Title: L'Ordre Noir
Fandom: D. Gray-Man
Rated: T+ for mature themes, alcohol, and language.
Word Count: 10,296
Summary: Paris, 1923. After ducking inside a peculiar building, Allen Walker finds himself entranced by an Oriental dancer named Lotus and ends up staying longer than originally intended.
Notes: If any of you are actually from France (or just know French better than my friends and I - even French-English dictionaries can be construed weirdly) and you see anything grammatically incorrect (or just incorrect in general) let me know so I can change it :) Thanks so much!
If you enjoy this, thank the movies Burlesque, Moulin Rouge, and Suckerpunch, and the amazing Toulouse-Lautrec. As an art major and a general weirdo, I love that short little man.
He walked in completely on accident.
Well, perhaps accident is the wrong word. It's more like he walked in completely unaware of what kind of building he was entering. The thing about Allen Walker is that he tends to get lost – a lot. And when he gets lost bad things happen, like it starts raining or he starts being chased by horribly lusty Portuguese men. Or both of those things.
So he ducked inside this building that smells much too strongly of some kind of aftershave and alcohol and cigars. There's loud laughing and even louder music; it's all coming from behind these double, velvet doors. He looks around the empty front area, vibrations from the music pounding in his chest, and then pushes the doors open, walks into the common area.
The room is smoky and large – there's a long bar off to the right and the floor is covered in tables, booths line the walls. At the front of the room is a wide, wood paneled stage. No one's on it, but Allen assumes this must be some kind of music venue. The speakers blaring sensual music have to be a part of an intermission.
Sighing, he slumps into a wooden chair and watches as a waitress walks up to him. She's dressed in an entirely inappropriate manner – some kind of sparkled leotard with fishnets and bright blue heels. She bends down low, and he slouches a bit more in his chair.
"What's your poison, Cheri?" She asks, voice sultry.
"Wa-water, s'il vous plaît."
She smirks at him and tips her head a bit, hips swaying as she goes to the bar, leans over it and whispers something to the bartender. He's handsome, Allen supposes, with bright red hair and a huge smile. He looks over at Allen, and Allen quickly looks away. With the man's head turned towards him, he could make out the markings of an eyepatch hidden beneath a vibrant fringe.
There's a deep red velvet curtain blocking the view into backstage, it quivers a bit with the wind that comes from outside. The tops of the walls are lined with windows, windows open to let air in in the hot months. Of course, this is Paris, France, and the weather is generally pretty temperate and mild. Right now, though, it's storming outside, so there's a pretty nice amount of breeze being let in. Luckily, the rain isn't coming down at a slant, so the inside of the building is very dry.
The waitress returns with his water and he nods to her in thanks. Her blonde hair slips over her shoulders as she bends down a bit and sets the water on the table. Allen takes care not to let his eyes wander to her cleavage.
She saunters away and Allen sips at his water, surveys the patrons. They all look to be a bit on the snobbish side, but they still hold a seedy kind of quality. It seems rather like a place Cross might frequent.
He decides to only stay there until the rain subsides, and as he does so, the music stops.
He looks up, startled, only to see the velvet curtain rise to reveal a much larger stage that is much deeper back than he originally assumed. In the middle is a figure clad in a white fox fur lined coat that reaches her ankles. Bits of her hair, wavy and dark, peek out; the only thing visible is the crown of her head.
Music starts off slow. It surrounds him, seems to come from everywhere at once. The piano is light and airy, and the woman's shoulders seem to roll in time with it, slow and sensual. The trombones pick up, and she turns around.
The coat is wrapped tightly around her still, and Allen notices oriental features. Dark black eyes peer out into the crowd, as if surveying and judging them. Allen decides that she has little room to judge, because as he watches, she slips the coat from her shoulders and he does his best not to gape. She's tall, and her heels make her taller. A cream colored corset, embellished with colorful and fake gems, is tight on her torso; she's flat-chested, Allen notes to himself with a blush. She wears a sheer, black petticoat and her dark hair is piled on the back of her head, falls in rippling waves over her shoulders and chest.
Allen, for lack of a better term, is mesmerized.
The music picks up even more, and she starts dancing in a way that would make any sensible person uncomfortable. Allen downs a bit more of his water and wonders if it'd be best to go wait in the front area until it stops raining. But he can't do it. He can't look away. The waitress returns and this time he orders a single malt scotch, on the rocks, because he figures that if that woman is on the stage, he's going to be here for a while.
He doesn't even spare the waitress a glance when she returns with his liquor, just picks it up with nimble, slightly shaking fingers and sips it lightly.
The dancer arches her entire body back and her long fingers caress her stomach, move up to graze her chest, her collarbone, tremble slightly as they gently move along her jawline. When she returns to a normal position, her eyes scan the audience once again and Allen is sure, sure that they settle on him at some point. He swallows a bit as the music ends and claps alongside the crowd as she moves offstage. Allen is rather sad to watch her go.
A group of five women fall onto the stage now, led by another Oriental woman with dark green hair and deep purple eyes. She's wearing a police uniform (a rather kinky version of one, really – not an actual one) and the cap is low on her head. She smiles as the music starts, begins a dance that, while Allen feels is supposed to be as sensual as the other, isn't nearly.
After her dance there is another intermission, this one a short five minutes, and just as Allen is beginning to get a bit more comfortable, the double doors open and the Portuguese man enters the large area. Allen blinks a few times, stumbles out of his chair and knocks over his scotch as he dips to the side of the bar where he'll stay unseen.
The red-haired bartender laughs at him and bends low. "Somethin' wrong, Beau?"
Allen exhales sharply through his nose. "Um. Indeed. It appears that man there, the Portuguese bloke, has been following me throughout town and I'd rather not like to be caught."
The bartender stands up and looks over to the man. "Comme il est beau. Why not?"
"He's a bit of a radge to be honest. I don't think he's all right in the head."
"Is he all left then?"
Allen furrows his eyebrows and says, "I'm hardly joking, monsieur."
"Ah, don't call me monsieur! The name's Lavi."
"Um, Lavi, then," Allen says, shaking his head. "Is he gone? Or at least preoccupied by the dancers?"
Lavi leans against the bar and looks around in a nonchalant manner. Without looking down at Allen he says, "It appears he's looking for something or someone."
"Oh hell," Allen mutters. "Can you tell me when he is, then?"
