Title: Love

Author: Calenlass

Disclaimer: All characters belong to me! …not. As if I can come up with the things that Hoshino does.

Spoilers: DGM and generally all recent chapters.

Rating: PG-13/T

Warnings: Creepiness, angst, guilt-tripping, etc. And violence thrown in on the side. And h/c in the side. Shush, h/c is my thing. XD

Characters: Link, Fourteenth!Allen, and Allen

Pairings: …heh XD what I am best known for? Not shipping. Though I'm pushing the creepiness a bit. ;; It's not just the fact I don't do yaoi, but it's also the IC reaction of the characters that I have to take into consideration. But in this fic, yes, I do push my boundaries a little with Link, and if…he's played in certain situations. Or asked certain questions.

Summary: Love's a touchy subject for anyone. For Link? A hundred times worse.

A/N: Follow-up to Familiar/Unfamiliar. Tried to write a fic with Neah, Link, and Allen, but my brain does not work. B-day fic for an rp friend.


Love

"Howard~"

You want something, Link knows. "I'm not giving you whatever you want." Because you want the Earl. You want the Noah. You want Allen. Or maybe Allen's potential. But he knows that you don't want him. To put it simply, he was just a pawn to everyone. Serving people's commands and whims. He might be human with a mind of his own, but it wasn't a question of minds. It was a question of will. His will, seemingly strong in some places, was so pathetic in others.

"No? Not even the little bit I asked of you last time?"

"No." He's working hard to forget that stupid kiss, the uncomfortable crinkles that went up his spine, and those words of yours. Link looks up to glare at you. "I trust Walker, but I'll never trust you."

"No, what if I could do something to help him?"

Link senses you behind him. "You only make his case worse," he interjects, not turning around. He doesn't want to see your eyes. "Why am I going to trust a person who will eventually take over his body and memories and leave nothing behind?" He sees no reason in that. He doesn't want Allen to disappear.

A sigh, and then there are hands on his shoulders. He goes still, expecting the usual feather-light touches that leave him feeling uncomfortable. Maybe it's because he wasn't a touchy-feely sort of person. Never really had been.

However, he didn't really expect those fingers to start gently kneading his shoulders, though. "What are you—"

"Shh."

"It—"

"Just relax, Howard." The fingers move up his neck.

"…" In this sort of situation, how does one say no? The tension of several weeks in his muscles is suddenly ebbing away, and he finds himself relaxing his shoulders, closing his eyes, and breathing growing a little deeper. Even if the uneasiness is still in his mind and coiling in his chest.

"You like this, don't you?" A soft voice whispers in his ear, and he jerks away a little.

"…you—"

"And this?" One hand at his forehead now, pressing at the headache that had been his constant companion. The other hand is loosening his hair-tie and slowly slipping through his hair.

Ah… He sighs without meaning to. It had been a very long time since he had last allowed someone else to do that to his hair. Shivery but warm sensations travel down his back and arms as he finally leans back. For a few seconds, he can almost forget everything except this.

"Hmm, maybe I should try winning you over like this." A finger gently scrapes the side of neck, down to the collar of his shirt. "Makes it…so much easier for the both of us…"

His eyes snap open, and he immediately sits up and shoves the Fourteenth away. Face slightly red, mind you. "How dare you suggest that?" He cross his arms and glares…for what else can he do besides disapprove?

A smirk twists that face. "I'm a Noah, remember? According to you, we do anything to get anything we want."

"Why Walker?" Allen was…Allen. How else to describe a boy like him. "Like General Marian said a long time ago, you could have chosen a good-for-nothing…" And then his voice trails off. Hadn't…Allen been just that in the first place before Mana?

"So now you understand, Howard?" Idly, the other stretches his arms over his head—a movement similar to how Allen would usually stretch upon waking. "Anything. I could…" a pursing of lips, and then thoughtful humming, "really force you to do what I want."

Link has to snort at that. "If you think you know me, think again—I have nothing." Beyond Central and Allen, that is. There was nothing else holding him here. "Nothing for you to use again me—"

"Except Al~len."

He hates the way you draw that name out. "Well, that was the first issue," he grudgingly admits.

The Fourteenth shrugs a shoulder. "You're only making this more difficult for yourself," he answers. "I already know what you want. You want Allen."

"Not in whatever way you think I want him!" Link snaps. Good grief, he's not even thinking in that sort of direction.

"Tell me why you care."

"You wouldn't understand." He turns his head away.

