Chapter 13

On the way to Lenalee's, his phone rings. He glances down at the caller ID, then sighs and answers it. "What?"

"What happened?" Marie asks, gentle but tinged with annoyance. He sounds tired, unsurprisingly.

"Beansprout and I are making an impromptu trip to Lenalee's."

"Why? All I heard was yelling and a door being slammed. I was worried."

"She needs to answer some questions." He pauses. "I have questions for you, too."

Allen looks over at him, confused. Kanda sneers and cocks his head towards the road to imply Allen should be focused on driving; Beansprout rolls his eyes, but faces front again. "About what?"

"I want to know everything you know about the old man. About what he did before we met him."

Marie is silent for a moment. "Not much. He generally stayed pretty vague if I asked him questions. I know he was in the military. Well, a military. Only because he mentioned something about a war before - something about generals? But it was very long ago, Kanda."

He figured, but he thought he'd ask. Marie already said that he didn't know anything about the cross, so he doesn't even bother bringing that up again. "And another thing..." He glances over at Allen, apprehensive. He never really talked about what happened while he was in Japan, never mentioned the training, or the medicines, or the experiments. The closest he got was talking about Alma, and even that conversation didn't last long. "What was the name of that project? The one from Japan."

"The project? I haven't thought about specifics in so long. I often try not to. I think...the word 'exorcist' had something to do with it though."

"Exorcist? As in fucking priests? Exercising demons and shit?"

"Maybe? I'm not the one you should be asking. You know who is."

Yeah. Yeah he does fucking know. "He's not gonna tell me shit."

"He might have a little something to say."

"Fuck...fine...whatever. Go back to sleep."

"Kanda, be careful with these questions. You know what that place was capable of. They could be just as dangerous as NOAH."

It's true, honestly. "They could."

"I'm going back to sleep then."

"Yeah," he says, then hangs up.

"What was that about?"

"Marie wanted to know why we were being so loud at 11:30 at night."

"Ah, yeah, I guess that could be pretty alarming." He pauses. Kanda realizes that the radio isn't on, but he makes no move to change that. "Can I ask what your questioning was all about? Um...that project?"

Allen knows he's treading on thin ice, but he's asking anyway. Persistent bastard. "It's a long story that requires the light being off." If he ever tells him, anyway.

"Oh, okay," he says, softly. "Does it have something do with Alma? And...the scientists?"

Kanda scoffs, harshly. "Yes, it does. That's the end of it."

"All right," Allen nods, conceding. They turn onto Lenalee's street, and they slow to a stop in front of her house. "Do you think this is a good idea?"


"Showing up at Lenalee's house so late."

"I don't give a shit."

"Well," Allen shrugs. "We're already here anyway." Kanda unbuckles his seat belt, then shoves the door open and nearly stomps up the front porch. He has no qualms about beating her door down.

Unsurprisingly, Komui answers. He looks tired. "Wha...Kanda? Allen?"

"Hey," Allen waves, sheepish.

"What's going on?"

"Your sister is in the middle of having a mental breakdown," Kanda snarls, pushing past him and storming to her room.

"What!? Wait, why?" Komui exclaims, rushing beside him.

Sure enough, Kanda opens the door and she's on the floor, phone next to her. She's leaning against her bed, knees pulled to her chest, and there are tear streaks on her cheeks. She looks up, surprised, when she notices Kanda. "Wha-?" Her voice is raw, but it's obvious she hasn't been sobbing. If she was crying loudly, Komui would have noticed. "Kanda, I..."

"Lenalee!" Komui cries, dropping to the floor beside her. He looks genuinely worried. "What's wrong?"

She looks at him, face contorted as if she still wants to cry, and whispers, "You knew, didn't you?"

He looks confused. "About what? Tell me what's wrong."

"He's coming...Levellier..."

Komui goes stock still. He doesn't even blink. "Who...who told you?"

She looks up at Kanda, who's more confused than anything else. While that name rings a bell, and while it makes him physically sick to his stomach, he can't place it. Can't attach it to a face, or a situation. He just wants to throw up, or hurt something, or do anything to get rid of that feeling.

Komui looks at him, expression hard. "I don't know who the fuck you're even talking about," Kanda snarls at him, before he starts making stupid accusations. "Everyone keeps talking about this fucking 'Big Brother' character and it's been fucking annoying. Fo insinuated -"

"Fo told you this?" Komui asks, bristled. He's fucking upset. Angry upset. But it's obvious he doesn't want to bring Lenalee any further down than she already is.

"She was warning me. More than I can say for any of you other shit heads."

