Third and last one. Finally. Writing these have seriously been deteriorating all my will to get up in the morning… only your awesome reviews have been keeping me going. Thank you all so much for those. I'm so happy for them, truly. Please keep them up! This story is set one or two years in the future, so Lenalee is like 18 and Lavi's like 20. Lavi turned out way OOC, and this would probably never happen. It's also a LaviXLena thing, cuz they're my favorite pairing ever, so again, knowing that not many people like that, I am sorry. If you'd still like to read it though, be my guest. I'm very sorry if this fic seems fluff in the beginning, but it does change mood as promised. Oh, and suggestions for fics would also be greatly appreciated. Now, on to the depressingness that is Lavi…

Disclaimer: I don't own it. Honestly, there's no point in even reading this, you knew that already.

I remember things too, you know.

Never as well as you, but the important things, I do.

I remember the day when it all started. It was a Tuesday.

Tuesday______________________________________________________________________________

We were sitting in the cafeteria, Allen Kanda and I. Allen was inhaling his food again, while Kanda scolded him for being a pig. I laughed, trying to prevent the fight that we all knew would happen. Half of the cafeteria had already cleared out. There wasn't any real point in my efforts, everyone knew perfectly well that they would be in vain, but you can't blame me for trying. So when they eventually did activate their Innocence and proceed to destroy the cafeteria, I wasn't surprised.

Well, I might as well enjoy my meal before beating them both.

So, I sat and ate, ignoring the crashes and shouting coming from all around me. The one thing that did surprise me was that Lavi wasn't there. By now, he'd probably be egging them on, or shouting more insults, or have been pulled into the fight himself. However, he was nowhere to be seen. Lost in my thoughts, I didn't hear the cafeteria door open and close, nor did I notice the person coming up behind me until they were less than a foot away.

"Hey, Lenalee!!"

"Ah!!"

I fell off the bench, completely surprised, to see the grinning face of Lavi above me. "Wow, you were really out of it, Lenalee! I can never sneak up on you."

"Yeah, well, congrats." I laughed as he helped me up. I looked around the cafeteria— it had very successfully been annihilated, and I decided that it was about time to stop the duo. I was about to kick off to teach them a lesson, when Lavi grabbed my arm. I turn, surprised.

"Ah, let them go a little longer, Lenalee. It's good for 'em— lets them relieve a little stress. Come walk with me," He smiled, and honestly, I was very shocked. That smile was more… real than I was used to. And to see him smile like that, I'd do near anything. So with a smile of my own, I agreed.

We walked aimlessly around Headquarters for a while, joking and laughing. That was the great thing about Lavi— a walk with him could take your mind off any problem or stress for a short time. He had been making a comment about the length of my skirt when I gave him a playful shove to the side— and he almost toppled. He gripped at his side instantly, staggering and coughing into his fist.

"Lavi, are you alright?" I asked alarmed, taking hold of his arm to help steady him. He straightened instantly, covering up well, and turned his next cough into a cheerful laugh. "It's nothing, Lenalee. Just a little sore from the mission, ya know?"

I frowned at the memory. The mission hadn't been a failure, but unnecessary wounds and losses had been taken. Lavi and I had gone to collect Innocence in Bulgaria. It was supposed to be easy. Only level ones had been spotted, and even the exchange had been simple. It was the ride home that they had gotten us by surprise. A swarm of Akuma had ambushed the train on the way back. I had been talking with the finders, while Lavi had been taking a nap back in our compartment. There had been a huge explosion near the back of the train, where he was, and I had run back to find the small room blown apart and Lavi nowhere to be found. Instead what I was met with had been a dozen level twos and even more level threes. Somewhere during the battle, Lavi had reappeared to watch my back from a particularly strong Level three, but he'd seemed badly injured. His movements and reflexes had been slower, and it had resulted in more wounds on his part. He'd almost got shot twice, and he appeared to be having trouble with just some small Level twos. As soon as the battle had ended, he'd collapsed. He hadn't even woken up by the time we'd gotten home, and the surviving finders had declared the wounds very serious. I had been separated from him as soon as we got back; Komui had heard about what happened and wouldn't let me go with him without being 100% positive I was alright. And Komui being Komui, we both knew that would take a while. But as I had been prying him off, Lavi had woken up and told me not to worry about it, and that he would go to the infirmary, and I had trusted him.

Obviously the wrong decision.

"Lavi, did you go get your wounds checked after we came back?" I asked suspiciously. His eyes widened and he backed away from me, feign hurt written across his face. "Of course I did, Lenalee! How could you doubt me?"

"Lavi…" I advanced threateningly. He stepped back further, glancing around nervously. "L-Lenalee, I told you I'd go, and I did. Don't you trust me?"

"No. You're an awful liar, Lavi."

Something flickered behind his eye at that, and he let out a small, "You think so?" I regarded him warily. An odd emotion that I had never seen in the young Bookman's apprentice before was in his gaze— but it disappeared quickly. My eyes narrowed; he was hiding something. But before I could comment, he held up his hands and looked me straight in the eyes.

"Lenalee, I went and got checked out. Would I lie to you?" I looked at him hard for a moment, before relenting and sagging my shoulders. "Alright. I guess you're telling the truth." He smiled and relaxed, obviously thinking I believed him. But as soon as he was near enough, I lunged, and before he could do anything, I swiped aside his jacket and pulled up the side of his shirt— the bandages were old and yellowing; a rush job done in battle. A dark red stain of dried blood coated a large area. Lavi laughed nervously. "Jeez, Lenalee, buy a guy a drink before you take his shirt off," I ignored it, and stepped back, crossing my arms.

"Lavi, you lied to me!"

"Um, no I didn't actually. I asked if I would lie to you. I just didn't correct your answer."

"No, before that you said you'd gone! I trusted you. Guess I know better now, don't I?" I turned to walk off. Lavi scampered behind me. "Aw, but Lenalee, seeing the head nurse is so pointless. I'm fine, see?"

I refused to look at him. "That's not how it looked when you were unconscious two days ago."

He just laughed playfully, as though it were all a game. "Aw, I was just messing with you. Look, no problems here! Totally fine. What's the point of going to see the nurse if I'm fine?"

"How do you know that? You're not a doctor."

"But with all my knowledge, I could be."

I stuttered with my answer, knowing he had a point… but no. That didn't change the fact that he could be hurt and wouldn't get himself checked. "But you're not, Lavi. If something happened to you, I would blame myself for not doing anything!"

"Don't be silly, Lenalee. My wounds aren't your fault."

I stopped and turned to him. His voice had held its joking manor like always, but laced within it had been a far more serious tone, almost reprimanding. Like he truly didn't want me to blame myself if anything should happen to him. As though something would happen to him. This thought unnerved me.

"What's that supposed to mean?!"

His eye widened at my sudden anger and he laughed nervously. "N-Nothing! Just what I said— my wounds aren't your fault or your burden, so don't worry."

"Of course I'll worry, you idiot. You're my friend, of course I'll worry!" I didn't know why I was so angry, but something about his tone and his words and the look in his eye… it scared me.

"Just… just go see the nurse and get yourself checked out." I ordered, my eyes locked on the ground. After a second, Lavi stepped closer, and I heard him go, "How about this. I'll make a deal with you, alright?"

His words caught me off guard, and I looked up. He was grinning brightly, with that air of mischief that always got me nervous.

"I'll go to the infirmary…"

There's a catch. There has to be a catch—

"If…"

I knew it.

"If what…?" I asked warily, very untrusting of the smirk on his face and the light in his eye.

"If… you go on a date with me tonight."

WHAT?!

"..."

"Well? How about it, Lenalee?"

His ultimatum had completely baffled me. Even for Lavi, who was rude and impulsive on a regular basis, just as a general rule of being Lavi, this was too much to ever be expected.

"Hello? Lenalee, anybody home?"

I had to make some excuse. This was too much. A date with Lavi? Way, way too much.

He doesn't like me that way! I don't like him that way, we're just friends! I have to get out of this!

"W…what about my brother? He… he would kill us if he found out,"

Lavi's smile only widened. "Not a problem. I'll sneak you out late. How about I pick you up around midnight?"

"B-but, if he found out—"

"He won't, don't worry. He trusts you, you're a sweet, little, innocent, goodie two shoes, remember?"

By this time, we'd walked all the way to my room and stopped in front of my door. Seeing my obvious uncertainty and deliberation, Lavi drew himself up closer to me, and then bent down so his face was only inches from mine. I felt blood rush to my cheeks— since when had Lavi had this effect on me?

"Come on, Lenalee," He whispered. "For once in your life, break the rules. I'll be there with you the whole time." Without waiting for an answer, he leaned forward and kissed my nose, before turning and running off, calling over his shoulder, "I'll be here at twelve! Wear something fancy, I'm gonna take you someplace nice!"

And with that he left me completely speechless on the threshold of my room.

11:59

I stood in front of my full length mirror, examining my outfit anxiously. It was a simple black dress, but one of my best ones. It had a flowing hem that went down to my thighs, and in place of sleeves had a string that tied around my neck. I had put on my best earrings and knee high socks; I'd even had Miranda's help with my hair. Of course I hadn't told her why— I had simply said I wanted to try a new style, and as guilty as I felt, it was partially true. My hair was longer now; it had grown back fast and healthily. But somewhere over the time when my hair had been shorter, I seemed to grow out of the childish pigtails—at least internally— and was in need of a new hairstyle. So, with Miranda's help, I had curled the front slightly and draped those locks over my shoulders, while braiding two smaller sections and then pulling them to the back and winding them together before letting them join the rest of her hair. Turning my head in the mirror, I was satisfied with the look, and was fairly certain the outfit in a whole would be suitable for the night.

At the thought of the date, I watched the cheeks of the girl in the mirror flush bright red, and her eyes gain a glassy quality. I shook my head at myself. I was being silly. This was Lavi, for crying out loud. I loved him, yes, but never more than a brother and dear friend. Never had I thought of him or our relationship as anything romantic. I looked down at myself and chuckled. Foolish. I was far too dressed up. To think I'd been worried about being too plain! Lavi's idea of fancy was probably a bar with a side show.

But then my mind began to comb through his invitation for tonight. Although Lavi wouldn't be Lavi without his spontaneous and rash actions, he was never this upfront. If he had any feelings toward me, he'd never let on. So why now, why so sudden? I frowned as I remembered the reaction he'd given when I'd said he wasn't a good liar. And when he'd been so forceful about me not feeling guilty for his wounds. What had it all meant?

I pondered over these things as I turned to get into something more casual, but just as I opened my dresser, the clock on the wall ticked 12:00, and right on cue came the nock on the door with it.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I remember Wednesday.

It started at midnight, just a continuation of the night before.

But it was important, and I remember it.

Wednesday___________________________________________________________________________

Midnight

I paused, unsure whether I should change then answer the door or the other way around. After a moment, I shook my head and decided it would be more polite to answer first, and then tell him I'd just need a moment to finish getting ready.

I opened the door, my greeting and request for time ready on my lips, but what I saw froze the words in my throat.

