Disclaimer - I do not own D Gray Man

Paternal Instincts

It was the beginning of a new day and Mana Walker stretched his arms out over his head as he stepped out of his small caravan trailer. This was his home, humble though it may be, but despite that fact he was anxious to flee from it's confines and go about practicing the tricks for his new act. After all the circus had been in this town for just over two weeks and the audience had begun to anticipate his moves and were no longer entralled by them.

That was something that spelled doom in his line of work.

He knew that he was going to have to give them something new if he wanted to maintain his status as the show's top performer and retain his ability to put food on the table. Mana straightened his ruffled collar as he closed the door behind himself and as he stepped out into the early morning sun the clown put two fingers into his mouth and gave a short, sharp whistle.

Mana paused briefly and waited for his partner to answer his call however minutes passed and the little dog didn't come. Now this was odd. After all this was the signal that told the dog that he was to join his master and had been a part of their early training together. Never before had he failed to answer the call. "Now where could he be?" Mana thought to himself as he placed a hand up to shield his eyes from the bright sun light and surveyed his surroundings.

The other performers had began to emerge from their own quarters and were going about their business as usual and in the hustle and bustle Mana didn't see any signs of his performing partner. "Oh well," he thought with a shrug, not really having the time to spend searching for the dog. "Guess I'll just have to practice without him for awhile and hope that he comes back when he gets hungry. Until he comes back I'll just have to work on the tricks that I can perform solo."

And, with this thought in mind, Mana set about practicing some new tricks that he hoped would please and impress the crowd. He wasn't particularly attached to this circus but the wage here was far better than most that he'd had in the past and he wanted to keep it going until he absolutely had to move on and the chances of being able to do that were far better if he kept the crowds happy.

His little fox terrier went a long way toward this goal and Mana was slightly concerned that he wasn't around. He normally made an appearance at the first call and stayed by Mana's side until he retired for the night but for some reason today was different. There was no sign of the little dog and he didn't come no matter how many times his master whistled for him.

It was indeed odd.

As always the hours flew past as Mana practiced his routine and before he knew it a rumble in his stomach was announcing that it was lunch time. Wiping a bead of sweat from his brow and hoping that it didn't cause his makeup to run Mana cleared away his equipment and whistled for his dog one more time.

This time the little brown and white dog answered the call.

"Where have you been?" Mana asked the dog as he knelt down to pet his velvety soft fur. "I've been calling for you all morning. Were you lazing about somewhere while I was working? You aren't going to turn into a little mooch are you?"

Gazing up at his master the dog gave a sharp little yip.

"Fine," Mana said with a laugh as the dog leapt into the air and turned a flip. "You're hungry, I get it. Come on and we'll go and see if we can't find something to eat around here."

And without so much as another word to his companion Mana began walking toward a tent that housed the circus' resident cook and mother figure, Anna Hall. Anna was an older woman, with graying hair and gentle caring eyes and she looked after all of the circus performers as though they were her own children.

"Hello Anna," Mana called out as he moved the tent flap to one side so that he could enter.

"Good afternoon Mana," Anna said in a jovial voice, offering him a bright smile as she dished out stew into a bowl and offered it to him. "You got here just in time. I was just about to call everyone for lunch and it looks like you get the first helping."

"Thank you," Mana said graciously, accepting the bowl that she held out to him.

The dog that was standing beside Mana's left ankle gave a sharp little bark, as though to remind the two of them that he was there and happened to be hungry too. Anna smiled as she pulled out a thin strip of some kind of dried meat that she had been saving for the little terrier.

"I didn't forget about you," she cooed as she offered the tidbit to the little dog.

The terrier took the piece of jerky carefully in his teeth and then dashed out of the tent. This behavior struck Mana as odd since his partner usually devoured whatever he was given in seconds and he felt compelled to see where the little dog was taking the jerky.

"I really hope that he hasn't found a stray pup or anything like that," Mana muttered to himself as he followed his dog across the circus grounds.

The little terrier quickly made his way over to a trailer on the very edge of the grounds and dashed underneath. Mana felt a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach as he knelt down so that he could look under the caravan and discover what it was that his dog had found.

"Well it's definitely not a pup," Mana muttered as his searching gaze fell upon the form of a small child. It was a little boy with brown hair and ratty looking clothing and he was lying on his side in the shade under the caravan. The little dog crawled over to the child and dropped the piece of jerky next to his hand before licking the boy's fingers with his tongue.

Mana drew in a sharp breath as he saw that the child's left hand seemed to be deformed. The flesh of the afflicted appendage was red and harsh looking."I wonder where he came from?" the clown thought to himself as he stared at the child.

The dog made another attempt to get the child's attention, once again licking the flesh of the boy's deformed hand but despite the contact with the dog's warm tongue the child did not even so much as twitch. Whining softly the little dog nudged the boy's arm, moving it so that he could lay underneath. And still the boy didn't move. This fact concerned Mana somewhat and, getting down on his hands and knees, he crawled underneath the caravan. When he reached the spot where the little boy was lying Mana was relieved to find that his chest was rising and falling in a steady fashion however when he gently nudged the child's shoulders it had absolutely no affect on him.

