Chapter three – And when that lock breaks
Consciousness was a lot like sand sifting through fingertips; small grains shifting downwards in a hazy drizzle until Allen couldn't tell what he was dreaming – hallucinating – and what was the reality.
Footsteps that pounded out in tandem with the knocking on the ornate door, voices calling his name in a distant echo that spiralled around his head until it became a nonsensical string of vowels, sweat on his face and the palms of his gloveless hands dirty from pressing against rust and decay of aging metal and rotted wood.
"Allen," Neah whispered as he hunched forward in front of the door; back flat against the damp surface and fingers shaking desperately as they tightened over his ears, as if the noise was something that travelled in sound waves and not misfiring synapses in his brain.
"Not real," Allen muttered as his eyes flickered open, catching the briefest glances of white and blue before they rolled back in his head. He shook something terrible. "You're not real."
"I'm exactly as real as you are," Neah answered, voice a smooth line that seemed to seep through the wood between them. "You're just born of flesh and blood and me of memories and drugs. The only thing different between the two of us, Allen, is that you have this body and I do not."
Allen whimpered and pressed his forehead into his knees as Neah tried the handle again. This time, the clicking was softer, like the lock was mellowing beneath his careful touch. Allen tried not to think about what would happen when the lock went the same way as his mind.
"But I can fix that, you see, don't you? This body can be ours – you're right, Allen. In that respect I'm not like you. I can share, you see? I don't need it all the time. Well, not right now. I'm sure we can come to an arrangement."
Allen was only distantly aware of shooting up like he'd been shocked, of splitting pain as he dry retched over the side of his mattress. His body might be seizing in a cold room in the middle of god knows where, but Allen himself – his mind and his brain and all the things that counted – were alone in a room with a grand throne, a failing door and the soft whispers of his ever growing fear.
"It's okay, Allen. You can have your time. I'm in no rush, I can be patient."
And even through the wood and metal and the shirt on his back, Allen could have sworn he'd felt fingers down his spine.
Planning wasn't what Kanda had thought he'd be doing when he'd confronted Komui. He'd been thinking of blood and violence and of storming through the streets until he found the ones who'd taken Allen – of ripping the NOAH limb from broken limb, of finding something sharp and deadly – but not nearly as beautiful as Mugen, because his baby was shattered shards lying on his bed and when this ordeal was over Kanda was probably going to have to think harder about how that affected him. In the meantime though, it was being hunched over a desk in Komui's office crossing grids off a map with a thick marker while Lavi and Komui talked in hushed voices about smart-people things and Lenalee cycled through surveillance footage at the computer.
(her eyes were red rimmed and her face ashen-pale; it went to show how bad their current situation was that Komui wasn't soothing gentle hands over her shoulders until the shaking in her hands stopped and her fingers no longer chattered loudly against the mouse as she scrolled through street after street.)
This wasn't Kanda's forte. He didn't do grid searches and planning and calling in favours. He did violence and pain and threats. His fingers tightened against the marker and he vehemently dug it into the map as he drew another thick red cross on the paper with a shrill squeak that sounded loudly in the room.
"Oh my god Kanda, can we not deal with your repressed man issues for one minute here?" Lavi burst out as Kanda squeaked another cross – probably a little louder than necessary – against the map.
"What was that?" He growled, throwing the marker down and turning sharply to face him. He was tired and he was angry and he was so, so sick of just doing fuck all. His blood was boiling thick and vapid beneath his skin and he just needed an outlet – he needed for Allen to be here because it was the stupid fucking beansprout that talked him down from the highpoints of his temper. It was Allen that called him out on his bullshit when he needed him to and soothed him gently even when Kanda pretended he found it disgusting.
"You know exactly what I said – or are you deaf as well as dumb?"
Kanda's fingers curled into a vicious fist and he was stepping forward in an angry stride before he was really aware of it.
"Stop it!" Lenalee cried, pushing herself out of her chair and catching Kanda's arm to drag him back a step. "This is no time to be fighting!"
"Tell that to the fucking rabbit," Kanda growled as Lavi downright sneered at him and snapped in reply; "I'll 'stop it' if you'd just take the stick out of your ass for two seconds and think of Allen!"
"I am thinking of Allen!" Kanda roared – because he was done, the worry and fear and anger and hatred swarming through his blood right now was too much, too much and he just couldn't. "Don't you think I've been fucking thinking of him every god damn day since he stormed into our fucking school with his secrets and his shitty nightmares and his fucking – his fucking smile and every fucking thing else? And now he's out there and we're in here and anything could be fucking happening and he could be fucking dead or gone and I never got to tell him how fucking mad he drove me? What a useless piece of shit he is?" He kicked the leg of the desk because all these emotions that were flowing through him with no outlet, nowhere to go, and they were going to kill him, he was sure and god fucking damn it – that was not tightness in his face, no fucking prickling in his eyes from the sheer frustration of it all – because Kanda had never felt anything but anger and impatience and vague annoyance before Allen and now he felt so much he could hardly breathe. "Fuck!" He shouted as he kicked the desk again so loudly he heard the splinter of wood. "FUCK!"
