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DGM fanfic: The Loss of Disaster

I also threatened this one. Looonnnggg, serious Lenalee one. She loves Allen, Allen might love his calling more. She's friends with Lavi, that might not be enough. She doesn't understand Kanda, it might be more worth her time to try. It's NOT a crazy love triangle, it's a...character-profile in-times-of-war-we-decide-these-thing and who's loyal to what and/or who and why thing.

Um.

Yeah, I didn't use a Lavi icon with this, because...wow, is this really one of the first DGM entries NOT about him?

The Loss of Disaster

She had not meant for the words to fall out of her, ominous yet artificial like the subdued clicking of a film reel flashing a tragedy into motion.

“Oh, how could he do this to us.” Her jaw feels full of breakable teeth as it snaps closed, quick, at the pathetic ring to that tired old line. She has always aimed to avoid three things in her life. One, gushing. Two, swooning. Three, unnecessary theatrics.

Three strikes and I’m out, she thinks. Pitcher, you’ve got a hell of an arm.

- - -

She wakes up. She doesn’t  make a very pretty picture sprawled across his sheets, nose tilted up at his favorite things playful and macabre. Where did that picture of the traveling clown jauntily juggling a coffin with his spine come from? The Order certainly wouldn’t have provided it. Maybe it materialized from his own mind, his black carnival muse. It would.

The wily-nily smile slashed into its face is an unreadable happiness, she notices of the corpse-carrying figure. It’s neither grim nor stupidly blissful. The figure ambles agreeably on its path; it is burdened with death, yet the expression dances with joy. It sounds like a dark riddle, but if there is anything beautiful or sinister to it, the story is out of her reach.

The boy was a wonder.

“It isn’t appropriate for you to be here.”

Lenalee squirms at the severity of her brother’s tone, the most dead-pan serious she has ever gotten from him. She wonders exactly what it is about this scene that’s finally got his head screwed on straight after years of falling to pieces at her most subtle gestures. If this is the end of the world for her, shouldn’t that be something like the implosion of his universe?

Not.

Like.

She’s calling it anything like that.

“Lenalee…you get up right now, young lady!”

The sharpness jabs right into her headache, but she puts a palm against her laugh to spare him his feelings. What, her, a lady? On her back on a boy’s bed with her legs all over the place? Has he ever called her that before?

Komui violently jerks her from the bed--her bony girl shoulders poke his bony man hands and his bony man hands get poked by her bony girl shoulders.  Trust her hair to be re-grown just enough to needle at her scalp as Komui accidentally yanks. The roots burn, but not as badly as her face. She puzzles at the surge of unreasonable rage heating her from inside out.  It’s not like Komui’s never hit her.

It is not, she convinces herself in a stroke of stubbornness, anything like your life flashing before your eyes. Even if you visualize yourself as a child in China, trading a clumsy grip on one of his cherished inventions for a spanking. The same goes for seeing yourself, long-haired and skinny, tipping yourself off the window ledge with the pointy-toed poise of a ballerina.

Also, not, your brother disavowing the idea of being a parent afterwards and  never laying a hand on you ever again like your heart might just stop short if it takes one more disappointment.  

You are an exorcist. Weapons built into your body, demon poison dabbed onto your limbs, a soldier’s mission to live. Machines of pure evil crumple under your heel. He knows. He is your commanding officer. He better know it.

Allen Walker, you are not enough of a disaster to be prompting a review of my life and insecurities.

“This is my first time here.” she blurts out involuntarily. She startles him and they both fall limp to the floor. The guilt ricochets off her voice and into the widening of his eyes. “I just…”

“You want to see him.” Komui sucks his cheeks in, disproving. Lenalee regrets putting those lines in his forehead. “I swear, Lenalee…”

“Don’t swear, big brother.” she offers him a scold and a smile. “I’ll be fine. Promise.”

“I’m not asking for that.” he tells her in a low voice. He gets up to leave her sitting on the carpet. “I am telling you…that this room is strictly off limits while the investigation is underway. There were signs clearly posted.”

