Title: Doves That Swim (But Still Fly)
Disclaimer: DGM belongs to Hoshino Katsura et al.
A/N: Slight spoilers for chapter 187. (They may be Exorcists, but they're still teenagers.)
I. In which our hero is hopeless.
Allen is like an evolved creature. They say he has evolved because of what his Innocence has evolved into. This is what people tell him. Behind his back, it might be a different story.
You think Allen's just a kid with a bad future and a wicked appetite?
Think again, please.
"Should I get the pork or the lamb?" Allen asks Lenalee, a finger tapping his chin as if this is the hardest decision he's ever had to make. Lenalee says something like it's breakfast time and taps Allen out of the way.
"Jerry berry," she says sweetly, "I would like a coffee with cream and two sugars."
"Lena henna," says Jerry just as sweetly, "is that all? You're such a tiny thing these days."
She hums; she holds up three fingers. "Make that three big, big sugars! And don't tell Komui. I'm just really tired."
Allen watches Jerry's face turn serious and then Jerry is knocking his glasses up a bit so that they can see his overly bright eyes. "I wouldn't tell him that, love."
Lenalee seems to absorb his seriousness and revel in it. Relish it like dessert.
"Thank you," she whispers, and all the voices in the hall obscure her even more. She keeps her head down and takes the mug of coffee Jerry passes to her. Her sandals scuff away, like leaves that have fallen too early. As quiet as sugar.
Allen is starting to get a one-track mind because he can hear himself saying, "Jerry, sir, please anything sweet, please. All your sugar, please."
"Allen, you're not exactly bulging with muscle yourself. What happened to your growth spurt?"
Allen stops mindlessly drooling and thinking about Lenalee's head being down. His mind settles itself on because it's all being used up for something else. He puts on his happiest smile, clasping his hands together. "I would like the entire breakfast menu, please."
Jerry snorts and calls him a doll, you're just like Lenalee, such a doll it's irresistible.
Allen giggles and looks at the dull shine of his boots. "Do I get a coffee, too?"
Jerry snorts again. "Do you want the cream?"
Allen perks his head up, fanning all ten fingers with mucho gusto. "And ten sugars pleeeease!"
When he finally gets his bulging breakfast menu (meant for muscle growth, complete with a large order of bacon) and steaming coffee with cream and ten sugars, he wobbles his way to Lenalee's table, sticking his tongue out at Kanda who passes him with an expectant snort. Allen makes it to the table with only having dripped some of the bacon fat on the floor. He sort of hopes Kanda will slip in it.
"I thought you said you didn't like coffee," Lenalee murmurs, sipping her own.
"Does that explain the iceberg floating in it?"
"The cream and sugar? That's just the cream. The sugar is the iceberg underneath. What's an iceberg mm-mm-mm?" Allen thinks to ask, cramming every bit of juicy bacon into his mouth.
"It's ice, in the sea, and it floats, and it may be dangerous to ships. Can I have your coffee cake?"
"Mm-mm-mm! No, no way," he says, jabbing his fork into it. Lenalee coos over it.
"But I'm hungry now and there's this looong line."
Oh f-fine, he is only fooling her; he can't handle being heartless toward her when she does that thing she likes to do. "All right, but just one bite."
"Two bite? What's that? Baby-talk?" Lavi says, leaning between them and nicking a chunk from the cake.
Allen refrains from stabbing him with his fork, twitching. "What do you want?" he says threateningly.
"Just thought I'd part with a bye-bye for once." Lavi gives the rest of the chunk to Lenalee. "I'm headin' out first with Gramps. Looks like this might be the last time. Hell, we might be goners." He wipes the corner of his mouth, then looks back over his shoulder at something. Bookman. "Oops, gotta go kick some arse now. Zàijiàn."
(Why does he always do that?)
Lenalee puts her hand up. "What do you mean, last time? You don't mean what I think you mean."
"Maybe, maybe not."
(Why does he always do that!)
Allen keeps chewing the rest of his cake before they can eat the rest. One-track mind, yes. However. He is thinking of something aside from whyyy.
