You Give Love a Bad Name
Allen woke up on the morning of his seventeenth birthday feeling more content than he had since he was eleven years old. It was early still, the sun barely a sliver on the horizon, and Allen tucked his blankets around himself as he watched it rise. He was warm, he was happy, the Earl was dead and his friends weren't. Life was looking up. The only thing that could have possibly made things better would be having someone to wake up to, but Allen wasn't complaining. It was hardly worth mentioning in the relative scheme of things.
Then he went to breakfast and everything went to shit.
"Pardon?" Allen asked. "My what?"
"Your veela ancestry," Komui repeated patiently, holding a silk handkerchief embroidered with pink rabbits to his nose. "After the incidents of the past few days, I was obliged to open a correspondence with an organization of friends of mine in Scotland. They have informed me that the symptoms you are exhibiting and the timing of their occurrence—that is, directly after your seventeenth birthday—correspond exactly with the developments someone of veela blood goes through upon reaching the age of majority. Tell me, how old were you when your hair lost its color?"
"Um, eleven. But that was trauma!"
Komui shook his head. "I'm afraid you are mistaken. In any case, that follows as well."
"Allen," Komui said. "There are things in this world that are strange and fantastical. Often they can be very difficult to understand. Akuma are not the only things our science is not able to explain adequately. This is not something you should concern yourself with overmuch. You are still the same person you have always believed yourself to be and the Order will always be your home. Everyone here cares for you very much."
"What is a veela?" Allen wailed through the beginnings of a panic attack. All he wanted was for Komui to explain the awful things that had been happening to him, but nothing that Komui was saying made any sense. His fingers dug into the arms of his chair.
Komui blinked. "Ah, forgive me." He flipped open the thick black tome on his desk to the place where it had been marked and began reading aloud:
"Veela: a magical creature most often found in human form, veela are known for their ethereal beauty, which they use to captivate and ensnare their prey so they can feed on their sexual energy, and occasionally, their flesh. Young, virile men are especially susceptible to their charms."
Allen had to make several attempts before the words managed to get past the lump in his throat. "So I'm some kind of inhuman sex monster?" He paused. "Flesh?"
"Oh no, you're human. Mostly. Innocence only attaches itself to human hosts, after all."
"Okay," Allen said. "Flesh?"
"Don't worry, you won't be eating anyone." Komui's face went through a series of contortions, turning faintly red, and he had to clear his throat before he continued. "According to reports, no one has had any problems with people who are part veela exhibiting cannibalistic tendencies. It just manifests itself in a lot of compulsive, mind-blowing sex."
Allen made a noise like the dying wheeze of a wounded animal. He could feel his face growing hot.
"I'm having everyone wear masks over their noses; that should cut down on some of the . . . effect you are having. Pheromones and such. It won't stop it completely, but it should help. Be warned, however, that this is going to get worse the longer it goes on, and it may end up negating any preventative measures we put into place. But beyond that, there's nothing more we can do, really. You could try to appear less attractive."
"Oh my God," Allen said. "I can't actually do that, can I?"
Komui's smile was strained. "No. The accounts all agree that the only thing that will cut down on your er, magnetism is a steady supply of sex. From a single source or multiple ones, it doesn't really matter."
"But I haven't even managed to have sex with one person yet!" Allen cried. Komui pressed the nib of his pen so hard against the paper on his desk that it snapped off. Allen flushed. "I've been busy. You know, saving the world? I wanted it to be special, not just—oh my God." He buried his face in his hands.
"Completely understandable," Komui choked out. His eyes, Allen noticed through his fingers, were glazing over. "We all do care about you. Which is why it is so important you are informed about what is happening and what it entails. If you—" He swallowed. "If you would like to read more about the veela, you are welcome to peruse the reference material I have here from my lap."
"I think I'd rather just take it with me," Allen said faintly. He didn't look Komui in the eyes when he stood and grabbed the book off the desk. As he wobbled backward, Komui's eyes cleared marginally.
"If you touch my sister, you will be wearing your ribcage as a hat," Komui called after him, but the threat sounded shakier than usual.
It was disconcerting to see everyone in the mess hall reach into their pockets and hook makeshift masks over their ears and it didn't make Allen feel any less like they were all checking out his ass as he walked up to Jerry's window. He supposed it was better than them all swarming him like the last couple of times, but not by much. Jerry popped up behind the counter, still looking sheepish. He had been one of the first, three days ago when he asked Allen to come to the back of the kitchens at breakfast because he had prepared Allen some special candy. By the time Chaoji had started making eyes at him, Allen figured everyone must have been suffering from some kind of endemic brain disease.
"Um," Allen said, looking over his shoulder nervously. "Could I get all of that to go?"
It wasn't like Allen didn't like people touching him. In fact, he very much enjoyed people touching him, but when people started trying to touch him in inappropriate places in front of God and the entire Order while everyone looked on with expressions of slavering lust it became distressing.
The fingers of the next person in line brushed against his butt.
"Thank you!" Allen yelped, smiling apologetically at Jerry. He shouldered his bag of food and sprinted out of the room.
Honestly, he had no idea what to make of this veela thing. It was all a bit overwhelming. Right now, what he wanted to do most was get to his room where he could sit down and read this book that Komui's friends from Scotland sent so he could figure out how to make it stop. Surely there must be something someone missed, and—
And he turned the corner and slammed straight into Kanda, and Kanda grabbed Allen's arm to keep from falling. A weird fissure of something skipped up Allen's spine.
"Kanda! Crap, oh, sorry. Sorry! You're um, back from your mission." Allen snapped his mouth shut and looked up at Kanda with despair. "You're not wearing a mask."