There, leaning on the doorframe, was Lavi— complete with a suit and tie. Although the black jacket was open and the tie loose and messy and the white shirt beneath wasn't tucked in, it still didn't deter the fact that Lavi was standing in front of me in a tux. I stared at him, open mouthed. Upon seeing me, he straightened up, and smiled radiantly.

"Wow… you look great. It's perfect."

"I—you…"

He blinked, a little taken aback by the lack of coherency in my words. Then he chuckled as he looked down at his attire. "What, this? I told you, we're going someplace nice. Would you like it better if I straighten the tie?" He was scratching the back of his head sheepishly, which was a longish red mess of hair because he wasn't wearing his usual bandana, and watching me with a shy, hopeful, look in his eye, remarkably like a child wanting approval from a parent. By this time I'd recovered enough to smile back at him, and shake my head.

"No, leave the tie. It's more you this way. I'm sorry, I was just… surprised. You look great in a tux!"

He laughed. "You think so? I wasn't so sure. I gotta tell ya, it was hard sneaking out dressed like this without the Panda noticing. I think I deserve some credit; giving gramps the slip is not an easy thing to do," I nodded, smiling, deciding to humor him.

"Yes, yes, good job. All hail Lavi; no other being would have been able to pull off such a feat."

"Thank you! Some well deserved recognition. That's all I ask for once in a while, but no, Yu-chan can't give me that much. 'Leave me alone, baka usagi', 'don't call me by my name, baka usagi', 'stop braiding my hair, baka usagi…'" I was laughing out loud as we walked. After a moment more of silence, of uncomfortable, Lavi-staring-intently-at-me-the-whole-time silence, I was desperate to get his focus on something else, something not me. So, in a slight panic, I suddenly heard myself asking, "So where are we going?" Lavi grinned at the question, and laced his fingers behind his head. He gave me a sly, all-knowing look. "It's a secret."

I did hassle him for a bit, but Lavi was unyielding and firm in his decision of secrecy. I was forced to give up when we started to near the places that were usually more crowded with people. Lavi began to creep along the wall, ninja-style, holding his breath then dashing madly across an open hallway. I was left to follow him, trying hard and unsuccessfully not to laugh.

And somewhere between the front doors and the entrance gate, and Lavi cheering for not being caught, I smiled and thought; this might not be so bad.

When we got there, I was surprised yet again. It wasn't a place that I'd heard of, but one look could tell you how prestigious this place was. Lavi grinned at me. "Well? What do you think?"

"It's amazing, Lavi!" I breathed, looking up at him, the delight and astonishment plain on my face. He noticed, and his smile grew wider and his eye twinkled. He held out his hand. "Then shall we?"

At the gesture, I felt myself blush, and I smiled back as I hesitantly obliged. Just having my hand in his seemed to make him genuinely pleased. I know it certainly did for me. The place was crowded when we entered, by dukes and politicians; you could see it in their faces. Most didn't bother looking when we came in, and the few who did gave us quick scans with their eyes before sneering and turning back around, deciding we weren't worth it. I glanced up at Lavi, checking to see if he felt the tension in the place like I did. But he was completely at ease, his free hand shoved deep into his pocket, a total carefree look on his face. Either he didn't notice the looks or just decided to ignore it.

A waiter came over asking if we had reservations, and without missing a beat, Lavi withdrew his hand and flashed the rose cross. The man blinked in shock for a moment, before bowing hurriedly and beckoning us to the back. Glares were thrown as the other guests watched us get escorted to the seats that they couldn't have, and I couldn't help but feel smug at the moment. The waiter led us through a doorway to the back of the restaurant, where only a few couples sat. They spotted us with clear disgust on their faces, as if to say, 'who let such undesirables in here?' Lavi squeezed my hand, and I almost didn't hear it when he whispered, "Ignore 'em, Lenalee. They'll be jealous in a sec, just you watch."

If I was at first unsure of the meaning of his words, I soon found out. Although there were plenty of good tables, the waiter led us past them all, much to the dismay of the couples seated. We were escorted to the back of the back, where a wooden door was waiting. The man reached into his pocket and pulled out a fancy key, opened the door, and brought us to a balcony, with one, sole table, overlooking one of the most beautiful gardens I'd ever seen, with hanging lanterns and a lake and ferns and ivy and rare, exquisite plants. The place was peaceful, and stunning. It took my breath away.

The waiter pulled out our chairs for us, gave us our menus, bowed, and exited, saying he'd be back soon for our orders.

"So?" Lavi said grinning. "Not bad, huh?" I have to admit, I was seriously impressed at that moment. Lavi must have picked up on that because he gave a shrug and said coolly, "What, you didn't think I was unprepared, did you?" I sighed, and admitted my faults. He tutted at me, and I had to laugh. The meal went on, the food delicious and the service excellent. But the best part was certainly being there with him. Everything he said, everything he did, made me laugh and smile. My cheeks were constantly colored by his comments and words, and I was self conscious of everything that came out as a reply, hoping that I wouldn't make a fool of myself. This surprised me. These things had never been before tonight, Lavi wasn't like that, I wasn't like that, not with him. But what surprised me more was that I was enjoying it. At one point he reached across the table to neatly place a lock of hair behind my ear, and at his touch my entire face burned scarlet. I loved every second of that dinner with him.

By the end of our meal, it was pouring rain. We remained dry under the canopy, and both of us stayed a few minutes after the bill was paid just to survey the beauty of the garden in the moonlit rain. Moments I would never forget.

When we exited the restaurant and took refuge under the overhang, however, the scene was far less enjoyable. Lightning flashed and thunder clapped, and I frowned as I stared blankly at the downpour in front of us. I glanced up at Lavi, who was staring at the rain with an unfathomable expression. I cocked my head unconsciously, wondering what he could be thinking of that put such a look on his face. Then he turned his head and smiled down at me, and as though he read my mind, he said, "I was just thinking… I love the rain." I blinked and couldn't stop the small chuckle at the random statement. He'd said it so firmly, with such conviction, as though this decision had just saved a life. "The rain? Why? It's so cold and dark," I inquired.

A touch of color graced his cheeks, and he scratched his head, looking at the ground. "Because… it was raining on my first date with Lenalee."

I blinked, unsure if what I'd heard was true. He was eyeing me cautiously, waiting for my reaction. He was even biting his lip. Before I could help it, I felt a smile tugging at the corner of my mouth as I though how funny and cute he looked that way.

No! Lavi and I are friends. Just friends, good friends! This date was a one-time thing.

I turned away quickly to hide my blush and almost-smile. "The rain could be a bad sign, you know," I said a little too fast. "It might be an omen. Maybe God is trying to tell us that this can never work." It was a stupid, foolish thought, but it was the first one that came to mind. He laughed loudly at that. "No way. It's a good sign."

"How could you know that?" I asked stubbornly, folding my arms over my chest, forgetting that I had made a similar statement. Suddenly he was in front of me, on his lips the mischievous grin I knew so well.

"Simple. Me and God are buds."

"What?"

"You heard me. Look." He stepped away, leaned his head back, cupped his hands around his mouth, and shouted to the sky, "HEY, GOD!!" I jumped violently; staring at him like he was crazy. But then again, I'm pretty sure he actually was crazy.

"Me and Lenalee are having an argument that we need you to settle!" He continued, still screaming. "I'm gonna walk out into the rain, and if it's a bad sign like she says, than smite me! If not, well… then I win!"

"Will you stop shouting?! You're going to wake the entire town! And don't be stupid, you can't go out in that! Look at that storm; you'll get struck by lightning or something!"

He chuckled and shook his head, gripping me by the shoulders and speaking slowly as though I were a small child. "Lenalee, that's kind of the point. If I get struck, then obviously you're right."

"If you're going to get hit by lightning then I don't want to be right! Are you insane?!" He had one foot out into the rain when I said that, and he paused, and turned to me with the most serious face. "Do you really have to ask?"

And without another word he sprinted out into the storm, laughing madly. I watched in shock and horror as he spun and danced wildly, soaking his expensive suit and drenching his red hair. Then he stood, facing me, yards away, and waited. After about a minute, he looked up at the sky questioningly, back to me, back to the sky. Seeing as he was still standing and not struck by lightning, he gave me a huge smile, bright and splintering despite the rain, and gave me a thumbs up. Apparently the rain was a 'good sign'. I was laughing and shaking my head, when I heard the faint sound of his voice. It was quiet and I was barely able to hear what he was saying because of the wind and rain, but somehow, I caught it.

"Lenalee! Come on, it's fun!" He was waving his arms vigorously, looking surprisingly—well, not so surprising—like a little kid. I shook my head. "No way! I'm going to be smart and wait it out right here." Lavi threw his head back and his shoulders went up and down, and I didn't need to hear him to know he was giving an over-exaggerated and exasperated sigh. Then he stomped back, irritable, to where I was waiting, a smirk on my lips. I opened my mouth to comment on the mud and rain that coated him, but before I could get one word out, he bent double, scooped me up, and carried me out into the rain.

"LAVI! PUT ME DOWN, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!"

Once he successfully had me drenched and in the downpour, he gently put me down, grinning. "So you can dance in the rain with me, of course," He still had to shout to be heard, and was smiling uncontrollably, but I remained annoyed. His laughing cut off in a choked sound as he noticed my anger. He looked down at me, suddenly looking startled and nervous at the look of pure fury on my face.

"What?"

"You carry me out here against my will to get drenched and dirty… and you say WHAT?!" I gave him a good kick for that with my dark boots, sending him flying backwards. I guess I hadn't really expected the strike to do anything, because normally he would just whine about it while trying to hide a grin. But instead, I watched as he crumpled to his knees, teeth gritted in pain as he tried to hold back violent coughs. Only then did I remember his injuries. My eyes widened, and I was next to him in an instant, guilt coursing through every fiber of my being.

"Lavi! Lavi, are you alright?! I'm so sorry, I didn't think—"

He just grinned up at me, swallowing down another cough. "No problem, Lenalee. Just a little sore, that's all. Although…"His eye lit dangerously, and he was suddenly writhing in the mud, crying out, "ooh, it hurts, it hurts! The agony! Lenalee, how could you wound me so?!" I laughed, a mixture of relief and joy rushing away the fear. "It's good to know your okay enough to play in the mud. Here," I offered him my hand, to which he looked at in fake disgust. "I am not okay! I'm in pain here! I don't think I can ever forgive you for this." He sat up straight, harrumphed grumpily, and turned away from me; forgetting he wasn't supposed to be able to move. "Why, I don't even think a dance could fix this…" He peeked over his shoulder. "…although it might."

I giggled, before sticking my hand out again. "Fine. But I swear, Lavi, if I get a cold from this— whoa!" At receiving the answer he wanted, he grabbed my hand and pulled himself up roughly, before picking me up and spinning me, bringing me into a very shaky and imperfect waltz. His laugh was contagious, and before I knew it, I was laughing with him, spinning and twirling in the rain and mud. He began to hum a random tune, giving us something to dance to. I don't know how I heard him above the storm, but I did, and I smiled at his voice in my ear. After at least fifteen minutes, after which we were drenched and shivering, he pulled away, coming to a halt. I giggled as he bowed low, with a flourish of his hand, and playfully I curtsied back. We began to walk home then, doubling up with laughter.

