Disclaimer - I do not own D Gray Man and I'm not making any money from this.

Heart Stopper or Show Stopper?

Nearly three weeks had passed since Mana Walker had taken in the young boy and during this time Allen had recovered his strength, as well as almost succeeding in eating Mana out of house and home. During this time Allen had been learning basic acrobatic skills such as hand stands and cartwheels and now that he was pretty good at these things Mana decided that it was time to take his training to the next level so to speak.

A performance.

"Allen," Mana said, walking over to the bed where his young charge was sleeping. "It's time to get up."

As usual Allen was reluctant to crawl from underneath the warm covers but after some gentle prodding by Mana the boy finally obeyed the summons to rise. Allen sat up and absently wiped at his eyes with his right hand before gazing up at Mana, who was already dressed in his clown costume. All that was missing was the makeup that would turn the man's face a garish white.

"Are you in a hurry today Mana?" the child asked, a hint of curiosity in his voice as he climbed out of bed.

Mana shook his head as he reached into a trunk and pulled something from within. "I just thought that I should get dressed quickly just in case you needed help."

"Help?" Allen repeated, confused.

Mana nodded and tossed something in the child's direction. Allen flinched as the object sailed toward him however it fell short and landed at his feet. Making a face the child picked up the object and then, once he realized what it was, he gazed up at Mana. "What the hell is this?"

"Allen," Mana said, his voice somewhat stern.

He didn't say anything further but Allen knew exactly what he meant and couldn't fail to catch the warning tone in his voice.

"Sorry," Allen muttered, slightly abashed that Mana had once again corrected him on his language. "But what exactly do you expect me to do with this?" Allen held up the object with one finger, as though disgusted by it.

"I expect you to wear it," Mana replied as though the answer was obvious. "You agreed to be my second assistant and this costume sorta comes with the territory."

Allen once again held up the costume and the look on his face said as plainly as words would have that he was thinking that he had made the worst mistake of his young life. As though attempting to offer him encouragement the little terrier jumped up and licked the boy's fingers.

It was then that Allen noticed that the collar on the costume that Mana had given him was a perfect match for the one that the dog was wearing. "Damn it!"

"Allen!" Mana exclaimed, shocked that the child would use such language so soon after having been warned against it.

This time Allen didn't apologize but what he did do was set about putting on the costume that Mana had given him. First he shed his old clothes and then he tugged on the costume, struggling a little bit with the collar. "Do you need some help?" Mana asked as he watched the child fighting with the garment.

"No!" Allen snapped just as he was making a move to aid the child.

"Okay, okay," Mana said, holding up his hands and backing away. If Allen was so determined to do it on his own then it was best for him to just step back and allow the child to do as he pleased. There was less fighting that way. And when fighting with Allen he always ran the risk that the child would run off.

Allen had some difficulty, and he complained quietly to himself the entire time, but he did eventually succeed in putting on the miniature clown costume that Mana had supplied him with. Nodding his head Mana pulled something else from the trunk and Allen's face fell when he realized what it was.

"Mana," he whined as the clown held up the makeup that he used to paint his face.

"It's part of it," Mana said with a chuckle. He knew that if the kid was going to perform with him and his partner then he had to look the part. Whether he wanted to or not. And judging by the look on the kid's face he definitely didn't want to.

Without giving the child time to further complain or make an attempt at escape Mana quickly walked over to the spot where he sat. Before Allen had time to register what was going on Mana had his entire face covered by that stupid makeup.

Allen scowled, which Mana had to admit was a funny sight due to the painted on smile that he now wore on his face. The clown forced himself not to laugh at his young charge, since he didn't want to risk inadvertently hurting the child's feelings, and instead gestured toward the door. "Let's go practice our new act."

"New act?" Allen repeated, his gaze shifting toward the door. He didn't really want to go outside dressed like this yet he wanted to please Mana and in the end that was what won out. With the scowl still on his face he walked over to the door, with the little terrier trotting along at his heels, and stepped outside.

The other circus performers were going about their daily business and no one paid any attention to the two clowns as they stepped out of the caravan. Pulling a strange device that Allen had never seen before along Mana led the way over to a spot that had thicker grass than the rest of the circus grounds. The ground here was actually somewhat cushy and Allen vaguely wondered why Mana had chosen such a spot.

And he didn't have to wonder long since Mana explained the situation as soon as he had positioned the device. "Alright Allen, you've been working on your hand stands, back flips and cartwheels right?"

"Yes," Allen replied, wondering what that had to do with anything.

"Good," Mana said, offering the child a smile. "You're going to be the finale for my new act."

Allen gaped at the man. "What?"

Mana nodded, ignoring the boy's shock. "At the very end of the act I'll give you a signal and you'll run from behind the curtain, do a back flip onto the springboard," Mana paused and gestured toward the strange piece of equipment before continuing. "and land on my shoulders."

Mana couldn't tell because of the makeup but he was sure that Allen's face had paled.