“I must have missed them. I’m so sorry, big brother.” Lenalee lies blithely from the floor. It’s rare she gets to see her brother’s reaction to bald-faced disrespect. She doesn’t see it as much as she hears it in his self-steadying breath. He obscures his face with his white cap and his words come out muffled.

“Five minutes.”

His gait is stiff and wounded. He isn’t so young anymore, Komui, and these children and their antics are starting to take their toll, she realizes. It isn’t so much the war that is aging him, but  having to set rules for people who are all still all messy and fiercely resistant on the inside. He forces them to follow them with an adult’s defeated resignation. They all want freedom, all of them, but it’s his job to make them give it up. Or else convince them that they can find it here, within the Order’s walls.  

Nothing must hurt his heart more than them calling his bluff. She puts a finger to her mouth like that can draw out the apology she knows is on the tip of her tongue, but it won’t come. And he’s already at the door.

Allen’s door handle has become a hole with splintered edges. The jagged wood sticks into the cloth of Komui’s glove as his fingers sidle in to jimmy the door open, and then he’s gone, along with his formidable white head- officers coat.

She spends her five minutes slowing taking in all of Allen’s possessions in for the last time. He must have thrown out anything that he didn’t want others to see. The leftovers of his monstrous appetite are gone, to be polite to the cleaning staff, perhaps. And whatever else. But it all looks so intact, like there could be secrets lurking sly behind every piece of furniture, waiting. The only damage is from when the lock flew across the room and dented the front of his armoire.

She tries to banish the blankness buzzing in her skull so she can make her decision.

Her ankle hurts.  

---

The smoldering heat nips at her calves as she continues to roam the trash heaps of unnatural bodies, a languid perfume cloud of burning metal and toxic blood pressing into her mouth. Her world is inverted. A spread of stars oozes a paisley field under her feet, which are moving, moving, moving, over a sky painted by the fluids of the enemy fallen to the earth.

It is all so blurry, and at times she flicks her chin over her shoulder for him. But it is always the wrong beginnings of a nose, lips, and eyes emerging from the fire-scented fog to look back at her. They are running after her, their bodies too heavy to be the right one as their footsteps thud after her trail.

They are both so full of color, such obvious hues like looking into the mouth of an inkwell to peek at the contents, or else the jaunty baubles of a Christmas tree. But Allen could be melting into this dusty paleness. He could be camouflaging and lost from her eyes; he is bleached by his curse, which stole the flush of life from him. He is suddenly, so good at being invisible.  

“Allen?” she calls. “Allen!” she cries, is crying, unexplained tears getting impatiently scraped off by nails gone raggedy.

They let him not answer her three more times before one of them clutches her around the waist and leads her out of the contaminated air. Whoever it is, his hands are big, rough, hauling her so brusquely that her dragging heels skip over pretty patterns that could have been fatal. He sits her down when they are safe.

“I--” she stutters to two very silent, very different men standing before her.

In the past year, they have become a match shoulder-to-shoulder, so that they look like a paired set--one version long-haired and in simple black-and white, the other with hair cropped short and complexly bright. They are both so handsome now, it is only a matter of taste she thinks as hysteria strikes her.

Allen had  always been the spare, short and colorless.  No wonder he’d been easier to lose.

She works at getting the awful taste, ashy and bitter, off her tongue. Lavi needs his own recovery and he sits next to her, wearily resting hands and head on his hammer.

“I--”   

“Let’s go back.”

Lavi  can’t even spare her eye contact as he busily shakes out the debris from his clothes.  There is a distracted absence to his urgency. He has a mindless commitment to walking away.

“I don’t--What?”

“We shouldn’t linger too long.” he insists hollowly. “Being connected to a traitor is something we can’t afford.”

Lenalee can feel the disbelief rising in her fist. She quells it mostly because almost more than she can not believe that Allen has done what Lavi thinks he has done, she cannot believe Lavi has given up.

“Lavi.” and she practically hopes it’s akuma toxin numbing her lips, putting her words to slow-motion, “We would all sooner die than abandon each other. The most important thing to Allen is being with us.”  
 
“Lenalee, you’re the only one who thinks that.” he says, soft and cross. He is not even moved enough by her anger to fight. She is just wrong and that wears him out. She stares at him but he keeps his face ducked down. His headband has slid to his throat from the struggle and a ragged curtain of dirty red shields his feelings from sight.

