Late July of the previous year
He slams his phone down on the countertop and does his best to quell the sudden emotions in him. He can vaguely recognize some – anger, confusion, even slight surprise. It's when something almost like fear hits him that he realizes something's off.
He shouldn't be afraid – there's nothing to be afraid of. If fucking ghosts want to come back and haunt him, by all means; something like that isn't going to shake him. But.
Alma motherfucking Karma is alive.
He's supposed to be dead. So why is Kanda getting phone calls from across the Pacific? He and Bak Chan haven't spoken in years, and it's not like him to joke about something so fucking unfunny.
And perhaps it wouldn't even be that big of a deal if it hadn't been Kanda who'd –
It wasn't even on purpose.
The fucking idiot was going around doing stupid shit and a fight had gotten out of hand. Kanda overpowered him too easily, even at such a young age, and the kid was put in ICU – when Kanda left Japan, he was still in a coma and to be taken off of life support. The only reason he'd even gotten out of there was because everyone associated with it had protected him, and then Tiedoll came and dragged him from the country, brought him to New Orleans.
So to hear that he's alive. It's almost surreal. He'd been thinking for years Alma was dead – that he'd killed him. And he doesn't know what to feel now.
He has to go there. Not only is Alma asking for him, he…
The beansprout is upstairs, sleeping. He can't know about this, it's none of his business. He'd probably just throw a little bitch fit if he knew, anyway. And with all the shit with Daisya going on? This isn't what he wants to be dealing with. They're still trying to work everything out, even though the funeral was close to a month ago.
He punches the countertop.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.
Mid-August of the previous year
He doesn't even know how he's going to wait so long. It's not like he's excited, because he's never excited and this shit is nothing to be excited about, but he's…anxious. He just wants to go and get this over with. He just wants to go and leave everything here behind and never have to deal with anything like this again.
Allen is next to him, walking, seeming a bit put-off about something. As if he has the right to be put-off. He almost wants to sneer. Him and his awesome little life with his awesome little friends and his awesome little grades. What does he even know? It makes Kanda so angry to think about it. So angry he can barely stand being next to him right now.
"Kanda?" Allen links their fingers together and Kanda almost flinches and pulls away, but doesn't.
"What?" He looks at the beansprout with furrowed eyebrows. If Allen can read his expression, be damned, because he isn't even sure of what he's feeling. Ugh, feeling. It's so stupid. Ever since he started this fucking relationship, everything about him has changed, and he hates it. He loved being on his own before, not having to deal or worry about anyone else. And now this kid is at the forefront of his mind pretty much…always. He really does hate it.
"Are you alright?" Alright? Oh yes, he's fine. He's totally okay.
This fucking kid doesn't understand a single fucking thing about him.
He tears his hand away and brings it to his chest. "It's nothing," he snarls, and looks away. It is nothing – nothing for Allen to worry about, anyway. None of his business at all.
He hears the sharp intake of breath. "Well obviously something's wrong…" Great deduction skills, Sherlock. Everything about Allen is driving him up the wall tonight. He almost wants to just break it off with him right now. Just walk home alone and not worry about him or his feelings.
But something is stopping him.
And unfortunately he knows the exact reason.
"Obviously, huh?" Kanda sneers.
The beansprout deflates a little, as if he's lost his fight. "What…did I do?" It's an uncharacteristic response, and it only makes Kanda angrier. He didn't start a relationship with a pussy, not some little girl who only cares about her feelings and their relationship. He started this because at one point in time, Allen was a worthy adversary. The kid could hold up his end of the conversation easily. And now he's just skipping around with tear-filled eyes like some school girl.
"What did you do?" Kanda asks, stopping suddenly. A warm breeze rolls through. "Nothing." He grinds out.
"Then why are you so – so angry at me?"
"I'm not angry at you!" And now he's lying.
"Really? Then why the hell are you acting like such an arsehole? Why…?" Even just hearing that stupid fucking accent, the mispronunciation of asshole. It's all making him so much more aggravated than usual. Maybe it's just because of all the shit with Alma. He's stressed, and keeping it to himself isn't helping at all, because maybe if Allen knew, he would leave Kanda the fuck alone.
