This was kind of an experiment for me. The POV and tense are something I've never tried before, but I've got to say, it was pretty fun (it's so damned long). I don't like the beginning, but whatever. Oh, and I know that Allen was supposed to be twelve when he lost Mana, but the D. Gray fan book says ten, and I like that better, so I just went with it (little Allen = cute). This is Cross AND Allen, so if you're looking for romance, you are so in the wrong place lol. Eh, I'm not going to sit here making up excuses for why this person's out of character or whatever, so read if you will, and much thanks to you.


"Akuma? I don't think I've heard of such a thing before."

I raise an eyebrow at her, "Yeah? Well, I kill them. That's what I do."

The bar maid smiles and nods, but I can see the skepticism in her eyes. I know the look. She's thinkin'- "maybe I should stop bringing this guy refills," right now.

Hey, you know what sucks? Being an exorcist. I mean, you risk your life by the daily, get down and dirty with evil, poisonous demon-spawn that hide in other people's corpses, don't get paid, and then never get an ounce of respect or acknowledgement from the rest of the world that you've been busting your ass off for. All's you get are confused questions and "that guy is crazy" looks… Like that!

I narrow my eye(s) at the depressed drunk guy down the bar, who frantically tears his own away from me and tries to preoccupy himself with the empty glass of gin in front of him. After a moment or two I look back to the pretty little thing in a bar maid's dress I've been chatting with for the last couple of hours. Besides, glaring at the only other patron in an empty tavern gets a bit awkward after the first second or two.

There used to be other people in here, but that was a while ago, when I got here… Actually, I don't exactly remember when I got here. But I do remember not having quite enough loan money to rent a room in any of the inns around London, so at some point I must have just decided "screw it" and came here to enjoy what was left of it… But in any case, I'm halfway through my… uh, a glass of wine, with my legs propped up on the wooden counter separating me and the friendly (busty) bar maid whose taken a keen interest into me since I arriveded… I mean arrived.

I shake my head once to try and get rid of the fuzzy feeling, and look back to the pale faced girl leaning against the counter. She told me her name earlier… Charley? No, too masculine. Cindy? No... Chocolate! Wait a minute, that's a food.

Well, whatever, she's Little Miss Barmaid. There. I'm not good with titles when intoxicated.

And speaking of intoxication, Bar Owner Man at the other side of the room has been throwing eye daggers at me since I arrived. And I seriously have no clue why, I mean, all I've been doing since I got here is unloading (other people's) money on him. He's just standing there all creepy-like, glowering at me and wiping at an already spotless wine glass. I would be worried more about it, but I do tend to have that affect on people.

But anyways, I think the reason I've been concentrating on this one woman all night is because if I can get her interested enough (easy) I will no longer have this problem of having nowhere to stay, you see. My whole plan has been going smoothly so far, well, other than drinking a little more than I intended, but that seems to happen to me a lot anyway.

"So…" Little Miss Barmaid (who must have started feeling awkward in the silence as I got sucked into my head) starts, "I noticed you brought someone in with you. At first I thought he was a little old man, but he's actually a young boy, isn't he?" Little Miss Barmaid leans to the left a little, gazing over my shoulder at someone sitting at a table across the room.

"… A kid?" I glance over my shoulder confusedly at a small white haired boy dozing off in a chair, feet dangling a few inches above the floor. I blink a couple times.

"… Oh! You mean, my apprentice, Allen." Heh, I forgot about him. Good thing he didn't wander off. Not that he would; he doesn't seem to have the will to do anything on his own since I found him. Hardly even talks actually.

"You!? An apprentice…?" Little Miss Barmaid's eyes wander back in awe over to the white-haired runt across the room (do I really look that ill fitted?). I simply grunt and lean back in my chair a little to cast another sideways glance his way. I'm not very good at descriptions.

" Oy, Allen..."

