"If you're looking for pity, you won't find it here."

"That hurts, Allen, almost as much as my face."

Lavi yelps as I slap the bandage on his check, patting it for a good measure just to watch him flinch. Kanda might've gotten to punch some sense into him first, but I can still get a few of my own hits in (I particularly enjoyed pouring peroxide on his knee).

Plus he decided to break in through my window instead of knocking on the door like a normal human being.

I finish cleaning up the bigger bruises before moving onto some of the small cuts dotted around his check and forehead. It's cramped in my small bathroom, even with Lavi sitting on the sink to maximize space, but I manage to get the Band-Aids out of the cheap medicine cabinet next to the sink.

"Why do you have Dora the Explorer Band-Aids?" Lavi asks, and I can hear rather than see his eyebrows rising.

Smirking, I stick a bright pink one depicting Isa the Iguana on his nose. "Think about it, Lavi. Who in this household is most likely to get scratched up in a bar fight? Me or Cross? Now, who do you think is less likely to get in a fight if his only means of first aid are Dora the Explorer Band-Aids?

"And who," I continue, covering a scratch on his forehead with Benny the Bull, "was stupid enough to get in a fight with Yu Kanda, suspended from school, and then come crawling to the guy with Dora Band-Aids during his Pokemon marathon in the middle of the day?" I pat the Swiper the Fox Band-Aid onto his check. "You have no right to complain."

Tim barks in agreement from his post at the door. Such a good dog.

Lavi shifts uncomfortably on the sink's counter, glancing at my face before looking suspiciously at Tim and back again. I try to ignore it and focus on finding the most embarrassing Band-Aids I can, but it's hard to pretend I don't know what he wants to ask. I haven't been to school all week. I haven't called, haven't texted, haven't even waved out the window to assure him I'm alive.

But that's just it. I should be torn up. I should be sobbing bitterly into my pillow while Linkin Park plays melodramatically in the background. I should at least be upset enough not to feel as good as I do a handful of days after my dreams were crushed, but I feel good. Happy even.

Everything I play sounds so much better. For the first time in a long time, I'm completely relaxed at my keyboard. Maybe I just needed to finally have the pressure off, but I realize now that my playing before was just so robotic and boring that of course we got nowhere! Not with playing like that! But with the pressure off, with the fun back in it, I can play. I can improve.

Not to toot my own horn, but I think I'm a decent pianist when left to myself. I can get better, I want to get better, and I'm going to prove to that ass producer that ZoNE can do something.

But that's just it: I'm raring to go. I'm staying home from school to figure out how to improve songs. I'm ready to possibly try again.

They are moping. They've give up. And I can't stand to be around it right now. I don't want to be that douche bag who got complimented and flaunts it around his friends. I don't want to feel good because my friends were put down. So I figured I'd avoid them for awhile until they calmed down. It's not like we're actually doing anything the last couple weeks of school.

But I swore if Lavi was still moping after a week…let's just say it might be a good thing Kanda got to him first.

"You're good," I declare, sticking the last Band-Aid on him. Lavi jumps off the counter as soon as I give the clear, keeping out of arm's reach and giving Tim a wide girth on his way into my house. I start putting the first aid stuff back in its place, straining my ears to see if he's going back out the window, but I hear the fridge instead. Several moments later, the obnoxious squeak of my mattress lets me know he's not only staying, but eating on my bed. Delightful.

I finish cleaning and grab some food myself. I was going to make something, but who knows what Lavi's doing in my room unsupervised.

…Apparently he's snooping through my sheet music.

He's humming the melody of one of the untitled songs I've come up with, switching to some of my awkwardly placed lyrics when they pop up. The tone's flat, and he keeps messing up the rhythm at the same place, but stupid happiness flutters unchecked in my gut. I have to fight down the smile threatening to split my face, but I can't hold back a tiny grin.

Plus my song sounds good in his voice. I forgot about this one. Definitely should finish it.

Lavi stops abruptly, turning over the page a frowning when he sees it's blank. He beginnings to look through the other songs, but I think that's enough for today. I don't know what he'll find in that pile, and some of the things I've written I really need to go burn in the backyard. For all I know, he has a whole pile of angsty teenage lyrics.

I clear my throat, smirking when he jumps like the guilty snoop he is. Lavi offers a sheepish smile but doesn't stop thumbing through my music. "Lavi…"

"Okay, okay!" He sets the pile on my piano chair and steps back, holding his hands up and retreating to by bed. The bag of potato chips he stole from my kitchen nearly topples over onto my freshly washed bedspread. He's so lucky he managed to catch that in time.

Silence on the verge of awkwardness grows between us, only the occasional crunch of chips denting the quiet. I stay standing near the doorway and nibble on my granola bar. Should I go sit next to him on my bed and make the mess worse with my crumbly food or stay here and avoid the awkwardness that'll pop up with two of us on my bed? Alone.