"Lavi, stop being mean to Lenalee," he says dryly, not thinking that he, too, is the mean one.
They kind of just lose energy for a moment, the three of them, and then Lavi stands up straight, a hand going to his nape. "Nobody knows anythin', really." He leans in again with a look of conspiracy on his face. "When y'go out for your separate missions, watch your backs."
"Watch yours, you have something stuck to it," Kanda ends up saying from behind Lavi. Kanda picks at his back and hands him the crumpled piece of paper from over his shoulder. Allen feels somewhat thrilled to see Lavi blush a little like that, but then it evaporates when Kanda decides to sit beside Lenalee and Lavi decides to make a bid for the exit, crumpled paper in hand.
Allen and Lenalee follow Lavi out of the dining hall with their eyes. They look at each other almost instantaneously. For the first time this morning, Allen notices her eyes and the red in them.
He sighs and puts the image behind him by attacking his cheese omelet(s). Kanda makes an indecipherable sound.
"What was that?" Allen asks, refusing to look at him.
"Boys," Lenalee says warningly.
She is sitting between them, after all. She is a bit like the referee, with red eyes.
Kanda pops his neck. "I've lost my appetite."
"Then why did you sit here," Allen says now, stab stab stabbing a blueberry muffin. He remembers that a muffin is meant to be eaten with the hands, and so he grabs it, gnawing on it like a squirrel. Then he takes a giant bite.
There is a pause. "Because there is no way I'd sit there. Here, have my muffin."
Lenalee spits her coffee back into its mug. "You boys," she says.
Allen takes Kanda's blueberry muffin (blueberry muffin; oh really) without complaint. Foo-oo-ood. But then. "You've picked all the blueberries ooout," Allen cries, inspecting the holes in it. He's starting to feel sorely disappointed. This is going to be a long morning.
(Allen can hear Kanda snicker to himself, deep inside, and sip his bitter green tea. Ew.)
Link slides in next to Allen suddenly, his bangs a bit disheveled and his face downcast. "Why didn't you wake me?"
Allen could snap and purr at him at the same time. "You just looked too cute to wake," he says decidedly, purring in his learned way. He extends a crumb of his muffin as an olive branch.
Link just blinks at him, by golly exhausted. "Must I tell you, Walker, that you would have to owe me a lot more than that? You were snoring again," he adds.
"I was not."
"You were," Link says smoothly.
They look hard at each other. Link makes his usual this-is-the-last-time-I-let-you-win face and Allen backs away with his that's-right-blondie face.
(He can hear Lenalee speaking to Kanda in a very low voice.)
So naturally Allen's ear feels all tickly from the hush and by golly tries not to listen in. He goes back to eating, though sullenly, this time around. Link sits there, cutting his three coffee cakes into mouthfuls. He lines them up on his tray, flushed together and smelling so very delicious. Link is attacking the first bite when Allen can't help himself anymore. He listens.
"—think he's coming back?" Lenalee is asking.
Kanda makes another indecipherable sound.
"We probably shouldn't be discussing it, then," Lenalee says.
Allen fidgets, chewing on the flavor of his lip.
Kanda says something like, it wouldn't change a thing, he doesn't belong here to begin with.
Lenalee stops their conversation.
Allen waits, hurriedly swallowing his mitarashi dango one after the other.
Kanda begins their conversation again. "I leave with Walker tonight. The others are going ahead already."
By others, Kanda must mean the Thirds from China. Allen starts to lose his appetite.
Long morning, indeed.
Link is oddly quiet, too, and this reminds Allen to keep eating. He doesn't want the quiet to take over again. Yum yum yum.
Ugh ugh ugh. The coffee is having the opposite effect.
"I'll get us more sugar," Link announces, jarring Allen's ear off. He nearly pushes Link away from him, heart riding a train into his stomach.
Lenalee and Kanda sit there, really close, looking at the same spot on the table. Allen tries not to look at the troubled expression on the side of Kanda's face. He can't help himself while he watches that little dribble of sweat. Something is really wrong.
