Title: The Challenge

Fandom: D. Gray-Man

Rated: T

Pairing: Yullen

Word Count: 10,500

Summary: A routine innocence mission to Italy turns into something more when Allen begins noticing the little things.

Notes: This takes place between the ark arc and the Phantom Thief G arc. And all the italicized English is actually spoken in Italian; I just kept it in English so people would understand. Also, this mentions two times they went to Italy; if you only read the manga, you won't know about when they went to Rome as it's an anime filler.

Also, a special thanks to my lovely Agnese (BBJ) for all of her help with Italy. 3

It's nothing about Italy overall, he supposes; it's a romantic and beautiful country in its own right, but there's just something about the atmosphere of Venice that's so unlike the last two innocence missions they completed in tandem. Mater and then Rome – Mater was deserted, desolate, and dirty, while Rome was crowded and there had been so much going on at that time (he truly thought Kanda was going to die at one point); Venice, though – Venice is quiet and peaceful like the waterways that pass through it.

Lenalee was with them, in the beginning of the mission, but quickly got called off to assist Lavi on a mission in Belgium – Allen was going to go with her, because this Venice mission seems a bit low-level and Kanda can certainly take care of himself, but Komui instructed him to stay there. He supposes it has less to do with Kanda needing help and more to do with improving team dynamics. It's no secret that Allen and Kanda practically live on bad terms.

Recently it's not so bad actually, but still, he doesn't ask for more time around the older, dark haired exorcist.

The first time they encounter an akuma, it's by the sea. There's a fisherman out, paddling away from a large passenger boat, and then his small fishing boat is severed in half. Allen and Kanda just happen to be in the vicinity, visiting the cathedral Santa Maria del Giglio, when they hear the screams. With all the practiced finesse of trained exorcists, the two sprint off into battle; there are three level twos and a level three, which isn't really an issue for them when they work together. They don't make a half-bad team in reality, if they can put aside their differences and actually work together.

Kanda goes after the singular level three, slashing at it with the newly reformed Mugen, while Allen takes on the level twos. They're nothing special – one is almost feminine in its appearance, small, but agile. The second one is larger, much larger, and packs quite a lot of power in its attacks, but is slower, doesn't dodge well; this one he destroys first. The third and final akuma is shaped something like an insect of some sort and about his size, if not slightly bigger. This is the second easiest to destroy, and with a strike of the Sword of Exorcism, it explodes.

To digress, he really likes his sword. He always thought Mugen was very cool – Lavi's hammer as well. But it doesn't work so well against the small, fairy like creature. It's about the size of a human palm, and flies around so fast it's more a streak of light than anything else. Its attacks are weak, but it's very tiring. It's definitely a more formidable level two than the others.

The level three is dead, and Kanda is just watching him with mild amusement as he practically swipes at the akuma like a fly, cursing under his breath and doing everything he can to get rid of the damn thing. Kanda wouldn't be much help, either, not with his sword, so he has no room to look so amused. After what seems like forever, though, he finally catches the akuma in his hands. It flutters around in his grasp, beating angrily against the walls that are his hands, and he chuckles slightly, makes his way back to Kanda.

The dark haired man is leaning against a wall, one black eyebrow raised. "Took you long enough, Moyashi."

Allen groans and rolls his eyes, "Yeah, thanks for all the help, Bakanda. What am I supposed to do with this thing?" Carefully, he opens his hands just enough to pinch the akuma by what must be wings. They don't look like any wings he's ever seen, and akuma usually just float using dark matter, but they've gotta be wings.

"You're supposed to kill it."

"Yes, thank you; that's not what I was getting at."

"Step on it, then."

"You're either stupid, or an asshole, or both. I have to destroy it using innocence."

Kanda snorts at him, "Then use your fucking innocence."

"I don't see why they send me on missions with you. You're obviously intelligent enough to figure things out on your own," Allen rolls his eyes again. "Kanda, why must you state the obvious? I understand I have to use my innocence – I just said it."

"Not your sword, dumbass…"

Ah, right, he could just use his claw. Ignoring Kanda's sneer, still holding the fairy-akuma by its wings, he closes his eyes and spears the thing with Crown Clown, flinching. It's sad to do it so up close and personal with the akuma, he finds – especially a small, almost helpless creature like that.

"Pussy," Kanda snorts, again. "It's just an akuma."

Allen shoots him a sharp glare, but doesn't comment on the matter. It's basic knowledge how Allen feels about the akuma, so it's obvious Kanda is just being stupid again. He imagines it's wired into the Japanese boy's DNA; hopefully he'll mature with age. So, sniffing a bit in disdain, Allen heads back towards Santa Maria del Giglio. He hears Kanda fall into step behind him, but doesn't say anything to him. It's not a long distance to the large, beautiful cathedral and when they near it, they notice a large crowd. Confused, Allen goes up to a lady and asks, "What's going on?"

She looks at him and smiles, "A cardinal is vising."

Kanda just looks agitated and slightly confused and that's why he's always sent on missions to Italy with the dark haired man – Kanda doesn't know Italian. "A cardinal is here," he directs his attention back to the woman, "I assume to say the mass?" She nods. "To say the mass."

At this, Kanda sends him a disdainful expression and says, "I couldn't care less." Allen sighs and smiles to the lady in thanks, and the two of them stand back to watch the crowd as it clusters around the supposed cardinal. The people even stand on the steps, a kind of human barrier preventing those standing away from the crowd from seeing into it. This doesn't bother Allen so much, it's just that big crowds, even when they're not near him, aggravate Kanda. The dark haired man turns on his heel immediately and starts walking away, and makes no move to stop until Allen catches him by the sleeve of his exorcist's coat. Jerked backwards a little bit, Kanda growls sharply and turns to Allen with narrowed eyes. "What the fuck do you want?"

"The innocence, Kanda. We have to search for it."

"What do you think I was going to do?" Kanda rolls his eyes.

"Here. We were going to look here. You know the rumors all start in this cathedral."

"We'll come back later. We aren't going to be able to do any searching while there's a mass going on."

"No, this is the only time we'll be able to get in. They lock it when mass isn't going on. If you read the briefing, you'd know that."

"I did read the briefing. I just don't give a shit. If we have to, we'll break in."

