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The Chosen Path

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Lavi awoke to the warming light of a late afternoon sun.

Eyelids opened then immediately closed. He felt tired, bone-deep exhaustion permeating though his entire being. For a moment, all he did was breathe, sunlight warming his skin, chest rising and falling slowly.

His body hurt, injuries burning like fire. Confusion rose up within him. How did he get hurt? He couldn’t remember. It felt like someone had replaced his brain with cotton wool. Lavi opened his eyes again and then realised, with a sickening jolt, that his right eye was gone.

Lavi pushed himself up, wide-eyed. He searched within himself. There was no emerald garden, no horrifying creature waiting for him in the darkness. He could sense Junior close-by, watching over him carefully, could sense Milo further away. He sighed, relief flooding through him.

Realisation replaced relief and left his heart twisting in his chest. Lavi looked around, filled with desperation.

Allen and Neah were gone.

Lavi tried to stand and immediately fell over. With a curse, he tried again and failed. Face pressed into dusty stone, Lavi groaned, body refusing to move. He felt Junior’s presence beside his own, growing stronger and stronger until it overcame him completely.

Lavi watched as Junior took a moment to breathe before pushing their body up, back resting against the wall behind. Junior looked out at the room, looked up at the afternoon sky. Clouds drifted without purpose, sky tinted pink and orange by the coming sunset.

Not having to focus on their battered body gave Lavi some space to rest. Time lost all meaning for a moment, the sky darkening slowly but surely as dusk claimed the world. Slowly, the memories came back; the fighting, the fear, the uncertainty, Allen and Neah smiling through their tears.

Lavi regained control in a horrifying lurch of realisation. He remembered it so vividly, his hand against their chest, their lips against his own, the immense power within his heart slowly fading away into nothing.

Lavi looked around him, desperate and afraid. He tried to get up, failed, and clenched his hands into fists. His scars still hurt, but what they were bound to was gone. Lavi curled up into himself, vision blurred by tears, chest heaving.

Junior placed a hand on Lavi’s shoulder internally, trying to comfort him. Lavi thought of loss, of grief. He remembered the night when he and those he shared his body with picked themselves up after Bookman’s death. He wondered, face tear-stained, how they would manage if they had to do it again.

Junior bid Lavi to push himself up, gently, voice so full of compassion that it reduced Lavi to tears all over again. Lavi wiped his face with shaking hands and made his way out of the room at a slow, painful crawl. He was too injured to do much of anything, but he couldn’t rest, not until he knew.

Vision blurred, limbs heavy, Lavi crawled through empty hallway after empty hallway, finding no-one. Exhaustion overcame him, and despite his best efforts he passed out, vision fading to black.

He awoke to a different room, ceiling intact, surroundings dimly lit by wavering candles. He could hear people speaking in soft murmurs. He turned his head, vision blurred, to see Komui sat close by and talking to Johnny. His arm was in a sling and Lenalee was asleep before the both of them.

Lavi pushed himself up. Junior was still by his side within their mind, and he gave Lavi a warning to not do too much. Lavi sighed, waved a placating internal hand, and looked around, vision clearing.

Krory was lying on a nearby bed, seemingly asleep. Miranda was propped against the side of the bed, hand entwined with Krory’s own. Lavi couldn’t help but smile at that. Marie was asleep in a bed beside Krory.

Allen and Neah weren’t there. Dread sat in the pit of Lavi’s stomach, rising like nausea. Lavi looked back at Komui and their eyes met. Komui and Johnny both gave Lavi a weary smile, but he couldn’t return it, consumed by fear, body trembling.

Lavi opened his mouth to speak, but Komui cut him off. “I know what you’re going to ask. They’re not here.”

Lavi swallowed hard. He blinked back tears and managed to speak, voice thick with emotion. “Where…?”

Komui closed his eyes, weariness and grief etched into every line of his face. Johnny placed a hand on Komui’s shoulder and then extended his other hand out to Lavi.

“I’ll… I’ll take you to them.”

Lavi nodded, fighting back his tears. With Johnny’s help, he managed to stand. Komui offered him crutches, which he gladly took.

It was slow going. Lavi had to stop frequently, body barely able to move. Johnny was patient. He knew that this was something Lavi had to do.

Eventually, they came to a closed door. Johnny looked over at Lavi and could see the fear in his eye, the pain and dread and all-consuming grief. He placed a shaking hand on Lavi’s shoulder and walked away, leaving Lavi to stare down the door before him, heart thudding in his chest.

Lavi raised a hand and placed it on the door handle, but he couldn’t push it down, couldn’t move, couldn’t think. Junior didn’t say a word, but his presence was comforting in itself. Lavi closed his eye and tried to focus on Junior’s presence, reassuring himself that he wasn’t alone, had never been alone.

With a shaky breath, Lavi opened the door.

The room was lit by candles, flickering shadows cast upon the walls. Someone lay on a bed, fully obscured by a blanket. The blanket didn’t move, didn’t rise and fall with any breaths. Whoever was under that blanket was dead.