And Allen will decide not to help him. He knows they talk behind his back, and he knows that they also say things like, that Walker, he always has to help, he just doesn't save people, he saves monsters that kill people, hey, doesn't he have something like a destiny?
(The destiny part is where Allen curls himself up into an overgrown parasite inside.)
"I'm going to meditate." Kanda gets up.
Link sits back down, sugar cubes in his palm. "You should," he tells Kanda. "We're going to be facing much peril tomorrow."
Kanda slides his near empty tray over toward Lenalee. "Finish it for me."
Kanda fishes for something inside his pants pocket. It is crunchy.
Lenalee accepts the crunchy sound with her hand. Allen can see that it's candy. He can imagine Kanda thinking, just in case. And Lenalee thinking, I love you like this candy.
Allen is starting to feel a little flustered and maybe claustrophobic. He watches as Link drops a few sugars into Allen's remaining coffee, which is just a mound of old sugar and brown stuff.
"You should, too, Walker," Link says quietly.
"I can't meditate, it's boring," Allen says.
"I mean you should finish eating. You may eat like a pig, but you have reason to do so."
"Why, thank you, Link, I don't know what I'd ever do without your morning dose of sarcasm."
"Come on, boys," Lenalee says, safely finishing her coffee and unwrapping a piece of candy.
Link seems to be thinking along the lines of I am your superior, girl, but he surprises Allen by giving Lenalee the rest of his sugar.
This is when Allen starts to feel snubbed.
"I've already finished," Lenalee says, looking bewildered.
Link sounds friendly, as if he's about to offer Allen's used olive branch to Lenalee. Like a re-gift! (Oh yes Allen knows about those.) "No, they're also a special blend of herbs. I had your brother fix a few prescriptions in the form of sugar. You can have the rest of them with my milk, if you'd like."
"What kinds of herbs," Allen says suspiciously.
"For head pain, primarily."
Lenalee accepts the cubes with her hand just like she had for Kanda's candies.
Now Allen feels stumped. All the miserable men get to court the girl.
The old snob inside of him thinks this, not the agreeable and really kind boy in the present. And to punish this old snob with his agreeable and really kind self, Allen keeps his mouth shut. He twists his lips. His lips twist him. He licks his lips and says, practically defeated, "Does that mean you gave me some, too? I just ate all my sugar."
"Yes." Link leaves the table and Lenalee pats Allen on the back.
"If worse comes to worse," Lenalee starts to say. She doesn't finish.
II. In which our hero is hopeful.
Allen catches up to Kanda later on when the latter is leaving his quarters.
"Hullo," he says carefully, knowing very well what might happen.
And it nearly does. It's almost disappointing how Kanda simply gives him a look that says I-know-who-you-are-but-who-the-fuck-do-you-think-you-are? Allen has seen this look not only on Kanda, but on:
Cross Marian during Allen's Apprentice Days (also known as The Highlight of His Life);
The whores Cross loved so much (before they inevitably started to feel sorry for Allen);
Tyki Mikk, who has also been connected to Cross in some odd ways, and you know, Allen just has no idea about that one, so he might have to rework his list (in other words, Cross is the problem here).
Currently Kanda is looking at him with that Look.
"Er," Allen says.
Kanda blinks, standing with his fists curving into his thighs. Then he crosses his arms. He does that head cocking thing that people do before saying something condescending. "Are you having a moment, Walker?"
"Link told you to say that, didn't he," Allen immediately says, voice pitching.
Kanda immediately walks past him at a quick pace. "Don't involve me in your megalomania."
Allen balks at Kanda's back. He blanches. He holds his breath. He blushes. The old snob inside spews some rather colorful epithets.
"I trust Lavi told you that one," Allen says evenly, keeping up.
Kanda goes at a quicker pace.
"Um, Kanda, well, you're a, you're a. . . What's a megalomania?"
"Crazy people don't know they're crazy," Kanda says.
"So. Is that what people are saying about me now. That I'm crazy." It's not really a question because Allen had already known.
Kanda goes at an even quicker pace. Allen keeps up.
"Listen. There's nothing wrong with my head," he lies.