"Oh?" A hand creeps to his chin and tugs, forcing him to look at those yellow eyes. He doesn't like the way the fingers are tracing his lips, nor the way those eyes are watching him. It's not even that he's an easy person to read, but when the Noah does this, he wonders how much the Fourteenth actually knows about him. "Try me."

…why, indeed. For a number of complicated reasons he doesn't know to put in words. So he tightens his jaw and looks into the distance.

"Howard, I thought you were a gentleman."

"I'm an ex-Crow," he emphasises that word. "I'm not required to be a gentleman at most times."

"But you ought to be cordial in a conversation."

"This isn't a conversation." Hell if it is. "It's an interrogation."

"The interrogator being questioned." Soft laughter, so different from Allen's. "They no longer fully trust you, you know."

"Tell me something I don't know." He knows they suspect.

"Why should I? You think I'm lying have the time."

"You probably are."

Another thin smile. "You just don't like the way I present the truth. And," A pause, and gold flickers into silver for a brief moment. "You hate it when I do this."

Link sees red and he suddenly lashes out, forgetting he's hardly any match for a Noah. But the Fourteenth only lets the blow fall, rocking a little back on his heels when he's punched in the eye. Because he knows Link is always holding his breath for the moment Allen Walker returns.

"That's going to leave a bruise, you know."

For that, you earn a bloody lip. He is about to throw another strike when the Noah finally grabs his wrist and in two quick moves, has his arm twisted behind his back, almost crushing his fingers, too. He can only grit his teeth at the pain. How strange only minutes ago…the atmosphere had been so different. His head bends and his hair slips over his shoulders.

God, he hates this helplessness and futility of his efforts. And he hates how in an instant you could give Allen back, but you don't. Playing with him.

The hand on his shoulder is almost gentle. "Who are you really fighting more, Inspector, me or yourself?"

"I think…you know the answer to that," he grates out. "Seeing how you know so much."

And then, maybe out of desperation, he sharply knocks his head against the Fourteenth's forehand. The hand releases him, and he lands a couple punches before he gets manhandled, knocked in the head, and is pinned to the ground with the other sitting on top of him. Blinking stars out of his sight, Link stares up at a face that he both knows and doesn't know, with a bruised eye and bloody lip.

"Your actions are uncalled for, Howard," Fingernails dig into his wrists; any deeper, they are going to draw blood. A knee shifts into his gut, and he unintentionally gasps. "Did you forget this is still Allen Walker's body?"

Meaning, those injuries are going to be left behind. He huffs through his teeth and blows his hair out of his eyes. "Maybe I did, maybe I didn't."

He did.

It was just that instant...those eyes… Even now, he already knows that Allen will forgive him for it. It doesn't mean that he can forgive himself, though.

"Poor little watchdog." The other tosses his head back and sighs loudly. "So alone and conflicted. Maybe even a little needy too, yes? For Allen."

"I've told you before, not in that way."

"Inspector, if you weren't bound to certain laws and other things…would you consider it?" A tip of the head, and a smile.

"Don't make me sick," he twists his arms, but grip on them is still tight. "I—"

No, he can't think of Allen like that. Didn't matter if it was allowed or not allowed. For one, he wouldn't be able to meet anyone's eyes after it. Has he even considered it, in his wildest thoughts? No.

It's something that went deeper than morals and laws. If he was going to be truthful, then…

One deep breath, and he meets those yellow eyes. "No." He almost breathes out that word, like a sigh. Didn't need to be forceful. Didn't even need to say it hatefully. "I'd betray myself and him."

The Fourteenth regards him with a look that was neither amusement nor displeasure. "Well, I'm glad we're actually being truthful to each other now. Maybe," a careless shrug, "you trust me to a degree you do not realise."

"By telling you something Walker is never going to hear about?"

"Hmph. I don't tell him anything. You're the one that choose to tell him things when he comes back."

"Why are you doing this, though?"

"I thought you already knew my goals." He clicks his tongue.

Link shakes his head. "Beyond that. Why a host. Why become the Earl. Why even involve Allen?"

"Love."

"…what?"

A strange smile, one that he's never seen before on the Fourteenth's face. "I'm still human, remember? And what is the thing humans want the most? To be loved. Or have you turned a deaf ear to everything your Allen Walker fights for?"

"Of course I've heard." And it is love that makes Allen pay right now. "But what does love have anything to do with your desires?"