Lavi couldn’t tear his gaze away, not for a long moment. He was shaking so badly he could barely stand, wanting to look away at anything but that horribly still bed. Images of Bookman’s corpse flashed before Lavi’s eye, making him flinch. He fell to his knees, clutches clattering to the ground.

For a moment there was silence, but then something moved on the other side of the room. Eye wide, heart jack-hammering against his rib-cage, Lavi looked up and stopped dead.

Someone was sat on the floor, hidden by the bed frame. The figure pushed themself up. Lavi felt his heart stop completely. Candlelight tinted white hair orange, flickering in red-rimmed golden eyes. Time came to a slow, shuddering halt.

Lavi could do nothing, say nothing. He took in a deep, heaving breath - please don’t be a dream - hope building within him - please don’t be a dream, please don’t - looking over at Allen’s tired, grief-lined face with tears blurring his vision.

Allen managed a shaky smile. “Hey.”

Lavi pushed himself forward with a pained cry and pulled Allen into his arms so tightly it hurt. All the grief that had entered his heart melted away as if it had never existed to begin with. Relief took grief’s place, leaving Lavi sobbing into Allen’s shoulder, clutching at him tightly, ever so tightly, relieved beyond all recognition that somehow Allen was alive, he was okay.

Lavi pulled away, face stained by tears, and smiled. Allen wiped away his tears with a gentle expression.

“It’s okay, Lavi.”

Lavi rested his forehead against Allen’s own before leaning down to kiss him. He pulled away, shock and relief and everything that lay within his heart clear as day upon his face.

“I don’t… I don’t understand.” Lavi’s expression became pained, voice thick with emotion. “I thought you… How did…? Wait, what about Neah?” Panic entered Lavi’s voice, eye wide. “Is Neah okay? Please, tell me he’s -”

“He’s… he’s okay. As for how we survived, I…”

Allen faltered then turned away, face contorted by grief. Lavi frowned, concern flaring up within his heart. Allen turned back to look at the bed. Lavi followed his gaze and saw a hand hanging against the side of the bed. The hand was ancient, lined with age. Lavi didn’t know who it was until he saw the black tattoo etched upon it.

Realisation hit Lavi hard. He turned to Allen, eye wide and brimming with tears.

“I… I thought we…” Allen raised a hand, clutching at the side of his head. “We were… we were supposed to be dead, but we woke up and I… we found out that…” Allen laughed, tears falling down his cheeks. He raised his head, grief showing so strongly in his eyes that it made Lavi’s heart hurt. “Link, he…”

Allen shook his head, unable to continue. Lavi wrapped an arm around Allen’s middle, let Allen bury himself in his shoulder, and felt more than heard him weep.

Lavi remained by Allen’s side for a long time. When Allen finally stopped crying, voice hoarse, face lined with exhaustion, Lavi did nothing more than hold Allen in his arms, hoping it was some small comfort.

The candles flickered, close to dying out. The room darkened. A flash of gold by Allen’s side drew Lavi’s attention. Timcanpy was sat, buried in Allen’s side, as if to comfort him. Lavi bid Allen to stand, Timcanpy rising with a flutter of wings.

Lavi hesitated before reaching for Link’s hand, cold against the warmth of his own.

“Thank you.”

The sheer gratitude in Lavi’s voice moved Allen to tears. Lavi let go of Link’s hand and stepped towards the door. Allen hesitated, looking down at the bed, shaking and crying, consumed by grief. Lavi gently took Allen’s hand in his and drew him away from grief, just enough to get him to leave the room and close the door behind him.

Too tired to walk far, the both of them sat down in the hallway. Allen placed his head against Lavi’s shoulder, hand entwined with Lavi’s own, Timcanpy settling upon Allen’s head. They slept side-by-side, exhausted beyond measure, hearts consumed by grief.

It was bittersweet, to survive while having lost so much. When Lavi awoke to the tentative dawn many hours later, he knew it would take months, if not years, to pick himself back up from everything he had lost. He looked down at the sleeping boy beside him, tucked a loose strand of hair behind Allen’s ear, and sighed.

When Allen awoke soon after, it was not Allen who stared up at Lavi, wide-eyed, before pulling him into a tight embrace.

Lavi held Neah tightly in his arms, relief flooding through him, easing the pain in his heart. He saw the grief in Neah’s eyes, the tiredness behind it, and knew without even having to ask that Neah had not intended to survive. He had prepared himself for death, and instead he was granted life at the cost of someone else’s.

Lavi cradled Neah’s face in his hands and pressed his forehead against Neah’s own. Neither said a word, treasuring each other’s presence more than words could ever express. Eventually, Neah pressed a kiss against Lavi’s lips and pulled away, gaze downcast.

There was relief in Neah’s eyes, sat alongside the bitterness and grief. It made Lavi’s heart hurt. He knew it was going to be hard for Neah and Allen to accept the hand they had been dealt, but he was relieved, beyond all comprehension of the word, that they were there by his side.

Silence, tentative and fragile, descended upon them. Lavi took a moment to look at Neah, noting the lack of stigmata on his forehead, the golden glimmer of his eyes. Lavi realised, with a jolt, that the scar he had always seen Allen and Neah bear was gone. Their skin was also darker than it had been before.

