A/N: Yay, finished this not-so-little one-shot for Lavi. It's meant to take place before Allen joins the Order, but beyond that, there's no real strict timeline. This is meant to feel kinda like an episode would...and even if some of the things that happen in this wouldn't really be possible in the realm of D. Gray-Man...just go with the flow. Ah, and if things feel a bit...rushed towards the end, it's because they are. This was starting to drag on longer than I had intended, so wanted to get it done.

Enjoy!


Final Strike

A sharp whistle pierced through the air. Smoke billowed from a smokestack, clouding up slightly before dissipating. Screeching, a train slowly began to pull out of the station, picking up momentum as it went along. One more group of people were off to enjoy the landscapes as they rolled by.

Fingers laced behind his head, the redhead walked through the crowds of people that hustled about the platforms. Keeping his green eye peeled (for his left one was covered with an eye patch), Lavi scanned the crowds for the other one who was of the Black Order. With the distinctive black and white uniform that had a cross emblazoned on the breast pocket, he was surprised that he had not spotted the other Exorcist yet. It was rather hard to miss someone who looked like that.

Brow furrowing, the redhead looked through the crowd of people again. Leaving trains... Catching trains... Waiting for people... Saying goodbye to people... Everyone here had something to do. Lavi's expression quickly fell as he thought about it. He had something to do...and yet it was not getting done! He threw up his arms in defeat before cupping them around his mouth.

"Exorcist! Where are you?" he called out loudly, not caring at all about the stares he received from those passing by. There was no answer to his question. Frowning, he placed his hands on his hips. "Geeze..." With his plan having failed, he returned to walking around on the platform by the train he and the other Exorcist, that still had to show up, were to take.

As more and more time slipped by, he looked up at the clock nearest to where he was. Ten minutes before their train was scheduled to leave. Just where was this Exorcist? His expression fell again as an idea came to mind: what if the Exorcist was already on the train and it was he who was late? A nervous chuckle at himself escaped the redhead as he hurried along side the train, peering into the windows. That was most likely not the case, but one could never be too careful.

"They sent you?" came an unamused voice from behind him. Lavi quickly froze. He had not been told who the Exorcist he would be working with was, so this came as a bit of a surprise to him. Judging by the word choice, and how it had been said, part of him thought it could have been Kanda. Though there was one small detail that quickly put that possibility aside: the voice had been female.

Putting on his familiar grin, Lavi rapidly spun around to greet the Exorcist he would be working with. "Hey there!" he quickly said to the powder-blue-haired Exorcist. Haneul Seul. She had come from Korea to join the ranks of the Black Order. This was not the first time he had been asked to work on a mission with her.

Rubbing the back of of her head in a nonchalant matter, she muttered back, "Hey..."

Lavi dramatically placed a hand over his heart, as though he had been wounded. "Hey now, what's with the cold welcoming?" He staggered for a moment before laughing out and standing straight.

She raised an eyebrow at him before sighing. Reaching out, she flicked him across the nose, and headed for the train. "Just because I'm not always as happy as you doesn't make me cold." Lavi quickly scrunched up his nose at the contact. As she slipped from his sight, he could have sworn he saw an amused smirk tugging at her lips.

It was true enough, what she had said. While her greetings to him were often cold, once they got further into the mission, she would return to what he considered her normal mood. Chuckling to himself, the redhead quickly hurried after her onto the train. He suddenly frowned in thought as he scaled the stairs.

"Hey! You know, you're late!" he called out to her, somewhat louder than he had intended. Once again, he received stares from those who were already settled on the train. Laughing nervously, he tried to act as though it was nothing. Haneul looked over shoulder at him, grinning at his slightly embarrassed expression. So that they would not draw any more attention to themselves than needed, Lavi hurried to her side and helped to stow away their belongings.

"Has the train left yet?" she grunted out, pushing her suitcase into a secure position.

"Well, no, but..."

"Then I'm not late." Dusting off her hands, she raised her eyebrows at him before taking a seat close to the window. There was a victorious look in her eyes.

Sighing, Lavi placed his hand on his hips. "Man, you and your technicalities, Han-chan." He threw up his arms in defeat before plopping down on the seat across from her. With his eyes closed as he rested, the redhead did not notice Haneul's face twitch slightly in annoyance.

"Why do you call me that?"

"Huh?" Confused, Lavi opened his eyes and stared at the other Exorcist.

Resting her chin on the back of her hand, Haneul gave him an unamused stare. "Why do you call me Han-chan?"

