"So, who is it?" Kanda asked. Lavi glanced at Allen, but the white haired exorcist was fast asleep. They were all on the train back to headquarters. Lenalee and Marie were currently out, and Lavi suspected it was to give the three of them "alone time". Allen was slumped against the window, Timcanpy resting on his head.

"… could have been either of them," the bookman said. "But it was definitely the Earl's body."

"Dammit…" Kanda said.


"I know."

Both men looked at Allen. How could they tell him either the Earl or Neah was moving around? And would he be able to handle it?

"… we'll tell Komui," Kanda said. Lavi frowned. He knew Allen would be mad if they kept it from him, but if someone had to tell him… he sighed.

"Fine," Lavi said, looking out the window. "But I don't like this."

"So what? You want to tell him, stupid rabbit?" Kanda spat. Lavi sighed again.

"I don't know. There's nothing good about this situation," he said. Kanda huffed, but there was a measure of agreement. They sat in silence for a long time. Finally, Kanda glanced at Lavi.

"… fine, if it bothers you that much, I'll tell him," Kanda said. Lavi flinched.

"What, but-!"

"He's used to be angry with me anyways, right? So just shut up, stupid rabbit," Kanda said. Lavi opened his mouth to snap back, then shut it. He sighed, looking at the ground. Was he really this much of a coward, after all?

"… no, I'll tell him. I'm the one who found out, after all," he said. Kanda snorted.

"I already said I'd do it," he said.

"… thanks, Yuu, but if I can't tell him about this, how can I be honest with anything else, yeah?" Lavi said, smiling bitterly. "I can't lie just so he doesn't hate me. What kind of relationship would that be?"

"… tch, do what you want," Kanda said, looking out the window. Lavi sat next to Allen, while the Japanese man sat on the other side of them. After a while, Kanda rose.

"I'm going out for a bit," he said, and left. Lavi looked after him a moment, then sighed. He turned in his seat, then sighed again.

"Hey… Allen," he said, gently shaking the other exorcist's shoulder. With a low murmur, Allen blinked awake.

"Huh? Oh, hey Lavi… did I fall asleep?" he asked, sitting up while he rubbed his eyes.

"Uh, yeah, you must have been pretty worn out," Lavi said, forcing himself to grin. Allen snorted, then looked at the redhead in concern.

"Lavi… is something wrong?" he asked. Lavi blinked, then sighed, running a hand through his hair.

"Guess I couldn't hide it, huh?" he asked. "Listen, Allen… you're not going to like this…"

"What?" Allen asked, feeling icy fingers creeping to wrap around his insides. Lavi bit his lip, then forced himself to keep eye contact.

"While I was being held in those dungeons… I saw the Earl. Or maybe it was the fourteenth, I couldn't tell which, but… it was definitely one of them," he said. Allen's mind went blank.


No. No it, it couldn't be… but, Tyki said that they…


Allen was stock still, eyes wide. He seemed far away, and it worried Lavi.

If they were back… but…which one…? Which one was it? If it was the Earl, then… then what about Neah? Would he… would he come back…?

"Allen!" Lavi said, gripping the white hair exorcist's shoulders. Allen was crying, but he still seemed far away. Lavi thought he'd get mad, maybe lash out… but this… he just wanted him to snap out of it. He searched Allen's face with a pained expression. Allen looked back unseeing. Lavi forced himself to relax, then gently cupped Allen's cheek. On impulse, he leaned forward to kiss him softly. After a moment, The rigidness left from Allen's posture, and Lavi pulled back.

"L-Lavi…?" he asked, only just become aware of his surroundings again. Lavi stroked Allen's cheek with his thumb, wiping away the tears.

"Don't worry, I'm here for you," he said. Leaning forward, he stole another kiss, Allen reaching up to grip his wrist. Lavi pulled back a little, then rested his forehead on Allen's. "I already said it, didn't I? I won't let them take you away. I'll protect you."

"…" Allen didn't move. Then, after a moment, he sighed and leaned against Lavi. He needed to borrow his warmth, just a little bit. He needed that soft light to chase away the cold fingers running up his spine. Lavi sighed through his nose and moved to pull Allen against him. He moved so Allen's head rested against his shoulder, running his hand into the hair at the younger exorcist's nape. He wrapped his other arm around Allen's shoulders. He leaned his head against Allen's just a bit. If he could be a comforter, that would be enough. Forget the stupid bet, as long as Allen was happy…

After a while, Kanda, Lenalee and Marie reappeared. The train was stopped, but they still had a bit to go before they reached their destination.

"Oh, wow, don't you two look comfy?" Lenalee asked playfully. Allen had dozed off leaning against Lavi's shoulder. Lavi chuckled, but looked at Kanda. Lenalee did as well. The Japanese man said nothing, sitting near the window once more and resting his chin in his palm as he looked out the window. For the rest of the trip, they were all quiet, wrapped up in their own thoughts.