The room fell to silence except for the rapid in-and-out of Kanda's breathing and the soft hum of the computer pouring through camera footage. It wasn't enough. The words and the shouting weren't enough. Kanda couldn't just stand here when Allen was gone and alone and waiting for him because he was a useless wimp who couldn't do anything right and Kanda was afraid – he was afraid for the first time he could remember. Because Kanda had never allowed himself to care about something enough to be afraid of losing it and then Allen had happened and now Kanda was screwed six fucking ways to Sunday because he couldn't fathom how cold his bed was going to be without him.
He'd gotten attached and he didn't even know it. And not just like with Lavi and Lenalee – emotional compromises Kanda had made because he'd been alone too long to push them away; he'd always known he wasn't meant for solitude somewhere deep down, it'd just been that solitude had sought him out. His friendship with them was like that which he had with his brothers; infallible because he knew it'd always be there no matter how mad they drove each other.
Allen though, Allen was the thing Kanda had never thought he'd be allowed to have. He wasn't happiness or love – because they were both too fucked up for things as simple as that – but he was a body in his bed at night, somebody who saw him at his worst and bitched at him throughout, somebody to have and to hold and however else that fucking nonsense went. Allen was his normal. Even with the drugs and the dreams and the conspiracy, Allen was his one chance at this thing he'd heard so much about but never thought could touch him.
And he was fucking gone and Kanda couldn't save him.
(it wasn't enough.)
Through the haze of panic and anger Kanda saw Lavi take a careful step towards him and he instantly stepped backward. It wasn't a retreat, Kanda didn't fucking retreat, but he didn't know what else it could be; just that he didn't want Lavi to touch him. He didn't fucking want anyone to touch him. He just wanted – he wanted to be alone, to get his breathing under control, to stop the tremors skittering down his arms like live wires. "Don't fucking touch me," He growled and he could barely recognize the harsh scrape of voice.
"Kanda," Komui said softly somewhere off to his side. "Kanda, I need you to calm down for a minute."
There was the feeling of fingers on his hand and Kanda recoiled like he was six and hiding from the visitors at the orphanage because he didn't need things like friends or family.
"I said don't touch me."
"Kanda, I think you're having a panic attack." Komui's words registered somewhere in the hazy fog of distance in Kanda's head. "Kanda, I need you to just take a deep breath and sit down."
Panic attack, he thought, thought and remembered Allen's shivering convulsions, his flights into the rain and his panicked thrashing. He remembered holding him to the bed so he didn't hurt himself and the taste of blood in his mouth when Allen clipped him on the chin.
He took a deep breath, and then another and when a pair of hands steered him towards a chair, he let them.
It took a few moments but when the anger and fear and drenching worry that was slowly saturating his mind and driving him mad dissipated enough, he realized Lenalee was kneeling in front of him running gentle fingers along his arm while her other hand held tightly to his own. Lavi wasn't touching him but was crouched beside Lenalee with a worried pinch between his eyes.
"Fuck you," Kanda said and the pinch between his eyes loosened and he knew they were both forgiven.
"Hey," Lenalee said with a soft smile and a gentle squeeze of his hand. "Welcome back. I guess we're all a bit useless with Allen, hey?"
"Definitely," Lavi said and eased himself back to his feet with a press of his hand against Kanda's knee. Kanda – who had recently exploded at his friends like they'd personally taken Allen from him – magnanimously didn't say anything about it. His smile eased out a bit at the edges and the faint spark of humour that had returned to his eyes darkened again as he looked back down at Kanda. "Yu-chan… What you just told us – okay, screamed at us like a banshee – I think you should probably tell Allen, okay? I know you're kind of emotionally repressed but Allen… Allen is a good thing; and whether you believe it or not, I think it's about time you deserved your good thing."
Kanda thought about saying 'fuck you' again, he thought about getting to his feet and stalking back to where Komui was lurking in the corner with an oddly serious look in his eyes as he stared at them, a phone pressed loosely between his shoulder and his ear, cord sagging over his arm in knotted twists. He thought about a dozen things before realizing with a start this was a moment. Kanda had never recognized a moment before – he was too angry, too tired, too disillusioned to recognize the signs – but with the shouting and the fighting and Lavi looking down at him like the frustration on Kanda's face was painful for him, he knew it was.
"You find him for me," he said instead, "and I'll tell him."
Lavi's face blanked in surprise for a moment but Kanda just looked at him to let him know he was serious. And then Lavi smiled – a tired wan thing, but a smile – and said: "of course I'll find him for you, Yu-chan. Never doubt me."
And then Komui hung up the phone. "That was Marian," he said and Kanda's blood froze. "He's found the NOAH's hide-out."
Allen felt the lock on his door break.