A/N: Final part. I can't afford to speculate too much; my last fic already did that XD. And this is written as if 203 hadn't come out yet because I had intended to write it before it came out, but…you can tell I didn't make it. :/ I decided against putting 203 in this because it would be too hard to work it in.
Part III: Failed Attempts to Fly
'Link…just a little more would have been enough.
'I wanted you to trust in me. Tokusa—I'm…sorry…
"Inspector Howard Link!"
"Y-yes? Excuse me." He had been zoning out; no sleep at all last night for him was catching up fast.
"Your report, please."
Ah, yes, his pathetic report.
"How is Allen Walker's condition? Is he still refusing to cough up the location of the Third Exorcists?"
…Third Exorcists? Weren't they asking about Kanda Yuu and Alma Karma? The Thirds— "Y-you are…" Komui Lee and Bak Chan were glaring at him.
"Please continue with your report, Inspector Link!" Years of training prevented him from flinching. Even if it was Leverrier.
Report, report… "He…he is completely silent." Half the truth. "Over the past few days, Walker hasn't answered a thing during his interrogations." Nothing valuable to Central, anyway. "He isn't even awake at most times." Because… "fearing that truth serum may be mixed into his food, he has accepted nothing but water."
Were they going to press for more—
"That sly Satan."
He froze. Satan? That was going too far…but that wasn't just what the other was saying…
"We must make him understand his current position." Link listened numbly, dreading and know where this was going. "Even with his stomach pierced like that, he's showing no signs of breaking. Perhaps we should consider using rougher methods…"
He was holding his breath, waiting for the inevitable words.
"If I may." Eyes turned onto Zhu. "Kanda Yuu died together with Alma Karma."
Everyone gave pause. "He will not return." Zhu shook his head. "In these past days, a strange rust has covered Mugen." He held up the Innocence sword; indeed, it seemed rusted…with feathers. "This must be proof that it has lost its compatible."
Link's gaze darted from the man to the high-ups. Would this argument work?
"Walker is merely trying…to protect the will of his allies." Zhu continued. "If anything, we should be giving him mercy…"
No, you're asking too soon, Link was tempted to say.
Link gulped the best he could. Did that mean…no mercy at all for Allen?
"It is important that we get back Alma Karma and kill him so that we can then move on to gain the Third Exorcists back…either by force, or maybe we ought to sent Exorcists out to put them down lest the Earl use them."
He swallowed again and decided it was now or never that he tried to say something. "If I may," he slowly put in, forcing more confidence in his voice than he really felt. "I think we might be moving too fast." Don't look directly at anyone yet…especially not your superior.
"If the Earl truly was seeking after the Fourteenth, urgently—he would have come by now. It's been almost a week." Seeing how they were still listening, he tried to relax his tight shoulders, just a bit. "The last time he wanted something, he waited a far shorter period before sending Noah to retrieve the Egg. Besides—" His palms were sweaty inside the gloves. "We still don't fully understand either the Earl's will, or the Fourteenth's."
A pause. They were…actually still listening. Link hurried on. "I would say…give me another week to question Walker. He can't keep this up that long." Actually, he could, but this was the best he could do at buying however little time he could get.
"Why should we wait that long? You could use—"
"I'd rather not." Ah…don't interrupt so soon. Thank goodness he thought fast. "Walker doesn't work like that." Grimace, as if in disgust. "In fact, such measures only resolve more to not say anything. What is needed to make him talk…it's a different method and it takes time."
He was definitely looking away at Komui and Bak.
"Five days, Inspector Link, and then if he still isn't talking, we might have to consider termination."
…if only he were sure he would do it. "Understood." He nodded and saluted smartly.
There, he had tried. Buying time.
And feeling as if he were still falling short.
Jerry eyed him suspiciously. "It is just in his head, or are you really putting stuff in it, Inspector." He waved a pan at Link. "I won't have all of you spoiling my food."
He gritted his teeth. "I assure, no-one has tampered with his food. It's all in his mind."
"The poor kid…" Jerry sighed. "I missed him and his insane orders of food." Were those tears he was seeing? "But here you go—one bowl of rice gruel. This one should be a-OK!"
"You have to build it up! After not eating for several days, you eat too fast, you could die from overeating." The cook waved a finger in Link's face. "When he asks for more, tell me and I'll make it."
"Thank you." Link took the bowl and curtly turned.