He still did not understand her question. Tilting his head in a pensive manner, he tapped a finger to his chin. "You mean you don't consider us friends?"

His questioned seemed to have startled her for she quickly brought up her hands and waved them in defence. Had Lavi not known her better, he would have thought she had become flustered. "I-It's not that!" The pale-haired Exorcist tried to calm her reaction down. "Just, why do you call me Han-chan? My name's Haneul."

"Ah! That!" he laughed out. His response to her question did not seem to help her mood. Rubbing the back of his head, he chuckled nervously when he saw the look she was giving him. It was best he give a real answer...and soon. "Why not? It's cute! Han-chan!" She merely sighed and proceeded to stare out the window, waiting for the train to start. Lavi could only grin while he watched her.

Like many women piqued his interest, he had given Haneul his share of flirts when they first met. Each one she had shot back in his face, and, after some rather painful memories, he had eventually stopped. A wince crossed his face for a second as he recalled the injuries that had been caused by her. They had, in the end, become what many would consider friends. As such, it was logical to give her a nickname, to him, at least.

"I've told you before, I don't like it," she mumbled out. Her gaze remained fixed on whatever rested outside the window.

It was actually one of the reasons he still called her Han-chan after she voiced her dislike for it: he liked seeing her get annoyed by it. Well...he liked it only when she did not hurt him.

"Ah, shall I just stick to calling you Demon then?" he asked, propping his head up by a hand. He flashed a grin as she focused her attention back on him. Her eyes narrowed slightly at him, and he was reminded why he had begun calling her that in the first place. Eyes a blood red, they unsettled many who saw them for the first time. Lavi had been no different. When he had first seen her eyes, he had called her a demon.

A slight smirk parted her lips. "Well, I am one hell of an Exorcist after all."

Laughter quickly escaped the redhead at her response, Haneul's voice soon joining his. It was something to expect from her whenever he called her Demon. Out of the few nicknames he had tried on her, it was the only one Haneul liked. From that nickname, they had been able to make a little inside joke: she was a demon and an Exorcist. Any tension that there might have been between them at the start of this—mainly on Haneul's side—quickly evaporated as the train started to pull out of the station. Lavi smiled to himself as their laughter died down.

This was the Haneul he knew and enjoyed being with, not the woman that had given him the cold greeting.

The whistle of their train blew and they were met by the scenery of London. Buildings grew shorter and more spread out the farther away they got from the heart of the grand city. Farms dotted the landscape until they too faded away into the wilderness of the countryside.

"So, what do you think of this mission?" asked the redhead when he started to get annoyed by the silence that had fallen between them.

Her red eyes shot up at him. Lavi was reminded for a moment just now intimidating her gaze could be. "What do you mean?"

Lavi let out a light laugh and placed his hands behind his head. "What do I mean? I mean do you think it really could be Innocence or not! Man, do you always need me to spell things out for you, little Demon?"

Haneul shrugged and returned to staring out the window. "It'd definitely be nice if it were Innocence. But what's the point of getting our hopes up? It'll be whatever it is, what I think will make no difference."

Sighing exasperatedly, Lavi sunk into the seat. He should have expected such a response. When it came to matters dealing with missions, she was always quite serious. "Well, I just hope it is Innocence and this person is an Accommodator," commented the redhead, trying to keep a conversation going between them. "Having another Exorcist would be great! Think of how much stronger we'd be!"

"You mean...we're not good enough as is?" Lavi's arms fell when he saw her expression quickly change. Clasping her hands in her lap, Haneul looked down. Where she had been almost bored moments before, she now seemed sad, as though her hopes had been shattered. "Are we really so weak?" Her hands shook and her bottom lip began to tremble.

"Ah! It's nothing like that Han-chan!" he quickly tried to reassure her. Lavi never thought what he had said would make her so upset. He never liked to make people upset, let alone her. "I'm not saying we're weak, or anything! It's just nice to ha—... Huh?" His expression fell as a certain noise met his ears. Though her body shook and her hands trembled, it was not due to sadness. Laughter from her rang out. As she tilted her head back, Lavi could see the grin plastered on her face as she tried to contain herself.

"Man, you really thought I was upset? You fall for that too easily, La-vi." Covering her mouth with a hand, Haneul ceased her laughter. Her eyes continued to dance with the amusement she got from tricking him successfully.

The redhead frowned deeply, crossed his arms, and looked anywhere but at her. "I'll get you back for that, Han-chan."

