Part 29

"You could have stepped in a lot sooner, you know," a voice hissed lowly, through lips that were turned into a taut snarl. Kanda was seated in the shop as the lady put together a few other things and gave him a chance to rest before they departed again. He was tired and the trip back to town after the pond took a lot more out of him than he thought it would. His hip kept popping and his muscles screamed up his thigh in soreness. Those things, however, weren't what Kanda needed saving from.

"I thought the conversation was rather interesting," Cross mused, taking a sip from a locally made fresh wine.

"Of course you would, you fucking creep," Kanda spit, voice laced with a strain of humiliation involved with that fucking conversation. His impressions of women were being ruined by the day and he desperately wanted to go back to thinking that they were classy creatures who didn't talk about sucking dick and the various methods to do it comfortably while almost ready to have a baby fall out of their lady parts. He shuddered. He was not a misogynist, but he also didn't want to know half of the things he learned. He didn't actually need to know how often some women participated in sex all the way up to labor.

Hell, he didn't even know they could still do it all the way up to the last days. Disturbingly enough, he also learned that it wasn't uncommon for them to do it to encourage labor. How did that even work? He'd just shut his mouth at that point, because he didn't need to know. It wasn't like he was doing this the traditional way anyway and the less he had to think about it, the less likely he was going to turn colors when the topic brushed by him later. He wasn't stupid, but he really didn't have the largest information bank on women and half of their discussions left him acutely uncomfortable with the mental images.

"You made out fine, didn't you?" The redhead's sultry voice made his nostrils flare with irritation. He had nerve to be so casual in his awkward moments. Cross brought him to this damned place after all, this was his fault.

"No thanks to you," he grumbled down into a piece of fruit. His jaw twitched because of the overwhelming shots of flavor, leaving him with the most unsettling combination of disgust and enjoyment. He disliked sweet things in large quantities, but damned if he didn't find himself eating fruit every chance he got.

"You were the one who insisted on going alone, boy. I did my duty in following you, but where you ended up was your own misfortune," Cross mused, flicking the end of his cigarette into Tim before he could be seated anywhere by Kanda. His dumb apprentice made certain to make a deal out of it once before.

"I've had to deal with you personally for more than I ever wanted, is it wrong to want to be out of your sight?"

"I'm here to protect you, ungrateful wretch. I could just leave you here," the man's expression wasn't as serious as his voice, but it still left an uncomfortable chill down Kanda's spine. "Then he'll see how the village ladies handle you when you go in labor and see if you don't end up being left to die for being an abomination of hell."

Kanda stayed quiet, despite the multitude of things he wanted to immediately say. Instead of making that scene, he boiled quietly in his distaste for Cross Marian. For being such a great person—according to the rest of the morons at the Order—he was certainly a large asshole about everything concerning Kanda. He wondered what the root of that was and if he was actually uncomfortable with the fact that Allen had gotten himself that involved in someone. He was at fault for that, he supposed. The soft turning in his gut didn't get there by itself and the actions that cause that sort of thing would never happen if he wasn't accepting of it.

"Beansprout would have your head if you tried," he finally did retort, running his fingers over the left side of his belly and kneading over the skin. It felt like an itch, but not quite; almost like fingertips pressing back and he tried not to think about it too much. Now that his brain had connected what it was, it was something he felt acutely. He didn't realize they would move so much. There was originally an assumption somewhere that babies just laid in a tiny sac motionlessly for nine months before they were born—which he now knew wasn't such a pleasant thing at all. Hearing one of the mistresses in labor screaming from several rooms away, a few days back, didn't really help ease anything. His only comfort was that he didn't have to push a sizeable sack of fragile bones and flesh from an exit barely comfortable taking an above average male reproductive organ without a little easing—much less two of those.

His face must have reflected his thoughts, because he turned his eyes to Cross to find a curious expression and he realized he must not have heard what the man said in response to that. He blinked and redirected his gaze, frowning like he'd been cornered again. It was probably some snide remark left for him that would have made him feel stupid, he was sure; but he was partially grateful not to have heard it. "Can we just go back now?"

