Back in the Black
By Fallia and Sutlers
The din of the early morning coffee shop crowd gradually dwindles down to the noises of coffee grinding and water running. The bitter aroma permeates the air, pleasant, sun catching in the steam rising from Kanda's tea as he looks up from the spreadsheet he's been buried in for the past hour and a half. It's his second cup of the day; his work is taking longer than usual this morning, thanks to some colossal micromanagement cockup on his client's end, but he's almost finished untangling it. Hair dangles into his face, and he brushes out of his eyes impatiently and leans back. There is no one to catch his gaze as he looks around.
The corner that Kanda has claimed as his own is dim; he'd rather squint at his screen through thin glasses than take advantage of the tables near the center of the cafe, the ones with better lighting. There is always some fool who thinks the information on Kanda's laptop is fascinating.
Or who thinks Kanda is fascinating. For example: the barista, Allen, who also makes a perfect cup of tea, so Kanda tolerates his occasional curious glances. It's easier to choose to ignore them rather than outright glare back at him. Sometimes.
Kanda occasionally finds himself watching Allen out of the corner of his eye while he makes his way around the shop; as he coaxes merchandise into neat lines on shelves, wipes down the smooth, coffee-stained wood of the tables, bustles empty, abandoned cups to the trash can. One of Allen's hands rakes through his hair from time to time and he mouths the words to the music playing overhead as he works. When he's done, he disappears behind the counter and Kanda is finally able to focus.
He's so absorbed in his screen that he's almost startled by Allen's voice.
"Is your tea all right?" Allen asks. His apron has been replaced by worn jeans and an argyle sweater over a pristine white shirt, and he curls one hand around a cup of his own and clutches a book of number puzzles in the other. There's a felt-tip pen behind one of his ears.
"It's fine," Kanda says gruffly.
"Good," Allen says, and casually sets his cup down on Kanda's table. "I bet you're glad when this place clears out and it gets quiet. You know, if you came a little later in the morning --"
"I have a schedule." Kanda stares pointedly at Allen's cup.
"Ah. I see. You just don't seem to like people very much, so I thought that—"
"No. I really don't like being interrupted," Kanda replies tersely.
"I understand." Allen smiles. "Well, if you need anything, let me know." The armchair across the coffee shop seems to be Allen's own staked territory. He settles there comfortably and opens his puzzle book. The pen fits neatly into the indention of his bottom lip and stays there.
Despite his best efforts, Kanda's gaze starts wandering again, over to the other side of the cafe. Allen's eyes meet his only once and he smiles. Kanda stares without flinching until Allen looks back down at his book, rolling the pen over his lip as the curve of his mouth slowly flattens, lips still parted.
The tea is cold. Kanda grimaces and swallows the rest of it anyway. It's later than he meant to be here and he scowls a little as he closes his computer and takes his leave.
His loafers are soft and quiet against the sidewalk as he walks home. The air is brisk, but the sun is warm on his shoulders. He tugs at the collar of his turtleneck, smooths down the front of it before shifting his grip on his suitcase and exhaling, then breathing in the quiet noise of the city in the morning.
The clomping sound of heavy shoes behind him makes him turn around. It's Allen, chasing after him. Kanda sighs.
"Excuse me, I'm sorry, but I have to ask you something," Allen says a little breathlessly when he catches up.
"Yes?" Kanda starts walking again. Allen follows him.
"Did you leave your glasses on the table?" Allen asks with a grin.
"My—" Kanda brings his hand up in an unconscious gesture to feel at his face but the glasses are still there. Allen is laughing even before Kanda has realized it. "What—"
"Okay, okay," Allen says hastily before Kanda has time to glare at him. "I was joking. I wanted to ask you if you were an accountant; I seem to remember you said something one day—"
"Yes," Kanda says through gritted teeth. "I'm an accountant and I have to get back to my office; I'm expecting a client. I don't have time for this."
Allen forges ahead anyway. "I was wondering... my uncle owns the coffee shop—"
"Of course," Kanda says.