Kanda finally speaks.

“Be nice to her.”

It is obvious just from looking that he is at the height of discomfort, but he says it anyways. The only other emotion he has in his strong, lovely features is a twinge of pity for her.

Lavi does not stir.

---

The rough black crust of his fingers scratches her skin like volcanic rock, but his mouth is impossibly soft. She can tell that they are smooth to perfection by the effortless way they slip across the backs of her hands in a peaceful kiss.

“Lenalee, I really…won’t you…?” the official intent is lost when he trails off, but it is unquestionable when his delicately metallic eyes have lit upon her face so directly that they are dark from her being in them. Allen looks so harmless, all padded edges with hair and eyelashes like fluffy new show, bright against his muted human flesh.  Everything dangerous about him he’s got safely under control--the knife-per-finger weapons sheathed by his bones, or something, because other than the sandy-sediment texture he is just so simply.

Warm.

“Allen” is not a no or a yes but something like, she doesn’t know, a pitiful sinner crying out a saint’s name in a moment of revelation. Or fulfillment, or comfort, or just unlabeled goodness when she collapses in his arms.

They sleep. His bed is warmer than hers.
---

Lavi is getting to be the pretty one, and for some reason that makes her feel a little sick.

The truth is that  for now and always he is a dreamer. She didn’t use to think it was such a problem, because it suited him. Rainbowy inside and out, chin always propped on his palm as he kept his slightly up-turned noise pointing at the clouds and sun because he was always thinking about something. Tasting a million different realities and what-if’s by himself and then offering it up to them like a sampler, easy smile complimentary.

But now it’s not a good thing that he can’t, or won’t, anchor himself to that, that whatever gritty-rock-hard core of uncompromising faith and purpose that is their lives and is so terrifyingly binding.  The rest of them all just so desperately want anything. A sign. A catastrophe.  Any means of scrabbling at the next step towards the end.

Lavi doesn’t want that.

At first, she thinks he’s selfishly refusing to grow up. Wants to stay a kid forever, or something. On the surface, nothing’s changed--he still goes on tangents, gets a little too close to pretty civilians, pulls on Kanda’s ponytail. The thing is, everything has. The fated hero dropping out of his own fate makes things different. They tell each other it is another trial--sent from God or the Earl. It’s just more of the same. They may say so, but they all know the world has rewritten itself. Lavi has allowed it to be rewritten without him.

“It’s fine, Lenalee.” Komui rubs his eyes like she’s being whiny when she tries to talk to him about it. “Isn’t it nice to have someone be happy around here? We could do with a spot of good cheer. And, well, if he could get over Bookman, why would Allen bother him?

“But--”

“Leave him alone, you hear me? Don’t complicate things more. Please.” There is a firm shielding to his attitude, a vague aloofness that surrounds Lavi’s name as he blows off his sister.

She opens her mouth in fury--then closes it, because she’s got nothing to change his mind but love and loyalty, and that has never helped one bit in these kinds of situations. And right now she doesn’t even have Komui’s unwavering adoration working for her. As she excuses herself, she wonders if this tension over the Allen-room incident will go away soon.

---

Kanda and Lavi still sit together often, but it’s half the noise of the old times of Lavi imposing himself on Kanda. When Lenalee walks in Kanda is calmly writing, nodding once or twice instead of cussing out Lavi for chattering and pulling on his hair to keep his attention. Kanda, drably dressed as always, is melting into the crowd of young assistants they hired for record keeping since they got a new budget approved to spare the science department.

When he sees her he hands her a dark blue portfolio. She keeps the boys in the corner in her eye as she opens it to crisp handwritten schedules. Lavi fidgets as he waits, like a child, and Kanda relaxes into his adult stance of a pen in his hand and papers under his palm.

“This is…?” she prompts him, confused.

“The training schedules for my new apprentices.”

She nearly bites her tongue in her haste to get the startled objection out.