"Sure thing, Beau."
Allen briefly wonders if he's going to get another stalker when Lavi starts and says, "Quick, go through that door right there to the left. Climb the stairs. There's a fire exit that'll take you outside."
Allen, taken aback, stumbles a bit as he rushes towards the door, walks inside the hall and closes it behind him softly. He lets out a breath once he's inside. The hall is quite thin, the stairs the only real way out besides the door he entered from. Slowly, he puts a hand on the rail and climbs the stairs, grateful that the walls kind of mute the loud music as he ascends.
At the top of the stairs is another door. He swallows and opens it, realizes belatedly it's probably not best to trust one eyed bartenders in burlesque clubs. But its 1923 – he supposes that by this point, burlesque clubs are developed enough that they can have nice bartenders. It's classier than a strip club, that's for sure. And the women –
Allen thinks back to the first dancer, with the dark eyes and dark hair and long fingers. She was so beautiful, so graceful.
The room he's entered now must be where the dancers get ready. A few of them are there now, look at him with confusion in their eyes as they sit in front of their vanities and apply their make-up. A few of them are helping each other with their hair. Names are written on the mirrors of the vanities in various shades of lipstick. The mirror nearest him has the name 'Lotus' written in curvy handwriting, deep plum lipstick. He blinks a bit and realizes that at this point everyone in the room is staring at him.
"Um," he starts. "I was told there was an exit I can use?"
A busty woman, a bit older, with blonde hair and a scar over her face walks up to him. "And who the fuck are you? Why are you back here?"
He opens his mouth, closes it, then opens it again. "Lavi told me there was an exit. I'm – fleeing from someone who's been on my trail all day. Can you please direct me to the nearest exit?"
The second Oriental girl walks up to him. "Je suis désolée." She dips her head, dark green locks spilling over her shoulders. "It's obvious you need to escape. The fire exit's right over there, behind the clothes." She points to a far door over on the right.
"Merci!" he exclaims. "A great show, by the way!" He trips over himself a bit as he makes his way over to the door, ends up stopping as a familiar beauty appears at the top of the stairs on the opposite side of the room.
He watches her, being quite obvious about it really, and she turns to him. "The fuck are you looking at?" She growls, in a – well a very deep voice for a woman.
He opens his mouth to retort, then furrows his eyebrows and surveys the woman a bit closer. No matter how hard he looks at her, she's still beautiful. But something about her seems off. Seems. Not right.
"What's your name?" He ends up asking, and hears the girls giggling at him. He blinks, then remembers he's supposed to be running. Still, he doesn't want to leave.
The sweet girl walks up to him, wraps an arm around his waist and says, "We call her Lotus," as the agitated beauty saunters away to her vanity. "Don't waste your time. Allez-y!"
He nods to her and scurries from the room, takes two stairs down the fire escape at a time, and heads towards his hotel room.
He's really only been in Paris for a few days now. And he has no idea how long he's going to be here. He arrived here after dumping Cross somewhere – he hasn't had any real attachments to the man since he turned eighteen, and he's twenty now; why he stuck with him so long is kind of a mystery to Allen. Now he's here, struggling as a musician in Paris. He's one of millions, he realizes, but they say if one can make it in Paris, they can make it anywhere. Truthfully, he'd just like to make it – he doesn't care much where.
After leaving the burlesque yesterday he applied to several places, one of them a popular theater that actually seemed quite interested in his audition.
That kind of place isn't really his normal type of venue. Not at all. He isn't a womanizer like Cross, or a creepy madman like his Portuguese stalker. Walking in there was completely accidental.
But he really wants to go back.
He isn't a pervert, doesn't want to go for any carnal kind of gain; he just wants to watch them dance again. It's mesmerizing, the kind of effort they put into their dancing. The music is inebriating, and watching them gyrate and skip around the stage quickens his heartbeat in a way he's never imagined possible.
So when he goes back the day after, he sits at the bar, watches quietly as the girls dance – he isn't going to kid himself. He's waiting for Lotus. None of these girls matter to him as much, though they are beautiful and absorbing as well; it's just that Lotus has another level to her, an anger and passion the other girls can't even seem to skim the surface of.
Lavi leans across the bar. "Your stalker didn't follow you this time, did he?" he asks, raising an eyebrow. Or both. Allen can't really tell.
Allen sniffs a bit in disdain, "Thankfully not."
Lavi laughs. "What'll it be, then?"
"Single malt scotch –"
"-On the rocks, right?"
Allen nods and turns his attention back to the stage. The last girls are filing off the stage as Lotus strides onto it; she's demanding their attention – with her eyes, her posture, her existence.
Lavi slides the glass next to him and he drinks it in long swigs. "You came for Lotus I take it," the red-head smirks, pushing himself up onto the bar. Allen looks up at him, but only for a second. "You aren't the first. Just a heads up, he doesn't take well to admirers."
"Oh right," Lavi chuckles. "She."
The piano plays a melodic tune, and Lotus dances along in time to it, eyes hard; Allen swallows as he watches her. She sits backwards on a chair, legs spread but hidden by the back of it. Her hair is curled now, tight ringlets that fall down and cover her chest, leave her back bare. Her skin is flawless, a pale gold that shimmers with body glitter in the light. When she stands from the chair, she twirls it around her and sits in it the right way, crosses her legs. They're donned in tight fishnets that disappear into red heeled boots.
Allen's eyes wander up her legs, stop at the hem of her nurses' uniform. They always have the most creative outfits, he realizes.
Other girls file out, and start a cancan line behind Lotus.
He tears his attention away from the dance to look at Lavi, who's resting a cheek on his right palm. "How long have you worked here?"
Lavi's eyes move from the stage to him. "Since Lotus started. About – wow four years ago now. What about you? How long have you been in Paris?"
"Three days." Allen takes a long gulp of his scotch and sets down the empty glass on the bar.
"Une autre?" Lavi asks, and Allen shakes his head. While the alcohol is very nice, he isn't really a big drinker. "And wow. Only three days? What are you doing here?"
"Why's anyone here?" Allen asks, rolling his shoulders and stretching out his neck. "I want to be somebody."
Lavi beams at him. "Ah, le passionné," he says in flawless French. "You have dreams, Beau?"
Allen really only figures he calls him that because Lavi doesn't yet know his name, so he says, "My name's Allen. And of course. Doesn't everyone?"
