Visitations in the Night
Part 2 of 2
THANKS to all of you who have read this, favorited it in one way or another, reviewed it and/or sent me a pm about your thoughts. I sincerely appreciate all of your feedback and especially the fact that you took time out of your day to read this little ditty. I would like to address a few messages I received from other passionate DGM fans (I 3 you guys!) about why I was disappointed by Lenalee's non-actions in the manga so far in respect to Allen's confinement/situation. I am sure she's concerned as all hell but my disappointment stems from Hoshino seemingly moving away from showing Lenalee's real affection and connection with Allen. Hoshino spent so much time cultivating and nurturing Allen and Lenalee's relationship that I can't help but feel, especially recently, that it's being pushed aside. I know there's a lot going on what with Kanda's sitch and the 14th's imminent rebirth to deal with any "relationship-y" stuff but I feel like it's a disservice to the characters to be missing such a big chunk of their usual interaction. So, that's my primary beef with the manga so far.
The other point that some made was that Lenalee may not know where Allen is or that he's even been imprisoned so that may explain her "non-action." I have to call shenanigans on that theory because CLEARLY everyone at HQ knows that Allen is imprisoned (Johnny pretty much yells it out in the dining hall as an already known fact) and Lenalee's a smart girl…she can see that the place is crawling with people from Central and from The Vatican. She would easily surmise that the only reason they are surrounded by such personnel is because Allen is there as well. Also, where ever Allen is, so is Howard Link. What gets me is that if Lenalee had any question in her mind about Allen, all she would have had to do was ask Komui since he's in the know. But she's not shown doing any of that. Thereby stems my frustration with her seemingly static character in the manga up until now. I'm crossing my fingers that Hoshino has some little tidbit in store for us (even if it's a single little panel showing Lenalee with a thought bubble about Allen) in a later Chapter somewhere. Anyway…on with the show…
The Black Order Headquarters – Cell Block F
"You care for this boy quite a bit, don't you, young lady?" said Allen, with an amused lilt.
She looked up into Allen's face – an unfamiliar face – whose skin was ashen gray.
"KYAA-!" was all she was able to blurt out as she rocked back on her heels so hard and so fast that she started to fall backwards, this at the same time her scream was cut off prematurely from her lips as a sly grin interrupted her with a quiet "Shhhhhh…."
The knock on the door came in quick succession, rap rap rap, "Are you all right, Miss Lee?" asked the officer.
Lenalee stared wide-eyed and terrified at the scene around her and absorbed all she could – Timcanpy had started pulsating more energy such that there were tendrils of electricity sparking around him; the mitarashi dango that had been unceremoniously dropped on the floor to her left; the roll of tape she had flung in surprise against the wall on her right where it had bounced off the wall and landed; a warm but crushing grip on her left wrist holding her upright, keeping her from falling as she teetered precariously on the back of her heels; and that sly grin on a face she knew but didn't know; heavy-lidded eyes that were staring up at her from a lowered head, shadowed and intense, unblinking.
"I-I'm fine," she yelled at the door as quickly as she could think. "I just saw a mouse and it surprised me. I almost broke a dish…the prisoner will be finished with his meal soon."
"Good," came the reply, then silence.
"Let. Me. Go." Lenalee hissed at the person in front of her.
He did so, without so much as a word, and Lenalee had to catch herself by placing her now free left hand down on the ground for stabilization. Her wrist was already smarting from the vice-like grip it had endured moments before.
"Couldn't have you calling all manner of attention in here right now, could we?" asked the obscene stranger, cloyingly.
Lenalee held her breath as if it would help her process and makes sense of things. His voice was Allen's but with a clipped edge to it, deeper. There was no softness or innate humility in his tone, only the steadiness and clarity of someone in complete control.
"Allow me to introduce myself…" he began.
That broke her out of her self-imposed reverie. "I know who you are…" she started as she up got onto one knee, preparing to stand.
"Is that so? I know who you are as well."
Lenalee slowly clenched and unclenched her fists but finally she sidled back down to sit before him.
"That's better," he said. "You know I won't do anything right now. It's not time yet."
"Where's Allen-kun? What are you going to do with him?" she demanded, barely able to keep her voice from rising.
"Don't you want to know HOW I know you, Lenalee Lee?" he asked, keeping his face still as stone, the grin never reaching his eyes.
This was the face she had seen when Allen had come back from his mission with Timothy in tow. She had heard that he'd been injured very badly that time and, while Inspector Link had stepped out of the room for a moment, Lenalee had gone inside, hoping to catch Allen when he awoke. He had lain there on his bed, so still and quiet, his body battered and bruised. But she knew she would wait as long it took. It was a few hours later when she heard him rustle and she realized that she had dozed off as well. She'd only just returned from her own mission, worn out and disheveled, but first thing was first: She needed to see that Allen was all right. When she sat up from Link's bed and called his name, she had caught a quick glimpse of his countenance. It was the same one that was looking at her so disconcertingly now.