Komui looks back at Lenalee, gently placing his hand on her arm. She jerks away from the touch, and that's surprising. For as crazy as Komui's sister complex gets, Lenalee loves him just as much. "I just found out," he says, softly. "I didn't want to upset you."

"You thought it'd be better for him to show up without warning me at all?!"

"No...I...we've been trying to persuade Central - that is...well, Levellier, that he doesn't need to come. But his assistant has apparently been giving him intel he doesn't like."

"Assistant?" Kanda asks. Allen just stands behind them quietly, leaned against the doorframe and keeping out of the way. "Is this the guy watching us?"

Komui purses his lips and looks away. "I'm really...not allowed to say. I shouldn't be talking about this at all. Everything he does is classified, and definitely not for public knowledge. Outside people have no reason to know about him."

"We're not outside people! Lenalee is your sister for fuck's sake!"

"I know!" He yells back. "I know, and I would do anything to keep her safe. I would do anything to keep you and Allen safe, too. I know you don't like to hear this Kanda, but asking questions is asking for trouble. If he wants you to know about him, you will, but until then you are much better off staying ignorant!"

He doesn't know how to reply to that...on one hand, he could rip off Komui's head, but that would make Lenalee even more upset. On the other, he could just keep his fucking mouth shut and take it out on Fo when he sees her next. Maybe an impromptu session tomorrow morning.

Allen walks forward now, and kneels next to Lenalee. "Hey," he whispers, softly. He takes her hand in his, and she lets him. Komui doesn't look at all pleased, but he backs off a little. "Hey, look at me."

She does, sniffling.

"Whatever happens, we're your family. This has all been a giant shit storm, but we would never let anything hurt you. Komui's right, and you know that."

She nods, tearing up.

He brings her hand to his cheek and smiles gently. If Kanda had sentimental ideas and shit, he'd consider the expression beautiful. "This guy, whoever he is, whatever he did to scare you - he can't touch you now."

Komui doesn't look like he agrees with Allen's statement, and that's fucking terrifying. Genuinely terrifying.

"Allen..." She whispers. "I don't know what to do."

He let's go of her hand, but brings her into a hug. Komui really doesn't look happy about that, either, but he keeps quiet. Allen rests his chin on top of her head and she nuzzles into his collarbone. "Me neither," he admits. "I don't think any of us do. I'm scared, I'll admit. Scared for all of us. But we're together. We're here for each other, and that's enough to keep me strong." He leans back and looks into her eyes. He's not jealous about the way Allen's treating her or anything, because that would be dumb. "What about you?"

"Yeah," she nods, crying harder and hugging him tight again. He pets her hair for a couple of seconds, then lets go.

"Don't blame Komui for it, okay?"

"I don't," she cries. "I don't, I really don't."

She stands then, and runs over to her older brother, hugging him, too. He smiles gently and holds her tight. "I'm sorry," he whispers.

"I know."

Allen walks back over to Kanda and laces their fingers together. "Do you need a hug too?" He smiles, obviously joking. Kanda worries that there was something in his expression that might say he does, though.

"Fuck you," he replies, but he doesn't let go of Allen's hand. The nausea subsides slightly. Fuck, he really wants a cigarette. "Beansprout, bring me to a gas station."


"That, or I'll stay here and you pick me up a pack of Reds."

Allen gives him a very deadpan look. Lenalee doesn't hear him, which is probably for the best. "I am not doing that," he says.

"Why the fuck not? You never used to have a problem with it."

"I wasn't kissing you then."

Now that he thinks about it, whenever he and Allen were together last year he really never felt the need for one, mainly because he only ever needed the nicotine when he was anxious. And last summer, up until Daisya, he never felt anxious.

"So don't fucking kiss me. I seriously don't give a shit."

"Then you can walk," Allen smiles at him, cheerily.

"You fucker..." They're still holding hands though. The more he thinks about it, the worse it gets, and he's sure Allen can tell he's not totally fine.

Allen leans in a little. "Kissing will probably keep you from wanting to smoke. It'll keep that rude mouth of yours busy."

"There's a sobbing girl in the room and you're talking about making out," Kanda scoffs, looking away.

Allen goes quiet for a moment before sighing. "I was trying to lighten the mood a little. All this stress…" Kanda glances back over at him, and realizes how tired Allen is for the first time. Not just because it's after midnight, but because of their situation. And he looks older. When did he grow? He's got to be at least two or so inches taller since they first met. His jaw is more defined, shoulders wider. His hair just barely rests at the nape of his neck, not having grown much since Kanda cut it.