Kanda goes at the quickest pace imaginable. Allen still keeps up, about to activate his Innocence. Things are really not going well for him, are they?
"Um, are you listening to me?"
Kanda stops at a door with a cloth over the glass of it. Allen observes the way Kanda slips off his, uh, slippers.
You know, after all this time, Kanda does not seem the type. Allen would have to admit that he's more the type. Just saying. This is only the hint of the differences they carry.
But when Kanda throws back a I-will-find-disturbing-ways-to-hurt-you-if-you-follow-me-inside look, Allen smiles anyway.
"May I join you?"
"I'm going to meditate. Go away."
Then maybe Kanda should have meditated earlier when he said he was going to.
Allen conspires like a conspiring thing. "Why must you always push me away? I thought we were becoming friends. Why must you always be so nasty to me? I'm just a poor baby boy who needs good friends, at least in the form of polite company!" And so on, like that.
Kanda stares at him, obviously horrified. He looks around. "If not megalomania, I don't know what else," he grumbles.
"Stop saying it like that! Honestly, I try so hard!"
"Okay, calm down, you - freak."
Allen gives a clever grin and Kanda points to Allen's boots. "Off."
Allen offs his boots. Kanda points to Allen's mouth. "Not another word, for my own sanity."
Allen frowns, pouting. He follows Kanda into the oh-so-secret room, and Kanda shuts the door behind them. He checks the glass and crosses the very small room to open a window. The window is thick. When it comes up, the sunshine is thick. There is a thick blood-red carpet on the floor. Everything is congested and nasal. Allen coughs on the congestion.
"This is an old room," Kanda says, by way of an apology, maybe.
"You're not gonna throw me out the window, are you."
Kanda finishes putting his hair into a low ponytail. "Words," he warns.
As if Allen would ever really agree to that.
"Do I sit here? Where do I sit? Are you sitting there?"
"You can sit on the other side of the room for all I care. Do you ever stop talking?"
"Do I sit beside you?"
"Are you serious."
Allen sits beside Kanda on the carpet, legs melded into a pretzel, saying, "Apparently as serious as I am crazy."
After a time Kanda has the grace to mention that sadly, Lavi was the one who had thought of it.
Allen puts on a believable act of disbelief, mostly for his own amusement. Kanda doesn't make a fault in expression. He sits there. He tries ignoring Allen, Allen tries ignoring Kanda. But let's face it, Allen is not ignoring Kanda because he actually likes Kanda. He can respect him. Which is something he will never ever tell him, of course.
They reach peace and prosperity when Allen dares to chirp, "So what am I looking at here."
Kanda doesn't move a muscle, but speaks through his teeth. "I was looking at the crucifix, and now I am imagining it as my focal point."
"You mean you're not looking at it anymore?"
"You idiot. Close your eyes and focus on the image there. Weren't you listening to me earlier?"
"Of course not."
Allen looks over at him. Kanda seems to be vibrating with spasms of love.
"I am going to throw you out that window."
"Please don't, you might end up with a broken nose."
Kanda opens his eyes, squinting at the sudden light, and possibly, the crucifix.
Does it hurt?
Allen's smile vanishes.
Does it hurt?
He proceeds with caution, once again. "I don't like closing my eyes 'cause every time I do, I see."
Kanda squints at him. It is now that Allen realizes how little Kanda knows about him. So it doesn't seem very fair or honest that Kanda should point fingers and call him crazy when, really, Allen just wants to make peace before something not-very-good happens.
You see where the problem lies: Allen has no idea how to go about telling Kanda, and a few select others, that he will do anything and everything (if he has to, mind) in order to win this war.
It is what it is. And he sees what he doesn't want to see.
They may say he's a hero; that he might want to be The Hero, but all he can do for now is.
Be. (Link on the other hand would probably disagree and go on and on about false prophets and false confidence and blah blah The Fourteenth blah.)
"Lavi meant what he was saying earlier."
Allen squints back. "He can go suck a nipple."
Kanda's eyes clearly go, what.
"What? At least I'm not taking it too badly."
Kanda says very low, "I'm talking about what he said to Lenalee."
"The, uh, back thing?"