"Haven't I always been an arsehole?" He mocks. Because he's been told that all his life. Especially since Tiedoll died. He has been an asshole, and he doesn't give a shit. He likes being an asshole.
"No, Kanda. No." Allen shakes his head and takes a step forward, while Kanda opts to stay where he is. "You may have always said cruel things, but you've never actually acted cruelly. You treat your friends apprehensively, but you're always there for them. Kanda, even in the beginning you dealt with me. And you didn't even like me. But…you've been all over the place lately. As if you don't know whether to avoid me or ignore me or love me or just fuck me! Kanda, what is going on with you?"
He can't tell him. Not the truth. It's not his business. It's not – it's none of his business. Fuck sharing information. He is his own person. They are not a 'we.' He will never be a 'we' with anybody. "Tch. Just shut up."
"I'm not going to just shut up, Kanda!" Allen exclaims, running fingers through his hair. "Jesus. I saw the goddamned brochure. Are you planning on just leaving and not telling anyone?"
A spark of anger rushes through Kanda. That's his personal life. A life Allen has no right to interfere with. "Going through my mail now?"
"It was just sitting on your island in your kitchen. What in the hell is wrong?"
He doesn't reply, because half of him doesn't know how to. And the other half of him doesn't feel he owes Allen the truth. But it's mostly just because he doesn't know how to.
"I'm thinking your boyfriend is just a bit suspicious."
That voice. That voice. He knows that voice.
"Tyki. What…?" Allen starts and turns towards the voice. Tyki. Tyki Mikk. From the NOAH?
"Hello, boys." Mikk waves at them, and in the dull light, he can see him semi-perfectly – dark skin, black tattoos, a small mole beneath his left eye. Allen turns to Kanda and Kanda furrows his eyebrows. He remembers this man. Remembers him from when Tiedoll was… "I'm honored. You remember me?" He is the one that killed Tiedoll.
"The fuck do you want?"
He saw. He cannot ever forget. Or forgive. He may not have loved Tiedoll, he doesn't love anyone, but he respected the man. He even felt he owed him something for protecting his younger self. But Mikk murdered him. And that left Kanda feeling…almost incomplete. He'll never be able to repay Tiedoll for getting him out of Japan so many years ago.
"Well, actually, we were just popping on by to get Allen here." Allen retreats a bit, and five more NOAH step into the light.
"What do you mean?" Allen asks. He continues moving backwards until he hits Kanda. Grabbing his arms to keep them both steady, Kanda holds Allen in place. He's probably hurting the kid with how much pressure he's applying, but he doesn't care much. Allen might be driving him up the wall, but…
And they may not be a 'we,' but…
There is still a…connection.
And Kanda isn't going to allow another connection of his to be cut.
"The boss wants to see you, Allen. He's requested we pick you up and bring you back." He remembers the girl speaking, but her name escapes him.
"Questions are unnecessary," a taller woman says. "I suggest you come without a fight if you don't want your pretty little friend there to die."
Kanda pushes Allen to the side and steps forward. "Fuck if he's going with you." If there weren't so many of them here he'd – he'd kill them. He's never really had the urge to completely mangle someone before, but all of them. They should all die. Die horribly and painfully and at his hand.
"Ohhh, protective," says one of the five, a darker haired teen that looks like he can't be too much older than Allen. "Jasdero, think he'll still be that way once he knows the truth?"
"Nope! Nope! Don't think so, Devit."
"What do you mean?" Allen asks. "Won't someone please tell me what the hell's going on?" It's a valid question, Kanda has to agree. He's agitated and confused and he hates those feelings, especially when they're coupled with each other. It sends tingles of pure, unadulterated anger down his spine. What kind of truth are they speaking about?
"It's a shame you don't remember, Allen." The short girl says. "The induction ceremony really is wonderful. The Boss always rents out a magnificent hall."
"What do you mean?" Allen asks, taking a step forward. In a flash, however, Kanda grips his arm, much more harshly than before. Fury blazes through him, at what the NOAH girl is implying. It's stings like betrayal, but it's impossible for him to feel betrayed right now. Impossible for him to feel anything except that anger, that horrid need to understand what they mean – because, if what they're saying is true, how could he be so stupid? So –
"As you said though, Rhode. It was so long ago. It's no wonder he doesn't remember." Mikk nods. "Listen, boy. Just to clear a few things up, our family – we're called the NOAH." He's still holding onto Allen; it seems as if the boys center of gravity has simply disappeared, and that if he let go, he'd just fall into a heap on the ground. "And your uncle was a member of this family."