By the time we'd gotten there, we were both quaking in our boots, and sneezing fitfully, trying to choke back fits of laughter so as not to wake the whole Order. We snuck back in, nearly sprinting to our rooms, and collapsed in front of my door, leaning on each other for support. "Okay," Lavi gasped between cackles, "I think we're in the clear."

"Me too," I whispered back, still sniggering. For a while, we sat there, letting our laughter and joy die down, slowly realizing the close proximity and positions we were in. Even after we'd gone completely silent, neither of us moved. I think we were enjoying the moment. I think neither of us wanted it to end. But eventually, as much as I loved sitting there with my head on his shoulder, and his hand closed around my own, I kept seeing my brother's face, and the more I thought the guiltier I felt.

We're just friends. I can't feel this way.

When I shifted and pulled my hand away, I felt him collapse a little, and the look he gave me hurt. He was disappointed and feeling rejected; of that I had no doubt. Mainly because I was feeling too. But when I glanced back at him, I found him grinning cheerfully, that same Lavi grin I knew and loved. And not only that, there was a dangerously familiar glint in his bright green eye. He stood, and offered me his hand.

"Say, Lenalee… have you ever tried pranking?"

The next ten minutes were spent convincing me to join him in pranks on Allen and Kanda, and the hour after that was spent sneaking into Kanda's room and stealing his hair ties and braiding his hair, and then planting said hair ties on Allen for a successful framing, and then drawing on his face for good measure. I never had so much fun.

"See? Wasn't that great?" Lavi asked enthusiastically as we plopped down on the couch in the lounge, exhausted. "We shouldn't have done it. It was so wrong; poor Allen!" I chastised weakly. Because honestly, I couldn't deny the fact that I had enjoyed it.

"Aw, admit it! You loved it. Look at you, a total delinquent!" I laughed, and found my head on his shoulder again. But this time, I was too tired to feel guilty or embarrassed as I readjusted myself into a more comfy position, and with a smile on my lips, I drifted to sleep.

6:30

"Che."

The familiar scolding of Kanda was what woke me. His hair was down, and his sword was out, and in the back of my mind I figured he must be going to cut up Allen right now. I found myself oddly comfortable, my head on a surprisingly soft and warm pillow, and looking up at the irritated samurai. Our eyes met, and his scowl deepened, as he looked pointedly from me, to what I was lying on, to above me, his gaze full of implications and meanings. Slightly confused, I turned my head just enough to see Lavi dozing over me, and in horror, I realized that I what I was resting on was not a pillow, but his lap. I bolted upright with an 'eep', my face coloring a fine shade of scarlet, yet still not waking the sleeping boy next to me. I stared at Kanda, begging him with my eyes not to tell. He hesitated for a second, before rolling his eyes, and giving me a warning look that said, 'I won't tell, but if you don't leave, Komui will find you and kill you both. And I won't stop him.' So to that I just gave a short nod of thanks, and he moved on to his poor framed victim.

I looked at Lavi, wondering what to do and biting my lip, and was surprised at what I saw. When he was asleep, Lavi looked so strangely… innocent. He looked much older, like all his facades had been stripped away, leaving the true worn and tired soul that he was. And yet, he seemed younger at the same time, as though his worries had evaporated as well. He looked oddly vulnerable, and guiltless. Like I was taking a peek on his true self. When he was asleep, he looked… so real.

Without really knowing what I was doing, I reached forward and pushed some strands of bright red hair from his closed eyes, and I smiled serenely. He shifted a bit under my touch, his expression becoming slightly troubled. I watched his features relax again as he adjusted himself so his head was on my shoulder. My first instinct to this was one I hadn't expected— joy. I was happy that he was sleeping like this, so close and peaceful. My second instinct was panic.

What if Komui found us like this?! I had to get out of there. If I went back to my room and he stayed here, then we'd both stay safe, and as long as I did this carefully, Lavi wouldn't even have to wake up. Very cautiously, I eased out from beside him, lifting his head and resting him gently on the cushion behind us. He twitched, coughing lightly and again looking uneasy, but remaining asleep. I stood there for a second; regret filling me, staring at him a moment more. I reached forward, and touched his cheek with my fingertips.

"I had a wonderful time, Lavi," I whispered to his sleeping figure. I had no idea if he heard me, but I wanted to tell him anyway. "I'm so glad I went with you." With a sigh, I withdrew my hand, and began to walk away…

When someone grabbed my hand.

"Stay…"

The word was just a mumble. When I turned in utter shock to look at him, his eye was still closed, and if I hadn't heard him, which was a miracle in itself considering how quiet and sleepy the word was, I would have had no idea that he had spoken at all. Except that he was weakly gripping my hand. I turned fully to look at him, forgetting momentarily that he was asleep.

"W-what?" His green eye fluttered open, glazed and unfocused, and his gaze locked on me. A smile touched his face.

"Stay," he muttered again, shifting once more to be closer to me, even though I was standing and he was still on the couch. He gave my hand a weak squeeze, before his eye slid closed, and his grip slackened as he began to drift back into sleep. "Stay…"

That was all it took to get me to descend beside him again, blushing and smiling, and fall asleep holding his hand, my head on his shoulder and his cheek on my hair.

8:45

Knock, knock.

When I woke up, it was to find myself in my own room, on my own bed, with the covers drawn around me. I blinked sleepily, unsure of how I got there or what was going on, when again came the noise that had woken me.

Knock, knock.

Instantly, my memory of the night before and this morning came flooding back, and with a sinking heart and flushing face I realized that someone must have carried me back here. My only hope was that it wasn't Lavi or my brother. If it was Komui, than Lavi was either dead or in a coma. Which I certainly didn't want. But if it was Lavi himself… I shuddered as I went to answer the door, to find myself greeted with his grinning face once again.

"Hiya, sleepyhead!"

"Oh…" I collapsed back onto my bed, face in my hands, Lavi following in with a concerned look. "What's up? Are you okay?" I shook my head, and said between my fingers, "So you carried me here?" even though I already knew and dreaded the answer. The bed creaked a little as he sat beside me, and I heard him give a highly amused laugh. "Yeah. You know, Lenalee, you're really cute when you're asleep." I laughed too and spoke before I had time to feel embarrassed or even think about what I was saying. "Funny. I was thinking the same thing about you when you were sleeping,"

The most awkward silence fell over us.

We stared at each other, both of us equally surprised at my words. Very slowly, a giddy and total four-year-old smile crept onto his face, while at the same time my blush spread across my whole face.

"Really? You think so?" He asked quietly, voice filled with hope. I opened my mouth to answer, but nothing came out, so I just nodded. His face became so ridiculously bright and happy, as though I'd just told him we'd won the war. What he did next was so fast I wasn't sure what had happened at first.

Before I knew it, he had grabbed me and pulled me into a huge bear hug, lifting me and spinning me in a circle around my room. Then he kissed me on the cheek, and all I could think was, Since when did he care so openly? Very suddenly he froze, and put me down. Still in a daze, I watched him run a hand through his hair in anguish. "Aw, I did it wrong…"

"Did… what wrong…?" I asked, not really caring, because my cheek was on fire. He shook his head and grabbed my hand, leading me to the doorway. Before I could ask what he was doing, he had successfully kicked me out of my own room and closed the door behind us. He placed his hands on my shoulders and planted me in front of my door, and then positioned himself in front of me. Having absolutely no idea what was going on, I just watched as he cleared his throat, took my hand, and put on a charming smile.

"Well, goodnight, Lenalee. Thanks for coming out with me." It took me a second to realize he was reenacting the parting scene of every date, seeing as we had missed it, so I smiled and played along. "I'm really happy I came. I had a wonderful time, Lavi."

His grin grew. "Me too. Although, there's something we didn't get to do that I'd like to try…"

Honestly, I had no idea what he was talking about. "What?" His smile turned into a smirk, and he pulled me closer, bending down so that our noses were almost touching. He just chuckled at my question, and without another word, he kissed me. I think I melted right then and there. It was sweet, and soft, and gentle… and surprisingly chaste. Why had it felt so… innocent?

When he pulled away, I found myself not wanting it to end. We both stood there for a second, his forehead pressed against mine. And then he said quietly, with a small smile in his voice, "I've wanted to do that for a while," I opened my eyes, and looked up into an orb of emerald green. And all I could do was smile as he embraced me, and laugh a little as he said, "Thanks for staying like I asked, Lenalee,"

Around that moment, Komui saw us, and began to scream something about eliminating a red haired octopus, but it was too late, and the damage was done. Lavi grabbed my hand and ran, screaming behind us to Komui for mercy. And staring at his ecstatic, anxious face, I couldn't stop smiling.

I never remembered to make him go see the nurse.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The days in between the clearest memories passed in a blur.

I can't recall the precise exchange of words, or the exact activities we did.

What I remember of those days were the seemingly little things— the ones with the most value.

I remember the laughter. Holding hands. The feeling of being with you. The joy of how open you'd become, how real your smile was. You started to do things more; going into town, spending more time with everyone despite your work, even pulling pranks. I hadn't seen you that genuinely happy in a very long time. But the next thing I remember, as clearly as you ever did at least, was the next Saturday.

Saturday_____________________________________________________________________________

3:17 AM

I had just gotten home from a mission when I found him in the library, asleep over his work.

I wasn't surprised; he always did this. Sure, it annoyed and worried me that he could actually work himself to sleep, but at that moment, I didn't mind it. In fact, I was happy for it that time, because I had to admit, I liked to watch him sleep. He seemed more tranquil this way, more natural, the way he did on our date. His headband was only loosely staying around his head, slipping down on one side, making the crimson mop of hair fall into his face, presenting the same innocence as back then. He looked so peaceful… I smiled, and traced his jaw with my finger. He didn't even twitch. Feeling braver, I sat down next to him.

Bad move.

The chair creaked too loudly, and Lavi's eye immediately snapped open and he shot up shouting, "I WASN'T SLEEPING! I WAS WORKING, JUST RESTING MY EYES, I SWEAR! DON'T HIT ME, GRAMPS!!" He cowered, only to realize whose presence he was actually in when he heard me laughing uncontrollably. Through the tears in my eyes and the gasps for breath, I could see him blushing.

"Aw, what are you laughing at?" He pouted sourly, coughing a little from the shock and shouting.

"Y-you, what else?" I stammered, gripping the edge of the table for support. "If I was Bookman, you'd probably have been sent through a window by now."

"Yeah, yeah," He agreed grudgingly. Still giggling, I remembered the time, and wondered why he'd be working this late anyway. So I asked. "Why are you here so late anyway, Lavi?" I asked absently, my fingers running over the pristine pages of the young bookman's work. He came to stand behind me and wrapped his arms around me, resting his chin on my shoulder. "Just waiting for you to come back. I thought I'd do some work and reading while you took your sweet time."

I blinked in surprise and turned my head to look up at him. "You waited for me?"

He gave me a slightly confused look, as though such a question wasn't even necessary. "Of course I did," He said, and his confused grin warmed and melted into a soft smile. He took my shoulders and promptly turned me to face him, and he embraced me, holding me close. "Welcome home, Lenalee." He whispered into my hair. Blushing madly, I stuttered, "W-why would you even do that? I'm always the one welcoming."