Allen gives him a patient smile. "My uncle owns the coffee shop and he's about to retire. When he does, I'll be taking it over, but I need some help, I mean, I've never had anything, really—"
"You'll own the business when he retires?" Kanda asks.
"Yes, and I could use some advice on how to handle the—the tax stuff, I don't know anything about it."
"I already have a heavy work load. Maybe I could refer you to someone else."
"Oh." Allen looks disappointed. They've paused again in a little alcove, in front of some clothing store that has potted vines spread around on stands and in baskets outside. There's a shift in the wind as Allen fidgets, carrying the faint smell of tea from his body to Kanda's nose. "Well, I guess I wouldn't be able to pay very much anyway; I was hoping you might do it for me as a favor." He grins again. "I can offer you free tea?"
Kanda sighs. Maybe the coffee shop is worth something; it's very busy during its peak hours. "I'll give you my card. Here, you can call me some other time and we'll set up a time to sit down."
Allen brightens immediately, stepping forward to take the card and study it. Kanda resists the urge to step backward even though Allen is now firmly invading his personal bubble. "Yuu Kanda," Allen says, and it sounds like he's letting it roll across his tongue like a particularly fine pastry to be sampled. Something with chocolate, smooth and bitter. Kanda can feel his eyebrows drawing together.
"Mister Kanda, please."
"Mmm," Allen says absently. The pink tip of his tongue flicks out to swipe across his lips and disappears just as fast, and Kanda finds his eyes drawn to the movement against his will. The sunlight seems abruptly too bright, reflecting off the pavement and Allen's curious white hair. Kanda sucks in a breath and does step back then, too warm in his turtleneck. His glare intensifies.
"I'm Allen Walker," says Allen, after a pause that seems to stretch out forever.
"A pleasure," Kanda grunts in what he hopes is a suitably hostile manner, and steps around Allen, breaking whatever it is strung between them.
"W-wait!" Allen yelps, and then suddenly there are warm fingers around his wrist in a surprisingly firm grip. "Don't you—need my contact information, or something?"
"Not really," Kanda says. "I expect you'll call me, or I know where to—what are you doing?"
Because Allen has shoved the sleeve of Kanda's turtleneck up to his elbow and is uncapping his pen with his teeth, Kanda's wrist still trapped in his hand. "Here, take it anyway," he mutters, scribbling a phone number on the soft skin on the inside of Kanda's arm. "Just in case."
Kanda all but yanks his arm back and tugs the sleeve down again, full-blown scowl plastered across his features. He stalks off without another word, Allen's faint "Nice to meet you...!" curling after him in the cool air.
The phone call comes somewhere around ten in morning the next day while Kanda's sitting at his desk sipping his own home-brewed tea. It doesn't taste nearly as good as the kind he gets at the coffee shop, which he chalks up to the variety of leaves and perhaps inferior rice. But it can't be helped; he's too busy to make his daily trek today. The ringing distracts him from yet another spreadsheet, and he picks the receiver up and cradles it between his shoulder and his ear.
"Mr. Kanda?" asks the voice from the other end, and Kanda's fingers still on the keyboard. He resists the urge to pinch the bridge of his nose.
"This is Allen Walker. I, um, missed you at the coffee shop today."
"Some of us do have jobs that occasionally require a sizable commitment of time and concentration."
Allen laughs at that and Kanda frowns: clearly not as repressive as he meant it to be. It takes a while, but Allen's laughter tapers off into hiccups. He sounds a little hysterical. Kanda raises an eyebrow and waits.
"Er, that is," Allen coughs finally, "I was hoping to get to speak to you today about what I told you yesterday? Something's come up, and I'm not really sure what I should be doing about it."
Allen sighs. "Cross—er, my uncle—just handed me the deed and all the licenses. Actually not so much handed as left them on my bedstand while I was sleeping along with a note that said something like—oh wait, here it is: 'Off to Fiji. Don't fuck up.'"
Kanda snorts before he can stop himself. It's not really all that funny. "And what do you want me to do about it?" he asks.