"You don't do that, Kanda! You break into a church, you go to Hell; I'm pretty sure that's how it works."

"I'm already going to Hell," He shrugs, smirking and continuing to walk away. Allen frowns at his tall, retreating figure, then shakes his head and follows him. He probably has a point, anyway.

Unsurprisingly, their search for the innocence elsewhere brings no results. Allen tries talking with the locals, but they're about as helpful as rocks. They keep repeating the same thing – about how the altar in church will sometimes seems to be pure gold – sometimes the embellishments seem ruby or emerald or sapphire. It's obvious the innocence is in the altar at this point, so it seems so stupid to just be wandering around and not doing anything, but Kanda refuses to go to the cathedral while other people are there.

So Allen takes to sightseeing instead of searching and Kanda returns to the hotel.

The only time Allen's been in the hotel this entire time was last night, and that was mostly spent sleeping. It's not a bad room, to be honest, nice enough for two low-maintenance people. There are two double beds, a dresser, and a lamp in the room and the communal baths are just down the hall. And Kanda, while aggravating while awake, isn't so bad when he's asleep. He's silent – doesn't snore or anything – and a silent Kanda is generally better than a talking one.

And – okay, he's really quite beautiful when he's asleep. But Allen would never admit that out loud.

The first place he visits is Piazza San Marco; it's gigantic, packed full of locals and tourists. To his immediate left is the large St. Mark's Basilica, the unique Byzantine forefront imposing and quite awe-inspiring. The building is art itself, and not just in the Fresco either; the architecture is wondrous and detailed and he finds it amazing that he's never been here. Then he finds it amazing that Kanda wouldn't want to see this. He may be stoic, but this is beyond words. Even paintings cannot portray the cathedral's magnificence.

Directly in front of him is the Campanile. It has to be one of the tallest bell towers he's ever seen, and, while not as intense in its architecture as the basilica, still quite beautiful. He strolls around the piazza, people-watching and taking in all the beauty of Italy, something he couldn't afford to do the last two times he was in the country. His hair and scar do bring attention to him, and his exorcist's coat doesn't help much, but he finds he doesn't really mind. The people whose eyes follow him flick away just as quickly as they fall on him.

Music plays from a minstrel's cetra; it's light and airy and a young girl dances off to the side with who he presumes to be her older sister. And then, suddenly, he really wishes Kanda was with him. It's not exactly like the man is known to be good company, but he finds it's better to share things like this.

With that in mind, he heads back to their hotel; it's a good ten minute brisk walk from the piazza, and when he gets there, he walks up the two floors to their own and walks halfway down the hall before stopping at 315 and unlocking it. He steps in, silently, to find it's fairly dark and continues in to see the curtains drawn shut and Kanda sleeping on his bed. And this confuses Allen because it isn't like he didn't get his normal six hours of sleep last night, and it's not like they even did that much today – the level three couldn't have been that much trouble for him since he destroyed it so quickly. Walking forward, he sits on the bed opposite his and surveys him. There is a small yellowed bruise in the process of healing on his temple that he hadn't noticed before, and he wonders whether or not that was there at all the last time Allen saw him.

Kanda's lips part a bit, close, part again and it vaguely seems as though he's sleep talking, though no words are coming out. And it's kind of mesmerizing, watching his lips; they almost look dry in their dusty pinkness, but he bets if he touched them they'd be soft.

Wait, why is he even thinking about this? It doesn't matter how Kanda's lips feel. Even though his curiosity is kind of – intense for some reason. Biting his bottom lip, he looks down at his hands, then at Kanda again. Maybe he'll just…lightly graze them with his thumb and then back off.

He climbs onto the floor and shuffles across it on his knees, stopping only inches from where Kanda lies. He's only doing this to sate his curiosity. He's going to feel Kanda's lips then back away. He leans against the bed, lightly, making sure it doesn't dip too much under his weight, and very gently grazes his thumb against Kanda's bottom lip. It's soft – kind of like he imagined his lips would be. And that whole 'like the inside of a rose petal' bit is pretty romanticized; no one's lips could be that soft unless they rubbed oil on them every day, which he supposes some women might do, but no one like Kanda. Not Kanda who is the embodiment of all that is rough and coarse and masculine.

He's probably a bit jealous, he realizes. He's petite, to put it nicely, with short white hair and strange, dull gray eyes – Kanda is…vertically gifted, with long black hair and smoldering blue-gray eyes. Kanda is beautiful beneath all the righteous anger he possesses, and Allen is just…weird.

He runs the back of his hand across the side of Kanda's face, wondering whether that skin there is smooth as well and isn't surprised to find that it is. Not perfectly smooth, not feminine, but nice. Kanda's nose twitches a bit in his sleep, supposedly at the contact, and Allen holds back his giggle. He definitely doesn't want Kanda waking up.

Allen imagines Kanda's hands are the best parts of him. He bends back a little and surveys the one resting on his hip, very gently takes it and turns it over, lays it on the bed. Kanda shifts again and Allen's hands retreat, but once the dark-haired man settles he puts it back where it was. Kanda's hands are big and masculine, covered in calluses, and there's even a small scar running against the base of his palm. They aren't soft, like the rest of him, but war-worn, almost tired looking, tanned golden and beautiful like the rest of him.

It gets a big brighter in the room, and Allen guesses that the sun came from behind a cloud. When he looks up into Kanda's face again, he finds his dark eyes wide open.

Allen stumbles back, violently, hits his head against his bed as he scrambles up onto it and keeps his eyes away from Kanda. "I was just," he starts. "Looking for wounds. I found it strange that you were asleep, so I just wanted to make sure." He guesses it would have been a lot worse if Kanda had woken up to Allen surveying his chest or back – not that he would have done that. He certainly doesn't like Kanda like that.

Kanda's eyebrows pull together; in anger, in confusion, in disbelief? Allen isn't sure he even wants to know. "Don't. Fucking. Touch. Me. You got that? Ever again." Ah, that's definitely anger, then. There's even a slight snarl to his lip.

"No problem," Allen returns, waving his arms; then he regresses a bit back into sarcastic and biting Allen. "Not like I'd ever want to touch you anyway, Bakanda."