"Ah. So you DID see me then," he said knowingly, after watching the delicate shift of expression on Lenalee's face as his question hung in the air in silence. "He pushed me back hard that time when he heard your voice. That was all it took. I was impressed with the force of it. But I suppose I understand why."
She barely heard him. Lenalee's eyes focused and found purchase on Allen's state. He still had open cuts on his right arm and he was bruised all over. It was harder to tell through the slate tone of his skin now but she knew Allen's paleness lent itself easily to the blossoming blue, purple, and red palette of contusions. It took all of her will not to reach over and tend to those wounds; wounds he bore for his fellow Exorcists and the humans they all protected.
"Allen-kun…" she whispered to herself, lost for words, lost for action.
"He's not as weak as you think."
"I know that!" she snapped.
"It's because you see him die almost every night," he said, nonchalantly.
"What did you say…?"
"I know about your dream. He has had the same one; each time the same. You're alive while he's not. He sees it, too, though he doesn't recognize it as him. He only sees you, weeping and alone. I've seen you many times, Lenalee; through his dreams and his reality. I can feel what he feels which is why I've wanted to meet you face to face...to see for myself. And, so…here we are." Again with the grin. Again with the steady, disconcerting gaze.
"Why are you doing this? What do you want with Allen-kun?"
"Why am I doing this? I have plans, Lenalee…"
Every time he said her name with Allen's voice, with Allen's mouth, she shuddered. It was like the twisting of something she normally embraced; a ruination of something beautiful, like crushing flowers underfoot.
"…but those plans are between me, my nephew, and the Earl."
"Your…nephew…?" Lenalee recalled the revelatory conversation she had with Allen about Mana being the 14th's brother. It was such a heavy burden for Allen to bear and she knew the idea of that connection and what it meant for Allen's relationship with his adoptive father had still not been reconciled. She wondered if it ever occurred to Allen that the 14th considered him in this way.
"Well, yes. My brother cared for him as he would a son. I was but a seedling planting my roots in Allen in those days but that doesn't mean I didn't feel my brother's devotion to him even then. It was as if I had never left him. He treated Allen much the same as he did me. I was truly reborn. I couldn't have chosen a better Host than this boy. He and I share more than Mana. We have the same goal ahead of us and he will be the key to my victory. It is just a matter of time before he sees this is best for him and accepts it."
"He's not as weak as you think," stated Lenalee.
He nodded at her, strangely pleased at having his own words thrown back at him.
"It is as you say. But that brings me back to you," he said, tilting his head slightly to the side.
Lenalee gulped. When he was talking about his brother and Allen, he had lost that sly grin. His face took an almost somber expression and his gaze seemed to go right past her. But now, those eyes were focused on her once again, steady and piercing. But this time, the grin remained undone.
"What is it about you, Lenalee Lee?" he continued.
Lenalee looked away from him. She had no answer and she wouldn't offer one up even if she did.
"Why so coy, all of a sudden?
"It's none of your business."
"Oh, but it is. Everything that has to do with Allen is MY business. I am he, and he is me."
"You're wrong! Allen is Allen! He existed before you forced yourself into his memories. He grew up to be a kind and courageous person with no help or hindrance from you. Your brother raised him for a while but so did General Cross! And Allen's had to raise himself for a long time as well and he's so much stronger than you…YOU, who still has to depend on him to exist. Without him, you'd be nothing. But without you…Allen would be….he'd be…Allen-kun, and that's more than anyone can hope to be."
Lenalee ended her hushed tirade, breathing heavily; heart-racing, eyes welling up from the deep conviction in her belief and the hope that Allen might somehow believe it as well.
"I see," he said, simply. The grin returned. "I wondered what it was that made Allen so very strong and very weak at the same time. I can understand it somewhat. This little story is turning out to be lovely."
Lenalee shook her head, not understanding.
"This is all so amusing; that one person could wreak so much havoc on another. I'm with him every day and I come to know and feel more and more of him, both in mind and body. This is how we will one day transition into each other. He doesn't bother getting to know me at all so I will be the dominant one. Eventually, he will just be integrated into me. So to see firsthand where his weaknesses and strengths lie is very important to me. And you, dear girl, are both to him."
"Sometimes, he'll see you walking down the corridor and his knees will go weak for a moment or he'll lose his train of thought. It's unnoticeable for anyone else but I can feel him buckle before he quickly chastises himself and becomes presentable. But he is so very vulnerable then. He'll hear you call to him and his blood surges. Your laughter rings in his ears longer than it physically ought because he'll keep replaying it. In these moments, fleeting as they are, someone could knock him over with a feather. It is quite charming. But it's also during these times I become stronger."
Lenalee looked up at him now, wide-eyed; her pulse racing at the idea of Allen being at the 14th's mercy because of her, inadvertently or no. She could take no delight in the things that were being revealed because it was at the cost of Allen's very own existence.
