“You don’t have to be here, you know.” Kanda’s eyebrows furrow as he tries to keep his concentration. He refuses to have this meditation ruined by a redheaded intruder, so he keeps his eyes shut and focuses on even, deep breaths. Curiosity gets the best of him, though, and he takes the bait.
“What the fuck are you talking about? Yes I do.”
“No,” Lavi says in a way that doesn’t sound anything like Lavi. Kanda narrows his eyes. “You really don’t.”
It’s been a month, and Kanda has only seen Lavi in the way that he sees the end of an orange scarf trailing through a doorway. In a messy stack of books in the library. In the way Bookman scowls in Kanda’s direction like he has unwittingly committed some transgression. In the sudden empty space and silence in his daily life.
When he finally sees Lavi again, Kanda does not expect it. He is eating lunch alone when Lavi slides smoothly down the bench to sit next to him. Smiling a smile that does not reach his eye, the fakeness simultaneously annoys and concerns Kanda. Lavi starts eating like nothing has happened, so Kanda decides to start the conversation. “What is it?” He is immediately reminded communication is not his strong point. But Lavi smiles wider and there is a little more emotion in that single eye, so it’ll have to count as a success.
Lavi speaks without looking at him. “There’s no one I’d rather run away with, Yuu.”
It’s autumn when they sneak out a second-story window, and something about that is foreboding. This is a time when things go out in a wild blaze of glory before they die, not some time for fresh, new beginnings. It parallels their escape more than either of them would like to admit. Lavi thinks more about this, but he says nothing to Kanda. Starting over is an unachievable goal. And bold, impossible escapes are exactly that: impossible. This is the flare before the candle is extinguished. This is a last stand. They will not succeed. They will die.
Lavi guides them through rural areas where they go without seeing other people for days. It’s not only safe, it’s peaceful. It’s fresh air and clear, starry nights and silence between them. Even though Lavi is acting more distant than Kanda’s ever seen, he feels more companionship for this not-Lavi person than he ever thought possible. Kanda hears him so much better when he speaks without words. Like how he wraps his scarf around Kanda’s neck whenever Kanda shivers at night. The way he rubs a thumb across Kanda’s shoulder blades when he moves behind him, letting Kanda know it’s just him and not an ambush. It makes Kanda feel things he doesn’t know how to name.
Every now and then they decide to take a break, and go knocking on the doors of whatever small town they are in until they convince someone to give them a meal or a place to stay in exchange for labor. It’s a good way to break monotony, so the work is almost enjoyable even when it shouldn’t be. One day is pulling weeds in a field of wheat. Another day is patching up roofs. It must always be work that is low profile, a fact they are reminded of every time they duck behind buildings at the sight of figures dressed in all black or the shine of a silver rose cross on a jacket. Each encounter leaves them running for open land, and they are back to being alone, silent, and free.
Startled by a dream, Kanda awakes one morning and thinks the world has ended. It is really just the color red that catches his eye and overwhelms his senses. Red is everywhere: in leaves, in hot fall afternoons, on the chests of finches that dart through the bushes, in Lavi’s hair. All Kanda can think of is blood, fresh and flowing. Lavi looks at him, awake and alert as he keeps watch, and says the first words he’s said to Kanda since this journey began.
“It’s going to be okay.”
Lavi is repairing a wooden fence on the edge of a farmer’s property when he sees a wall of black-uniformed figures coming his way. His heart skips a beat. Sprinting back towards the farmhouse, Lavi yells, hoping Kanda can hear his warning. Looking over his shoulder, Lavi is ninety percent sure he sees Chaozi Han in the line; even though he is certain he and Kanda can more than handle him, knowing that exorcists are being deployed to find them makes fear settle deep in his chest. Bullets start flying behind him, but Lavi can breathe again when he sees Kanda emerge in front of him, Mugen drawn. They fight just as much is necessary to make room for them to flee back into the wild. There is no one still conscious to follow the trail of blood they leave behind them.
The run in with Black Order cronies leaves them bloody and battered, but where Kanda’s injuries heal quickly and cleanly, the bullet wound in Lavi’s shoulder does not. Lavi removes the bullet and stitches the wound on his own because Kanda has a pitiful amount of first aid knowledge for an ex-soldier. Lavi smiles as he digs the bullet out, telling Kanda, “This will just have to be a learning experience.” If nothing else, the whole ordeal makes Kanda respect this man more, and he did learn a lot when Lavi managed to speak between gritting his teeth and cussing.
