A/N: This is the final chapter! I apologize in waiting so long for it to come out, and to be honest, this didn't go exactly as I had originally planned, but I like it anyhow, and I hope that you do as well. Thank you all so much for all of the favorites, alerts, and reviews for this story, and overall support of its pairings! It means a lot to me. And even though this might not be as long as you (or I) thought, nor as solid as you (or I) might have hoped, just know that I was determined to finish this for all of you, and that I couldn't stand to leave it hanging any longer. XD
I pace in front of my car, the cold air of winter frosting over my skin. I shiver, although I feel more uneasy than chilly.
I listen intently to the breeze, waiting for it to be shattered by a school bell. I never much liked high school; it felt too obscure for me. Not academically, but in everyway else. I sigh, my breath a puff of misty white lke cigarette smoke. I count how many seconds it takes before the puff disperses, my mind bored and my body too anxious to formulate much more thought than simply counting. It's a wonder that I was even able to drive here from the college campus…
Just then, a bell resonates throughout the parking lot, sounding from the school and bouncing off of the parked cars in the senior lot. I nearly jump out of my skin, but I recollect myself as the same moment as the first few students begin filing out of the school, their backs rigid as the cold seeps in through their thin coats.
I scan the crowd, looking for snow-white hair. I bet everybody thought Allen bleached it or something; poor souls, they hardly know what is truly going on around them in this godforsaken city. Aside form their art teacher being killed about a week ago. I'm sure they've heard all about that. Come to think of it, I never asked Allen if anyody accused him of committing that crime like the police think…
My thoughts are cut off once again as Inspector Link pops up (quite literally) behind me. "Hullo, Mr. Deak," he greets, and a new tremor sizzles down my spine.
"Yip!" I squeak. I blink and furrow my brows. "What the hell are you dong, sneaking up on people like that?! Was it your intention to give me a heart attack?"
Link forces a grimace of a smile. "No, that was not my intention. I am merely making doubly sure that Allen Walker does not go anywhere un-permitted by the law after school."
"I've been keeping my eye on him," I reply with a roll of my eye. This guy is still suspicious of my Allen, isn't he? Why can't he learn to leave things alone?
"Yes, I can very well see that; what happened to your other eye recently, I wonder? You're wearing a patch. And you should be aware of this already, but no matter what you say, I can't very well take a fellow suspect's word for it, can I?" Link retorts, his voice toneless, but his brows inquisitive. "Which reminds me: where are you taking him this time?"
All of his questions are making me dizzy. I frown even further, one of my brows twitching in irritation. "I lost my eye while playing around with my little cousin and his BB-gun, if you must know. And I'm just taking Allen around the city. He hasn't lived here very long yet, so I thought I might show him around a bit," I say calmly. In truth, we're going to drive aimlessly until his eye goes off like the Noah-radar that it is. We hope to locate Lulubell today.
Link eyes me warily, but nods once. "Alright. Carry on, then." And he walks away, just like that.
Stare after him a moment and shake my head. Sighing, I return my attention to the rear entrance of the school, and lo and behold, Allen appears in my line of vision. I can't hold back the bright smile that breaks out on my face when I see him. I wave enthusiastically. "Allen, Alllllleeeen! Over here!"
His unique face is cast in my direction, a smile not unlike my own appearing on his lips. He jogs towards me, one hand to his backpack strap to keep it from bobbing too much on his shoulders. My eyes soften as he stops in front of me. "Are we all set to go?" he asks.
I wink. "Of 'course. Why wouldn't we be?"
"Well," Allen says, making a face as he gets into the passenger side of my faithful vehicle, "I've been thinking about this all day, and I'm starting to grow more and more unsure. And, I thought, if I'm becoming unsure, how must Lavi feel?" He glances sideways at me, his hands twisting in his lap. "So, the question stands: how do you feel, Lavi?"
I hesitate to answer. I restart my car while I think, ad I spot Allen taking Timcanpi out of his backpack to feed the little golem a leftover from lunch. "Didn't we already discuss this yesterday, before our snowball fight?" I answer vaguely.
I can see Allen frown in the rearview mirror, since I forgot to readjust it. I hear the rustling of his arms being crossed over his chest. "Don't brush this off, Lavi. I need to know if you're okay with this; after all, we're stalking a wounded woman, an old enemy, and possibly the key to proving my innocence or confirming my guiltiness."