Ok, so maybe I didn't shout loud enough, or maybe the kid's just ignoring me (not exactly blaming him there) but he doesn't react, at all. In fact, if there were such a thing as unreact, he'd probably be doing it right now. Now, I'm not used to being ignored. I'm the one who's supposed to ignore you, so I redouble my efforts-


… That got his attention. That and everyone else in the vicinities'. Depressed-drunk down the bar is now covering his ears like he's being forced to listen to Magdala Curtain repeatedly and Bar Owner Man is gripping that wine glass so tightly I'm surprised it hasn't shattered. Oops, I'm really starting to piss him off. And heck if I know why. Normally people start hating me after they've realized they aren't getting their money back. ANYWAYS, mission accomplished… What was I doing again? Oh, yeah.

"C'mere," I jerk my head towards Little Miss Barmaid, and watch the kid's upper lip twitch as if he were going to say something, but then slide down from the chair and walk our way, head cast downward, as per usual.

Allen stops a few feet in front of the counter and stands there stock-still, like a statue. He doesn't see Miss Barmaid smile warmly and lean over the counter to get a better look at him.

"Your name's Allen, sweetie?" She gets a mechanical head nod and a big fat silence as an answer. "How old are you, Allen? Seven? Eight?"

The brat's shoulders seem to loosen a little and he lifts his head, if only a bit, "T-ten ma'am."

"Oh? But you're so small!" Little Miss Barmaid's smile broadens, and she gets that weird look in her eye that women always get whenever they see a puppy or a kitten or anything else generally small and obnoxious. I'll never understand that. "I bet you're adorable under all that white hair, let me see your face, honey."

Allen shuffles on the spot uncertainly but doesn't look up. And I know exactly why. What's it been? Two- three weeks? Kid's too self conscience. He's got to get over that at some point, so I guess being the nice kind person that I am, I'll help him out a bit. Plus, I've got to win this lady over; I definitely want a bed to sleep in tonight (if you know what I mean).

I reach an arm down and grope at the kid's jacket collar. Allen's eyes widen considerably and he gives off a surprised choke as I haul him onto my lap (can't exactly put him on the counter can I?). I take another gulp from my wine glass and thump the kid's shoulder maybe a little too hard to get him to look Miss Barmaid straight on. Gah, my glass's almost empty, and I'm out of cash too. That pisses me off.

Miss Barmaid leans forward curiously before her eyes widen and she gasps and recoils. Jeez, it's a scar lady, it's not gonna bite ya.

"Honey! What gave you that horrible thing!" The lady looks a bit disturbed, but worried at least. Allen's head drops and he stiffens like a rod against my arm. That's when this weird sort of pang shoots through my chest and I have this completely random but overwhelming urge to save the poor kid from answering.

I take a final swallow of my wine and wrap an arm nonchalantly over the brat's shoulders (which he doesn't seem to like at all) before giving an explanation.

"You see, uh…" Oh, crap. Forgot I can't remember her name, "-my sweet lady, when Allen here was a younger, much less educated boy, he liked to run around with scissors." Little Miss Barmaid's face rather comically snaps into a look of comprehension, and I don't think I'll need to finish that little lie. Don't really know why I bothered. I do weird crap when I'm drunk… Which is a lot of the time… Huh, no wonder people are scared of me.

I scowl and drop the empty wine glass onto the counter. What now? I can't stick around here any longer without buying anything, I blew all the remaining loans I had (that might have been used more productively on a hotel room) earlier (those cigars were completely worth it), and Little Miss Barmaid still hasn't offered anything "extra". Hmm, maybe me and idiot apprentice really will have to sleep on the streets tonight. I wonder if kids make good pillows…

"Can I offer you another glass?" Little Miss Barmaid smiles and leans over the counter seductively, resting her tear drop face on a pale hand and giving me a front seat view of her powdered cups, "Or maybe… something else, Mr. Exorcist?" All right, second mission accomplished: find bed (and woman) for night. Allen seems to have forgotten any grudges he might have had with me earlier and presses uncomfortably against my ribcage, trying to escape the approaching boobage. Me? I drop my legs from the counter and lean in towards her (Allen gets shoved off my lap and lands with a squeak on the floor in the process... oops). I feel a smirk spread across my face as I part my lips to reply…


... Wait a minute. That wasn't me. That's like, the opposite of what I was gonna say. I watch a poorly aimed wine glass fly past my head and shatter against an innocent by standing wall, and Little Miss Barmaid suddenly jolts upright with a gasp and twirls on the spot to face one very very angry Bar Owner Man. Seriously, this guy's face has turned completely red and there's this horrible pulsing vein in his temple. I'm surprised the three hairs he has left on his head haven't burst into flames.