Kanda snorts, violently, and throws the blanket off of him to climb out of bed. "Whatever. I just encountered four more level threes on the way here and-"

"Four, Kanda? Why the hell didn't you call me for backup!"

"I could take care of them just fine." Is all he says, stretching, and Allen catches sight of a fresh gash on Kanda's long, left leg. His tattoo is larger as well. "It's not like I'm going to die."

Allen's eyebrows furrow at that – in anger, confusion, and disbelief. "I hate that you always say that!" He exclaims. "You're mortal, you can still die. Even after – whatever you have that makes you think you're immortal – you're still a human."

Kanda almost looks like he's slightly taken aback, there's some semblance of surprise in his dark eyes, but his mask stays firmly in place. "Why don't you just shut the fuck up and mind your own business?" He snaps. "The mass should be over by now. Let's get the goddamned innocence and get out of here."

Allen remembers why he returned to the room. "You don't want to see any of Venice?"

"I've had enough of fucking Italy."

Well it is true that he was severely injured the last two times he was here…

"Why don't you bandage your leg?" Allen asks as Kanda pulls on his exorcist's coat.

"It's not bleeding."

"It could get infected."


Allen's eye twitches, almost imperceptibly, and activating his innocence, he slams Kanda back onto his bed. "I'm sorry, but if you won't bandage your wound, I will. If it gets infected, you could be in serious danger." Kanda's eyes blaze with serious anger, but he doesn't say anything, and Allen wonders why it is every time they come to Italy he ends up having to slap Kanda around with his innocence a bit; it's always for the older exorcist's own good, though.

He grabs a wrap of bandages from his pack, then kneels down in front of Kanda and pushes a wave of his black coat out of the way. Rolling Kanda's pant leg up, he sees the wound. It's not bleeding, no, it's not even festering – Kanda's healing ability is truly amazing – but he wraps it just in case. If Kanda's leg fell off, the bitching would never stop.

With that, they leave the hotel, and neither of them mention Allen's strange watching-Kanda-while-he-sleeps episode again.

Breaking into a church like Santa Maria del Giglio is not easy. The fact is that there's no place to break in, unless they want to take down the front door or go after the beautiful stained glass. And as both options would put way too much attention on them, they opt for another plan.

Allen doesn't really feel that stealing from a priest is the right thing to do when they're exorcists and really, work for the papacy. He has no doubts they could just ask the father for a key to the church and he would give it to them; Kanda has other outlooks on the matter, though. Like, how if the innocence is inside the altar, they'll have to destroy it to get the innocence out, and there aren't many priests that smile upon that.

Valid point.

So they sneak into the priest's quarters through a window that Allen expertly picks (and really, he would pick the lock to the church, but he's never seen a lock like that) and Kanda ends up finding the key in the older man's bedside table. It's silver and antiqued, with such an intricate bit at the end of it that it's no wonder Allen couldn't pick the lock it goes into. Climbing out of the room again, Allen accidentally knocks the glass, creating a louder sound that he'd like, and Kanda pulls him the rest of the way out harshly. He falls into a crumpled mess on the cobblestone, groaning, and rubs his head where it hurts worst.

"Thanks," Allen mumbles dryly, using the wall to pull himself up into a standing position.

"No problem," Kanda returns offhandedly, looking around. With all the air of someone who doesn't give a shit, he makes his way back towards the church with the key in hand and Allen follows close behind with all the air of someone who just got hit really hard on the head. When they arrive at the church, Allen and Kanda stand back to back – Kanda goes to unlock the door and Allen watches for pedestrians. As soon as they hear the lock click open, they shuffle in, closing the large, heavy door shut as quietly as they can.

The only source of light comes from the windows and the altar, surprisingly enough. It shines a bright gold, reflective of the room around it, and there is a soft humming noise that fills the otherwise silent chasm of a church at rest. The walk down the aisle and Allen runs his fingers along the cherry finish of the pews as he does so, silently reveling in the smooth feeling. Kanda steps into a faster gait and Allen has to take much bigger steps to keep up with him.

"Let's just get the innocence and go," he says lowly, retrieving Mugen from its sheath. Nodding, Allen swallows and says a silent prayer of apology as Kanda brings down the katana, attempting to slash the altar in half. Some sort of force field stops him, however, and he's thrown backwards violently, slamming into a pew about five rows back. He lets out a hack of a cough, and Allen runs up to him.

"Are you alright?" He asks, giving Kanda a one-over. He looks fine, but that doesn't mean he is.

"Of course I am," Kanda scowls, shoving Allen aside and cracking the knuckles in his hands as he steps back up towards the altar. "Fucking altar," he mumbles, holding the hilt of Mugen tightly. "Innocence, activate!"

The blade shines brightly, a white-blue, and he charges at the golden altar once more; the force field activates, but Kanda pushes against the flow, digging his heels into the ground to try and break past the defense. In that instance, Allen decides now is a good time to help out. "Crown Clown!" he cries out, and quickly manages to form the Sword of Exorcism before going at the field alongside Kanda.

They meet eyes, briefly, and with a coarse yell and a final push, the barrier breaks – almost seems to shatter. Heaving, Allen sends Kanda a smile, who smirks slightly in response.

Then the entire left side of the cathedral comes down.

It takes Allen a moment to understand what's happened, but as soon as the akuma start piling in, he realizes. "They used us to break the barrier!"

Kanda gives a low, yet sharp, "Che," and begins attacking, destroying akuma of varying level. Allen isn't far behind, uses Death Orbs to destroy numerous ones and twos at a time; a three narrowly avoids the blow and rushes towards him. Turning his sword, Allen uses the broad side of it as a makeshift shield, but ends up getting pushed back into a pillar anyhow. A sharp pain shoots up the middle of his back, and only through sheer force of will does he stand again and continue to attack.

The akuma seem endless – for every one they destroy, two show up. It isn't until Kanda yells out, "Second illusion!" that it seems like they stand a fighting chance. He's never seen Kanda this powerful before, and something about it makes him – proud, almost, to know that he has a partner like Kanda. A comrade. A friend, even.