He has a point; a very equitable one. I sigh for the third time in what feels like five minutes. We're on the road, now, and I keep my eyes ahead of me as I respond with: "I am very well aware of what we're doing, Allen, and I see no reason not to follow through. I'm not comfortable with the circumstances, but I'm not about to full-out reject the prospect of helping you, either. So here I am, caught in the middle. What else can I do but go along with this, hoping for the best but preparing for the worst? – That's honestly how I feel."
My lover is silent for a moment. Then, slowly, he tells me, "If that's how you feel, then I suppose we should keep going. I'll start looking for her, and you only have to worry about driving."
"Fine by me," I shrug, and turn down another road. I hate that one of my eyes is missing for my second lifetime in a row; it still throbs on occasion (it is worse, tough, with headaches, like the one I got last night from being out in the cold for too long with Allen), and it makes driving all the more difficult. I mean, I'm slowly re-training myself to see with one eyeball again, but it is not like riding a bike; it takes time to re-learn the practice of being observant with one eye. It's not at all instantaneous.
An hour passes before I realize it, and Allen appears to be falling asleep. I reach over with one hand and nudge him. "Oi, Allen; are you still with me?"
He yawns. "Yeah. But I couldn't sleep much last night, so I've been dozing on and off all day. My teachers were getting pretty angry with me, but I didn't care. Which, in retrospect, probably only made them even more angry." He chuckles lightly, and I can imagine that he would be rubbing one of his eyes like he used to when he got tired on missions for the Order. "I had nightmares again."
"What about?" I murmur. I'm all too aware of how frightening Allen's dreams can be.
He shudders. "It was of the Earl, and the final battle. I finally remembered it, and I have to say, I didn't like seeing it happen, my dream-self unable to stop my past-self from making so many mistakes."
"What kinds of mistakes?" I pose as I glance quickly over at Allen. His eyes are on the passing scenery full of people and other cars, but I can tell that his mind is disconnected from the sights.
"The mistake of leaving you and our comrades by yourselves in order to wreak my own revenge," he whispers, and I nearly don't catch the regretful hitch in his breath at the end.
"Hey," I say softly, and bring one hand up to my blindsight to soothingly stroke his forearm, "Don't go blaming yourself for any of that. It's all in the past. What matters now is that our friends are alive and well, and safe from the Earl and the worst of the Noah. Like you said before: there is but one problem left. And look: we're taking care of it right now! Everything will be just dandy," I grin, hoping to cheer him up.
It works. Or, at least, part of it does. "Who says 'dandy' any more?" And by that, I know that Allen will be alright.
We stew in a comfortable silence for a little while, but it's interrupted by the chime of my gas meter, telling me that it's almost on 'E' and that I should fill it up. I pull into a gas station a minute later.
But as I have the pump in and the tank about halfway full, Allen's head pops out of the window and he shouts, "I see her, I see her!"
"What?!" I yell, and nearly break the end of the pump as I yank it out, pay quickly with my credit card, and slam the little door shut, the cap not even screwed on properly. I race back into the driver's seat and remove my keys from the still-running car as I watch Allen race off into an alleyway behind the gas station. "Allen, wait!" I scream, but that boy is fast; he is already too far ahead to hear me. Groaning to myself, I lock my car and hope that no one does anything to it as I leave it parked in front of the pump.
I chase after my boyfriend with he tenacity of an Olympic track runner. My breathing escalates quickly, and I feel like my cardiovascular endurance is as shitty as a seventy-year-old man's as I charge around a corner at the end of the alleyway and continue my pursuit. Sure enough, Allen is running after a man who is changing into a woman with each passing second as he/she bolts down a vacant lot littered with ice and dead weeds.
Panting, I slow to a stop and hunch over my knees to breathe as I hear a wail and the crashing of bodies into a pile of plowed snow. Lulubell is beating wildly at Allen with kicks and punches that could knock out an ox. She screams multiple times, but Allen pins her with his transformed arm.
I jog over to them with the last of my strength, and arrive in time to hear the frantic words, "Please don't kill me!"
Allen pushes himself up from his position over Lulubell and sees at the same time I do the raw fear in her eyes. Her lower lip quivers and tears start to stream down her beautiful face. She used to look tricky and menacing back in the Black Order days… but now, she simply appears weak and afraid.
"Please," she pleads in a whisper what could charm a cold-hearted snake, "I don't want to die."
Allen blinks, confusion as apparent on his face as I sure it is on mine. I realize that she is no longer bleeding like I last saw of her (the immortal must heal quickly, I rationalize), and I'm suddenly reminded of our conversation in the kitchen. "So… you're just giving yourself up?" I say to Lulubell, and I can tell by the look on his face that Allen is wondering the same thing.
She casts her gaze to the pavement, and she shivers a few times. Allen doesn't relinquish his hold on her, making sure that she doesn't run away.
