Disclaimer - I do not own D Gray Man

Joined Hands and Hearts

"Mana!"

Changing direction mid-flip the clown responded instantly to the call of the child and when he landed he was facing Allen, who had a wide smile on his face. Mana still couldn't get over the change that had came over the child. I mean, sure, sometimes he was still moody and his manners still needed to be refined somewhat but most of the time it was almost impossible to tell that this was the same child that he had found underneath the caravan.

Mana couldn't force back his smile as he saw that Allen was balancing on the large ball that he used during his act. And the fact that he was balancing wasn't the part that brought the smile to Mana's face. The part that brought about his smile was the fact that Allen was doing a one handed handstand while balancing on the ball.

"When did you learn that one?" Mana asked as he did a series of somersaults toward the child.

Pushing off with his hand Allen flipped and landed upright on the ground beside Mana. Due to the amount of practice that he had put in the child's actions seemed effortless but Mana knew how hard Allen had worked to achieve this level of skill. But the child seemed unwilling to discuss just how much work he had done. He shrugged as though what he had just done was no big deal however he couldn't hide the small smile that graced his lips. Mana was happy; he loved to see the child smile.

It appeared so rarely after all.

"I'm impressed Allen," Mana said, reaching out and gently tousling the boy's already unruly brown hair. His young assistant really had turned into a talented clown. "You've improved so much."

"Thanks Mana," Allen said, lowering his gaze in the hopes that his foster father wouldn't see the blush that had risen to color his face.

"Well," Mana said, running a hand through his own dark hair and causing it to stick up at odd angles. "I think it's about time that you and I moved on and tried to find another circus to join. The pay's better than working on our own after all."

"Okay," Allen said, willing to do anything that Mana wanted. In the time that he and Mana had spent together he had grown grateful for the support that Mana had given him, realizing that it had been a miracle in disguise when the man had offered to bring him along on his travels.

Smiling once more Mana began to pack up their scattered belongings. He and Allen had made this vacant field their camping ground for a few days but it was high time that they moved on and found another job.

After all, their meals wouldn't buy themselves.

And considering the way that Allen ate it always took a lot of work in order for them to earn the money to afford their meals. It was hard but Mana would never let on exactly how hard.

Besides, seeing the transformation that had taken place in the child made any hardship that he had to endure completely worthwhile.

It didn't take long for the two clowns to pack up their meager belongings and they were soon on their way to the next town. Mana was hoping to find a circus that was in need of a couple of clowns and Allen was just hoping to make enough money to get something good to eat.

His wants were simple after all.

Before meeting Mana all the child had known was a life of wanting what he knew that he could never have; he wanted enough to eat, a safe place to sleep at night but most of all he wanted someone who could love him for the person that he was.

And with Mana he had found all of this. It was more than he had ever dared hope for and the child realized, possibly for the first time ever, that this was what true happiness was like.

It was a good feeling.


It took nearly a week but Mana and Allen did finally manage to meet up with a circus. Hopeful that they would be able to find work Mana led the way across the circus grounds, followed closely behind by his young charge. Allen was still somewhat wary around strangers and the boy tended to hang close whenever they entered a new place.

Allen was happier when the two of them were traveling and performing on their own however Mana knew that a circus gig would pay more so that was what he was hoping to gain.

At least for a little while.

Unfortunately the man in charge of the circus took one look at Allen and shook his head. "I'm sorry but we just don't have room for both of you here. We're a small operation. Now if it were only…"

Not waiting around to hear the rest of what the man had to say Allen whirled around and took off at a dead run.

"Allen!"

The child heard the sound of Mana calling out to him but he didn't even bother to look back. His little heart was pounding by the time he finally came to a stop, at the edge of a forest that bordered the circus grounds.

"I didn't want this," the boy thought to himself miserably as he sank to the ground. The boy leaned up against a large tree, pressing his back against the rough bark and pulling his knees up to his chest. Wrapping his arms about his knees Allen placed his head upon them and stared off into the distance.

If not for him then Mana would have been able to get a job with this circus but as always he was just in the way. Allen felt the tears that were forming in his gray eyes and he fought hard to keep them at bay.