“What? All three of them? Seven? Seven in all for you? No--”

“It’s fine. I asked to do it.” he rests his hand on the stack of folders that Lenalee notices for the first time, each marked with a name from another country. She lowers her eyes, the question that had only nudged her before now tightening her throat. Kanda has been indifferent all this time. And she thought he would have been the most moved--to rage. But he simply fixes his gaze at her, his unsmiling expression awaiting her answer. Unsmiling, but hate-less, towards him and whatever is showing up on her own face, that is also him. She pulls away from it by quickly scanning the first page.

“Five AM everyday?”

“They’ll be ready for the field in a month. Tell Komui that.”  

“Oh. Right.” She’d honestly forgotten for a second that she still did things like act as proxy secretary. Awkwardly. “Yes, thank you Kanda. This is wonderful.”

“You’re welcome.” he says quietly.

He gathers his things, nods in Lavi’s direction (Lavi doesn’t nod back, his body unconditioned to Kanda actually acknowledging him) and leaves.  Lenalee’s left to lock eyes with Lavi’s, an eye that is as accusatory of a lack of affection and attention as an entitled cat’s.

Lenalee knows Lavi is different. A mongrel in blood and lives, he was a beguiling changeling. The usual exorcist child was limited to his own culture, his own life, his own birth. Lavi had come in and told them he didn’t have any, but it felt more like he had them all.

Lenalee had thought they all freely loved that kind of an enigma. But it is coming out that for all the years they’ve kept him on their pedestal, they don’t really know what to do with him. Or what he is. And it’s finally starting to scare them, now that they know the importance of knowing everything after the last mystery that had slunk onto their doorstep.

Oh. No, Lavi isn’t Allen. She has to stop making everything about him when other people are still here. Lavi deserves his own problem. She smiles at that green eye to let him know that.

It really is the prettiest and strangest in the Order’s, the split color spectrum split again only for the green. Faintly patterned from within, tiny faucets of a million possibilities. Even Kanda’s eyes, beautiful Kanda’s, are monotone blue. His unlighted eyes brings the shadows of the Order’s corners into his face. But Lavi’s is like he has stolen the color burst of natural world for himself.

It watches her in expectation.

---

The first time she worried about him this way was last year, as they started to hold the torches to the casket. The day had been foggy for her. She had not slept the night before for all the tears she had to spill on Allen’s shoulder, and he hadn’t either for all the strength he needed to stop himself from wetting her hair.

They had both gotten up early, hours too early. The dawn billowed into the arches and made them blaze like peaks of fire as she walked him to the gates. They had found Lavi asleep on the threshold, a traveling bag pushed as far away as possible from his body on the other side of the doorway.

When he woke to Allen rubbing his shoulder, he had started to smile, but immediately cried instead.

“I don’t where to go now,” he cried. Lenalee held his face in her own hands, and that made him smile as he turned to her and drenched her skin with all the carelessness Allen had minded to hold back the night before.

“I don’t know who you are now.” he said sweetly, and then began to sob. “Who are you now?” he sobbed, jerking away from her touch. “Who are you now?” he pressed Allen. “Who are you? Who are you?”

She had prepared herself to help Lavi through something like this. The anticipation had drenched her spirit and made it limp and heavy--she had had so much of she had been soaked in it. But suddenly it was all nothing. At the first tear, Lavi had evaporated it all away. In its stead was intense dread. Why should she feel so panicked that something was broken, irreparability its very essence like glass dust flying away from a shattered bottle? All she could see with her eyes was Lavi holding himself together with one question.
 
She caught Allen staring at her, but she had shook her head for the tears streaking down her own face. He smiled lovingly at her as he held Lavi in his arms, who repeated the same question over and over again in a dying moan.

“Lavi.” he had spoke gently.

“Book--” Lavi started to say back, but Allen cut him off.

“No, Lavi.” he said firmly, and Lenalee did not understand.

“Lavi, listen to me. I am Allen Walker. Nothing you can do can change that.” He pressed his lips to the uncombed red hair on Lavi’s brow when Lavi lifted his head.  “You don’t have that power. Let’s go back.”

He had taken Lavi’s hand and taken him back to the chapel. Lenalee had lingered behind, frightened, but also brave because she knew the touch Lavi was feeling right now. She had felt  the same thing in that softness caressing her skin as Allen kissed her goodbye that morning in his room. That same noble fury.