Her voice is soft and her words come out in a hysteric rush. "I told him that I didn't want to do it. I told him that it was silly, that we should enjoy our everlasting lives instead of use it on revenge, because as much as I used to want it, I lost the taste for it after the first seventy-five years. But he wouldn't accept it. He did everything in his power to keep me in on his plans, to make sure that I remain furious at you and all of the other Exorcists. But I was tired. And now I'm plain exhausted; I don't want to do this any more! I'm tired of shifting from one person to the next, I was tired of being his minion, and I'm tired of hurting. I just want it to go away. Living for so long… it's not natural, and I finally see why: because it's fucking Hell. Hell on Earth, complete with all of the personal demons and fiery suffering." She's crying, her lovely face burning pink and her limbs being shaken by her quivering shoulders. She sniffles and goes on to say, "I just want to make things right, and start over. I want a permanent new face, and a new life, and I want to try and live normally this time before I die once and for all. I want to grow old, and I want to love, and I want to stop cowering in fear. Before, he would have killed me. But he's gone, right? You killed him, right? He was insane, and even though I used to never be afraid of anything, I was terrified of him. He went mad trying to get back at you two; he would beat Rhode and I." A sob rips from her throat, and Allen eases off of her as he timidly pats her shoulder. Now this was different: comforting the enemy. "I hated it. I grew to hate him. But he's finally gone, right? Tell me what Tyki Mikk is no more."
Allen sends me a melted expression before turning to her and nodding his head firmly. "Tyki Mikk is dead Lulubell. I swear on my life that I am not lying when I say that he is dead."
"Oh, thank goodness," she sobs, and her heads shakes back and forth as she attempts to calm herself. "But I don't want to join him. Can you give me a second chance? I want it so badly. I want to live."
So that was why she resisted, and why she went on a tangent against us: she was only trying to protect herself from Tyki's wrath, and from Allen's (apparent to her, although not entirely true) desire to kill off every last Noah.
Allen touches her shoulder again. "Don't worry, Lulubell; we're not heartless. We'll help you. And you know what? I think that I can fix your situation. I think I might have the power to purify you, and by doing so, I can make you mortal again, human." He stresses the last word with a rich tone of voice that is rare to hear come from his mouth. "What do you say, Lulu? Will you take that chance?"
She nearly bursts into another round of tears. She is so much more fragile than I remember, but positively so. "Yes," she mutters thickly. "Yes."
"Good. But first, could you do me a favor?" Allen remarks with slight embarrassment. "I hate to ask it of you, considering the state you're in, but I'm kind of in deep trouble with the police thanks to Tyki…"
"Shit, I almost forgot about that," Lulubell curses under her breath. Louder, she replies, "Of 'course I'll help you; it's actually my fault, since I impersonated you. I'm sorry about that, but…" Her eyes flash once again with fear.
"I know," Allen says gently, "He was going to kill you if you didn't. I understand."
She nods meekly. "I can mend that problem today, if you like. But how shall I do that? – Should I be somebody else who looks similar to you and was in fact the killer, or…" Lulubell leaves it open for us to decide.
Allen tilts his head up slightly, a sinister expression flooding his features. We could dress you up as Tyki and prove that he was the one who did it," he smirks. "And then, when the police go looking for him, they won't find him, and they'll be off my back forever. Especially Link." He seems particularly pleased with this last statement, and I chuckle at his weariness of the detective despite myself.
Lulubell gets a similar dastardly grin on her face. "I would love to do that," she tells us. "It would almost be like payback for what he's done to me."
"Then it's settled," Allen smiles, less evilly now. "You will help clear my name, and I will help give you a new life, like the new lives Lavi and I have."
"Thank you," she says, and I see that Lulubell isn't at all as bad as she used to be. Over the years, it seems, her hardships have made her grow into something more. Something with inhibitions, morals, and something akin to a soul: essentially, a human being.
I lean over and kiss Allen on the cheek as soon as the private courts lets out following Allen's release and declaration of being not guilty. He smiles and steps out onto the street as Lulubell appears behind him, having changed back from a "mysterious witness" that had testified against "Tyki," both of which had been her at separate periods.
Allen lops his arm around Lulu's shoulders, and turns to ask her as we approach my truck, "When do you want me to turn you mortal?"
"Today, I you don't mind," she says softly. "But we need to be someplace where others can't see."
"I agree," I say. "So how about we go to my apartment?"
"Fine by me," Lulubell shrugs. "And thank you again, boys; I know that I've done horrible things to you in the past, but I have changed, and I am more than ready for additional change. And just think: after today, you will never see my face again."