That made Lavi realise something, and he took a moment to find the right words before speaking.

“What happened to…?”

Lavi didn’t need to finish his question; Neah knew who he meant. Neah turned away and raised his head so he could look at the ceiling. When he spoke, his voice was quiet, sombre in tone.

“They’re… fine, mostly. Lulubell already left.”

Lavi nodded, before asking, “What about Road? Tyki? The twins?”

Neah winced a little, expression pained. “Tyki is… still here, Jasdevi too. They got to stay fused together, so they’re happy enough. And Road…” Neah bowed his head, hand clenched into a fist, voice hoarse. “They can’t find her.”

Lavi looked away with a sigh. Somehow it didn’t surprise him. He remembered his fight with her on the Ark, what she had said about her real body. He placed a hand on Neah’s own and gave it a reassuring squeeze.

“Maybe her real body’s out there somewhere. She might be okay.”

Neah sighed and shook his head. “Yeah, maybe…”

They fell silent. Neah intertwined his fingers with Lavi’s and placed his head against Lavi’s shoulder. Lavi rested his head against Neah’s own, closed his eye, and sighed. He could feel Neah shaking against him, felt the tears fall upon their entwined hands, but he didn’t speak of it. He did nothing more than offer comfort, which Neah needed more than he could ever say.

Eventually, with a sniff, Neah pulled away. He pushed himself up, off-balance, hand clutching at his chest. Timcanpy flew up, hovering over Neah’s shoulder, looking frantic.

Lavi looked at the stump where Neah’s left arm should have been, at the way Neah was clutching at his chest, expression pained, and wondered just how much Link had been able to heal them. What effect would a damaged heart would have on their body?

It wouldn’t help to think that far ahead, not with so much uncertainty to deal with first. Lavi couldn’t help but raise a hand to his missing right eye, fingers gingerly pressed against his closed eyelid. Lavi shook his head and pushed himself up with a wince.

Injuries made themselves known with a vengeance. He was in poor shape, and Neah wasn’t doing much better. They needed to rest, that they both knew, but a deep, prevailing restlessness bid them to stand, to walk hand-in-hand through the ruins of the Black Order, wondering what came next.

They made their way back to where Lavi had awoken. Johnny was gone but Komui was still there, head resting against the side of Lenalee’s arm, snoring quietly. Lavi couldn’t help but smile. He looked over and saw that Miranda and Marie were both awake, talking to each other in quiet tones.

They looked up and offered tentative, weary smiles. Lavi returned the gesture, but Neah did not, too consumed by weariness to do much else but stand and listen.

Marie raised his voice to speak, tentative, unsure. “How… are you feeling?”

Lavi looked over at Neah, then back at Marie, and sighed. “Exhausted.”

Marie laughed. “You and me both.” He hesitated before continuing, voice becoming quiet. “Komui said that they’re… going to bury everyone tomorrow.”

Lavi couldn’t respond. He hadn’t forgotten, could never forget, but a sudden sense of grief welled up within him all the same. He tried to ignore it, swallowing thickly, trying to focus on anything else. Something occurred to him, making him speak up, voice wavering a little.

“Wait, did you… say ‘bury’? What about - ?”

“There won’t be another Akuma, not anymore.” Neah’s voice was quiet, solemn. Lavi turned to him, saw the emptiness in his eyes, and felt his heart twist in his chest. “None of them are coming back.”

Silence; abrupt, almost suffocating. Knowing that no Akuma would ever walk the Earth again made Lavi feel relieved, right to the very core of his being, but it made his feelings of grief all the more painful. He considered for a moment, with a sickening feeling of unease, whether he’d have been able to resist if the Earl had asked him to bring back Bookman, if he’d have tried to bring Allen and Neah back if they hadn’t survived, cursing a non-existent God for taking them from him.

A hand entwined with his own drew his mind away from dark thoughts and back to the present, to Neah’s exhausted expression, to the bitter reality of surviving. Lavi blinked back tears, wiping at his eye with a sniff.

Miranda placed a gentle hand on Lavi’s arm, a shaky smile on her face, voice hoarse. “You… you should rest.”

Lavi nodded, feeling numb, mind crawling at a snail’s pace. Neah pulled on Lavi’s hand, encouraged him to sit down by his side. Lavi sat down and rested his head in Neah’s lap, felt fingers run through his hair, and felt exhaustion consume him.

Lavi woke up to darkness.

He could hear the quiet sounds of people’s breathing, but nothing else. There was a hand resting on the top of his head, fingers nestled between locks of his hair.

Lavi didn’t move at first, body aching from injuries that would take weeks, if not months, to fully heal. He could feel Junior somewhere nearby within his mind, which comforted him. Eventually, he turned his head, just enough to look up at silver hair, at golden eyes meeting his own. He realised soon enough that it was Allen looking down at him, and managed to give Allen a weary smile.


“… Hey.”

Allen sounded exhausted. Lavi raised a hand to cradle Allen’s face, concern flaring up within him. “Did you get any sleep?”