"Beansprout," he calls, and their eyes meet.

Those eyes, too. They used to look like the moon, big and gray – now they're something closer to arsenopyrite: metallic silver laced with arsenic. They're dangerous, but striking, and Kanda wonders how that got there. How long it's been like that, and when he stopped taking note of the changes in Allen.

Sentimental shit is not his forte, though. "I'm going to the living room."

Allen looks back at Lenalee and Komui, and then nods. "Yeah, alright. I'm coming."

Kanda can just barely tolerate Komui at his best – when he's acting like a grown ass man with a Ph.D. and not like a fucking idiot with a sister complex. The rest of the time, however…

"I will fuck you up."

"Kanda, that's not at all necessary!" Komui exclaims, crossing his arms and shaking his head. Lenalee is quietly seated next to Allen, and they're holding hands. "It's been a wild ride, but the coaster has stopped and it's time to get off."

"You're an idiot."

"Kanda, please…" Lenalee says, softly. He rolls his eyes in a not so discreet manner and leans back in the couch, exuding nonchalance.

"What do they even want me back for, anyway?"

"They've wanted you back for a while – you're an intolerable assistant, but a hard worker. And you've already started getting back on your feet, so…"

"I said that I would deal with them in time. I don't need their shit right now with everything else going on."

"This could be a welcome distraction," Komui fights, almost pleading. "Anyway, one of Russell's graduate students quit, so…"

"I'm an undergrad – I'm not qualified to fill a graduate student's position," he says back, voice surprisingly even considering how much he does not want to be talking about this. Honestly, Komui is mostly right. Last summer, working was a great distraction from Daisya's death, so it would make sense that it would work just as well now, what with Alma going over to the dark side and this new guy showing up to haunt them.

The more he thinks about it, the better an idea it sounds, but he's still apprehensive about this. He's out of practice; most of what he remembers is theory, not application. Fuck, remembering how to culture, how to stain a slide for a microscope, how to organize reports – he'll be surprised if even one of those things stuck with him.

It all did come so naturally to him before though, – it was so cut-and-dry that he could grasp the concepts in almost no time at all. To him, biology just makes sense. It's something nearly tangible, very real and very concrete. It's nothing abstract, not music or art or theater; it's just science.

"You are more than capable and you know it," Komui chastises, but Kanda thinks it has more to do with desperation than belief. From the way it sounds, Russell really is short on people. And he's much further in his research now than he was before. It's definitely upper-level, something for biology or ecology majors finished with most of their 400 level classes and intent on going to graduate school.

"I think it's a good idea," Beansprout intones from where he's sitting next to Lenalee. "It'll help in the future."

No one really responds to that, because him or Allen having a future – together or separate – is up in the air at the moment. If the NOAH show up tomorrow and decide they changed their minds, they could be dead. Still, outward optimism is something inherent in Allen Walker, regardless of whether he himself believes in it or not. Komui and Lenalee are very much the same way. He's better at realism, personally.

"Fine," he grumbles.

"Ah! Thank you! Russell will be ecstatic to have you back!"

"Unlikely," Kanda snorts.

From time to time, Kanda actually forgets that the crazy individual known as Komui Lee actually has a doctorate in the sciences. The bastard can be extremely illogical, and is prone to action without thinking; most of the time he's ruled by emotion rather than logic. Still, the man is a fucking genius, and there is absolutely no denying that.

When the conversation starts to really die down, and Kanda is starting to grow tired and more agitated, Beansprout speaks up. "Komui, I have a question…"

"What's that, Allen?"

"Maybe you can't answer, but…what do you know about my godfather's involvement with all of this?"

"Marian?" Komui asks, and Kanda snorts at that. It's always been amusing and almost fitting of the asshole that he have such a stupid fucking name. "I…" He looks to the side. "I suppose it couldn't hurt to tell you…some things…."


"Lenalee, I'm so sorry, but could you…" Komui looks pained, and Lenalee does too.

"Yeah," she nods. "Yeah, okay."

"I promise, if it was anything that you needed to know, I would tell you. I won't make the mistake of keeping things from you again."

"I know," Lenalee sighs, swiping her hair out of her eyes. She pats Allen's hand and stands up. "I'm going to go to sleep, I guess." She doesn't look at all tired, just subdued, but Kanda understands the feeling. Emotional and mental exhaustion are totally separate from physical exhaustion.

"I'll see you in the morning," Komui smiles.

"Good night, Lenalee," Allen also smiles.

"Night," she nods, and disappears.

Kanda takes no time in redirecting the conversation back in the direction that he wants it to go. "Spill."