Kanda took a deep, slow breath through his nose and his fingers tightened on Allen's arm, his eyes going dark and a hint of red appearing across his cheekbones. Allen clutched his bag of food.
Then Kanda scowled even harder. "No one has any discipline anymore." He pushed Allen away and bent to retrieve the papers Allen had knocked from his hands. When he straightened up, he looked Allen straight in the eye and said, "Komui told me what is happening. I do not need a mask because I am not and will never be attracted to you, you worthless little idiot. Get out of my way."
"Oh," Allen said when Kanda turned the corner and disappeared again. He straightened up and frowned. It was a relief, he told himself firmly; one less person to worry about in this mess.
Allen reached his room without further incident, but he couldn't focus on the book very well. Well, that was a lie, but after the section about the beaks and the claws and the rending of the flesh he didn't feel like he was up to reading any more tonight. And if the sex thing did turn out to be true, he would have no idea what to do. Maybe become a hermit. On a mountain. Mountains were pleasant. Allen had always liked woodland creatures.
But the thing was, he didn't want to become a hermit. Maybe it was selfish of him, but he loved the life he'd made for himself here. He wasn't ready to give it up.
Allen stared at the book on his desk and then dropped his head down into his arms on top of it. His fingers twitched, restless, information churning around in his head. Komui couldn't be the only one who knew anything about this.
Immediately Allen thought of Cross, and wondered why he hadn't thought of it before. Cross, he remembered, had been back at headquarters for about two weeks. It wasn't uncommon for him to be in residence and play truant regarding official business, but the fact that he hadn't popped up to make a disparaging comment about Allen's new . . . state was strange. Allen supposed he should be grateful; Cross would probably tell him he was fucking up a great opportunity, as usual.
On the other hand, Cross tended to be right about a lot of things a lot of the time and his plans, though unorthodox, had a high success rate.
It couldn't hurt to ask him if he knew anything.
Fortunately for the sake of Allen's sanity, no one accosted him as he made his way to the generals' quarters. This was more of a result of him taking the back ways and ducking into janitorial closets whenever someone passed than anything else, but he would take his good luck where he could find it. Cross's door swung open on the first knock and Allen peered inside with trepidation.
Soft candlelight threw everything in the room into muted relief, rich red brocade glowing warm and inviting. Cross sat on the plush couch that faced the door, swirling the wine in his glass with one hand. Timcanpy fluttered around his head. When Cross caught sight of Allen, a sly grin spread across his face.
"Hello, apprentice," he said, eyes doing a slow trawl up Allen's body. "I was wondering when you were going to show up to see me."
Allen suddenly couldn't remember why he ever thought this would be a good idea.
"Don't leave!" Cross said frantically. He cleared his throat. When he continued, his voice was just as smooth and honeyed as it had always been: "I just want to offer some advice. I know what you're going through can be very difficult. Sit down, have a glass of wine." He patted the cushion next to him.
"Um, okay." Allen sat down on the corner of the couch furthest away from Cross and folded his hands in his lap, declining the glass of wine that Cross offered. Cross put the bottle down and sat back again, this time much closer, and draped his arm around Allen's shoulders. Allen stiffened.
"Allen, Allen," Cross said mournfully. "I know exactly how to handle this. I have this problem all the time."
"Really?" Allen asked.
"Oh, yes." Cross's other hand rested itself on Allen's thigh. "It's a burden, Allen, being so attractive to so many people. The real problem is that there just isn't enough time to love them the way they all deserve to be loved."
"Um," Allen said, attempting to scoot away. Cross followed until he was pressing Allen back against the arm of the couch. "That isn't precisely the problem I'm having with it."
"That's because you're looking at this from the wrong perspective."
Allen could smell Cross's breath on his face, rank with wine. Cross lay heavy on top of him and his hand attempted to slide up Allen's shirt.
"Um, sir, why are you in my lap?"
"I don't know," Cross muttered. "Why am I in your lap?"
"Ah," Allen said and slammed the heel of his palm into Cross's nose.
He left Cross, who was holding his face and bleeding all over the couch, with a tissue and an apology. He felt bad about what he had to do, but he'd had no choice. Cross needed it.
That option explored and exhausted, Allen found his steps lagging. It was discouraging, no doubt about it, but he was determined not to give up. If Cross couldn't give him answers, he would just have to find someone else who could. Inexplicably, he thought of Kanda: Kanda's clear, dark eyes in that moment just before Kanda let go of his arm. Allen sighed, then squared his shoulders. It was late already; he should go to bed. Maybe tomorrow would have answers he hadn't thought of yet.
Tomorrow turned out to be approximately one o'clock the next morning when Allen woke up to the sound of his bedroom door being kicked in. Something launched itself onto his bed. His hands came up in automatic defense and he froze when he touched naked, squishy skin.
"Allen," it moaned breathlessly. Allen's jaw dropped.
"Allen," Lenalee moaned again. "Allen, I can't take it anymore." She grasped the collar of his nightshirt and ripped it apart. Buttons flew off and one of them bounced off the wall, hitting Allen in the temple. "You're such a nice boy. You're such a beautiful, nice boy and I need you to fuck me until I scream."
That last bit was emphasized by a violent thrust of Lenalee's hips against Allen's crotch and Allen scrambled back. "Lenalee!" he yelped.
Lenalee appeared to have determined that ripping Allen's nightshirt apart was less conducive to her purposes than simply lifting it up, so she gripped the hem and squinted up at him through the moonlit darkness. "Don't worry; I won't tell my brother." The next phrase that came out her mouth was said with baffled wonder: "I want this even more than I want Cross."
Allen choked. "Lenalee!"