I tried to make my voice sound indignant, but the butterflies wouldn't stop fluttering in my stomach. He laughed, and with one hand held me out just enough to look me in the eyes, while with the other he took my chin in his thumb and fore finger so I couldn't look away.

"I'm not the only one who deserves to be welcomed home, Lenalee. I see that now." A flicker of sadness and wistful pain briefly lit his eye, but he smiled it away before I could question. "You know what else I see?" He asked, grinning. As I shook my head to show I didn't know, his grin widened, and he leaned in close enough so that I could feel his breath on my cheek. "I see that I love you."

Before I could respond, he kissed me, warm and firm, and my completely shocked and overwhelmed senses pretty much just shut down and let him. But at his words, I could feel myself smiling in his kiss.

He loves me…

It was a longer kiss than normal, but only long enough to completely sweep me off my feet when he pulled away. I swayed a bit on my feet, and he put out a hand to steady me, grinning from ear to ear, his bright green eye staring, penetrating.

My senses suddenly snapped back, and I colored crimson to the roots of my hair, searching desperately for something, anything, for him to focus on, other than me. Out of the corner of my eye I caught sight of a book, lying open on another chair. Hastily, I reached for it, pulling away from him, turning it over in my hands.

I was well aware of the fact that I hadn't returned his statement.

"Hey, what were you reading?"

He tilted his head and observed the book, a smile already intact. If he had noticed I hadn't told him it back, than he wasn't showing it. "A fictional book, actually. No historical reference whatsoever. Wouldja believe it?" Gently, he took my hand and helped me open the cover, to look at the bold letters of the title— Beauty and The Beast. I gave a slightly confused chuckle. "Beauty and The Beast? That's a girly book, Lavi."

"Hey, just cuz I'm a guy doesn't mean I don't have a feminine side!" Lavi said defensively. Then he cocked his head at the sheer oddness of his statement.

"You're not really helping yourself, you know." I laughed up at him. He led me further into the library, never once removing his arms, to a couch, and pulled me down to sit on his lap, and his voice was in my ear. "That's only because I can't think straight when I'm around you, Lenalee," His voice was only a whisper, and I could hear the smile in it. "But really, it's a good book. I think you'd like it. Want me to read it to you?" I nodded enthusiastically, feeling like I was five years old. But for some reason, with Lavi, that felt okay. Maybe because he was a child on the inside; with all the stunts he pulled it wouldn't be a surprise. That's probably what Allen would have said, but in my heart, I knew it was more. "Brother used to read to me when I was little," I said dreamily, my thoughts returning to days long gone as he flipped to the first page.

"Really? He ever read you this one?—I shook my head— Cool. I want it all to be a surprise for you." And he began to read to me, his voice taking on a more serious, narrative tone that just seemed to naturally come to him.

It must be the bookman part of him, I thought, settling myself better on his lap. For the first twenty minutes, I listened intently, laughing as Lavi did several voices and lines, and then gasping as something exciting or suspenseful would happen. But soon my eyelids felt heavy, and I found the words growing farther and farther away as I faded in away. After another minute, as I was half in and half out of consciousness, he carefully closed the book and put it to the side. He wrapped his now free arm around me, holding me close. His arms were so nice and comforting…

"Mm… you're warm," I muttered quietly, too tired to really care if what I was saying was embarrassing. He chuckled above me.

"Am I?"

"Mm hm…"

There was a pleasant pause as he held me tighter, rubbing my shoulder.

"Hey, Lavi…?"

"Yeah?"

"You don't really love me, do you…?" It was a simple notion, one that just leaked out. I guess subconsciously I hadn't really believed him. But his hand stopped massaging my arm. When he spoke, he almost sounded… hurt.

"Why would you ever think I didn't love you? You think I'm lying?" He asked quietly, pulling me far enough so that he could see my face. At the sound of sorrow in his voice, most of my sleep evaporated, and I found myself stammering to undo my mistakes.

"I-I don't know… it just doesn't seem right for you to love me like that, I feel… like I don't deserve it, and if you get hurt, than it'll be my fault, and… you're a bookman, so you're not supposed to anyway, and I just… I don't know, Lavi, I'm sorry, it was such a stupid thing to say…" I turned my head down, trying to hide the tears forming in my eyes. I had no idea why they were there in the first place, but I seemed unable to stop them. Lavi didn't say anything for a while. Then, very suddenly, he put one hand on the back of my head and pulled me into his chest, while he wrapped his other arm around me, holding me there. His grip was harder and tighter than normal, as though to prove his sincerity. His voice shaking, he murmured into my ear, "Don't you ever think you don't deserve my love, or that anything that happens to me is your fault, Lenalee Lee. You're a better person than I could ever be, and I don't deserve someone as wonderful as you. You hear me?"

I did hear him. I heard the pain and desperation and frustration in his voice.

"And about being a bookman… I used to think the same thing, but like I said, I can see things now. And I see that you're more important than all that, always were, always will be. I love you, Lenalee, and I'll never stop loving you. Never, never doubt that."

I looked up at him, water in my eyes, but not enough to stop me from seeing the sad little smile on his lips. "Really…?"

He caressed my hair. "Yeah, really." The somber mood lifted as he gave a lopsided grin. "You're stuck with me, whether you like it or not. Now get some sleep; you look worse than Allen without dinner."

But I just stayed there staring up at him for a second, my eyes still bleary and tear filled. He cocked his head.

"What?"

Without giving an answer, I craned my neck to kiss his cheek. "Thanks for reading to me, Lavi." I said simply, hoping he knew how much more I was thankful for. "You promise to finish the book with me?" I closed my eyes and rested my head on his shoulder again. He continued to smooth out my hair with slow, loving strokes.

"Of course, Lenalee. I promise we'll finish it together."

_____________________________________________________________________________________

I remember those words of yours. So clearly.

You should have known better than to promise me something like that.

And I should have known better than to believe it.

Next came Thursday.

Thursday_____________________________________________________________________________

I was in the cafeteria for dinner, waiting for my very late boyfriend to join me. Allen sat across the table, watching me with a strange expression. For about the fiftieth time, I checked the clock. Ever since we'd started dating, one of the healthy habits Lavi had started was being punctual, and now he was an hour late. Honestly, I was worried, but I'm sure it came across as annoyance. Allen shifted in his seat. "Hey, Lenalee…"

"Yes?"

He looked anxious, and troubled. He opened his mouth and closed it several times, a blush accenting his cheeks bright red. Finally, he just laughed nervously and shook his head, looking down at his hands. "Nothing, never mind. It's nothing important…"

I frowned. Allen had always been honest and open with me— well, at least to some degree. But the past week or so, he'd seemed to be closing off, and distancing himself from me. And when he did talk, he always made things short, and he looked pained. I didn't want that. "Allen, you can be honest with me," I said earnestly, putting on an encouraging smile. He deliberated for several minutes, and I watched as he bit his lip, throwing me wary glances, unsure. Then he swallowed, deciding to take a chance and tell me whatever he wanted to say. "Well, it's just that ever since—"

The door opened. I jumped out of me seat to see who it was. "Oh, hold on just a second, Allen!" Holding my breath, I strained my neck to see around a very deflated and disappointed looking Allen, to find Kanda, who was just back from a mission. With a sigh, I flopped back down as Kanda sat at the very edge of the table, soba in hand. I turned back to Allen. "So, what was it you were going to say?" He looked at me for a moment, really, really looked at me, with a sad, hurt expression. Then, instantly, he brightened, and put on a huge smile. A completely fake one. "Nothing! I forgot already, sorry I bothered you."

Again, I frowned, seeing straight through his smile. But at the moment, the patented "che" came from Kanda.

"If the beansprout doesn't want to be a man for once in his life and confess to you, then let him be a coward and keep his trap shut." I looked confusedly between a ridiculously annoyed Kanda and a madly blushing Allen. "Confess what to me?"

"Bakanda, sh-shut up! That's none of your b-business!" Allen shouted, horrified, eyes wide and round.

"Che. It's my business if your weak spinelessness is disturbing my meal, beansprout."

"How is it disturbing your meal?! You just got here!"

"And your damn childishness is already annoying the hell out of me. Even you should be able to see how pathetic that is, bean."

"What does that mean, 'even you'?!"

"Are you so slow that you can't even tell you're being insulted?"

"What?! Why you…!" Allen was so angry he seemed just about ready to explode. Normally, the argument escalated much further before he got that upset, but something was wrong today. Clearly the same thing that had been wrong the whole week. He went on a rampage, berating Kanda with insults that only ever escaped the swordsman's own mouth, and some that even he did not utter. By the time he was through, he was huffing for breath, and needing to clutch the table for support. The entire cafeteria had turned to him in shock, and as soon as he got his breath back, Allen turned and screamed at them all, "What the hell are you all looking at?!" Then he stormed out. I just watched in a total stupor. After ten minutes, the cafeteria had recovered, and Kanda went back to his meal as though the whole thing had never happened. I turned to him slowly, only barely able to talk.

"Kanda… what happened to him? Why did he act like that? I've never seen him so mad…" Kanda gave me a sidelong glance, the same type that I'd gotten from him when I'd woken up in the lounge— full of implications. Except this one said, 'It's so obvious. I thought you were smarter than the rabbit and beansprout.'

I gulped nervously. I hated it when Kanda was disappointed in me; he held a higher degree of respect for me than most, and had even said that he thought I was a strong woman. As a result, his opinion mattered a lot to me. I began to think about what the reason for Allen's behavior could be, going through every possibility I could think of. But none of them fit, and soon I was desperately chewing my nails and tapping the table. He watched my actions, by that time twitching with annoyance in time with my continuously clacking fingernails on the hard slab of wood. A vein was soon throbbing in his temple. He continued twitching, and I continued tapping.

Finally, he shot up, dark aura coming out full force. "Dammit, why the hell don't you go ask him if you're honestly too oblivious to figure it out? Or ask your idiot rabbit of a boyfriend, even the likes of him would have seen this by now!" He stormed out, a trail of dark aura following him, and I stared once again in shock as he shoved some finders just for good measure. As stupid and useless as I felt at that moment, I decided to heed Kanda's advice and ask Allen. Seeing as Lavi was over an hour late for dinner, I figured he wouldn't show anytime soon, and even if he did, it served him right to eat alone for being so far behind. But to my dismay, Allen wasn't in his room. I rechecked the cafeteria, just to search the heads for white or red, but both were absent. After about twenty minutes of searching the Order, I finally decided to check Lavi's room. I hadn't gone looking for him before because I had wanted to trust him to come on his own, which had obviously been the wrong choice.

I got to the room that Lavi and Bookman shared to find the door already slightly open. Perhaps Bookman was back from his mission? For a second I wondered if it would be alright to just walk in, seeing as the door was already open. It only took me a moment to decide that it would still be rude not to knock, so I raised my fist to do so, but before I could, an all too familiar voice reached my ears.

"Lavi, we could come back some other time, you don't look too well…"

I froze, my knuckles inches from the door. That voice… belonged to Allen. What was he doing here?

"Che. Who cares what happens to that rabbit?" Wait, was that Kanda? He was here too?