When the akuma are finally cleared out, they slump against a nearly surviving pillar and breathe large, heaving breaths. Allen runs his right hand through his hair and his chest aches as he tries to breathe deeper and bigger breaths. It doesn't really work, the more air he tries to put into his lungs, the more choked he seems, so he just relaxes and closes his eyes for a moment.

What brings him back to attention is the sound of a large door scraping along a linoleum floor. His eyes shoot open as the church's front entrance opens and then closes again; Kanda begins standing, Mugen in his hand but not poised for attack. It's the priest, tall and old, looking around the church as if assessing it for damage. Allen gives his best attempt at standing so he can apologize to him, but that fails miserably; instead he just wearily watches as the father walks around.

After a few moments, Kanda raises Mugen and points it at the priest. "Kanda, what are you doing?" Allen asks, grabbing onto a tail of his coat.

Kanda ignores him and instead directs his question at the only other occupant of the room. "Why don't you look surprised, father?"

Slowly, the priest looks towards them. Allen's eye doesn't activate, the man isn't an akuma; he isn't sure of what Kanda's getting at. "Exorcists of the Black Order," he starts. "I want to thank you." At this, he walks up to the front of the church, runs long and age-worn fingers across the smooth top of the altar. "The Earl will be most pleased."

Kanda lets out a rip of a snarl and starts towards him, but Allen notices he's slower than usual. With a flick of his wrist, the priest calls dozens of akuma to flood the building and form a protective barrier around him.

"You're a broker," Allen says, using a pew to prop himself up. "And since your church housed innocence…"

"The Earl thought I was prime for this mission, boys. And I am, really. I doubt many could do it better."

Allen wonders, briefly, what they're going to do. It's obvious neither of them really have the energy to keep on fighting, but they can't just sit here and let them take the innocence. If only they had backup. If only Lenalee were back. Perhaps with the three of them together…

"Third illusion!"

The sound breaks him from his reverie. There is a new, sudden air to the room; heavy, but fluid, like raw power and energy is surrounding him. How is it that Kanda can still move in such a way? How is it that he can still move at all? Allen's entire body feels numb, light tingles run up and down his legs, his arms – his head feels so light. He can feel the beginnings of a fainting spell, but he stays conscious; he isn't going to leave Kanda totally to himself.

With an energy he feels he doesn't have, he propels himself forward the fight alongside the Japanese swordsman. It's hard, and he feels so weak, but it's better than doing nothing. He gets through three or four while Kanda takes the rest. He's gonna get shit from the dark haired man later on, he just knows it; after their three week long nap, that is. Allen is going to climb into his bed after all of this is over and just sleep. Sleep and sleep and sleep. It's all he wants to do.

By the time all the akuma are destroyed once again, Kanda just collapses. He falls into a heap on the ground, apparently so fatigued he can barely use any spare energy to breathe. Allen, weakly, kneels down next to him to lay him in a more comfortable position, and then points his Sword of Exorcism at the priest/broker, who stumbles back a little looking utterly terrified. "I'm sorry, don't kill me!"

Allen doesn't really have the heart to tell him that his sword doesn't harm humans. He's too tired, too angry. If the man wants to think his sword will slice him in two, so be it. Turning towards the altar, he holds his sword high above his head and then brings it down harshly. The golden altar is slashed in half, slides apart and falls onto the floor with a great crash. Each piece fades to a dull cherry finish, like the pews, and there, a few steps forward, is the innocence; it shines bright and green on the dusty, debris riddled floor.

It's then that he notices Timcampi fluttering around; he lands on a small piece of rubble next to Kanda and stays there. Grabbing the innocence, leaving the broker to scramble away (Allen is sure the Earl will deal with him; the priest will wish Allen had killed him in the end), he makes his way towards Kanda, kneels down on the ground next to him and props his head up on his legs. He isn't going to try and carry Kanda back to their hotel in his state, he probably wouldn't make it out the door before passing out, but at least Kanda and he can rest here.

Carefully, he unties Kanda's hair, thinking the tie must be uncomfortable when lying down, and watches as the dark tendrils spill over him like rainwater. It might seem like a strange image, to be honest, Kanda lying on his lap amidst the rubble and debris, but he finds he doesn't mind much. As long as he can relax and Kanda is next to him safe, everything is all right.

Lightly, he runs his fingers through Kanda's hair, untangling it, careful not to pull too hard. He's not watching as he does so, just rests his head back against the end of a pew and stares up at the ceiling. It's more of an absentminded action, really; something comfortable and – perhaps not familiar, but grounded. After a few minutes, he feels Kanda stir, and looks down at him, wonders how it is he himself hasn't passed out yet. He had felt it, in those silent moments, the stealthy vines of sleep reaching towards him, warm and inviting, but he didn't let them take hold for some reason.

Then suddenly Kanda is out of his lap, sitting up ramrod straight and looking around the building. Finally, when he's certain there's no danger, he turns a bit and looks back at Allen. "What the fuck?"

"There was no way I could have carried you out, Kanda; we were just staying here until I regained some energy."

Kanda's dark eyes narrow, putting Allen's stomach in knots. "Whatever." He starts to stand, slowly, and says, "I can walk now, let's go."

Allen purses his lips, but nods anyway. "The Order's gonna be angry at us again," he mumbles, surveying the collateral damage as they exit the ruins of the church.

"Fuck the Order," Kanda growls, rolling his eyes. "It wasn't like there was anything we could do to stop it. And we have the innocence. Who cares?"

Allen nods, looking at the green glowing object in his hand. "When are we heading back?"

"Tomorrow," Kanda answers simply, curtly. It's not as angry sounding as usual, just clipped and annoyed.

When they get back to the hotel, they both shrug off their coats and climb into their respective beds. Allen doesn't wake up again for another seventeen hours.

On the train ride home, he sleeps again, and when he wakes up this time, he's only been sleeping for half an hour. Kanda is across from him in the compartment, staring out the window, and the only sound comes from the soft clanking of steel against steel as the train rattles onward. He tries, desperately, to remember his dream, just to distract him from the otherwise overbearing nothingness of boredom, but he can't. It almost feels as though he didn't have a dream, and regardless of how hard he thinks about it, it's just a blankness in his mind.

Letting out a yawn, Allen stretches his arm high above his head. "It would be so much easier if we were allowed to use the ark," he sighs. "It would save so much time…"

Kanda snorts at him, but doesn't say anything.

