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"There is no darkness but ignorance." – William Shakespeare

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It was a dreary day somewhere in England. The Black Order Headquarters was just about to wrap up moving from their previous location to where they were now. Currently, a couple of exorcists were in Chief Komui Lee's office putting the man's possessions into the right place. Of course, the one person who should have been helping was nowhere to be found, though some would bet money that he was doing something mischievous.

The new office itself was still a total wreck. Papers were strewn across the floor along with books and a few other things, not unlike how it previously looked on a daily basis. Frankly, it looked as though a paper tornado blew through the place.

Lavi grunted as he picked up a stack of heavy books before setting them in their rightful places on the shelf. Standing up straight, he popped his back and ran a hand through his fiery red hair with a sigh of exhaustion. He glanced at the clock on the wall and saw it was past lunchtime.

"Hey, you guys wanna take a break? It's about lunch time." he pondered as he stretched his hands above his head. His two companions looked over at him.

"Sure," Lenalee answered as she bent down to set a book in a pile of others, her shoulder length black hair concealing her pretty face for a second before she stood up and smoothed down the back of her short red skirt. "I'm gettin' kinda hungry," she added with a smile before looking to the last member of their trio.

"I think I'll stay a minute," Allen said as he looked to the now small pile of books he'd been organizing for a while. He pushed his abnormally white bangs away from his silver eyes as he surveyed his work, his equally abnormal scar on the left side of his face now completely revealed. "I wanna finish this pile. I'll catch up with you guys in a few minutes."

"Alright," the redhead nodded, "See you then." Lavi and Lenalee exited the room, the latter giving a small wave before passing the door frame.

"Okay," he muttered to himself before lifting the last of his pile all at once and beginning to walk towards where they'd be placed.

Allen was mindful about where he stepped, making sure not to knock over any books, but more importantly, any potions the partially insane Komui may have created and left sitting around. He shuddered, thinking about the Komuvitan-D incident that was only resolved just last week. Poor Bak…

As he got lost in his thoughts, Allen seemed to do the very thing he was trying to avoid as he bumped into a stack of books with an unnamed bottle lying precariously on top. The tower wobbled from side to side for a moment before it came crashing down on the poor boy. By the time Allen noticed, it was already too late to dodge the falling books. He only had time to utter one phrase before it all tumbled down upon him.

"Oh crap…"

CRASH!

POOF!

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Kanda found it hard to enjoy his soba at his previously empty lunch table when a certain redhead decided to come bother him.

"Hey there Yuu!" he exclaimed, skipping over to hug the grumpy samurai. Kanda brought his right leg out from under the table to kick the excited boy away before the glomp was accomplished, not a single long strand hair of coming out of his midnight black ponytail.

"Damn rabbit…Why the hell are you within 20 feet of me?" he growled as he continued eating.

"Aw…come on buddy. Don't be like that. You look like you could really use a hug…" Lavi said, never really answering the question as he crept closer to his angry peer. Kanda grasped the sword at his hip, not yet unsheathing it from its case, and brought it around to hit the silly Jr. Bookman upside the head.

"Idiot…Do you have a death wish or something?"

"Come on guys, break it up…" An annoyed Lenalee walked between the two bickering exorcists and pushed them apart. Kanda grumpily went back to his food as Lavi still bounced back over to him.

"Well, I was wondering…Have you seen Allen? He was supposed to meet us here 20 minutes ago, but he hasn't shown up." he asked.

"Does it look like I keep tabs on where the beansprout is? Now get away from me…"

"C'mon Lavi, leave Kanda alone. Let's go back to Komui's office and see if Allen's still there." Lenalee said, simmering down another building quarrel, and grabbed the eye patch-sporting boy's scarf and pulled him towards their new destination.

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"My achin' head…" a young boy hissed as he rubbed his forehead and crawled out of the pile of whatever he was under, an English tone accenting his childish voice. When he finally wiggled his way out, he saw that it was a large pile of books that had held him captive. Dust lingered in the air and made him sneeze.

Looking around the area, he saw that he was in an office of sorts and a messy one at that. He rubbed the back of his head in confusion where his reddish-brown, dirty hair was pulled up into a wild ponytail.

