Chapter thirty-five – Bang
There's something about standing across the room from somebody you know you care about as they point a gun at you that helps revaluate your life choices.
Allen's fingers didn't tremble as he swished his way across the floor towards Kanda, not even glancing at Lavi who was curled up on his side against the concrete flooring, pale from blood loss and shock with blood bleeding red from beneath his fingers pressed tightly against his shoulder.
"Allen…" Lavi groaned, reaching out with one hand so his fingers curled loose around Allen's ankle as he walked past. Allen paused and looked down at him with something that could only be described as disdain.
"I don't recall giving you permission to touch me," He said, and the way the word slipped from his lips made something in Kanda shudder. That was Allen's voice. The casual nuance and dip of his speech that Kanda was so familiar with – the words however… There was nothing of Allen in those words.
Lavi peered up at him groggily and tightened his fingers against the hem of Allen's pants, uncaring of the blood smears he was leaving. "Allen… Allen."
Allen tsked and ripped his foot free with an effortless flow of movement, kicking Lavi in the head so that he slumped out-cold on the ground.
"Really," he said without a single trace of emotion in his voice. "That was rather rude."
Kanda came from a family with two older brothers – adopted though they all were – and he knew what it looked like to be a target, was more than familiar with the slight tilt of Allen's head that sent his hair sprawling along his neck.
Allen was considering him – seizing him up.
"So you're Kanda?" He asked as he approached with soft steps. "Forgive me for not introducing myself sooner, but matters have kept me delayed."
"And by matters," Kanda growled, trying to keep an eye Lavi's still-body without being obvious about it, "You mean Allen's attempts to resist you."
Allen smiled – a sick twisting of the corners of his mouth – and spun the gun casually around his long fingers with a kind of grace Kanda knew Allen himself would never have been capable of.
"Well, that has been a contributing factor, I admit," Allen allowed. "It's awfully hard to do anything when your host is steadfastly trying to supress your existence with a thousand different medication regimes. I can slip through the cracks here and there – remind Allen that I'm here – but other than that it was a frustratingly slow matter of biding my time and waiting."
Kanda moved, sliding himself up the wall with fingers slick against tiles.
"You're not real," Kanda said and even he knew he didn't sound as confident as he'd like. "You know that, right? You're a fucking delusion created by drugs and brainwashing. You're an imitation of somebody who has been dead for years."
A shadow flickered over Allen's face – so quickly that Kanda almost didn't catch it – but before he could do anything about it, it had resettled into a genial mask of polite interest and smug satisfaction. "I'm as real as you are," he said. "True, our origins may not be the same, but I have thoughts, and wants and plans. I exist. Is that not enough to be 'real'?"
"No," Kanda gritted out between his teeth.
Allen smiled and raised the pistol. "Well, I'm also the one with the gun so I suppose it doesn't matter in the end, does it?"
This was wrong. This was all so wrong. Allen's face smiling at him while Lavi lay unmoving and still on the floor –streaked in lines of red from where he'd scrabbled towards Allen with his bloody fingertips.
Kanda took in a breath. "If you're going to shoot me just fucking do it already," he said. "I have better shit to do than listen to you and your drama queen bullshit."
"Kill you?" Allen repeated. "Oh, I think you've got the wrong idea. I'm not going to kill you." Allen lowered the gun and Kanda's heart jumped to his throat. "I don't have any real desire to see you or your friends dead."
Kanda was so many different types of confused it was hard to keep track of them. "You what?"
Allen raised his eyebrows and took a step back to Lavi's unconscious body, kicking him so he skidded forward across the ground and came to a rest in front of Kanda. He didn't even move although Kanda could see the subtle rise and fall of his chest.
"You can take your friend and leave if you want. The girl, too. I won't stop you."
Kanda opened his mouth and then closed it again, still supporting himself on the wall. "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't," Allen said in what could almost pass for sympathy. "But, really, you don't need to. Take your friends and go. This battle was never yours."
It sounded too good to be true. What was it Cross had whispered to him in a haze of cigarette smoke and back alley smog?
Look out for the fourteenth.
Well, the fourteenth was here now; wearing Allen Walker's face and telling Kanda to go free.
"What about Allen?" Kanda asked before he was aware the words were at his lips. "What are you going to do with him?"
Allen – no, this wasn't Allen and Kanda couldn't keep acting like it was – Neah replied without missing a bit. "Allen is a necessary sacrifice. I'll maintain control of this body and over time everything within him will crumble until there is only the one personality left. It's sad but true. Allen has played his part in this game. Think of it like chess; you must sacrifice your pawns to move your knight."
The feeling boiling up inside Kanda now was nothing but rage, slowly eating at the fear that had kept him paralysed since Lavi had left him alone to face this monster in a spray of blood and a gasping rattle. "So basically you're telling me to take my friends and leave Allen to die?"
"You are rather slow," Neah observed curiously. "I don't understand. You have your chance to be rid of all of this. Why are you hesitating?"
