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By the time we learn to love

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The library was empty as always, its ceilings stretching high to accommodate the towering shelves stuffed with books gathering dust. The science division was always so busy that coming to the library and finding it empty was startling, but Timothy had quickly understood that there just weren't that many people to fill headquarters up.

Sitting snug against Allen's side, Timothy pretended to focus on his math as Allen filled out all the menial paperwork Link kept dropping on the table in front of them. Timothy couldn't read it, seeing as how he'd learned French before English and everything Link gave Allen was solely in the latter, but some words were easier to remember.

Mère and père and mother and father. The boxes next to those words were empty. 

Dropping the pretense entirely — Timothy was pretty sure Allen knew he was only procrastinating on it, since Nyne tended to leave Timothy to his own devices around Allen — he reached out and tugged minutely on the corner of the stack Allen was working on. With a wry twist of his lips, Allen lifted his arm so Timothy could pull the paper entirely free towards him, all the while still working on what looked to Timothy like a game of coloring every circle he could find.

Timothy snapped the paper loudly straight, an act that broadened Allen's pursed lips into a grin. He tilted his nose up like he'd seen old men do and scanned the paper.

It was all fairly illegible to him. A mash of familiar letters in unfamiliar patterns. Nyne was being fairly strict on him learning English, and Timothy figured it was as good a time as any to practice. Pointing at a word at random, Timothy poked Allen in his side and demanded, "What does this say?"

Allen side-eyed the paper, staring for a moment before saying, "Initial activation rate."

Timothy stared.

Allen set aside his pen and leaned back, nearly squashing Timothy in the process he was so close. Scowling and grumbling, Timothy picked Allen's sudden deadweight left arm and threw it above him. Allen laughed and let his arm fall around Timothy, granting cuddle access to his side. Drawing his feet up to rest flat on the seat like he'd seen Allen do, Timothy cocked a brow.

"It means how well I synchronized with my Innocence when I first joined the Order," Allen explained patiently, left hand idly messing with the edge of Timothy's coat.

Satisfied, Timothy pointed at another word.

"...D-O-B.... date of birth," Allen clarified, brows screwed together before smoothing out. 

"It's blank," Timothy noted. 

"I don't know the actual date of when I was born," Allen amended, and with a slender finger he gestured towards the blocky and crooked N/A beside it. "That's non-applicable, or no answer. It's what you write when you don't have a response."

"And here?" Timothy's finger hovered over a word with tall stretching letters in the shape of a train.

"Cidade natal," the words fell off Allen's tongue as round and full as what the imagined plumes of smoke would be like. "My birthplace, or hometown."

"What language was that?" Timothy demanded, slapping Allen's hand. "I don't know it!"

"Portuguese," Allen replied, laughing as he grabbed Timothy's hand by the wrist and then toyed with it, forcing Timothy's hand to flop around. Link had once remarked that he'd never seen Allen act so familiarly, not that Timothy was particularly sure of what that meant, but he thought he could understand. "Master and I traveled there for a while, and it's where I first met him."

"Do you know French?" Timothy asked, scratching his nails along Allen's finger in a bratty attempt to get free. "Do you know what—"

"Sure I do," Allen said, letting Timothy's hand go only to grab Timothy's index finger between two of his, holding tight no matter how hard Timothy pulled. "When the Finders all got captured in Paris, I was the one who talked to most of the officials. My Portuguese is better than my French, but both of them can't compare to my English." 

Reminded of his original mission, Timothy used the hand taken captive to drag Allen's finger towards the blank boxes he'd noticed before. "Où est ta mère?" Timothy asked.

"Ma mère?" Allen repeated, blinking. "I don't have one."

"I didn't either," Timothy said, obtuse. "But I do now. You don't?"

"No," Allen said, voice level. Then, after a glance at the still empty room, Allen slid down the seat until his head was level with Timothy's, legs stretching under the table. With a secretive smile and hushed voice, Allen asked, "Timothy, peux-tu garder un secret?"

Scandalized, Timothy nodded, "Bien sûr!" Of course he could keep a secret. He'd been Phantom Thief G for ages and no one had known.

Allen barked a laugh that was decidedly loud for the empty library before tweaking Timothy's fingers and letting go, a gesture that painfully reminded him of Mother Superior. "I do actually have a father," Allen admitted in a whisper. "No one knows about him, really, so he's a secret."

"Why?" Timothy huddled close, voice equally hushed.

"He was a clown," Allen said, eyes going distant, "with bad tricks and worse jokes. He used to make the most awful puns," Allen faintly rolled his eyes, cheeks going pink. "But I was an orphan and he took me as his son... like your mother did for you."

Timothy whimpered before he noticed the choked feeling in his throat, and Allen's gaze grew soft. He pulled the arm around Timothy tight, hugging him as his other arm came loosely around, hands grasping each other lightly. It was almost like being cradled. "I thought you should know. We were separated, but Mana will always be important to me, just like your mother will be to you."

"W-was that hi-his name?" Timothy asked, not quite crying but voice tight nonetheless. "You don't call him papa?"

"Do you call her mama?" Allen asked back.

Timothy could see his point. It wasn't that he loved her any less, but when they first met he didn't trust her, or anyone. Had Allen been the same?

Timothy grew quiet, thinking this over. 

"Why do you not write it?" He ventured at last, eyes drifting back to the mostly empty sheet. 

"Because Mana passed away," Allen said, voice deceptively calm if Timothy hadn't been close enough to feel the way his shoulders trembled, just a bit. "The Earl came for him, and the Order doesn't need to know that."

Timothy looked down at the hands clasped gently beside him, one blood red and the other lightly tanned. Yes, Timothy could understand hiding the things too much to bear. Allen didn't always wear his gloves around Timothy, but he still did when they went to the dining hall, just like Timothy still wore a bandanna when he went on missions. 

"Can you keep this a secret?"

"Of course," Timothy said again, this time less headstrong. It'd be like keeping his own.

When Allen smiled, it felt as if Timothy was glancing at what he might be like, and he wondered if this is what having a brother was like.