"I was kind of hoping you could um, fit me in for a meeting sometime today, so I can show you what he left me with? And help me straighten it out? I know you're really busy, but this is kind of a little, um. Dire."
"I don't think—"
"Please," says Allen, and it all comes out in a rush. "I don't even care when it is, I can have Lavi and Crowley look after the shop, I just can't—I hate not being able to do anything because I don't know enough. I keep thinking I'll inadvertently bankrupt us by pressing the wrong button on the cash register or something. Shut up, Lavi." The last part of it's muffled, a rustling noise like a hand on the receiver and then Allen's voice comes through again, steady and clear. "Please, Mr. Kanda. I would owe you one."
Shit. Kanda flips through his planner to today's date and squints at it, lips a thin slash across his face. Nothing, nothing, except at—he winces. "Be at my office at four thirty, then. And bring everything. Tax forms, budgets, all the records you have." A minute hesitation. "And tea."
"Tea?" Allen asks, bewildered.
"Don't forget anything," Kanda orders, and hangs up before Allen can start heaping gratitude on him.
The rest of Kanda's day is completely shot; he keeps finding himself rubbing the inside of his arm through the fabric of his shirt where Allen's phone number didn't completely wash off in the shower. He's restless, distracted enough that his clients pick up on it: Komui Lee even going to far as to make a sly insinuation that somehow involved symbolically significant robot parts and Kanda's bedroom, and made no sense but managed to sound absolutely filthy anyway. Kanda had slept fine the night before, thank you, after a nice, relaxing soak in the tub and a good wank, during which he had carefully thought of no one in particular.
By the time four thirty rolls around, Kanda finds himself with a half-inch backlog of papers to sign and a tic on the left side of his face, and the sound of the doorbell ringing brings out a low, frustrated sound before he throws his hands up and stands to answer it. If he knows anything about small business, Allen probably has an entire carful's worth of crap to go through, organized in a way that only makes sense to a schizophrenic gremlin.
"Oh," says Allen when Kanda opens the door, "you work from home." He's got a little container of tea balanced on a single box of files, and is peering around Kanda's body in the doorway with unabashed interest.
"Where's the rest of it?" Kanda asks shortly. He starts to get a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach.
"Um," says Allen. "This is everything I could find."
"And how long has Cross been in business?"
"Er. Twelve years?"
Kanda can feel the headache forming behind his eyeballs. He waves Allen in and closes the door behind him. "Fine. Great. I still have some paperwork to finish, so you can wait... here." He makes some vague motions at the chairs in the sitting room and doesn't wait to see where Allen settles.
In his office, he allows his hand to drift up and press at his temples. Twelve years. Shit. It's clear that Allen has no experience with these kinds of finances, and it's also clear from his blithe attitude that he hasn't a clue about what a serious problem his uncle may have left him with. Unforgivably irresponsible, Kanda thinks, to leave a person like Allen with such a burden. He snorts and shakes the thought off crossly. As if it matters to him what happens to Allen. Though it would be a shame if the place had to close down. There's no other coffee shop within walking distance.
Less than two minutes go by before there is a knock on his office door. "What?" Kanda barks out from his seat.
The door opens and Allen's white head peeks around it, his eyes wide and serious. "I just—you know, I brought you some tea, and it's—"
Kanda rolls his chair back toward the door impatiently to take the tea from Allen's slender fingers. "Go sit down," he says evenly, "and I'll be with you shortly."
"I brought you more," Allen adds. "For when you finish that. You can make some more." Allen flashes him a hopeful smile and then disappears, shutting the door quietly behind him.
For a while, there's nothing but the scratching of Kanda's pen across the paperwork, but his mind keeps wandering to the lone file box Allen was gripping in those fingers when he came in and what might be in there. Disaster, most likely. Kanda hopes Allen's uncle has a safe-deposit box somewhere or something, because that tiny box can't possibly hold twelve years worth of business records. It ends up taking him half an hour to finish up the work that should have taken him ten minutes, and then he reluctantly opens the door to his office.