Komui looks at him, expression grim, and Kanda has to swallow the feeling of dread that comes from it. There's something there that he doesn't like, but he ignores it. Because he needs answers. "You'd hear about it eventually, when Levellier arrives, so there's no real point in keeping it from you." He runs a hand through his hair. "Except the immense amount of trouble I'd get in from Central," he adds.

"Komui, if it's dangerous for you to talk, don't do it," Allen says, getting up to move closer.

No, you fucker. Talk.

"I'll be alright," he assures, nodding, though Kanda doesn't feel assured at all. He scrubs at his eyes before going on. "Have either of you heard of an organization called The Black Order?"

The name instills very hateful feelings in Kanda, but he can't place why. "No," Allen shakes his head, bemused. "I mean…maybe? I don't know. It feels really familiar, like it'd been mentioned in passing before and I just never paid attention to it."

"It's likely," Komui shrugs. "Marian has always had a drinking problem."

"And a gambling problem, and a smoking problem, and a problem with prostitutes, I'm well aware," Beansprout responds. Anyone else might make that sound joking, but Allen is very serious. "How is he related to the Order?"

"Well," Komui starts, looking a little uncomfortable. "He's a part of it. Kind of. When he feels like it, mostly." He pauses. "We all are."

"All…are what?" Kanda asks, though he's sure he knows the answer. This is exactly what he and Allen had been talking about.

"The Black Order," he reiterates. "None of you kids know about it for sure, but…" he swallows. "This is much harder to talk about than I thought it would be."

"Who is 'we'?" Allen asks then, leaning forward a little.

Komui fidgets. "Your godfather and I, obviously – and then, let's see…Bak and his scientists, Lavi's grandfather, and…well Russell and several others you haven't met yet."

"Dr. Russell?" Kanda snarls. "Should I assume he doesn't even need extra help at the lab and just wants to play watchdog?"

"No, of course not. He really doesn't have much of an interest outside of that research, so I wouldn't worry about him breathing down your neck. He's not concerned with the same things the Order is."

"And what is 'the Order' concerned with?"

He looks Kanda right in the eyes as he says, "Now that is confidential. Knowing about the existence of something and knowing what it's for are two totally different things. Government secrets and all that." He turns to Allen. "Your godfather is a part of the Order like the rest of us, but he doesn't so blindly follow. Mostly, his involvement only reaches as far as the power they'll grant him. He doesn't listen well and generally ends up doing whatever he wants, so when you ask about his relation to all of this…I don't want to say it's minimal, but it's not as much as it could be. He's keeping an eye on you, Allen, and a few others, just to keep things in check, but I don't believe he has any intentions on intervening unless it directly harms one of his objectives."

"Then why even tell us about it!?" Kanda exclaims, itching to stand up and release his frustration out on something. Or someone.

"Because you asked. Because I want to tell you as much as I can. Because at least knowing who they are when they show up will make you less vulnerable to them."

"You make it sound like they're the bad guys…" Allen trails off. And he has a point; the way Komui is talking – it doesn't sound like the introduction of this organization is going to be anything good.

"I don't – no, they're not. Everything is relative, of course, and there's no such thing as black and white, but the Black Order is not the bad guy. You've met the bad guys, Allen. You know who they are."

It doesn't make Kanda feel any better. "Why would vulnerability be an issue?" He wants to milk this for all it's worth, at least.

"If you're vulnerable, it leaves you open to suggestion. The Black Order has a specific goal and they will do anything to reach it; gauge yourself. Go along with what they say, it'll make things much easier, but you can't change who you are, can't go against your own beliefs. You'll end up hating yourself if you do…" Komui inhales softly, and then exhales in just as soft resignation. "Like Bak, like everyone who ever hurt you, Kanda."

"…so the Order was a part of that then?"

Komui purses his lips, looking as if he maybe divulged a little too much information. "I can't say. What I can say is that everything they do is for the greater good, regardless of how convoluted their means can be."

Now, Kanda does move. He stands, furious, and nearly spits in Komui's face before snarling, "The greater good? If that's the kind of shit they pull for the greater good, they can go fuck themselves."

"Don't say that, Kanda. Trust me. Just please, for once, use that brain of yours and be realistic about this. You're too emotional for your own good sometimes and it's going to get you in trouble."

If only he could just…remember. Just reach out and grab what he's missing and stick the pieces together. If he did, could he trust this organization like Komui's asking? Or would he be even more inclined to rip them to shreds? How is he supposed to trust the people who ruined his life? How is he supposed to trust someone who's been lying to him for years and years? He can't.