Allen sighed. “Not sure. It’s been… hard to keep track of… of everything.”

Lavi didn’t pry, did nothing more than stroke Allen’s cheek with his thumb, expression softened by care. Allen closed his eyes and leant into the gesture with a sigh. They both fell silent, taking comfort in each other’s presence.

The sound of the door opening made Lavi’s hand fall. He and Allen looked up to see Reever stood, nursing a broken arm in a sling, looking more tired than they’d ever seen him look before. His eyes were red-rimmed, revealing the grief he carried within his heart more than words ever could.

Reever looked down at Lavi and Allen, managed a weak smile, and then spoke. “We’re…” he swallowed hard, voice thick with emotion he was trying his best to hide “… the funeral is outside.”

That was all he could manage. He turned and left, shoulders hunched, hand clenched into a fist. Lavi felt a heaviness within his heart, a sinking weight deep within his soul. He sat up, looked over at Allen, and tried to ignore the emptiness in Allen’s eyes.

Lavi took in a shaky breath, held it, and then let it out. He pushed himself up with a wince. He looked around the room and saw that Komui had woken up Lenalee, helping her to stand. She looked unbearably tired, making Lavi’s heart twist in his chest. When Lenalee stumbled, both Lavi and Allen instantly moved to grab her, holding her up as gently as they could.

She looked at the both of them, a weak smile on her face. She leant into Allen’s shoulder with a sigh, taking a moment to ready herself, before standing properly. She winced, pain showing in her face, but she did her best to hide it, to take a step forward.

Lavi rubbed Lenalee’s lower back, trying his best to be comforting, before looking up. The others were also awake - Miranda and Marie, helping Krory to stand. Lavi opened his mouth to speak, thought better of it, and then sighed.

None of them wanted to move. None of them wanted to take that first step towards acceptance. Lenalee was the first to move, bidding Allen and Lavi to move with her, Komui not far behind, ready to pick Lenalee up if she fell. The others followed behind.

They made their slow, painful way through the ruins of the Black Order. The halls were quiet, empty, devoid of life. Candles flickered here and there, casting ever-changing shadows upon the walls. They encountered people here and there, all nursing injuries, all carrying the same grief-stricken expressions as their own.

They reached what had once been the front doors of the Black Order. They lay splintered, shattered, wood scorched. Sat nearby was Tyki, gaze fixed on the world outside, lit cigarette between his fingertips. He raised a hand, embers glowing in the darkness before fading away, lighting up his face. His eyes were gold, skin dark, but no stigmata marred his forehead. He looked tired, uncertain.

He looked human.

Tyki turned to look at Lavi and the others. He said nothing, did nothing more than turn away, smoke drifting to the ceiling in silence. Lavi and Allen both looked over at him as they walked past, not knowing what to say, too busy trying to deal with grief to do much else.

It was raining outside. It dulled the sound of shovels, of people talking. They all stopped dead when they saw the bodies, hidden by sheets, blankets, jackets - anything those left alive could find.

“So… many…”

Lenalee’s voice was quiet, filled with horror. Lavi couldn’t speak, flashes of memory passing before his vision; corpses, so many corpses, numbers and statistics and tears smudging the ink on the parchment before him. His memories of being a Bookman were hazy at best, but Lavi could remember with picture-perfect clarity his first day at the Order, the endless lines of coffins, Lenalee’s injured, tear-stained face.

Lavi felt Junior’s presence build beside his own and he knew that off all people, Junior understood. He tried to take solace in that fact.

Timcanpy rose up from the top of Allen’s head, a flash of gold amongst the sombre grey of the rainy courtyard. It flew over the bodies before settling on top of one in particular, head bowed. Allen didn’t even need to look to know who was under the sheet. He winced, heart throbbing in his chest - always aching, a constant reminder of what had nearly cost him his life - and tried to ignore the burning feeling of tears in his eyes. Neah was beside him within their mind, just as stricken by grief.

They all moved forward. Lavi noticed Chaoji stood, shovel in hand, looking as if he hadn’t slept a single moment since everything ended. Johnny was close by, looking equally as exhausted. Tiedoll and Klaud were further ahead, helping with the digging.

It would have been silent, if not for the rain, but it felt like a silence all the same; no sound but the drum of raindrops on wet earth, on damp sheets, on bodies that lay cold.

No-one wanted to be there, but they knew it had to be done; not just to put the bodies to rest, but to have a sense of closure, to say goodbye. It was the most painful thing any of them would ever go through. It would be imprinted on their memories forever more, a scar that would never quite heal, but they had to do it.

Unable to stand and do nothing, Lavi and Allen both picked up nearby shovels, before Komui pulled them back with a sigh. They both raised their voice to speak, but Komui shook his head and spoke over them.

“They’re already done.”

Lavi and Allen stopped, looked over their shoulder, and saw no movement among the graves, no sound of digging to be heard.

Lavi started counting, almost out of habit, before Junior quietly pointed it out, which made Lavi stop short with a wince. He didn’t want to know, and it was okay not to know. Someone else, undoubtedly, would count, would write of the fall of the Black Order in a history book no-one would ever read.

