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13 June 2008 @ 10:32 pm
Fic for arivess  
Author: animegoil
Requested by: arivess
Title: Wisteria and Plums
Pairings/Characters: Allen/Lavi/Kanda
Rating: PG-13
Warnings: none.
Disclaimer: DGM = not mine
Author Notes: Wisteria stands for helplessness and delicacy, while plums for courage and perseverance.

Wisteria and Plums
by animegoil

It is an old castle, small enough to be overlooked as meaningless in this war of giants, large enough so that the stumbling, ravaging troupes can’t pass up the opportunity to despoil. It has become a makeshift hospital and refuge, tending to the wounded and hurt, the orphaned and lost, regardless of politics and ideals. This area is mostly neutral anyway, inopportunely caught between the warring sides and thusly tossed into the whorl of destruction.

Kanda lies in the sick bay for ten days. It is where they put the newly received, the wounded, and the dying—those in need of constant care. Five of those days are spent in delirium, while broken tissues in his abdomen burn and fight off infection. His mind burns likewise, dreaming of the fire and his sister, and the charred remains of his parents he was barely able to make out. The darker dreams have her dying screams and anonymous, pale, grimy hands that violate even his mind.

Kanda changes his own bandages after the fever breaks, despite the nurse’s disapproving frown. He starts with his legs, the gashes on his thighs. It is slow, painful work, and he has to be careful that he doesn’t aggravate the tears inside him. More often than not he ends up on his side, fighting nausea, and has to wait until his ragged breathing slows back down to continue on to the burns and scrapes on his arms and chest. The ones on his back he can’t reach, and grudgingly allows the nurses to tend.
Outside, the cannons boom.

Everything feels like it chokes him, babbling brooks of black bile bubbling in his throat. There are no words he can use to describe the feeling, the disgust, the endless torment in his dreams. At night, he wakes in soundless screams from nightmares where the hand over his mouth shoves back all the things he wants to scream—scream at his sister to run away, scream at the soldiers to die, scream at his parents to hold on, at the fire to extinguish, at his body to fight, at his mind not to break…

But he can’t get out a single word, and only whimpers and drowned sobs are able to squeeze past the groping, fleshy hand bruising his lips, pushing them so hard that they tear against his teeth. Then the warm tang of blood chokes him too, joining the babbling black bile, pooling in the back of his throat against the air trying to burst out.

He wakes every night only to realize there are no hands anymore, only darkness choking him. The blankets are always damp with sweat and reeking of terror, and the ache low within his abdomen throbs.

At first, he doesn’t answer to the anonymous worry of the nurses. Days later, when he tries, he finds that the thread connecting his mind and tongue seems to become tangled somewhere in his throat, becoming one pulsing, writhing knot of emotions that he can’t put words to, lodged like a jack in a box that won’t open.

There are new ones everyday. It doesn’t take long to figure out what is wrong with this one. Kanda watches from his bed, eyes empty and disinterested like unpolished silver. He only watches because they fall directly into his line of vision. The boy looks to be around his age, with fiery red hair that doesn’t bleed into bloody crimson, but into sunsets instead. Kanda is distinctly grateful for that.

“Come along,” the nurse says, and leads the boy down past all the sick beds full of moaning patients straddling death or a life of incapacitation. There are no outward signs of any problems, except for an old, worn eyepatch, but his steps are awkwardly placed and out of line, and he tilts oddly to the sides when he turns his head to look around. Kanda conveniently shifts his gaze a centimeter higher when the boy happens to look his way.

“Your bed is the first on the right,” the nurse says. The boy doesn’t look at her when she speaks, “Can you make it by yourself?”

He doesn’t respond, watching the man with no legs attempting to sit up. The nurse huffs with exasperation but tolerates the lack of response. Few behave quite normally here, and bouts of silence or hysteria are unhealthily common. She lets go of the boy’s hand and goes to help the man sit up. The boy blinks and turns around at her sudden absence, teetering as if his body doesn’t know what angle is perpendicular to the ground, and in his movement, the bag on his shoulder bumps a glass of water. It balances precariously at the edge of the table before finally crashing like a felled giant and shattering into tragic, glittering shards behind the boy. A few of the patients jump at the jarring noise, the nurse flinches, and Kanda himself grits his teeth in irritation.

The boy doesn’t even blink, as if completely oblivious to the noise and says to the nurse, “You can tell me which one is my bed. I can get there on my own.”

The noise is too much for Kanda. Like having his head surrounded by balloons that keep growing and growing, pressing against his head as the pressure swells and swells, but he’ll be the first to explode, not them.

The noise is death. Moans and cries, keening whimpers and vomiting breaths, all indications of personal, climaxing pain. He can feel this black grime covering him with each breath of pain that bursts from his neighbors’ mouths, and chokes on it. It never ends. There’s always someone in pain here.

The floor is cold, stone that knows no heat, but Kanda doesn’t notice, his mind centering on the door at the end of this row of death, pulling himself forward the quickest him body can. He hates this weakness, this sluggishness of his limbs, and this painful pressure against his head and against the tangled knot in his throat, gagging him. He needs out.

He opens and closes the heavy oak doors with some difficulty, leaning against the pillars in the dark hallway of the castle to catch his breath. Almost out, he thinks, into the gardens where he can rest and enjoy the silence, and maybe gather himself.

“What are you doing?”

A hand grabs his shoulder from out of nowhere, and he whirls around to see that it’s a nurse, fair face illuminated in the weak highlights of the moonlight, “You can’t be out of the wards at this time of the night! Back inside, you go,” she says firmly, attempting to push him back where he’d come from, back to those moans of death. He shakes his head and resists, struggling to pull himself from her grasp. He manages to break free long enough to motion with his hands for her to wait, and she does, watching him expectantly, like a hunter might to an accidental, weak catch, to see if it. He scrambles frantically for a way to explain himself because he can’t go back.