And yet…Bak and Fo…Alma.

Alma, who beyond a doubt fucked everything up. Alma, who taught him what it meant to actually put faith in another human being. Alma, with his brown hair and his stupid grin and the way he absolutely broke Kanda in half emotionally.

And then, when he was finally starting to heal from that, Tiedoll was murdered; when he was recovering from that and met Allen, Daisya died. The shit storm that is their lives only continued to worsen, until finally Alma showed up again, started to make everything better, and then just completely ripped everything apart. It's been a battle, a struggle, and Kanda wonders how he isn't even more fucked up than he already is.

A human being isn't meant to go so back and forth emotionally. He guesses that one day there's not going to be anything left.

Being defined by hate or love, by revenge or whispers in the dark – one day there won't even be enough of him to have that. Why doesn't that terrify him? Why is there something, somewhere, that still wants to fight it? It seems like such a sure thing, that he's going to dissolve, but he still wants to survive. Even if he's bare bones, he wants to survive.

"Fine," he returns finally. "I'll go along with the bastards, only on the condition that they actually get something done."

"They will."

"Why haven't they yet, then?"

Komui looks at Allen. "They haven't had the right catalyst."

That seals it. Even if the Order had started that program simply to train kids to grow up and be perfect little soldiers for them and had nothing to do with NOAH, that comment tells him everything he needs to know.

The Order is using Allen, or if they haven't already, are going to soon; his connections to the NOAH are ideal for a fucked up organization like that. And even as young as he is, as vulnerable and small as he is, Allen is going to be a piece in a giant game of Risk and the Order is going to have no qualms about doing it. Not if what they did to him says anything.

He wonders, then, who he garners more hate towards for: The NOAH, or the Order?

Can he side with the Order in order to wipe the NOAH from the earth? To ensure that they never fucking again touch something that belongs to him?

Yes. Yes, he thinks he can. As much as it kills him, degrades him, he could do it. Because he understands, slightly, what Komui means now. It's absolutely sickening to think that he and Alma and Allen are the means, but at the end of the day the NOAH are the bigger bastards. At the end of the day, there are greater evils.

He looks over at Allen and cocks his head towards the door. "Let's go, Beansprout. I'm fucking tired. And we're stopping and getting me cigarettes."

"There's no goddamn way," Allen mutters, shaking his head and standing. He looks over at Komui, eyes kind, and says, "Thank you."

For a moment, Komui is silent, and then a smile forms on his face. "You keep him out of trouble, Allen. And if either of you need something, don't hesitate to call. Bak and I will do whatever we can."

Kanda nods to him in response and starts towards the door. For a moment, he isn't sure if Allen's even going to follow him; the kid is staring down towards Lenalee's door as if it's the only thing he sees. But then, after a moment, Allen turns towards Kanda and follows. "You can stay here, Beansprout."

Allen looks up at him before shrugging. "I don't think Komui'd allow it."

"I think that bastard is going to do whatever he needs to do for his sister. Besides, I'm fairly certain that he realizes you suck dick by this point."

Beansprout blushes, ferociously. "Hey, I…" he starts to retort, but doesn't finish that statement. Kanda smirks. "I don't know…I think she needs someone with her, but…how will you get home?"

He…did not think about that. "I'll sleep on the fucking couch, I don't care."

It only takes a single second longer for Allen to turn around and make it back to Komui. That night, after Allen disappears into Lenalee's room, Kanda kicks back in the recliner and falls asleep almost instantly.

Fo is a goddamned slave driver.

He doesn't mind exercise at all; in fact, he quite enjoys it. It's a great outlet for all his extra energy that sets him on edge most of the time. But this fucking woman is going to put him in the ground.

"Okay, Bitch, we're working on your core strength today. We're doing mobile stretches and a variety of aerobic and anaerobic exercise."

Which is fine with him. He's good at shit like that. But there is a line.

"Forty push-ups."


"Forty, right now. I'm putting on the stop watch. You have sixty seconds."

"You're being fucking ridiculous."

"I already started the timer, Twinkle Toes. Jump to it."

She seems to think she's a fucking drill sergeant or something. He does do what she says, though, because it's his fault if anything seems difficult. Fuck, he used to be a lot more fit than this.

"I set high goals so that you aim to achieve them and in the meantime end up doing much better than you would have without them. Now good lord, get yourself a bottle of water before you dehydrate from how much sweat you're losing."

He does have to give her some credit though, because she does most of the things she tells him to do. Some part of him believes that this is just so she can show that she's better than him, but he ignores that because it pisses him off.