I crouched down and pushed the door open just a bit further, so I could see what was going on. Near the window stood Allen, looking partly annoyed, partly anxious, and partly guilty. Striding toward the door was Kanda, a ripe scowl on his face. He looked as though the slightest thing would make him snap and unleash his full fury on some unsuspecting victim. I shivered. And on the edge of the bed, grinning halfheartedly, was Lavi.

His headband was circled around his neck so that his red hair spilled over, but it was more messy and unkempt than usual. His visible eye was glazed and faded, the familiar spark in his eye snuffed and weak. That in itself was catching, but even like that I could see the dark bags under his eye, as though he hadn't slept in weeks. This was in stark contrast to the pale, sickly color of his face, which had a light sheen of sweat on it. He was hunched forward, with one fist clenched tightly on the blanket. He looked… awful.

I wanted to listen on, and to see what was wrong, but… I bit my lip, internal conflict raging within me. Curiosity versus my better judgment, I contemplated turning and coming back later or staying and listening to the conversation. But as I hesitated, Lavi gave a laugh.

"S'okay guys, I was just taking a nap. What is it? Yu-chan, you can go first! I'm so happy you came to visit me!" He sprang to hug the swordsman, but was kept at bay by the sharp point of mugen.

"Like I'd ever come to visit you," Kanda snorted. "I'm only here to give you and the sprout a warning. This entire week has been an irritating waste of time, because of both of you, and my meal was completely ruined because of your idiocy. If you and the beansprout don't sort things out with Lenalee, I won't get any peace for training and meditation. And if I don't get tranquility, they you'll be the ones who pay." Lavi and Allen gulped nervously, inching away from the block of bad karma that was Kanda. Until suddenly Allen straightened, and his fear seemed to be replaced by anger. "Wait, we ruined your meal? You completely humiliated me in front of Lenalee and the cafeteria!"

"Che. You hardly need my help to humiliate yourself."

"What?! Well none of it would have happened if you hadn't been a prissy girly man and kept your big fat trap shut!"

"What did you say, sprout?" Kanda turned on his heel, eyes cold and frightening. Allen, who was already in a bad mood for the reason unknown to me, glared pointedly at him, too angry to be scared. A sneer was curling on his lip, making him look quite un-Allen like. "I said that you were a self absorbed girly man with a feminine ponytail and a big, fat, pouty lip." That did it. In a flash, mugen was unsheathed and slashing wildly at Allen, who yelped and put up his arm. The room shook, and Lavi groaned exhaustedly. "Aw, guys, my room! Come on, cut it out— hey, my dresser! Whoa!" He ducked as a shoe came flying toward his head, flattening himself on the floor as his room was torn apart. "Yu-chan, Allen, if you're gonna do this at least do it in your own rooms!"

"SHUT UP!!!" Both boys screamed; turning and throwing random items at him. Lavi managed to roll out of the way of the plate, with a triumphant "Ha, ya missed!" but then the notebook whacked him in the face. It was only a notebook, nothing serious, but Lavi collapsed to the ground as though it had been the attack of an akuma. On the floor he started coughing badly, while Allen and Kanda stared in shock. After a few minutes of silence only filled by his coughing, he struggled to a sitting position. Somehow, he looked even worse than before, and seemed to be having a hard time holding back the coughs. Allen approached him cautiously. "Hey, you okay? We really should leave, you should get some rest," he shifted his wait from foot to foot, looking guilty. "Like I said, I can say what I wanted to later." He glared at Kanda, waiting for him to put in his say. Kanda rolled his eyes, returning a dry, blunt stare that said you're an idiot I you think I'd do that. But I watched as he sheathed his sword.

Lavi just waved it off, attempting to swallow the coughs and retaking his position on the edge of the bed.

"Nah, say what you wanted to. I'm fine man. Just a cold, that's all." His body must have decided to disagree with his statement at that point because he suddenly lost control and his coughing fit continued. But this wasn't normal. It sounded as though he was choking, as though he was dying. His eyes screwed shut as he continued hacking, hunching forward even more, doubled over and coughing into his fist, while his other arm clutched at the bed to keep his balance. He shook violently with each racking cough, and his eye flew open wide as a particularly painful one burst from his mouth, allowing me to see the glazed, bloodshot green. His arm unlatched from the bed to grasp at his chest, like the violent rasping was tearing him apart. I sat there, paralyzed with horror.

True, lately Lavi had been coughing more, but only a little. Never like this. He'd never looked so… fragile, and breakable, and sick and hurt, at least never— never in front of me. I gasped as I realized this: Lavi was hiding his pain from me.

In panic, Allen approached him, hovering around but not really sure what to do. Kanda was scowling hard, his face a mixture of irritation and unease, as though the fact that Lavi wasn't stopping coughing effected him in a way he hadn't expected, and that fact in itself annoyed him. He tried to continue toward the door, forcing out a jet black aura, but he paused before he could make it all the way and turned to glance at the two exorcists. He glowered harder, but didn't move.

As Lavi coughed more violently, lurching forward with tears streaming down his face and he gasped between hacks for oxygen, Allen's brow became set with determination and he heaved the older boy to his feet, slinging his free arm—the one that wasn't being coughed into— around his shoulders to help steady him.

"You're going to the Head Nurse right now, Lavi," He declared firmly. "What I have to say can wait." Lavi's eye instantly widened in alarm. He jerked his arm away, with a strangled, "No, I can't—" Before he crumbled to his knees, coughing horribly. Both hands flew to his mouth as he choked and wheezed, and Allen was at his side, eyes wide with fear, while Kanda's frown deepened and he turned away. Finally, after about ten minutes, Lavi's coughs quieted down to shallow, rasping breaths, and he slumped against the bed, forcing out a shadow of a smile.

"I don't need to go to the infirmary, Beansprout. It's cool."

"Che. Idiot probably choked on his own tongue." Kanda grunted with a sneer, but Lavi only gave a hollow laugh. "Sounds like something I'd do, doesn't it?"

Allen stared at them like they were crazy, not even caring about the nickname. "Are you insane? Look at you! You can barely breathe!" Lavi waved it off weakly, shakily getting to his feet. He swayed and grabbed Allen's shoulder for support. "Just dizzy, no worries. I just need a nap."

"You just took a nap, idiot." Kanda reminded him.

"Well, I need a longer one." He was about to flop back down onto the bed when he straightened with a groan. "Aw, I gotta go apologize to Lenalee. She'll have my head for missing dinner." At the mention of my name, Allen stiffened, and a shadow passed over his face. He said nothing, but he didn't really need to. Lavi gave a low chuckle as he took in Allen's expression. "So it's about Lenalee, then? Go on, Allen, shoot. Just hurry before she comes here and kills me for skipping."

Allen's expression was a sour one, but he shook his head, looking a little ashamed. "It's not important. What's important is that you get to the infirmary,"

"Aw, don't change the subject, beansprout! It takes too much energy to argue about the infirmary! Now I wanna know what you were gonna say!"

"Lavi, you're sick and hurt! You've got to go to the nurse!"

"I don't wanna!!" Lavi wailed, and I watched him slide of the bed and plunk to the floor, crossing his arms over his chest and huffing like a kid not getting his way. Kanda rolled his eyes, looking more agrivated than ever. "The beansprout's voice is giving me a headache, so stop being so damn stubborn and go see the damn nurse!" Lavi just stuck his chin out and declared, "Until Allen tells me what he was going to say, I'm not moving from this spot."

"What?!" Allen cried, "Come on, Lavi, this is stupid. Just go to the nurse!"

"No."

"Come on!"

"No."

"At least get off the floor!"

"No. Not until you say what you were going to."

Allen tugged at his white locks, frustrated and exhausted. "Fine! Fine, but you've got to rest afterwards!"

"Yay!" Lavi cheered, clapping fanatically. Kanda looked like he wanted to stab him; his fingers were already twitching toward his blade, but with a tremendous amount of effort he forced his hand down. He and Lavi waited expectantly as Allen bit his lip, quite evidently having second thoughts.

"Well, beansprout? Helloooo? Anyone there?"

"I'm not a beansprout, Lavi," Allen muttered grumpily, then sighed in defeat. After another second of deliberation, he said quietly, "You and Lenalee… you're serious, right?"

"Well, define serious."

Allen pondered a moment, scratching the back of his neck. "I mean… it's for real, isn't it? Not just a joke. You guys mean it." His voice had taken on a melancholy tone, and his silver eyes quivered. Lavi didn't say anything for a second. He was looking at his hands, smile gone.

"It is. I love her, Allen. More than anything. But…" He paused to look at Allen's buffeted and shattered expression, as though just the words had dealt an awful blow. "But you love her too, don't you?"

My eyes widened. The way Lavi had said it, it wasn't really a question. More like the statement of an undeniable fact. But still, I waited for Allen to deny it. It was impossible. It couldn't be true. But then Kanda gave a bark of a laugh, and his words shattered my resolve. "You really need to ask? He's been depressed all week. The negative energy is even more annoying than the positive one." Allen stared at the floor with clenched fists, and my heart leapt into my throat. Allen… in love with me?

After a second, he said shakily, without raising his head, "You're a bookman. Aren't bookmen not supposed to…?" He trailed off, not really needing to finish, and Lavi sighed, shaking his head.

"We're not. But recent… events cleared things up for me, and put everything in perspective. She's more important than any of that. To hell with being an impartial bystander. The old man'll hate me for it, but…" He closed his eyes, every word he said holding painful hope. "But it's worth it. She's worth it. And in a few days… maybe then he'll know why, and understand why I did this."

For a moment, it was quiet. Both of them were eyeing the floor somberly, letting the silence and each other's words sink in. Allen slowly nodded, and finally he picked up his head. "Only because it's you, Lavi. You're one of my best friends. If it weren't you…" He stopped for a moment, hearing his own voice break. He gulped hard, and continued. "If it weren't you, I'd never give up on her."

Lavi stood; his back to me so I couldn't see his face, as Allen brushed past him and then to walk to the door, where I was. The entire conversation had left me completely speechless and immobile, and if it hadn't been for Lavi's next, hushed words, I would have been found out.

"You don't have to give up on her, Allen." Allen froze, and turned slowly. Even Kanda looked surprised.

"What?"

Still unable to see his face, I heard the redhead give a low laugh, one that held no humor. It held barely masked pain, and sorrow.

"I don't have much time left, it seems. About a day or two, if I'm lucky…" His voice sounded far away and misty, as though he were talking more to himself than to Allen, who took a cautious step toward him. "Lavi…?"

"It really wasn't fair to her," He continued, still with his back towards us. "But I love her, and even if I had the chance, I probably wouldn't take any of it back. I'm just selfish, I guess."

Kanda's eyes narrowed, and I got the feeling he knew what Lavi was talking about. Allen, however, was beginning to look and sound worried. None of Lavi's words were making any more sense to him than they were to me. "What are you talking about? Not fair to her, not much time left? What does any of that mean?"

Lavi hesitated. Then, very slowly, he raised his hand, the one he'd been coughing into the whole time, to look at it. And with a stab of horror and realization, I saw his palm stained red, dripping dark blood. Fear flashed through my being, rooting me to the floor. Allen gave a little strangled gasp at the sight of the blood, and Kanda's breath came out in a hiss as his suspicions were confirmed. Lavi's hand clenched into a fist, and it returned to his side.