He points to his head, closes his eyes and breathes deeply, peeking to make sure she’s watching his motions and understands they’re deliberate. She just stares at him. He growls and points and the room and shakes his head fiercely, and still nothing. He shows her the sacred symbol of Aum with his fingers, and she recognizes that even less, glancing at him as though suspecting it’s instead an insult of some sort. He hates idiocy.

“Enough,” she says, and begins to steer him back, regardless of his terrorized eyes.

“I think he wants to meditate,” a voice says out of nowhere, and both Kanda and the nurse jump. Kanda catches sight of him first, walking towards them with a book in one hand. It’s the boy from days earlier, the one with the sunset hair and the eyepatch. His steps, Kanda notes, are nearly straight now, and he isn’t tipping toward the sides anymore.

He forms the symbol of Aum with his hand, and smiles reassuringly at the nurse, “It’s Buddhist meditation. He just wants to go out for a while and clear his head. It’s very beneficial to the mind and body. I’ll go with him and make sure he comes back at a reasonable time.”

The boy grins at Kanda, and all the hackles go up.

He walks with a casualness that Kanda simultaneously disdains and admires. They don’t say anything for a long time, strolling past the stone hallways lined with statues, armors, and residual ghosts of feudal times. Kanda speeds up as soon as he realizes that the other boy’s steps are deliberately easy-going, regardless of the lightheadedness that brings about. He will not be coddled by anyone.

“I’m Lavi. No one knows your name yet. But it’s okay that you can’t speak, because I can’t hear,” the boy says out of nowhere, “I got caught up in some crossfire, and some cannons went off next to me. Short story, at least.”

Kanda pretends he didn’t hear him, though he really wants to ask why he’s accompanying him in the first place, what made him think he could be his keeper for tonight. He stops at the steps leading down to a closed off garden and breathes deeply, letting the unspoiled scent of wisteria and plums fill him until the pressure inside his head stabilizes the one pressing in from the outside. His breath flows outward, as does the headache that had been plaguing him for days. The hay-fevered stiffness of his body is already easing under the teasing touch of the sibilant midnight breeze, and he marches forward to a flat bench on one side of the garden that’s he’s caught sight of in the dim glow of the moonlight. The garden is phantom-like and in a gradient monochrome of moonlit green. The twisted shapes of the plants and vines beckon him into their mysterious world, and he follows without a second thought, relieved at the familiarity of nature, and the absence of the sounds of death.

Lavi watches him, holding his book in one hand and a swiped candlestick in the other, its weak light illuminating his face in a flickering gold mask. He sweeps away dirt and leaves from the steps with his shoe, cleaning a seat for himself.

They both sit and let Night trade places with its sister Dawn.

Kanda goes outside nearly every day after that. Though the process will take months, his body begins to shed its stiffness, and the burns on his back and arms begin to peel and heal, leaving angry pink scars. He wonders if those will fade, and isn’t sure whether he wants them to or not. He still hears screams in his dreams.

The sun beats down on him, warming his scalp as he stands looking out over the vast tree-sprinkled plain that lies behind the castle’s garden. There are woods off to one side, the hunting grounds, when this castle used to be ruled by a lord.

He stands at one end of the garden, away from the throng of nurses that have taken the opportunity of sunshine to bring out the patients. Kanda grimaces as he stretches his legs, one by one, and begins his daily round of calisthenics.

Skinny trickles of sweat tickle his brows and back when he looks up at one of the nurses’ cry. He looks to where she is pointing and sees that boy, Lavi, walking in the distance of the grassy plain, heading toward a bridge that goes over the creek that crosses the property. Her cries fall in vain on deaf ears.

Kanda realizes at once the danger, and takes off running, under the futile calls of the nurse. He runs, and the wind beats at his sweat-soaked face, and mingles with the harsh sound of his breaths. His limbs flow over the terrain, weeds and tall grasses whipping his calves, tickling his thighs, and he thinks of running after the horses back home, the same rush of wind…

Lavi, of course, can’t hear the trampling of his footsteps behind him, and is only a few more steps from the bridge when Kanda trips, slams into Lavi, and they both go down. The aftershock is numbed, the ringing silence after an explosion, with Kanda’s chest rising and falling against Lavi’s own, and Lavi’s wide eyes taking in the glimmer of sweat on the crimson, heat-induced flush of Kanda’s face.

“What the—” Lavi chokes, groaning and pushing off Kanda, rolling over and off the rocks digging into his back, and rubs his head and shoulder, “Why the heck did you just body-slam me?”

Kanda pushes to his feet slowly under wobbly knees, and glowers as well as he can with his breath spilling out like a waterfall. His hands rise, hesitating over his arms, itching to rub the pain away. His burns sting, and he hopes that the impact didn’t aggravate them too much. He fists his hands, drops them to his side and looks around until he finds a large stone.

“And?” Lavi asks, more than a little irritated, and picks dirt and debris from his coat and dusts off his book.

Kanda rolls his eyes, and throws the stone on the bridge. The stone can be no more than a tenth of Lavi’s weight, but the seemingly solid bridge crumbles instantly underneath it, stone and wood splinters tumbling to the water below.

“Oh,” Lavi says, looking at the shallow water, through which the unforgiving rocks of the creek bed are visible. His hand runs through the unruly mop of sunset hair and he glances at Kanda to smile that happy-go-lucky smile, “Thanks. That would have been bad.”
Kanda snorts at the understatement and turns smartly on his heel.

They are the only two boys their age. The hand that Lavi attempts to place on Kanda’s shoulder as a sign of simple camaraderie is always brushed off with a cold shrug. There are some younger children that Lavi tells stories to when he’s bored, but all the other children have somehow managed to survive with family, and so they leave, to begin anew their life, or flee to a place not ridden by war.

“You don’t have a place to go to, do you?” Lavi asks one day, lying on Kanda’s bed. Kanda didn’t grant him permission to come in, but he didn’t know how to say ‘don’t come in’, and to that insufferable idiot, that had been as good as permission. They now have their own rooms in the castle, in the long-term recovery ward. Kanda thinks that is indication enough of their situation. Neither of them have a place to go back to.