She sighed heavily. "I've told you—"

"I know, you don't like that," he finished for her. Glancing at her from the corner of his eye, he shot her a smirk. "Consider it me trying to get even with you for all the times you've tricked me."

A wry grin parted her lips. "Then I guess this'll continue on being a never-ending cycle?"

Lavi's eye sparkled with glee as he rose to her challenge. "You know it, Han-chan."

:::

The darkness of the night was held back by the lights on the train. Many of the passengers had already been lulled to sleep by the steady clickity-clack of the wheels on the track. Lavi was one of the few who was still awake. Head propped up by his hand, the fiery-haired Exorcist stared out of the window into the calm night. Clouds hid what sliver of the moon hung in the sky, making the night even darker than normal.

It was not as though he was not tired, he was just having trouble falling asleep. For some reason, he could not get his mind to quiet. His thoughts did not give him a moment to himself. Unable to sleep, he looked over to his partner for this mission in hopes to make conversation. A soft sigh escaped the redhead when it was clear that was not going to happen.

Arms crossed and her head nestled in the corner made by her seat and the window, Haneul was fast asleep. A few strands of hair that fell across her face swayed with each breath she took. Lavi could not help but grin as he watched her. It had never really occurred to him before how peaceful, and almost cute, she looked while sleeping.

Shaking his head, Lavi pushed such thoughts from his mind. It was in that moment, when his mind was clear, that an idea sparked. A mischievous grin parted his lips. And what a plan that was. Making sure to be very quiet, he stood up and took the seat next to the pale-haired Exorcist. He had to hold back a snicker. The look that was going to be on her face would surely be priceless once he completed his plan.

Being very careful, he pulled free her hair and held it loosely in his hands. All the while he was laughing in his mind. He could not wait to see her reaction when she woke up to find her hair in a...braid... Blinking, Lavi looked down at the hair in his hands. He had not noticed it until now, but the bottom part of her hair was already gathered in a braid, ruining his perfect plan.

Lavi huffed under his breath. He did not not like it when his plans were foiled. However... A new smirk crossed his face as he quickly made the necessary changes to his plan. A minor set-back was not going to deter him for long. Still being very careful not to wake her, the redhead undid her hair and began to redo the braid, but this time including all of her hair rather than just the bottom.

"What are you doing?" Lavi's expression quickly fell and his body tensed as soon as he heard the question. Looking up from Haneul's hair, he saw red eyes boring into his green one. She had woken up, despite how careful he was being, and was not happy. Though what was making her more unhappy he was not certain: the fact he had been caught messing with her hair or that she had been woken up from sleeping. From past experiences, he knew she was not the most pleasant of people right after waking.

Chuckling nervously, he held up her hair into her line of sight so she could see his handiwork. "Braiding your hair...?" he answered tentatively. If looks could kill, Lavi was certain he would be dead right now.

"Put it back to the way it was. Now." Not amused in the least, she turned her head around so that he could rebraid it evenly.

Lavi felt like he had just been a child scolded for stealing cookies. At least she had not attacked him in revenge. Even so, the redhead made a mental note not to do this to her again. Lacing his fingers through her hair, he quickly put it back to the way it had been.

"Say, little Demon, how were those past missions you've been on?" he asked as he neared finishing braiding her hair. He had heard of it, how Haneul had been sent out on several back-to-back missions, barely having a moment's rest. Their forces had been pressed thin recently, and many of them had been able to work harder than normal. Haneul had been one of those. This mission they were now on was merely a continuation of that, as far as he knew.

Frowning lightly, Lavi looked up from his handiwork. She had not answered him. Was she so frustrated that she went so far as to ignore him? "Han-chan?" he asked softly, tying off the ribbon that held her braid together. He was then the one to become frustrated at her silence. "Hey!" he said a bit louder, but still quiet enough so he would not disturb anyone else on the train. Tugging on her hair, the redhead tried to get the red-eyed Exorcist's attention. But, after tugging her braid, that was not what he got.

Pulled back by the force of his tug, she slumped against his shoulder. Strands of hair that fell across her face moved slightly with each soft breath. Lavi blinked in surprise. Had she really fallen back asleep so easily? He could not help but feel a little jealous. Then again, he figured she was just very tired after being pushed to do all those missions before.

A frown crossed her face for a moment and she shifted slightly. He then heard her mutter something under her breath, something about a stupid rabbit, from what he could tell. Smiling softly to himself, Lavi moved very carefully so he would not wake her...again. She had already gotten angered by being once that night, he did not want to tempt her wrath by waking her a second time. Crossing his arms, Lavi tried his best to clear his mind so he could finally get some sleep.