"You have to wait for your items, my lady," the redhead leaned on his arm with his tongue leaving a snappy click to his words. It was almost like Cross was set on punching him with his tone and eventually he'd figure out why. Was this something he did to everyone or was it just Allen and apparently now him? The talk about this man had always given an impression that he was intelligent, slick and strong; but Kanda was starting to see a drunken asshole with a brain. One out of three wasn't that great really.

Cross's need to dig at every opportunity [and leave him hanging in others] left him feeling agitation that needed to go away. At least if Allen was around, he'd have a buffer. But no, Allen Walker the genius extraordinaire, couldn't board a train to save his fucking life.

"I can always pick them up tomorrow, I don't feel so great and if sleeping means I don't have to see your stupid face, I'll take it," Kanda hissed lowly, to keep his words from travelling too far. Showing such antagonism would be extremely unsightly in his position—even if he wanted to spit in the man's face more than ever. The greatest challenge lied in remembering that Cross was his doctor essentially and held his life in the palm of his hand.

"You made the choice to come out here, now stew in it, girl."

Choice words never made it to his tongue, even if they were so very close to slipping over the edge. It was actually Timcanpy that drew his barbed tongue back and, instead, pulled his curious eyes down. The little yellow golem was teetering on the inside of a fold in his clothing, placed comfortably over the left side of his belly and wiggling his stumpy little arms and legs while his faceless…face was planted flat against that spot where he had felt movement. Kanda watched Tim's tail bounce and wave excitedly—in the same manner he remembered him acting when he reunited with Allen after any separation.

"Looks like Tim knows what you have in there," Cross's voice crept into his brain and made him want to hiss at him. Even when he had nothing particularly scathing to say, he found a way to irk Kanda tremendously. It was possibly a combination of his annoyance with Cross's dismissive attitude and his partial loneliness without Allen there to settle between. Not that Allen was particularly great at stopping Cross from being a total dick, but he was a strange kind of support for when Kanda got snappy and stood up to him. When there was no gain out of it, Kanda just didn't feel there was a point in trying.

"Yeah, well he can stop that," Kanda swatted at Tim and the golem scampered across the front of him—zipping over his shoulder and pouncing down on to the table, where he rolled himself over to Cross and squeezed himself under the man's hand. Tim's tail hung off the table, but kept swinging like he was excited. Maybe Tim was excited and being swatted away wasn't enough to stop that strange little thing from expressing it. That sometimes confused Kanda, because he was under the impression that Tim was just a golem with a bit more personality carved into it than most, but it almost appeared to be a responsive creature of sorts. From what he knew, Cross apparently made the thing, so it was possible that Tim just possessed an overabundance of personality—quite like his oppressively irritating creator.

"At least someone is happy about this, hm?" Cross muttered—voice laced irritatingly with amusement—as he lifted his hand and scooped Tim up to toss him back over at Kanda. Tim caught himself with a few strong flutters of his wings and flew right into Kanda's hair. The golden ball nestled on his head with his tail batting at Kanda's shoulder happily.

"Did you forget about beansprout?" Kanda grunted—his hands immediately going up to fish Timcanpy off his head. The squirming little shit just rolled around and managed to escape his grasp for a few swipes before he was able to yank him off by the tail. The golem just wiggled with its lively little spongy body dangling about. Kanda had half a mind to toss him, but didn't in order to be polite to the people who were kind to him. He was sure that hurling Tim across the shop would damage something and—as good as that would feel—he did not want to have to explain why he'd done that or what Timcanpy even was. The little yellow annoyance was fairly good at playing dead and could be easily mistaken for a freakish little doll. Throwing him would probably change that impression a bit. Or make Kanda look a tad crazy—which wasn't that far from the truth with how much time he'd unfortunately spent with Cross Marian.