Kanda learns how to make his hands speak for him. He refuses at first, but when the nurse asks him what his name is, so that they could stop calling him ‘you’, Kanda realizes that he can’t go about searching for pen and paper all his life. Lavi watches, and depending on his mood that day, joins in the lessons as well. He catches on quicker than Kanda does, however, which Kanda will not tolerate, and it pushes him to practice, hidden in the garden that has become his solace, until the motions are fluid and come ever more naturally.

While Kanda practices speaking with his hands to make up for his lack of voice, Lavi practices reading lips to make up for his lack of hearing. They practice with each other, sharing the summer heat and hesitant glances.

The sky is overcast, but beads of sweat roll down their backs anyway, clinging with humidity to their skin. Kanda’s eyelashes glimmer after he scrubs his face with one hand. Their hands grip the wooden axe handles tightly, ignorant of splinters and blisters. The air resonates with the echo of the scream of broken wood.

“Hey, pass me that stump over there,” Lavi mutters, picking at a splinter in his palm.
Lavi looks up when Kanda’s form remains stoic and immobile, a beautiful sweat-slick statue with pale skin and glossy hair. His onyx-black eyes always seem to be looking straight ahead, stone cold and with the intensity of frostbite. That gaze turns to him and Lavi almost looks away to get the wood on his own, but the thump of the ax on the ground draws his gaze back to Kanda’s hands.

K. a. n. d. a.

Kanda turns away before Lavi realizes what that means.

“Your name… is that your name?”

Kanda does not respond, but Lavi reaches out a hovering hand and runs his fingers through that glossy dark hair.

They spend an inordinate amount of time together. It’s not because of Kanda, naturally, because he would much rather sit by the creek bed by himself and meditate, or run through his calisthenics. But it’s not quite because of Lavi either, even though he is the one who initiates all contact and interactions. Lavi likes spending a lot of his time in a corner reading, but somehow they end up doing chores together— gathering water, chopping wood, cleaning the equipment, feeding the animals, running errands to get supplies from nearby villages…

The strangest thing of it all is that Kanda minds it much less than he expected.

A strange patient is rushed in one day, the day after thunder and lightning of the human kind was seen in the nearest village. They don’t often take in soldiers, but Lavi sees at once why this one has been brought in. He’s a child, just a year or two younger-looking than Kanda and himself. Lavi sees them bring him in, his face a battered mask of blood, his eyelid ripped and bleeding, and one arm hanging precariously by a thread of glistening muscle. Lavi wonders what a child is doing involved in this war.

Kanda at first refuses to see the boy, his gaze dark and unforgiving when Lavi suggests they go see what the damage is, but Lavi lets it go. After all, he’s not the only one wondering why there’s a soldier here—and not in a curious way. They can’t tell whose side he’s from because the uniform is too stained and ripped to discern, but to most, it only matters that he is a soldier for them to resent him. Some do take pity because of his age. Others because of his condition. Lavi is simply curious.

He runs into Allen for the first time late at night, just like with Kanda. This time, there are no nurses about, and Lavi has no candlestick to light his way. The hallways are ink-black, but the night is humid and warm. He tries to imagine what the cicadas must sound like, but the sound he conjures up in his head is vague and fuzzy.

There is nothing to warn him. No sound, though he later imagines Allen must have made some. No light either, just a sudden thing grabbing his legs and then he falls face-down on a writhing warm thing that takes him several struggling seconds to realize is a body.
He untangles himself after a few seconds of panic, and scoots back to catch his breath, peering into the darkness until he can vaguely discern a shape. Is it a patient, or an intruder…?

A cold finger lights on his hand, trembling and slight, and Lavi jumps but regains his composure as he realizes it is asking for help, grasping at his hand but only able to reach with that one little finger. He traces the hand, going up along a slender arm and running abruptly into hard, cold metal. One of the statues has somehow fallen on him, the leaden arm pinning the boy’s arm to the floor.

“I’ll help you. I’m gonna lift this thing up, you move when I do, okay?”

He feels for the edges of the statue, takes a breath and heaves, lifting and pushing at the same time, and feels the brush of cloth against his knees as the boy rolls over. There is an empty, unsatisfied feeling inside him as he drops the statue with a wheeze, but there is no responding thud or clang, as if his effort did not reach the world, was only personal and did not exist. He cannot even hear the grunt he feels his throat makes as he stands back up, holding out a hand to the body on the floor. The figure lies on the floor, and Lavi places that hand on its back, feeling the up and down motion and the quivering.

“I’ll take you back,” he says, reaching to sling the boy’s arm over his shoulder, and that’s when he realizes there is none. The left shoulder ends in a neatly bandaged stump. Lavi closes his eyes for a moment at the queasiness in his stomach at the feel of empty air where there should have been a limb, and takes the other arm instead. The boy is dead weight against him, taking small, shuffling steps, shaking with fear, or exertion, Lavi’s not sure. Lavi stops when the steps do, takes a breath, and hoists the body into his arms, noting how small and light it is. It lays lifeless like a drape in his arms.

Lavi can’t hear the shallow breathing, nor the groans, but he feels the feverish warmth that radiates from his slight body, and feels the frantic press-in, push-out of the ribcage pressed against his own. The baby fine hair tickles his chin and smells of alkaline blood and deeper still, clovers.

There are lips pressed against his neck, and Lavi wishes he could hear what those lips are murmuring in butterfly brushes against his pulse.

Lavi goes to see him the next day, counting the beds to make sure he’s got the same one as the night before, but there is no need. There’s only one patient that small with a missing arm. Allen, as the nurse tells him he’s called, is fast asleep, though that implies sweet dreams and restful slumber. There appears to be neither here.

“Shit, should he even be able to walk in this condition?” Lavi tsks, and the nurse shakes her head, saying something too fast for Lavi to catch more than “not possible” and “worse today.” He catches the gist.