It wasn’t a book Lavi was going to write; not in that moment, at least.

Komui stepped forward, leaving Lenalee to Allen and Lavi for a moment. He exchanged words with Reever before turning. A small crowd had formed, all looking over at Komui with the same grief-stricken expressions.

Komui lowered his head, looked down at the muddy ground beneath his feet, and closed his eyes. There was nothing he could say, no words that could express the loss they all faced, all that had been taken from them. He turned, bowed low, and spoke, voice cutting above the rain.

“Thank you.”

It was all he could say. He stepped back, trying to be strong, to be the leader they all needed, but he couldn’t hide his tears all the same. He came to a halt beside Bak, who gave his hand a squeeze. It settled him enough for him to face what came next.

One by one, they lowered the bodies into the ground. Later the graves would be packed with dirt, would be marked by a stone, or wooden cross, taken from the ruins of the home they had all fought to defend.

When they reached Cross, Allen found his control diminishing. In his stead, Neah took a step forward. He lowered himself down and placed a hand on top of the sheet obscuring Cross’s body. Timcanpy crept forward, head pressed against Neah’s fingertips.

Neah bit back a sob, tears mingling with the rain. Allen grieved with him, and in that moment they felt painfully close to one another, feelings shared so strongly it was overwhelming. Cross had guided them throughout their lives, and now they would have to keep walking without him.

Neah realised, heart twisting in his chest, that there was no body to bury of his brother. He didn’t know if it was better than this, knowing Cross was beneath the sheet before him, cold and unfeeling. It didn’t matter either way - he’d lost them both, and the grief he felt was agonising.

Neah knew he wasn’t alone, but in that moment he felt alone, all remnants of his past lost, only to live on in his memories. He couldn’t hold back his tears, head bowed, sobbing until it hurt. Within their mind, Allen reached out and held Neah tightly, both of them mourning the guardian, the friend, they had lost.

Minutes passed. When it became clear they had to move on, Lavi stepped forward and gently took Allen and Neah’s hand in his and drew them back. They complied, though the sight of Timcanpy refusing to leave Cross’s body almost broke them. When it became clear it would have to leave its master behind, Timcanpy flew to settle on top of Allen and Neah’s head, head bowed, rain trickling down its face, the sky crying in its stead.

Time slowed to an agonising, painfully slow lurch. Graves were filled. The sound of crying mingled with the falling rain. Friends, acquaintances, people they had never known the names of, were laid to rest.

They reached Kanda and it was unbearable. Allen and Lavi tried to hold Lenalee up, but they couldn’t do it, not then, not with their bodies shaking, chests heaving. The three of them fell to their knees, clinging to each other, clinging for dear life. Marie wasn’t doing much better. Chaoji couldn’t comfort Tiedoll, unable to speak through his tears. Miranda buried herself in Krory’s shoulder, crying so hard it hurt.

Allen watched Kanda be lowered into the ground and thought of Mater, the endless sand, the quiet arches and columns, all that he had seen of Kanda’s past. He thought of Alma, and managed a shaky smile, knowing how agonising it must have been for the two of them to be apart from one another.

Kanda had kept himself going for Alma, for Allen, for his own sake. He had fought for two entire lifetimes, bound to the Black Order, to Innocence, to God. Now he was free. Now he could rest. Finally, he could rest.

Knowing that didn’t make it any easier to grieve his parting, however. Allen thought he could grieve no more until it became Link’s turn to be put to rest. The Third Exorcists had left no bodies to be buried, consumed by dark matter, but Allen knew they were there in spirit, waiting for Link to re-join them.

Allen stepped forward, Neah by his side. Throat hoarse, eyes sore and red-rimmed, they placed a hand on top of the sheet that hid Link from view, swallowed thickly, and spoke.

“Thank you.”

It almost rang hollow, their words. No, they weren’t truly thankful, not yet. Living simply hurt too much for them to be grateful for it, but when they turned back to Lavi, felt his hand entwined with their own, they knew they would be thankful in time, more than they could ever express with words.

Howard Link was put to rest. Allen and Neah placed a hand over their heart, clenched the fabric of their damp shirt between their fingertips, and tried to ignore the throbbing ache deep within their chest.

When all the graves were filled, the crowd slowly interspersed, those grieving seeking the solace of the only home they could go back to, left in ruins.

Some remained, unable to leave the dead behind, not just yet. Lenalee remained by Kanda’s grave, Komui and Bak by her side. Allen and Neah sat by Cross’s grave, Lavi close by, rain falling in a quiet patter as those able to do so got to work, shovels buried in wet earth, falling in heavy thuds on those that no longer remained on this Earth.

Eventually, when the rain seeped itself too deeply into their bones, Lavi managed to get Allen and Neah to stand. Exhausted, grief-stricken, numb to all else, they made their slow, painful way back inside, and collapsed in the nearest dry room they could find.

Days passed like weeks. Time lost all meaning, each day blurring into the next in a haze of healing and recovering and grieving all that had been lost.