Kanda's sitting room is full of random junk he and his family have collected from around the world. He likes the way it looks; relaxing, all those familiar pieces of himself carefully mounted on walls where appropriate and on shelves otherwise. Allen's rubbing one bare foot on the back of his calf, balanced precariously on the other foot while he bends down to examine a picture in a teak frame on a bookshelf.
"What are you doing?" Kanda demands.
Allen pulls his hand back quickly. "I was looking at your pictures; they look very old."
"They are old," Kanda retorts. "In fact, that frame is an antique. Don't touch it."
"I love old pictures," Allen replies. "I think it's interesting to look at people and wonder how they lived."
"I'm ready for you now," Kanda says. "Bring your files in here. And put on your shoes."
Allen straightens up and points at a katana on the wall. "That looks like an antique too. You've got a lot of neat things."
Kanda waves him into the office brusquely. "Let's get to work, I don't have all night."
He watches warily as Allen pulls a chair up a bit too close for Kanda's liking. "I'll be frank with you. I find it appalling that your uncle left and didn't go over any of this with you beforehand."
Allen shrugs. "He's always sort of been that way." He ruffles a hand through his hair and glances at the bare walls of Kanda's office. "I've been running the shop pretty much by myself for two years now, he—he travels a lot. I figured out how to do it on my own; I didn't have much of a choice. " He smiles. "I just assumed that the finances would be the same way. Business has gotten much better since I've been in charge of the day-to-day stuff. Our sales went up almost immediately after I—"
"So you handle the day-to-day operations and he handles the money. That sounds reasonable," Kanda concedes gruffly as Allen kicks his flip-flops off to the side of his chair. Kanda looks at them and then narrows his eyes, but Allen gazes back at him, unperturbed. "Let me look through what you have here."
"I could make you some more tea if you like," Allen offers. "Since you're going to be busy."
Kanda almost accepts, but remembers the sitting room and decides he'd rather Allen didn't wander unsupervised through his home. "No." And as an afterthought, "Just sit there and be quiet."
He adjusts his glasses and begins going through the box of files. It becomes clear quickly that they are hopelessly incomplete, but he pages through them carefully anyway, cataloging what is there on a spreadsheet. He begins talking, mostly because Allen's watching his face instead of the papers, and it makes Kanda uncomfortable in a vague sort of way.
"It looks like you have inherited a sole proprietorship here. It's highly unusual for someone to simply hand something like this over," he informs Allen.
Allen scoots his chair closer with a scraping noise on the wood floor. "What does that mean?"
Kanda looks over his glasses at Allen. "It means that you have to report all of the business-related income and expenses on your own taxes." At Allen's blank look, he sighs in annoyance. "In other words, the entire business becomes your financial burden."
"Oh," Allen says, and leans over Kanda's shoulder to peer at the spreadsheet. Kanda can feel Allen's breath on his neck, heated, even through the fabric of his shirt. "Well, that shouldn't be too bad. I think we make quite a bit of money."
Kanda moves away from him. "Maybe so, but I'll have to take a closer look at some of this before you can say that." He looks at the clock. "It's after six. I'm going to ask you to leave now. I'll let you know what I find out."
Allen hangs in the space Kanda abandoned for a moment and then leans back, stretches, and stands up, shuffling back into his flip-flops. "Thank you, Mr. Kanda; this really does mean a lot to me."
"Mmm-hmm," Kanda says indifferently and pretends to be absorbed in the paperwork until he hears the front door shut behind Allen.
Allen comes back the next day, and the day after that, sometimes even when there's no real reason for him to be there. The situation actually isn't all as bad as Kanda thought; there is a safe-deposit box, which Allen finds the key to after what he refers to as "a distressingly thorough sweep of Cross's old rooms," with an expression on his face that says he'd really rather not talk about anything else he might have found there. It has several more boxes of files, not everything but enough to cobble together a mostly complete record. It was also apparently stuffed to the gills with midget porn, a fact that Kanda learns after rifling through one of the boxes Allen brought to his office and finding The Adventures of Little Big Dick McGee Part VI hidden in the middle of 2002's tax returns.
"Oh, sorry," Allen says, shrugging at Kanda's expression of abject horror. "Guess I didn't catch all of it."