"Are you fucking serious? Do I look like I'm in fucking elementary school?"

"Kanda, jump ropes are very serious business. Ten minutes of jump-roping is the equivalent of running an eight-minute mile, granted you don't fuck up; there are some pretty mean techniques, too. I mean, people do this shit as a sport. So while I do think you have the emotional tolerance of a third grader, I'm not handing you a rope because you look like one."

"I could also use this to strangle you."

"Don't go soft on me now, Princess. If you can do a backflip into that jump rope I'll give you permission to assault me with it in any way you desire."

That's a decent enough motivator for him, even though he's fairly certain that he's nowhere near flexible enough for that yet.

"Do you feel close to death yet, Beau?"

"…Do you?"

"As threatening as your little glares are, I'm not exactly shaking in my tennis shoes. Besides, you lose a lot of your menacing air when you can't even breathe."


"This is a lot of fun. I should have started this sooner."

By the time he feels like he could feasibly pass out, they stop.

"Pain is just weakness leaving the body, Private."

"You…fuck you. You actually fucking think…you're in the military."

"Maybe I am, maybe I'm not. Hey, listen, I do swear they won't all be this bad. Actually, this will probably be the worst –"

"You piece of shit!"

"- But I want it as a point of reference. That way when I transform your shitty ass into something remotely useful, we can share a beer and laugh over how much of a pussy you were."

"I hate you. I…actually fucking hate you."

"You hate everyone, Smalls."

"No, I hate you."

"And my feelings are very hurt by that. Go home and take a fuckin' shower before your little boy-toy gets home. We'll meet back here on Thursday…oh, and Bak will be calling you soon about Old Man Zu."

"That's fuckin' wonderful."

When Marie walks into the living room that evening and hears him typing furiously on the computer, he asks, "Kanda, what are you doing?"

"Trying to figure out a way to murder Fo and make it look like an accident when she has a shady organization backing her."

He and Marie discussed everything Komui had told him and Allen when they finally got back to the apartment Saturday afternoon. Obviously his older brother was extremely confused, and Kanda had no qualms about repeating every single thing they found out. This all affects Marie as much as it affects him, and if there's anything that was owed to them, it was answers. Granted, those answers led to more questions, but it's a start.

"That's probably not a good idea," Marie says, smiling, sitting down on the couch next to him.

He sighs and leans back into the cushion, looking up at the ceiling. He wasn't really getting anywhere with that line of questions anyway. "It sounds like a good idea."

"You used to say that about Daisya, too."

Kanda's eyes are on him in an instant, and his throat goes very dry. Marie isn't lying; though he wasn't exactly being serious about threatening Daisya, it was something he did all the time. More often than not the idiot just laughed at him and slapped him on the shoulder before spinning on his heel and returning to whatever he was doing that led Kanda to threaten him in the first place. Still, he can't imagine that he'd ever be able to say that to Daisya again if he somehow rose from the grave.

He closes the laptop and sets it on the coffee table before scoffing and crossing his legs. "I say that about a lot of people."

"At least you're self-aware."

"I mostly mean it."

"Mostly, except for when you say it to Lavi –"

"No, I mean that."

"Or Bak –"

"I would do it with a smile."

"Or Allen."

He swallows and looks at his hands. "I…mean that, too."

"No you don't, Kanda," Marie laughs, throwing a heavy hand on his shoulder. He grimaces and goes to shake him off. "I think it's just the only way you know how to say 'I love you.'"

He sneers. "No."

"That's a very persuasive rebuttal, but I'm standing by what I said. I know you better than anyone else."

Kanda can't even deny that. It's much in the same way that he knows more about Marie than anyone else does. They've been brothers for a long damn time. He can't really recall much of anything from before he met Marie; though, by those standards, much before he met Alma or Bak, either.

"I understand though," he continues on after a moment. "After everything, I imagine it's hard to put your feelings on the line."

He snorts in derision. "I have a perfectly capable vocabulary."

Marie chuckles and shakes his head. "Your vocabulary is centered on insult and cursing."

"And that is perfectly capable of getting my feelings across," he retorts, sarcastic. Marie is really the only one that he'll tolerate any of this shit from. He doesn't think there's even one other person he'd talk to about this.

"I'm sure you have many things you'd like to say to people in your life that have nothing to do with scathing remarks."

"Not really."

"Are you sure?" Marie asks, raising an eyebrow. "There's nothing at all besides insults that you'd say to Lenalee?"

He purses his lips. "She's annoying."

"Very convincing."