There wasn’t much to do beyond rest, have healing injuries re-bandaged, rest, eat, and rest some more. Many who had survived the fall of the Black Order wanted something - anything - to do but sit and heal. They debated rebuilding their home, but all of them came to the same conclusion in the end.

All had left their homes to pledge their lives to the Black Order, and now they had to find somewhere else to go.

People left in slow, steady streams as the days went by. Those that had formed connections with others through the Order often left together, unable to forsake the bonds they had made.

Most of the Scientists and Exorcists remained behind, at least at first. The injured had to be tended to, at least enough to move them to hospitals elsewhere. Some were healed enough to leave, but couldn’t, not yet. It was hardest for the Exorcists, many having joined the Order at too young an age to have anywhere - or anyone - to go back to.

As for the remaining Noah, they decided to leave soon after the funeral.

Tyki caught Neah on his way out, Jasdevi stood not far behind. Both looked tired, riddled with doubt and uncertainty, but there was something in their eyes that Neah deeply understood, a sense of freedom that he would feel within his heart in time, once his feelings of grief lessened.

Tyki hesitated before placing a hand on Neah’s shoulder. He smiled, trying his best to sound light-hearted.

“It was nice knowing ya, Ea-” Tyki frowned. “Four-” Neah scowled. Tyki huffed and rolled his eyes. “Neah. There, you happy?”

Neah scoffed. “No, ‘course I’m not.”

Tyki sighed, frustrated, but there was a trace of a smile on his face all the same. Jasdevi took a step forward, gave Neah an inquisitive look, and raised their voice to speak.

“What’re you gonna do?”

Neah faltered, gripped by a sudden feeling of uncertainty. He opened his mouth to speak, hesitated, and then sighed. He felt Allen beside him within their mind and it soothed him, at least enough for him to sigh and shrug in response.

He waited a moment before speaking, unable to hide the curiosity in his voice. “Never mind me, what are you gonna do?”

Tyki exchanged a glance with Jasdevi before turning to face Neah with a firm look in his eyes. “We’re gonna go find Road.”

Neah froze, eyes widening. “But -”

“Yeah, it’s gonna be damn near impossible. She never told us where her real body was. I’ve never even seen it, but we have to try.” Neah looked down, expression pained. Tyki hesitated before continuing, voice almost tentative. “You wanna… come with us?” Neah raised his head, surprised. Tyki shrugged, trying not to sound awkward. “That golden golem of yours could be a real help, actually.”

Neah thought it over, considering it for a moment. He felt restless. He wanted a sense of purpose, but there was a niggling feeling, something that made him want to stay, at least for now.

Neah gave a weary smile and shook his head. “Lavi’d kill me if I did.”

Tyki shrugged. “He can come too, I guess.” Neah raised an eyebrow and Tyki sighed. “Actually, yeah, that’d fucking suck.”

They both laughed, and it eased the tension, at least enough for Neah to place a hand on Tyki’s shoulder, a genuinely warm smile gracing his features.

“Good luck -” Tyki blinked, surprised, which made Neah add on a “- idiot.”

Tyki shook his head a little with a smile. “There we go. Back to normal.”

Tyki shrugged off Neah’s hand, took a step forward, and then turned back. He considered something for a moment before speaking, voice quiet.

“Is the bo- Allen with you right now?” Neah nodded. Tyki leant forward and spoke slower and louder, as if Allen could barely hear him. “Catch ya later, Cheating Boy A.”

Allen groaned despairingly within Neah’s mind, making him laugh. Neah rolled his eyes, kicked Tyki forward a little, and grinned.

“Get outta here, before I find a way to get my Noah Memory back and obliterate you where you stand.”

Tyki scoffed. “I’d like to see you try.”

Neah rolled his eyes but said nothing. Tyki raised a hand in a mock salute and turned. Jasdevi followed behind. Neah watched them go, Allen by his side, almost saddened by it.

Allen shot Neah a look, a teasing lilt to his voice. Don’t tell me you’re actually gonna miss them.

Neah gave a disgusted noise. “As if.”

Allen laughed and said nothing. Neah looked out at the outside world, just out of reach, and wondered how easy it would be to take a step, then two, three and forthwith, no destination in mind.

Allen felt that urge and gently, without a word, drew Neah away from it. Not yet.

Neah faltered, uncertain, before sighing. “Not yet.”

Lavi often found himself on his own as the days passed him by.

Seeing people leave the Order reminded him, rather painfully, that he had no idea what to do with himself. No purpose, no home, nothing. He’d never had a home - no, not true, but he didn’t want to dig into those memories, not yet - and knowing he had no purpose to cling to, no duty to fulfil, left him feeling incredibly restless.

His injuries were slow to heal, made worse by his inability to rest. The nightmares certainly didn’t help, but they were a given considering all that he had endured.

Lavi would have solace in Allen and Neah’s company, but after the Noah left they sought solitude more often than not. It hurt, but Lavi understood.

He wasn’t on his own, not quite - he and Junior spent a lot of time together, and it brought Lavi more comfort than he could ever express in words - and he knew it was no different for Allen and Neah. He knew they needed a sense of space all the same.