:::

"Man, you wouldn't think people here were being attacked by Akuma," commented Lavi as they got off the train the following day. It was true. The people they saw travelling about continued on their daily lives, as though none had ever heard of the dreaded monsters. "Well, what first, Han-chan?"

Haneul let out a long sigh. A sudden cry of pain escaped Lavi. Hopping around on one foot, he gripped his other one. "Woops, it slipped," she grinned, picking up her suitcase that had "accidentally" fallen on his foot.

"Why you," growled out the redhead. Shaking his leg, he carefully placed it back on the ground, overplaying the pain just a bit.

"We get our rooms first, and then go talk to this Miracle Worker." Slinging her suitcase over her shoulder, Haneul made her way into the town. After grumbling something under his breath, Lavi hobbled on after her. Perhaps he should stop calling her by that nickname after all...it might just let him live longer.

Once they talked to some townspeople, the two Exorcists were quickly able to find an inn, but not before they got an insight as to what the place looked like. People appeared to be preparing for some grand occasion. Decorations hung from houses and were streamed along the streets. Everyone was helping in some way or another. It was comforting to the redhead in a way, to see people able to have a joyous occasion despite these dark times. It redeemed humanity a bit in his eyes.

"I'm sorry, but we only have one room available at the moment," answered the receptionist after Haneul had asked for two rooms.

"One room?" she asked back in disbelief.

The receptionist nodded his head. "Yes. With our annual festival tomorrow, things are rather packed. And having more people come to see Mr. Coleman while he's here does not help the matter."

"Mr. Coleman?" blinked Lavi. "Is that the name of the guy who's performing all the miracles?"

Smiling, the receptionist nodded. "Yes. It truly is amazing to see him heal those poor people."

"I think we'll be taking that room." If Haneul had any protests to it, she did not voice them. Grabbing their stuff, the two Exorcists quickly went to drop it off in their room. "Healing powers... Just think what that would do for the Order if we had it on our side!" cheered out Lavi.

Haneul rubbed the back of her head once she placed down her suitcase. "And what if it's not Innocence?"

"Huh? You serious? What else could it possibly be?"

"You tell me, you're the Bookman."

"Bookman Junior," he corrected her.

"I'm just saying..." she muttered with a shrug.

"A wager then!" Lavi held up a finger. Spinning around to face him, Haneul gave the redhead a questioning stare.

"What?"

"A wager! If it's Innocence, then you owe me something. If it's not, then I owe you something!"

She crossed her arms and gave him a rather skeptic look. "This is hardly something we should be making a bet on..."

"Aw, c'mon!"

Sighing, Haneul rolled her eyes for a second before looking back to him. "What would the winner get?"

Cupping his chin in his hand, Lavi gave it some thought. "How about anything you want?"

"...Anything?"

"Yep, anything. What's the matter, afraid you'll lose?"

She puffed out her cheek slightly in offence. "Hardly."

A wicked grin crossed Lavi's face as he held out a hand. "Well then?"

After chewing on her bottom lip in thought, Haneul took his hand and shook it, sealing the wager. "You're on."

"All right! To this Mr. Coleman we go!"

By following the crowds of people, it was not hard to find where Mr. Coleman was set up for his stay in the town. As they found out, he was about to perform one of his miracles shortly. There was large tent, big enough to hold all the people that were flocking towards it. Merging with the crowd, Lavi and Haneul filed in and took seats near the back. All sorts of people had gathered. Young. Old. Men. Women. Healthy people. And sick people.

"Man, this guy gets quite the turn-out," sighed Lavi as he slung his arm over the back of his chair. To his side, Haneul quietly agreed.

Chatter rose up around them as people waited for Mr. Coleman to appear. Lavi was rather eager to see these so-called miracles in action. Once they saw it was Innocence that was giving this man the ability to heal, then they could quickly take him back to Headquarters and deal with any Akuma that might be in the way...not to mention he would win the wager.

The redhead felt as confident as possible that it was Innocence. It was not as though people just normally gained healing abilities. And on top of that, the reports they had consisted of people being killed by Akuma in the areas this Miracle Worker had passed through. Innocence was the only answer to all of this.

Applauds suddenly filled the air as a middle-aged man walked out to the front of the crowd. Members of the audience even stood up to give him praise. Raising his hands, the man that Lavi figured to be Mr. Coleman quieted down the audience.