Lavi bites back a smirk, Allen sees it. "I suppose so." The music stops, and the girls wander off the stage. "So what kind of somebody do you want to be?"
"I play piano, if that's what you're asking," Allen says, leaning back on the barstool. He puts his elbows on the bar to stabilize him. He isn't the most graceful person ever.
Lavi lets the smirk settle on his face. "Really? Found a venue to play at yet?"
Allen looks at him. "Well, I've applied to several places. Théâtre de la Gaîté seemed pretty interested."
"Ah oui, I know it well," Lavi nods and they fall silent, let the soft music of an intermission fill it for a few moments.
"So – do you know Lotus well?"
"Oui! We've been best friends for years now." He looks at Allen. "Want to know a secret?" Allen would very much like to know a secret, especially if it's one about her. "You're so her type."
"Really?" He looks at the empty stage.
"Oh yeah. She likes a little bit of a challenge. And a cute boy like you? Oh, she'll eat you right up. Assurément."
Allen perks up a bit. "Well then," he straightens the ribbon tied around his neck. Then he furrows his eyebrows. "Even…?"
"With white hair and a tattoo?" Lavi fills in. "That'll be the icing on the cake." Allen thinks about his arm; Lavi can't see it because he's wearing long sleeves and gloves.
The second girl, the nice one from yesterday walks up to them then, her long, green hair down. She smiles at them. "Bonjour," she says to Allen, then nods to Lavi. He sets a martini down in front of her and she downs it in one go. He laughs and pours her another one. This one she lets sit on the bar; she hops up onto a stool and says, "I almost didn't expect to see you back. My name's Cuissardes. Well, that's my stage name, anyway." She lets out a girlish laugh. Cuissardes means boots and – well, now that he thinks about it, he does always see her in those knee-high boots; cuissardes. He supposes it makes sense in some way.
"I find I quite like it here."
"You have a crush on our Lotus." Cuissardes translates. She laughs. "Oh you aren't the first."
"Lavi's informed me." Allen nods.
She nods as well. "So what part of England are you from?"
"London," he tells her, smiling. "Are you from here?"
She looks at him, giggling. "No, I'm from China. My brother is the owner of L'Ordre Noir." She pauses and furrows her eyebrows. "He throws a fit after every dance. Je jure, it's like he doesn't realize I'm a part of the team." She sighs, exasperated.
Allen frowns a bit. "Pourquoi? I mean, he owns this place."
"Frère is very…protective of me…"
"You mean obsessed."
Cuissardes glares at Lavi a bit. "Protective," she repeats.
Allen chuckles at them, and calls for Lavi to make him a water. "You want to meet with her?" Lavi asks, handing him the water.
Allen freezes. "Um, no, I don't think so."
"Oh, why not?"
"I tend to make a fool out of myself." Allen tells them, deflating. "I'm horrible at first impressions."
"Oh come now," Lavi says. "You mean scurrying behind a bar uninvited is a horrible first impression?"
"Or storming into dressing rooms?"
Allen holds back a sneer. "Cas au point."
"But if you never talk with her, how will you fall in love? Amour, mon ami! It makes the world go round." Lavi propels himself off of the bar, sits in a stool next to Allen, and drapes an arm around him. "Amour," he whispers.
"Idéaliste," Allen whispers back sardonically, rolling his eyes. "You yourself told me she doesn't react well to admirers."
"Then don't come on as an admirer." Lavi says simply.
Cuissardes nods. "Yeah," she says. Her eyes flash – she's giddy. "How's about as a client?"
"Client?" Allen chokes. "Surely…this establishment…" Prostitution does run rampant here, it is Paris after all, but – this place seems too classy for that. Too deboneire.
Lavi laughs and claps him on the back. "Not like that, Beau. Oh Cuissardes you do know how to play 'em." He straightens, leans over the countertop of the bar to grab his liquor. "Une danse. We do have those. Private ones."
The music comes on strong again, and dancers file out onto the stage. Allen mulls it over in his head. A private dance? Lotus…just dancing for him. No other eyes on her? Lotus up close, focused on him alone.
He flushes, downs the rest of his water. Yes, of course he wants to. But, does that mean he will?
"Come on, Beau," Lavi grins. "Just one dance."
Allen shakes his head. "I don't have the money. Struggling musician," he points at himself with one finger.
"C'est cadeau! I believe in love!" He exclaims. "Besides, Yu needs a nice stress reliever," he adds, muttering.
"Ah, Lotus," Lavi corrects, smiling. "Forget any other names I say."
"Any of them?"
Lavi laughs. "Only when you hear Yu. Or Lenalee."
"Lavi!" Cuissardes exclaims. "Ferme ta bouche! You know how Frère gets about our real names being used." She sighs. "Éventer la mèche. I suppose you're fairly trustworthy anyhow. My real name is Lenalee." She smiles prettily and crosses her legs.
Allen dips his head in response. "Nice to meet you," he smiles and she laughs.
"Cuissardes," says another girl, walking up to them. She's kind of fidgety, with dark brown, wavy hair and brown eyes. "Komui wants to speak with you."
Lenalee sighs a bit. "Alright, alright." She pushes herself from the stool and says, "This is Miranda. She isn't a dancer, but deals with scheduling and such." Allen kind of assumed she wasn't a dancer. She's wearing a long black dress and well, doesn't really look like the other girls. She isn't wearing make-up or anything provocative, and she just doesn't have that aura. Lenalee has that; the glittery eye-shadow, intricately done hair, the air that screams sensuality.
"I'm a little bit clumsy," Miranda says, biting her lip. "I'd never be able to dance like Cuissardes."
"Absurdité," Lenalee laughs. "You just need to work on walking in heels. And you know, dancing in general. You can do it though, it just takes pratique!"
The waitress from yesterday leans against the bar. "Bonjour, Cheri," she says to Allen. "Didn't expect to see you back here. You looked pretty uncomfortable yesterday."
"I said that too," Lenalee says. "This is Eliade – she waitresses the main floor. And sometimes the booths." Drums kick in, with trumpets, a heavy jazz tune, and a new show starts up. "Alors, starting from the left, the blonde woman from yesterday – her name is Agitatrice. Next is Gardien and Ro-Fleur, or just Fleur." Allen blinks a bit and tries to commit the names to memory. He's generally pretty good about it. "Bien, I need to get going now. But Allen, next time you stop by, come say hi. You were a hit with the girls yesterday." She waves to him and saunters off towards the back.