The boy’s face is grisly, sickeningly pale, that ugly translucence that reminds Lavi of raw fish. Only parts of it are pale. The majority is discolored and swollen, one eye bandaged and the other purple and green and nearly swollen shut. His whole abdomen is covered in stained, rusty gauze, as well as that hideous stump of an arm…

He looks like death warmed over. His breathing reminds Lavi of a fish once it has stopped struggling. Just deep, desperate gasps, not even rushed, but timed. There is not much else to comment on, his body is still, thin and wasted, as his muscles atrophy from the stress to it.
“…Is— Is he going to make it?” Lavi suddenly asks, because there is a strange feeling in his gut, a strange squeezing of his lungs. He doesn’t think this poor thing is going to make it. He’s just so small, and so… so dead looking, and even his hair agrees, pale as a ghost. He wants to touch it, and wonders how that cloud-pale straw could have been the same silk that tickled his chin the night before.

Lavi doesn’t know whether the nurse responds or not, as her back is turned to him, but he doesn’t need his ears to interpret the solemn shake of her head after a moment’s hesitation.

Kanda kicks him and sends him a glance that clearly says something along the lines of What the hell’s up with you? and then flicks his hand: Talk.

“Didn’t know you cared,” Lavi says with raised eyebrows, pouring the water buckets into the tub. He wipes his face, airs his shirt, and says, “You haven’t seen him yet.”

Kanda frowns, following suit, and when they’ve fanned and nurtured the fire warming the tubs for the patients, they leave the former-ballroom, now washing room, and head down the grand, dusty carpeted stairs and into the front foyer. Kanda wants more of an explanation for Lavi’s sudden distraught silence.

They stand in a five-foot-wide bubble of silence; Lavi waves to one of the nurses he’s come to be friends with, and there is crying coming from a nearby room. Hurried footsteps run constantly up and down the hall, various cries, murmurs, calls. The stomp of horses and shouts signal the arrival of new injured outside.

Always so noisy here, Kanda thinks, closing his eyes.

He jumps when Lavi takes his arm, his single emerald eye laying a firm gaze on him, “You’re coming with me. I don’t care if he’s a soldier; he’s not the one who did that stuff to you. He’s just a kid.”

Kanda’s resentful struggles, which continue all the way to the sick bay, cease abruptly when he sees the condition the kid is in. He swallows, glancing quickly at his own arms, where bandages still cover the now mostly-healed burns, and realizes that he got off easy. Physically, at least.

He casts a quick glance at Lavi, whose gaze is strangely pained and intent on that struggling, flailing creature, pale and sickly as dirty wash-water.

“I think,” Lavi chokes out, “he’s going to die.”

But he doesn’t. His recovery is miraculous. Not in speed, but in existence. The nurses attribute it to willpower. Lavi doesn’t quite agree, until the day Allen opens his eyes again.

Allen’s eye is silver. Its gaze hovers somewhere on his body, following the sound his steps make as he approaches. Lavi knows because the gaze doesn’t follow him smoothly, but in short movements, dictated by the landfall of each of his booted steps on the stone floor.

“Hey,” Lavi says softly, and sits at his usual spot on the chair permanently pulled up at Allen’s bedside, like a faithful dog to his master’s. He wonders if the chair makes a creak or other noise that lets Allen know he’s now sitting. He shifts awkwardly and finally asks, “How are you feeling today?”

Allen’s smile is tight and strained, but honest, unlike much around here— the false smiles of the numbed nurses, the denial of the patients and the soon-to-die. Allen’s finger twitches, and Lavi takes his hand, brushing his thumb over the top of it. It’s one of the few places on his skin that is actually smooth and unscarred.

“I might be able to walk by next week,” Allen says, his voice still faintly breathy, but so much stronger than that inaudible thread of a few weeks ago. He sits up nearly on his own now, the ‘nearly’ being due mainly to awkwardness with his handicaps, both in sight and in limb.

“You might be able to…?”

“Walk,” Allen repeats, moving two of his fingers back and forth to illustrate, “By next week.”

“Ah, that’s really good. Kanda and I’ll show you around. They won’t let you out of this ward yet, but eventually… I mean,” Lavi stops, “Never mind.”

Allen is about to open his mouth, when the head nurse, who has personally seen to attend to him, comes up to check his temperature and give him his next dose of antibiotics. Lavi excuses himself and promises to be back by evening, after his day-chores are done.

He’d been about to say that eventually, Allen would come and live with him and Kanda, in that little wing up in the higher reaches of the castle, and they could hunt, and Allen seemed like the kind of person who had a green thumb, so they could take over the hospital gardens too, and try to find more hidden passageways in the castle… but that would have implied that Allen is like them. Someone with no place to go back to.

Allen’s hands, like the rest of him, are small and pale, like a non-Oriental china doll. But when Lavi holds Allen’s hand, underneath the strain and the fever-induced weakness, he feels the steel and iron running in that blood.

Kanda, though pretty, looks like steel and iron on the outside, solid and beautiful like onyx. But Lavi suspects, has seen hints, that it’s in fact Kanda who is the true china doll.

Kanda doesn’t know how to deal with his lack of voice yet. Lavi doesn’t know how Kanda used to be before, so he doesn’t know if his aloofness and gruff, curt behavior is a result of his experiences or if he’d always been like this, but he can tell that some of it is due to this helplessness of his.

Lavi’s there when Kanda runs into a patient one day. Corners, tricky things, but once they both right themselves, and the other person is sputtering apologies, Kanda whirls around and storms away. Not fast enough for Lavi to miss the way Kanda had hesitated for a moment, on his face the closest thing to longing Lavi had yet seen. Longing to say something, to express his thoughts and emotions to other human beings. Unable to say anything, what other option does Kanda really have left but to leave?

Lavi follows Kanda, the nutcracker-sharp footsteps leading him to the garden, where Kanda sits on the ground, back pressed against the stone bench he usually meditates on, facing away from the castle, his prison, his helplessness.