"If you don't want to hurt her, idiot rabbit, then go to the damn nurse." Kanda growled suddenly, while Allen looked over at him in surprise. He obviously knew what Lavi was talking about, and this was creating a large problem for the white haired boy, seeing as he had no idea what was going on, and it didn't seem like either of them were going to tell him. Lavi just grinned. "Nah, I don't think I will. It would do no difference."

"And how do you know that?"

"I'm a bookman, I know these things."

"Bookmen don't know everything. You're goddamn proof."

"What, you can't actually be saying you care, can you? Aw, Yu, I'm blushing!"

Kanda's eyes widened just a hint, before he scoffed the suggestion and turned away. "Amusing. Like I would care what happens to you people. If you want to be a fool go ahead."

"Now there's the scary antisocial Yu-chan I know!" Lavi said with a laugh, before turning to Allen. His smile softened, and grew sad. "And Allen, in answer to your question… it means… take good care of her."

With that, he turned around, making for the door. Allen gaped at him, still not understanding, and watching helplessly as Lavi past him, a bright, cheerful grin plastered on his face.

"I better go see Lenalee before she kicks me for missing dinner. Seeya later!"

He opened the door and almost tripped on my crouched figure. I looked up at him, numb tears rolling down my cheeks. No one did anything for a moment. Lavi, Allen, and Kanda stared at me in disbelief, and I just sat there, staring back. Lavi spoke first.

"Lenalee, how long have you been out here?"

I knew what he meant. How much did you hear? So I stood, and my voice shaking yet steely, answered accordingly.

"Long enough."

He stepped toward me, hand outstretched, but I didn't want to hear anymore. Before he could say or do anything, my innocence activated in reaction to my emotions, and sped me down the corridor to my room, drowning out his cry after me, and the series of coughing that followed.

11:25

I was still crying in my room at that time. He had run after me at first, pounding on my door and asking me to come out, saying he was sorry, begging for just a chance to talk. His tactics changed constantly; asking me to talk to him, telling me he wouldn't leave until we spoke, threatening to break down the door, promising me explanations. But very most he would apologize, sorry, over and over. I had stared at the unlocked door, daring him to open it and give me another reason to be angry. But inside, I knew that despite everything, he really was too respectful of my privacy to actually break it down. Knowing he was just hoping for an answer, any sign that I had acknowledged him. I hadn't given him one. After about an hour of pleading, he went silent. About twenty minutes later, I heard a soft thud on my door as he placed his hand on the wood, and his muffled whisper came through, just one word: sorry. Then I heard his steps lead away, slow and heavy. I just stayed in my room, curled up on my bed, and cried.

None of it made any sense. Lines and reactions we'd shared circled in my mind, all fitting together as if in some sick, twisted sort of puzzle.

"You're an awful liar, Lavi." Something flickered behind his eye at that, and he let out a small, "You think so?"

Like he truly didn't want me to blame myself if anything should happen to him. As though something would happen to him.

Since when did he care so openly?

"I'm not the only one who deserves to be welcomed home, Lenalee. I see that now." A flicker of sadness and wistful pain briefly lit his eye, but he smiled it away before I could question.

There was still so much more. And then there was the whole conversation I'd just heard. All of it was related and fitting together in an awful way, like a jigsaw puzzle. But I seemed to be missing the main piece. I had all the clues, but I couldn't figure out what it all meant…

I shivered in my bed, and cried harder. Maybe I didn't know what it meant, but I could see it was nothing good. I didn't understand what was going on, but it scared me.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

The next part would be the next day. But only by a few hours, so it's really just another continuation, just like before.

It doesn't really matter anymore anyway.

Friday________________________________________________________________________________

Dream

I was running.

To what, I didn't know. From what, I didn't know. All I could hear was my own breathing, my own heartbeat.

The only thing knew was that I had to get there in time… I had to… I had to…

I was pulled to a halt. He stood in front of me, his back to me. He was hunched over, and suddenly another sound accompanied my panting and heartbeat— his coughing.

I tried reach out, but my hand wouldn't move. I tried to call to him, but my voice wouldn't work. I tried to step closer, but my legs wouldn't budge.

He kept coughing. He called for help. No one came.

Move, I told my legs. They wouldn't. He still coughed.

Move.

He called for someone, anyone. He needed help, he was dying, and no one would come.

Move!

He begged; please, anyone.

Move!!

He collapsed, calling for me, pleading and begging softly for me to come help him, please, please.

He went still.

MOVE!!

My legs obeyed, and I rushed to him, turned him over, held him, called his name, because at last my voice worked, at last he could hear me, and I could help him and be there for him and save him— but why wasn't he responding?

I squeezed his hand and whispered his name; waiting for a laugh or a voice or something. But he did not answer, did not squeeze back. My eyes found his, only to see the lifeless, listless green that no longer saw, the cracked, bloodied lips that no longer breathed. And I knew the words that had died on his lips as breath and life left him; a last, silent hope for someone to come, just so he wouldn't be alone.

And I had been too late.

2:14 AM

I woke with a racing heart, and blood pounding in my ears. The sheets were drowning me, and I had to get out of there, to see him, to look into his eyes and know that there was life in them.

The dream had given me a hint of the truth, but I denied it. I pushed it away; the only thought that really mattered being that I had to see him, in the flesh and alive and warm and breathing… I had to see him…

I pushed the door open and practically barreled down the hall to his room. I had to get there in time… I had to…

Without pausing to think that he might be asleep, I pounded on his door, hard and loud, not caring if Bookman was home yet. Only when I stood panting before the door, hoping and praying silently that he would come and answer it, did I wonder what I'd do if it was his older master. As I heard slow, sleepy steps come from behind the closed door, I straightened my shoulders, resolving that it didn't matter if it was Bookman— I'd demand to see Lavi no matter what. I needed to. My mouth and the door opened simultaneously; I was completely ready to duel it out with Bookman, but the words died on my tongue as I was met with a tired, irritated, and ill looking red head.

"I swear, if it's you Allen, I'll tell Kanda you raided his room and—" He blinked as he saw me, and all ill will evaporated from his sick features. "Lenalee…" He said my name so gratefully, with such an expression of relief and quiet joy. But his was nothing compared to mine. As he'd been talking, I'd been taking in his breath, his eyes, his life. Although I could slowly feel the tears burning the back of my eyes. I didn't know why they were there, and staring at him, I tried to blink them away, but he saw through it in an instant. His smile warped into a frown, and he stepped forward, and wrapped his arms around me.

"What's up?" He asked quietly, and to hear his voice, and sense the warmth of his touch, and hear the heartbeat against his chest… I broke down, relief and sorrow and fear mixing as my emotions of the entire week went on overload and burst forward and I jumped him, sobbing into his chest.

"Whoa!" He staggered back under my sudden weight, coughing a bit. He hadn't really expected such a reaction, but he recovered quickly; hugging me back as we sunk to the ground. For a moment, he just cradled me and let me cry, rubbing my back soothingly while I simply listened to each blessed heartbeat, savoring it, relishing in the warmth of his embrace. So alive. I hadn't known what I had really been expecting, but to find him here, alive and breathing, was such a wonderful surprise and relief that I before I'd known it, I'd snapped. The dream kept replaying over and over in my mind, and I just kept seeing him there, still and unmoving, and with each image I held him tighter.

Finally he whispered, "What's the matter, Lenalee? You were angry before, and now…"

I just shook my head, burying my face deeper into him, getting as close as possible. I couldn't speak, not yet. He nodded in understanding, and gently picked me up, taking me back into my own room and settling me on my bed once again. There was the dragging sound of him pulling over an armchair and sitting next to me, clutching my hand. I pulled my knees up to my chest and wrapped my free arm around them. And he let me, quietly holding my hand until my racking sobs quieted into shuddering hiccups. Even then, he remained silent until he was sure I was composed enough to talk again.

"K, you better now?"

I nodded.

"Well, how about saying something first?"

"I'm better now."

"Good. That's a start. Now why don't you tell me what's got you so freaked out?"

"A bad dream."

"Really? Well, then it was just a dream, Lenalee. You're awake now, and safe. What was it about?"

At that I paused, as the dream drifted back into my mind, and instantly my whimpering grew louder. Seeing that I was starting to lose it again, Lavi waved off the request frantically, squeezing my head. "H-hey, it's okay. If you don't want to talk about it that's fine, just, uh, don't cry… come on, Lenalee, don't cry…" He looked guilty and awkward, trying desperately to calm me down. He was so funny… a small, tear-streaked giggle escaped me, and at the site, he gave a sigh of relief and a lopsided grin. I brought his hand to my face, and pressed it against my cheek, holding it there. My eyes closed, and the tears that came then were silent. "I'm sorry for being angry before, Lavi,"

His awkward smile faded, and I felt a gentle squeeze on my hand. "No problem. It's not like I can blame you, anyway. Everything we said was pretty confusing, and you got scared. It's understandable. I'm not upset with you, Lenalee," I nodded, and sniffed, trying to stop myself from hiccupping.

"Lavi… can you promise me something?"

"Course. Anything."

"Never leave me, okay?"

He froze.

"What…?"

"Don't go away… don't disappear, please…" My voice was quiet and quivering, and I didn't have the courage to look him in the eyes. I had no idea if he understood the 'disappear' I meant, but his hand had gone completely still. For such a long time he was silent and unmoving, that finally curiosity got the better of me, and I stole a glance at him. His eye was downcast; the expression on his face was one of terrible guilt. There was a desperate look in that green orb, and his mouth was slightly open as if to say something, but nothing seemed to come out.

"Lavi…?"

His eye suddenly became guarded, and a too-bright smile lit his face. "Yeah, don't worry. I'm not going to leave you. How could I ever leave the prettiest girl in the world?" He laughed, but the sound was tight and strained, and with a shock like lightning, I realized.

"You're lying,"

He blinked, and looked down at me, full surprise on his face. "No, of course not. I wouldn't lie to you, would I?"

I frowned, and turned my head down to stare at our clasped hands. As I spoke, my thumb ran over his palm.

"It wouldn't be the first time. I'm not an idiot, Lavi; I can see that you're hurt. And you're just keeping it from me so I won't worry. But it's not working. You're wounded, and you still haven't gone to see the nurse like you promised. You thought I forgot, and you'd get away with it. Well, I didn't and over the days it's been getting worse and worse and I'm stuck here able to do nothing while you decide to be a stupid martyr and cough up blood!" My voice broke as I inched toward hysteria, fresh sobs leaking from my eyes as I gripped his hand hard, bringing it to my red eyes and just holding it there.

"Did you ever once think about me? About Allen and Kanda?" I continued in a quieter voice. "You're wounds are ours too. You can't just come in, record, and pass like a shadow anymore. We care about you, and we love you. You mean something now, and to just throw everything away, and be careless of your own life, that's disgracing all the care and love we have for you and have given you over the years. Don't you see that?" He didn't answer. When I looked up at him, his red hair shadowed his eyes and his mouth was a hard line. In desperate despair to make him see, I reached forward to touch the side of his face, but he jerked away. Feeling rejected, new tears filled my eyes, and because I couldn't talk to his face, I spoke again into his hand, bringing it close to my lips and letting my tears fall onto it.