In the end, Lavi ended up spending a lot of time with the remaining Exorcists, Lenalee in particular. They talked, laughed, cried, and grieved together. It helped, soothed the feelings of restlessness and pain that sat deep within his heart. They also all knew, sooner or later, they would have to part ways, and they took the time healing gave them, forced upon them, to treasure the moments they had left with each other.

All the same, Lavi sought solitude from time to time. Whenever Junior took control he preferred to be on his own anyway, and there was so much to think about, to consider. He spent a lot of time sleeping, not just to heal, but to avoid thinking.

Once he would have rejoiced over having so much time to sleep, but it was more of a curse than a blessing in the end. Nightmares plagued him, painfully reminding him of the days just after Bookman’s death. He didn’t just have to heal physically - he had to heal mentally too, and it was more difficult, in a way, than healing from the physical injuries he carried.

Surviving was a struggle, even more so after having gone through so much. It wasn’t just the fall of the Black Order, the loss of his right eye, his Innocence - it was months of running, Bookman’s death, his entire future as a Bookman lost. He’d never truly processed it, too busy dealing with fighting and running and finding answers.

Now he had his answers, but he still had to find a way forward.

Lavi and Junior talked about it, when they felt ready. The longer they rested, the more they knew they needed something, anything. Purpose would keep them going, but as for what they would do, they didn’t know. Both remembered the High Elder’s words to them before they left the Clan - hazy as those memories were - and wondered if that would bring them solace.

They were no longer Bookmen, but not all record keepers were Bookmen, and perhaps writing of the war they had fought, the path they had taken, would give them - and the pain they had endured - some sense of purpose.

They kept it in mind, left it to one side within their mind, glancing at it every now and then but not focusing on it, not yet. They knew they had to heal first, and there were other things to be decided too, which bid Lavi to find Allen and Neah nearly a week after the funeral.

He hadn’t seen them for a day or so, which meant he would have to go look for them. He could feel Junior by his side, and together they walked through ruined halls, wondering what state they would find Allen and Neah in.

It occurred to Lavi that they easily could have left without saying anything, which made fear claim his heart for its own, but deep down he knew they wouldn’t. Tentative hope drew him onwards, guided him towards the sound of singing, soft and melancholy.

Lavi found them in the ruins of Allen’s old bedroom, back resting against a wall, ceiling cracked and open to the sky above. It was a sunny day, and the afternoon sun coloured Allen and Neah’s hair gold, intensified by the golden tint of Timcanpy upon their head. They were singing the Musician’s song, eyes closed, voice hoarse and forlorn.

Lavi said nothing, did nothing more than sit by their side. They continued to sing, as if they hadn’t noticed him, before opening their eyes, voice slowly fading away. Lavi extended a hand, unsure if they would reciprocate, wanting to give them the option to refuse intimacy if it was needed. They hesitated before interlacing their fingers together, head resting against Lavi’s shoulder.

In that moment, it was all any of them needed. Lavi closed his eye, soothed by Allen and Neah’s presence. The silence that descended upon them was tentative, fragile. Lavi ran a thumb against the back of Allen and Neah’s hand, taking solace in the intimacy of it.

Eventually, a voice spoke up from Lavi’s shoulder - Allen’s voice, quiet and uncertain. “Sorry for going off on our own.”

Lavi shook his head. “It’s okay. You’ve always been like that, and it ain’t a surprise that Neah’s the same, if not worse.”

Neah gave a derisive snort only Allen could hear, which made Allen smile. He closed his eyes, taking a moment to think of the right words before speaking.

“I think we needed… some time to think.”

Lavi nodded. He didn’t ask, didn’t pry, and Allen and Neah both appreciated it, more than they could ever express. It was something they had always loved about Lavi - he could be unbearably nosy sometimes, but he knew when it wasn’t the right time to talk, and it made it so easy to feel comfortable around him, to let down their walls, to be vulnerable.

Allen opened his eyes, looked down at their entwined hands, and smiled. He thought of the dark room in Poland, the tentative intimacy, the joy and fear that came with loving someone. He looked up at Lavi, memorising the lines of his face, the slight scarring where his right eye should have been.

Lavi turned to look down at him and smiled. Allen pushed himself up, just enough to press a gentle kiss on Lavi’s lips. Lavi buried his fingers in Allen’s hair; soft, gentle, loving. Allen smiled against Lavi’s lips.

There was still so much to figure out, not just between the two of them. That realisation made Allen pull away, eyes downcast, gripped by uncertainty. It felt as if there was no path below his feet; only an abyss, dark and endless, cloying and consuming.

Lavi cupped both sides of Allen’s face and bid him to look up, to meet Lavi’s single eye. Lavi looked tired, unbearably so, but there was hope there too, as well as something nameless, something that held a hint of promise, something that made Allen want to take Lavi’s hand and see where it would take him.

Neah felt the same, Allen knew. They had talked about it, had thought about what they would do now that everything had come to an end. They hadn’t come to any real conclusions, but one thing was absolutely crystal clear to them.

Whatever future lay in wait for them, they wanted Lavi to be in it.