In a flurry of limbs and attempted escape, Allen was able to determine that yes, Lenalee really was wearing nothing but her boots. He screwed his eyes shut with the despair of a man who knew there would never be enough bleach in the world.
Eventually he managed to free himself, despite the fact that it felt like Lenalee had grown at least four extra grasping limps. He even managed to grab the comforter and a pillow off the bed after knocking her head into the wall hard enough to incapacitate her. Temporarily. He hoped. Lenalee was a resilient woman.
The problem, he realized when he stumbled out into the hall, tugging his boots on, was that he had nowhere to go. Without a lock, his room had been compromised, and there was no guarantee someone wouldn't find him wherever else he tried to hide. Unless.
Unless he hid somewhere no one would expect him to.
A quick trip down the hallway brought him to Kanda's door, which he eyed with no small amount of apprehension, but a clattering sound behind him reminded him that he needed to get out of sight before someone else came along. His knock was simultaneously as quiet and anxious as he could make it.
Kanda opened the door, heavy-eyed and sleep-rumpled, and Allen's heart jumped in his chest. Then Kanda tried to slam it shut, but Allen had already stuck his foot in the gap.
"Go away," Kanda mumbled.
"Please!" Allen said. "Please let me stay. Lenalee just kicked down my door and there was naked and boots and breasts and it was horrible! Horrible! No one will ever suspect I'm hiding here!"
Kanda stopped trying to break Allen's foot in half with the door and peered at him. Heartened, Allen hooked a hand around it and continued.
"I promise I won't be a bother. I just want to sleep somewhere in peace. Everyone else has gone crazy and I don't know where to go. I'll even sleep in your bathtub, please!"
Kanda's cheeks went a dull red, anger or embarrassment, Allen couldn't tell which, but he sighed and let the door fall open. "Get in here, you idiot. You can sleep on the floor."
"Thank you," Allen said fervently. For one brief, crazy moment he wanted to do something suicidal like hug Kanda, but fortunately for his bodily integrity Kanda soon had his customary scowl plastered across his features. He locked the door and climbed into his bed, back pointedly to Allen.
"If you touch me I will kill you," he said and went straight back to sleep.
Allen was not quite as lucky. Even cocooned in his comforter on the floor, his thoughts kept drifting back to Kanda. He admired Kanda for this, he thought, but then he admired Kanda for a lot of things, even if they didn't see eye to eye most of the time. But admirable thoughts of Kanda inevitably tangled up in his head with memories of the sharp tones of Kanda's voice cracking across the room, or the competent swipe of Kanda's long fingers over his sword, a queer tightness in Allen's chest. It was all rather confusing and he wasn't sure what it meant.
He eventually managed to push Kanda out of his mind, but it was still a long, restless hour before Allen fell asleep.
Allen woke up with a shooting pain in his back and another one in his side, the former being a result of the cold floor and the latter from Kanda's booted foot digging into the soft part of his body underneath his ribcage.
"Get up," Kanda ordered. "I'm going out to train, and you are going to be gone by the time I get back."
Allen moaned. He heard Kanda draw a quick breath. "What time is it?"
"Four," Kanda said shortly.
"Oh my God." Allen pulled the comforter higher over his head, uncomfortably aware that it exposed his lower legs to the icy stone of the floor. He shivered and made a pitiful sound. Kanda hissed.
"Out," he said and then the next thing Allen heard was the sound of the door slamming. He folded down the edge of the comforter. The room was empty.
Well, not entirely empty. There was the furniture, and a strange pink flower in a glass case on top of the table. It seemed to almost glow in the darkness. Looking at it too long made Allen's eyes water, so he turned his gaze away.
It fell instead on the bed, which Allen eyed with longing. It looked . . . well, not soft, but certainly softer than the floor, and warmer, too. He knew he should be respecting Kanda's wishes, but the thought of leaving the relative safety of this room filled him with dread. Kanda, he knew, didn't usually finish his training until around seven, because that was the time Allen saw him walking into the mess for breakfast.
And Allen was very tired.
Giving the door Kanda left through one last nervous glance, Allen made a decision. Three hours was a very long time, after all—more than long enough for a nap. Allen needed his strength, he told himself, especially if he was going to have to spend another whole day beating off people with sticks. And Kanda did just say to be gone by the time he got back, not to leave right away.
Steeling his resolve, Allen grasped the comforter and spread it out across the bed for extra warmth, climbing in between the sheets and sighing. This was much better than the floor. He nuzzled his face into Kanda's pillow. Kanda's scent, forest and musk, washed over him in soothing waves. It released a knot of tension in Allen's chest that he hadn't even been aware of until it was gone. All he wanted to do was wrap himself in it and stay like that forever.
Thankfully, before he could start analyzing that compulsion too closely, and also the strange, contented purring noises coming from the vicinity of his throat, he fell back asleep.
"Why the fuck didn't you—" Kanda's voice dragged Allen out of a dream about hair like black water sliding through his fingers. Kanda made a frustrated noise. "Whatever. At least I don't have to go looking for you. Get up; Komui wants to see us about a mission."
Allen said something that wasn't exactly English and woke up a bit more. "Kanda?"
Who glowered down at Allen from his vantage point next to the bed, one hand clenched at his side and the other resting on the handle of his sword. Allen scrubbed at his face and sat up, only belatedly remembering his nightshirt was falling apart when it slid off of one shoulder and Kanda's lips thinned. He pulled it back together, but not before Kanda had already cut his eyes away.
"I don't have any of my clothes," Allen said carefully, watching the sunlight spill in and reflect off of Kanda's hair. For some reason, he felt like this moment was very delicate; that Kanda was, brittle rather. Kanda looked tired and washed-out in the light, bones very prominent under thin skin.
I could break you like this, Allen thought and drew the covers up around himself in shame.