Allen had to leave for his mission before it even began, but before he discreetly slid out from the room, he slid Lavi’s hand into hers. They watched, holding hands like a son and daughter as the flames were lowered.

---

When Kanda’s words tumble out of her golem in patchy thinness, she goes running because it’s the same man who told her a story like this once.

“Ksschhhh…help…sscchkkk…help, Lenalee…ksckhhh…says…kssck…only you…”

She throws open the third story window, a stained glass one two times her size. She strikes the ancient sill to crumbling bits as she kicks into flight with full strength. She rises, rises to the only place in the entire Order that would have such terrible reception.

On the roof of the tallest watch tower Lavi’s legs swing from his hammer’s extended handle.

“I can’t fly like you, can I?” he says ruefully to Lenalee. “I mean, not really. I was never able to really fly on this thing.”  

“Lavi!” she screams, not sure what kind of a scream her next one should be.

Frustration, she decides, when Lavi gracefully, painstakingly, lifts himself into a elegant standing position like a gymnast at the beam. Or a diver about to jump. He smiles at her treading the air at a safe distance, tensing from all the contradictory plans starting to bud in her mind. Liquefying her heart into pleas, dissolving into tears if it can get him to retract his innocence back to the safety of the roof, away from the edge of the sky.  Keeping her eyes dry so she has the clarity to see him when she nosedives, placing open arms and herself under someone heavy enough to break her bones.

A familiar voice drifts in through her numbing dilemma and she sees Kanda far away, his hand gripping the rotting frame of the door, his eyes wide and tense. The flapping device hovers steadily by his head.

“Lenalee.” he murmurs urgently.    

Lavi ignores him, focusing on Lenalee instead, studying her. It finally hits her that this is some sick parody of their trip to Edo with the roles in reverse. Both of their innocence activated, the two airborne exorcists fixed in a standoff of  who is stronger in resolve and love. They have talked about this once, if their comrades have ever thought about a death where one waits to die with wind streaming through the body and not knowing to whether to face land or sky.

He’d risked his life to save hers, but after the first smile welcoming her back he had turned away. He navigated the hands raining congratulations on his back with expression knowing that he had done something terrible. Lenalee had tightened her jacket with nervous, clutching fingers and sat down among friends. But it was no use asking; one look at Bookman told her exactly who Lavi had learned it from.   

“Are you going to cry?” he asks her softly. “That’s good.  Cry. Cry and I’ll go back.”

She floats around his reassurances, trying to make herself draw closer. He reaches out one hand as if readying himself to pull an angel from the clouds. When he speaks, his voice is hazy.

“You could make me give up anything, you know.” Lenalee listens and hears the six months after he has stayed, the shamed trudging of the science department through the doorway of Lavi’s room. Lavi had supervised them confiscating boxes’ worth of material from his room, unresisting in the corner.

“Only you.”  he whispers, and she remembers that the first reprieve from color she had that night. The black sky too blank, black ocean too full, and a relentless green dream. Waking to the colorlessness of his tears.  

She stretches her hands to take him in.

“…I still want something.” he finishes, and in that upshot moment Allen becomes her revelation once again and she throws herself to the side. The brush of his streaking past feels like a kiss on her arm.

She lands and watches him turn into a speck on the horizon, and then become nothing. After a few seconds,  another presence forms at her side.     

“You’re faster than him.” Kanda comments.

She closes her eyes briefly. “He knows,” she says when she opens them.

“He was in love too.” Kanda says also.

She is silent.

---

    She remembers their first meeting.
   
    When she had lifted her head she had been spooked a boy staring curiously from the bridge. He stood with legs apart and looked remarkably refreshed. His clean hair was as bright as a flower. It made him look like a single rose for the dead. He made a scene as unexpected as a child hovering ghost-like in a battlefield where all other bodies were strewn on the floor.

    Seeing him made Lenalee remember that she had started to forget that she was still young.  All wars were old wars. She felt aged like a profession and not a person.  She was not dying, she could not be killed. It gave a kind of slow, lumbering strength like a mantra in her bones: “I will not die. I will not die.” But that wasn’t so strange around here. The boy seemed bright with too much life, like an upstart bright green seedling in a field of millions that would be thinned with time.