"That Cuissardes," Eliade laughs and turns to Lavi. "I need a double shot appletini and a Jose Cuervo."
Lavi salutes her and begins making the drinks. Miranda goes behind the bar and through the door he did yesterday, and once Lavi's done with the drinks, Eliade stalks off to her table.
"Come back tomorrow," Lavi tells him. "Lotus's private dances are legendary; trust me, you'll want one."
Allen furrows his eyebrows a bit and then sighs. "Ce que l'enfer."
"That's what I like to hear," Lavi grins. "Tomorrow. Six o'clock. I'll have your scotch ready."
Allen feels rather uncomfortable. He hasn't even left his hotel room yet and he feels like his heart's going to beat out of his chest. Why did he agree to such a thing? This isn't like him. Gentleman don't get…private dances and such. And he is. A gentleman. He doesn't want something like this.
Okay he kind of does, he has to admit.
He takes the steps down two at a time, trying his best to keep his breathing in check. The lobby is littered with people – why, he has no idea. He should really start looking for a flat of some sort. Just somewhere to live. He can't live in a hotel forever.
Once he's outside, he heads towards the burlesque club, hands clutched into fists in his pockets. Why is he so nervous? It isn't really that big of a deal. It's just a dance. It isn't like they're going to be having sex. And besides, it's burlesque – she isn't going to be stripping her clothes off everywhere. Okay, well, they do strip a little bit off, but they're never completely naked. He runs two hands down his face as he steps inside the front area, then pushes through the double doors into the main area. Once there, he heads straight to the bar.
Lavi's there leaned against it, watching the dancers on stage. He recognizes Fleur there and watches her a bit. When they lock eyes, she blushes, but continues dancing. She's kind of short, with dark hair and dark eyes. Pretty in a strange sort of way.
He sits down, and Lavi smirks at him. "You're here a bit early. Excités?"
Allen purses his lips. "I simply had nothing better to do."
"Uh-huh," Lavi nods. "Well, I need to go to Lotus now, why don't you come up with me and say hi to the girls?"
Allen exhales sharply. "Sure, why not?"
Lavi calls Eliade over. "I need to go speak with our favorite asshole. Watch the bar for me? I'll be right back."
Eliade laughs and nods, "Sure thing, Homme Sexy."
Lavi winks at her and motions for Allen to follow him through the door. Together, they walk up the stairs and Lavi bounds through the door at the top without much ceremony. The girls all look at him, startled, then shake their heads and get back to whatever they were doing. Gardien and Agitatrice are applying blush, and there's Lotus, in her seat. She's leaned back, with her arms crossed and dark eyes narrowed. Purple eye shadow makes the blue in her black hair and eyes kind of pop. Her skin looks so smooth it's unnatural.
"What the fuck do you want, Usagi?" She asks, eying him, then Allen. Allen shifts a bit under her gaze. "What's he doing here?"
"That's what I want to talk with you about. Allen, why don't you go over there and talk with the girls?"
Allen raises an eyebrow at him, then says, "Japanese?"
"Do I look motherfucking French?" She asks, rolling her eyes.
A spark of indignation lights in Allen's chest. "Well, Lenalee's Chinese, but she still speaks French."
"I don't have to explain myself to someone like you," She sneers, turning up her nose.
"You are seriously lacking in the personality department," Allen shoots back, then turns to Lavi. "Never mind. I definitely don't want one now."
"Oh come on, Allen. She's just like that."
"She?" Lotus growls, outraged. Lavi looks from Allen to Lotus, sighs deeply. Why is Lotus so pissed at him? What'd Allen ever to do to her? And why's she so angry that Lavi used the pronoun she? "Listen, Moyashi, Usagi. I don't really care to deal with your shit right now. So if you'd leave…"Allen doesn't really understand Japanese, but he does understand that he was just insulted.
"Ugh, I can see why your stage name is after a flower. It's because you're so délicate."
Lotus scowls at Allen deeply then gives him a disgusted sound and turns to her mirror, tears a clip from her hair and starts hastily changing the style. "I have a dance in five, leave me the fuck alone."
"Gladly," Allen returns venomously. Music pours from the downstairs as the door from backstage opens. Lenalee bounds in, squeals with delight when she sees Allen.
"Allen! You came back!"
"Of course," he smiles at her, then frowns down at Lotus.
"I take it you met our Lotus. She's definitely a handful." She giggles. Lotus spins around to glare daggers at Lenalee.
"You better shut the fuck up with that."
Lenalee raises an eyebrow at her and, scowling, she returns to fixing her hair. Lotus seriously confuses and agitates Allen, but still, when he looks in the mirror, watches her dark eyes as they carefully assess the black tendrils that are her hair, he gets these shivers that run up and down the middle of his back. Her eyes meet his in the mirror, and even though they're scowling at each other, something in her expression is different – it's something predatory, a sensual kind of 'I'm better than you, and you'll find that out soon enough' challenge.
His knee-jerk reaction is to replicate her expression and she raises an eyebrow at him before smirking and unscrewing a container of some kind of golden powder. She likes a challenge? He can do that.
"Anyway, Allen. You wanted a dance right?" Lenalee asks, leaning against a lighted vanity mirror.
Allen inhales sharply, looks over at Lotus, but she isn't paying attention to him anymore. "Euh non, pas vraiment." He shakes his head. "I think I'm good."
"Oh come on," Lavi frowns. "But I was so excited!"
"Why were you excited?" Allen asks.
"Because! Yu needs-"
A hand is slapped over Lavi's mouth. Somehow, Lotus has shot from her chair to right behind the red-haired bartender in a matter of milliseconds.
"Don't make me kill you. You know how flawed this judicial system is. I will get away with it."
Allen blinks in surprise and carefully, Lotus removes her hand. She's so on all the time, Allen realizes. She's always poised and ready for – whatever she's cautious of.
"Oh come on, Lotus," Lenalee smiles. "It's not 1890. Of course you'd get caught."