"I think… I think he would have been better off without me," the child thought miserably. The things that were currently running through his mind were only making him feel worse but Allen found that he couldn't stop the train of thought. "I wonder if he… if he regrets taking me with him that day…"

Allen was jarred from these thoughts by the sound of someone approaching him and the boy instinctively lifted his gaze. It was Mana who was walking toward him and it was obvious, by his labored breathing and the sweat that had beaded on his forehead, that the clown had been running.

Running with everything that he had.

"There… you are… Allen," Mana managed to gasp, leaning forward to place his hands on his knees as he fought to catch his breath. Mana had always thought that he was in fairly good shape, given the level of acrobatics that his act contained, however his little run had proven him wrong in that assumption.

His stamina was sadly lacking.

His lungs were burning from the effort of his little run and his knees practically screamed in protest.

"You… you didn't have to come for me," Allen said, his eyes downcast and his voice barely above a whisper. "I understand if… if you don't want me anymore. And… and it's okay."

"Allen," Mana said, walking over and sinking to the ground beside his young charge. His knees once again screamed in protest but Mana ignored the pain in his body. He was much more concerned with the pain in Allen's heart. "What in the world would make you think that I wouldn't want you anymore?"

"Because that man would have given you a job if you weren't stuck with me," Allen said, sniffling slightly despite his best efforts not to cry. "So I thought that… maybe you would be better off… if I weren't around."

Leaning over Mana grasped the hands that Allen had clasped together around his knees. Holding the boy's hands securely in his own Mana gazed directly into the little boy's stormy gray eyes. "Now you listen to me Allen Walker…"

The tone of Mana's voice instantly captured the little boy's attention and, as much as he wanted to, he found that he was unable to look away.

Mana had never used such a stern tone with him before and Allen was somewhat shocked by it.

"I chose to take you with me," Mana said, still holding the child's hands and gazing into his tear filled eyes. "You and I are family. Not the kind bound by blood but something much more special. We chose each other as family and therefore share a bond that cannot be broken." Mana paused at this moment and gave the boy's hands a reassuring squeeze. "Our hands and our hearts are joined forever."

More relieved by Mana's words than he would ever admit Allen pulled his right hand free from the clown's grip and wiped furiously at his eyes. He wanted desperately to get rid of all signs that he had been crying.

Realizing that Allen had grown somewhat embarrassed by the situation Mana released his grip on the boy's hands and slowly got to his feet. "Come on kiddo. We should probably hurry to the next town so that we can find work."

Allen nodded and quickly jumped to his feet. He could hardly believe that, even though he was a constant problem, Mana still wanted to keep him around.

"Family who chose each other," Allen thought to himself as he began to follow Mana down the road that led away from the circus grounds.

He liked the thought of that. It seemed more permanent than family that you were forced upon, like the one that he had been born into.

If someone chose you to be in their family then they chose you for who you were and not who they wanted you to be.

Mana was the best family that Allen could have asked for and he would always be grateful to the older clown for having taken him in when no one else wanted him.

"Thank you Father."

"What was that Allen?" Mana asked, turning to gaze at the boy over his shoulder. He had heard the child's voice but hadn't been able to make out what Allen had been saying.

"Thank you," Allen repeated, offering his foster father a broad smile.

"You're welcome," Mana said, not really sure what exactly Allen was thanking him for. "Now let's hurry to the next town. I'm absolutely starving."

"Me too!" Allen exclaimed, picking up his pace.

The thought of food banished all previous thoughts from the young boy's mind and, as he walked along behind Mana, Allen's mind conjured up images of all the delicious food that he would like to eat.

Turning to gaze at the child over his shoulder Mana couldn't help but laugh at the blissful expression that had appeared on Allen's face.

"He really is a clown," he thought to himself with a chuckle.

And as he thought about all of the fun that he and Allen had together he knew that he wouldn't have it any other way. Despite what others might think of him, Mana knew that his son was perfect just the way that he was.

And he vowed in that moment to make sure that Allen came to realize this fact for himself. The child needed to know that it was okay for him to be the person that he was.

"He'll learn that in time."

A/N - hope that you enjoyed this one shot about Allen and Mana. Please leave a review and tell me what you thought. I always love to read your remarks.