    The vibrant seedling that had confidence he would always live, always have purpose, despite having no reason. He was the antithesis of the beginnings of dust in the coffins she laid her head on.  It was all wrong considering what he was getting into, but somehow it was so good. And he stood, beautiful and bright for their dead, like single rose at a wake.

    To explain it away, Kanda says that Bookmen have no real identities. But she knows she’s the one who is right about him.

---

She’s never seen her brother so angry in her life.

“That goddamned…that fucking…BOOKMAN!” he rages, and then just as furiously, “Get Kanda in here.”

Lenalee tries to suppress the eerie peacefulness she feels so she can be properly protesting.

“Brother, you can’t blame Kanda. He had no choice, none of us--”

“GET KANDA!” he yells, and then ends up more shattered than her. His head falls to his desk. “Oh God, oh God…” he groans mournfully. “I’m sorry, Lenalee. Everything’s falling apart…”

“Yes.” She says strongly. “I’ll get him.”  On her way out, she pauses. “Brother. Thank you for trusting us.”

His sigh hits her back, but it’s a tender one.

“I’m like a bad parent.” he wavers on that joking good-bye, but can’t stop himself in the end. “I can’t protect any of you if you won’t let me.” he scolds her helplessly. She hurries away from the accusation.

---    

Kanda is asleep on the table when she walks in, but wakes up slowly to her softly calling him.

“No.” he  sleepily disobeys her relayed order to report in. “There’s no point to seeing him right now. What is he going to say to me? He won’t even have the words ready.”

“Kanda.” she answers in dismay because, she, too has no words to say. She has no idea why he did it. Kanda has never been confusing enough for her to question his motives.  She has always seen him as something of an akuma slaughtering plant she supposes--and up until now, she would have never guessed that he might want something else.

But that was Kanda, and this is now, not, the Kanda that was before Allen and Lavi. The old Kanda had always been drawn taut like the wire in the circus top, not allowed any slack or else disaster would follow. On missions, he slept as if death would bite down on his neck if he weren’t ready to fend it off. Kanda, perpetually draped in the darkness of his coloring and a uniform, droops with half-closed eyes.

“I’m tired.” he confesses.  Lenalee thinks about the cluster of young men and women that shadow Kanda nowadays, a set of three separate from the rest with the same cloudy faces as children left behind.

“What did you mean about Lavi?” she starts off gingerly. That didn’t particularly bother her. He’s gone for good, anyways.  She’s working her way up to asking Kanda what was going to happen to him.

“What did you think I meant?” he counters, just as unfeeling. “You’re probably right.” The chair creaks as he shifts, trying to fully wake himself. He gets up and pours himself a glass of water from the pitcher on his nightstand, motioning for Lenalee to take the seat he left. He sets himself down on the bed.

“He could have gone on like that forever, you know. A nothing. A failed exorcist because he was a failed Bookman because he was too good at both.” he mutters before the first sip. He swallows, relieved, then puts the glass aside. “You were the only thing left here that meant anything to him at all.”

“Is that why you let him leave?” she questions him lowly.

When he laughs, it is as mirthless as his laugh ever was, but not…not painful. Not in self-derision at another lethal (only it never is) wound or scorn for another belief. He is, she realizes, trying to console her, because he knew before she did that he wasn’t the one she was asking that question.

“A destroyer and a good fighter can do more than the fourteenth and an ex-exorcist and ex-Bookman. Allen’s the one he always really believed in and needed for himself. You of all people should understand that.” he says easily. She’s starts to flush and is on the verge of a shout, never mind the hour--but wonder of wonders. There is no derision to his words. He is honest. Pure, in the uniform he didn’t shed after his promotion, even though Generals are allowed to wear what they want.
 
“Is this what you’re going to tell Komui?” she asks desperately. “Are you going to make us doubt you too?”

“The Order is not a trusting place. Allen and Lavi believed in it more than me and it wasn’t enough.”  he brushes her words aside.

She sinks into the chair, her body rigid at his apathy. She hates that he can’t even be bothered enough to be the patron saint of the greater good and cast himself out into the world for it, or a crazy joker who pulled one last prank on her before finding his own way. She hates that he is the only one left with her, and she has always cared the least for, anyways--

“Did you know I’m the oldest out of all of you?” he asks her as she immediately takes it back.