Charlotte (I knew it started with a "C"!) stomps indignantly with a heeled foot and opens her mouth in retaliation- "Father! You never let me have any FUN! I'm nearly eighteen, for God's sake!"

Oh-HO! So that's why this guy's been trying to suffocate me with glares since I came in. I've been chatting up his daughter! ... Well, I guess that means Little Miss Barmaid lives here… Damnit. There went lodging replacement. I hope you're soft Allen.

"You are a disgrace to this family, Charlotte! Can't you think of anything other than men?!" Bar Owner Man brandishes a newly seized bottle of wine in my direction, which, I'm not gonna lie, makes me flinch a bit. That would hurt to get nailed with. Not that he could actually aim well enough to hit me, but… I look back to Charlotte and notice pin pricks of moisture forming at her eyes.

"You never understood me! Ever since mother died you- I hate you!" She shakes her head violently, black curls bouncing around her face, and turns on the spot to flee up the back stairs. Everyone's eyes (yeah, all four pairs of them) follow the upward climb of angry footsteps through the building before they end with an abrupt slam of a door from somewhere above… AND THEN, all eyes turn to the handsome masked gentleman seated at the bar with a terrified child cowering underneath him. Great.

"YOU!" Bar Owner Man's hand violently trembles as he reaches for another bottle of liquor. "This is all YOUR FAULT!" And with that, two glass bottles, one after the other, are sent my way, and this time his aim is a lot better. The first, once again, flies past my face, but the second explodes on the wooden counter in front of me, which believe me, is enough of a sign to leave for this exorcist. I leap up from my seat and in one swift motion grab one ten year old boy by the arms (he isn't used to the procedure yet) and hightail it for the door. I hear another loud collision of glass on wood immediately after I slam the door behind me.

I only run about a block or two along the moon lit street before glancing back behind my shoulder to see if I'm being pursued, which I quickly notice I'm not. I slow down to a trot and stop at an intersection between two of the narrow London avenues, taking off my hat and running a hand over my hair to straighten it out. I hate it when it gets tangled. Tim flutters angrily next to my head, seeing as he was just dislodged from his favorite napping spot. Jeez, I can't make anyone happy tonight, can I?

"M-master? You… can put me down now… Please?" I blink and look down with a grunt to notice that I'm still toting one very disgruntled looking Allen. I drop him to the ground and adjust my hat on my head.

"Well, I hope you have some ideas for a place to stay tonight-" I remove my hands and Tim flaps over and perches on my hat, "-because I just blew whatever money we had left back there." I tip my head towards the hell of a bar we just escaped from. Allen remains silent, but I notice him shudder from the corner of my eye.

There's this tense awkward moment between us two before I dust off my coat and glance around the deserted street-scape. I really don't know how to handle kids- especially depressed kids who have just lost their only family twice over and are now being more or less forced to take up the burden of annihilating creepy human dress-up demons from the world- among other things... In any case, I doubt there's anyone likely to offer free board to some slightly inebriated guy and his idiot apprentice at this time of night. There's not a light on in any of the buildings around us, and I think I just heard a cricket chirp.

"Well…" I look down the other side of the street, "I guess we'll just… walk around a bit and see if we can't find some place to stay." And with that I turn and start at a brisk pace down the path. Allen lifts his head up with a jerk and stumbles to his feet, having to jog hurriedly to catch up with me. He falls into step at my side, looking very much like a wounded puppy at his shambling gait. Maybe I'm too harsh on him… but to do what he's going have to later on, he's going to need whatever backbone and independence he can muster. If there's nothing else I can do to help him, at least I can give him that. I realize I've been staring at the top of his head and shift my attention back to the many brick buildings looming over the alley we're walking down, and start to look for some place desperate enough to take us two in on tab.