Kanda couldn't stop himself. "You filthy son of a fucking bitch," he hissed as he lurched forward only to be pulled up short by Neah raising the gun quick as a whip.
"Be still," Neah said, and his words were hard. "I might not kill you but I will shoot you. Your life and death is irrelevant to me. They're in your hands." He paused and then let out a soft noise of realization. "Oh, I get it now. The reason you won't leave is your feelings for Allen, yes?"
Kanda didn't answer, only bit back the furious words begging for release and tried to contain the sickening pounding of his heart.
Neah lowered the gun once more and approached Kanda with slow, slinking steps until he was right up in front of him.
"It's been so long I'd almost forgotten," Neah pondered, tilting his head in such an Allen way so that the bangs of white fell in front of his face. Up close like this the reminder that Kanda's precious person was so near yet so far was devastating.
"You're talking bullshit," Kanda said although his throat was dry.
Neah gave his twisted version of a smile. "It's just that I too once had somebody I would have died for. A very, very long time ago. I recognize that look in your eye. The love might be different, but the desire to protect is the same."
"You're not real," Kanda ground out again. "Those memories you think you have belong to a fucking dead man. I might not know everything that's happening here, but I know enough to piece it together. Neah Walker – the real Neah Walker – has been dead for years. You are NOAH's fucking feeble as shit attempt at recreating him by torturing a child. Get off your high horse; you're nothing more than a delusion."
It happened so fast that Kanda wasn't even aware of it – there was the press of something so cold he could feel it through his shirt and then a crack like the earth was splitting open beneath his feet.
Oh, Kanda thought as Neah blurred in front of his face – Neah and then Allen and then Neah again. This is what it feels like to get shot.
"It's regrettable that you're so stubborn about this," Neah sighed – the sound distorted in Kanda's ears as blood pumped too quick through his body. "All I wanted was to once again find my dear family and teach them that they die just as quick as the rest of us mortal men."
Kanda felt so terrible dizzy. The ground was pushing against his knees before he could even recall his legs giving out. Shaking fingers pressed into his side and the wetness he felt on his fingers felt much too cool to be blood.
He wasn't actually shot, was he? He was just imagining things, his mind fucking him over again.
Kanda curiously pulled his hand away to see that his palm was painted red. Dizzily, he looked back up at Neah.
"It's not so bad. You can bleed out with your friend. I assume going together is better than going alone?" Neah offered. Kanda could have laughed. He was being consoled by sociopathic madman who'd just put a bullet in his side.
"You're never getting out of here," Kanda said, planting one hand on the ground to keep himself from crumpling. He was already swaying an alarming amount. "Cross and Komui both know we're in here. The cavalry will be here faster than you can fucking imagine."
"Oh, this won't take long." Neah smiled and his teeth flashed much too white in Kanda's shaky vision. "I'm sure The Earl thought by recreating me he could have his most trusted advisor back without the betrayal festering inside me. The fact of the matter is all these thoughts and personality traits add up to the same result. My time with Cross and Allen only helped, of course. Nothing like learning that you had indeed committed treason in your past."
Somewhere outside Kanda heard what sounded like sharp shouting – multiple voices.
The so called cavalry. Guess Komui knew we'd fuck this up after all.
"You'll never make it," Kanda ground out. "You go in there guns blazing and The Earl and his fucking groupies will take you down before you finish."
"Possibly," Neah smiled. "But we'll see." There was the sound of shattering glass now and Neah glanced up and over his shoulder before looking back at Kanda. "Sorry, looks like I'm running out of time. I'll be taking my leave now."
Before Kanda could say anything – a word, a grunt, anything – Neah had turned and was striding towards the door with a body that belonged to Allen and something inside of him broke.
He was losing Allen. If Allen walked out that door he'd walk out of Kanda's life for good. There would be no coming back from this. Either Allen would die trapped inside his own head or everything that made him Allen would slowly cease to exist, and that was a different kind of death all of it's own.
No, Kanda thought, and he tried to move as Neah stepped closer and closer to the door, tried to will his legs to get up, his body to do what he fucking told it to.
Kanda pushed himself up right but his insides screamed at him and it was only a hand pressed on the wall that kept him upright. The pain came in a flood – like all that time it had been absent had just been a clever ploy to catch him off guard. He blacked out for a second and when his vision righted itself Neah's hand was on the doorhandle.
He was losing him.
"Allen," Kanda rasped, fingers curling against the wall. He put everything he had, every feeling and moment spent with his boy who had become his everything – he put it all into that one word. "Allen."
It was only for a moment but Kanda saw Neah flinch.
Allen sat on the throne inside the room.
A part of him wondered how he got there, sitting in the throne he knew didn't belong to him, when the last thing he remembered was his hands bruised and bleeding from pushing so hard against the iron lattice of the door and the shuddering snap of a lock breaking.
Allen frowned and his fingers tightened on the armrests.
What was he doing here? Shouldn't he be – shouldn't he be….
