I originally meant to write this back when I was working on Stranded in order to assuage my guilt over Ch. 4. It was supposed to be a happy Lavi fic but somehow ended up becoming all depressing and dark and I suppose has some slight Kavi-ness in it which I'm not sorry for. /fail

What it Means

Another name, another life. Lavi remembered them all with the dispassionate view of a historian. The name Lavi was his newest and he was still getting used to it. Often, he would sit in thought and Bookman would call his name and he wouldn't react because the name had not properly settled over him yet. As far as his instincts were concerned, he was still Deak and like it had with his previous alias, his new name would take one or two weeks before he fully considered it his.

Now, he stared out the window, eye flickering over the fast-moving landscape. They had left the clan abruptly after turning in the logs of their previous assignment, and were now on their way to Black Order headquarters. They were about to join yet another war and chose to ally with the Black Order only because Bookman had already allied with the Noah once.

Lavi wasn't impressed with the castle when they first saw it getting off the train. Dark and ominous and perched precariously on a cliff over-looking the small town below, it seemed overly dramatic to him. And once inside, his presence and Bookman's earned curious stares from the people within, some openly gawking, others pretending not too. For them, this was an unusual occurrence, but for him it was normal. Too many times he'd found himself in the midst of unfamiliar people, set to record their history but ordered not to get too close. Not to make connections. The life of a bookman was a lonely one.

It was only with half-hearted interest that Lavi listened as Bookman discussed their arrangements with the Black Order's chief, a man named Komui Lee, and he wondered how long this new life would last before it was time, once again, to move on.

A week passed and Lavi tried his best to keep his new acquaintances at a safe distance, but he hadn't expected them to be quite so friendly.

"Wow, your memory is amazing!" Lenalee exclaimed. The young exorcist was leaning across the table, rearranging cards face-down in front of his empty tray.

"There's not much to it, really." Lavi shrugged.

"But you haven't gotten a single one wrong. I bet you're an excellent bookman."

"Apprentice," Lavi corrected. "And all bookmen have good memories."

"Huh. Well here, try and guess this one."

"Hey Lenalee," a man said as he approached and Lenalee looked up from her sorting.

"Oh, hi Reever."

"And you must be the young bookman. Nice ta meetcha. Hey Lenalee, where'd you get those cards?"

"Huh? In one of the old rooms, though I don't think anyone was using it. It was full of cobwebs."

"Huh. Anyway, Bookman."


"Lavi, right. The guys and I are building something really cool in the science section. Wanna come check it out?"

He wished they wouldn't be quite so friendly. "Uh, sure." It made it harder for him to see them as nothing more than ink on the pages of history books.

"Great! But, uh…don't tell Komui. He can get weird about these kind of things. Not that we're doing anything wrong or anything. But there was this one time when we built a robot that could make toast…"

Lavi tuned him out as his eyes roved around the cafeteria. Similar conversations were going on all around him, between friends and colleagues. People who didn't have to worry about making connections with those circumstances threw them in with.

The only exception was a teenager about his own age who sat at a table alone eating soba. His dark hair was pulled back into a ponytail, a sword was strapped to his back, and his eyes were dark and threatening. Lavi had seen the exorcist around and he was different then all the others in that he didn't seem to need or want friends. In the midst of this overly friendly atmosphere, Lavi found himself growing curious.

"What are you looking at?" Kanda didn't look up, but he didn't need to to know who was standing there.

"It's getting a little too noisy over there. Mind if I join you?"

Kanda grunted and went back to eating his noodles which Lavi took to mean he was okay with it. He sat, still in awe of how comfortable he was in the new uniform the others had had made for him. It was very light.

The two sat and ate in silence and though it might have been awkward for anyone else, they preferred it this way. All the same, Lavi's thoughts kept going back to Lenalee and Reever and Johnny and he wondered what it would be like to have friends like that.

He forcefully pushed the notion away. It was better this way. He was a bookman. He couldn't afford any attachments.

Lavi was on his way to return several books to the library when he heard a raised voice and stopped to listen, purely out of curiosity.

"You said I'd be going this one on my own," a familiar voice growled and Lavi recognized it as Kanda's.

"Yes, but Komui thinks this would be a good opportunity to teach the young bookman a bit about what it means to be an exorcist and I agree." This voice he did not recognize.

"Hmph. I prefer to work alone."


"Don't call me that."

Lavi blinked. Yu. Kanda's first name was Yu.

There were footsteps approaching so Lavi beat a hasty retreat, all the while thinking that he was about to take his place in a war he didn't want to be in in the first place.