“All of you, betting your lives when you don’t have enough strength to make the odds worth it.” he shakes his head “And I thought--I’ll outlast all of you. Even with this, and what I am--I knew, it was all going to end long before I was, if this was the way things were.”

“What…?” She is a little stunned at how…how one more person in her life is betraying her expectations of him. But it is Kanda, stubborn, consistent Kanda who has never even tried to make the Order look like his first priority--

“I have time for both.” he says simply. “The one with the shortened life, outliving those who aren’t cursed--that is not the way of things. I stay and fight with you.”  

She clenches the edge of the table, trembling. She wants to burst--yells, swears, a to-the-death fight with Kanda, who is acting like an older sibling fighting their battles for them against a schoolyard bully. But that’s exactly what the stakes aren’t, and he would only be just as right or just as wrong as Allen and Lavi if he put himself first--

A clunk and a rattle to the tabletop brings her attention back to him. A subtle sweetness rises from many sharp spear points from the palm of his hand. He holds a pale flower, unfailingly luminescent and delicate in its first venture into open air. Kanda rests his hand on the emptied case, skin lit and blushing from the radiance of his life token.

“For Komui. But also for me.” he offers. “Which is why you keep it.”

She takes it from him and cradles it gently. It is dry and without sensation. Just so papery like what it is---a dried flower. She had expected something that bound Kanda to this Earth more than his blood (he has lost it all before) and his heart (how many times has someone cut right through it?) to show some indication of power. Nothing. Just a solemn, fragile glow lighting it from inside out, so that it remains obvious in day or darkness.

She takes a breath, and starts counting. She uses the tips of her fingers to turn it, making sure, taking nerve-wracking care to lift some petals to search for hidden ones. She takes inventory for the first time as Kanda watches, and she tries hard not to guess how many times he must have done the same in his lonely room. Over and over again, measuring the exactly how much of himself is left.

The numbers get higher, Kanda takes a seat next to her, the eyes on her fingers leafing through his life are unfaltering.  

The night is beginning to turn through his window, and Kanda still has more lives than apprentices,  They are like a swarm circling him every time she sees them.

At this rate, he’ll outlast them all.

---

She was still very young when a new kind of a devil descended upon them.

The difference was that this one was a guest in their house, and screamed a lot more than any akuma she‘d ever met. She had been tossed into the humdrum of the Order without warning and hadn’t known to resist it closing in over her head. So he was scary. She ran the first time he snatched the proffered hot chocolate from her hand and threw it down the stairs.

He was violent, their new household demon, and not just towards them. When he was made to understand that they comforted each other by saying, well, at least his appearance is charming, he took a blade to himself. She saw this because he had swooped in front of her with pinching hands and sharp nonsense words chopping her faint protests into pieces. She couldn’t understand his miming  because she had been expecting a hex. In frustration he had grabbed a fistful of her dark locks, but she had only pushed him back.

She had followed him stomping into the yard and hissing oaths. With quick, knowing hands, he had hacked off all of his long, beautiful hair with his sword. The flat fluttered with the storm of his features as he moved: stroke, stroke, stroke.

Someone told her later that he had been taken against his will, and for this, he will never forgive them. This startled her, because it has never occurred to her not to forgive.

She thought about the snips curling away in the breeze, and blunt, jagged lines closing in around his face. How he’d stood and tossed a triumphant look her way. He had been scalped by his own hand and his own shorn locks were twisted into the ground by his feet. And she had thought, they’ll never take him.

---

Kanda hands her a bouquet of fresh water lilies and she ducks her head into to them to taste their crisp, thin perfume. Komui crosses his eyes fretfully at these blooms--airy, cool flowers in comparison to the many roses heaped upon the table in the main hall. Lenalee has already received and carefully laid aside a dense mountain of ragged thorns and heavy petals with a thanks each time, but she holds onto Kanda’s bunch.