Allen purses his lips and arches his back a bit to stretch out his spine. The train's compartments are so very uncomfortable, even though they're in first class. He hates to see what it would be like if they sat in the third class cars.

When his stomach growls, he realizes how long it's been since their last meal. Kanda's sharp eyes narrow in on him, and he shifts a bit under that gaze. "Um, sorry," Allen says, sheepish. "It's just, we haven't eaten since we left Italy."

"Then go eat," Kanda says simply, lowly, directing his attention outside again. Allen understands that Kanda means for him to go to the dining compartment, but he doesn't really feel like going. He's feeling rather lazy, like a cat, just wanting to crawl up and sleep again; he hasn't wanted to sleep this much since that level four. Sighing, however, Allen realizes that he isn't going to get food any other way.

"Will you come with me?"

Kanda raises an eyebrow, more in apprehension than disbelief, and scoffs, "Why the fuck would I do that?"

"Are you not hungry?"

Kanda takes to staring at the red cushion of the seat rather than Allen. "No."

Allen frowns a bit and crosses his arms, "Well come with me anyway. I don't want to eat alone."

"I don't give a shit what you want."

"Come on, Kanda! It's just a meal! You have got to be hungry, exhausting all that energy."

"I sleep, I don't eat."

He sighs a bit. "Please?"

Kanda is silent for a moment and Allen almost thinks he's going to agree, but then, "Fuck no."

"Fine then! I don't want your stupid company anyway, Bakanda!" With that, he stomps off, realizing he probably just looks like a pouting child, but not really caring. If Kanda wants to be an asshole, he can be a lonely asshole just as well.

By the time he gets to the dining compartment, he's cooled off pretty much one hundred percent. Half due to the fact that he's about to eat a feast, and half due to the fact that it's really hard for him to stay angry at his friends. Well, if he can even consider Kanda a friend. He isn't sure, really. Sometimes it feels like they are, but then other times he just feels like they're going to be butting heads and dislike each other for the rest of their natural-born lives.

And then he wonders why he cares so much. Sure, Kanda is beautiful; sure he's passionate and tall and rugged and powerful and moralistic and all those kinds of things. But he's also a dick. He's mean and crude and tends to tear Allen down like it's his day job. He imagines that if Kanda would just – tone it down on all the hate, they could be perfectly nice friends.

He sits down at a table and relaxes in the small booth, smiles brightly when a waitress comes up to take his order. She furrows her eyebrows, trying desperately to scribble down everything as fast as he can say it and nods a bit as she goes along. When she's finished, she bows a bit and gives him a strange look before walking away. He decides he'll close his eyes to relax a bit, and as soon as they close, he hears the shuffling of feet. Blinking them open, ready to explain his order to the waitress once more, he realizes very quickly that the person standing there is certainly not even female. With a great, heaving noise, something between a grunt and a sigh, Kanda slides into the seat across from him and stares outside again. When he catches Allen looking at him and smiling victoriously, Kanda says, "I decided I was hungry. Don't ruin my appetite, Moyashi."

So, there's a point for Kanda, he supposes. Even past the slight insult, he's still sitting here across from Allen, keeping him company probably just because he wanted it. That or he really is hungry, but Kanda is almost never.

"Did you get enough sleep?" Allen asks as the waitress comes back to take Kanda's food and drink order ("tempura soba and a hot green tea.")

Kanda rests his head on his palm lazily, apprehension lighter than usual in his dark eyes. "Yeah." It's short, but not really clipped.

"Um, hey, listen – thanks for coming."

"I said I was hungry."

"You decided that in all of the five minutes it takes to get from our car to here?"

"Do you think the more plausible option is that I just decided I liked you enough to consider being around you while you eat?"

Allen blinks a bit, then grins. "I suppose not."

Considering Allen orders so much, it takes a while for their order to come out. They're fairly silent during this time, only Allen tries to strike up conversation. He fails miserably each time.

By the time several waiters and waitresses return with their order, Allen is feeling famished. He digs into his meal, not taking a break for breathing or Kanda's sanity, and pile drives through all the food there in a matter of ten, perhaps fifteen minutes. Kanda has openly declared his utter hate for how Allen eats, but that doesn't make him change or anything; he's hungry. He's going to eat.

When Allen's done, he wipes his mouth and slouches down in his seat a little; his leg grazes Kanda's and he has half a mind to pull away, but he doesn't. Kanda doesn't seem to care or notice, because he just silently eats at his soba and sips at his tea. The contact is nice, Allen thinks – the only person he only really has actual physical contact with is Lenalee, and that's just because of her normal, welcome home hugs. Well, and technically Lavi, because he likes hugs as well.

But never Kanda. It was probably what fueled his curiosity in the first place, wondering how Kanda felt. Because he's known the guy for at least a year at this point. They've gone through a lot of shit together. Why should it be strange to want to be closer to his comrade?

Why does it feel strange?

Why does he feel awkward about his leg touching Kanda's under the table; why did he feel so inclined to touch his lips, of all things? He's felt these impulses before, sure, but it's not like…

And really, he's thought about it, but…that's nothing special. He's a sixteen year old boy, so of course he's going to think about things like that. It's just that, in this time of war, there's no time for relationships; carnal or otherwise.

And then…it's a paradox. Because of the fighting, the loneliness, the inevitable deaths, you want someone there – something familiar and grounded to hold onto. You don't want to feel so alone, you want to matter. He wants to matter. He's tired of feeling so lonesome. He has his friends, but it's – it's so different. And perhaps he's just forcing that; perhaps he just wants someone, so he's latching onto Kanda. Which is stupid because it's Kanda. Kanda Yu, who is totally cold and fairly heartless and doesn't have the capacity to say good morning, let alone make him feel special or wanted or not alone.


Allen shakes his head, looks up at Kanda. "What?" he asks, putting on a sour expression.

"Goddamit, listen. I've been trying to get your attention. Are you just going to sit there, or are you going to return to the compartment?"

Allen blinks a bit, then nods. "Yeah," he stands, leaving some money on the table, and follows Kanda out the compartment. He'd apparently been thinking so hard he hadn't heard the dark haired exorcist trying to get his attention. It's funny enough in its own right; and then there's the fact that Kanda cared whether or not he stayed there or returned to the compartment with him. Because Kanda is a lone wolf; he doesn't give a shit about what other people do.