I plop down next to the edge of my bed on the floor. Close enough.

"So…there a reason you're here and not at your house?"

"I felt lonely and needed to be loved." Lavi stretches out on my bed, placing the chip bag on his chest. "The school called Gramps. He's down in wherever preparing for that trial, but I wouldn't put it passed him to drive back home if he's angry enough. That or call the house until I either pick up.

"…Hey, Allen? …Neah's trail date's coming, Allen. What're you gonna do?"

I make a face at the ceiling. It'd been so peaceful, too. "Go to Disney World."

"Ha ha," Lavi intones. "Come on, Allen. You're running out of time."

"I still have nearly half a year, Lavi. Get off my back."

The bed groans as Lavi rolls over, sitting up to look at me on the floor. I raise my eyebrow. "You have no idea how our legal system works, do you?"

"Neither do most high school kids my age," I point out.

Lavi sighs, running a hand over his eye. "You do know trials take months to prepare, right?" He ticks off the ways on each finger. "Witnesses need to talk to lawyers, both sides need to find evidence, follow any new 'leads' that are called in, follow up on old testimonies…this can take years. Gramps has spent more than two years on a good number of cases. What? You think you can just run in all dramatic during the trail and tell your story to a weepy-eyed jury?"

"I didn't plan on showing up at all," I mutter.

"You don't want to, I don't know…talk to your uncle?" He shifts onto his back, probably staring at the ceiling. "Of course, at this point it'll be impossible unless you go through the lawyers first. Even then the conversation will be recorded, but they are still looking for you. Maybe you can make a deal or something? Keep it out of court."

I lay my cheek against my bed, staring at the side of Lavi's head. "Are you trying to convince me or not?" I chuckle. Honestly, his impartial attitude is just what I need. It makes me feel much more laid back about everything, like I'm not the one involved or it's not really happening. A detached look is better than realistic panic anyway.

"Not sure." He looks at me, indifferent. "Cross hasn't checked in? No calls? No letters? No texts?"

"No debts." I grab a piece of his stray red hair, lightly yanking on it.

Lavi stares at me with that expectant look, clearly waiting for me to drop his hair. I ignore him. "It's not really that odd. He's left me alone for a much longer time in a much more dangerous place."

"I don't know. You hear about that angry Japanese teen in town that carries around a sword?" He nods, lightly swatting my hand away. "Pretty dangerous. Heard he beat up a hot, defenseless sophomore."

I chuckle. Oh, you poor naïve child. "Three words: elephants, shovels, and Africa."

"But are you going to talk to Neah?"

"Are you going to talk to your dad?" Guilt bursts in my stomach as soon as the words leave my mouth, only intensifying at the hurt silence that follows. "Look, Lavi," I say. The frustration won't leave my voice. "I'm okay, all right? I'm not a hundred percent—" not that I ever was— "but I'm in the high eighty's. Compared to the low twenty's I was hovering in after Mana died…"

I sigh. Let his hair drop out of my fingers.

Most people would've described me as suicidal, but that doesn't feel completely accurate. Every time the thought entered my mind I knew I'd never actually do it. Keep walking forward after all.

"It's scary, looking back at how awful I felt. I just can't watch my uncle get convicted, and I definitely can't get involved. I mean, what if they name me as a suspect again? I could be tried as an adult, go to jail for the rest of my life, and I don't even know if I deserve it. Just hearing about it on the news makes me want to throw up. How am I supposed to sit in court?"

Lavi slides off my bed and onto next to me. His arm goes around my shoulders easily, not at all put off by the reminder I'm a possible killer. It's him who leans into me, and I have to try really hard not to ruin the moment when his crazy hair smacks into my face as he rests his head on my shoulder.

"Then don't, Allen. Stay here and ignore everything. You want to separate yourself from your past, go ahead. I get that." He kisses the side of my neck. "As soon as I can get away from here, I'm gone. Off to college or wherever, I don't care, but I'm gonna travel." Lavi looks up at me, the mischievous glint I expect to be in his eyes nowhere to be seen. "You can come with me, if you want. Right now."

It's tempting. Way more tempting than I want to admit. If it were just me and Lavi, I'd be up and ready to go right now. But there's Lenalee and Kanda and Johnny too. And Tim.

I offer him a smile. "That's a bit forward. We haven't even had our first date yet. I'm pretty sure eloping is the tenth date."

Lavi raises an eyebrow. "Oh? You insinuating what I think you're insinuating?"

"Pick you up at eight on Saturday?"

"Sure, but we are eloping later, right?"

I shrug, look out the window. "Maybe."

Update! Whoo~ It's only been a year.

I'm gonna try and make this short n sweet. We'll see how that goes.