"She is. She cries about everything, and she's so fucking hung-up on friendship and-"

"And you love her very much and would never let anyone hurt her."

"That is not what I was going to say."

"No, but it's something I'm sure you want to say."

No, it's really not. He doesn't think he'd ever say that. Ever. Regardless of if it's true or not. Honestly, Lenalee has been so close to him for so long, the only real female influence in his life, and because of that she has a little niche in his life. She is important to him, in the sense that he would protect her need be and that he'd be very inclined to rip apart anyone who came near her. Still, he has no desire to say that out loud. "Still not what I was going to say."

"Alright, what about Chaoji?"

"Are you fucking kidding me? That fucker's a dipshit!" He snarls, nearly offended. "He's totally useless!" And Kanda means that. He is. Not as much of a dipshit as Daisya or Lavi, but still a major dipshit.

"He's still your brother."

"Not by choice."

"None of us are."

Kanda does take note of how he says that. He keeps circling back to Daisya, for some unknown reason. Maybe to get some emotional rise out of Kanda. He's not going to get one, though. "Whatever."

Marie laughs. "So, no familial attachment to Chaoji at all. Not even a little one."

"Not at all." None. None, whatsoever. Even if, fine, he'd do the same exact thing and rip apart anyone who came near the guy, Chaoji is still a dipshit.

"What about me?"

"That's different."


"You're not useless."

"Well thank you, Kanda. That's touching."

Kanda sighs harshly, running his hands through his hair, starting to grow frustrated. "There's no point in even fucking talking to me about this."

"I know. What about Lavi?"

"This is just a joke to you, isn't it?"

"A little bit. Still, he is your best friend."

"I would not consider that motherfucker my best anything." Not by a long shot. "Just stop talking about this."

"One last person. You'd really have nothing but insults to throw at Alma Karma, then?"

He freezes, swallowing, and turns away. "I have nothing at all to say to him. Not a word." He has no idea of what he even would say if he did. The more he tries to think about it, the more he realizes that there's nothing there. It's all a blank spot. What will he even do when he sees Alma again? If he sees him again. Is he just going to freeze up and turn away? Or is he going to be able to use cutting words to defend what little shred of pride remains inside of him?

"Alright, Kanda," Marie says in resigned amusement. He slaps Kanda on the knee before standing up. "I'll keep all of that in mind when I hear the two of you whispering out here tonight."

"H-hey!" Kanda exclaims, face warming. Fucking hell, that Marie hears anything they talk about – or god forbid, do – is extremely mortifying. He is so moving out as soon as possible. Which, at this rate, will not be for a very long time; the lab should help with that a little, though. "Fucking Christ…"

"Speaking of…" Marie pauses. "He should be here soon."

"It's fucking pathetic that he treats this place like it's his house," Kanda rolls his eyes and crosses his arms.

"Well, he does pay me rent," Marie returns, and Kanda actually laughs at that. "I'm serious."

The laughing abruptly stops, ending on something closer to a cough. "What?"

"I mean, it's just a portion, but he does. I explained to him that it didn't matter to me – he's really only here at night and he puts more food in this apartment than I ever did – but he insisted."

"You…can't be fucking serious."

"I am."

He literally feels all the blood move away from his cheeks, where it had just been. What the fuck. Really. He's been paying goddamn rent this whole time? What are they, fucking cohabitating? And besides…that Beansprout is paying money and he isn't…that really fucks him up. Fuck.


"Like I said, I told him he didn't have to. I don't even know where he gets it from."


"I didn't mean to break you."

"Why the fuck didn't he tell me?"

"Probably for this very reason."

"I'm fucking kicking him out."

"You can't kick him out of my apartment because he's paying me to live here."

And now, when he looks around, he kind of sees it. A pair of Allen's shoes by the door, a folder for his English class on the coffee table, his laptop that Kanda was just using. He knows the kid's phone passcode, his favorite song, his warmest sweater. These are things that…he shouldn't know. Things he doesn't want to know. He never asked for this.

But here it is. And he feels uncomfortable about it, because it was so close to him and he didn't even realize it. And then, pissed, because Allen kept that from him. Before it kind of agitated him that the kid acted like this was his house, now it bothers him that he always had that right.

He's a fucking adult, but he feels like he's being treated as a child.

He also feels like an idiot, and that's even worse.

His phone buzzes on the couch and he picks it up before snarling, "Hello?" into the receiver.

"Ah, Kanda," Bak replies. This is not making his day better. "I've spoken with Fo and Zu Mei, and we think it's time for you to start your weapons training."

Weapons training. Slicing something up will probably make him feel better.