"Won't you at least look at me…?"

There was a pause.

Without warning, his free hand hooked around me and pulled me close to him, so that our faces were inches apart. He looked straight into my eyes with an unwavering emerald gaze. I was hypnotized by that look, and I just stared back. After a minute, he very slowly leaned forward and tilted my head down, so his lips could meet with the top of my head. My eyes slid closed, and I wrapped my arms around his neck, leaning into him.

"I'm so sorry, Lenalee… I never meant…"

"I know."

He gave a shaking sigh, and the stress of the conversation seemed to drain him, and he collapsed a little, small bouts of coughing escaping his mouth, making his body shudder. He shifted so that his forehead was pressed against my shoulder, where he remained for a good while, coughing. As they got louder and more violent, I put one hand on the back of his head and squeezed his hand with the other. I waited silently as he coughed and shook, ignoring the welling fear within my chest. When finally he became still again, he was rasping for breath and my shoulder felt damp. No matter how much I wanted to pretend I didn't know what that wetness was, I couldn't. Whatever was wrong with him, it was getting worse. How awful he looked when answering the door hadn't escaped me; even worse than when I'd seen him with Allen and Kanda. These coughs hadn't been too bad, but they'd still made him shake and hack blood. And what was more, a mere sigh brought them about. He'd always been so careful to stop me from seeing what was wrong with him, and here he was, weak and slipping. Fear gripped me.

After a moment more, he slowly pushed himself up to look at me; his green eye faded and very sad. When I touched his face this time, he didn't pull away. "I love you, Lavi…"

His blinked, and looked at me with such hope in that one glance that you would have guessed I'd just told him that World History Day had been extended to World History Month. "No kidding?"

I laughed a little, and shook my head ever so slightly. "You know I wouldn't joke about something like that."

He grinned and kissed me again, quicker this time, and even sweeter than before. With a glance at the clock, he smiled at me before he stood and turned. I didn't know what I was doing when I reached out and grabbed his hand.

"Lenalee?"

"Stay… please, just tonight, stay. At least until I fall asleep. I won't have another nightmare if I know you're here with me." My cheeks flushed as I spoke, but I didn't let go of his hand. In the darkness, I could see the outline of his form as he hesitated, and then, with a sigh of defeat, he plopped back down, taking my hands in his and smiling.

"Sure, Lenalee. I'll be right here."

With that in mind, I let myself drift toward sleep. However, after some time, and I was only just barely conscious, I felt light pressure on my hand.

"Lenalee…?"

"Mm…?"

"Will you marry me…?"

I opened my eyes to stare up at him. His breaths were shallow and shaking, but there he was, smiling down at me. I sat up, and kissed him gently.

"Of course, Lavi."

He grinned, a familiar spark of mischief lighting his fading eye. "How about tomorrow, then?"

"Huh?"

"Why don't we get married tomorrow, Lenalee?"

"HUH?! Lavi, that's crazy! You're insane!"

"One of the reasons you love me!"

He had me stumped there. True, one of his many charming qualities was his spontaneity, but… but what? Why shouldn't I? I was eighteen, and I wasn't a little girl anymore, no matter what brother said. And I did love him, and he loved me. So why not? It could work, couldn't it?

Flashes of Leverrier, Central, the Grand Generals and the Earl sped through my head all at once, and I had my answer. I looked down.

"Lavi… it could never work. We're in a war. You know this, being a bookman. Love is one thing. Marriage…it's just out of the question."

He didn't say anything for a moment. Then his hand came forward, and cupped my cheek.

"I don't care about any of that anymore. It doesn't matter. What matters is that I love you. And I always will. And you love me, right?"

"Yes, but—"

"Then the other stuff isn't important. We'll keep it secret. First thing tomorrow, we'll sneak into town and get hitched. Yu-chan or Allen could be a witness. Besides, you just said you'd marry me, didn't you?"

"In theory! I'd love to be married, but not now! In a year or two maybe, when this war is over."

"How do you know when it'll be over? The predictability of war is death and misery, and our war isn't really different. What if something happens to me in that time?"

My head snapped up at that, and I glared fiercely. "What does that mean?"

"It's always possible. Everyone dies, Lenalee, including me. It's the nature of war to just bring death sooner. I want to get married before it comes."

I tried to hold the indifferent gaze, but looking at how weak and pale he was just deteriorated my will to do so. The harder I looked, the more I saw how right he was. My will crumbled, and the words that came next surprised me as well.

"Do you… really think something would happen to you before the war ends…?"

For a moment, he looked as though he was going to answer the truth, but at the last moment, his expression changed, and he shrugged. "Hey, I can't see the future. I'm just being cautious. And of course, I want you to be my wife as soon as possible."

I bit my lip, and knew I wanted the same as he did. But… "Lavi, we can't."

He looked at me sternly. "What can I do, Lenalee? What will make you marry me?" The expression on his face was so resolute and sure, that with a slight shock, I realized that he wasn't going to let me off. He was determined and stubborn, and there would be no changing his mind. Although… maybe I could get a deal. His words about death rang in my ears, and decided, I met his gaze.

"I'll marry you… on one condition."

Lavi brightened, and gripped both of my hands in his. "Sure, what?"

"Lavi, please. Please see the nurse tomorrow." He started and looked at me suspiciously, obviously deliberating, but I watched as the resistance melted away, and he gave a small grin. "If that's what the princess wishes." Then he leaned forward and kissed me, gentle and soft and slow and sweet. When we pulled apart, he rested his forehead against my own, our noses touching.

He smiled, and pulled me into one of his huge, warm bear hugs, laughing quietly in my ear. And the sound of his laughter was so… wonderful, it almost made him sound alright, not sick or wounded in anyway, as though all ailments had suddenly left him. So I laughed too, as the truth of my vow really sunk in. As if to voice my thoughts, Lavi said with a smile in his voice, "We're getting married tomorrow, Lenalee,"

I nodded into his shoulder, tears rolling down my cheeks. He must have felt them, because he pulled back, and gave a small chuckle. "Hey, why are you crying? Brides-to-be shouldn't cry,"

"They should if they're too happy…"

He put his hands on either side of my face, and with his thumbs wiped the tears away. He shook his head.

"I think I'm gonna have to take your name, Lenalee. Normally you'd take mine, but I don't really have one. Some part of me is telling me this is a disgrace to my manly pride, but whatever."

I giggled through the tears. "Lavi Lee… I like it,"

"Do you? Good. Then that only leaves one more thing to take care of."

I looked up at him skeptically. "What?"

"You made me promise something, right? Never to leave you." At the memory of only a short time ago, I shivered, but nodded. Whatever he was getting on about, it was important; all traces of humor had left his voice.

"Well, now it's your turn. I need you to promise me something."

"What?" I asked again.

"If anything ever were to happen to me—I'm not saying it will, but if anything does—I want you to live your life to the fullest. I don't want you to blame yourself for anything. Whatever happens would not be your fault. I want you to be happy, and go on living for me. That's the most important. Go on living for me, Lenalee. Got it?"

"Lavi, where did this come from—" What he was saying was scaring me, but he barely gave me the chance to talk.

"Promise me."

"Lavi, please—"

"Promise me, Lenalee."

The look on his face was so serious and pressing, and yet so pleading and desperate… I couldn't take it. All thoughts of protest died in my throat. "O…okay, Lavi. I promise."

A sigh left his lips, and relief washed over his features. What was he talking about? More than anything did I want to ask but… somehow, the expression on his face begged me not to. And something within me was afraid to ask. So I kept my mouth shut, and he gently pushed me back onto the pillows.

"Thank you. You should go to sleep now. It's late, and we wouldn't want you to be tired for the wedding, would we?"

"After you see the nurse,"

"Right after. Now get to sleep."

"You won't leave?"

He gave me a look then. I'd never forget that look, not as long as I lived. So tender and full of love, as though he was seeing me and beyond me, into my soul, into everything I was and everything we were and everything we could and couldn't be. As though he loved every bit of it, as though he were saying, 'as long as it's with you, it's all going to be okay.' I had no mind to question that look.

"Never, Lenalee. I'll always, always be right here beside you."

_____________________________________________________________________________________

You died the next morning.

Brother said it was from internal bleeding. That the mission we went on fatally wounded you, and there was nothing anyone could have done, not even if we'd known it instantly. Bookman had been contacted and told, and was returning immediately. Kanda and Allen were with me; we were told together in Brother's office, and first, given our relationship with you. Allen was crying. Kanda was very, very angry. Brother continued explaining what happened, but everything he said was numb to my ears. About halfway through, Kanda bolted up and demanded a mission. He was angrier than I'd ever seen him. And as it turned out, Komui had one, but he had wanted to give us time to grieve, so he was going to give it to someone else. Kanda took it and stormed out without another word. That's how he expresses his grief, I think. He needed to get out and destroy the things that had killed his friend, in a dark give and take. But that wasn't the important part. What was important was that he cared that you were gone. What happened to you had a huge impact on Kanda, and the anger and sorrow that I know he felt was so much deeper than it had been for the others.

Not long after Kanda left, Allen had to leave the room. He was crying. He cared about you too, and I think he blamed himself for not making you go to the infirmary. It wasn't surprising—you had been one of Allen's best friends, one of his very closest, and this had been so sudden, so horrible. His grief was open and awful, completely broken by the sudden news of his now dead comrade. He was far more upset about your loss than anyone else who'd died, just like Kanda. Because you were important. You were loved. Just like I told you. Timcanpy, who had been sitting in his hair, stayed.

So it was just me and Brother. He stayed with me for a while, telling me it wasn't my fault, that nothing could have been done, that there was no way for anyone to have known. But I knew better. I finally understood—it was the missing piece to that stupid, sick puzzle. You'd known. You'd known all along, and that was why you hadn't gone to the nurse. I don't know why, but when I realized that, I snapped. I demolished everything within kicking range, screaming that it was all your fault, everything. About the lies, secrets, and promises made and broken, even though you knew what was going on, what would happen to you. One line continuously ran through my head—your promise from the night before never to leave me. I rampaged, blaming you for everything, while my brother stood silently, letting me get rid of my anger. It took a while.

Eventually, I broke myself down, finally collapsing and sobbing on the ground. And eventually Brother had to leave to break the news to the rest of the Order. He told me I could stay there as long as I needed to. But just before he left, he said that you had left me a message on Timcanpy. I had asked why I would ever want to listen to it, my mind still full of your broken promise. And he had answered with a question— Do you really believe that he would make you a promise so serious as to never leave you if he had no intention to keep it?

With that he left, leaving me to my thoughts and memories of you. And soon, your smile and your laugh and your everything won out, and I reached out to Timcanpy, and watched your message. Of that whole day, those moments and that message was what I remember clearest.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

9:24

Shaking, I stretched my arms out to the small golden golem. "Tim… please…"

Instantly, a flutter of gold was in front of me, taking refuge in my cupped hands. "Show me, Tim. I… I want to hear his voice. I want to see him."