Lavi sits on the bench and counts the castle windows, careful to not touch Kanda.

Sometimes Lavi feels like a ghost. His steps make no sound he can hear, as if he’s floating, and his knuckles skitter soundlessly on the iron armors. He drops paper into the fireplace one day, and even though there are sparks that fly and almost sting his skin, there is no sound. It makes him feel lonely and empty. Though, he thinks wryly, if it was up to him, he’d be the best thief in the world.

He goes deep into the woods one day, and screams, screams, screams, and feels like no one can hear him. He screams until his voice is raw, but he feels empty because if it wasn’t for that, he wouldn’t know that he’s just spent the better part of an hour screaming. It’s as if his existence does not touch the world.

Kanda appears suddenly in the clearing, and Lavi’s sure that there was plenty of noise—branches breaking and leaves crunching—but to him, Kanda just appeared out of nowhere.

He looks disheveled, breathing hard, with his hair strewn all over his face.

What happened? Kanda demands, looking Lavi and all over, as if expecting a bandit or broken bone. When it becomes clear that there is nothing wrong, and his barely-concealed anxiety was for nothing, he scowls and turns away, but Lavi calls him back.


“You heard me?” Lavi clenches his hands repeatedly, and maybe the coiling and uncoiling of loneliness in his stomach shows on his face, because Kanda’s scowl smoothes out as he says, You were yelling pretty damn loud.

Kanda’s hand juts into his field of vision, and Lavi takes it, but he ducks his head and can’t hold back the few tears that manage to break through. They’re of bitterness, that he can’t even hear his own voice, but they’re of relief too, that at least there’s someone else who can hear it.

“Will you stay with him?” Lavi pleads, casting a glance at the impatient throng of children in the doorway, “Please,” he adds, when Kanda’s face darkens and he looks about to shake his head.

Kanda huffs and whacks Lavi’s head, but replaces Lavi nonetheless at the chair next to Allen’s sleeping form.

You owe me one, he glares.

Lavi rolls his eyes and clutches the children’s storybook closer, “You’re so mean. Fine, how about I do one of your chores?”

Kanda shrugs and turns his face away.

Allen wakes up before Lavi comes back. Kanda doesn’t know what to do, watching that one eye flutter sightlessly. It takes a moment, but Allen suddenly frowns, hand reaching out blindly toward Kanda, even though his eye stays fixed on the ceiling, “Is someone there? Lavi?”
Kanda takes that hand before he thinks twice about it. Both of them jump at the contact, and Kanda drops it again, but Allen leaves it hanging in midair.

“You’re not Lavi…”

Kanda almost shakes his head, but then remembers and instead takes that pale, small hand, and traces with his other hand, clearly and carefully, N-o on Allen’s palm.

“Oh. Are you his friend then? He’s always talking about you. Kanda, right?”

He feels sort of foolish doing this, but he would feel even more so if he just squeezed his hand or did something equally vague as that, so he traces Y-e-s.

Allen squirms a little and says, “It tickles.”

Kanda lets go of his hand, perplexed as to whether that means he doesn’t want him to do it or what.

“Here’s your food, Allen,” the nurse maneuvers her tray of food for the patients, her efforts saved when Kanda reaches and takes one of the bowls from the tray and lays it on the bedside table, “Thank you, Kanda. Have you and Lavi eaten?”

Kanda nods, and the nurse cocks her head, “Where’s Lavi? This is the first time I’ve seen you here.”

Kanda pretends he’s holding a book and turning the page, and the nurse’s face brightens in comprehension, “Oh, the children. It’s so good of him to do that. You boys help us out so much here.”

Kanda shrugs uncomfortably, and the nurse heads on to the next bed, leaving them in silence. Allen reaches out carefully, feeling the table-edge gingerly and gliding his fingertips until he touches the bowl. Kanda wonders if he’ll need any help, but he’s not going to offer it, and the boy has a mouth he can use to ask if he really does need to, so Kanda remains still and watches.

Allen finds the spoon, and he twists in his bed to reach easier. Everything takes longer— dipping the spoon, lifting it up carefully, bringing it carefully over to his mouth, little by little to avoid spilling whatever it is inside it, and he sticks his tongue out slightly, as if to make sure he doesn’t aim wrong and try to feed his cheek instead.

Slow as the process may be, it is steady, and Allen has clearly had some practice with it, because it is not as chaotic as Kanda would have imagined it to be. There are still some spills, and near-misses with his mouth, but Allen’s expression is determined, his lips pressed together as he struggles with bringing the precariously-balanced spoon through the air. When he reaches the bottom, trying to get the soft vegetables left there, his bowl slips with the push of the spoon against its side.

Kanda debates it, but that only makes him feel even more reluctant, so he stops thinking about it and just reaches out to steady the bowl. The ceramic is warm to the touch.
Allen stops and blinks at him, and finally smiles, beaming and much too bright, “Thanks!”
Kanda watches, remembering his own frustrations with his voice, with feeling helpless and useless and invisible. He thinks this might just be worse.

The bandage falls, revealing a crimson scar running from a mangled mound above his left eye all the way across his sightless, tremulous pupil, and ending jagged on his cheek.
Allen’s smile is lopsided when Lavi tries to stutter out something appropriate to say.

Lavi sits motionless that afternoon. Kanda abandons his paper cranes and sits with him.

“It’s too much. An arm, both his eyes, that scar…” his voice is twisted like his lips, painfully. Kanda agrees.

The air is hot and dry, beating remorselessly on his skin, but Allen much prefers it to the smothering air in the ward, laden with the weight of blood and coughs, swirling like toxic miasma in his mind’s eye.

He feels the smoothness of the wooden bench he’s sitting on, his fingertip stumbling momentarily against as small splinter. The wind rustles through the tress, producing a soft sigh from the leaves, and he waits for it to reach him. When it does, it brings the smell of almonds into his nose, and he breathes deeply of the scent of hope.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to leave you for so long!”