Lavi soon learned that the friendly way in which most people at the Black Order treated him wasn't likely to change any time soon and so he was forced to go along with it. It wasn't too difficult. He had long since perfected his fake smile, the cheery façade he used to get through life. And it worked. No one suspected the cold, objective observer was lurking just underneath the surface.

The only person it didn't work on was Kanda. The dark-haired teen was standing with his arms crossed, expression both resigned and irritated, in front of Komui's messy desk. Lavi was listening intently as Komui outlined their mission for them and he was amazed anyone could work in such a catastrophic mess that was this office.

There were reports of akuma attacks in a little town outside of Southend and while Kanda was perfectly capable of taking care of the situation on his own, Komui wanted Lavi to go with, both to observe and to learn how to use his new anti-akuma weapon in the field.

Kanda was far from pleased but at least it would be a good respite from the more outgoing bunch at headquarters.

"Cheer up, yeah?" Lavi said once the two had left and were making their way onto the train. "Things could be worse."

"Tch." Kanda took a seat and his gaze immediately went to the window.

Lavi's false grin slipped as he slid onto the seat opposite. "Okay. We can just be two grumpy sour pusses if you'd prefer."

Kanda shot him an angry look. "This is precisely why I was against going on a mission with you."

"Because I'm really grumpy?"

"Because you're a fraud," Kanda snapped. "You're not really one of us. That smile, that interest, everything about you is fake. Bookmen take no sides, isn't that right? I can't trust you. I can't trust that you'll fight with all your strength when the time comes. You're more concerned with surviving and recording your precious history. Whoever dies because of your neutrality doesn't matter."

Lavi stared at Kanda, frowning. "You're right. I'm a bookman. That's the way we are. But you're wrong if you think I won't fight with all I've got. For however long I remain an exorcist, we're comrades and that means something." He allowed a smile to curve his lips though it became something more of a smirk. "Though something tells me you're not very easy to kill."

"Observed that, did you?"

Lavi shrugged. "It's in the job description. So whatever you think of me, you shouldn't have anything to worry about."

"Whatever. But I'm not going to baby-sit you so there's a good chance you'll die."

Lavi rested his chin in one hand. "I won't."

Kanda studied him for a moment before looking away and the rest of the journey was made in silence.

The akuma was a gruesome mass of cannons and flesh with a face stretched into a grotesque mask of agony. It moaned pitifully and fired rapidly but Lavi was too quick for it. Calling upon his years of weapons training and the time he'd spent practicing at the Black Order, he gripped the handle of his hammer and willed it to grow and he swung it around, smashing it into the akuma which careened into a wall. Then, adjusting his grip, he brought it around in another crushing blow and the akuma screamed and flew apart.

Lavi steadied his breathing and brought the hammer back to a reasonable size and looked over to Kanda who was leaning against a building, having watched Lavi's battle without so much as lifting a finger to help. Normally, Lavi would be annoyed but this was the very first akuma he'd ever killed and his heart was still pumping with the exhilaration of it.

"I could get used to this," Lavi said.

"For however long we're 'comrades'." Kanda remarked.

"This is different than the other histories I had to record. It's dangerous, but there's so much more to learn."

"Well if you're done, we should head back." It didn't sound like Kanda cared one way or the other.

Lavi found that he was disappointed to be returning but had to remind himself that they would be patrolling for more akuma the next day, and to be cautious. He figured not every enemy would be quite so easy to defeat.

Twirling his hammer around to rest over his shoulder and not feeling at all tired, he gestured down the road. "Lead the way, Yu."

The change in Kanda's demeanor was sudden and striking as he scowled. "Don't call me that."

Lavi's smile slipped a fraction. "It is your name, isn't it?"

"You have no right to use it," Kanda said and spun on his heel and headed stiffly back in the direction of the inn at which they were staying.

Lavi frowned at Kanda's retreating form and found himself wondering what the hell that guy's problem was.

As it turned out, it was very amusing to use Kanda's first name and so Lavi used it whenever he got the chance. He wasn't sure why he derived any entertainment from it or why Kanda never made good on any of his death threats, but Lavi had to admit he liked the taste of it on his tongue. The dirty looks Kanda gave him only made him grin cheekily in return and he wasn't even sure if the smile was his usual façade or if it was real.

"Hey, Yu, I'm starving. Wanna check out that café we passed earlier?" When Kanda didn't reply, Lavi pulled his gaze away from the storefronts and settled it on his companion. "Yu?"

"Shut up," Kanda said. Without warning, he launched into a run and Lavi was quick to follow, suddenly alert. It was day time. Most of the akuma attacks occurred at night, but sometimes there were exceptions.