I don't want to see you break like this, Allen thought next, and breathed in, trying to recapture that good feeling from just a few hours before.
"I went to your room and got a few of your things first," Kanda said. He glanced back at Allen. "All of your underwear was missing, though."
Allen blanched. "Oh my God, people are depraved."
Kanda snorted and the tension in the room eased. Allen let his shoulders relax. "I left it on the chair for you," Kanda said. "I'll be waiting out in the hall."
"After some deliberation, I have decided that it is probably best if you left the Order for a while, Allen," Komui said, mopping his brow. "Not permanently!" he amended at the expression on Allen's face. "Just for a little while. For a mission. So we all have to opportunity to er, gather our defenses, so to speak. Form a strategy. Since Kanda seems to be the one handling this situation the best, he will be accompanying you."
Allen looked at Kanda, who sat impassively on the couch. "But that isn't fair; Kanda just got back from a mission, and—"
"Shut up," Kanda said and grimaced. "I am not going to let you determine what I can and cannot do."
"I wasn't trying to—"
"Gentlemen!" Komui interrupted. "Allen, you'll need backup for this mission and I can't in good faith let anyone else go. The information is in this envelope." He waved it at them and it flopped over. When Allen stood to take it, his fingers brushed against Komui's.
And then Allen wheezed, because Komui had hurled himself over his desk and slammed Allen into the couch, knocking the air from Allen's lungs. The pain in Allen's chest was almost enough to get his mind off the wet line Komui was licking over his jaw.
Then just as abruptly Komui was gone. Blinking the tears from his eyes, Allen saw him dangling by his labcoat from one of Kanda's hands. With his other, Kanda smacked Komui's handkerchief over his face. He looked from Komui to Allen, his expression pinched.
"Just go," Komui said, muffled and forlorn. "Please."
They didn't even get to take a Finder with them. Not that Allen had any particular attachment to any of the Finders, but it was nice to have another person to talk to, especially on missions with Kanda, who had stonewalling down to an art. Kanda hadn't said a single word since they got on the train, except for a curt death threat against the conductor lingering too long over inspecting Allen's badge. Allen didn't count those; for Kanda death threats were almost like breathing anyway. The landscape beyond the train windows must be fascinating, Allen thought, because Kanda hadn't taken his eyes off it since the conductor left.
Allen had been trying to read Komui's book to fill the silence, but hadn't been having much luck with that either. Reading in moving vehicles had always made him nauseous, and that wasn't even taking into account the subject matter. After a particularly distressing chapter about veela weddings, woodland orgies, and ceremonial negligees, Allen was forced to set the book down.
Unfortunately, it looked like Komui was right: short of regular sex, nothing was going to dampen the pull he had on people. In fact, the longer he put it off, the worse it was going to get. The account of Velma the Voluptuous in the fourth chapter had detailed the unfortunate incident in which she had been stranded in the Sahara for three months, wandered into a small Egyptian village, and promptly been buried under a mass of writhing bodies.
Allen sighed and tucked his feet up on the seat. It really was going to get worse before it got better, if it even did. He was more determined than ever not to give in, but he hadn't felt this helpless in a long time. The last thing he wanted to do was become a miniature Cross, having meaningless sex all over the place. He wanted people to like him for himself, not because of his freaky magical aphrodisiac powers. And the worst part was, now he would never know if they did.
Rolling his head around, Allen studied Kanda's profile. Kanda didn't give any indication that he was aware of the scrutiny, still and conspicuous as a giant boulder of I Am Ignoring You in the middle of their compartment. Allen frowned.
"It's not like I asked for this to happen to me," he said. He didn't know why it was suddenly so important that Kanda understand, but it was. "And I'm doing my best not to—"
"I know," Kanda interrupted.
Allen blinked. "You do?"
Kanda snorted. "I got it when you knocked down my door at one in the morning screeching about the horrors of Lenalee's—" here he choked "—Lenalee's breasts."
"Oh." Allen waited for the silence to get oppressive again before continuing. He felt slightly better. "I guess it's not all bad. I mean, I know things about people I would have never known before. Did you know Lavi is a poet?"
"No he's not," said Kanda.
Allen winced, recalling what had been written on the paper he had found stuffed in the pocket of the pants Kanda brought him. "I think he's very sincere," he said loyally.
"Miranda is also showing a side I never knew she had," Allen said after another pause. "Did you know she wanted me to lick her boots and call her mistress?"
"Heuurgh," said Kanda. Allen hid a smile behind his hand. Kanda glared at him.
"I think she and Crowley would make a nice couple."
Kanda lifted his eyes to the heavens and went back to ignoring Allen, but the lines around his mouth had softened and his posture relaxed. Allen went back to his book, but he was reading without processing the words again. Instead, he wondered idly what genuine amusement might look like on Kanda's face.
"Wait," Allen said. "Tyki Mikk? We're going after Tyki Mikk?"
Kanda, in the process of retrieving his suitcase from storage, looked at him. He'd already changed into his civilian clothes. It was odd to see him without his sword strapped to his side. "Did you not even read the mission briefing?"
"Um," Allen said, "no?" He backpedaled hastily. "I didn't think it was going to be a real mission! I thought they were just trying to get me out of the tower!"
Kanda took a deep breath, like he was gathering all his willpower to not strangle Allen. "What makes you think I would ever agree to go on some bullshit assignment just to babysit you? We need to bring him in for questioning. Take off your coat; we don't want him to hear that the Order is here. He's been managing to elude us for months, if you hadn't noticed."
Allen had, he just hadn't thought this was what he would be doing. This was important.
"Now all we have to do is find him and bring him in," Kanda continued. "And don't fuck up and let him escape again."