He wasn't sure. Thoughts came and went like flittering things, stepping out of his reach the moment he thought he might have brushed them with his fingertips.
Outside his room something sounded like a crack.
Allen stirred faintly, lifting his head and straining to see. For a moment he caught a glimpse of a shock of red and one emerald green eye looking straight at him before the image slipped from him entirely.
That person was…
Irrelevant, a voice whispered at the back of his head.
Okay, Allen thought to himself and he relaxed back into his chair. There was nothing to worry about None of this concerned him. All that was required of Allen was that he sit there and stay; he shouldn't move and he most certainly shouldn't try and open the door.
It had opened once already and that was more than enough.
The second crack was more alarming. Adrenaline shot through him so fast he sat up with a choking gasp.
Kanda's face pale as he looked down, blood seeping from between his fingers – the shock and betrayal and anger on his face. The –
The images spun through his mind so fast that Allen was halfway out of his chair before those too vanished and he was left wondering why he was hovering above the plush seat feeling the need to hold somebody.
Irrelevant, The Voice whispered again. It's all irrelevant. You don't need to worry anymore.
No, Allen thought and he couldn't explain why he felt so panicked. He didn't want to sit down again. He needed to stand, he needed to think. He needed to think!
Sit, whispered The Voice. Be calm again and sit.
No, Allen thought more vehemently and he pushed himself out of the chair completely.
The Voice was angry. Allen could feel it even before it went to speak. Child, sit and –
And everything inside him froze and he could see – the door before him, his own gloved fingers hovering above the handle. He was aware of the copper scent of blood and the scrabbling sound of somebody trying so hard to breathe through a force that would not let him.
Allen wanted to turn around but although he could see and hear, everything else was beyond him.
"Allen – I know you're still there. Listen to me, Allen. Don't go. Don't go."
I'm here, Allen thought feverishly although he couldn't say it.
He felt his own lips curl up in a snarl that he himself did not make.
"Allen is gone. There is nobody here but me. Just lay down and be silent already."
No, Allen thought. No, he's lying. I'm here. I'm right here.
The person talking – Kanda, that's right, that's who it was – didn't even pause.
"I know I'm not in a position to ask anything of you, but please. Don't let him take you. You're a prissy little shit who knows how to handle himself. You can fucking fight this. Please."
Kanda, Allen thought and for a moment he thought he could feel the flex of his own fingers responding as he willed them to curl into a fist. His breath hitched and his head hurt terribly without knowing why.
Stop, The Voice commanded him but Allen did not. He fought – he fought for that tiny ounce of control that he could feel slipping from him. He fought like he'd never fought for anything before; not even for survival.
He couldn't do this.
"Allen – please."
Was Kanda crying? That couldn't be right. Kanda didn't cry and especially not for mouthy British beansprouts who hogged all the blankets and needed to be held each night to go to sleep.
"If you fucking go right now, do you even know how many lives you will be ruining? Fucking hell, Allen. We need you here. We need you to hold our fucking shit together. I fucking need you, okay? There's never going to be another you for me. I'm tried and angry and selfish. You're my only shot at doing things right."
Kanda wanted him to stay? Kanda… needed him?
"Yes," Kanda groaned. "Yes, I want you. I need you."
And Allen had spoken aloud without realizing it, and the now of all the nows that could have happened was monumental. If he had somehow in these long months of fumbling and confusion gotten Kanda to need him like this than everything else was child's play.
Allen would fight. Allen would stay. And he knew for once this was for someone so far more important than himself.
This was Kanda. All of this.
No! The Voice in his head shouted – but that was it was now; a voice. Allen was wavering in and out of awareness, could feel his lips moving, saying words that weren't his, but Allen was turning away from the door, his fingers pulling away from the doorhandle as he turned towards Kanda for the first time since he'd opened his eyes.
Outside in the hall he could hear an army of footsteps, voices talking – some he recognized but still were not important in the ebb and flow of his mind.
Kanda was hunkered against the wall, hair messy and blood leaking from between his fingers as he started up at Allen with an expression that was both pain from the gunshot in his side and relief at the way Allen was stepping closer.
If his face was wet Allen would pretend he didn't see.
This was enough for now.
Allen was vaguely aware of something cool like steel loose in his hand and blood splattered on his clothes. On the floor Lavi stirred, blinking foggily up looking deeply confused but not on the verge of death.
They could come back from this. There was a gun in his hand and blood on his face, but everybody was alive and The Voice – Neah – was fighting against the door to the little room in the back of Allen's mind but Allen knew from experience that it didn't open easily.
"Allen," Kanda breathed and on another person what he was doing might have been called a smile.
Behind him the door blew up in an explosion of sound and plaster and the room was full with the shouting and shuffling of people.
"Freeze!" Somebody shouted and Allen turned, raising the hand with the gun on reflex the same time he heard Kanda shout.
And then the bullet hit.
A/N: Wow. Somehow this has become an 'everybody gets shot' kind of chapter. Not entirely certain what that says about me.