"It's 1923, and in America you might be able to say whatever you want, but I don't take that kind of shit from women." Lotus sneers at her, and Allen wonders why she would word something like that. Sexist about her own gender? Doesn't seem likely. The only other option is…
"You're a man trapped in a woman's body." Allen snaps his fingers in recognition and Lotus turns on him, fire burning behind her dark eyes. Why anyone as beautiful as her would want to be a man, though, is beyond him.
Lavi buckles over from laughter and when he bends back up, Allen sees that he's crying. "Jésus, Allen. You a sexologist?"
"Mon Dieu. It bothers me that something like that exists. No, I'm a pianist; we've gone over this."
"Un pianiste?" Says an unfamiliar voice. He turns towards it, and sees a very tall man with purple-black hair and a white beret. "That is so funny," he laughs nervously. "Do you think you could do me a favor?"
Allen furrows his eyebrow. "I'm sorry, but who are you?"
"Ah! Je suis désolée! My name is Komui Lee. I'm Cuissardes's older brother." With that he pulls her into a harsh hug and she struggles to get out of his grip.
"Frère! He already knows my real name! And let me go!"
"Quoi? But, Lenalee! How could you give him your real name!"
She gives him a sound of disgust as her reply. "Didn't you need a favor?" She asks, pushing away from him.
"Ah, right." He straightens and regains some form of composure. "You see our piano player, for the dancers…just quit…"
"Eh?" Lavi asks, leaning heavily on Allen's shoulder. "Madarao quit? Why? Did you go after him again because he looked in Lenalee's direction while playing?"
"Listen, that's not really important right now. But we have a show in three minutes, and I really need a piano player. Rapidement, s'il vous plaît!"
He grabs Allen by the wrist, pulls him down the set of stairs to backstage. It's much less pretty than the rest of the building, all sets and equipment with the strong scent of wood. He leads Allen down a small set of three steps and onto a platform off to the side, where the grand piano lies. Making a noise of discomfort, he looks around the room, at the patrons on the burlesque club.
"You can play, can't you?"
Allen gives him an expression of mock offense. "Of course."
"Bien, the sheet music is there. We play the songs in that order. Between every two songs is a five minute intermission, every ten is a half hour intermission. We're about to start the sixth session. Se préparer." With that he skips away, and Allen feels immense pressure. It builds in his chest, heavy on his heart, and he inhales. Across the club, through the slight gray haze of smoke, he can see Lavi take his place behind the bar.
The curtain rustles, and he positions his fingers about the ivory keys, begins to play.
The velvet curtains open, to the side, to reveal Lotus. The melody is simple at first, and Allen focuses on that rather than the dancing woman on the stage. It picks up, and the jazz instruments join in. She is just – so distracting, though. Occasionally, he tears his eyes from the sheet music to catch glimpses of her. He never messes up, though, because messing up one of her dances is just out of the question. She is perfect, graceful; her dance is like that of a warrior, fluid and sharp – precise. There is so much passion and vigor in her movements that it makes Allen want to dance alongside her, to follow her every move.
Loose strands of her hair move like water, floating through the air as she twists this way and that; her arms, toned, clothed in black gloves that reach from her middle finger to the top of her biceps, are sure and move in a practiced sort of manner. Beats from the drum vibrate in his chest and he finds himself smiling so widely his face hurts.
By the time the song is finished, his wrists ache in a painfully aching way, but he doesn't care so much. Lotus and he lock eyes, and she sends a light sneer his way as she saunters off stage.
At the half hour intermission a few sessions later, he goes back up to the dressing rooms.
"That was amazing, Allen," Lenalee beams, bringing him into a tight hug.
"Moi? You guys are the amazing ones!" He returns excitedly, adrenaline only now starting to wear off from the intense pressure of playing in such a manner.
"I agree with Lenalee," Lavi says, coming from the door that leads from behind the bar. "You were really good, Allen. How long have you been playing?"
Allen thinks on that for a moment. "Um, about three and a half years or so."
"Really?" Comes Komui's voice. "Then how about this?" Allen catches sight of him as he walks into the upstairs room. "Lavi told me you were looking for a job – work here."
Allen gives him an incredulous expression. "Quoi?"
"Are you going to accept?"
"Oui! Thank you!"
Looks like he doesn't have to worry about that theatre anymore.
"The two of you should go out for coffee or something," Lenalee starts as he's coming in for work the next week.
"Two of whom?" Allen asks absentmindedly. He searches through his sheet music until he finds the one they're starting the day with and setting it on the top of his piano. The club hasn't actually opened yet; it's only about three in the afternoon, so the two of them around lounging about and getting ready.
"Vous savez. You and Lotus."
"Um. Non. She's crazy. Besides, it's not like she would even agree to it." He takes a pencil and scratches something out on the page before finally looking up at Lenalee in a condescending manner. "You've been around her longer. You should know that."
Lenalee shrugs. "She has her pride. Use that against her."
"I don't even know how I would go about doing that." Then he pauses and adds, "It doesn't matter anyway, because I don't want to."
"Lying to yourself isn't good for your health, you know that?"
"Eh bien, I suppose it's a good thing I'm completely honest with myself then." He tells her, tipping his head a bit and smiling. And well, he is. He does want to go to – wherever, anywhere really – with Lotus, but she has such a horrible personality Allen doubts he'd be able to actually have a good time. Still, just because he can't stop that want, it doesn't mean he can't outwardly deny it.
Lenalee shakes her head at him, then, and says, "I need to go start getting ready, so I'll talk to you a bit later, bien?" With that she saunters off towards backstage, and Allen turns back to the music. He presses his fingers to the keys, lightly, playing the melody softly, until he sees the velvet curtains rustle to the side in a horribly angry way and he looks up.
Lotus sneers at him at the sound of her name. "Lenalee told me you had something to ask me. Get on with it already."
"I don't have anything to ask you," Allen returns, rather stupidly, staring at his sheet music as if it were the most interesting thing in the world. "Wait, I do, actually. Don't you think these might be better if you girls – you know, sing?"
Lotus looks at him as if he's insane. "Are you fucking crazy?"
"Of course not. I've just been thinking, I never see any of you sing, an-"
"Listen, Moyashi; I understand you're a fucking idiot, but dancing up there takes a lot of energy, and most of the time, by the end of a song, all we want to do is get back up to the dressing room and relax. Fucking singing? Just another way to exhaust us. Besides, the audience doesn't care about a song. This isn't the fucking theater."