That last part was clearly directed at Allen, but Allen was so thrilled to have proof positive that he wasn't just a nuisance now that he couldn't bring himself to take exception to it. Then he had a terrifying thought. "They're not uh, expecting me to, you know?"
Kanda looked at him askance. "What the hell are you talking about?"
"Veela . . . him?" Except what I want to touch echoed through Allen's memory and the ghosts of gloved hands ran down his face like the brush of butterfly wings. It was an effort not to shudder.
Allen's eyes widened at the word, or rather, Kanda's tone, tight and furious. Kanda looked murderous, eyebrows drawn together, and it took several moments before he schooled his features into something more neutral.
"Nobody will be touching you," he grated out finally. Abruptly, he turned on his heel and stalked out of the compartment.
Allen stared after Kanda's retreating back. After a second, he shook himself and picked up his own suitcase, trotting after, wondering what on earth that was all about.
The air was thin in the town they were staying and the mountain winds whistled through the eaves of the houses. The inn's patrons stared at them suspiciously as Kanda stepped up to ask for two rooms—suspiciously at Kanda, that is, and with dawning sexual interest at Allen.
"Um," Allen said, tugging on his collar, "are you sure we can't share a room?" The innkeeper's wife raised her eyebrows and looked at Kanda with renewed interest.
"What?" Kanda asked. "Why would I want to do that?"
"It's just that—" I'd feel safer with you, Allen finished mentally. Was it just his imagination, or were the rest of the patrons slowly drifting closer? "Never mind."
"The only two singles I have left are the small ones connected by an adjoining door," the innkeeper's wife said. "Space is a little tight, since we're coming up on hot spring season. They've got easy access to each other, and by the way, I am totally amenable to a man sandwich."
"Me too," her daughter piped up, fumbling her tray of pint glasses. Allen was pretty sure if Kanda's face got any more pinched it would implode.
"We'll take them," Kanda said, slamming the money on the counter and grabbing the keys. "Lock your door," he ordered Allen quietly, but not quietly enough.
"It doesn't matter," the innkeeper's wife called after them. "I have the master key."
"That's why," Allen mumbled forlornly on their way up the stairs. At the door, Kanda turned to him and his eyes fell to Allen's sleeve, which he'd been using to drag Allen along behind him. He dropped it like a hot potato, scowling.
"Fine," he said. "Just—we'll leave the door open. That way I can hear if there's any trouble."
Leaving the door open between the rooms turned out to be a fantastically bad idea. To Allen's dismay, the bed he woke up in in the middle of the night was not the bed he went to sleep in, and the pillow he was clutching was not a pillow at all, but Kanda's chest.
One of Allen's legs straddled both of Kanda's and his nose was buried in Kanda's neck. His hips, to his eternal humiliation, rubbed lazy circles against Kanda's side. Kanda lay stiff as a board underneath him, except for a minute tremble that Allen assumed must be pounding rage. If it wasn't, Allen didn't want to think about it.
Allen couldn't pull away.
He managed to still his hips, but he couldn't pull away. Kanda smelled too good, just like his bed had, with dark, intoxicating overtones of something the recently awakened parts of Allen recognized as lust. He'd smelled it on everyone the past few days, but not like this. Them he could ignore but this he wanted, and wanted desperately.
"Kanda?" he whispered. Kanda took a deep breath and brought one hand up to Allen's shoulder. Allen's heart soared, the voice in the back of his head that had been insisting not because of this suddenly easy to disregard.
And then Kanda shoved him off the bed.
Allen gaped up at the ceiling, trying to get air back into his lungs. From his vantage point, he could see Kanda's silhouette sitting up on the bed, head bent. Kanda breathed quickly, loud in the silence of the room.
"I am locking the adjoining door," Kanda said finally, standing up and marching out.
Allen tested the door the next morning and found that it swung open at his touch. Kanda was already gone. He couldn't help the splash of relief he felt and was immediately ashamed of it, sitting down quickly on the bed to tug his boots on.
Stop being stupid, Allen told himself, it's not like this changes anything. Except it did, because Allen finally had a glimmer of understanding of what it was that Kanda meant to him, had meant to him, coming at the worst possible time. He felt like an idiot. One would think that being a magical sex monster would give him an intuitive understanding of these things.
But then again, maybe it didn't. Kanda was infuriating at the best of times and downright intolerable at the worst and in all likelihood it would never have happened anyway.
Allen finished zipping up his boots, plastered on his brightest fake smile, and stood to find Kanda.
Kanda sat at the bar doing what looked like his best to terrorize the piss out of the tiny, squirrel-faced man next to him. He glanced up immediately when Allen walked in, just like almost everybody else in the room. Squirrel-face took the opportunity to escape out the door, imminent dismemberment apparently outweighing even Allen's attractiveness. Kanda tore his gaze away from Allen to look back at the chair, grimacing when he realized it was empty.
Allen sat down in it. "I'm really sorry about last night—"
"Forget it," Kanda said. His face twisted into an ugly sneer. "It's not like you can help yourself."
Allen bristled, mouth open and ready to retort, but then he stopped. What did he care what Kanda thought, anyway? Kanda would always be determined to think the worst of him no matter what. Allen frowned. "Why were you talking to that guy?"
"Information, dipshit," Kanda said. They were back on familiar ground. "We still don't know exactly where Tyki Mikk is holing up and I was asking that little creep if he knew anything." He shot a disgusted look at the innkeeper, a portly man in his sixties who was wiping down the bar at the far end and eyeing Allen with poorly concealed interest. "I would have asked him, but he broke into my room last night hoping I was you."