"It's a shame he died. He was very cool. A beautiful musician."
Kanda's grip loosens and he pulls away as if Allen burned him.
So that would mean…
Because family members of…
"So you're coming back with us," Mikk says, stepping forward and holding out his hand. "Fourteenth."
Kanda directs his attention to the ground. He hears shuffling, senses movements in his peripherals, but doesn't look, or comment on it. If Allen is a NOAH. If he'd always been a NOAH.
Anger flares up worse than before. But it's tinged with something he hasn't felt in so long. Something like agony and maybe-maybe betrayal. But it's not that. He can't place what he's feeling; he just knows it's clawing at his lungs and making him so desperately livid he can't think straight.
"I don't…no! I…I don't care what you say. Neah was good. He never would have been a part of NOAH. And neither am I!" A slight pause for an intake of breath. "Kanda, I promise. I'm not one of them. I'll never be one of them."
He can't think. He can barely register Allen's words. To think that this kid is a part of the group that murdered Tiedoll, then Daisya? To think that he gave himself to a – ugh – relationship that lasted several months, let Allen see sides of him he'd never shown to anyone else; for all of that to be a lie? He can't. He just can't.
"It's too late. You already are," says the taller woman.
"No!" Allen snaps. "Kanda!"
Finally, Kanda looks up at him.
Can Allen see the blankness? He can't think. Not at all. If he thinks, it'll hurt too much. He's encountered this plenty enough times and his only defensive mechanism is to push it away. Combating pain doesn't work the same way as combating another human being.
"Kanda, I promise! I didn't – I'm not!" He can see and hear the tears. "Let me go!"
"Sorry, boy. No can do," Mikk informs him matter-of-factly.
He can't be here. He can't watch the lies. He can't think about it. He just can't.
So he walks away. He only gets about twenty feet away when Allen yells, "Kanda! Kanda don't go! You said you trusted me!"
He stops, but doesn't turn around. Because those words are making him think. He himself can feel the emotion on his face. "I did!" He hollers back, because it's true. He did trust Allen. He trusted a lot of himself to Allen after Daisya was killed. All the things that were said that night, he meant them at the time. And to let Allen see him in such a vulnerable state?
He can't take this. Everyone around him is always dying, and maybe it's time for him to grow up. To walk away from death because it's a natural part of life.
So just like Allen murdered Tiedoll and Daisya, he murdered their relationship. Every level of it. He never wants to hear or speak to Allen again.
He continues walking away, until he can't hear Allen screaming anymore. The fake tears, the fake emotion. He doesn't have to deal with that shit. And he's not going to. He's going to keep walking.
But walking – walking is worse. It makes him think. Think that maybe Allen wasn't faking. Maybe he was telling the truth. Maybe he just let the kid get kidnapped by the same people that killed Tiedoll and Daisya. Maybe he just walked away at the wrong time. So if they kill Al-
He stops in the median of the highway. He'd been crossing it and never even realized.
He has to go back. If they kill him like they killed Tiedoll and Daisya, it'll be his fault.
He shakes his head and starts running back. Maybe he couldn't prevent Tiedoll's death, or Daisya's death, but maybe he can prevent Allen's. Maybe Allen doesn't have to die.
There is the bright light of what he assumes, at the last minute, to be headlights. Then there is the unmistakable and disgusting sound of bone crunching and tires peeling out against the cement.
And then it is darkness.
He grips the ticket in his hand so tightly he can feel his nails digging into his palm. He must have fallen asleep in LAX and started having stupid dreams. Fucking airports. He hates them. All the people and all the noise. Big crowds are probably his least favorite thing and airports are full of them. And there's the fact that he had to three already, including LAX, and has to be in another when he gets into Tokyo. Apparently there are little to no flights direct from New Orleans to Los Angeles; he had to fly to Atlanta, Georgia first, which is so out of the way it's fucking ridiculous, then get on a plane to where he is now.
He sighs and stands up, stretching, before checking his cell phone. His layover here is about three hours, and he's slept for two of them. He needs something else to do.