The only thing Allen takes from that is: "What the hell is a moh-yah-shee, anyway?"
Lotus rolls her eyes. "Don't even try saying that again. And go ask that fucking red-head if you care so much."
"Bien, I will."
Lotus turns a bit to walk away, and then stops and turns towards him completely. "Don't get Lenalee to be your messenger next time if that's all you fucking wanted." She sneers.
"I didn't; she got you on your own. She seems to think I want to go to coffee with you, which I don't, au fait," he totally does. "I kind of think you're a horrible human being."
"I kind of think you're fucking annoying."
"I kind of think you sound like a man."
"How in the fuck is that insulting?" She snaps at him; then stomps off towards backstage. She's right. He probably needs to come up with better insults.
Sighing, he steps from the stage and moves towards the bar, hops up onto a stool, and looks Lavi straight in the eye. "What's a moh-yah-shee?" He asks, tongue marring the Japanese because – he's British, and he speaks French and Italian, not Japanese.
Lavi laughs at him. "Moyashi? Um, germes de soja – you know, a bean sprout. Short."
Allen exhales harshly through his nose and taps his fingers on the bar. "Just because she's a giant, it doesn't mean we all are. And besides, I'm not that short!"
"Of course not," Lavi smirks, cleaning out the inside of a glass. "Anyway, have you asked her out yet?"
"Quoi? Why does everyone keep assuming I want to interact with her – you know, more than I have to?"
"Um, because you pretty much look at her like she's a god, or rather – goddess. Your eyes follow her when she's dancing."
"I like the way she dances, C'est tout."
"That's all? You don't think she's pretty, or passionate, or either of those two good qualities she has?"
Well, yeah he does, but what does that matter? "Only two good qualities. I mean, I guess. Sort of."
Lavi pours him a drink and sets it down in front of him. "Admit your crush and you'll feel better."
"The bartender plays the psychiatrist. How droll." Allen smiles a bit sardonically and drinks the offered liquor. It's nice and smooth on his tongue, and with silver eyes he looks towards the stage. "Why…Did Lotus always want to dance?"
"Sûrement pas!" Lavi says, laughing loudly. "Not at all. She still doesn't. She hates having those eyes on her."
Allen looks back at him, eyebrows furrowed. "Then why is she here?"
"Eh, wrong place, wrong time kind of thing. And I mean, she hates the audience, but she really loves moving. I don't know if it was dance she was supposed to partake in, but there's something about the way she moves that – well I think she loves it. And of course, the staff – moi. She loves us too."
Lotus feeling love for anything seems a bit far-fetched to Allen, but he doesn't say that aloud.
"C'est ça." He nods, taking another sip of his drink. Grimacing, he crosses his legs and leans forward. "Doesn't something seem off about her, though?"
"Can't stop talking about Lotus, huh?"
Allen feels his face heat up a bit and lets out a weak sound of disgust.
Lavi smirks. "What exactly seems off?"
"Well I don't know – that's why I was asking you, her self-proclaimed best friend."
Allen notices Lavi's smirk as it quivers, like he's trying not to burst out laughing. "I don't know – something does seem a bit off. Do you notice how horrible she is at filling out her outfits?"
Allen blushes. "No, I don't."
"Yeah, or like how she has this really deep baritone for a voice."
"I don't even know about that height."
All Allen can really think about is the circus. The extraordinary people with strange attributes. Well, those people he was friends with.
"That whole 'man in a woman's body' thing. I don't think you were too far off base."
Allen frowns. "So what does that even mean?"
"I think it means you should ask her out."
"That is a horrible answer," Allen mumbles, blush returning to his cheeks. "Why won't you just leave me alone about that?"
"Because Lotus needs a nice guy like you. She always gets wrapped up in the wrong people." Allen's blush intensifies. "Oh, you know that was a double entandre." Lavi laughs.
Allen flinches a bit at the thought. "She would reject me in an instant anyway."
"I really don't think so. Just don't come onto her as an admirer. If you don't want a dance, just – try and be cool about it. And um, don't treat her like she's a fragile piece of glass. Because she will cut you."
Grimacing, still kind of blushing, "Thanks for the advice." Although his tone doesn't sound very thankful. Probably because he isn't very thankful – just a little bit.
And it's that – he doesn't even really know if a date or relationship or whatever is what he wants out of Lotus. He doesn't really like her as a person. It's just that, when she dances, he feels like none of that matters. That she could beat him bloody and he'd forgive her in an instant. She could reject him a thousand times and he'd come back to her. Then the dance ends and the illusion dissolves and he doesn't know what he feels anymore.
That's the kind of person he is, he supposes. Very indecisive.
Pursing his lips, his face loses all heat and he downs the rest of his drink. "Merci," he says again, gaining some kind of obscure determination.
He decides tonight, after the club closes, he'll ask her. It'll be close to three in the morning, but with their sleep schedule, he figures it won't matter anyway.
They get the most customers around midnight. Then, gradually, the audience thins out. By around two-thirty, generally, everyone's gone. So, when everyone's gone, they close up early. He shuts the case over the keys of the piano and straightens the sheet music before running a hand through his hair and taking a long drink of water. He parts the curtain to walk backstage and sets the sheets down on an old and forgotten vanity desk. He yawns a bit, realizes he's actually kind of exhausted this morning, and has half a mind not to go through with asking Lotus; he has to though. He's told himself he's going to, and he's going to.
He ascends the stairs a bit slower than usual, and when he walks into the main room on the second floor, he is assaulted by the strong, familiar scent of perfume. He shuts the door behind him, and notices Fleur is looking at him and blushing and – whoa. He just feels worse now, about asking Lotus out. Maybe he really shouldn't – maybe he should –
A hand catches him as he's about to descend the stairs again.
"Where ya going, Beau?" Lavi asks, smiling. Allen lets out a light scoff and turns back around.
"I was just – Je suis fatigué. I'm going home."
"But wasn't there something you wanted to do?"
"I – uh – sleep?"
"Non, something else."
Allen purses his lips and exhales through his nose, knocking Lavi's hand from his shoulder. He steps around Lavi, catches sight of Lotus at the other end of the room. Fleur is still looking at him, but when he meets her eyes, she quickly looks away and begins wiping away her make-up.
He knows all of the girls by now, after working for a week and seeing them for most of the time he's awake. It feels strange, going to sleep around four or five in the morning and not waking up until one or two in the afternoon. It's almost disorienting in a way, but he's getting used to it.