OK. So, it is now TWO HOURS LATER, I'm getting pretty pissed, and there's a certain white-haired, scar-eyed kid that looks about ready to pass out still plodding along behind me. Tim's abandoned his spot on my head and has taken to fluttering around the kid's head and nudging him with his tail every few minutes to keep him awake. Every single promising place we've come across has flatly turned us down (and due to the time, some of said rejections were less than polite). I mean, I know the economy is bad and all right now but, COME ON. I've been living with debt for the larger part of my life, and you don't see that holding ME back. I even tried this orphanage we came across earlier, and the lady who answered the door took one look at me, one look at Allen, and immediately tried to take him away. NO, lady. We need him for the FUTURE. Jeez, the nerve of people these days.

But in any case, the future looks pretty dim for teacher and student tonight, and it's getting friggen cold now too. About a half an hour ago a persistent chill started gusting around the city, and I think it's the only reason Allen is still awake at this point. It doesn't help that we've wandered our way down to the docks, where the ocean breeze only makes it feel more freezing than it already is.

I look down to the black waters stretching out around us and can't help but feel a slight chill run through me that has nothing to do with the air around us. You can't see anything below the water at all, it's just pitch black and opaque in the darkness of the early morning. There's something threatening about the sea at night; instead of relaxing and calm it just looks silent and empty. Waiting. If you weren't paying attention, something slimy, cold, maybe even dead and rotting could just slip out quietly from beneath the waves and pull you back down with it, and no one would ever know that you're floating around at the bottom of the ocean with whatever dragged you down there in the first place...

And because I'm in the midst of such disturbing thoughts, I nearly shout when I feel a violent tug at my coat-tail, and whip around violently to kill the zombie-bastard trying to make me join its legions.

I only manage to make Allen lose his grip on my coat material and stumble to the splintery wood underfoot.

"What was that for?!" I hiss loudly, but Allen doesn't have anything to say to that, instead letting off a short gag, a bead of sweat dropping from his face as his entire frame starts trembling. Ok, that reaction is a bit too severe for being yelled at.

"Uh. Allen?" I lower my tone of voice and crouch down next to him. Tim flutters to the ground and pats the boy's face a couple times with a pudgy golden arm.

"… What's wrong, kid?" At this point I'm wondering if the cold got to him or something. Maybe he picked up some kind of weird sickness at one of the taverns I took him in? Ah crap, I knew those are no places for a kid. It would really suck if he died under my care before I could even dump him on the Black Order... Shut up, this is my first apprentice here.

Allen lifts a hand to cover his mouth and without looking up points a shaky finger towards the other end of the docks, "They're… They're gross-" He shakes his head, and buries his face in his arms, starting to mumble into his sleeves. "It feels bad. They're rotten, they're…" And he doesn't seem to be able to keep on about it, and just laps into silence, concentrating on keeping his face hidden.

I look up and manage to just see the obscured outlines of three slowly approaching figures in the dark. They're still a good several yards away. I'm actually surprised Allen noticed them to begin with. Weird that anyone would be out this late and in this weather. Too weird. Judgment suddenly feels a lot heavier at my side.

I stand up, keeping my eyes locked on the three men shuffling towards us. I wrap my fingers around Judgment's grip. None of them can be past level one; all of their movements are jerky and dead looking. Probably just made recently. But what's got me more interested is Allen's apparent ability to see through their lame façade. No one has ever sustained an injury from and lived through a level zero Akuma attack. No one before Allen that is.

"Allen… Can you see Akuma souls?"

After a couple of seconds Allen decides to respond, finally looking up. I notice his left eye is now dyed ink black, his iris a bleeding red. He looks genuinely terrified as he says, "Those men have something coming o-out of them. They aren't normal..."

I look at him appraisingly, "… M-master." Very good.