"... so, not only do we have these contenders to deal with, but the Earl and the fourteenth, too?" Komui asked. Lenalee nodded. Komui sighed, standing. "I'm going to have to report this to Central…"

"You'll let us know what they say, right?" Lenalee asked. Komui gave her an apologetic smile.

"As much as they'll tell me," he said. Lenalee sighed, then nodded.

"Hey… how is he?" Komui asked. Lenalee blinked, then understood.

"Oh, Allen? Well… he's taking it pretty hard," she said, looking down. Then she chuckled, smiling ruefully. "But don't worry, he's got those two looking out for him, so he'll be okay."

"Those two…?" Komui asked, curious. Lenalee suddenly realized she'd said too much, and clapped her hand over her mouth on instinct.

"Oh, uh, nothing! You know, I should go check on Allen, to make sure he's okay!" she said, fleeing from the room. Komui watched after her a moment, then looked up a bit, thinking. He wondered what she meant… time for research! And with that he turned to go and bother Reever to find out what Lenalee meant…

Allen was in the library. Since the train ride, he'd managed to gain his composure. It was day after they'd returned, and Allen had decided that sitting and worrying the whole time wasn't going to fix anything. Yeah, he was still upset about the Earl/fourteenth, but he couldn't stop them when he didn't even know which one it was. He glanced up. Lavi was sitting across from him, head resting on his crossed arms, dozing on the table. Since they'd gotten back, Lavi or Kanda had been nearby. Allen sighed softly, and Lavi stirred to look up at him.

"Something wrong?" he asked, groggy. Allen bit his lip, then shrugged.

"Why do you like me?" he asked. Lavi blinked, suddenly wide awake. He sat up, eyes a little wide.

"Uh…" he started gracefully. Then he scratched the back of his neck, blushing a bit. "That was kind of sudden…"

"Oh, you mean like you and Kanda kissing me was?" Allen asked ruefully. Lavi laughed, relaxing a bit.

"Okay, yeah, you got me with that one," he said. He gave Allen a serious look, but he kept smiling. "I guess I could say I like how honest you are."

"What?" Allen asked, scoffing. He knew he wasn't always honest. Lavi waved a hand.

"I wasn't done yet. Yeah, sometimes you lie, but… you're very honest with yourself, you know?" he said. Allen blinked in surprise. "You don't try to run away from your feelings, even the bad ones. You just attack them head on, like everything else. Even when you're telling everyone else you're okay, you just stubbornly deal with your problems yourself."

"…I think you're thinking too highly of me…" Allen said, feeling a blush creep onto his cheeks as he looked back at his book. He flinched when Lavi reached across the table, gently brushing his knuckles against his cheek. Allen looked up and blushed at Lavi's soft smile.

"See? Honest," he said. Allen blinked, then brushed his hand away, scooting back in his seat and burying his face in his book. Lavi laughed, grinning like usual. He laid his head back down, managing to look up at Allen. He grinned when Allen glanced at him and turned away. "Cute, too."

"I am not!" Allen snapped. Lavi, impulsively, stood and leaned across the table to give Allen a peak on the cheek.

"Yeah, you are," he said, laughing at Allen's shocked blush. He ruffled the other exorcist's hair, moving to browse the shelves.

"… you're more persistent than you were before," Allen said, trying to sound angry. Lavi hummed.

"Well, I decided that I don't really care about the bet anymore," he said, pulling a book down and flipping through it.

"What?" Allen asked. Lavi grinned at him.

"Yup! So now I'm going to try and woo you the proper way," he said. Then his grin turned mischievous. "You better be prepared."

"What?" Allen asked again, face falling. Well, he can't be as bad as Kanda, at least…

"Hey, how are you guys doing?" Lenalee asked, popping up from behind a bookshelf.

"Hey Lenalee!" Lavi said, putting his book back. Allen watched them talking. Was it just his imagination, or did Lavi seem… happier than he had for while? Then, realization hitting him, he blushed again. After what Lavi had told him, it was obvious. He feels like he's got a fair chance against Kanda now… when before…

Allen remembered Lavi saying that the only reason he'd made the bet because he'd felt like Kanda would definitely win. But, after saying he didn't care about the bet anymore, it had to mean that he didn't feel that way anymore. Allen touched his cheek, then snorted.

"Huh?" Lavi asked, and both he and Lenalee looked at him. Allen smiled.

"Nothing," he said. Lavi blushed a little, and Lenalee giggled. The white haired exorcist looked down at his book, still smiling. He still didn't know about the whole situation with Lavi and Kanda, and who… if he could choose. But at least now the two seemed to be on equal footing, and, to Allen at least, it made things easier. He wasn't sure why, but it did.

sorry for a shorter chapter this time, and the wait! i seem to be getting stuck at the moment, so i figured you'd want this rather than waiting until i'd written more... so, yeah. hope you liked it!