His clothes seemed rather out of place in the somewhat-of-a-work-environment; He wore an oversized, thin, long-sleeved white shirt with a short unbuttoned, brown vest over it that attached to similar pants. His shoes were plain and white, though scuffed with dirt, and he wore striped socks underneath. There was also a ribbon/scarf tied around his neck in a small effort to keep warm in the cold winter. Bruises littered the little boy's body and it hurt to move sometimes.

"Damn Cosimo…" he hissed as his ribs sent a twinge of pain up his spine. The drunk of a clown had given him a thorough beating the night before after accusing the boy of stealing a watch, and the child was not yet over his new injuries.

There were more important things to focus on though, such as the fact of where the hell he was. This was certainly not the circus grounds he'd fallen asleep at. He'd been sleeping on the dirt ground in the corner of a tent, not under a pile of books. Something in his mind told him to explore, so he stood and walked out of the room, looking outside the doorframe to make sure no one was there before strolling around the massive place.

Where he walked was certainly too big and open to be considered a hallway, right? The "hallway" was similar to a large circular sidewalk, though the center of the circle was empty. He walked over to it and had to stand on his tiptoes to see over the railing. There were about three floors underneath and many more above, all identical to the one he was on, with various people rushing around; the boy shuddered at the thought of falling down there, a tumble that surely meant death. He let go of the railing and continued on before anyone could look up to see him.

The hard, worn heels of his shoes clacked against the marble black and white checkered floors. Where am I even going? He thought as he continued on aimlessly. I gotta find a way out of here before someone sees me…

Arystar Krory III contentedly trekked back to his dorm after a filling lunch, whistling a small tune as the strange platinum streak in his hair bobbed up and down with each step. He looked up from his mundane thoughts and saw an unfamiliar face. It was child, a boy maybe around age 7 or so, looking like he could use a bath. Krory thought it odd that he wasn't wearing a uniform. A new exorcist, maybe? Awfully young though… He looked lost and out of place, as though he was taking it all in. The vampire-like exorcist decided to intervene.

"Um, hello there. Do you need some help? You look lost…" Krory asked him helpfully, giving the child an inviting smile.

Damn…Do I really look that lost…? the child wondered. No matter…I just need to look like I know what I'm doing and get out of here as fast as possible.

"No, I'm not lost!" the child replied a bit harshly, trying to cover up his poor sense of direction and hoping the man would leave him alone.

Krory didn't take the hint.

"Oh okay!" he smiled obliviously, "Where are you headed then?" Now, the kid's short temper had reached its limit.

"None 'a your business, Vampire-guy!" he answered rather lamely and took off running.

"Hey, where are you going?" Krory called out, and he was about to follow the retreating child when Lavi and Lenalee came up behind him.

"Hey Krorykins, who was that?" Lavi, crossing his arms behind his head, asked. Krory turned to them.

"I-I don't know really. I asked him where he was going and he ran off…" He answered, afraid he'd screwed something up. "I thought maybe he was a new exorcist…"

"I doubt it," Lenalee voiced, "Exorcists are always announced after their arrival so that people will recognize them. I don't ever remember him being announced…" she trailed.

"Well, we should find him quick then. What if he's an akuma?"

"Wouldn't Allen be able to detect that, though?" Krory asked.

"We've been looking for him. He didn't show up for lunch and we haven't seen him since. He might've just gotten lost in the new building, but I don't wanna take any chances." The redhead stated. His two friends nodded and they ran in the boy's direction.

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It didn't take long to find him; running in that general direction led them to the cafeteria once again. Outside the cafeteria doors, the hallway was empty; the child stood with his back to them pulling at his hair.

"Bloody hell! Where am I?" he asked no one in particular.

"There you are!" Lavi cheerfully spoke as he half walked, half skipped to the bewildered child.

"'The hell are you?" the boy asked, slowly backing away from the trio.

"I could ask you the same thing." Lavi said, never breaking the cheerful façade; if this really was some lost kid, he didn't want to scare him. The dirty child tch'ed and answered:

"None of your business!"

"I'd say it is since you're on our turf." Instead of answering, the boy attempted to run off again. Lavi stopped him with a hand on his shoulder. "Ah ah ah…You're not going anywhere," Before Lavi knew what hit him, a swift punch was thrown at his face that knocked him back a few feet. Lenalee and Krory gasped in surprise and immediately stood between the boy and his exit. He definitely wasn't leaving now. "Damn…" Lavi cursed, holding his jaw, "'Pretty good shot for a kid," How the hell could he reach that high…?