He walks past Lenalee's mirror, sees her grinning at him through it, and frowns deeply before making his way to Lotus's vanity. He stands behind her, awkwardly silent for a moment before she turns in her seat and glares at him.
"What do you want?"
"Um, well, Lotus, I –"
"My name is Kanda. I'm sick and fucking tired of hearing that goddamn stage name," she growls out.
Kanda. Kanda. It sounds nice – fitting, perhaps. The Japanese name suitable for her in a way.
"Kanda, then. I was kind of coerced into asking…if you wanted to go to coffee. You know –" Don't sound like an admirer… "Because you're actually the only one here who actually hates me, and I'd like to change that."
Kanda looks at him for a moment. "Fuck no."
Allen looks over at Lavi, who waves at him and gives him a 'thumbs up.' He is so glad that he's far enough away from the red-haired bartender to where the man can't hear. "Um, s'il vous plaît?" Oh now that's just bad. Now he sounds like he's begging…
"Um, fuck no." She repeats.
Kanda stands now, towers over Allen. That's when Allen places it. Places what's off about Kanda, why Kanda's voice is so deep and why Kanda is so tall and why Kanda is so unladylike.
"You're actually a man." Allen fills in the silence with slight disbelief in his tone. Okay. A lot of disbelief. He isn't sure of whether to be angry or confused or just to feel really, really stupid. Because now it seems really, really obvious. They were all hinting at it and – ugh – yeah, he feels stupid. But they could have told him. Told him that he liked another male.
He glares at Lavi, then looks at Kanda. "Still want to go to coffee?" Kanda asks, smirking.
Without really thinking, Allen says, "Yes." Then wonders why the hell he said that because Kanda is a man and all of his advances don't even mean anything anymore. Well, they never really meant anything in the first place, but they did to Allen. And now, even to him, it's kind of – for naught. Still, the fact that Kanda's male doesn't bother him all that much. "Still going to say no?"
Kanda frowns at him, deeply. And even knowing Kanda's gender doesn't really matter because the man has this androgynous kind of beauty. Like, he's beautiful like a woman and handsome like a man. Of course, there's the long, curled hair bundled on top of his head and the shimmering powder on his cheeks and – well, it doesn't feel out of place. "In the front of the building in ten minutes. If you aren't there, I'm not waiting."
Despite himself, Allen smiles. And as he's walking towards the stairs to backstage, he slaps Lavi on the arm, hard, and says, "You're a bastard."
It's too cold outside to just be waiting for him, so Allen stands in the front lobby area and waits around. Kanda has to come out through this way anyhow, so he assumes it's fine.
If it wasn't Paris, all drowned in light pollution, it would be pitch black. It's so late that he wonders why he was all exhausted before and now he's just…not. Well, okay, that's fairly obvious, but he wonders why he's so damn happy about just a small thing like this. Then he kind of wonders why he doesn't even mind that it's with Kanda. Because before he was repelled by his personality alone, and now there's this. But, well, he doesn't, so he just leaves it at that.
When Kanda walks into the front area, he almost looks like a different person completely.
He's dressed in black pants with a tan button-up shirt, black tie, and a black overcoat. He can't tell if the man's wearing suspenders or not, but everyone wears them, so he assumes so. The dancer's black hair is now just pulled back into a simply ponytail, and his dark eyes are free of adornments.
Why does he even bother wearing make-up?
Kanda sneers at him a bit as they walk from the building, and Allen shivers at the night's cold air. "Where do you want to go?" Allen asks.
"Why are you asking me?"
"Because I don't know Paris. You've been here for a while." In the distance, Allen sees the Eiffel Tower, burning a golden yellow light against the black sky, and still finds it just as beautiful as the first time he saw it. Perhaps Allen just has an appreciation for beautiful things.
"Oh yeah, let me pull out my list of coffee shops from my back pocket," Kanda rolls his eyes and crosses his arms as they walk.
"So you're telling me you've lived here for – I don't even know how long, but longer than four years – and you don't know where there is a single coffee shop?" Kanda looks at him with a raised eyebrow and, okay, so maybe he doesn't look like the type to sit around in coffee shops. "Fine – anywhere, then. As long as it isn't outdoors."
Kanda doesn't reply, but Allen figures he's being led somewhere, because it's way too cold to just be walking around and not doing anything. After they've been walking for what has to be at least ten minutes, they stop in front of this nicely lit, if not rather grungy looking, pub. Kanda walks inside and Allen follows.
It smells a lot like L'Ordre Noir. Kind of smoky and alcoholic; he likes it though. Kanda, without looking at him or saying anything, walks forward as if he knows exactly where he's going. Allen, again, follows him and ends up walking into another room, open, with a large window as the wall. He stops, and looks out. Seeing as they're on a first floor, not all of Paris is visible; however, through an alleyway, he sees the Seine flowing slowly, lights illuminating off its surface. It's beautiful, he realizes.
They sit down across from each other at a small, circular table, and Kanda takes to staring out the window almost angrily – doesn't bother to glance at Allen. He supposes it's not really a big deal, but then Allen says – "Should I go up to the bar and order something for you?" Kanda glares at him, annoyed, and he amends with, "Um – or you know, we could go up together and you could order for yourself? Or…um…"
"Shut the fuck up." Kanda's chair screeches as he stands up. "What do you want?"
"Um. Non, I can do it."
"What. Do. You. Want?"
"Um, gin and tonic," Allen mutters, wondering why he's backing down from Kanda and feels, well, not really intimidated, but he doesn't want to screw anything up. Kanda disappears towards the bar in the front and Allen looks outside. He really doesn't even drink gin and tonic. The tonic water just never – well, he doesn't really like it. But because he's been working at the club, all he's really been drinking is scotch and water and he's getting a bit tired of it.
Even so early in the morning, boats are floating on the river, upstream, towards the channel. He supposes that really isn't an easy life – navigating and captaining ships from the south of the Seine to the English Channel; the river's over seven hundred kilometers long.
When Kanda returns with their drinks, he slams it down in front of Allen and moodily slouches down into the chair opposite him. Allen feels really weird about having his drink paid for by someone else, especially Kanda, but doesn't comment on it.
