Sprout's business for no reason whatsoever. He needed prompting. It was a change the swordsman appreciated, at least in one way. It meant that if he gave Link a meaningful look, he could tug Allen away from prying eyes and steal a kiss, even if the act remained completely undefined between the three of them.

There had been talk of something casual. The concept did not exactly exist in his mind the way it should have.

And somewhere, in the back of his thoughts, lurked a redheaded regret he simply could not cast aside so quickly.

"The church should be up the street, if I remember correctly." Bean Sprout pointed in the wrong direction.

Kanda nodded. "Up that street, then."

They wandered up that street for ten minutes before Allen decided that he'd meant the parallel street and they went that way, and spotted their query perched on a high hill, surrounded by buildings and narrow ally ways. It was brown and yet beautiful. Simple and wooden roofed, unlike the cathedral they supposedly lived in. The doors were closed and the windows dark in the day. The time it took them to find it was a waste the swordsman allowed for reasons he could not entirely explain. His mind was on other things. His emotions twisted like his hair. He did not think that he wanted to be here in Barcelona chasing a shard of the world's only hope.

He kept thinking about Bean Sprout.

Attraction could only go so far.

He hadn't yet seen Allen naked.

Not that that really changed anything.

Barcelona. There was nothing here that he wanted. Or rather, something was missing from here that he did want. From everywhere and everything.

He was a fool.

His wild, aimless thoughts came back to what had set them off and examined it from a different angle. He came to the same conclusion: he was still a fool and he was not about to forgive himself for it. When the truth came out, he couldn't imagine that Allen would, either.

"The bell tower?" Allen was saying, having a conversation.

"That's what the report said. I believe." Kanda said absently, and began to ascend the stares.

So... it's shorter than normal. But it is done. And there will be more sooner than the last update, lol. Inspiration has crawled back into my head these last few days, somehow. Unfortunately, I have no recollection where this WAS going, only where it is now. So...