He goes to a Starbucks and gets a macchiato first, so that he doesn't fall asleep again (it's pointless, though, because it's about a thirteen hour flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo – unfortunately, he's probably going to fall asleep) and then heads over to a book store. It's not too big, airport shops never really are, and it doesn't take him long at all to leaf through all the magazines in there. Which leaves him with the novels.
Now, he doesn't generally read a lot, not unless the topic suits his interest, but maybe a novel is what he needs. Something he can read for hours on end and forget about sleep or thinking in general. So he gets three, in case he decides he doesn't like one, and steps up to the register.
It's a woman working there, all smiles and politeness and something about her strikes him. Just, catches him really off guard. And maybe it's her short, platinum blonde hair, or her height, or her gray eyes, but she looks a lot like…
"Is this all?" She asks, sickly sweet.
"Does it look like I have anything else?"
She snorts, then collects herself. Ringing up the items she asks, "So where are you headed?"
"That's cool. I've never been, but I hope to one day."
"I'm so fucking happy for you."
"You're a cheerful one, aren't you?" She laughs, stuffing his books in a bag. "Well, my name's Alyssa, and that'll be nineteen fifty-eight."
He lets out a bit of a breath before taking out his wallet and handing her some cash. Maybe he really only should have gotten one. The school is paying for some of this, and Marie helped to (much to his chagrin, he said he could handle it himself; the only problem is that he actually couldn't) but he can't be throwing around money like it's the financial boom of the late eighties. Not that anyone threw money around then, either.
Maybe it's her appearance, coupled with the date, but he almost doesn't want to go sit back down and read these. And her name. But maybe he's just projecting as well.
This is stupid, he thinks. I'm being stupid.
Shaking his head, he turns around, but as he's walking away he hears the girl call, "You never gave me your name." He pauses, and turns around to face her. "Isn't that common courtesy in Japan? And everywhere really." There's a sardonic edge to her words and damn if her personality isn't similar as well.
She sighs and rests her head on her hand. "You know, I think you should come back in here and talk to me."
"What? Why?" He doesn't care to do that at all. Not really, anyway. He doesn't like conversation. With anyone. Ever.
Well, he used to. At one point in time he loved having conversations with the kid, because he could keep up. He didn't back down and it made it…interesting. And there's the mystery that this girl might be the same way. And again, maybe he's being an idiot and projecting, but he's fine with that.
"Um, because that plane doesn't leave for another fifty minutes, which means you're going to be stuck sitting down and reading those god-awful books for half an hour before you board." He frowns at her, then his bag, then the sitting area. "Come on, Grinch." He rolls his eyes, but complies, walking back towards her register and leaning against the counter. "So where are you from?"
"I love New Orleans. Well, no, I love that movie Princess and the Frog. But it's essentially the same, right?"
"I don't know." He does know. And it's not the same. But the only reason he knows is because of Lenalee. She made him go to the theater with Lavi and her when it came out.
"So, Mr. Tough Guy. What takes you to Japan?"
She asked for his name and then doesn't use it. "None of your fucking business."
"Oh, harsh. But I guess not." She laughs and tucks her white-blonde hair behind her ear.
"Is your hair dyed?" He asks, interest only mildly piqued. He doesn't even know why it comes out, or even that it did until he finishes asking it. Which annoys him. He does that sometimes and hates himself afterwards.
She laughs. "I get that a lot. No, it's natural. My eyes, too."
At least she's not British.
"So what are you drinking there?" She asks him, and he looks at his coffee cup before shrugging.
"If you don't want to fall asleep, why didn't you get a triple?"
"The fuck are you talking about?"
She laughs. "I had a clear shot of you over there, sleeping, then jolting awake with this haunted look on your face before getting up and heading straight to get coffee. Doesn't take a genius."
He sneers at her before taking a sip of his coffee. "It's pointless. It's a twelve to thirteen hour flight. I'll fall asleep at some point."
"Do you get nightmares or something?"
He sends her a look that's somewhere between a glare of apprehension and a raised eyebrow. It ends up being a mix of the two, and she giggles at him. "I don't."
"It's okay to get nightmares. Everyone does."
"They aren't nightmares."
"Well, then why are you so scared of them?"
"I'm not scared of them."