The redhead next to him was at least civil to a point where he didn't have to keep his guard up entirely. At some point, it was just easier to give up and slack against the man and let his pride die a little while he leeched off the man's abundant energy. For Cross being older—god knows how old—he had the fitness of a healthy young person and Kanda could tell just from his spent time with him. Cross wasn't a slouch—despite his strong appearance of one. He was, after all, a General and a damn good one at that. That was no secret and even Kanda could respect a presence like that—even if he had little to no respect for the man as a person.

Still, it was a bit of a wonder that he could just lean off to the side, putting a small bit of weight into the tilt, and press shoulders with Cross without either of them making much attempt to break it—or recoil, like he had with Lavi. It certainly wasn't because Cross was essentially his doctor. Komui didn't have anywhere near the same effect—actually the opposite. Kanda wanted nothing to do with Komui about one-hundred percent of the time.

He exhaled, his eyes slipping until his vision went dark a bit. There was a drowsy haze that settled over him and he knew it would strike him like that. It always did. When he moved more than a few minutes at a time and he came back to resting state, his energy level bottomed out and he could almost sleep anywhere—as evidenced by his lean on Cross that was beginning to get heavier. Cross didn't protest, he just shifted and leaned back, putting an arm behind Kanda and resting it on the table so he wasn't trapped without a hand free.

"Don't fall asleep on me yet, boy," Cross stated, blandly, looking over Kanda to make sure it was just tiredness and not something else. Since his dehydration episode, Cross had to keep his attention meticulously on every detail. Kanda'd been drinking as many liquids as he could force into the boy without making him sick and he'd been eating more than enough healthy things, thanks to the insistence of the villagers. He'd picked this little village because he'd been here before and he knew, if any place, this would be the most accepting place to a pregnant stranger with a curiously absent husband and a well-known womanizer catering to 'her'.

"I'm not," Kanda replied, but he was almost lying with how long it took to blink and cast a defiant glance up at Cross. The gaze was missed, however, because the obnoxious redhead was looking off elsewhere. For a moment, Kanda observed that same strange expression that'd been pissing him off for a while. Cross was acting weird and it wasn't because he was drunk eighty-five percent of the time. He opened his mouth to ask, but movement in his hand reminded him that he still had Timcanpy in his grasp. Begrudgingly, he let the little fucker go and it bounced around in his lap a time or two before it hopped over to Cross and flattened himself into the man's collarbone and wiggled his way into his shirt to hide himself from the people that were moving back their way.

Kanda inhaled and exhaled slowly. He wanted to ask, but the chance was gone and that only made him more frustrated. He'd been planning to confront the flighty bastard when he returned, so he'd just have to wait. Living with this bastard for weeks was enough to make him understand how to deal with him and how to work in topics that he might flee from with scathing commentary. Kanda was an observer and Cross broadcast himself unintentionally to a person who was beginning to actually feel people beyond physical touch and appearance. Reading his aura was like listening to music. Here and there a key was missed and it wasn't unnoticed—despite how well the man tried to cover it up with stronger notes.

His question had been choked by a small girl that he'd seen with the shop keeper. She had a small basket in her hands and he could only assume it was what they were waiting for. He'd seen this brat around before; he'd just never made any attempt to interact with her in any fashion. Kids weren't really his forte and especially not small girls who seemed to smile a whole lot more than he cared to look at. When his mood was poor—which was most of the time—he didn't want to have a squeaky, chirping mouse rattling pleasantries at him. Though, he had to admit that she didn't seem to be quite that type of child—not like the others had been.

When he'd first arrived, he'd been run into by a little boy who'd turned on him and actually had the nerve to call him a bitch. He wasn't sure exactly where that sort of behavior stemmed from, but he was beginning to believe that the boy wasn't actually a member of this community, because he'd not seen him since. That fuss was quickly nullified by Cross, when the tall bastard had stepped between Kanda and the little brat. Kanda was ready to break his arms, but Cross just looked at the kid and he'd run off. That was some kind of look. Still, he'd not really been in any type of contact with children outside of that—despite the number of them running about. He's just heard them—listening to them scream and cry; it made him withdraw until he spent most of his time sleeping or walking away from them.