"That was…oddly compliant…anyway, it'd be twice a week – Monday and Thursday. There's a gym in town with a room perfect for Kendo."


"…Is there something wrong?"

"Is there ever anything right?"

"I suppose not," Bak chuckles darkly. "But you seem…you sound off."

He sounds off? What the fuck does that even mean? "What the fuck are you on about?"

The scientist sighs, and Kanda can't even bring it in himself to be annoyed at it. He's still fucked up about Allen. "I don't know – you seem…distracted."

"Excuse me for not giving a shit about the words that come out of your mouth."

Bak clicks his tongue in disapproval and there's a rustling over the phone as if he's shaking his head. "These things are important, Kanda. Do you want to end up dead?"

Fuck no. He'd prefer nearly anything else. "Are you stupid? Of course not."

"Well, you could've fooled me," Bak goes on. "You have to learn to cooperate if you want to get out of this alive. If you want Allen to stay by your side. You'll have to sacrifice this bravado you put on to…to get Alma back."

Kanda purses his lips, swallowing. He knows that. Of course he knows that. But at the same time, it's something he can't bring himself to accept so easily. Blind trust isn't something that he's familiar with; he has no religious affiliation or anything like that, so he doesn't even know where to begin. Do they expect him to become a dog? To bark and growl on command and never ask questions as to why? Because he's positive he could never do that.

Back during that project, he very rarely listened, and that's why they stuck him in ISO all the time. Those blurry memories all blend together, but this is something he's sure happened, even if the recollection isn't necessarily episodic.

"So keep that in mind. If you have even a sliver of affection for anyone in your life, you'll trust us."

Kanda is sure that Komui's already talked to Bak; after all, they're apparently friends and the situation definitely involves those scientists. So the meaning of the statement isn't lost on him. And as loathe as he is to admit it, he's starting to believe them slightly. He doesn't want to trust these people, and he's fairly certain he could never roll over on command, but they're honestly making him consider that he should. That it's his only true option.

"I already talked to that fucker Komui," he says after a moment. "You know my answer."

"I know what you told him," Bak responds, sounding anxious. "But I don't know if that's going to cut it. You need to have stronger convictions. Komui was alright with your answer, but only because he figured it was all he could get out of you. You have to be invested in this."

"You're fucking high if you think I'm going to skip along to the organization that-"

Ruined his life, essentially.

"You have to make a choice, Kanda. Your antipathy or the people you love."

"What the fuck kind of ultimatum is that!?"

"The one you'll have to consider! The answer is obvious, but you have to set aside your own hostility and inability to move forward in order to get there. You've set up such a huge wall that you don't even realize there's a world on the other side of it, and you have to break through that or else. If there was anything at all that I could do for you, for Alma, or Allen – anything more than what I'm already doing, I'd do it in a heartbeat. You know that. But it's reached a point far beyond that. We've been working too hard and too long to keep them off of you, and now that the NOAH have appeared again they've doubled their offense." The scientist pauses, taking in a shaky breath. Kanda wonders if this phone call is tapped. Wonders if Bak forgot about that.

How long have the people around him been forcing themselves to keep quiet? He's starting to grow less and less pissed at them, simply because he's sure that they only did it because they had to. There was nothing more than that. Whatever the Order is, it's seeming more and more like an oppressive group attempting to accomplish objectives through subjugation and secrecy. It makes him really not want to align himself with them.


A lesser of two evils.

"My answer hasn't changed," Kanda returns, determined.

It hasn't. He's not changing his mind. If these people get results, he's going to say fuck all and do what they're asking. He feels as though he's degrading himself past a point of healthy self-esteem, but the answer to that ultimatum – of course it's fucking easy.

This has been going on for far too long. For years it's been going on far too long.

Bak sighs, resigned. It takes him a couple of seconds to reply, but when he does he just says, "Be careful, Kanda. Be careful of what you say, be careful of what you think. Just keep yourself and Allen safe."

Allen can take care of himself, Kanda wants to say, but he's guilty of the same thing Bak is.

Neither of them have any idea of what the boy is capable. Maybe it's nothing, maybe he's just as Kanda's always seen him – but lately he's been getting a different vibe. Lately, when he looks at Allen, he senses something new. But maybe that's just the way he's perceiving things. Maybe he's been influenced by what Allen is to him.

"Don't patronize me," he snarls.

For a moment, Kanda thinks Bak is going to turn apprehensive again. But he doesn't. He just lets out a small, amused noise and says, "I would never."

Hey look, I'm not dead. Check out my tumblr if you want. (apoppyflowersinnocence)