"You think Noah don't love each other? Or that I'm incapable of love?" A chuckle, though this one sounds bitter. "God and the Earl can create, but they can't force people to love. It's either free will or be machines. And," Link must be imagining the faint drooping of shoulders. "Noah can't bring back the people they love if they aren't Noah. But they can do things for people they once loved."

It takes a moment before Link understands the reference to Mana. The man who is dead but plays such a huge part in Allen and the Fourteenth's lives.

Briefly, he wonders what it's like, living for something like that. For a love that's quite inexplicably and tenacious to the point it seems to drive to insanity. It is obsession? No, it's deeper. No proper word for it.

"Speechless, Howard?"

He blinks, annoyed that he's been caught lost in his thoughts. "You're complicating everything, you know."

"Who says it was simple in the beginning?" Those hands finally let go of him, and the Fourteenth allows Link to shove him away. "You're just thinking too hard about it." Fingers play with his hair now. "And you care more than you think about what Al~len thinks, and whatever I say."

"I don't immediately swallow everything handed to me." He pushes the hand away and scoots back.

"Liar."

"Partially. As you are, too."

"Touché, Link." There is a careless motion of the hand. "But only little things." He folds his arms and closes his eyes.

Link realises they are still sitting on the ground, and this is the longest the Noah has ever been out. "Are you done yet?"

"Don't they teach children to be patient these days?" One eye opens. "Whatever are you doing to do that day Allen Walker disappears?"

"He's not going to let that happen."

"He doesn't have a choice. You know every time he comes back, it's debilitating for him."

"He will." He has to.

The Fourteenth regards him. "I have one more question, and if your answer satisfies me, I'll let him back and I shan't return for a while."

"That sounds too easy."

Grin. "It's a difficult question."

He glares. "Say it."

"Do you love Allen Walker?" And before Link has a chance to sputter, he adds, "in whatever way you see fit, I mean. Goodness, I already know what you think about that."

Minutes tick away. Link stares at the carpet. Love, hah. He wasn't supposed to love or care at all. But he cares, he trusts…

Right now, Allen is the thing he can admit to calling a friend, he admits to himself. So as much as he doesn't want to admit it this far-too-smug person sitting a few feet away from him, he does raise his head.

"Yes. I love him." He lets out his breath. "Satisfied?"

The Fourteenth lets out a soft sigh. "I think he heard that," is all he says before his eyes roll back in his head and he pitches forward.

Link, of course, instantly catches him. The grey-coloured skin returns to its normal hue, and he lightly nudges Allen, for it is now the Exorcist. "Walker."

A cough, and then slightly ragged breathing. "…nk," the voice murmurs. "How long was he out?"

"A few hours."

"…longer now." His charge raises his head.

"Yes."

Allen seems to slump a little at this. Link just stares at the swollen lip and eye, and knows there are other bruises, not to mention the damage done by Fourteenth. Briefly, he wishes that the Fourteenth has hit him harder, to even this.

"Link."

He can almost guess what Allen's going to ask. "Yes?"

"…did you really say…that?" There was no disgust or horror in his voice, only a curious tone. "He didn't do anything to you, did he?" And then the Exorcist is shakily pushing away and looking Link over. Seeing only a disheveled appearance, his eyes widen. "You—"

"Nothing." He shakes his head. "Just more mind games. Like the usual."

Allen stares at him, he returns the look evenly.

"I doubt he'd do that."

"Do you really know?"

Link finally does get up, not bothering to answer that because he doesn't know. "Timcampi is on the windowsill," he says as he moves toward the bathroom.

That is, I have nothing to hide.

He rummages in the cabinet, looking for various things such as bandages and the like. He can hear the soft murmur of voices, and knows what Allen is doing. And he's not bothered by it. Not anymore.

Even if he does sputter when Allen later comes in and awkwardly wraps an arm around his shoulders from the back, babbling something about being sorry and for letting the Fourteenth say things like that, and Link ends up telling Allen to shut up because yes, he meant what he said. Maybe Allen was more than a friend. Maybe even family. Or, what was that Japanese word for it that he once read a book but didn't understand back then…

Nakama.

Or maybe it was just a word disguised as love and loyalty. It's not as if he's a philosopher, anyway.

And they can keep it to themselves that he hugged Allen back. He doesn't care that this is the result of being played with by an enemy (or not so enemy), because he can really hide from the truth for so long.

Honestly, love was such a finicky thing to pin down.

Ende.


A/N: /runs off to hide.