"But," he continued, "there are days when he throws himself between you and imminent death, risking himself as well as me, because he ardently believes that you should be saved at all costs. When he gets into that mindset, there is nothing I can do but take a back seat in the carriage and give up the reins all together. It is amusing, isn't it?"
"Why are you telling me this?" asked Lenalee in earnest.
"No particular reason. All things will inevitability lead to the same end but these things are just diversions along the way and it has been such a pleasure to experience them. Even the ones that vex me."
"Don't you care about Allen-kun at all?"
"That's an odd question."
"You call him your nephew but you're so willing to erase him from existence…"
"I am he and he is me. He will live on in me, it's all the same."
"No. It's not the same. Allen-kun is my friend; my comrade….my world. I can't lose him."
"It is difficult to be human, isn't it?"
"You once felt love when you were with your brother. Is it so hard to remember?"
"THAT….is beyond me now. I have a heavier charge that I must carry out and you will do well to hear my words when I say that I must succeed…for all of our sakes."
"If it is at the cost of Allen-kun's life, then I can't let you."
"It is unnecessary for there to be enmity between us, Lenalee. I'd prefer there not be."
"Please! Give Allen-kun back…" cried Lenalee, less sternly than she wanted. It seemed more like pleading.
"Everything is in motion and the outcome is set…what are you doing…?"
Lenalee had reached out and grabbed his right arm. It felt like she was holding onto Allen. If she closed her eyes, she could imagine it so. But the tell-tale grey tone kept her rooted in reality. Nevertheless, she took a new washcloth, dabbed it into clean water, and began to wipe away the dried blood from the cuts on his arm.
"Stop…" he began.
"I need to do this…"
"I am not Allen."
"These are Allen-kun's wounds…"
"I am Neah, the 14th Noah of the Noah Clan…"
"These are Allen-kun's wounds…"
For once his expression was not of smug confidence, but one of pure shock. He stared down at Lenalee and watched her cleanse his wounds and bandage them. He made no real attempt at pulling away like she thought he would. One by one, no matter how small, she ministered to each cut and as she did so, his features continued to soften. She then turned her attention to the small cuts on his face. Gingerly she swabbed away dirt and blood from his cheek and nose and chin.
"When was the last time anyone has actually ever touched you?" she ventured as she put away the last of the bandages under the cart.
"…When you were with Mana?"
He closed his eyes. "I have no words for you, Lenalee Lee."
She realized that, even though it felt like hours, she'd been in the cell about 20 minutes and she was losing precious time.
"Give him back," she said calmly.
And before she could stop herself, she leaned in and embraced him fully, crushing herself against him and his sealed left arm.
"Allen-kun, please…" she whispered into his left ear, blowing away his hair as his name left her lips. "Come back."
"L-Lenalee…?" he said, his voice quivering.
Lenalee slowly pulled away from him, leaving only scant inches between them so she could look into his eyes. They were grey and soft and…confused.
"Are you okay, Lenalee?"
A brilliant flush spread over Allen's face and she rejoiced, pulling him to her again in a fierce embrace, tears flowing unchecked.
It was awkward. He was awkward. But she didn't care. She would hold him regardless. Then she felt a slight pressure on the small of her back, where Allen had gently laid his hand to hold her against him as well.
"Miss Lee! I've received word that Inspector Link will be coming down for his usual…interview."
Lenalee pulled reluctantly away from Allen and began arranging the cart, after picking up the dango that was dropped on the floor. "Yes! I'm done here, please unlock the door," she yelled.
Allen looked down at himself for want of something better to do and noticed all of his wounds were cleaned and bandaged, including his right arm.
Lenalee quickly took out food that had not been eaten yet and placed them in the nook next to Allen so he could still eat when she was gone. After covering up the cart, she kneeled down once more before Allen. Brushing his unruly hair away from his clear, grey eyes, she tucked some lengths of it behind his left ear. Just as she heard the last click of the lock, she allowed her hand to drift from his hair to his face and linger there for a moment longer.
"I feel the same, Allen-kun," she said, and then she quickly rose and pushed the cart in front of her. She looked one last time over her shoulder to where Allen was sitting but his face was obscured by the shadows once more.
Allen heard the door close behind her and the click of the lock. He strained to hear the sound of the cart rolling across the uneven stone floor, becoming ever distant until even the echoes died away into nothing. He looked at his right hand and saw the result of Lenalee's attention and the bruises that threatened to spread across his pale skin. He slowly brought his hand up to his face and placed it lightly where Lenalee had held him for a few seconds before she left.
"Allen is Allen," he said to himself, and smiled a smile that reached all the way to his eyes.
A/N – Thank you all again for reading this! I feel a little better for getting it out of my system. I had no idea where it would lead but I'm glad you came along with me. I hope you enjoyed some of it. Now I can get back to my main DGM fanfiction, woo hoo! Please be so kind as to leave a review if you feel up to it