Allen turns his head toward the breathless call. He can’t yet judge distances by voices, but it sounds far, possibly at the edge of the gardens.

“It’s alright, it feels really nice out here. I was listening to the bird calls,” Allen smiles when Lavi finally approaches, wrapping his fingers around the bread and cheese he’s brought him.

Lavi sighs, the cool air brushing Allen’s forehead, “I can’t read your lips. I’m sure didn’t just say something about old wet piss, but that’s what it looked like to me.”

Allen almost chokes on his bread, managing to down it before he bursts out laughing, “That’s definitely not what I said.”

“Where are you from?” Lavi’s voice is yellow, tinged with an orange flare of curiosity, and it’s the first burst of color Allen sees.

“It’s a bit cumbersome, but it you don’t mind…”
Kanda watches the fiddled thumbs, and hesitates. Allen can’t see Kanda’s disgruntled frown, and there is no voice with which to make scathing, resentful replies, but still Allen has somehow felt Kanda’s reluctance to do this. It makes Kanda feel guilty, because it’s not exactly skin off his back, nor does he truly mind it, and thus, Kanda realizes with shame rising in his cheeks that his reluctance is due to something else.

For some reason, he doesn’t want to translate between Allen and Lavi.

Allen wonders what color Kanda’s voice would be. He somehow imagines it will be delicate and soft like his hands, the only part that Allen has yet touched of Kanda. Lavi seems to understand the importance of touch to Allen’s budding senses and void of sight, but Kanda clearly does not want to be a participant in this exploration of Allen’s new world-perception. While Lavi allows Allen to run his fingers through his hair, shorter than Allen’s, but much thicker, Kanda skitters away, refusing to be touched yet. Allen knows that Lavi touches Kanda—he hears the rustle of cloth and skin.

He imagines Kanda’s voice would be indigo, cold and aloof like him.

Lavi leads Allen carefully throughout the castle, a doting older brother— ‘Watch out for the step here, and there’s a person coming by, so come this way.’ He holds Allen’s hand like without that responding pressure, something would be lost. He tells Allen jokes, and even though his chest squeezes when Allen opens his mouth and the laughter that tumbles out is silent to Lavi, he tries to imagine that it would be the most beautiful sound in the world, and contents himself with the gleam of silver in Allen’s eyes and the sight of his beaming face.

Kanda didn’t want to become the bridge between Lavi and Allen, but he does it anyway, at least until Lavi’s able to read Allen’s British accent. Lavi smiles warmly and gratefully at him, as if knowing of Kanda’s initial reluctance, and that’s nearly enough to convince Kanda that it’s not so bad.

Allen says we should go into town to try those plum tarts you keep going on about, Kanda picks up his papers again and continues folding cranes. Lavi’s arm brushes against Kanda’s shoulder in a hot rush of skin.

“Yeah, let’s do that! Kanda and I go into town once a month to get supplies, and maybe we can convince the nurse to let you come too,” Allen can’t see the brilliance of Lavi’s smile, so Lavi ruffles his hair to display his affection. Kanda doesn’t realize he’s been staring at the olive-skinned hand lying on the snow-top of Allen’s head until Lavi calls his name. Kanda jumps and returns his attention to his hands and the cranes, turning his face away to hide the heat on his cheeks, but Lavi hums teasingly, and the next second, there is a hand ruffling his head.

Kanda huffs and bats Lavi’s hand away, but the heat on his face increases at the lingering pull of Lavi’s fingers through the tips of Kanda’s hair.

“What color is your hair?” Allen asks one day. Kanda looks up from his sketchbook, blinking once as if processing the question, and then gently takes Allen’s hand.

B.l.a.c.k, he traces with his fingertip, dancing it along Allen’s palm, watching as Allen’s face brightens with comprehension and wonderment. Allen’s hand jerks forward, falling back almost immediately, and a dark arrow spears Kanda’s chest when his pale face crumbles into barely-concealed disappointment. Kanda closes his eyes and after a moment, takes Allen’s hand.

“Kanda?” Allen’s confusion is clear, along with that hint of wariness, but there is no worry, no mistrust. Kanda wonders if there should be.

He brings Allen’s hand toward his head, letting the fingers skim over his scalp, and then lets go to allow Allen to continue on his own.

“Oh… it’s so soft,” Allen’s voice is thick with that wonderment, his face brimming with pleasure, his timidity and surprise evident in the strawberry dusting on his cheeks, “I guess I know now why Lavi likes it so much.”

Kanda’s glad in that moment that Allen can’t see the way his pencil stops cold, or the blush that has inevitably risen in his own cheeks as well.

“What color is Lavi’s hair?” Allen asks next. Kanda holds Allen’s hand in his for a long time, though the answer is clear, has been clear since the first time he’d seen Lavi, and then he dances his fingertip over Allen’s hand, writing S.u.n.s.e.t.

Allen’s body is slim and fits perfectly on Kanda’s back, his head resting wearily against Kanda’s shoulder. Kanda mentally damns Lavi for running errands and leaving him to take Allen back to the sick bay, but then Allen thanks him.

His dulcet voice, even when dulled by sleep, holds a strange sort of light to it. Kanda isn’t sure how anyone’s voice is able to inspire this little flame of warmth fluttering in his belly, but it does. It makes him giddy and uncomfortable at the same time, and he doesn’t like that at all, so he quickens his steps.

Kanda lays Allen in bed and pulls the covers tight about him, his hand hovering over the snow-white hair.

Allen’s body tires quickly still, but he insists on following Lavi and Kanda on their errands, and it is he who conducts the bargains with the salesmen that wander about in hopes of evading the war and gaining bread. He is unusually good at it, and they take him with them to the town to haggle for supplies when the nurses send them.