I lift my weapon out of its holster and start walking towards the demons, "Kay, then… Allen, take a few steps back and get out of my way, these guys can get pretty… explody." Yeah, my vocabulary starts going downhill after a few drinks, and although it's been a couple hours, I'm still feeling the effects of that crappy tavern's excuse for fine wine. In fact, even though the Akuma are close enough to see clearly, they still look slightly blurred. I blink a couple times... It's not like I have to worry about aiming anyway.

I raise my big ass gun, aiming for the heart of the middle one, which happens to be accommodating the body of what looks like a street-boxer.

"You guys out for a little midnight stroll?" I tighten my finger around the trigger, ready to pull at the right moment. It would suck if Allen was just full of shit and these guys were actually just a few drunkards wandering the city (coughcough). So I'll wait 'till they change and then go trigger happy.

"Exorsiiiissst-" The one to the left (dressed as what used to be a flimsy looking banker) lunges forward awkwardly and starts to balloon grotesquely in size, the other two following suit, backs bulging outward and limbs warping and darkening to that trademark murky grey. I hear a cry from Allen behind me, but choose to ignore it; most people don't enjoy seeing an Akuma change form the first time.

I yawn and pull the trigger one, two, three times. And yes, they do go all explody like I told Allen they would. Level ones are seriously boring to fight. I mean, they only have half a conscience to begin with, and they're so slow a child could outrun them… if they didn't have twenty blood bullet cannons and a deadly virus at their disposal… Whatever. Point is: they're easy to kill and bore me.

I don't get to watch the fireworks finish before something large and round slams into the back of my head. This, as you can imagine, upsets me, and I thwat the thing with my gun before even realizing what did it. Poor Tim. But, surprisingly, he doesn't get too upset with me, and just hovers around my head in a frantic manner, tugging at my coat collar.

"What the hell are you doing, Ti-" And at that moment I decide to look back towards Allen, who hopefully moved off to the side and hid like I asked him to earlier. Idiot Apprentice.

Yeah, he's now slumped over and looking rather star spangled, a very smug looking Akuma (ok, so it had that same tortured look on its face, but I imagine it FELT smug for tricking me, the bastard) hovering over his limp figure. How was I supposed to know there was another Akuma wandering around? Maybe they're a bit smarter than I thought. In any case, Allen's a bit screwed if I don't get over there. Fast. And I can't exactly shoot the thing or it will explode all over him. Which would hurt. Crap. I knew that wine was going to come back to haunt me (more than it already has, that is). Time to actually move damnit.

I snatch Tim out of the air and chuck him at the Akuma to get it to, you know, not finish the kid off. Tim collides with the side of the Akuma with a loud clang (sorry Tim) and the demon slowly turns its black and white face my direction. Ok, not much time- gotta get rid of it before we have Allen dust.

I sprint forward and jump off a stack of shipment crates to get airborne, and roundhouse kick the thing's ugly mime face as hard as I can to push it away- quickly sending it a side of bullets to go with that own. Before my feet hit the docks the Akuma explodes in the air, but that's the least of my problems. I now have to teach this kid to use that handy parasitic innocence to cleanse his body of a deadly virus in the next two minutes, or I have problems.

I crouch down and lift the boy up into a sitting position, and shake him by the shoulders. He doesn't come to, and his face is now almost entirely black from the ebony pentacles blooming all over it. Crap crap crap.

"Allen!" I shake him a little harder; he doesn't budge.

"Idiot Apprentice, WAKE UP!" And without further ado the heel of my Judgment makes contact with the side of his albino head. And that wakes him up.

"Du-OW!" He jolts forward and immediately lifts blackened hands to cover the wounded side of his head, but I smack them down.

"Listen up, kid," I grab a cigarette from my pocket and light it, inhaling the charred air (it helps me focus in tight situations). "I have about sixty seconds to teach you how to get rid of that deadly virus now spreading through your bloodstream."

Now strikingly blue eyes against a black face widen like saucers and look down to shaking hands.

"Aahh! M-master! A-am I gonna die? What do I do what do I-"


"G-ow!" He clutches his head and groans.

"Allen, stop being a pussy, and listen," Another lungful of smoke clears MY head.