"I'm just curious," The other propped his chin in his hand. "Why are you doing this? For Central because they don't want him to die too soon, or—"
Why, indeed. Link shrugged. "Everyone simply wants him to return," was all he said as he walked away. Past the people sitting around a table, shooting glares at him. Or, giving incomprehensible looks he couldn't return.
But it was true.
Yes, even he wanted that.
Once downstairs, he decided he had had enough of this passive, stilted awkwardness. He curtly nodded at the guards. "Get down."
"Huh-? Uh, yes, sir." The guard stepped away after unlocking the door, and Link kicked it open. All right, maybe that was a little dramatic, but he was in the mood to do that. And at least he made kicking a door while holding a bowl of food look dignified. Somewhat.
"Leave me alone with him for a bit." He said to the Crow. He could sense Allen watching him. "Keep watch outside."
Once the door shut behind him, he turned his cold look on Allen.
Allen looked at him docilely enough, if not nervously.
Link strode over to stand in front of him, holding the bowl out. And then, he unceremoniously smashed the bowl against Allen's head. Ignoring the Exorcist's yelp, he shoved the bowl and a spoon at him.
"This is Head Chef Jerry's rice gruel. I had him make it so that even a cautious person like you would eat it." He walked over and plonked himself down at the table. "Central has done nothing with your food, so eat." Honestly, he was so very frustrated and the frustration was manifesting itself like this. He turned in the chair and supported his head on his hand, looking anywhere except at Allen.
For a few minutes, there was nothing but the sound of ceramic against ceramic. And then he heard Allen's voice. "Link."
The first time since Allen had said it name.
"I'm sorry for attacking you back then."
…that was it?
Link looked back. "…just when I thought you were finally going to speak," he banged his fist against the table. "that's all you have to say?"
The boy looked away, scratching his cheek in embarrassment. Link simply stared at him until a sort of "what do you expect me to say" look appeared on Allen's face, and he was tempted to hit Allen over the head again.
Except he couldn't. Allen had asked for his trust, but…he hadn't given it. If…they were going to get anywhere, he probably should try. And then the anger evaporated.
"We were like family," he finally began, turning away again. "Having lost our parents, we grouped together and went to beg at churches." Surprised, Allen? You weren't the only one who lived on he streets. "Tevak and Kiredori were still young then. We just…naturally protected each other, together."
How he had almost forgotten those days.
"In order to survive, we were taking in by an underground organisation." Or the organisation that recruited Crow. "And at some point became like puppets." Link swallowed. This was him, revealing a bit of himself to Allen.
"The one…should really atone for the Thirds Exorcists is me." Not you. Not even the scientists. Not even the Thirds themselves. They might've made the choice, but— "I…I gave the Egg fragment to Leverrier."
He heard Allen sigh. "Ahh…this is really bad."
What? Link's gaze went back to the other.
"Hearing that now, I think I could have become better friends with the Thirds." Soft rustling as Allen shifted in his seat. "Once I found out they were half-Akuma, I adopted a feeling close to hatred. And so…the possibility for change had I known more was there.
"Kanda and Alma…might have possibly survived." Regret? Possibly. But now Link wished he hadn't said those things. "Not knowing…is a scary thing, isn't it?"
By now, he was looking fully at Allen.
…yes, it is scary, he wanted to say. But he couldn't bring himself to say it.
And there was so many things he didn't know. Like himself. What was he supposed to do—
The sound of ceramic shattering made him jerk upright, and he saw Allen spasming. "Walker—"
"Ah?" The Exorcist was tipping over. "Link—?" he murmured before his eyes began to shut.
"Walker!" Link was out of the chair and reaching out to catch Allen before he hit his head against the ground. "What are you—"
Funny how in one brief moment, he realised he cared. It wasn't about what Central wanted, or what he wanted—it was genuine want to see Allen all right…
Hands supporting Allen, he knelt there, wondering if things would ever be all right. Back to normal. But as the Cardinal came over and Link questioned him as to why he was where, he found he already knew the answer to that.
They…would somehow be better in time. They would win. But not without Allen. And not with him standing where was right now. He…was going to have to make his choice in time: Allen, or the Order.
And it was sooner than he had anticipated it.
A/N: Um…I kind of love Link too much.
Chapter titles taken from various songs. Part I—Breaking Inside by Shinedown, Part II—Never Surrender by Skillet, and Part III—Meant to Live by Switchfoot.
Thank you for reading and reviewing!