Allen's beam directed at her in this moment is enough to warm my insides. He can see the good and bad in people, cursed/magic eye or not. And I know she must be telling the truth, because right now, the sole thing Allen is reflecting is warmth towards the goodness in her heart.
We climb into my truck and drive in radio-silence (a term Gramps made up when I was child that refers to when the passengers of a car are quiet but the radio is playing in the background) to my living quarters. It's a funny thing, calling my home by that name like I used to call my bedroom back at the Order. So much has changed from one life to the other, and yet… some things have not. And it's nice to know that not everything has to be changed, or will change. It's nice to know that, in some ways, life is repetitive and therefore solid enough to rely on.
Once parked, Allen and Lulubell casually step out of my truck and head up to the building. Lulubell has a hop in her step that I've never seen from her prior to now, but it reminds me of how Linalee walks when she's happy about something. Curiously cocking my head to the right, I pace along behind the two with my hands in my pockets. Allen is chatting to Lulubell as if she had never been our enemy, and she is smiling and even giggling a little bit as if she had never been working for 'the dark side'. It's a curious thing to witness, and I can't muffle the snort that erupts as I choke on nervous, giddy laughter.
We step altogether into the threshold of my home, the lights being flicked on by Allen. Lulubell walks over to the center of my living room, and simply turns and stands there, waiting. She watches Allen with keen interest as the white-haired boy makes his sword appear, although it is differently colored and shaped: thin and black, and short, like a dagger. I'm suddenly reminded of Juliet from the ever-famous Shakespeare play. But a white cross is printed on the handle, which is merged with Allen's forearm. It looks bizarre, but after having seen just about every twist and turn Allen's arm has taken over the years, both past and present, I'm used to surprises.
"Together?" my lover asks, his tone offering kindness in support of the singularly spoken word. He holds up his arm between them, bent at the elbow so not to stab her.
"Together," she agrees, and weaves her fingers together, one palm on either side of Allen's wrist/the handle at the base of the blade.
I watch, captivated by their miraculously formed level of trust after a month, since the trial process had taken as long following Lulubell's capture.
In one fluid gesture, Allen forces his arm forward just as Lulubell shoves it towards her, and all at once, light bursts forth from the Noah's chest. Her eyes close as if in sleep. I'm temporarily blinded by the increase of light as Allen's dagger pierces deep into Lulubell's heart.
I hear something thud to the floor. I open my eyes in time to see a strange girl unknown to me quake with a seizure-like sequence of shudders until she is balled on her side like a fetus in a womb. Her closed eyes relax at the brows, and her breath grows still.
Allen bites his cheek as his arms returns to normal. "She's not… dead, is she?" he chokes, and collapses to his knees before her.
The girl gasps for air and bolts upwards a moment later, relief spreading throughout my body for my sake as well as Allen's. I can see similar relief in his eyes.
Blinking, she looks around the room. "Did it work? I don't feel any different."
"Maybe not, but you sure look different." I remark with a low whistle. Her voice is the only thing that reminds me that the girl following the flash of light is the same as the Noah beforehand. This girl, I remind myself, is no stranger; it is still Lulubell. "See?" I say, and grab a mirror off one of my walls to hold up to her.
She gasps, and two tears slip from her eyes, one from each. "This… is my old face," she murmurs. While she is not as beautiful as she had been as the Noah of Lust, she is pretty in her own way, and has blonde hair with vibrant blue-green eyes, so pale that they would seem grey at a distance. A beauty mark, starkly brown against her creamy skin, is just above her breastbone, and her frame is slightly wider at her shoulders and hips, but she is far from broad in any meaning of the word.
"Your old face from before you were a Noah? How do you know?" Allen asks for clarification.
She nods. "Yes, it is. And I don't know how I know, but I just do." She smiles, her teeth slightly crooked on the bottom row, but perfectly white. "I'm so happy."
She scrambles to her feet and looks in the mirror after I replace it on the nail in the wall. "I need a name. I can't be Lulubell any longer; it's not modern enough."
"I've always liked the name Lilah," Allen remarks with a shrug. "And it still starts with an 'L' like 'Lulubell'."
"Come on, Allen, she's not going to want a name like that," I scoff. "It's too bland."
"No," Lulubell frowns in thought, "No, I disagree. I like it. Lilah… Lilah Horne. Horne is an okay last name, isn't it?"
"Sure, I guess," I shrug. Fine, like his idea; it's not like I was thinking of a better name or anything. Humph.