As they're making their way back towards their compartment, however, the train comes to a screeching halt. The sudden action propels Allen forward, towards Kanda, and then man just barely steps out of the way in time. Instead of catching Allen, like any normal human might try to do, a single sidestep sends the white haired boy face first onto the carpeted floor. That's the second times Kanda's made him land on his face. In a week.

Groaning, Allen stands up. "What's happened?"

"How the fuck should I know?" Kanda growls back, looking around.

Frowning, Allen rubs his nose and gets close to the window to take a look outside. Everything seems normal. Just a typical, north Italian scene. Fairly mountainous, and particularly lush despite that. Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary.

Then his eye activates.

"Akuma," is all he says and Kanda understands; he opens a window and climbs out of it, presumably to walk on the top of the stationary train. Allen watches him go, then mimics his moves, supposes that after everything it's best they stick together. If they separate and there's a repeat of last time, they'll never survive. Though there probably won't be another time like that here on the train in the middle of practically nowhere.

But that doesn't explain why there are akuma. Could it be they sensed the innocence he and Kanda are carrying? That doesn't make any sense. Akuma could never just sense the innocence like that as it whipped by on a train. And they couldn't have noticed their coats. Through the use of Allen's eye, he sees they're at the front of the train. Two of them – only level two. They won't be a problem.

It's kind of windy outside, even with the train not moving. Allen watches Kanda sprint forward, his hair seeming an entity all its own, and makes sure not to fall behind. When they're about six cars from the engine, however, it ignites – the heat is intense, even this far back and a piercing shriek rings in his ears.

Immediately, he sprints forward, but he's caught by his fur lined collar. "Don't be an idiot."

"Someone is burning, Kanda. I can't…" He trails off, watching as the akuma ascend into eye level. The one on the right is about the size of a human, perhaps slightly larger; it can't be any taller than seven or so feet. Its entire left arm is a kind of gun barrel, however, only slightly less thick than it is long. It shines vibrant purple in the light, and kind of reminds him of a soldier. The one on the left is considerably larger. Only in length, however. It's some kind of snake akuma, its head gigantic and sickly green; the rest of its body isn't visible, hidden by the front of the train. Judging by the size of its head, it could be topping 15 feet, making it the largest snake he's ever seen. And he's seen a lot of snakes in his time.

"Well," the soldier-akuma says in Italian. "It appears as though there were exorcists on board."

The snake returns with something in such a low hiss he can't catch what's said. There's another loud screech, and it seems to snicker almost with the way its head bounces slightly. It physically pains Allen not to go help whoever's burning, but he can't do anything with the two akuma standing there.

Quickly, he looks at Kanda, then back at the akuma. In the last moment, he catches something in Kanda's eyes and gives it half a second to register before attacking the one on the right and Kanda goes after the large snake. The broad side of his sword connects with the gun barrel of an arm on the soldier, but he throws it back with relative ease. Twos are no challenge for either of them. Perhaps if they had come forth months ago they'd have been formidable, but they've been through too much to be deterred by akuma like this. In a single, fell swoop, Mugen lops off the head of the snake; the Sword of Exorcism slices the soldier-akuma down the middle.

Wasting no time, Allen dives down into the ripped open hole in the roof of the engine's room. The heat is nearly unbearable, but he braves it, looks around to try and find the source of the earlier shriek. There is the unmistakable stench of burning flesh in the room and it makes him sick to his stomach; he covers his nose and mouth to both keep himself from throwing up and to keep the plumes of smoke from entering his lungs.

Behind him, he hears a slight cough and turns around, hoping to find the victim, but instead sees an irate Kanda, searching around as well. It's hard to see, and his eyes water from the smoke, but he blinks past that and keeps them open, finally finds the conductor. He's unconscious, from the smoke, or the pain, or something else. He goes to pick the man up, but finds he won't budge. "Kanda," he breathes out.

Kanda moves towards him, feet shuffling through the rubble and his head whips around very quickly before taking the man in one arm and grabbing Allen by the forearm and pulling hard, dragging him from the engine room in a matter of mere seconds. Allen doesn't ask questions, just follows, and once they're outside they see that the other passengers evacuated as well.

The dark haired man has severely labored breathing, drops the conductor on the ground to give a wheezing cough before the entire front car explodes, igniting the coal car and setting off a series of explosions. The heat isn't as bad as the shockwave of sound and pressure; he stumbles back, holding his ears, and realizes all too late what Kanda had moments ago in the front car. Of course it would explode, being set fire to like that.

Looking around, Allen wonders where they are, what they're going to do. They're practically in the middle of nowhere, with at least a hundred passengers to keep tabs on. They have no food, no water – everything was in the train. He looks over at Kanda, whose eyes are watering from the smoke and – it looks like he can't breathe.


The dark haired man looks over at him, glares really, and opens his mouth to retort. All that comes out, however, is a cough. When he'd grabbed the conductor and Allen, he must have breathed in too much smoke. Frowning, Allen puts a hand on Kanda's arm. "You need water," he says, looking around. He tries to listen for water, but all sound seems muffled, probably an after effect from the explosion. There has to be a stream or something somewhere, though.

And then it hits him.

"You saved my life," Allen whispers, and Kanda just shoots him another dark glare. He knows if the man could talk he'd say something cruel, to negate what Allen just said, but he'd be lying. He could have left Allen and the conductor and got out unscathed, without the smoke getting into his lungs. But he didn't. His chest clenches uncomfortably and he looks around, at the numerous people. They're scattered around, but all fairly far away from the remnants of the train. If he could just get their attention…

He feels a tap on his arm and turns to his right, then looks down a bit. There's a young boy standing there, with dark brown hair and light green eyes. "Is he okay?" Allen isn't sure of whether he's talking about Kanda or the conductor, but neither seem well. Nonetheless, the boy is too young for his pessimism.

"I'm sure they both are," he smiles warmly. Bending down next to the conductor, he checks for a pulse. He finds one; it's weak, but it's there.

"You saved him?" The boy asks, tearful, and Allen realizes that he's talking about the conductor.