On the way back, they rest under a wisteria tree, munching on bread and cheese. Allen dozes, head cushioned in Lavi’s lap, and underneath the folds of his too-big sleeves, their fingers touch. Kanda sits with one shoulder touching Lavi’s, and Allen’s thighs pressed against his own.

The summer nights are cooler now, and they bask in the haze of dusk.

Allen comes to live with them. They each have their own room in the tower, former guests rooms that still have giant beds with dusty, overly decorated drapes, and stained glass windows. Despite each of them having their own rooms, it is not rare for them to wake up in the same one, either because they’ve spent the night playing cards in Allen’s room, or Lavi’s been reading them a story. More often than not, they sleep in Lavi’s room.

“Slacking off in here, huh?” Lavi smirks as he enters the stable to find Kanda curled up on the hay, dozing among the stomps and tail-swishes of the horses. Kanda takes care of the three horses the hospital owns. He feeds them every morning, and brushes their coats until they gleam, then takes them out to the grounds behind the castle one by one to keep them in shape. His devotion to them is endearing, and his knowledge of them far surpasses Lavi’s, who used to own a horse of his own.

Kanda remains sleeping, and Lavi bends down in front of him, balancing on the balls of his feet. In the easy light of the sunlit stable, the smudges under Kanda’s eyes are startlingly obvious, like ink smudges on parchment, and Lavi remembers his refusal of breakfast that morning.

It makes him feel just a tad guilty when he takes a piece of hay and tickles Kanda’s nose to wake him up.

“He’s not eating. And I don’t think he’s sleeping either,” Lavi’s fingers rub distractedly the scissors he’s cleaning, though there is no longer any evidence of dirt—really blood, gore, dried bodily fluids— on it, “I asked him about it, and he won’t say a word—Or sign a word, whatever.”

Allen frowns, feeling the scalpel in his hands for any moisture, and when satisfied with its dryness, feels for the box next to him to drop it in. He takes a deep breath, “I think he’s having nightmares.”

Lavi looks up from his obsessive cleaning and scraping and blinks, “How do you know?”

This is the part that makes Allen slightly uncomfortable because it’s something he can’t even imagine Kanda doing, and it makes it all the more surreal and taboo, “I heard… stuff, from his room,” he’s glad he can’t see Lavi’s gaze, which is surely trained upon him, and continues hurriedly, “Screams, and sometimes, maybe, I’m not sure—crying,” he swallows and feels like he’s just divulged a secret sworn under oath.

Lavi hums thoughtfully.

“I’m going to read here tonight, my room is cold,” Lavi announces upon entering the room. Kanda doesn’t acknowledge him, already tucked into bed and facing the wall, waiting for the second set of footsteps to make their way across his room. He remembers the bruise, courtesy of a table corner, on Allen’s leg the morning after the first night they tried to cure him of his nightmares. Allen knows the layout of both of their rooms know, maybe too well, because even in the dead of night he’s able to glide effortlessly about their rooms.

There is no vacillation in Allen’s movements as he pulls the covers and settles in, back pressed in near-scalding warmth firmly against Kanda’s back, facing Lavi. They fall asleep to the rustle of dusty page turns and flickering candlelight, and if the nightmares still come, nestled between Allen and Lavi, their soothing voices always still his whimpers, and their hands always smooth up and down his back. There is still shame and embarrassment on his part, and he prefers to hide his face in Lavi’s lap, but there is endless and silent gratitude for them to find in the spaces between their interlaced hands.

They discuss it in hushed voices by candlelight in Lavi’s room.

Allen doesn’t have anywhere else to go either. His father had been drafted into the army, and Allen, with no mother or sisters or anyone to stay with, had gone with him. His father had died in combat, but Allen, accustomed to the soldier’s life— somehow fitting well into it— had remained in service.

Kanda’s family had owned a horse ranch. Though on neutral territory, a band of ravaging soldiers had come by and set fire to their home. His parents had burned in the fire, his sister and been killed and raped, in that order. Kanda had lasted until a band of neighbors had finally come, called by the smoke, and the soldiers had fled.

Lavi and his grandfather had taken leave of their gypsy tribe to travel on their own, and in observing one of the battles, had become inextricably involved. That had been the battle that had killed Lavi’s grandfather and deafened Lavi’s ears. Lavi says that he wants to continue traveling once the war is over, and invites them both to come with him.
Only the candle-nascent shadows are privy to their conversations.

Allen’s arm sometimes hurts. Not his right one, but his left— the one that doesn’t exist anymore. He feels his fingers burning, bends his elbow and feels it stiff, and the feeling is so real that he can’t believe for a moment that there is nothing but air there. The illusion is only broken when he reaches over to rub his arm and his fingers pass through his imagined arm and touch his waist instead. Despite that, the sharp ache is real. At first he tries to keep it from Lavi and Kanda, but then the pain becomes intense enough that he almost passes out. Lavi calls the nurse, while Kanda stays with him. They can’t make it better, there’s nothing to look at, nothing to soothe, so the most the nurses can do is give him a bottle of alcohol until he does pass out, cradled by Lavi and Kanda.

Lavi has a way of rounding up both Kanda and Allen, tucking them about him so they form a comfortable sphere of gentle warmth and soft breaths, bundled under the covers to stave off the crisp autumn chill. Then he opens his book and starts reading to them, his voice low and husky, enveloping them in the weave of words. His voice sometimes does funny things, sometimes rising too high, other times becoming nearly inaudible, and his accents, which he was able to mimic so perfectly before, have begun running together. They don’t tell him though, only spoon their heads against his shoulders and listen to his words. Lavi’s voice remains yellow in Allen’s mind, reminding him of blazing hearths reduced to a dozing glow, comforting and homey.

There are always banshee wails about the castle, but this one is a babe’s cry. Kanda remembers that a pregnant woman had been carried in a couple days before—Kanda had helped. They had been afraid that the shock would send her into early labor, and it had come to be so, but the baby had been born healthy. The mother is still in delicate condition, but she looks much better when Kanda drops by, hovering by the doorway and watching her coo at her baby. Her dark, curling hair forms a curtain, as if protecting her and her child, and Kanda has a flash of his own mother’s hair, the same shade of black, but fine like Kanda’s.