"Thank you, thank you," said Mr. Coleman, smiling brightly. The audience quickly settled down. "The faith all of you have shown is simply breathtaking. God certainly smiles down upon you." He continued on like this for a while. Everyone there clung to every word he said so readily, as though they found salvation in his speech.

Glancing to his side, Lavi saw just how bored Haneul was quickly becoming. She was slowly sinking lower and lower into her seat, a look of displeasure etched into her features. It was one of the odd traits about her, for being an Exorcist, she hated God. She had explained it briefly to him on one of their earlier missions together. And, unless her position had recently changed, she still despised the being that had chosen her to fight in this war against Akuma and the Millennium Earl.

"Why should we be the ones to fight?" she had asked him during that time. "Why doesn't God fight his own battles instead of using humans as tools?" Even now, Lavi had no answer for her question. Still, despite her dislike for God and being a weapon used to fight during this war, fight she did. She had her reasons, and Lavi had not pried to find out what they were.

"Now, it is time to let God decide. Remember, it is the Lord who does the healing, and not me. I am merely a vessel for his will; he is the one who guides me." The audience applauded and Lavi sat up a bit straighter. If Mr. Coleman was about to heal someone, he did not want to miss a thing. Similarly, Haneul also sat up slightly.

"Innocence is looking pretty good now, huh?" Smirking, Lavi glanced to his friend. She arched an eyebrow at him. "Hm, I wonder what I'll make you do when I win the bet."

"Step up here, son, please," came the voice of Mr. Coleman.

A sickly-looking person shakily rose as the rest of the people clapped. Many seemed happy for him, while a few others appeared disappointed. Depending on how many of these "miracles" Mr. Coleman performed while in an area, Lavi suspected that those who were disappointed had been waiting for some time to be chosen.

"Now, I shall require all of us to pray with me. Together, we shall ask God to heal this man." Everyone clasped their hands together and bowed their heads in prayer. All save for the Exorcists. Though they placed their hands together to blend into the crowd, the two of them kept Mr. Coleman and the young man within their sights. To find out the answer to what was going on, they could not miss a thing.

Mr. Coleman placed a hand on the head of the young man. Quietly, the sick-looking man closed his eyes and waited. Moments passed with everything remaining the same. Then...the man crumpled to the ground. Lavi blinked in surprise. Something like that hardly seemed fitting to be called a miracle. Though he knew he should have continued watching, Lavi's eye darted around. For just a moment, the redhead had thought something else was there.

"It is done!" called out Mr. Coleman. Quickly, Lavi looked back in time to see the young man rising up. No longer did he appear sickly and look like he would pass out at any moment. Standing tall, he looked as healthy as anyone could possibly be. Taking Mr. Coleman's hand, he thanked the Miracle Worker profusely. Cheers began to rise up and some of the audience even gave standing ovations.

"That...was it?" Lavi scrunched up his face as he watched the man return to his seat. The fiery-haired Exorcist had expected something...more from someone being healed by Innocence. If it had been Innocence at all.

"Innocence is looking pretty good now...huh?" Haneul shot a smirk at him, a spark of confidence burning in her eyes. Lavi grunted and frowned at her. If it had been Innocence that healed the man, then it certainly had not looked like any kind of activation he had ever seen before.

"It's a shame we don't have a mini Hevlaska or something we can carry along with us to check these sort of things..."

A weak laugh escaped Haneul while Mr. Coleman addressed the crowd once again. "Yes, but then that would take all the fun out of our wager, wouldn't it?"

"Yeah, yeah. C'mon, let's just go talk to this guy." Standing up, Lavi headed towards the Miracle Worker while the other people began to file out.

"I am sorry, but I cannot perform any more miracles at the moment. Thank you for attending. May God smile down upon you."

"Yeah, that's great, pops, but we're not here for a miracle." Mr. Coleman looked up to Lavi. "We're Exorcists, and we need to talk to you."

"Exorcists?" Brown eyes widened slightly, as though in fear.

"Yep! I'm Lavi, and this here's Demon."

Mr. Coleman quickly switched his gaze to Haneul. "D-Demon...?" he asked shakily.

Sighing, the red-eyed Exorcist shot Lavi a glare. "I'm just one hell of an Exorcist, but my name is Haneul."

He made a quiet "ah" before standing straighter. "Well, what can I help you Exorcists with?"

"When were you able to start performing these miracles?" Taking a step forward, Haneul got straight to the point.

"A few months ago, actually. A child of a family friend was deathly ill. No medicine was helping him, yet we all tried to find him help." Mr. Coleman's look became distant as he explained the origin of the miracles. "We prayed and prayed, and then, when all seemed hopeless, our prayers were answered. I don't know why, but God gave me the power to heal him. From then on, I've been spreading my gift to those deserving of God."