"My friend Kanda saved him."

The boy kneels down next him and says, "He's my dad. I always go on the train rides with him." He sniffs. "I don't know what I would do if he died."

This hits much too close to home for Allen's taste. The boy can't be much older than he was when Mana died – except no one was there to save him. It makes him appreciate Kanda's act even more. After Mana died, he was like another person – he's changed so much because of it. And he hates how fake he is.

Allen gives Kanda another look; he doesn't look as bad off as the conductor, but that's because Kanda is all kinds of surly – something like this isn't going to take him down. Still, he's a bit worried. He's not really coughing every two seconds anymore, but there's still discomfort evident in his eyes. In the way he wrinkles his nose or frowns deeper at certain intervals. His hearing is a bit better at this point as well – however, there's still no sound of a stream or river nearby. Perhaps it'd be best to look.

He stands up to his full height and stretches, informs the small group of his plan. Kanda insults him, as per usual, and then gets up and claims he's going as well. Allen doesn't think it's the best idea in the world, Kanda getting up and walking around, but the dark haired exorcist will do it regardless of what he says.

Together they set off into the forest, looking around and keeping fairly silent until Allen says, "Why'd you do it?"

A raspy, "If I let you die, I'd never hear the end of it from Komui. That's all."

"That's all?"

Allen feels that uncomfortable tightness in his chest again, and he wonders what it'll take to make it go away. He doesn't even know why it's there. It's not aggravation, and it's not happiness or friendship or even love or lust. He doesn't know what it is. Is he sick? Did, perhaps, the smoke get to him?

"That's all." Kanda says, with finality in his tone.

He doesn't know why he does it. Kanda evidently didn't save him out of actual worry or anything. So he doesn't understand why he does what he does next. Reaches over and wraps his arms around Kanda and kisses him deeply.

Kanda pushes him away immediately, looking at him with apprehension in his eyes, but the he must see something in Allen's expression, because his eyebrows furrow and the apprehension leaves.

Then Allen is pressed to a tree and they're kissing again, violently, and Kanda tastes like smoke and ash and sweat. He doesn't know how it happened, or why it's happened, but he doesn't really care. It feels nice, even with the harsh assault of smoke mingling in their breath.

Kanda pulls away after a moment and Allen keeps his eyes on Kanda's – they're so much darker than usual, and his pupils are so dilated there's barely any dark gray-blue iris left. He licks at his lips and swallows, doesn't say anything as Kanda pirouettes on his heel and stomps away, dark hair swinging behind him in its high ponytail.

He follows, jogging a bit to catch up to him, and doesn't comment on what just happened though he really wants to. Because…what was that about? Why did Kanda kiss him?

Why did Kanda not kill him when he woke up to find Allen touching his face?

Why did he 'help' Allen to not get caught by the broker/priest when they were escaping from his room?

Why did he go out of his way to save Allen's life?

He supposes all of those things could be explained in some way – but it's Kanda. He could have just told Allen to get out rather than risk the smoke getting into his own lungs and harming him. He could have let Allen climb out himself, or even get caught by the priest, and got away with the key himself. And he could have punched Allen in the nose when he found him practically holding his hand in the hotel room.

But he didn't do any of those things.


"Don't say a fucking word."

Allen purses his lips and inhales through his nose. "But Kanda…"

"Are you deaf?"

"You don't even want to talk about it?"


"Well I do."

"I don't give a shit."

"Well I do."

Kanda stops abruptly, shoots Allen a dark glare, and says, "If you don't shut up, I will run you through with Mugen."

Allen furrows his eyebrows, anger evident on his otherwise passive face. "I can't believe you! Why the hell would you do that if you're going to continue to be a total ass afterwards?"

Kanda doesn't say anything to that at first, lets his ferocious glare speak for him, then, "I did it because I felt like it." It's simple. Clipped. Emotionless. "That's all."

Feeling a bit let down for no particular reason, the new silence makes it so he suddenly hears something. "Water," Allen says, looking at Kanda, trying to seem totally fine with what he said then looking towards the source of the noise. It's a bit to his right, and the sound is pretty quiet, but it's there. He jogs in its direction and they end up in front of a small, clear creek. The water is moving fairly fast, and when Allen puts his fingers to it, the freezing cold temperature makes him jerk back.

Kanda bends down next to the water and fills a small canteen with it, then drinks it in large gulps. Allen can't help but watch as his throat bobs and shakes his head before filling his own canteen and drinking it as well. "Are we going to lead the passengers here as well?" Allen asks.

Kanda takes another drink. Voice a bit smoother, he says, "I don't care. Either way, we need to find a way to connect the golems to a telephone system to get in touch with the Order."

"And we don't have a finder. We're in the middle of nowhere as well." He pauses. "Let's just go back and let the passengers know where the creek is. They must be thirsty."

Kanda silently agrees and they both walk back towards the train together, only knowing where they're going because Kanda has an excellent sense of direction and the fact that they made sure to pretty much walk in a straight line. By the time they return to the train, it's getting dark. The boy is still next to his father, silent, just watching him, and when they return, he immediately perks up. "Did you find any water?"

"We did," Allen nods. "If we can collect the passengers, we'll lead you to it."

The boy nods and stands up, gets the crowds' attention fairly quickly. "If you follow us," He yells to them. "We will lead you to water!" He's very good at getting people's to listen to him; Allen is too, to be honest. Growing up a street performer, he learned a lot of hooks. It's the way you present yourself, mostly.

Together, Allen and Kanda lead the boy and the rest of the group towards the stream – there are a lot of people, scattered all around, but it helps. No one can really get lost this way. Not if there are a million eyes on each other at all times. But by the time they get there, Allen is already wondering about the next step. After everyone is hydrated, where do they go? Do they stay here until someone comes for them? It could take forever. He's not just going to sit around and wait for all these people to die.

"Kanda," he lays a gentle hand on Kanda's shoulder, and the dark haired man's head snaps around quickly. Dark gray-blue eyes stare into his and he gathers his thoughts as quickly as he can. "I'm going to go off a bit and look for a nearby town or help somehow. You should stay here with these people and rest."

Kanda snorts at him. "I got a little cough – I can handle walking. You stay."