"Well this isn't good," the clown muttered to himself as his gaze shifted to his little dog briefly before returning to the still figure of the child.

Mana made a move to brush a couple of strands of hair from the boy's face and when he did so his skin came into contact with flesh that was burning hot to the touch. The reason for the boy's failure to respond was now painfully obvious and Mana withdrew his hand, concern for the child overwhelming all other feelings in his mind. The child was sick and it was obvious that he needed help.

It took some work however Mana was finally able to draw the child in his arms in the cramped space and, once the little boy was securely pressed up against his chest, the clown began to slowly ease his way back out from underneath the caravan.

"Why couldn't this kid have found a more spacious hiding place?" Mana grumbled as he fought to escape while still keeping his hold on the child secure.

Mana finally managed to extricate himself from the tight space underneath the caravan and, getting to his feet with a groan, he briefly thought about what he should do. His first instinct had been to help the child yet now that he had the boy in his arms Mana realized that he had absolutely no idea what to do next. He had no practice taking care of sick children and it was obvious that he needed help.

But who?

The little terrier at his side gave a small bark and the answer came to Mana as though it had actually been sent to him by the dog. Anna. Of course, she was the resident mother of the group and if anyone would know what to do for a sick child then it would be her.

"You're a genius," he told the dog before he began his trip back across the grounds to the tent where, with any luck, Anna would still be dishing out stew to the performers and other workers. And for once luck was actually on his side and when Mana moved the tent flap aside with his head, seeing as his arms were currently occupied, he was relieved to see that Anna was still standing in front of her pot, stirring the pot and humming softly to herself.

The little terrier yipped again and Anna smiled without looking up. "Back for more huh? Did you boys work up an appetite today while. . ." Anna's voice trailed off as she gazed up at Mana and noticed the limp and seemingly lifeless body that he held in his arms. "Oh my gosh Mana!"

Dropping the ladle that she had held the woman rushed over to the spot where Mana stood and gazed down at the child that he held in his arms. The little boy was tiny and couldn't have been any older than five or six and his face was flushed with fever. Anna instantly knew, without having to ask, why Mana had sought her out and she immediately took charge of the situation. "Let's go back to your caravan."

"But what about. . ." Mana nodded his head in the direction of the pot.

"Hey everyone," Anna called out in a booming voice that belied her small stature. "You have to fend for yourself from this point on. And don't hog it all," she warned before turning back to Mana. "I said move it."

"Right," Mana said.

Mana led the way back to his caravan, with Anna and the little dog following along right behind him, and when they arrived Anna quickly opened the door so that the clown could carry the child inside. Mana walked over to the makeshift bed and placed the child down on top of the blankets.

"Good," Anna said as she knelt by the child's side. "Now I need for you to fetch a bowl of water and a piece of cloth. Quickly now!"

"Right," Mana said before disappearing.

The clown returned about five minutes later carrying a large bowl filled with cold water and, placing it down on the small table that was located beside his bed, he pulled his own handkerchief out of his pocket and deposited it in the water.

"Thank you," Anna said as she wrung the excess water from the handkerchief and folded it before placing it across the child's forehead. "So where exactly did the little one come from?"

"I have no idea," Mana replied, his gaze locked solidly on the child. "I followed my partner across the grounds to the last trailer and found the boy lying underneath it. I don't know how long he's been there because unless you got down on your hands and knees he was impossible to see."

"Poor thing," Anna whispered. "And on top of everything he's deformed."

"I noticed that as well," Mana said.

"So what are you going to do with him?" the kind woman asked as she got to her feet and turned to face the clown.

"I'm going to care for him until he wakes up," Mana replied. "And then I'm going to find out where he belongs."

"Mana Walker," the cook said as she gazed into the man's eyes, the only part of his features that weren't distorted by the clown's makeup that he wore. "You're a good man."

"Shh," Mana said, winking at the woman and holding one finger to his lips. "Don't tell anyone."

"Alright," Anna said, a smile appearing on her face as she took a step toward the door. "You just keep changing that cold compress on the little one's forehead. I'm going to go back to the kitchen and make something for the little guy to eat."

"And how exactly is that going to work?" Mana asked, his gaze shifting over to the still form of the child. He hadn't so much as twitched a muscle since the first time that Mana had laid eyes on him and the clown was beginning to think that maybe he couldn't.

"We'll find a way," Anna said as she departed.

"If she says so," Mana said to the little dog, who was now curled up into a ball beside the child.

Mana did as he was told and continued to change the compress, dipping it back into the cold water when it became room temperature. And it didn't seem to take it long to reach room temperature and above which spoke of just how high the child's temperature was. The clown shook his head as he once again draped the damp cloth across the little boy's sweaty forehead. He gently brushed his hand against the child's hair, hoping that maybe the small gesture would bring a measure of comfort to the little boy.