“Congratulations.” he tells her, and holds his gloved hand over his heart as he gives a short bow. She smiles over the floppy leaves and mirrors the gesture. Immediately behind him are seven new fresh-faced adults, each with their own selections of roses, and behind them dozens others, all waiting to give her the same salute.

Komui gives the sunburst white flowers venomous looks as she bears them in the crook of her arm, taking other gifts and setting them down with her free hand.

“Inappropriate as ever.” he harrumphs after Kanda, who is taking his seat at the high table. “What is he trying to tell us with lotuses?”

“These aren’t lotuses.” Lenalee corrects her brother. “They’re water lilies. My favorite.” She takes one bright blossom briefly between her fingers. The smell is light, easy, not too heady like how she finds roses and lotuses. The white, crowned look of it invites an aching nostalgia, but it drifts away with a dozen extravagant, creamy hybrid teas thrust into her hands.

“These look more like roses crosses than roses, don’t they, brother?” she observes. The newly cast badge on her lapel is stark, clean metal, its many arms ending in points of light. It’s closer to the one Komui wears than her old one, but she’s more used to seeing it aged and worn, engraved inscriptions bold on Kanda’s chest.  

“Huh! Flowers, it always has to be flowers, doesn’t it? If you ask me, they look more like sea urchins than anything else!”

“Komui!” she laughs, and he adds louder “Latin sea urchins!” so that the remainder of the queue exchanges astonished looks for what waits ahead.    

---

“Where do you think they are?” she asks him later as they haunt the room from the top of the dome, which is so high up that the ceiling beams they pace on recede into the blackness. They are unseen by those on the floor below.

“How would I know if you don’t?” he points out, voice fraught with inattentiveness. He is straining not to be overly critical of what is unfolding beneath. “All this time, and not even a glimpse of old man hair!” he huffs,  swatting a cobweb out of his path with his sheathed weapon.

She stalks after him, laying light, short steps. Her shoes make it riskier for her to be crisscrossing after him, but her ankles never wobble once. She takes to it as easily as a water-walker.

“You don’t think…?” she begins, but Kanda cuts her off impatiently.

“Of course not! You know how easy it is to find two funny-looking bodies with the Finders looking into phenomena all over the place? Think about all the Noah they picked up. Bookmen are masters at covering tracks.”

“Oh. Okay.” she replies serenely. “But I was going to say, ‘You don’t think that it’s about time we got in there?’”

He curses with fond exasperation. “Those useless apprentices of ours.” he grunts, and leaps. Lenalee plunges after him, close enough behind him to have the tip of his ponytail tickling her shoulder.  Kanda’s seven chorus his name as he sweeps aside all of the level threes dancing cuts onto their bodies.  Her own four shout as she impales a cross slashed across an upturned brow with her heel.  

---

The scent of the water lilies she keeps in a vase cover up the last vestiges of  the lotus’s smell, wafting weakly from where it camouflages from behind the arrangement. When she has a moment to let her thoughts wander, the lilies and the lotus are witness her mumbling absently, “You could make me give up anything.”

But for now, she sleeps fitfully under a troubling traveling clown, the cheerful lone pallbearer traversing her dreams purposefully like a busy ant. But--oh, it stops for the first time, confused. He rests the corner of his heavy coffin on his foot. He glances this way, and that way, and finally the lurker chasing him for years steps out of the dark for him to see. He stands stock still as she approaches, dropping lotus petals from her dress.

When she is close enough, she hold up her fists. She offers him a water lily in her right hand, a lotus in her left, and the red rose pinned to her breast.
 
---

 One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day.  Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel.  None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch.  And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones.  And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied.  It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

    -- Elizabeth Bishop

Author’s note:

See, the title can have a double meaning! The “loss” of a disaster, or “ losing” the sense of a disaster! *is shot*

Shamelessly inspired (or more like, “writing passion fueled by” because I wouldn’t ever taint her writing by associating it with my own *_*) Sowing Poppies’s “cuckoo, cuckoo”.  I came out of that fic feeling braver about subtlety. Thanks to her, and her wonderful writing skills feeding my starving muse. :-)

Meant for this to be a no qualms straight up romance. Meh. In my opinion, it’s canon that Lenalee likes everyone a little, and that they all like her. But really, no one’s going to win over Allen.