They rounded a corner onto a narrow street and stopped short just in time to see a man shove a woman onto the ground and break into a run. One glimpse was all Lavi needed to see that the man had stolen the woman's handbag and without hesitation, he ran after the thief, ignoring Kanda's angry protest from behind him.

It wasn't an akuma, just a common petty thief, something easily taken care of. And Lavi was a fast runner. For most of his life, he'd undergone various training programs, learned to defend himself with a variety of weapons, learned to run and climb and swim and most importantly, to breathe.

The thief didn't stand a chance. When he realized that he was being pursued, he tried to lose him by turning into alleys and breaking his line of sight, but Lavi had expected that and had no problem keeping up until he'd finally worn down his prey and knocked him off his feet with a clean sweep of the hammer, having extended it to reach. The man fell and stayed on his back, breathing heavily, eyes wide as Lavi approached and tugged the handbag out of the man's grip.

Lavi scowled down at the man. "Scum like you make me sick," he said coldly before turning and heading back to where he'd left the woman.

When he returned, he found an impatient Kanda and the woman who seemed quite uncomfortable in the teen's presence. By her side was a child, about seven years old, who held onto her mother's skirts.

"Here," Lavi said, thrusting the handbag at the woman.

"Th-thank you," she said, accepting it. "Thank you very much. I don't know how to repay you."

"No need," Lavi said.

The child finally stepped away from her mother and spoke for the first time, her wide eyes passing from Lavi to Kanda and back again. "Those uniforms. You're exorcists, aren't you?"

Lavi beamed. "Sure are. You've heard of us?"

The girl nodded. "You destroy the demons and make us safe."

"Now now, Caroline. There are no such things as demons," her mother said, ruffling her hair.

"Then why are there exorcists?" She reached up to brush her mother's hand away and smooth her hair again before returning her gaze to Lavi. "Well I believe that demons exist. But if you're here, does that mean there are demons nearby?"



"That's okay, though. I know you'll keep us all safe, Mr. Exorcist." The girl grinned. "Right?" Her blue eyes held Lavi's and he was about to offer reassurance when he noticed something off in them, something moving in their depths. Something pushed its way out of her left eye with a grinding, clicking sound and the smile slowly faded from Lavi's face.

And then there was a chink and her right eye registered surprise and her mother screamed. As observant as Lavi was, he noticed the dark blood on the ground, the light leaving that one remaining eye, the quiet thud as she hit the ground. But everything else was a haze. The mother screaming at Kanda, screaming wordlessly, dropping to her knees to hold her daughter in her arms even as the akuma began to disintegrate and Kanda had to pull her back before the blood virus could infect her.

All he saw was the child's beaming face.

Lavi was silent the entire train ride home, staring numbly out the window, distantly aware that Kanda was watching him. He didn't care. The hammer he carried in his belt weighed next to nothing but now it felt strangely heavy.

He'd thought a war against the akuma would be different but he was wrong. It was still about people and friends and family, mothers and children. Dying. Because in war, there would always be nothing but death.

A knock came at his door, but he ignored it, lying on his back on the bed, hands behind his head. His anti-akuma weapon lay discarded in the corner. The knock came again and finally the door opened and Lavi wrinkled his brow, expecting Bookman to hit him and tell him to stop moping. He was surprised to see that it was Kanda.

"Oh. Hey, Yu."

"Stop being a wuss." Kanda hit him.

"Ow." Lavi sat up and rubbed his head. "Is that all you came here for?"

"Yes," Kanda said. "And to tell you that it wasn't a little girl I killed. It was an akuma. The girl was already gone. She'd tried to bring back her father after he fell ill and died. The Millennium Earl preys on grief. Akuma may look human, but they're not. Remember that."

"I know that. But…" Lavi bit his lip. "I guess it's just hard to understand."

"Well don't take too long or you'll get yourself killed."

"Mm. What about the mother?" Lavi asked. "What happened to her?"

"She died," Kanda stated simply. "Drowned herself in the Thames."

Lavi clenched his fists. "She was human."

Kanda said nothing.

"The Millennium Earl destroyed that family," Lavi said softly. He'd been taught never to take sides, that neutrality was important to maintain the role of a bookman, but at that moment, it was very hard to stay objective.

"If you're going to stay on as an exorcist, you need to get used to it," Kanda said. "This is what it means to be an exorcist."

"Yeah," Lavi said. "Thanks, Yu."

"Don't call me that." But Kanda's words were flat, tired from the repetition and Kanda left, closing the door behind him.

Lavi sat in silence and thought about the little girl and about Lenalee's cheerfulness and Kanda's constant anger and his gaze fell on his weapon in the corner. He sighed.

"Yeah," he said quietly. "I'll try to remember that."