"You have to read into these things. The Noah Clan is planning something."
"How do you know?"
"Why, yes, your intelligence is by far superior to mine."
"Vatican Intelligence, you witling. However fucked, the Exorcists are the last to know everything, if you hadn't noticed. Your brownnosing inspector knows more than he lets on."
"Is that so?"
"And here I was thinking you'd find a way for yourself."
"Is that so?"
"What's the matter with you? What's wrong with your face?"
Because Allen is busy looking at Kanda as if he is speaking the words he had already known to be true. Kind of like, hey, hey, wait, I recognize that language!
Allen's not the only one; Kanda has evolved. They are both evolving between the eyes. This brings on a wave of satisfaction, like butter on thick bread toasted just right. Nom nom.
Uhhh. I mean. "Why are you talking? I mean, you never talk to me," Allen says, all hopeful.
Kanda bristles like a cat, then un-bristles. "If we're going down together, I might as well take care of business first."
Allen cocks his head and thinks, there is no way I am meditating with you now.
III. In which our hero is blindsided by it.
Around noon, Lenalee finds Allen in an alcove, reading the dictionary he had borrowed from the archives. It was a place he used to find Lavi buried (beneath), and now it is a place of contempt. And that is why he's shoved himself into an alcove for some healthy research.
He uses his finger to skim down the next page.
"Are you really looking for a word, or just killing time?" she asks, rather glumly.
"Oh don't say that, killing time. It sounds so sad."
She gets very close, touching his knees. "Are you being sad, Allen," she says.
He thinks about it. "Well, I should be. Lavi was telling Kanda how crazy I am. He can go suck a nipple, I said."
Lenalee's eyes clearly go, oh dear, dear.
"Uh, he can go eat a cheese-stick, I said."
Lenalee sympathizes. "It's too late, Allen. You should go rest before you leave."
"I can't. Link's resting. He said that if I continue to saw his ears off," Allen turns a page in the m section, "then he will make me sleep standing up."
"And how would he ever manage that?"
Allen looks back up at her. "Oh, there are ways," he says knowingly. He smiles for her sanity. "Do you know what megalo. . ."
"Megalomania? Yes, it means you are crazy."
"Iamnotcrazy!" he says, slamming the book shut. His voice does a weird changing thing, which makes him think about his boyhood, which then just irks him. "And why does everyone else know what it means?" He hops down from his alcove, holding the dictionary to his chest like he's trying to strangle it. "I'm gonna go sleep in the archives now."
"Allen, don't be silly, I really don't think Link meant it."
"He said it with his fingers crossed together. Like a cross."
"Do you think they'll let me sleep in the archives?" He pulls a Kanda and streaks down the hall. Lenalee grabs his arm, though.
"You haven't slept very well, have you? I've seen it lately, whenever we run into each other."
Oh. So. Yes, maybe that's why. He's just tired of being the hero.
"I've slept. I slept for three hours last night."
Lenalee's brow furrows, perpetually marring her otherwise charming, er, forehead.
"Two hours," Allen confesses, hugging the dictionary tighter. He thinks he is starting to smell like Lavi and Bookman.
"I slept for one. I win," she says simply.
They blink at each other. She pries his black-red hand from the book and leads him all the way to her quarters, where there is the smell of herbs and Chinese silk. He's not really sure where the silk scent is coming from. He gets all fidgety again.
"I'd prefer to stay alive, thank you," he says, minding her and her threshold.
She puts her hand on her hip, sighing, looking as if she is mothering-loving him. As if she wants to.
He crosses the threshold, she takes the book from him and sets it on a bureau, and they wait.
"Um," he says.
"Um, you can use the bed if you like. I rarely sleep in it. It feels like false pretenses."
False. He plays with his collar. Pretenses.
"I don't like getting too comfortable," she adds.
Allen wants to add something, anything better or great, yet he doesn't want to feel too comfortable doing it. He wonders why that is.
"You should sleep while you have the chance. Allen."
He forgoes the finer process of decision-making and says, "Your brother will have my head." Not that a hundred other people haven't already tried to have his head, anyway.