A knock on the door announced the return of Anna and the woman now held a bowl filled with some kind of steaming liquid. "Alright Mana," she said as she closed the door behind herself. "I want you to. . ."

The clown was a few steps ahead of her however and he sat down on the edge of the bed, silently praying that it would support the weight of himself, the child and the dog, and pulled the little boy's upper body into his lap. "Very good," Anna beamed as she handed Mana the bowl of broth that she had prepared. "Well you seem to have this under control so I'll just leave you to it. I have work to do but you just let me know if you need anything, you got that?"

Mana nodded as he juggled the bowl of broth. Supporting the child's upper body with one arm Mana used the other to bring the bowl to the boy's lips and, much to his surprise, the child actually managed to drink the liquid. He managed to partially open one eye and it was obvious that he was only semi-conscious but despite this fact he was still able to drink the broth and Mana was just grateful that he had managed to get some nourishment into the kid.

After all, he already looked as though he were on the verge of starving to death.

Once the broth was gone Mana eased himself out from under the child and placed the bowl on the table. The clown turned his attention to the little terrier, who had once again settled himself by the little boy's side. "Keep an eye on him for me. I'll be back in a few minutes."

The dog yipped his reply.

Mana returned about five minutes later and the clown stifled a yawn as he stepped back inside the caravan, closing the door behind himself. He cast a longing look toward the bed, where the child and dog were still sleeping peacefully, and then sighed. Removing his clown costume the man changed into a pair of trousers and a shirt before spreading his coat on the floor. The conditions were far from ideal but the fact remained that the bed was small and already occupied.

Mana sighed as he lay down on the floor. It wasn't exactly comfortable yet the man was resigned to his fate. After all the child was sick and needed the rest more than he himself. "But when he's feeling better. . ." Mana muttered, not even realizing that he was already subconsciously making plans to keep the child.

The child in Mana's care slept for the better part of two days, only partially waking long enough to drink the warm broth that Anna brought to him three times a day, and Mana had to find time to practice his routines, as well as perform, and still care for the youth. It would have been understandable had he been irritated by the situation but he wasn't. Mana found the child's presence oddly soothing. It had been just him and the terrier for so long that he was almost not used to human contact.

Not that the boy was very good company in his present condition.

"I'm home," Mana called out as he stepped into his trailer after the evening performance, not really expecting anyone to respond to his greeting. It was just that the knowledge that someone was there made him feel the need to announce his arrival.

His words were greeted by a gasp from the corner and the small boy immediately cowered and moved away from him, shrinking as far into the corner as he possibly could. "So you've woken up," Mana said as he wiped the makeup from his face with a spare towel. He pretended not to notice that the child was scared to death of him. "That's good. How are you feeling?"

The boy remained silent, staring at Mana through suspicious eyes.

Barking happily the little dog jumped up onto the bed and proceeded to lick any part of the child that was not covered by his ratty clothing. Despite his fear over his current situation the dog's greeting actually elicited a small smile from the youth, who looked like a completely different person with his face lit up with happiness like that. Mana found that he preferred this look on the boy.

"My name is Mana Walker and I'm pleased to meet you. What's your name?" Mana asked, deciding to try another question now that the dog had broken the ice somewhat.

The boy seemed to think about the question far longer than was necessary before replying, "Allen."

"Allen what?" Mana coaxed.

"Just Allen."

Mana noticed that there was a defeated look in the child's eyes and this sight tugged at his heart. This child looked much the same way that the little terrier had when Mana had found him so long ago, wandering the streets as a pup, and the clown got the sinking feeling that he was not going to like the answer that he received for his next question.

If indeed the boy chose to answer him at all.

"Well then where do you live Just Allen?"

"Where ever I happen to be at the time," Allen replied, a look of defiance on his face. He knew that Mana was attempting to make him laugh by calling him Just Allen but he wasn't amused. He'd never really found clowns all that funny and this guy was no exception.

Mana had already suspected as much but it was still hard hearing such a young child say that he was homeless as though it was normal and no big deal. And idea formed in his head and he said, "How would you like to work here at the circus? You could do odd jobs and I could teach you how to be my assistant?"

"What's the catch?" Allen asked suspiciously, his gaze focused on the large man wearing the clown costume.

"There's no catch," Mana assured him, not really blaming the kid for not being all that trusting. After all it didn't appear that his life had allowed him to be like any normal child and it was only natural that he be distrustful of strangers. "You can stay here with me and work for your food and board. What do you say?"

Allen thought about the proposition for a few minutes before nodding ever so slightly. After all it wasn't as though he had anywhere else to go and he couldn't remember the last time that he'd had a decent meal. But he wouldn't accept charity from this strange man who had taken him in. He would work hard for what he was given.

Mana smiled, feeling a fondness for the child growing. His little stray pup.

A/N - yes I realize that this isn't how it actually happened however I wanted to write this little fic so I did. Just consider it AU. Hope you enjoyed, please leave a review and tell me what you thought. Hitsu-taichou