Lavi pressed a gentle kiss against Allen’s forehead, and he and Neah both felt moved by it, the knowledge that they were loved, that they wouldn’t have to heal alone.

It was going to be difficult, and there was still so much that they didn’t understand, but those answers would come in time. For now, this was enough. Just knowing that there was a small step they could take, even if it was infinitesimal in the bigger scheme of things, was enough.

Eight days since the Fall of the Black Order, it was finally time to leave it behind.

Marie, Miranda, and Krory had already left a few days beforehand. Tiedoll and Chaoji left together the same day. Klaud had taken Timothy under her wing, since Emilia had passed during the attack. Johnny, Reever, and a number of Scientists left together.

Johnny in particular was reluctant to leave Allen behind. He smiled through his tears, left a slip of paper with a phone number and address on it, and practically begged Allen to promise that they’d see each other again.

Allen had a rather large collection of bits of paper now, all tucked away in a book Lavi had stolen - or ‘borrowed’, which he often repeated - from the now ruined library. Addresses, phone numbers - details that made sure he felt connected to those he had once fought alongside, the people who would always be his family.

Soon, only Komui, Bak, and Lenalee were left to keep them company, as well as a couple of Finders and Scientists who hadn’t quite said goodbye to their once-home. Bak had remained, unable to return to the Asia Branch with the Ark gone, which Allen noted with a pang of guilt. There was another reason too, but no-one commented on it, though Lenalee sometimes rolled her eyes at her brother’s hopeless attempts at romance all the same.

When it came time to leave, it wasn’t as difficult as Allen, Neah, and Lavi had feared.

It didn’t take long to pack up, considering they had very few belongings to speak of. They’d been given new clothes by Komui, who’d managed to find some in a mostly unscathed storeroom.

Lavi had been given an eyepatch alongside his clothes; a medical one, white opposed to the usual black. It felt strange, as if he hadn’t spent most of his life wearing one. There was no eye behind his eyelid, no burden to carry, no weight upon his heart. The scars remained - the palms of his hands still ached, and the socket where his right eye used to be ached too - and would never truly heal; a permanent reminder of what he had gone through.

Aside from his scarf, which had been patched back together by Miranda before she left, and the talisman that Bisma had left him, Lavi had nothing else. Allen and Neah had even less - only Timcanpy remained as the last living remnant of both their lives.

In tentative pre-dawn light, Lenalee came to see them off. She was still healing from injuries that would take many more weeks, if not months, to heal from, and had to use crutches to support herself.

Lavi and Allen pulled Lenalee into a tight embrace, eyes screwed shut, fingers buried in the fabric of her shirt. Lenalee pulled away, tears falling down her cheeks, and cupped Allen’s face with her left hand, Lavi in her right.

She smiled through her tears, voice strained. “Please, take care of each other.” Allen and Lavi both smiled, tears sliding down Lenalee’s hands before falling in a silent patter upon the stone below. “And don’t be strangers. You know where we’ll be.”

Lenalee pulled away, hands falling. It was painful, saying goodbye, but it was only for now, only for a brief moment. They all had to take their own paths, but they’d meet somewhere again in the future; it was only a matter of time.

Together they walked, Lavi and Allen supporting Lenalee as she walked, through the ruins of the place they had all once called home. The hallways were quiet, devoid of life but for the dust, floating in sunbeams. Lavi thought of what had once been Innocence and smiled.

They reached the front doors, sooner than they expected. Allen and Lavi gave Lenalee one last parting glance and then it was time to go.

Compared to the dusty halls, the air felt clean outside, fresh from pre-dawn rain. Komui and Bak joined Lenalee and saw them off, all smiling through their tears.

Allen and Lavi stopped at the graves first, saying silent goodbyes to those they had to leave behind. Lavi stopped at Kanda’s grave, head bowed, a shaking hand placed upon the stone marking where he lay. Timcanpy lingered by Cross’s grave, reluctant to leave. Neah came to the forefront, Allen’s presence subsiding, hand outstretched.

“Come, Tim.”

Timcanpy hesitated before flying to Neah’s hand. It clambered up onto his shoulder and then tucked itself in the folds of Neah’s scarf, earning a smile from him. Neah patted Timcanpy fondly before looking out at the nearby cliffside. He made his way forward, drawn to it.

Water stretched out to the horizon, the rising sun colouring the waves rose pink, baby blue, pale orange. Despite all that had come to pass, the world remained. In this world, they would have to walk along their chosen paths, deciding for themselves what fate had in store for them.

Neah stood, Allen by his side, both looking out at the sea. They were grief-stricken and uncertain, but hopeful all the same.

Lavi caught up with them and came to a halt by their side, looking out at the sea with a pensive expression. Neah looked over at him for a moment before looking back at the sunrise on the horizon. When he spoke, his voice was so quiet Lavi almost didn’t hear him.

“So… what do we do now?”

Lavi didn’t reply, not at first. He looked down at his scarred hands and thought of all that had come to pass. He felt a presence beside him in his mind - Milo’s bright smile, Junior’s hand upon his shoulder - and managed a tentative smile.

“We keep walking.”