Kanda ends up holding the DVD between his thumb and forefinger and dropping it distastefully into the wastebasket next to his desk while Allen hides a smile behind his hand. He's almost afraid to wonder what was in the room that was worse than the midget porn.
Unfortunately, as Kanda begins to get a clearer picture of the state of the coffee shop's finances, he starts to realize that while yes, Allen did (and does) make quite a bit of money, Cross spent it faster. There are several questionable expenses, the biggest of which some South African coffee supplier that just doesn't exist at all. Cross must have been listing them as legitimate on his taxes so he could write it off against his income and pocket the difference. Sloppy, but it did the job. At least we know how he got to Fiji, Kanda thinks, flipping through the papers.
Allen changes the subject whenever Cross's business practice comes up in their conversation, sometimes going as far to stand up and offer to make tea, then disappear out the door. Kanda stares blankly at his flip-flops by the chair for a moment, lined up neatly despite everything, and then shakes himself and follows when he realizes it means Allen is going to be poking around in his kitchen and touching all his stuff.
He isn't in the kitchen when Kanda gets there, though the pot is set to boil and two spoonfuls of tea leaves with rice have already been set aside in cups. Kanda finds him in the sitting room instead, bent over the old photographs on the shelves again. He straightens when Kanda enters and smiles sheepishly.
"Mr. Walker," Kanda begins.
"Allen," he corrects automatically, and ducks his head. "Sorry. I just—sorry. Who is this?"
The derailment throws Kanda for a second, enough so there's a pause before he walks over to get a closer look at the photograph Allen is pointing at. In black and white, it's a young woman in a kimono holding a baby, a gentle smile on her face and a slight flush to her cheeks. A severe-looking man in hakama stands behind her, one hand on her shoulder and somehow giving the impression of glaring at the camera and keeping a careful eye on her at the same time.
"My grandparents," Kanda says. "And my mother, I suppose. This was taken right before they immigrated from Japan."
"Oh," Allen says. "She's very pretty." There's a short silence when Kanda doesn't volunteer any more information, then, "Did they like it here?"
"My grandfather did," Kanda answers. "My grandmother missed the family she left, at least until my mother started having children."
"Mmm," Allen says, and bends over again to get a better look at the picture. His fingers come up to brush curiously against it, gentle across the glass and then down to scratch at his side. The motion makes his shirt ride up a little, exposing a tiny slip of skin on his back, pale and soft-looking right above his jeans. Kanda exhales sharply and closes his eyes to it.
"I never really knew my grandparents," Allen continues, and Kanda opens his eyes again. "They died before I was born, I mean. My mom kind of ditched me and my dad before I got to really know her either. My dad was amazing, though. Just -- kept going, no matter what." Allen isn't looking at him, giving off the impression of being entirely absorbed in the photograph. "We got into a car crash when I was twelve, and I almost died. That's what this comes from," he touches odd star-shaped scar on his forehead, "and the white hair. Trauma. In case you were wondering."
Kanda flinches. He never knows what to say to these kinds of things, so he settles for admitting quietly, "I was, a little."
"You're the first person I've known this long who hasn't asked," Allen smiles. "My dad didn't make it. And then it was—I mean, I didn't have any relatives who could really afford to take me in, except my dad's brother, Cross. He just kind of picked me up out of the hospital and stuck me in his car, took me home with him. Tried to give me one of his cigarettes and get me wasted that night, too."
Kanda thinks of his family, his mother with her elegant fingers and her orchid-smell, his father with his strong hands and scratchy mustache. His baby sister, who he would have done anything for, and did, until there was just nothing more he could do.
"I think he was a good man," Allen says. "Mostly."
He lapses into silence then, absently rubbing at the back of his neck. Somewhere in the background, the teapot starts whistling, indicating that the water is ready.
"We should get back to entering the data," Kanda says.