They both triple check that the wound stays clean while they travel. Still, Lavi collapses in the mid-day autumn sun four days later, and Kanda can feel the fever radiate from his skin. When he rips off the bandage, the skin is red, puffy, and irritated, so Kanda yells at the sky. He curses anyone and everyone even though there is no one in the vastness of the wild to hear him. Picking up Lavi is startling because it is all too easy, he weighs so little, and that worries Kanda more. But it does make it easy to move quickly as he runs towards what he hopes is the lights of a village in the distance.
Lavi wakes to the sting of his shoulder, freshly cut open and packed with sugar to absorb the fluid. He sees Kanda sitting at his side, watches his eyes water even as his face stays neutral, hears his hoarse voice say, “He’s awake.”
A woman in the corner of the room shuffles over carrying bandages and gives a soft smile as a reply. “Good,” she says before chuckling as Lavi tries his best to smile convincingly back at her.
“Thank you,” Kanda whispers. “Thank you so much.”
It takes a week of work to repay the doctor, but she is so kind and easy-going that neither mind. In fact, it gives her a chance to make sure Lavi has almost completely recovered before she sends them on their way, and Kanda can’t help but think that was her plan all along.
Silence was companionable when Kanda couldn’t get enough of it, now it is good and pleasant, but he is struck by the feeling of wanting to talk to Lavi. To understand him more than just in the ways he moves and breaths and stares into Kanda’s eyes, focused. It’s enough to puzzle him, but a week of contemplation leads him to the conclusion that he’ll just have to start asking questions.
“Where were did you grow up?”
“Why do you wear an eyepatch?”
“How did you meet Bookman?”
Sometimes Lavi gives a vague answer or a kind of story that skirts around the real issue, yet most of the time he looks at Kanda silently. Lavi knows he can answer now that he’s forfeited the apprenticeship he once held, but he still isn’t sure if he should. If he himself can really handle it even though no rules restrict him anymore. All Kanda sees is something wild, feral in his eyes. And it’s not Lavi, but it is Lavi.
Kanda finds that more often than not, that look is not enough anymore.
“Why me? Why the fuck did you decide to run away with me?” Suddenly, Kanda is desperate. He doesn’t think he can breathe if Lavi dodges one more question, especially this one. His face and tone remain neutral, but Lavi is nothing if not observant. He hears Kanda’s breath accelerate just enough to tell him that this question needs to be taken seriously. Lavi lets silence reign as he gathers his thoughts.
“Some of it’s for you. You never deserved to be there. To have your whole life be at the whim of some people. You should know more than fighting for people that think you deserve to die for their oh-so-holy sakes. You deserve to actually live your own life.”
Rage rises like bile in Kanda’s throat. “So it’s pity?” He spits the word out just barely, but before he can get angrier, Lavi continues.
“Then there’s the selfish stuff,” he says as he turns away. Kanda can still see Lavi’s face redden as he withdraws. It’s a posture of shame; Kanda knows it well. “I feel most like me around you. You’ve never really bought ‘Lavi’ as a real person, so it’s easier to not be him. Because you don’t expect me to be him.” Kanda hears him sigh before Lavi tries to make eye contact. “You know what I mean,” is uttered quietly, and the smile accompanying it is just as quiet. There is nothing ‘Lavi’ in this gesture.
Kanda feels a little shaken. “No, I don’t.”
Answering with a joyless laugh, Lavi elaborates. “You’re the closest I have to feeling like I’m accepted. As me, that is, not as Lavi. And that matters because I’m not Lavi, even though I feel so unstable without, without him.” Lavi’s nervous side glance let’s Kanda know there is more to that stutter. Still, he doesn’t push. “I want to be myself. I just don’t know who that is yet.” Lavi takes a deep breath, trying to stay calm.
“That,” Kanda replies, “is something I do understand.”
It occurs to Kanda that there is a fatal error in how he thinks of this redheaded man he lives with out in the middle of nowhere. They are laying on their backs under the pale dawn, watching stars fade and the sun rise when he voices his concern. “Do you want me to call you something else? Because I know you aren’t really Lavi, but I don’t know what else to call you.”
It’s a long moment of silence between the two of them and noise from the world around them. Leaves rustle in the breeze, birds flutter about, life goes on. There’s something here about hope and new beginnings that linger in Lavi’s mind from months ago, but he puts the thoughts aside for now.