"I am not scared of them." He's not scared of his dreams. He just doesn't like reliving some of the worse parts of his year.
"Okay, okay," she concedes, putting up her hands. "I believe you."
A customer comes up to the register and he moves so she can check out. At this point, he takes a moment to really look at Alyssa, and realizes that maybe she doesn't look as much like the kid as he originally thought. She does have insanely light blonde hair, but it's not white like his. And her eyes really are gray, while his were more of a chrome. Her skin tone is off as well. He was extremely pale and she has a rather even, ivory complexion. It makes him angry at himself. He's leaving all of it behind, especially that beansprout, so why can't he stop thinking about it? About, fuck – him?
Before him, there was no one he really thought about. Not like this. There would be fleeting thoughts, never about partners, but about other people he knew. Lenalee, or Lavi, or even Marie, Chaoji, Tiedoll, and Daisya, and now…
And it's worse since they kissed. He smiled at the kid, smiled. As a general rule, he doesn't smile. Ever. But he kissed the beansprout, then smiled at him. Why in the fuck did he do that? He feels so stupid he almost wants to hit himself in the head, just to see if he can come to his senses, but he doesn't feel that would accomplish anything more than giving him a headache.
"You seem deep in thought, Macho Man." Alyssa leans against her countertop, finished with checking the other woman out, and smirks at him.
He doesn't reply to her at first, waits a moment to collect himself before saying, "Whatever."
He sneers at her and checks his phone. Twenty minutes until he has to board. He doesn't want to have any more of a conversation with this girl, the illusion dispelled, but he really has nothing better to do.
"Are you hungry?" She asks, leaning over the counter and getting a candy bar before holding it out to him.
"A shame. These are really good." She waves the bar at him. "Really, really good."
"Oh, I'm annoying am I?" She snickers. "Well, I was just trying to be nice and share my food with you."
"What, do you think I have ulterior motives, Handsome?"
He raises an eyebrow. He's not being vain, but people oftentimes have ulterior motives when talking to him or offering him something. "Why did you ask for my name if you aren't going to use it?"
"As I said before, Hot Stuff, it's just common courtesy."
He rolls his eyes. Maybe she's more like that fucking Lavi. He always tries to use pet name and stupid shit like that. "Whatever."
"You aren't going to contribute to the conversation at all, are you?"
"Just catching on?"
"You are so mean. I'm just trying to be a nice, random citizen by talking to a pretty-boy who has scary dreams."
"My dreams don't scare me!"
She laughs. "So defensive. Do you want to talk about it?"
"Why would I ever want to talk about it? Especially with you. I don't even know you."
"That's why it's perfect. We'll never see each other again, and you don't have to worry about me telling any of your friends or anything like that."
"I'm not talking about my dreams with you." Even if she does have a point, he wouldn't share things like that with anybody. People apparently have issues with getting into places they don't belong; they try to do it to him all the time.
"Your loss. I'm a great listener." She shrugs.
He snorts. Like it's any of her business what he dreams about. Opening his bag, he pulls out one of the books he bought and turns it over to read the back. He probably could have done this before buying it, but he couldn't be bothered to – the front looked fine enough.
He opens it to the first page and begins reading, knowing that anything written by Stephen King is going to at least be interesting. It's not going to be all that romance crap, with muscled men and distressed damsels. That shit makes him want to puke. Who believes in that kind of thing? That the perfect man just comes out of nowhere, is usually a cop or something else in uniform, and knows exactly how to sweep a woman just spurned by her ex-lover off her feet. Or something. At least Anne Rice got the vampires right.
The cashier tries to lure him into conversation a few more times, but he's very obvious about his distaste. By the time he's about twenty pages in, she's given up, and has taken to leaning back against her counter and waiting for customers. Or at least that's what he assumes she's doing. When they finally call for 'B' seating on his flight, he marks his page, closes his book, and sticks it in his bag before walking over to the line to board.
"Bye, Kanda!" The cashier calls.
He doesn't respond, but does give her a slight nod while he's turned away, and he hears her slightly demure laugh over the loud crowds of the terminal.
By the time he's boarded in his plane, thankfully at a window seat, he puts his tray table in the upright position and watches outside the small porthole of a window.
It's going to be a long thirteen hours.