And that incident is the beginning of a landslide, apparently, because now Allen won't shut up. He still doesn't like to talk about Cross, but he'll talk about anything else on the planet, including inane things about absolute strangers that come into the coffee shop and who Kanda has absolutely no interest in. This is how Kanda learns about the eight year old who frequents it on Saturday mornings with an umbrella she brandishes like a gun, then asks for a brownie, quickly, else she'll "fuck yer shit up."
"Holy Christ," says Kanda, and Allen laughs.
"You think that's bad, you should talk to the Noah Hobo who hangs around outside sometimes," he says, eyes dancing. "He keeps warning us about a Great Deluge coming and then when it doesn't rain he spits on you."
Two weeks in they migrate to the couch in the sitting room because Allen says he doesn't see why he has to keep sitting on Kanda's horrendously uncomfortable office chairs if they're only there after-hours, anyway. Kanda refrains from pointing out that his rolly-chair is plush and very comfortable and follows Allen out, his laptop in hand, watches Allen clear off the coffee table to make room for all the files and sit down on the couch, one bare foot tucked underneath him. He's wearing a short-sleeved t-shirt today, and Kanda can see a painful-looking tracery of reddish scar tissue on his left arm.
"Skin grafts," Allen says, wrapping his fingers around his cup of tea and blowing across the top. Kanda grunts and flips his laptop open, but apparently Allen takes that as permission to ask all kinds of personal questions, the first of which is Kanda's age.
"Thirty-one," Kanda answers in what he hopes is a quelling tone. Allen just sips his tea and smiles widely until Kanda, irritated, barks, "Why; how old are you?"
"Twenty-seven," Allen says.
Kanda's lips twitch. "I see."
Allen seems hurt. "What? What is it?"
"Nothing," Kanda says. "I just had you pinned as more, say, twelve."
Allen yelps indignantly and shoves him in the arm. "I have small bones, okay?" He sticks his tongue out and turns away, arms crossed, but then back around when he hears Kanda laughing quietly. His expression is thoughtful and his eyes are very grey.
"You should laugh more," he says. "It sounds nice."
Allen hands over forms for entry into the spreadsheet and asks about Kanda's family, his childhood, where he went to school. Kanda tells him, fingers moving against the keys, watching out of the corner of his eye as Allen eats some of the cookies he brought over from the coffee shop. He licks his fingers free of crumbs before reaching for the next one, tongue darting out against his skin. When he settles back in, his knee presses up against Kanda's, warm and solid.
"At least I'm not a massive dork," Allen mutters. Kanda raises an eyebrow.
"Elaborate, please," he says, and almost doesn't recognize his own voice; this low, deep rumble.
Allen's eyes meet his and they're dark, but that's probably just the waning light. Allen seems to stay later and later each day, because Kanda got tired of kicking him out. He grins. "Loafers?"
Kanda looks at his feet, in their worn, familiar black loafers. He doesn't see anything wrong with them. "They're comfortable."
Allen rolls his eyes, still smiling. "Whatever. Dork. You should try a cookie." He holds one out.
"Mmm," Kanda says. "Maybe later."
It's quiet then, except for the rustling of paper and the tapping of keys. Allen's breath is steady next to him and Kanda only looks over a few times, glimpses the rise and fall of Allen's chest through his thin shirt, his delicate wrists and ridiculous hair. He doesn't really know what the fuck he thinks he's doing.
The room gets progressively darker as time passes and finally Kanda has to squint to read the last of the papers. He finishes up typing and glances over, mouth open and ready to give his summary of the matter, but then sees Allen with his head lolling against the back of the couch, eyes closed. Allen's got a quiet, whistling snore and his hand is still curled around his tea. Kanda sighs. Allen had mentioned something about working longer hours now more than ever.
So Kanda gets up and pushes him horizontal on the couch, pillows his head on the arm cushion and goes to find an extra blanket. Allen stays asleep through the whole thing, even the one heart-stopping moment when he'd grabbed Kanda's arm and Kanda was sure he'd woken up, but then his grip had loosened and he'd let go with an incomprehensible murmur. Kanda gathers up the rest of the stuff and brings it back to his office, looks at the numbers and wonders how he's going to fix this. When he started caring.