"Alors, what's your last name?" Allen asks, starting conversation. He brings the alcohol to his lips and grimaces a bit at the strong scent of lime wafting from it.
"Kanda is my last name," Kanda returns, voice low and rough. He has some kind of darker alcohol, a golden caramel color. From the looks of it, it's some kind of Bourbon – Allen would venture a guess towards Tennessee whiskey, something stronger because Kanda doesn't seem like the type to like weak drinks.
"Well…then what's your first name?"
Kanda takes a long drink of his alcohol, then says, "None of your fucking business."
Allen frowns. "Eh bien," he says, sipping lightly at his gin.
"Stop talking in fucking French," Kanda snarls. "I don't like it."
"Okay, okay," Allen says. "Jesus. Didn't know you had such a vendetta against the French. Is it the berets?" Kanda doesn't grace him with an answer. "Then it has to be the pathetic way they handled the war," Allen continues, resting his head on his right palm. That has got to be a sore subject for the French, all things considered, but then again, France is always horribly pathetic when it comes to wars. Or anything of that nature. And anyway, it's not like anyone's really in the building with them.
Kanda snorts a bit and says, "I was almost drafted into the fucking thing – don't get me started."
"How old are you anyway?"
"Twenty-three," the long-haired man replies; finishing his Bourbon, he says, "What are you, fifteen?"
"Twenty, huh?" His eyes flick down Allen's body, as if appraising him. "I don't believe it."
"Ugh, I don't care." They both let the conversation drop. The silence is kind of awkward until: "Where do you live?"
Kanda raises an eyebrow at him. "Montmartre."
"Montmartre? The bohemian's district just north of here?" Allen asks. It – well it's cultured, Allen will say that. And quite diverse. Kanda gives him a look, and Allen realizes the question was stupid. He can kind of see, though, how Kanda could be from there. Or at least live there. He's a hardened individual, and his idiosyncrasies are unconventional at best. With him living there, however, Allen is surprised Kanda isn't a courtesan. Lavi and Lenalee did say that right, that Kanda isn't a prostitute?
He supposes the man could pull it off though, with all that raw beauty.
"How long have you been in Paris?"
"Ten years." Comes the steady, if not aggravated, reply.
"Why'd you come?"
"My foster father is from here." Steadily, Allen notices Kanda's voice growing more and more impatient.
"Will you stop with all these goddamn questions?" Kanda snarls, glaring at Allen.
"Sorry! I just…you know – wanted to fill the silence."
"What the fuck ever."
"…I had a foster father as well, you know." He hears a sound of disgust and watches Kanda roll his eyes, but the man otherwise doesn't interject, so he continues. "His name was Mana. We lived in England together."
Kanda doesn't seem the least bit interested. He pulls a cigarette from his breast pocket and lights it, looks outside to the night.
"Are you going to talk at all, or do I have to keep filling the silences?"
Kanda looks at him then and Allen feels something tightening in his chest. He is beautiful, right there, lit by the lights of Paris; Allen is about to just give up and lean back to look at Kanda, when the dark haired man says, "Why did you still want to come out with me?"
Allen frowns a bit at that, because, well, the only answer he has is a bit embarrassing, and he can't really even think of a good lie. "Because…" Allen scratches at the back of his head. His face gets hot as he says, "Because you mesmerize me. When you dance, I mean." Kanda snorts at him and he clarifies. "It's n-not like it's anything sexual. It's just…when you dance, you don't just move, you – you feel. You care about the dancing; it's not about the eyes or the money or whatever, but because you love to dance." Allen pauses, face flushed beet red. "And that's mesmerizing."
"I'm weird? You're the one who dresses up in women's clothing and dances for men. I don't see how I'm the weird one here."
Kanda takes the rest of his gin and downs it in one go. "I don't need to fucking explain myself to someone like you." But he's smirking. Like he's entertained or something. He leans forward, across the table, and says, "But I know you're a fucking idiot, so if you need a hint: you're the white haired 'twenty' year old currently sitting across from the proclaimed cross-dressing dancer, totally aware that he's a man and okay with it."
"Touché." Allen shrugs. He leans forward a bit as well. "And the next round's on me."
By the time they're finished drinking, it's close to four-thirty in the morning. They've kind of gone fifty-fifty on the drinks, and together they leave the pub. The air smells – well, kind of fresh out here. Fresher than inside.
"Which way do you go?" Allen asks. He's lucky that Kanda finished off most of his drinks for him, and that the guy is not a lightweight in the least. Allen's fairly sober for an hour of drinking.
Kanda looks down the street, westward. "That way."
"Oh, I'm the opposite way."
"Well, I guess I'll see you tomorrow – I mean, later today," Allen laughs. Kanda nods at him, a little stiffly, and turns to leave before Allen continues with, "Wait, um – I mean, hold on." Kanda turns back to him, eyebrow raised. "That was nice. You aren't so bad after you get a few drinks in you." Not that Kanda's by any means inebriated, just a bit more placid.
Kanda snorts at him. "If you drank half the drinks you bought, you probably would have been more tolerable as well."
"That's not necessarily true," Allen chuckles. "Anyway, we should do this again sometime."
"I may not be social, but I'm not stupid. Why are you trying this?"
"Trying what?" Allen feigns an ignorance he doesn't actually have, because, well, he knows exactly what he's doing.
"You know what."
Allen picks up his chuckle again. "Because I like you. I mean, you know, you're cool…and stuff…" He didn't really mean for it to come out like that, but it did, so he lets the statement hang. Kanda scoffs at him, harshly, then puts a hand at the base of his neck and pulls him in for a kiss.
Allen kind of thinks this is too cliché, kissing under the lights of Paris, but he doesn't care in the least. Kanda tilts his head to the side a bit, and their tongues run against each other's. Allen shivers and suppresses a groan.
"You're a horrible kisser," Kanda frowns as they break apart.
"Hold on," Allen returns, a bit breathless and a bit dizzy. "Let me try again." Kanda's frown turns into a smirk as their lips press together. "Oh, not quite," Allen murmurs against his mouth.
So they kiss again.
Then Allen decides it's much too late for a lady like Kanda to be walking home alone, especially to Montmartre.
So they go back to his hotel.
This is my favorite fic of anything I've ever written, and I doubt I'll ever love anything more...Once I'm more open for time, I may do little drabbles connected to this. I really want to explore absinthe and the Burlesque fashion.