"No. You."

"Moyashi…" A warning tone.

"I'm not giving in, Kanda. What happens if you're walking out there and suddenly you can't breathe and then you're suffocating and you're in the middle of nowhere and you die?"

"…You're a fucking idiot. I'm not going to die."

"I'm tired of that shit, Kanda. I'm going and that's final."

Kanda narrows his dark eyes at Allen and – can't he see Allen just wants him to be safe? Kanda can't die. He just can't. Not that it isn't possible but…Allen won't let him die.


"Good." Allen nods, firmly, and turns on his heel. Hopefully he doesn't get…lost. Again. Like always. That's why it's good to have Kanda next to him at all times – he'd walk in circles for hours without that man's sense of direction. But he can do it. It shouldn't be that hard to just go out the way he came in and follow the train tracks.

But the only problem is that it's dark. And so, as he tries to make his way through the forest, he can't see – anything. He makes it out by walking in a straight line, but by the time he's out the forest completely, it's so dark he can only barely see the outline of the ruined train. And he certainly can't see the tracks or where they lead. So he just starts walking – he'll have to end up somewhere eventually.

It's hilly, and a bit rocky, and even kind of chilly this late at night. He has no idea where he is, or how Kanda and the others are doing, but he tries to keep that out of his head. He tries to hum the ark gate's tune, but nothing happens. Which is curious.

He had planned to just use it anyway, because they really do need help and Central can understand something like that, but it didn't work. It always works. But even though it won't, he sings light tunes and does everything he can to stay awake. His legs kind of hurt and he feels like he's already been walking for hours, but he can't stop just yet.

Then his legs start shaking and collapse underneath him. Groaning, he props himself up on the cold, hard ground purses his lips before just falling into a heap on the ground again. He's exhausted. Perhaps – perhaps a little nap wouldn't hurt. Just for an hour or so. Kanda really can take care of himself…

What he awakens to is a pain in his neck and being shaken like a rag doll. He opens his eyes immediately, expecting an attack, but he sees Kanda instead. It's light out at this point, dim, but bright enough to recognize the man. He might even have been able to recognize him in the dark, maybe from his strong hands or woodsy scent.

"What the fuck are you doing?"

"Hmm? I was sleeping, Bakanda."

"Why would you sleep out in the open like this, idiot? What if an akuma had found you?"

"Then I would have kicked his ass and maybe continued sleeping." Then he realizes. "Oh, oh – I was supposed to be looking for a town. Kanda, I'm sorry! I just got so tired and my legs hurt really badly and I just couldn't walk anymore…how are the passengers?"

Kanda heaves out a sigh. "They're fine, Moyashi."

"Mmm," Allen nods. "Good…wait. Don't call me that. My name is Allen."

"I don't really care what your name is."

"Didn't you say you would remember it if I survived longer than a month?"

"I do remember it, I just don't care."

"Well, you've gotta use it."

"I don't think so."

Allen sighs, just as heavily as Kanda had. "Oh whatever."

Then Kanda kisses him, out of nowhere at all, and it's kind of like before but slower. Kind of like a lazy afterthought. And really, if Kanda is going to start randomly kissing him, he isn't going to complain; he'd just like to know what his reasoning is. Or if there even is a reasoning. He said he'd just felt like it before – how often does he 'just feel like it?'

Allen wraps his arms around Kanda's neck and presses their bodies together, turns his head to the side to deepen it a bit more. He lets out a noise of happiness as they part and rests his forehead against Kanda's. "Just felt like it?"

Allen takes Kanda's silence as a yes and smiles a bit, pecks Kanda's lips lightly before standing up and stretching. He looks around, and sees that, magically, he had actually followed the train tracks – it's probably how Kanda found him. "We'll follow the tracks a bit longer to find a town." Kanda says, and Allen nods at him.

As they set off, Allen asks, "So, do you know why you randomly feel like kissing me?"

Kanda lets out a grunt.

"Alright, Mister Caveman. Does that mean no?"

"I'm not discussing this."

"If you're going to keep kissing me you are."

"I didn't hear you complaining."

"Because I'm not. I…like it."

Kanda snorts. "Right."

"Do you like me?"

"Not at all."

"Oh," Allen looks down at his hands. He's silent for a moment and lets himself think. "I think I like you."

"I'm ecstatic."

"You don't sound ecstatic."

"Did you catch that?"

"Why are you being such an ass?"

"Because I feel like it. Why don't you shut up?"

"Because I want to talk about it. Kanda, I – I don't want you to just keep kissing me out of nowhere and have it mean nothing."

"Let it mean whatever you want it to," Kanda says, offhandedly. Kind of like he's distracted by something, or just really doesn't care. Which kind of makes Allen...angry.

"No, Kanda! Just – why don't you even try?"

"Try what?"

"I don't know…a…"

"What, a fucking relationship?"

"What's wrong with a relationship?"

"In this time? During a war? Everything. You really must be fucking stupid. What if you or I die? Why even bother creating that attachment?"

"I get what you're saying, but – maybe in this time what everyone really does need is to be closer. Haven't you ever just, wished you weren't alone? Just had someone there?"


"…Well I have."

"I'm not starting a goddamn relationship with you. That's just idiotic."

"Then don't label it – just…I don't know…Oh never mind. You're impossible." They walk for a few minutes, in silence, but Allen comes across a stray thought. In a fluid motion, he puts his hands on the side of Kanda's face and brings him down for a heated kiss. Kanda returns it, but as soon as he pulls away, growls:

"What the fuck was that about?"

"See, that's what I'm talking about. You do it to me." Allen shakes his head. "Maybe you'll start understanding if I just do the same things to you that you do to me."

"I doubt you even could, Moyashi."

"Is that a challenge?"

"It is."

"Challenge accepted."

Yay for just wanting to be fucking done with this one shot after two weeks! It was getting way too long and I was like, "FUCK THIS SHIT! *flips a desk*"

Oh yeah, let's just say they find a town and everyone ends up okay! Can you all see how much I really just don't GIVE a fuck? lol This fic has been eating away at me and I've been dreading finishing it, but I couldn't just STOP 6,000 words in. I'd hate myself.

Anyway, catch you cats later...I need a shower...and food. Fuck college, man.