She catches sight of him, and her motherly smile turns from her baby to Kanda and widens, “Come in. You were one of the ones who helped me, right?” she pats the seat next to him. She holds the baby out to him, “Do you want to hold her?”

Kanda steps back reflexively, eyeing the bundle worriedly, and she laughs, tired but genuine, the way Allen’s smiles where when he’d first come, “She won’t bite. And you won’t drop her. You didn’t drop me, and I’m much heavier.”

Kanda bites his lip and reaches out carefully, awkwardly, to hold the wriggling bundle in his arms. He follows her instructions and cradles it against him.

“She likes you,” the mother smiles. Kanda ducks his head to mask his pleased embarrassment, and then the baby starts to cry, wide and loud.

“She needs to be fed,” her mother says, and Kanda excuses himself as she unbuttons her blouse to suckle her child.

It makes Kanda think of his family, but he realizes that the ache has lessened, and instead, what comes to mind is sunsets and moonlit snow.

The food never stops being shoveled in Allen’s mouth. He is a gaping black hole, but Lavi enjoys watching him eat. Lavi cuts his food for him, taking a knife and wrapping his fingers around Allen’s own to hold the fork.

Lavi and Kanda wait for Allen to finish eating. Kanda sits patiently, but Lavi’s thoughts are swirling above their heads, looking at the paintings that line the mess hall. His grandfather and he used to stop at historic places, like this castle, and Lavi can recognize the materials, time period and sometimes even the origin of the painter.

Allen suddenly jumps, and both Kanda and Allen’s heads turn toward the windows. Allen’s gaze is tinted with unease, Kanda’s with anger.

Cannons. Very close, Kanda signs, and they both look at Allen, who has resumed eating, but at a much slower pace, his shoulders strangely hunched. They trade a glance, both thinking the same cruel thing: They’re glad Allen can’t go back to the battlefield.

Kanda is cleaning the hooves of the dapple grey mare when he hears a crash and short cry coming from outside the stable. He runs outside only to find that Allen has, after somehow making his way to the stable, tripped over the buckets of barley Kanda had left out.

He rolls his eyes and helps Allen up, running through a list of choice words in his head. He writes a quick W.h.a.t? on Allen’s palm, hefting the buckets on his shoulder and letting his shuffling footsteps guide Allen behind him.

“Lavi’s out, so I just wanted to see what you were doing,” Allen says meekly. He stands at the edge of the stable, and if he’d been a dog, Kanda is sure he would have his head cocked and his ears straight up, and possibly sniffing about too.

In truth, the problem is not so much that Lavi is gone as it is that Allen has nothing much to do. Other than their trips to town where he haggles, Allen is relatively useless. He plays with the children mostly, but he’s not able to participate in most of the chores that Lavi and Kanda do. That doesn’t keep him from trying to help out where he can, but those places are few and far in between.

Kanda snaps his fingers, which usually means either come or pay attention, and Allen takes it as the former and steps forward, feeling the path with his feet. Kanda takes his hand and places it on the horse, and Allen’s eyes widen.

“Can I pet her?”


Allen smiles softly and runs his hand down the animal’s flank, petting and patting and running his hands through the finely-combed mane. The horse snorts at the unfamiliar touch and turns her head to sniff Allen’s palm. Allen laughs and brushes his fingers delicately over the velvet of her nose. Kanda decides that Allen can help with the horses. He takes a bristle brush, but then realizes that finger-tracing is a rather troublesome way to give instructions. He sits there at a loss, wondering how else he can communicate with Allen.


They both turn to find Lavi waving at them from the doorway.

“Did you get all the supplies?” Allen asks, hands still buried in the mare’s mane.

Tell him he’s going to brush the horses, Kanda says without preamble.

“Not even a hello from you? Allen, Kanda says ‘will you please be a dear and help him brush the horses?’” Kanda stomps on the ground and glares at Lavi’s smirk, but at least Allen’s laugh means that he doesn’t really believe Kanda said that.

Lavi sits on a pile of hay and voices Kanda’s signed instructions, and before long, they work in silence. It’s not an efficient process, but soon enough it’ll be as natural to Allen as it is to Kanda, and they won’t have need for instructions. Allen brushes in gentle circular motions, feeling along the horse for spots he’s missed, while Lavi dozes on the hay and Kanda continues cleaning the hooves of the other two horses.

Kanda makes sure to bring Allen with him the next day as well.

They sit in the main foyer one day, bandaging Allen’s scrapes in the corner, while the majority of the nurses take their lunch break. Kanda is sketching busily, ignoring Allen’s pouts and complaints of pain because he’d warned him that it was muddy outside and he’d fall. Lavi tells him he’s being terribly unfair because it’s not like Kanda ever listens to Lavi’s warnings. Kanda tells him in no uncertain ways to shove it.

The door burst open all of a sudden, and one of the younger nurses runs in, her face red, and nearly stumbling in her efforts to run to the head nurse.

“The war is over!” she screams breathlessly, “They just signed the treaty, it’s over!”

Kanda stares at her, and Allen’s eyes are wide.

“What is she saying?” Lavi demands, as nearly half of the nurses burst into tears immediately and the others stare in shock at her.

The war… is over, Kanda says slowly, looking at him. Lavi blinks once, then twice, and suddenly the most beautiful and vibrant smile Kanda has ever seen blooms across his face.
Lavi takes both of their hands, kisses their cheeks, and says with a toothy, happy grin, “You want to come traveling with me?”

Both Allen and Kanda nod.
Arivess: hughesarivess on June 14th, 2008 06:23 am (UTC)
That was absolutely amazing. Wow...

And just. Wow. And wow. And more wow.

It was beautiful, and very much in-character, and lovely, and just made of wonderful.

Thank you so much for writing it. ♥