He would have two of those and the idea was mystifying and horrifying, rolled up with unbelievable all at once. Times like these, he needed Allen for the sake of someone to talk to. Cross was worthless at these moments, because he couldn't talk personally. Cross might have been incapable of it, Kanda had considered. Someone in that man's position must have some kind of weakness. Personal relationships were probably among those—though he couldn't explain why. He didn't really need to know personal details of Cross—he didn't like the man enough. Though, he did like him marginally more than he had in the beginning; which still wasn't a whole lot.

"This is for you, ma'am," the girl smiled at him—her face a bit dirty and missing a tooth. She had tiny little hands and he couldn't help but watch them as they clung to the basket she was holding out. She was tiny and fragile. She was something that needed to be protected from bigger; dangerous things and he understood this to be a truth to all children. They were dependent. He was bigger, a protector, strong and there would be small creatures depending on his abilities. Shit. He really hated kids for just existing at that moment. "It'll help you feel better!"

She must have been around six or seven, if he was to guess—though his guesses weren't all that accurate given his own skewed timeline. She was young, either way, but also polite.

"You'll have to forgive her, little missy," Cross's voice almost startled him as he watched the girl intently—taking in how she moved and the pitch of her voice. Stupid small details he never had the chance to really focus on before. Children weren't really subjects he put much thought into. He didn't want to be putting thought into them now. This was why he needed Allen. "She's quite shy."

"I am not," he snapped; his breath sliding between his teeth in a low hiss. Cross had that smug taunt in his tone and he wanted to strangle him all over again.

"It's okay, I was shy too!" The girl smiled and patted his knee after she put the basket on the seat beside him. He had to remember that kids were innocent still and she couldn't tell that he had animosity for Cross leaking off him like he was bleeding it. He just had to force his face to be as passive—perhaps as close to pleasant—as possible and pretend to know how to speak to children for long enough for her to vanish.

"You don't seem too shy now," Cross continued, as if he was taking the burden off Kanda and showing him how to talk to kids. That may not have been what it was, but it's what it felt like and Kanda just stayed silent and listened. Perhaps he was being obvious in how much every little thing involving children was screwing with his head. The little fluttering in his side didn't make it easier now—actually having it sink in as hard as it was. In six years—assuming he was alive—some pairs of tiny hands and small voices would be standing in front of him and he'd be calling them his own.

What a thought—a thought he needed to unthink before he started to have unsettling emotions take him over again.

"Because nice people let me stay here!" She bleated softly; cheerful, but not overwhelming about it. Behind her, another woman appeared—a woman Kanda could identify as one of the shop keepers. He'd been here a few times, but rarely interacted with more than just her and perhaps a lady or two who'd been there at the pond. Certainly no children ever bothered him. The woman put her hand on the girl's shoulder and shooed her gently. The little girl waved and bounced off again.

"Her mother died in childbirth," she explained, as if the question has been asked. "She stays with us and earns her keep in the shop. Though, it's mostly just delivering little things here and there," she smiled, nodding to the basket. "Everything you need's in there hon. Don't let Mr. Marian get out of carrying that for you," she shot a look at Cross and he just turned his head away as if he was dismissing her attitude itself. "Don't get coy with me, sir. I know how you are."

"Woman speaks nonsense," he grunted in a half chuckle, uncrossing his leg from his knee and putting both feet flat on the floor.

"You know her?" Kanda whispered to Cross, not wanting to direct questions at people he wasn't personally familiar with. He had a hard enough time talking to Cross, let alone people who didn't even know his real name.

"You could say that," he eyed her again and she put hands on her hips.

It didn't take a genius to interpret what was going on there. Kanda wasn't even close to genius and he was putting the pieces together. "Are there any women you haven't slept with?"