"And he just answered your prayers like that?" questioned Lavi, tapping a finger to his chin. "Sure you didn't come across something just before all this started to happen?"

Mr. Coleman shook his head. "No. I'm sorry, but will you excuse me? I'm afraid I need to get some rest now. Miracles are hard work!" he laughed out.

"Ah, of course." Nodding, Lavi was quick to take a hold of Haneul's arm to drag her out before she could think to say something.

"What was that for?" she asked once they left the tent, nearly wrenching her arm from his hold. "We should've kept asking things!"

Lavi ran a hand through his hair and sighed. "I really don't think we'd get anything more out of him at the moment. That guy looked like he would fall asleep any second. Besides, do you really think he'd give us a different story even if we asked a thousand times?"

Haneul cast her eyes down. "No..." she mumbled.

"Exactly. While I don't think that was the entire truth, I doubt he'd be telling us anything else for now..."

"Then what do you propose we do?"

"Ask around, mainly anyone who has been healed, and keep an eye out for Akuma and Innocence. It's all we can do right now, really."

:::

After spending the rest of the day asking around the town, the two Exorcists had finally given up and went to turn in for the night. Even with asking nearly everyone they came across, they had gotten no other versions of what the miracles were. They were just that. Miracles. There was nothing else they could find that would hint otherwise.

When they had tried to go to sleep, Lavi had spent longer than he intended mulling over all of it over in his mind. In all the history he knew, there was nothing else like this. Something that could not be explained...it annoyed him. He could only hope they would have more luck in the morning.

In a way, they did. However, their luck came at the expense at someone else's life. A young, and healthy, person had been found dead, and by the looks of it, he had died only the day before by unknown causes. Suspicious, the two Exorcists went to the Undertaker to investigate.

"Such a shame, such a shame," mumbled the Undertaker. "It's never pleasant when the young die."

"Lavi, look." Brushing back the bangs of the young man, Haneul gestured to what was printed on his forehead.

"A pentagram..." breathed the redhead. "So that means..."

"Akuma," finished Haneul with a whisper. "But...why aren't more people dead? Not that I'm complaining, of course, but...you'd think even a single Akuma would seek to kill more."

"Each of the past few bodies that have come in here have had that mark on their forehead," explained the Undertaker once he saw their interest in the mark. The two Exorcists looked up to him. "Very odd. Not only did those people seem completely healthy, but there's no other mark on them. If I didn't know better, I'd say it's as though their very life was just sucked out of them."

"Sir...just how many people have died with this mark on them?"

"Six."

"Six..." she muttered back. Glancing to Lavi, she caught his gaze. "That's the number of people that have been cured by a miracle..." Lavi's eyes widened as what she was beginning to hint at sunk in. Mr. Coleman was able to perform a miracle, saving one life, but only at the cost of another.

Forcing a grin back to his face, Lavi looked to the Undertaker. While the redhead had understood what Haneul was hinting at, the other man had not, and Lavi was thankful for that. "Well, thanks for your time, but we need to be going now." Without waiting for any sort of response from the Undertaker, Lavi was quick to take his leave, Haneul trailing after.

"This can't be possible," commented Lavi once they were clear of anyone else overhearing.

"We can't rule anything out at this time!" countered Haneul. "We have to face the fact that it is looking less and less likely that Innocence is the cause of all this!"

"But Akuma?"

"Maybe it wasn't God that answered his prayers back then," she sighed. "Maybe it was the Millennium Earl, or even the Devil himself."

Frustrated, Lavi clutched his head. "Why are people so stupid! Who would make that kind of deal! Saving a life at the cost of another like that... Akuma are bad enough, but this makes me sick." His faith in humanity was already quite low after all he had learned from being an Apprentice Bookman. Finding out about this was not helping to boost that faith.

"People do desperate things for ones they care about..."

"So, what, do you think Mr. Coleman's really an Akuma then?"

She glanced to the side for a moment, a pensive look crossing her face. "I don't think so... He was right there performing the miracle, and the person they found dead was outside the other end of town. No... I think he's just a normal human who is, somehow, using an Akuma as a tool."

Lavi let out a long sigh. "I suppose we can take some comfort in the fact that it's not a whole bunch of Akuma flocking after Innocence and killing more people..."

"So...you admit that Innocence isn't involved in this?"