"Get out of my way!" the boy yelled and got into a bit of a scuffle with Krory. The exorcists didn't know what to do without hurting the kid. A kick to Krory's chest knocked the man back on his bottom. Just as the kid was about to run off again, the hilt of a sheathed sword rammed into his forehead, effectively knocking him out on contact.

"What's with all the damn noise?" Kanda yelled, not helping the noise factor he'd pointed out.

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When the boy awoke, he found himself tied to a chair with an abundance of rope. A bit much, don't'cha think? His head throbbed for reasons unknown to him as he took a glance of the room he was in.

It was the same messy office area he'd woken up in, except this time there was an Asian guy sitting at the desk with a goofy coffee cup in hand. Eye patch, Samurai, Skirt and few others he didn't recognize were also present. The Asian man previously mentioned had a gentle smile on his face and took a sip from his mug before setting it down and standing from his chair and walking over to the boy.

"Hello there! I'm Komui Lee, what's your name?" he greeted cheerfully. Oh God… Are all the guys here eternally happy?

"Hey, kid. Answer him already." Kanda, who was seated on the couch with his arms crossed, ordered grouchily. Never mind…

"Shut up, Ponytail! It's none of your god damn business!" he yelled at the Japanese exorcist. He winced as his ribs protested in pain at the excessive yelling. Komui didn't miss it.

"Are you alright? Are you injured?" he asked before Kanda could yell back.

"No, I'm fine…" he growled out, not yelling to avoid the pain. Komui saw right through his lie. He gave the boy a gentle smile.

"Come on, we both know you're lying. There's no need for you to be in excessive pain. Can't you give us the benefit of the doubt and trust us a little? I can just have the head nurse come up here and check on you." The child scoffed.

"Yeah right…Last time I did that nearly got me killed. Can't trust anyone nowadays…"

"Come on, if we wanted to hurt you we could've easily done so when you were unconscious."

"The fact that you knocked me unconscious doesn't help your case…" Komui sighed.

"He does have a point…Kanda, why must you be so rough?" The teenager merely tch'ed in response. Komui turned back to the boy. "It's just a checkup…" he pleaded with his eyes. The kid looked a bit creeped out but grudgingly agreed. Head Nurse was called and would arrive in minutes. While they waited, Komui once again asked:

"So what's your name? You already know mine…" the kid grumbled in response. "I'm sorry, what was that?"

"I said my name is Red!" he growled and winced.

"Red?" Komui pondered, "Is that a nickname?"

"No, it's my name…or at least the closest thing I've got to one…"

"Hmm…" Komui pondered but moved on, "So, where did you come from?"

"What is this, 20 Questions or something?" Red angrily stated. Komui held his hands up in defense.

"I'm just wondering how you ended up here is all. You're not the only one who's confused." Red huffed but answered.

"Last thing I rememba' was fallin' asleep at the circus grounds; next thing I know, I'm wakin' up here unda' a pile of books."

"A pile of books?"

The Head Nurse entered the room at that moment and the conversation ceased. Komui untied the boy to get his checkup.

"Just take off your shirt, and we can get started." The nurse stated as she started to take out a few medical supplies. The boy visibly paled at the statement.

Shit. I can't believe I forgot. I'm lucky they didn't notice yet. He subconsciously pulled his left arm up further into his sleeve. He needed to do something fast. If they saw his arm, there's no telling what they'd do to him. Yell at him, run in fear, beat him and the like…The place kind of reminded him of a church, so they might try to sacrifice him or something… Well, maybe they'll be shocked and I might have a few seconds to run... Seeing as the situation is unavoidable…

He stood and took off his shirt rather slowly, making sure his left arm was the last to be revealed. Actions such as this were always a bit difficult since his arm was mostly paralyzed.

Just as he predicted, they were shocked. His left arm was an unnatural blood red color with a scaly-like texture. A green cross was embedded into the back of his hand, and even his nails were colored an abnormal black. As their mouths hung open, and their guards were down, he took off towards the door.

He damn near would've made it too, if it weren't for the previously unknown presence in the doorway. Red smacked right into the force and was immediately lifted by his left arm.