She smiles wider. "Good, because I've always liked the name Horne. It reminds me of hornets, and hornets are wicked fast and have a wicked sting, which is a charming personality in my opinion. And it's one I can build easily."
Allen nods. "Lilah Horne it is, then. You can go to the courthouse and legally change your name to that if you like. And you can start your new life, beginning with moving elsewhere and getting a job, or going to college. Right?"
Lulubell giggles a tad uncertainly. "I suppose so, although I've never tried living that way; at least not as far as I can recall. But I can try now."
"Indeed you can," Allen says, and offers his right hand. Lulubell shakes it. "I bid you farewell, Lilah Horne, and I can't help but wonder if we'll see you again."
"You might," she answers as she lets go of his hand. "Or you might not. It depends on where life takes me." She turns to me next. "Goodbye, Lavi Deak."
I sigh, reluctantly offering her my hand. "Bye." But as she starts to clasp it, she yanks me forward into a hug. "Hey!" I protest.
"I always thought you were cute," she whispers in my ear, "And thought what a shame it was that you were taken. Rhode felt the same way about Allen, once."
I flush, contrary to what emotion I want to express. "Yeah, well."
She laughs as she releases me. "'Well' nothing. You don't have to worry about it." And she spins on her heel to leave. She lingers in the doorway long enough to say, "Good luck!" and flies down the hall to the elevator.
I run my hand through my hair and lightly touch my eye patch before peering over at Allen. "What a day, eh, Allen?"
He studies me, traces of month-old injuries and all, and as he begins to speak, I spy the returning of color to his hair – mousy brown once more – and the removal of the discolor in his eye. His scar, too, fades from blood-red to a pale pink, and then a light peach o match the rest of his skin, the only trace of the pentagon and lightning bolt ever having been there being an indent, like a war-scar from over a decade before. I gape at him, his appearance having changed within two minutes. He trails off in his sentence (I don't even know what or how much he has said) to frown at me.
"You… you look like how I met you! When we were at Linalee's birthday party! You look…" Amazing, like always, but so weird. I've never seen him exactly like this, but I dare say that I love it. "Different," I finish. And I'm puzzled, because the only explanation for his white-haired, bloody-scarred appearance had because the Noahs were acting up, and I suppose the only explanation for his reversion is because the Noahs are no longer a threat, nor in existence (Lulubell had been the last, and now she's human).
Allen steps over to the mirror Lulubell had been using moments ago, and the shock is as plain as the nose on his face. "Holy shit!"
I laugh and shimmy up behind him to wrap my arms around his waist. I tilt my head sideways. "You know, I kind of miss the white hair; I was just getting re-used to it. But you look good as a brunet, too." I reach up t trace his scar the way I see it reflected in the mirror. "And this feels cool. Touch it; I bet it doesn't hurt any more."
And I'm right, because he doesn't wince as his fingers join mine. He shifts in my arms to face me. "Does this mean that we get to start fresh, like Lulubell?"
"I don't think, I know it does," I murmur happily as I lean forward to press my forehead to his, our noses brushing. "And this time, we'll do things differently. Our mistakes from our past lives have been corrected, and all that's left is a clean slate." I give him a peck on the lips, his eyes having been closed the second I leaned in. "…And the first thing I'm doing with tat slate is taking you out on a real date, and be the most devoted boyfriend ever."
"That is so cheesy, Lavi," Allen snorts, but he doesn't open his eyes and he presses his lips to my chin. "But that's gotta be the best idea I've ever heard come from your mouth in a long time."
I laugh and give the younger boy a squeeze. "A deal is a deal, Allen. Your name is cleared, and both Lulubell and the two of us get a fresh start. And I plan on making the best of it to make up for what we were denied the first time around."
"Being Exorcists didn't deny us anything, Lavi," Allen argues as he leans away far enough to look me in the eye. "It was because of our jobs that we met, and because of those circumstances that we fell in love to begin with. And we had to sneak our love, and we have to conceal our feelings when the other was in danger so not to create more trouble, but we still made it. We were still a couple. And we can be again in the present; the only difference is, we died young the first time, and now we have the rest of our lives."
I grin. "You know something, Allen? You're absolutely correct. What was I thinking?" and I kiss him again, because I can never get enough of the wetness of his tongue and the fullness of his lips and the taste and feel of him.
And with the way things worked out, we won't be the only couple to enjoy these things; Linalee and Kanda, and Krory and Miranda can be just as happy, too, in due time.
And that seems perfect from where I'm standing, even if every remaining figment of the past will be eventually forgotten.
…Except I will dedicate a part of my heart and mind to remember the past enough for all of us.