“I don’t know.” Lavi hums, contemplating. “I mean, you’re right, but I don’t have another name that feels more like me. And I’m kind of used to hearing you say it.” He turns to face Kanda. “Did you have an idea?”
“No,” Kanda replies, “I just want you to know that I see you. And that you aren’t just Lavi.”
Lavi grabs Kanda’s hand and holds tight. “Thank you, Yuu.”
Relying on each other is routine because it is necessity. Lavi’s consistent thoughtfulness leaves Kanda unsure of how much is necessity and how much is something like love. It grows on him, and Kanda notices himself doing extra little things for Lavi, too. Things like braiding a flower in his red hair as he sleeps, or wrapping them both in his jacket when frigid winter nights come around. The way Lavi beams at him become routine too, but no less treasured for it.
All this caring and sweetness means that Kanda is less than surprised the day Lavi leans in and kisses him lightly on the tip of his nose. It’s only the first time, yet it already feels like routine, like necessity. Grabbing him by the collar, Kanda pulls Lavi back towards him and kisses him deeply. Lavi cradles Kanda’s face in his hands, pulling them apart gently. Their noses touch while Lavi looks at him intently, unmoving. His hands shake violently when he reaches up and removes his eyepatch. Kanda’s jaw drops not at the sight itself—it’s a pale, icy blue eye with scar tissue right at the top of the eyelid—but at the weight of the gesture.
“I love you. And I mean all of me loves you, not just—”
“Not just Lavi. I know, I see you. All the ‘you’ that isn’t Lavi.” They kiss again, and Kanda holds on so tightly that Lavi coughs. Kanda softens his hold, blushing, and Lavi just laughs, free and true, before Kanda gets the heart to join him.
“Hey. I love you, too,” Kanda adds. “I case it wasn’t clear or something.” He mumbles this part, he is strong in ways that have nothing to do with confessions, but none of that helps him now.
Lavi’s gentle smile transitions to a smirk complete with one raised eyebrow. “It was very clear, Yuu. I don’t think anyone else has ever told me that my smile makes them feel like they can breathe easier, or that I make them think of sunflowers or—”
“Okay,” Kanda grimaces, “I get it.”
“I love it,” Lavi clarifies, kissing Kanda’s cheek and squeezing his hand. “Feel free to keep flattering me.”
Kanda feels his blush deepen, but when he looks up and sees Lavi is red enough to clash with his hair, he feels better. “Okay,” Kanda whispers, nuzzling into Lavi’s neck.
All is good.
They make it running three years which, admittedly, is longer than Lavi expected for this to work. He is grateful for every moment, and to have gotten this many seems like a miracle. It is autumn again, just like when this all began. Hot and red, windy and wild, things have come full circle in every way they never wanted.
The Black Order found them. They attacked. It was nothing new except for the severity; they brought an army of foot soldiers and a cavalry of exorcists. Kanda is concerned, but Lavi knows they are doomed. Quiet dominates the atmosphere, then the onslaught starts, and silence falls again, sudden, when their targets disappear. Kanda can hear shouts ring out ordering a search as he hides behind the walls of an abandoned shack, Lavi bleeding out in his arms.
Desperately applying pressure to the wound, Kanda feels his own wounds sew themselves together and he flinches. It hurts more than it used to, but he still heals. “Yuu, I’ve lost too much blood. I’m done for. Calm down.” He is interrupted by his own gasping, and Kanda is just as heartbroken as he is furious that Lavi is still trying to take care of him as he lays dying. The shouts and footfalls are getting closer.
“No. You can’t just die after all this.”
“You know, I find that’s basically what happens to everyone.” He laughs. Kanda does not. “No one has ever let me just exist like you do,” Lavi continues with a shuddering breath. “No one has ever loved me like you.”
Kanda leans down and kisses him, blood slick between their lips. “I know, I know, just—”
Lavi interrupts, but he’s dying so Kanda doesn’t argue. “Please don’t go after revenge or whatever, just go live. Find that person you were looking for.”
“I don’t want them. I want you.”
Lavi smiles at him, and Kanda feels tears run down his cheeks. “Sorry about that. I gave it my best go.”
Kanda hears voices right outside the door, but he still whispers, “I know.” And it’s over.
So Kanda runs.