"The hell…? Idiot Apprentice…?" An intimidating red haired guy wearing half a mask was holding the boy in midair. He had a gruff, deep voice and a cigarette in his mouth; he also smelled like booze. Like Cosimo, Red inwardly shuddered.

Well, there goes his escape plan. I'm pretty much dead now… Red thought as the other occupants of the room seemed to snap back from their haze.

"Allen…?" Lenalee was the first to speak as she stared at the arm that only one person could possibly have. It didn't make sense though. The two were polar opposites in looks and personality, so why did they share the same crimson appendage?

"Komui," the man holding the child stated, "What did you do?"

"What? General, I didn't do anything!" Komui exclaimed, appalled by the accusation.

"You must have," the man replied, "Nothing weird goes on unless you initiate it."

Red was getting annoyed at hanging from the man's grasp. His arm was starting to ache from the pressure on his shoulder.

"Lemme' go, Old Man!" he barked. That pissed Cross off.

"Oh, I'll let you go alright…" He brought the boy up and slung him across the room. Red's back made harsh contact with the wall on the other side of the room.

"Damn…" he uttered in pain as he slid to the ground.

"General!" the group of people in the room exclaimed simultaneously as Lavi jogged over to help the kid up.

"Cross, please refrain from hurting any more until we get this figured out." Komui pleaded.

"Tch, If the kid keeps bein' disrespectful I'll keep slappin' him around! Only God knows how Mana dealt with that attitude…" he muttered.

"Don't touch me!" Red slapped Lavi's hand away as he got up on his own, wincing. Nothing was making sense right now. They didn't seem to care much about the state of his deformity and kept murmuring things about some 'Allen' guy. He stalked back over to Komui's couched and took a seat resting his chin on his right hand with a bored look on his face as he waited for them to stop bickering.

After another minute or two with them still talking Red got pissed and finally spoke.

"Hey! What the hell are you people going on about?" They all turned to stare at him as though just remembering he was here. The stares were uncomfortable and made Red wish he hadn't spoken up. They stared just like everyone else, like he was a freak… The girl in the skirt took cautious steps toward him.

"Allen?" she asked him, "Don't you remember us…?"

"Who the hell is this Allen fellow you all keep going on about? I'm not him…" Her eyes flickered to him arm and she looked conflicted.

"It's him." Cross reassured as he walked over to the boy. His sickly aroma made Red wrinkle his nose. "Hey, kid. How'd you get here?"

"That's what I'd like to know. All I remember is wakin' up under a pile 'a books…" Cross looked to the books piled sky high to his right. He stalked over there.

"Komui! Eye patch! Dig through these!" Of course no one should ever expect Cross to do anything himself. The two guys sighed but went to work. After a minute, Lavi pulled out an empty bottle labeled with an A.

"Oh!" Komui grabbed the bottle from the redhead's hand. "This is my De-aging serum!" Allen must have knocked over the books and come in contact with the potion.

"Dammit Komui! Why do you have to create all of these stupid potions?" Kanda exclaimed. Everyone else thought the same.

"Well, at least we know what happened now…" Lavi muttered looking over at Red. It was hard to believe that was Allen as a kid.

"I can't believe you idiots didn't figure it out sooner." Cross growled, "You all claim to be his friends, yet you can't even recognize him. He didn't always have the white hair and the freaky eye, y'know…"

Allen's "friends" looked down in shame. They really didn't know anything about him, did they? Yet they'd claimed to be the best of friends to him.

Lenalee remembered often spilling her worries and problems to the boy though he never told him anything about himself. Maybe he'd rather not talk about it, or she just never asked. She had never once given a thought to learning more about her friend.

Though Kanda couldn't care less about the kid, he had respected him to a point, not that he'd ever admit it. Now that he knew kid's identity, he began to see all the similarities between Allen and his younger self. There was also a plethora of differences. This kid seemed to have a perpetually bad attitude with his older self never stopped smiling. It made Kanda wonder whether those smiles were fake or not.

Lavi thought about how he'd always talk to Allen as well as tease him, how he could easily identify the boy by his stark white hair or peculiar scar. Take those away and Lavi couldn't even recognize him. If he paid attention he would've noticed the same stormy gray eyes as well as the familiar way he argued with Kanda.