"Just lie down." He lies down despite the thought of Komui and the hundred others. "Close your eyes. There."
"It's very comfy." False enemy is false. He wants to give her some real hope.
He looks up at her with a set jaw. "Do you want company before we leave?"
Her eyes flit to the corners before they can rest squarely on him, coating him like syrup. She has tumultuous eyes, different eyes from British girls, in structure as well as life.
She must know a lot about the living.
She nods now. He really wants to curl her hair around his fingers, to curl up and sleep in it. To wake up and see permanently good things.
Silence. He lies still as she tucks a sheet around him. She stops. She begins again.
Are you deciding something for me, he wants to ask.
He pretends to go to sleep when she laughs and puts her hand over his eyes.
Suddenly, he gets the craziest idea. He wants to prove that he's crazy. He wants to prove that he knows he's crazy, even if Kanda isn't here to see it. If he's bold enough, Allen might decide to run across headquarters, sporting a very crazy look.
He could go that far.
"Hmm." She is fiddling with the seam of her uniform, doing that hip turning thing that she does that he's never quite understood. Except that it's pretty. And attractive.
"Where's your wardrobe? I smell Chinese silk."
She's really not much help in his quest, so he leaps out of the nicely tucked sheet and makes a beeline for her bureau.
"Um! There's nothing for you in there," she says.
"I want to prove to you how tiny you've become," he says, as wicked as a wicked appetite. "Jerry's right; if you let yourself fall apart now, then what's to happen to us all?" He rifles through a drawer, saying his offhanded apologies. "If I can't fall apart at a time like this, surely you can't either? I mean, we have to stand up for each other."
He starts to untie his blouse, waving her clothing about. "Wow, your shirt could fit a baby. What is this thing?"
She stands there. "Um?"
"You're supposed to put on my shirt, Lenalee." He hands it to her, mid-air, and she hesitates. "Put it on. Please."
Then she starts to resort to harsh reality. "My brother would have your head." But she is undoing her uniform and, closing her eyes, removing the undershirt. She holds it to her chest. "All right, I did it."
She didn't have to.
His lips twist. "Put this on."
She turns her back slightly. He doesn't have the decency to look down anymore. He watches as she slides on his blouse – his miserable manly blouse - pausing here and there to breathe him in. He can tell she is doing this, for she doesn't realize she is doing this.
Allen is very, very happy. Even as his eyes watch her back curve like that, slouching, ribs like an accordion against her brassiere.
So. (Stomach dancing.)
He puts on the thing he found in the bureau. It is strappy. He realizes that it could be another under-thing, just not the kind under the uniform. Possibly the under-thing under the under-thing. It's almost captivating. He puts it on anyway, and.
Really can't believe it when it actually fits.
Allen turns to her just as she is turning to him. Just as he had expected, she is swimming in his blouse, her skirt blending in with it. She had mis-buttoned a part of it at the top, and the tie of the blouse is in a bow. She is a doll, smoothing down the crinkles near her skirt.
Oh no, oh no no no. She looks like. Road.
Then she bursts out laughing. "I think you've lost your point, Allen."
He tries not to blush. "It's a bit, er." He blushes to his ears anyway.
"Fitting? It's not supposed to be so fitting on you. You should have ripped it. You see?"
"Yes, yes, I've lost my point." Far behind us now.
They stand there. Allen can still smell the Chinese silk.
Lenalee hums, playing with her hair, averting her eyes down herself again. She could be trying to figure out how to make this less awkward. Allen has the strongest urge to call her dovey. So strong, so strong, his stomach squeezes.
"We'll just get stronger," he says. "Agreed? We have time."
Her eyes are lazy now. "Do we have time. Allen?"
He spreads his arms, twirling in his girly strapped and ribbed shirt. Fitting. "All the time in the world! Our world can just get bigger and bigger!"
Because this is not false hope. Dovey.
(Allen stops in his tracks to feel The Fourteenth, waiting there, filling him. It won't be long before something happens. Something mad. Something bad.)
Something you will not believe.
He looks to Lenalee, and she is already smiling at him.