"Oh, for—" Allen said. He flagged down the innkeeper. "And I suppose you thought intimidating them into speechlessness was going to work," he hissed at Kanda, then smiled at the innkeeper before Kanda could say anything. If there was one thing Allen had learned from years of traveling with Cross Marian, it was that some things loosen lips much better than others. One of those things, of course, is money, and the other is sex. While the mission budget allowed for plenty of the former Allen had the latter in spades now and there was really nothing that was stopping him from using it.
"Good morning, sir," the innkeeper stammered, "how can I service you? Serve you!"
Allen winced mentally but widened his smile and crossed his legs. The innkeeper looked ready to faint. "I was hoping you could tell me something."
"Anything!" the innkeeper said fervently. "Did you know I am actually an exiled prince from a beautiful kingdom over the sea?"
"My, how romantic," Allen murmured. The innkeeper turned beet red. "But actually I was hoping you would be able to help me locate a friend of mine. He used to go by the name of Tyki Mikk. He's tall, foreign, with curly black hair and a little mole under his eye, right here." Allen pointed.
The innkeeper deflated, dejected. "I'm not . . . "
"Please." Allen put a hand over the one of the innkeeper's wide ones. "It's very important to my happiness."
The innkeeper looked at his hand, trembling. Allen brushed his fingers over the top of it. "He works at the hot springs!" the innkeeper blurted. "But not until the evening shift."
"Thank you so much." Allen shot a triumphant look at Kanda, but Kanda only glared. Allen resisted glaring back and turned back to the innkeeper instead, smile still firmly on. "In the meantime, I'll have the scrambled eggs, if it's not too much trouble."
"O-of course not, sir!" As the innkeeper scurried away, unsteady on his feet, Allen's shoulders slumped and he pressed the heel of his hand against his temple.
"What?" he asked Kanda defensively, but Kanda just blew air through his nose and turned back to his own breakfast.
The trip to the building that houses the hot springs was a long one, Kanda trudging silently up the mountain in front of Allen. The closer they got the more it smelled distinctly of sulfur, delicate in the air, not exactly unpleasant. Allen's stomach contorted anyway.
"We'll split up," Kanda said when they reached it. "There's not so much ground to cover and there's no point in alerting anyone else here that we're looking for him unless we have to."
"Okay," Allen said.
"And if you find him first, call me." Kanda pointed to the communicator on Allen's ear. "Don't be an idiot and try to capture him by yourself."
"Okay," Allen said crossly. He raised his eyebrows in challenge.
"I'll take the east side," Kanda said.
The building was deserted except for a few early guests shuffling around. Allen stayed out of sight as best he could. Thankfully, most of the doors were open so it was easy to see inside; unfortunately, none of the people Allen saw bore even a passing resemblance to Tyki Mikk. By the thirteenth door and the thirteenth massive blond man, Allen was considering whether he should call Kanda and ask if he'd found anything or do that later and ask—he looked at the nameplate on the door—Sven for a massage now. His mouth twisted in an unhappy line.
Only a few more doors lined the hall, all of them closed. Two turned out to be storage closets and one was a bathroom, but the last had another peeling nameplate, unreadable, and Allen eased it open.
"Crap," he breathed, because there was Tyki Mikk.
Tyki stood with his back to Allen, bent over the table at the far end of the room, wiping it down and humming something tuneless to himself. Allen backed out into the hall and pressed the button on the back of his communicator.
"Where are you?" Kanda asked. Allen told him and Kanda made an affirmative noise, cutting the connection.
Allen peered back inside the room and tensed when he heard the murmur of voices behind him. He had a dilemma: if he stayed outside in the hall, he was almost bound to get caught loitering before Kanda could get to him, but if he went and hid inside . . . well, technically he wasn't doing anything wrong, because he wasn't trying to capture Tyki Mikk. He was just keeping an eye on him. Allen slipped inside and behind a tall cabinet.
He was only inside for maybe half a minute before Tyki turned around, sniffing the air.
"Who's there?" Tyki called. He sniffed again and started listing in Allen's direction, face flushed. Allen's stomach dipped. He was an idiot. Nothing for it, then.
"Hi, Tyki," he said, stepping out.
Tyki's head snapped around. "Allen Walker," he said. "How nice to see you. You've certainly . . . grown since we last met."
"Yes, um," Allen said. Tyki stepped toward him, crowding him against the wall. His eyes swept over Allen's body, lingering at Allen's collar where Allen realized belatedly he'd left the top buttons of his shirt undone. Tyki's tongue flickered out over his lips, but then he frowned.
"What are you doing here?"
"I, um." Allen seized on an idea. "I came to see you."
"Really?" Tyki looked thrilled. Allen tried to keep his dinner down.
"Yes, I can't stop thinking about. How you touched me. Oh Tyki," he added for good measure.
The smile that spread across Tyki's face was wide and unsettling. Allen smiled back stiffly. "Oh, Allen," Tyki murmured, lifting an elegant hand to tuck a wayward strand of hair behind Allen's ear. "I've been thinking about you, too. You can't be blamed; it must have been quite the experience." He sighed tragically, waving at the assorted jars of massage oil spread around the room. "Of course, it's not the same now, but I do what I can."
"Oh Tyki," Allen said again for lack of anything better to say.
"Allen, sweetness, look at you. You're shaking. How about we move back to the table and I'll see if I can't work some of that tension from your shoulders."
"Um," Allen said. Tyki pressed up against him, stroking one hand down the side of Allen's face. This time Allen couldn't suppress his shudder, a spark of fear flaring up in his gut.
"There's no need to be nervous, love. I just want to touch you. You want it too, don't you? My hands, all over your beautiful skin, inside—" Tyki froze. "Allen?"