"Ok, close your eyes and concentrate on clearing yourself of the venom, you should be able to feel some kind of concentration spot in your body to siphon it all into... "

He frowns and actually looks close to tears.

"But… how? I-I don't even-"

I grab his shoulder and tighten my grip threateningly, leaning in closer to his face. "Just do it or die kid."

Allen gulps and squeezes his eyes closed, eyebrows furrowing and lip twitching occasionally. I just sit there like some weird pedophilic Indian, all cross-legged and intense and stuff. Seriously- this scene would look pretty awkward to any passerby's. Thank God no one goes for strolls this time of night except Akuma.

Just as I start to seriously contemplate getting a broom, his eyebrows suddenly shoot upwards as if in realization, and, sure enough, I notice the tips of his fingers begin to slowly regain their healthy pale pink color. I lean back with a groan and lift the hand previously constricting Allen's shoulder to rub my temples... That was close. The whole process doesn't take that much longer, and I watch suspiciously as all of the discoloration recedes into the cursed pentacle over his left eye.

Allen shakes his head lightly and immediately scrutinizes his hands, flipping them over once or twice as if to make sure not a speck of black is still present. He finally lets out a relieved sigh and looks up to me with tired eyes, "It's gone now… r-right, Master?"

"Yeah, you're fine," I stand up, holstering Judgement and picking up a still dizzy Tim from off the ground.

"But the next time you don't listen to what I tell you to do…" I hold up Tim, "I'm aiming at you."


Allen passed out right after I threatened him with my little winged projectile. At first I was going to compliment Tim for his intimidation appeal, but then I realized that I DID nail his head twice with a blunt object… I think I actually might have done more damage than the Akuma… Oops. Anyways, I was kind of forced to haul him around piggyback style until we could finally find a place to stay. He now owes me one piggyback.

And I DID eventually find a place. Not far from the docks there was this little cottage overlooking the harbor with a candle lit inside, and to my and Allen's extreme luck, the occupant was a kind, old woman (who apparently has insomnia). Getting her to let us stay wasn't actually as hard as you might have thought:

"Hel-oh my goodness! What happened?"

"Hey. Do you think we might be able to borrow a room for the night?"

"But the boy- whatever happened to him? He has blood and-"

"-Uh. Yeeaah. He got attacked by a… uhm…"


"… some drunk down by the docks."

"Oh, how horrible! The poor thing! I knew those new taverns opening up in town would mean nothing but trouble! Come in, come in. You can borrow Edric's old bedroom, I never have had a use for it since that boy left home! I swear people these…"

… Bla bla bla you get the idea. And so, yes, finally, our arduous journey to find shelter for the night has come to an end. We braved many hardships- irritated tavern owners, flying alcohol, more flying alcohol, hypothermia, one demon attack, another demon attack, near death situations, piggyback rides- all to finally have a nice warm bed to sleep in.

…Too bad it's already dawn. Yeah, life's a bitch. And normally I love those.

So, in any case, I'm not getting any sleep tonight. The bed is all floral patterned and has all these gay frills on it, so of course I wouldn't get in it (I'm really starting to wonder about this Edric guy right about now). I'm kind of dreading the hangover I know is coming anyway, so I'll just go sleepless to see if I can't avoid it. Allen can have the bed. Whatever.

I've been sitting here for the past hour or so just watching the sun rise through the small paned window next to the couch, actually feeling kind of guilty. This is probably one of the few times I've ever actually felt bad about not paying for board, or, well anything for that matter. The old lady, whose name is apparently Ms. Attwood, even offered to make me some tea (which I refused, but was brought anyway… I dislike tea).

Timcanpy decided to sleep with Allen for a while, and is now snuggled up against his face. Right now I'm basically waiting for that apprentice of mine to wake up so we can leave- There are a few unresolved debts in this area that I have a feeling might come looking for me today, and I don't intend on dealing with them anytime soon. I've spent too long here in Britain anyway. It's time for a change in scenery. Maybe Africa would be a fun place to go; I've always wanted to see a lion.

I huff and start to drum my fingers against the window sill to pass the time- sunrises can only get SO interesting, after all.