"The question of the decade, you ask, young lady," the shop keeper cut in and laughed. So at least Cross didn't leave the women with scorn for him—which surprised Kanda somewhat. He earnestly thought Cross was some kind of scum bag, womanizing bastard by the way Allen spoke. But this woman seemed to have no ill feelings towards him and didn't even seem to question what he was doing with a pregnant girl from the time they'd arrived. She was the reason they'd found a place to stay for a while—though he was sure Cross had something to do with obtaining their accommodations too. Did coming here have something to do with his stupid attitude lately?

He doubted it. It had to be something specific.

"Regardless, I put some nice herbs in there for you and if Mr. Marian will be a gentleman, you'll benefit from a nice foot rub. I'm sure the extra weight is taking its toll on you, hmm?"

Mortification probably couldn't be clearer on either of their faces and it certainly wasn't because it was voluntary. Kanda's mental image of Cross anywhere near him with any sort of fond touch was enough to make him abstain from human contact for the rest of his life and he was pretty certain that Cross was feeling more than the same on the subject.

"Her idiot husband should be arriving tomorrow," Cross announced, as if he wanted to completely crush that idea before it even became a possibility. "He can do it. She's a finicky creature and I would hate to disturb her while she incubates."

"I'm going to incubate my foot in your ass the first chance I get," Kanda hissed low enough that the words didn't carry to the shop keeper's ears well enough to be understood. Talking shit to Cross was never a good idea, but he was so far from in the mood to hear half of what his statement was comprised of. Allen wasn't his 'husband', he wasn't 'finicky' and he'd never be comfortable with the term incubate ever again. Being the test tube for an Innocence wasn't a garden of fresh roses that he was frolicking through. It was months of suffering, sickness, sore muscles, aching joints, and uncomfortable thoughts that made him feel like he was choking one moment and ready to scream until he passed out the next. Not to mention the strange instances where he felt unbearably nervous. These things passed, but he hated them all.

Thinking about children, like that little girl who brought the basket at his side, made everything worse too.

"We'd better get back, before she gets delirious on me," Cross just smiled, as though he were brushing Kanda's remark off—and that was exactly what he was doing. That was fine, because Kanda didn't want to be in town any more anyway; much less with Cross. He'd rather sleep and pretend he didn't have that big buffoon ruling his pathetically domestic life at that point.

He pushed himself away from Cross, casting him a heated look before he stood—putting way more effort than he cared to into righting himself. He bowed to the lady, whispering a thank you out of politeness, and he started shuffling toward the door.

The light batting against his hip and subsequent fumbling of cloth—on top of agitating squirming—told him that Timcanpy had followed him swiftly. He couldn't be alone at any point, it seemed; but at least Tim wouldn't talk back.

Beansprout, I'm going to kill you if you aren't here tomorrow, he exhaled; taking his steps carefully.

To Be Continued…

A/N: SURPRISEEE. Yes I know it's been like three months but uh yeah I was too busy training to be a coma patient. I'm not that good at it, it turns out. I guess you're not supposed to check your email while pretending to be a vegetable. All jokes aside, I hope this chapter suffices for now while I get started on the next. This is a buildup chapter, so I apologize if it's not good enough for some of my finicky pickier reviewers.

That being said, Do. NOT. leave me reviews asking me to write you fanfics on anonymous-then proceeding to follow it up with specific demands. And when I delete anonymous reviews that do not need to be there, that does not mean you go to my AO3 account and call me a "twat", "uncultured fuck" " self righteous, condescending immature little bitch" and then tell me to go fuck myself after you make weak suicide threats. I write for me, for my friends, for those who appreciate that I gain nothing but experience and love for my pairing. If you have questions you can note me privately, but my review section is not there to be spammed with "DO THINGS FOR ME!" Not how it works. I appreciate all my readers, but I can't appreciate readers who forget that I am a fleshy creature with feelings too.

All that side, thank you for those who are still sticking with! I will make a goal to update this more often than 3 months, I promise!