He lifted his head to look at Red. By looking at his appearance and attitude, Lavi perceived that he probably didn't come from a good home. Didn't he mention living at a circus? Though the Jr. Bookman had never had the privilege of visiting a circus he'd always heard wonderful things about the place. There was supposed to be a ringmaster, clowns, acrobats, animals and the like, and they were all so cheerful that the sweetness would give a person diabetes. Was the circus not as happy a place as most thought?

The Bookman inside the boy wanted to observe this kid, figure out his past, so he couldn't help but ask:

"Where did those bruises come from?" he questioned as he took a gander at the Red's shirtless, marred skin. The child in question looked surprised at the question and tense up for a second. All was silent for a moment before the boy seemed to lose his mental battle and relaxed his shoulders as a bitter chuckle escaped his lips.

"I didn't behave…" was all he said but Lavi understood.

"Who did it?" Mana? But that didn't make sense. Why would Allen love a man who beat him senseless.

"Cosimo was his name, right?" Cross cut in, now sitting on the other side of Red's couch.

"How do you know?" Red asked, strangely calm.

"You could say I was…observing you…I don't suppose you've met Mana yet?" Red scoffed and replied.

"Well that's vague, not to mention creepy. And no I don't know who Mana is. Are you some psychic or something and know who I'm gonna meet?" he caustically sent back.

They talked for a while longer, eerily calm the entire time. For some reason, Red knew how to act with this guy, as though he were falling back into some pattern. The other occupants of the room relaxed with the mood and took a seat, listening to the two's conversation, or left the room. Only Lenalee, Lavi, and Komui remained to listen.

It was very soothing, oddly enough, even though they'd had so many questions before and still did. Something just told them not to worry and that everything would work out. Komui actually fell asleep; he knew the De-Aging serum would ware off within a day. Lenalee and Lavi merely listened and learned more about their friend.

It was discovered that he was sold in human trafficking with about 10 other children at the orphanage he'd lived at once upon a time. Luckily, he'd been sold to the ringmaster of a circus and not some pedophile like a few of the poor girls had.

He was practically a slave to the circus though he claimed it was better than being thrown in a cage be ridiculed because of his arm, like the ringmaster had first suggested. He was worked to the bone every day, and the work was made ten times harder by the fact that his left arm was paralyzed. Cosimo often blamed the boy for his misfortune and beat him for fun. It was later realized that Cosimo's latest beating had resulted in giving the boy two fractured ribs and a multitude of bruises that would take weeks to heal.

Lenalee couldn't help but tear up at hearing some of the things her friend had gone through at such a young age, but she was glad that she got to learn about him. She found it funny that his older, polite self was so closed off while his younger, belligerent self seemed to be an open book. He appeared to have relaxed from earlier and didn't mind being questioned as much.

The five of them had stayed there for hours before realizing the time leaving to go to bed. Cross had told Red the incident that had brought them to this point and the boy was surprisingly okay with it, probably because he now knew that he eventually would grow up and leave the wretched circus he took up residence in. Lavi had taken him to the room he'd usually slept in then went off to his own chamber.

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The next morning, Lavi and Lenalee came to wake up Red for breakfast and were met with a surprise when the door to Allen's room opened.

Allen was no longer a child.

He stood in the doorway in only a pair of gray pajama pants that he'd probably just pulled on since he'd slept in different clothes last night; he remained shirtless and many of the scars and bruises he'd received as an exorcist were unveiled. His white hair was disheveled and his black, no longer paralyzed, arm was brought up to rub the sleep from his eyes.

"Sorry guys. I must've slept in," he smiled, "I'll be ready in a minute. He closed his door and prepared for the day.

As Lenalee and Lavi walked to the cafeteria with Allen he didn't seem to recall the events of the previous day and they didn't mention it. The pair figured he might not have liked for them to know so much about him now.

Ever since that night Lenalee had begun to pay more attention to the boy. She realized that not all of his smiles were as genuine as she thought and tried to get him to talk to her. To her delight, he did talk, and they became much closer because of it.

Lavi spent more time with Allen and tried to be a better friend, though he prided himself in being an observant Bookman and noticed much more about him.

They both wanted to be there for their friend and serve as a shoulder to cry on or someone to listen to his problems just as he had done for them.

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"What is important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity. In the end there are no certain answers."- Martina Horner

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