"A. . . are you s. . . serious Mana?"

Mana nodded. "Don't worry Allen, I know you can do it. I have complete faith in you. All you need is a little practice."

"And what if I don't survive the practice?" Allen demanded, glaring at Mana. The boy's eyes were the only part of him that wasn't distorted by the makeup that he wore and Mana could tell that he was annoyed and also a tiny bit scared.

"You'll survive," Mana assured the boy. "Now let's practice shall we?"

Allen's gaze shifted back and forth between Mana and the springboard and for a second Mana feared that his young charge was going to flee. That didn't happen however and, after a few moments in which he seemed to compose himself, Allen took a couple of steps backward.

"This is the moment of truth," Mana thought to himself, his gaze focused squarely on the child. "What will he do?"

Taking a deep breath Allen broke into a run and, a few feet from the springboard, the child launched himself into a back flip. Allen hit the springboard with no problem however he hadn't built up enough momentum. Mana saw that the child was going to fall short and he rushed forward just in time to catch the little boy in his arms. Allen's eyes were clamped tightly closed and it took him a minute to realize that he hadn't fallen. Then, when the realization hit him, Allen opened his eyes and gazed up at Mana.

"I told you that you'd survive," Mana said in a quiet voice as he placed Allen back on his own two feet.

Allen offered Mana a shaky smile before he turned away from the man and dashed off. Mana briefly thought that Allen was giving up but those thoughts vanished as he watched Allen turn toward him. The child paused briefly before he once again dashed toward the springboard. Allen had moved further away this time and, when he launched himself in the air his distance was correct.

His balance and concentration were just off.

Mana felt the boy's feet touch his shoulders for the briefest of moments before Allen tumbled. Swiftly dropping and then falling backward Mana was able to catch Allen before he hit the ground. "Oomph," he exclaimed as Allen's boney frame landed on his stomach.

"Mana!" Allen called out, gazing down at the man with huge, frightened eyes. "Are you hurt?"

"No," Mana said as he sat up and offered the child a grin. "You did good that time except that you had too much momentum. You have to judge it just right so that you can regain your balance when you land on my shoulders. Would you like to stop and pick this up some other time?"

Allen shook his head as he climbed from Mana's stomach and then got to his feet. "No. I wanna get it right."

Surprised by the boy's response and yet at the same time pleased Mana nodded.

It was the night of the big performance and Allen was waiting behind the scenes, watching Mana and the other clowns perform. It was obvious that Mana and his little dog were the stars of the show and Allen only hoped that he could perform his part without embarrassing the man.

He wanted to make Mana proud.

Their time had been spent with endless practicing yet Mana hadn't seemed to mind. He never said anything bad even when Allen completely missed the springboard and landed on his face. He simply encouraged him to get up and try again.

Allen really wanted to show Mana that all of his hard work hadn't been wasted.

Mana had just completed his juggling act, which was normally the end of the show, however Allen gulped as he saw the barely perceptible nod that was his cue. Taking a deep breath Allen ran forward and, ignoring the crowd that gasped at his appearance, he launched himself into a back flip. He hit the springboard perfectly and sailed through the air, his gaze locked on to a spot on the far wall.

Mana's heart was in his throat as he watched his little stray pup run out and do the back flip onto the springboard. It looked as though Allen had executed the move flawlessly but Mana knew that the most difficult part was yet to come.

Allen still had to land.

"I promise you'll survive," Mana muttered as he watched the kid sail toward him as though the stunt were in slow motion. He and Allen had been working on it tirelessly yet he was still concerned. This was HIS child after all and he didn't want anything bad to happen to him.

Mana felt the child land on his shoulders and for a moment he waited for the kid to take a tumble. That didn't happen and he laughed out loud as he felt the kid hop and turn around so that he was facing the crowd. The little dog gave a yip and, jumping on the springboard, landed in Mana's arms.

"And there you have it folks!" the ring leader called out in his booming voice.

Mana listened intently as cheers erupted and he hoped that Allen realized that the cheers were for him. The child on his shoulders shifted and soon Allen was sitting on his right shoulder while he held the dog in his left arm. "You did good Allen," he said, hoping that the child could hear him over the roar of the crowd.

Once the cheers had died down somewhat Mana excited the tent. Then, when they were out in the fresh evening air, Mana deposited his two hitchhikers. "You did good Allen," he repeated his earlier words just in case the child hadn't heard them.

"Thanks," Allen murmured, a light glowing in his eyes. "That was scary but also kinda fun."

Mana beamed, glad that Allen had found the experience fun. "We'll have to work you into the show more often. The crowd loved it."

Allen gazed up at Mana, his eyes wide. "Were they. . . were they cheering for me Mana?"

Mana nodded.

A/N - this idea was given to me by PeanutAngel and therefore I dedicate it to her. Fourth in a series of one-shots. Hope you all enjoyed it and please leave a review and tell me what you thought.