Pink. Orange. Purple... More pink… Ok, if the kid doesn't get up in the next half hour, I'll do it for him.

(Un)Fortunately, just when I decide how exactlyI'm going to remove him from his unconscious state of mind, I hear a groan and ruffling of sheets from the other side of the room. I lift my chin from its resting place on my fist and look over- and yup. He's up. Kind of. So is poor Tim (who is probably mad about earlier).

I stand up and stretch my arms behind my back (that couch was kind of old and creaky and not comfortable) and grab for my exorcizing coat- we've used this lady's welcome long enough.

"Get your jacket on. We're leaving."

Allen yawns hugely and rubs his eyes, clearly not collected yet- "H-huh?"

"You heard me, we have to get moving or we might get some unwanted visitors later on today," I explain shortly, already pulling my left arm through my coat sleeve. "You don't want anything like last night again do you?"

Allen just stares at me for a second or two with unfocused eyes and blinks. Ok, so maybe I didn't let him sleep long enough, but tough stuff. He's an exorcist-in-training now- he's got to learn to deal with fatigue and pain at some point.

I grab his small brown jacket off the bed post and toss it at him.

"Jacket. Put on. Now," I mime pulling on a jacket and zipping it up.

It takes him another couple of seconds, but he slowly nods and starts fumbling with the jacket sleeves and zipper to put it on… And fails miserably.

Jeez… I can't believe I'm about to do this.

I let out an agitated sigh and walk over, snatching the jacket from his grip, roughly grabbing one of his scrawny arms and jerking it through the sleeve. I think Allen goes into a state of shock that I'm actually helping him do something for once, because he just sits there dumbfounded as I zip the jacket up to his chin. I ignore that and pull him off the bed and onto his feet.

"We're leaving now," I state again, "so you sure as hell better wake up soon." I nudge his head and Allen just continues to stare at me with this weird look in his eyes, as if I'm some kind of perplexing concept he can't quite understand. Tim flaps over and rests once again atop my hat, and I lift a finger to touch him lightly- I guess he isn't all that upset with me after all, which makes me happy, I guess. Tim's been the only constant companion in my life for a while now, so I really have a soft spot for him.

The door screeches horribly as I pull it open (this room really hasn't been used in a while), and I step through, waiting impatiently for the slowest thing on the planet to follow suit. This kid is seriously not a morning person, not that I really am either (especially since I got NO SLEEP TODAY). We pass through the main room that's just a small kitchen with an even smaller living room area attached to it, where Ms. Attwood is sitting in a rocking chair knitting some weird doohickey. Probably a sock. She offered to give me some hand knitted ones not long after we came in, which I thought was really weird. Oh you lonely old ladies you.

I took a pair anyway... What? They looked comfy.

I stride over and tap her on the shoulder from behind, leaning down so that she can hear me, "Ms. Attwood?"

She looks up from her sock with a jump, expression at first surprised but then shortly thereafter warm and amiable.

"Oh? Leaving so early in the morning you two?"

I nod, reaching into my pocket, "Sorry, I don't have anything to offer for your hospitality, but at least take this." I hold out a slip of paper with the Rose Cross inked into it. "It should be redeemable to any other people like me you see," I gesture to the same symbol on the breast of my coat. I sure as hell hope this rare showing of generosity doesn't give the order a lead as to my whereabouts.

"No, I was just glad to help you boys," she simply smiles, returning her attention to her knitting. "And make sure you take good care of that young one," she warns seriously with a lowered tone, looking me straight in the eye. "There are far too many orphans running around London these days. Begging for food, nowhere to go-" she shakes her head ruefully, "it makes this old heart ache just seeing them!"

I just cough awkwardly into my hand and slip the check back into my pocket, straightening up. "Well, thanks again… Last night could have been a lot less pleasant without your help."

And with that, I turn and head for the door, silently acknowledging her wave as the kid and I leave. I don't know why, but I've been in a really serious mood since this morning came around. It's probably just the buzz I got from the wine wearing off, and on that note; I think I feel that headache coming on.