"You will keep your unnatural perversions to yourself," Kanda said. A thin line of red trickled down Tyki's neck where Kanda's wakizashi made an indentation in the skin. Allen's fear drained out of him all at once, leaving him surprisingly weak in the knees. "Asshole."
Kanda did something to the back of Tyki's neck that made Tyki's eyes roll up and Tyki slump forward, unconscious, against Allen. Kanda yanked him upright and slammed him against the wall, holding him there for a second before pulling back and clocking him across the jaw. "Insurance," he told Allen tightly.
"Kanda—" Allen said.
"I don't want to hear it!" Kanda shouted. "Jesus fucking Christ."
Words seemed to have failed Allen anyway, so he could only watch uselessly as Kanda pulled the rope out and started tying Tyki's hands.
Shoving a semi-conscious, trussed-up Tyki Mikk through the bar on the bottom floor of the inn caused less of a sensation than Allen would have expected, but he couldn't help lingering after Kanda disappeared up the stairs to try to explain. "Um, it's kind of—"
"Oh, don't worry, dear," the innkeeper's wife said. She smacked her ladle across her palm and gazed mistily at her husband. He blushed. "We understand."
"Er," Allen said. "Right." He made his escape.
By the time he got to their rooms, Kanda was dropping a once again fully unconscious Tyki Mikk on his bed. He pointed to the adjoining door without turning his head. "Get in there."
"Why—" Allen started, bewildered.
"Just go!" Kanda snarled. When Allen hesitated a second too long, he grabbed Allen's arm and yanked him through, whirling around and slamming Allen against the wall after kicking the door shut behind them.
"What the fuck were you thinking?" Kanda yelled, fist tangled in the front of Allen's shirt. "I told you! You can't just walk up to Tyki fucking Mikk like that!"
"Or have you forgotten what he is?"
"He's only human now—"
"The Finders that they sent out looking for him first died, and do you know why?" Kanda held up two unfamiliar, wicked-sharp knives in his other hand. "Because he slit their fucking throats."
"He wouldn't have hurt me!" Allen shouted, squashing his own doubts about the validity of that statement. "I don't know why you're so angry about this!"
The silence that followed startled in its completeness, nothing but the empty whistle of air for the space of one, two, three heartbeats. Then Kanda hauled off and punched Allen in the face.
Allen reeled, leg shooting out instinctively. Kanda went down with a thump, bringing Allen with him by virtue of his hand in Allen's shirt. They grappled briefly, Allen landing a couple of punches to Kanda's gut before Kanda flipped them both over, cracking Allen's head against the ground and landing on top of him. Allen wrapped his legs around Kanda's body, hands flying up to yank at Kanda's hair. Kanda hissed.
Kanda was hard, Allen realized hazily; he could feel it where Kanda was pressed up against him. His heart stuttered and started pounding again, even harder. Kanda shifted against him and dropped his face into Allen's neck.
"Because I hate you," Kanda whispered, breath gusting out hot against Allen's skin.
Allen shivered, fingers twitching against Kanda's scalp.
"I hate you," Kanda repeated. His nose slid along the line of Allen's throat. "I hate you and I've always hated you, you stupid, irresponsible, unrealistic child. You have no fucking perspective and you're always fucking things up, for me and—just, fuck." He laughed, another gust of air, no amusement. "And the worst fucking part."
Allen drew a breath.
"And the worst fucking part is that your stupid thing didn't even change anything. Because it's always been this way."
Always, Allen thought as Kanda's lips stopped feathering along his jaw, as Kanda's body stilled and his breath went shallow and even. He let his legs relax, cradling Kanda against him instead of holding him immobile, sweeping his fingers through Kanda's hair as Kanda's arms curled in around his head. Always, he thought, remembering the past few days, the odd behavior and the inexplicable possessiveness, all the way back through the last two years and Kanda's first lie: I will not protect you, standing above Allen in a forgotten Italian village, blood seeping into his bandages.
"I don't think you hate me," Allen said, throat tight. "Kanda."
Kanda's head snapped up and his eyes locked on Allen's, flashing. Allen offered him a crooked smile before closing his own and leaning forward to kiss him.
For a long moment, nothing happened, and then Kanda made a low sound, hand cupping the back of Allen's head and mashing their mouths together clumsily. Their teeth knocked together and Allen whuffed with surprise.
"Wait," Allen mumbled, tugging Kanda's hair to get his attention. Kanda retreated maybe a millimeter. Slow and soft, Allen let his tongue slide across Kanda's lips before slipping inside and licking the roof of Kanda's mouth. Kanda hesitated then did nearly the same thing, scraping his teeth over Allen's bottom lip, making Allen's belly tighten with anticipation and a cautious elation. "Okay," Allen said, "that's good."
Then Allen flipped them both over and sat down on Kanda's cock, which got an answering groan from Kanda that was really more like a grunt. Kanda's hands clutched Allen's thighs when Allen rolled his hips.
"The hell—" Kanda managed before Allen leaned down and licked into his mouth. Their tongues brushed slickly against each other while Allen fumbled with the buttons on Kanda's shirt.
"Okay," Allen said when he sat back up, palm splayed against the smooth skin of Kanda's chest. He pushed Kanda's shirt apart and fell silent, mouth dry, fingers tracing in and up, over the faded ink of Kanda's tattoo. Kanda's muscles twitched under his scrutiny.
Kanda was beautiful, Allen thought, pale and warm, dark eyes and dark, dark hair, the proud twist of his mouth and the strength of his convictions. Allen didn't know how no one else saw it, how they all saw him instead, with his funny hair and funny scar and funny arm, uncertain and inadequate.