Surprised by the near-cocky look on her face, Lavi quickly waved his hands in defence. "Oh no! The wager isn't over till it's over! There could still be Innocence involved in this!"

Covering her mouth with a hand, Haneul laughed softly. "All right, all right. Let's just go find that Akuma then before Mr. Coleman performs another miracle."

:::

Flames shot up into the sky in the form of a snake. While normally the blazing heat would destroy anything near it, this fire only had one target: the Akuma. As dusk began to fall, the two Exorcists had found an Akuma outside of the town. It had not been in time, though. The body of another innocent person was found before not too far away, a pentagram stamped on her forehead as well. Dodging out of the way in time, the Akuma managed to escape the flames.

"Damn, it's a quick one," cursed Lavi, bringing his hammer back to him. "For a Level Two, it sure is annoying!"

"What are with those chains though? I don't think they're part of the thing's design." Sure enough, as Haneul had pointed out, chains with runes etched into them encircled the Akuma. Unlike most chains, these were not hindering or restricting the movements of the Akuma at all. It continued to fight and move freely, as though nothing was wrong.

"Let's find out why it's like that after we kill it, all right?"

"What are you doing?" demanded a new voice. Shocked at the idea that anyone else would be there at that time, the two Exorcists looked over in the direction of the complaint.

"Mr. Coleman?" they called out in unison.

"Stop this! You would dare deprive people of more miracles?"

"What miracles?" spat Lavi, striking at the Akuma with his hammer. "You think killing innocent people counts as a miracle?"

"Akuma will kill people either way, will they not?" asked Mr. Coleman, regaining his composure. "What's wrong in taking those deaths to save lives? I managed to capture this blasted Akuma in order to save those people who would otherwise be abandoned!"

"Did he say captured?" whispered Lavi. "Han-chan, maybe that explains the chains! I'll take care of the Akuma and you go and see if the way Mr. Coleman's controlling it is on him!"

"Wait, what? Lavi!" she called out after him, but it was no use. The fiery-haired Exorcist was already rushing off to keep the Akuma occupied. If he could kill the living weapon quickly enough then that would make things all the much better. If not...well, he had faith in Haneul.

Striking down with his hammer once again, a curse escaped Lavi as the Akuma still managed to dodge his attacks. It was as though all of this Akuma's powers were channelled into being able to move quickly. Though, as he soon, and painfully, found out, that was not the case. A scythe-like limb came crashing down at him. Though he brought up his hammer in time to defend against being sliced in two, the force of the attack sent him flying back.

His body ached as Lavi pushed himself up from the ground. Such raw power. What this Akuma seemed to lack in abilities it made up in pure strength. Eye widening in shock, Lavi froze in fear. Tendrils of faint light reached out and grasped onto him. Draining... He felt as though his very life was being drained from him. How the Akuma had managed to take the life from those people without leaving any other mark was now becoming clear to Lavi.

As fast as it began...it stopped.

Breathing easy once again, Lavi pushed himself up. The Akuma that hovered in the air above him cried out as the chains surrounding it shattered.

"Free!" it hissed. Lavi was no longer the center of its attention. There was another human that it wanted to kill first.

"Han-chan! Mr. Coleman! Watch out!" yelled the redhead, bringing his hammer up. Never before had he felt so sluggish in attacking a foe. Not even Haneul, who he knew was quite nimble in battle, was fast enough to fend off the Akuma.

Mr. Coleman did not stand a chance as the Akuma crashed into him. Fear was etched into his expression as the scythe-like limbs sliced through his torso, but it was not seen for long.

"Hi Ban: Gouka Kaijin!" cried out Lavi. The fiery snake returned and this time, so focused had it been on Mr. Coleman, the Akuma did not doge in time. Flames worthy of being called hellfire charred the Akuma. Reduced to nothing more than ash, it faded away on the wind.

"Mr. Coleman!" cried out Haneul as Lavi came rushing up to them. It was no use. Not only had the "Miracle Worker" been sliced into pieces, but the signs of an Akuma Virus quickly reduced the human to dust.

"Well...guess that Akuma didn't like being bound up," muttered the redhead grimly as he stared at the remains of Mr. Coleman and the Akuma. "What was it anyway, Han-chan? How'd you get that Aku—"

Slap!

Ears ringing, Lavi could only stare off in the direction before him after Haneul's hand came into contact with his face. It was one of the last things he ever expected her to do.