He doesn't get much sleep.
The next morning produces a neatly folded blanket on the couch and a note of apology, also confirming their meeting later in the afternoon. Kanda's out at the mailbox the when Allen pulls up, chauffeured by one of his employees. It's the red-head, Lavi. He jumps out of the car and Lavi says something Kanda doesn't hear followed by a cackle of laughter.
"Shut up, Lavi!" Allen calls back into the car before slamming the door. He turns to Kanda, his face barely pink. "Hi," he says. "Car broke down; I had to catch a ride so I'd be here on time."
"Afternoon," Kanda says. He follows Allen to the front door, where Allen reaches for the knob and then stops, hooking the thumb of his free hand casually in the corner of the back pocket of his jeans and turning to face Kanda. He has a bag of cookies in the other.
"Oh—I guess this isn't my place, is it?" he says with a smile, and steps aside.
Kanda makes a noncommittal noise as he opens the door. "Have a seat; we need to discuss a few things."
"I'll make the tea," Allen suggests, and heads into the kitchen.
Kanda sighs and passes a hand wearily over his forehead, pushing his bangs away from his eyes as he goes into his office to get his laptop. He's been dreading this for reasons he doesn't want to contemplate; mostly because he doesn't particularly care to see the look on Allen's face when he tells him about the mess.
He sets up while muffled clattering sounds come from the kitchen; Allen reappears with the cookies arranged neatly on a plate and balancing two mugs in his other palm.
"I hate to tell you this," Kanda says without preamble while Allen sets everything carefully down on the table, "but your uncle has left you with a disaster."
"What do you mean?" Allen asks, taking a bite of a cookie and sitting down on the couch, and it annoys Kanda immensely that Allen seems to take such a heavy statement in stride.
It helps him in a way, though, because that annoyance allows him to tell Allen bluntly how his uncle has taken all of the money that Allen has made for the coffee shop over the past two years and used it for his own gain, leaving Allen with the problem of how to put it right. He'll owe back taxes and it may take him years to make up for what his uncle has done.
Their heads are close together, arms brushing while Kanda shows him spreadsheets and balance statements comparing the falsified records with the true ones. When Kanda is finished speaking, he sits up straight. Allen chews thoughtfully on his last bite of cookie, sips his tea, and then sighs. He's hunched down with his elbows on his thighs, peering at Kanda's laptop on the coffee table as if trying to make sense of it still, and Kanda tries not to look at that strip of exposed skin between Allen's shirt hem and the top of his jeans. Allen tilts his head up, craning his neck to look into Kanda's eyes.
"What should I do next?" he asks finally.
Something breaks in Kanda's head. "That's your reaction? Your uncle did this to you on purpose, Allen. He left you with this—this mess, and what you're going to have to do is pay and pay and pay for it. You can work something out with the IRS, certainly, but this isn't going to be easy."
Allen keeps looking at him, that same infuriatingly patient look in his eyes. Then he sits up slowly. There's a sort of edge to his voice that Kanda hasn't heard there before. "Maybe he just didn't understand what he was doing."
"He's in Fiji!" Kanda points out helplessly.
"I know," Allen says, "but he couldn't have done this on purpose; there must be some kind of mistake." He slumps against the back of the sofa, running a hand through his hair.
"There's no mistake," Kanda says firmly. "I have spent countless hours going over this, Allen. There's no mistake."
Allen's mouth is almost petulant when he frowns. "He's not a bad man," Allen says. "Please, don't—"
"He is a calculating, devious person," Kanda says angrily, "and—"
A thousand things go through Kanda's head. The way Allen's lips, turned down a moment before, are soft and wet; the glide of Allen's tongue over his; the faint taste of cinnamon and oatmeal from the cookies and the gentle flavor of tea. The fact that he hasn't been kissed like this in a long time, maybe ever. The feel of Allen's fingers against his cheek and then raking back through his hair, against his scalp, over his ear and on the back of his neck. The way Allen's knee digs into the side of his thigh as he turns to lean deeper into him; the way Allen's other hand is slipping up underneath his shirt and onto the skin of his back.