Something of it must have shown in Allen's face because Kanda's changed, hard and determined where it had been lax with surprise and desire. Kanda pushed up on his elbows and hands and kissed Allen, their noses bumping together as Allen settled back across Kanda's thighs. When they sorted themselves out Allen's arms had wound around Kanda's neck and Kanda's hands had wormed up underneath Allen's shirt, ungentle, Kanda's blunt fingernails scraping over Allen's back.
"Kanda," Allen said.
Kanda inhaled. "On the bed," he said, frowning. "I'm not going to . . . with you on the floor."
"Oh," Allen said. "Okay."
Allen let his arms fall and stood up, trying not to feel self-conscious but not really succeeding. For lack of anything else to occupy his hands with, he started picking off his clothes, climbing in against the headboard when he was done, arms around his knees. Fortunately, that galvanized Kanda into action and he shrugged off the rest of his own clothes and climbed in behind Allen, putting one hand on Allen's arm.
Allen obligingly unfolded himself and let Kanda run a hand down his side, Kanda's gaze following the path his palm traced. Shivering, Allen made a plaintive noise and Kanda's eyes shot back to his face.
"Would you—" Allen swallowed. "Would you fuck me? Please?"
Kanda's hips jerked against Allen's leg. He opened and closed his mouth a few times like he wanted to say something, but finally settled on glaring silently.
"Like, um, this," Allen said, leaning over the side of the bed and digging around for the lotion he kept in his bag for his hand. When he found it, he drew his knees up and rearranged them both so they were in an approximation of the position that they were in on the floor. Allen took a second to luxuriate in the sensation of naked skin on naked skin and the pressure of Kanda's lips against his own before lifting his head. "You'll need the um, lotion." At Kanda's blank look, he added, "For your fingers."
"How was I supposed to know that?" Kanda demanded, snatching the little jar from Allen's hand. He spread a dollop over his hand and frowned at Allen expectantly.
"You've never, um," Allen started, then blushed again, remembering nights spent alone in his room at the Order with one hand wrapped around his cock and the fingers of the other hot and slick up his ass, fucking himself on his fingers and thinking of no one, just the smell of forest and ozone.
"I've been busy," Kanda said, looking mutinous. Allen's gaze dropped to the faded tattoo on Kanda's chest and he smiled.
"I know. Me too."
Kanda harrumphed and looked uncertain again.
"Here, just." Allen took Kanda's hand in his own and guided it between his legs until one of Kanda's wet fingers pressed against the ring of muscle there. "Just one at a time, okay?"
Kanda watched Allen's face carefully and Allen wanted to reassure him but couldn't find the words; they all abandoned him the moment Kanda pushed his first finger in. Allen's body opened easily, hungry for the feeling of Kanda's fingers stroking inside. He moaned, sparks of sensation shivering up his spine. Kanda's breathing sped up.
"Yes!" Allen said. "Yes, yes, please. Kanda." He curled up to kiss Kanda as the second finger went in and was still kissing him when the third one did, desperate and open-mouthed. Allen panted in earnest now, pushing down against Kanda's hand. He couldn't wait anymore. "Kanda," he said, tugging on Kanda's hair. "Come on, come on, Kanda, please."
Kanda let out a breath through his teeth and moved over, replacing his fingers with his cock. He stopped once he was all the way in, arms trembling, eyes screwed shut. Allen's legs trembled too and his face was less than an inch away from Kanda's, their foreheads pressed together. He could feel Kanda's ragged breath over his lips. He dug his heel into Kanda's back.
"How long?" Allen demanded, and Kanda groaned brokenly, pulling back and surging forward again. Allen tightened his grip in Kanda's hair. "How long?"
"Always," Kanda gasped on his next thrust, and finally started moving. "Always," he said again, and Allen could feel all of it: Kanda's hand on him, the thundering of Kanda's pulse, the tightness of Kanda's muscles, Kanda's cock inside him, finally, a dizzy rhythm that left Allen wordless and whimpering and complete.
Allen woke up in stages, first the sensation of warmth, solid pressure against his chest and the whisper of something against his ear. He snuffled and curled in; it tickled.
"Allen," Kanda said. Allen stiffened.
"Kanda," he said carefully. He twisted around to get a better look. Kanda's eyes reflected black in the moonlight, half-lidded, his features pale and indistinct. Kanda sighed. As Allen held his breath, Kanda leaned down and touched his lips against the corner of Allen's. Instinctively, Allen opened his mouth into the kiss, all the tension bleeding out of him.
"You need to get up now," Kanda said hoarsely when he managed to pull away.
"Okay," Allen said, curling his tongue along the pulse line on Kanda's neck, tasting sweat and sleep. "Wait, what?"
"We leave today."
"It's still dark!"
"Early train," Kanda said. Allen shifted back and studied Kanda's face again.
"Are we going to talk about this?" he asked.
"No," Kanda said, coloring. "Shut up." Before Allen could say anything else, he rolled out of the bed.
When they were both dressed, they opened the door to the other room. Tyki fell to the ground at their feet, waking up with a snort. His pants were undone, an interesting development considering that his hands were still tied.
"That's really something I never need to see again," Kanda said evenly. Tyki's teeth flashed white in the darkness.
"Have fun?" he asked. Kanda shifted like he was going to kick Tyki in the face.
"Wait!" Allen said. "Are you feeling the uncontrollable urge to molest me?"
Tyki sat up and took a long breath through his nose. "No," he said. "That doesn't mean I don't still want to!" he added hastily, leering. Kanda snarled.
"It's okay!" Allen said. "It's okay." And it was, especially after they'd gotten Tyki stored safely under their seats with the rest of the luggage. Kanda seemed preoccupied with beating his forehead into a giant bruise against the glass of the window, but he didn't pull away when Allen slid their fingers together, either.
Outside, the sun peeked over the horizon.