I close my eyes and press a thumb and forefinger liberally to my temples as we walk down the hill back towards the docks. Ok, yeah, it's definitely a headache. Feels more like my head is about to explode.

You can only imagine my displeasure when I hear a quite, "Master?" whispered behind me.

I stop in my tracks and sigh laboriously, turning around to look at him. I seriously don't have enough energy, or the will for that matter to be an asshole (hey, it's harder to keep up than it looks).

"… What?"

Allen blinks as if surprised that I'm actually acknowledging him, but I notice the underlying anxiety in his demeanor.

"It's about last night isn't it? … Look, I already told you that you're fine, you're able to completely cleanse your body of-"

"T-that's not what I'm worried about!" I'm actually shocked into silence that he cut me off mid-sentence. The kid hardly ever speaks, and now he's interrupting people? Jeez. Something must really be bugging him.

"Then what?" I reply rather sharply, wincing at the pounding in my head.

"… Are all Akuma like that?" He asks after a short silence, looking down at the grass and dirt underfoot.

I'm not quite sure what to say to this, so I start with the first thing that comes to mind, "Uh… well, a lot of them are big and round like that, but they change form and evolve the stronger and more bloodthirsty they get…" I start, not sure how to properly explain it so that he would understand.

"No, I mean- Are they all sad like that?" He looks back up to me with expectant, melancholy eyes. "At first I thought they were really scary but… after a little bit I noticed they were crying… It made me feel really sad too…" His thought meanders off into silence, leaving me slightly confused.

"Crying? What are you talking about, none of them were-" and then it hits me. The souls. Allen must be talking about the souls. And I have limited knowledge to offer in that area… I can try anyway-

"… Oh… Well, I suppose they would be sad. Akuma are prisoners to the despair and weakness of others," I say with a bad taste left in my mouth, "Fear and grief are what give birth to them, so I can only assume that's what they feel every moment they spend trapped in their loved one's remains, forced to do what the Earl tells 'em," the last few words of my sentence are ended with distaste. I really do hate that fat ass.

Allen remains silent and just looks down to his feet. I wait a couple seconds to see if he's about done interrogating me, and decide that he is (thank God). I open my mouth to tell him to stop wasting time and get his ass into gear, but I'm cut off before I can get to it.

"I-I almost turned Mana into that," his voice suddenly sounds panicked, noticeably quaking. "I almost made Mana sad like that. I'm… I'm a bad person…" His face is hidden by a curtain of trauma-bleached hair, but I notice his shoulders shiver and an arm lift up to hide his eyes.

I sigh quietly and lift a palm to rest against my head. I'm really truly not very good at this stuff. Normally I would just ignore something like this, but he's only ten… and these are hardly normal circumstances… I acquiesce with a sigh.

"Allen, you aren't a bad person," I kneel onto one knee to get down to his height, "you did what you did because you loved, Mana. Everyone who creates an Akuma does it out of love, they never intend to have… that happen…" I lamely finish my corny little speech thing, but I swear it's the best I've got. Maybe he'll stop crying and we can get out of here.

"… You 'bout done yet?"

The kid just nods his head and sniffs, still wiping his jacket sleeve against his eyes. He lowers his arm and then suddenly snaps his eyes to mine, that same contemplative and calculating stare that had possessed them earlier returning. I just raise an eyebrow at him and lean back slightly. Starting to freak me out a little here, Allen. Just as I start wondering what in the hell is going through his mind, he proceeds to do something that rather alarms me: he lets out a tormented moan and lunges for my coat, burying his face into my chest, and sobbing as if it's still that same night we met. Tim takes to the air as I recoil back, and nestles down on the white hair belonging to the boy now firmly attached to my front…

This definitely was not my intention.

I hesitate for a moment, unsure what to do about the depressed child now crying all over my clothes. He is male, and he is dirty (well, I can be partially blamed for that), so I have no idea why I'm not shoving him away right now. Instead, I awkwardly wrap on arm around his back and press him into the first hug I've given anyone in a very long while.

And it stays that way until the pink finally ebbs away from the early morning sky, and I have to give one worn out boy another piggyback down to the docks.