"Jesus Christ, you're so fucking hot," Allen says against his mouth before he tangles his fingers into Kanda's hair and dips his tongue back against Kanda's.
Suddenly Allen is everywhere; he slides a leg over both of Kanda's and then pushes himself up to straddle him, his hand trailing around Kanda's side to rest on his stomach, still underneath his shirt. He settles over Kanda easily.
Kanda breaks away reluctantly. "Allen," he manages, his voice low as he wills it not to crack. Allen's eyes are wide and questioning and he inhales sharply. Kanda pulls Allen back down to him, snaking one hand around to his back to stroke on the strip of skin just below Allen's waistline. He paints a line along the edge of Allen's jaw with his tongue, down his neck, over Allen's thudding pulse there and guides him back down onto the couch, licking his way to Allen's collarbone and pushing Allen's t-shirt up with one hand.
Allen breathes hard into Kanda's ear. "So hot," he repeats, and his hands wander down Kanda's sides, playing with the waistline of his pants, his fingers inching toward the front of them tentatively.
Kanda finds the hard line of Allen's cock through his jeans and molds his palm over it, pressing down. Allen bucks up into it with a small cry, his hands stuttering back up Kanda's chest and around his neck again. "Oh god," Allen gasps. Kanda sits up abruptly.
"I'll be right back," he says, and leaves Allen there panting and sprawled on the couch while he goes to hunt down the lube that he prays he still owns.
He returns with it a moment later and finds Allen propped up against the arm of the sofa, waiting. "I was thinking," Allen says with a quirk to his mouth, "should I still call you Mr. Kanda?"
Kanda answers by kissing him roughly and fumbling at the buttons of his jeans, pulling them open and stroking Allen's cock with his hand. Allen pulls at the bottom of Kanda's shirt, lifting it up and pulling it over his head, then latches onto his neck with his mouth, lifting his hips so Kanda can tug his jeans off.
The rest of their clothes peel away rapidly. Allen takes Kanda's hand and draws two of his fingers into his mouth. Kanda groans as the feeling goes straight to his cock. "Fuck," he whispers when Allen licks the inside of his wrist and drags his tongue up the inside of Kanda's arm.
Kanda fumbles for the lube on the table. He misses twice before his hand connects with it. He squeezes it into his palm and dips his fingers into it. Allen moans when Kanda brushes his palm against his balls, circling one finger around his asshole before sliding it in. Kanda nips lightly at the inside of Allen's pale, smooth thighs while he prepares him and then slicks his hand over his own cock before moving back over.
Allen lifts his hips up invitingly and Kanda buries himself in Allen's ass slowly. He has to stop for a minute once he's in; Allen pulls his head down and licks the inside of his mouth while his breath comes short and hard. At last Kanda is able to move and Allen is hot and tight around him, his hands moving quickly over Kanda's body and then around to Kanda's ass to urge him deeper and harder, moaning out encouragement and then finding one of Kanda's hands with his own. Kanda braces himself with one hand against the arm of the couch while Allen guides both of their hands to his cock with the other one, and it takes only a few quick strokes to bring Allen off with a cry. He brings their intertwined hands to his mouth, sucking and licking the come off their fingers, and that's all it takes for Kanda to come too, groaning and thrusting into Allen hard.
Kanda collapses on the couch and Allen worms his way up against him, resting his head against Kanda's shoulder. Kanda winds an arm around Allen's small frame. There's a comfortable silence for a time, punctuated by the tick of a clock on the wall.
"I guess," Allen murmurs, "I was hoping I'd have a reason to keep coming here."
"I'm sorry things turned out the way they did with your uncle." Kanda drops his face down into Allen's hair, the faint scent of tea filling his nose.
Allen exhales gustily against Kanda's collarbone, murmuring something that sounds suspiciously like 'midgetfucker.' He tilts his head up and Kanda pulls him in even closer. "I'll fix it," he says. "I can fix it."
"Yes," Kanda concedes. He searches for Allen's hand and laces their fingers together. "But if you think I'm going to invest, you're out of your mind."