Timcanpy's mouth opened wide, and out popped the screen of his memory. My only hope of understanding brother's statement was this message. Biting my lip, I nodded, and the video started. Several things flashed before the tiny camera, until finally it was on the infirmary door, closing carefully and hesitantly, some nurses and my brother disappearing from site. It clicked—locking shut; and the image went to the boy on the bed.

Damn. Thought they'd never leave, Tim.

"Lavi…!" I whispered, one hand coming and covering my mouth. New tears came. I remembered how he looked the night before. How awful, sick, weak he looked.

It was nothing compared to how he looked now.

His skin, even in the shaking, fuzzy video was obviously sickly pale, the sheen of sweat gleaming. His lips were cracked, looking a shade of blue, accented by the blood that crept out of the corner of his mouth. The eye that was once a bright, vibrant emerald was dull and listless and dim, holding frailty and agony in the place of the normal humor and joy. His limbs shook and shivered, one twitching hand weakly gripping his side. The breath that went in and out of his lungs seemed more to rasp than to flow, the way normal breath did. It rattled and waned; often hitching and causing the familiar coughs. Still, the boy smiled.

You're recording, right Tim?—the image shook up and down as Timcanpy nodded— Good. Then hey, Lenalee. I thought of writing a letter, but—cough cough—this seemed better. I wanted to talk to you myself. Heh… I promised I'd come to the nurse, didn't I?—he laughed a little. It turned into a brief cough—so here I am. But… I bet you're upset at me. I left you, and you didn't even get a real goodbye, did you? That was my fault. I'm sorry. I honestly thought I'd have more time. Time to finish my promises, and to be there for you. But even bookmen make mistakes.—cough—So yeah, I guess that shows you I did know what was happening to me. At least now you know why I was acting so weird, right? I didn't tell you, and you might hate for that. You might hate me for breaking so many promises. You might hate me for leaving you. That's—cough—that's okay. I deserve to be hated after all this. After… everything I put you through.

His brows knit together, as though the thought that I hated him hurt; and he looked down at his hands. He looked so… upset, ashamed. I lifted a hand to stroke his face— than I remembered it was a hologram, and with effort, resisted the urge.

But please—cough coughat least hear me out, and let me explain. You deserve the truth, after all this. Do you know why I didn't tell you about what was going on?

I shook my head.

I didn't tell you because, well, what would you have done? Blamed yourself? Denied it? Try to fix me? None of it would have helped. The truth—cough coughthe truth is, I was doomed from the beginning. That's why I didn't go to the infirmary when you asked me. If I went, I'd have been stuck in here for the past two weeks, and I'd have died anyway. So no one else could know, not even you. More than once—cough— I wanted to tell you. Like when you called me a bad liar. I was laughing on the inside; I mean, I'm here pulling this huge charade, and you call me an 'awful liar'. But the times I wanted to spill the very most was when you were confused, and you worried. I wanted to tell you, Lenalee, I really did. I'm so sorry you were scared for me. The only thing that kept me from telling was that the reaction I knew you'd give would be even worse than the one when you didn't know. I don't know if it justifies not telling you, but that's why. And, I'm sorry Lenalee, but I'm glad I did it.—cough cough—Pretending, keeping it a secret… It gave me the chance to do everything I've wanted to. And most importantly, be with you. That's the plus side of this whole thing. This entire experience made what was important to me clear for the first time, and that's something I'm really thankful for.

He coughed hard, lurching forward and causing Timcanpy to shake in a nervous frenzy.

I'm fine, Tim, s'okay…

He fell back on his pillows, panting. With the back of his shaking hand he wiped his jaw, which was now streaked with blood. He looked so breakable; he had to pause several times.

All those promises… I made you… I really shouldn't have. I knew I was dying, but… I did it anyway. I thought I'd be able to keep them—no… that's a lie. I knew I wouldn't be able to keep them. I had just hoped… I would, because I wanted to. The book… I wanted to finish it with you. It…seems I can't now. Please, don't hate me for that.—He gave a small smile, a weak attempt at humor— After all, you're not the only one who misses out. My feminine side is getting all whiny and nagging me cuz' it wanted to see how it ended.

I choked a laugh, but his face grew a little more serious, and sincere. Finish it for me, alright? I… I want to know what happens. Tell me. I know I won't be there to talk to you face to face but… just talk, and wherever I am, I'll hear you. I know I'll hear you.

He coughed again, a longer one this time, staining what I could see of his white clothes and sheets red. While his head was down he quickly and discreetly wiped his chin, but I still caught it. He was wiping away the blood again. His shoulders shook, and his intake of breath was faster now, as if he couldn't get the air into his lungs quick enough. It hurt, so bad to watch. But slowly, he controlled it enough to speak again, much quieter.

Lenalee… I promised you I'd marry you. I never kept that promise. It wasn't like before, though. I knew I couldn't keep the other ones, but this one… to marry you… I meant to do it this morning. I… I really thought I could. I guess that just makes not keeping it even worse...

He gave a feeble chuckle and leaned back, eye barely open.

I bet you're mad at me right now. I bet you hate me for it; for dying, and not keeping all those promises. You do hate me, don't you?

"No… no Lavi, of course not… I could never, never hate you…"

It's okay if you do. Because it's all my fault, Lenalee. Everything, all of it, is mine. Not yours. I know you well enough to know that you'll blame yourself.

"But it is my fault… look what's happened to you, Lavi… I've been here this entire time, right next to you, and did nothing to help… who else's fault could it be? If I'd been faster on the train, woken you up, gotten you out, made you come with me… anything, you'd still be here…"

That's not true, Lenalee. Nothing you'd have done would have saved me. No matter what you might've done differently, my fate was already sealed. You need to accept that it wasn't your fault. I don't want you becoming a wreck over this like you did with Allen. I'm gone Lenalee, and nothing can change that, so why spend your life mourning? Why blame yourself for something you couldn't prevent? I want you to go on living, with or without me, happily. You promised me you'd do that for me, 'member?

"But…"

Do you remember, Lenalee?

"…yes, I remember…"

I guess it wasn't fair to make you promise that, knowing I only had a few days. But that doesn't change the fact that you promised, and that I still want you to keep it. That's all I want now. For me, Lenalee, please… keep on living happily.

He gave a gentle smile, and seemed to breathe alright for a moment. Then, as I watched helplessly, he inhaled too deeply; and the coughs erupted again, worse now than any I'd ever heard. Something like a choking gasp, wet and gurgling with the blood in his lungs that he tried to expel so he could breathe, at least breathe; but that seemed to be a blessing that wouldn't come. He clutched at his throat, at his chest, at his stomach as oxygen ran low and blood ran high, flowing freely from both his mouth and nose. It was a struggle he couldn't win, no matter how hard he tried. And the harder he fought, the more he just seemed to hurt and bleed.

I had seen many people die before, many bleed. But watching his chest contract and his stomach heave, simply leaking this blood out as though it were water from a faucet… I had no idea one man could have so much blood to give. He was dying, right in front of me, and all I could do was rock back and forth and sob to myself, whispering his name. "Lavi… Lavi…"

Long before the gagging and choking stopped, there was pounding on his door, and I could hear the faint recorded voice of my alarmed brother and the nurses demanding he let them in. The last cough was one that sounded so weak and sick that it didn't end without being accompanied by a whimper of my own.

He collapsed back onto the bed, his chest rising and falling in quick, shallow gasps. His eye was closed, as though just the effort of keeping it open was too much strain on his body. He swallowed hard, and gave a small, weak smile.

Looks like my time's up, princess. I gotta go.

His voice was so quiet, no more than a sigh. When he managed to open his green eye, it was glazed and far away, as though seeing something only he could.

"No!" I gasped, leaning forward and reaching for him desperately. "No, please, don't leave…"

You're not crying, are you?

I sniffed, and didn't answer; instead hurriedly wiped at my eyes.

Don't cry, Lenalee. Don't cry for me.

I hiccupped, and tried to hold back the tears burning my eyes. It didn't work.

I'm going to miss you. But then, why should I? After all, I'm not leaving you.

"Huh?" I started, blinking fast, my sobs catching in my throat. "W-what?"

I promised you that I'd never leave you, didn't I? When I said that, I meant it. I won't leave, Lenalee. Never. That's one promise I won't ever break.

He jerked, and coughed once—hard. Panting and shivering, flecks of blood dotted his shirt. His eye was glazed over and agonized, and his chest lifted and fell in rapid succession. But his smile stayed intact.

Even if you can't see me…

"No…"

Even if it gets harder…

"Please, don't…"

Even if…you're scared…

"It's too soon Lavi, don't go yet…!"

I'll always be there. You know I will. Just lock me up in a box, and whenever you get lonely, you can open it up and I'll be there.

His smile grew gentle and warm. I'll always, always be right here beside you.

His eye closed, and his breathing slowed down, got quieter. The strained look of agony faded away from his features. He looked… calm, serene. He was at peace with it; his death.

"But I'm not at peace with it Lavi, please don't go…" I whispered, as though he could hear me, as though the unthinkable hadn't already happened.

Allen and Yu are probably angry I didn't tell them what was going on. Tell them I'm sorry. Even though Yu won't admit it, I know he loved me! Lavi grinned that same familiar playful grin. And make sure Allen knows it's not his fault. We wouldn't want him going all hero-complex on us. The expression on his face grew wistful. I'm gonna miss them, Lenalee. Make sure they know that.

About the old man… This time, even with his closed eye, I could see the internal pain and guilt on his face. Tell him I'm sorry too. Hopefully he'll understand now. He might already. Like I said before, giving the Panda the slip isn't easy. I don't know if he'll be upset or angry or just nonresponsive to this whole thing, but… but please, Lenalee, I want you to tell him anyway. I want him to know.

Thank your brother for me. He fought hard to fix me, even after the nurse said it was hopeless, and I'm sure he's feeling guilty. He shouldn't. I'm grateful for everything he's done, and he should know that.

"Yes… I will, I promise I will." He sighed in relief, as if he'd actually heard me. Then he just slowly breathed; slowly, quietly. And I just watched him. The video was almost done, and I knew it. But then, very suddenly, he spoke. So very, very soft.

You know what I'm thinking about, Lenalee?

I shook my head.

I'm thinking about how pretty you looked on our date... How funny and cute you were every day after... The time you said I was warm, and I thought, 'how funny', cause I had just been thinking how warm you were.

His voice got so gentle, so soft, so quiet.

Yeah… I think it's okay to go like this… thinking of you… it's okay… Thanks, Tim. I'm done. G'bye, Lenalee. Love you.

The screen dissolved. Timcanpy's mouth closed. He cocked his head at me, questioning. For a while, I didn't move. I didn't speak. I didn't even breathe. Then… I smiled.

"Thank you, Tim."

_____________________________________________________________________________________

You left me your bandana, and your scarf. I still keep them in a small box, on top of my dresser, with my memories of you.

And whenever I get lonely,

I open it up,

And I remember.

You're still with me.

Finally done. This turned out waaaaaaaaaay longer than expected, and for that I apologize. A lot. I didn't mean for it to turn out this long… anyway, I hope you liked it, and if not, then again, I'm sorry. I know it totally sucked, but my fragile self confidence can't stand flamers. I'd appreciate reviews, just not flamers. A huge thank you to all of those who bothered to read this story. Thank you!

~There Was A Silence