"You idiot," she choked out. Raising a hand to his stinging cheek, Lavi looked over to his friend in shock. Despite her recent action, her voice was not angry at all. She was completely still. The redhead could only begin to imaging what it was taking for her to appear to calm. "Do you always have to do things so recklessly? What if I hadn't gotten to Mr. Coleman in time? What if I hadn't managed to destroy this blasted talisman before that Akuma drained the life from you?" Her only sign of frustration came when she threw the shards of the talisman she had been talking about to the ground.

Lavi was not sure what hurt more at that moment: the slap or her words. Her hands clenched into fists. The redhead could only silently watch as she sunk to her knees.

"You know, I always figured the people who turned their loved ones into Akuma fools. I mean, who would be so stupid as to turn someone they care about into an abomination like that? But...they do it because they cared..." She shook her head and clutched at her pants. "Do you ever think about it, Lavi? About how many people would be affected if something were to happen to you?" When Haneul looked up at him, and he saw the look on her face, the fiery-haired Exorcist could find no voice to respond. "You're an Apprentice Bookman, I know that... But that doesn't keep the people you work with from caring about you!"

"Haneul..." he muttered as each of her words sunk in. Unable to look her in the eyes any more, he cast his gaze down. As a Bookman Junior, it was his job to record history without getting connected to those around him. To remain impartial...to have no need for a heart...that was his role as a successor to the Bookman line. Others though, as she had reminded him...they still had hearts.

:::

Noise from the festival going on outside trickled into their room. Many had asked them to stop and join the festivities, but neither of the Exorcists were in much of a mood for it after what had happened. All they had done was tell the Mayor of the town that Mr. Coleman was dead, having been killed by an Akuma, and then head straight for their rooms. Neither of the Exorcists could bring themselves to explain the truth behind Mr. Coleman's miracles.

Weary from the mission, Lavi closed the door behind them. Since her outburst after the destruction of the Akuma and the death of Mr. Coleman, he and Haneul had not said a word to each other. What she had said still hung in his mind, causing him more unease than he would have liked. That look in her eye when she had met his gaze...he could not begin to describe what it had been. Never had he seen that look from her before. That look...

"We'll take the first available train back tomorrow," she muttered, finally breaking the silence between them. "Komui and the others will be disappointed it wasn't Inno—"

Anything else she had to say was promptly cut off by a pair of lips covering hers.

Lavi was uncertain what made him do it, he just felt like he had to. Arms either side of her, he kept her trapped against a wall. Speaking of those that cared for him...had she just been referring to herself? Even if he was meant to have no heart, no connections to others, something did stir within him when he kissed her.

Pulling back, he shot her a soft grin. Her surprised expression could not help but make him want to chuckle.

"Strike..." he whispered.

Laughter then danced in her eyes as a smile of her own tugged at her lips. At least now the redhead was certain he would not be getting hurt from his little gamble. Taking his orange scarf into her hand, she fiddled with the end of it for a moment. Patiently, Lavi waited for any other response.

"You know, about that wager of ours..." she began slowly, remaining focused on the end of the scarf. A light groan of annoyance escaped Lavi. He had hoped she had forgotten about that with how the whole ordeal had ended. "I think it's pretty safe to say that Innocence wasn't a part of this."

"Yeah," he sighed out exasperatedly. He had held on for as long as he could in the hopes that there was Innocence, but that had been in vain in the end. "What do you want then?"

"I want you..." Dropping his scarf, she leaned up to whisper more in his ear. "To never, ever...call me Han-chan again..." A grin tugged at her lips as she leaned back against the wall.

Lavi could not help but laugh. He thought it a bit of a waste on her part to have that be her wager, but it could have been a lot worse for him. "All right, all right...little Demon." Before she could add anything to her request, Lavi quickly leaned back in and kissed her again.

At that moment, as she kissed him back, he did not care about what he was allowed and not allowed to do. The people around him now were more than mere ink on paper...they were people he had come to care about. There would be time enough later for him to close off his heart from others. Right now...well, he just wanted to forget a little. Being a Bookman Junior... Having to leave his emotions behind... None of that mattered in that moment.

For a little while, at least, Lavi was just a person who had come to care deeply for someone else.


A/N: Hopefully fellow fans of Kuroshitsuji (Black Butler) were able to pick up on the joke, but for those who didn't... When Haneul says "I'm one hell of an Exorcist", in Japanese, that line could be translated as either "I'm one hell of an Exorcist" or "I'm a demon and an Exorcist". A joke that doesn't do so well once translated, but I wanted Lavi to have another nickname for her and I just couldn't resist...

And for other fellow fans of Supernatural...you better have been able to recognize the plot.

Hope you liked it!