symbolism_egg: (Inspector)
[personal profile] symbolism_egg
Summary: Allen and Link, an optimist and a pessimist, while away a free hour in front of a fireplace.
Warnings: PG-13 for mentions of violence?
Disclaimer: The D. Gray-man series and characters do not belong to me.
Note: Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] personaru for beta-reading.


The flames’ heat and light played over Allen, who sat before a grand fireplace in a disused room of the new Order. Link sat beside him.

They’d found this room the other day. In a corner of the building, and labeled simply “Filing” on the floor plan Link had gotten somewhere, it had been empty of cabinets, and anything else. The only thing of interest was an enormous fireplace, which had interested Link once he’d finished complaining about the mislabeling. “It can easily be cleaned,” he’d said. And so he had, insisting that moving one’s body never hurt anyone, even if the Matron had told him within Allen’s hearing to use his left arm as little as possible for the next two weeks. In the meantime Allen had sat on the floor and finished several of those damned forms, trying to write in ways that made his chest twinge as little as possible.

Tonight the air had descended into a wicked coldness that irritated his wounds. The scar across his chest ached from end to end. Sitting on his bed and holding a blanket tight around his shoulders, Allen had brought up the fireplace, and how nice it might be. Link would not object to relaxation once they’d finished the day’s work.

It was almost like a vacation, and, considering he spent most of his time away from headquarters, having a vacation inside his home had a pleasant logic. It was a vacation from paperwork, at least. By necessity it couldn’t be a vacation from Link, but since the worst of his suspicion had worn away as they became more familiar with each other, he wasn’t so bad when he wasn’t forcing Allen to do paperwork or eat salads.

They had kindled a large fire using firewood at hand, and sat watching the heart of the flames, bright enough to pain Allen’s eyes. Timcanpy flew from Allen’s shoulder to curl in front of the fire, his tail blowing to one side.

There was a downside to their vacation: the large room was as drafty as an abandoned church.

“It’s freezing in here,” said Allen.

“You shouldn’t have drunk your hot cocoa so quickly,” said Link, who was sipping at his own black tea at patient intervals.

“But it was delicious.”

“And warm, I suppose. I should think you’d be more accustomed to the cold.”

Allen scooted closer to the flames. His hands and knees were scorching hot, but his back and neck were freezing. Most of the fire’s heat was rising up the chimney. Maybe he should’ve worn his coat, but that would defeat the purpose of the fire. Link probably hadn’t meant his words to refer to Allen’s past as a homeless orphan—no, he’d probably meant, You’re an Exorcist, and, as such, you ought to be used to enduring hardships for the sake of the Order, et cetera. “Well, I’d rather be warm if I can.”

Link took another small sip of his tea. His eyes were narrowed as he stared ahead into the fireplace. He was acting almost subdued today.

Allen absently reached out to pet Tim, who was not brooding, but drowsing peacefully. Then he snatched his hand back, because the golem was burning hot even through his glove. A stark contrast with the frigid air.

If only there were a couch or something to shelter them from the wind. Allen looked around the room, but saw only aqua-blue afterimages over deep shadows. He couldn’t help thinking of the heaps of blankets in his closet and the cozy light of kerosene lamps filling his room. But since he was the one to suggest they make use of the grand fireplace, he figured he shouldn’t suggest leaving again until the fire had died down of its own accord.

Link blocked the drafts slipping through the windows on one side, at least. Yes, this was the man Allen had called furniture, as beyond notice as the air. That couldn’t be the reason he was so down—although Allen could have sworn he was sulking for a few hours after he’d made the proclamation.

He picked up his empty cup and licked at the remains of the cocoa, smiling to himself.

-----
Looking into the fire had ruined Link’s night vision, but, picking up on slight movements of Walker’s, he looked over and caught him smiling in the reflected light. Only God knew what about. He had underdressed for the unexpectedly crisp evening hours, and was shivering in the drafty room. Link was not too cold. He had worn a sweater.

The fire’s warmth was pleasant on his healing arm. He clasped his mug of tea between his hands.

Passing time like this was not unwelcome, provided they had no further responsibilities for the day. However, Link was accustomed to focusing his mind on reading, baking, or memorizing chess moves, should he happen to have off hours. Not simply sitting around with a companion.

Of course, his current job had no off hours.

Link’s thoughts wandered when he had nothing on which to focus. Tonight, that was a problem.

A profound uneasiness threatened him. Ever since Madarao had arrived and—face it—absorbed an Akuma into his hand, Link had felt an encroaching shadow. Whatever Madarao’s powers were, they were not those of Innocence. Walker had mused aloud the next morning, “I wonder when we’ll get introduced to that new Exorcist,” and Link had taken it at face value, remaining silent and bent over his papers as if Walker’s words were not, in truth, a question.

The crackling flames seemed a threat. Link closed his eyes and averted them from the blaze to regain his sight.

Let Walker think that he didn’t wish to discuss Madarao because of his condescension; it didn’t matter. True, Link had been seconds from death, and it was humiliating to have such a severe mistake revealed before a former colleague, but recalling the change in Madarao was worse. Although at the time he’d been in a poor state and fully expecting his life to end, Link could not lie to himself, could not tell himself he was mistaken in what he’d seen.

Thus far Walker had not brought it up again. And Link repeated to himself that speculation was useless. They would wait for everything to be…explained.

He could not bring himself to imagine that an explanation would improve matters.

“Hey, Link, don’t fall asleep.”

“I’m not asleep.”

“You’ll drop your tea,” Walker said pleasantly, “and then you’ll freeze to death.” The sound of breathing warmth onto freezing hands.

“I will not. Although I confess I did not expect this room to be so poorly insulated. We ought to go back to our room.”

“There’s not need to hurry, I’m f-fine. If it t-turns out I’m not I guess you’ll have to explain why the heretic turned into an ice cube, huh?” Walker laughed.

That was in poor taste. Link raised his head and looked at the Exorcist. The Exorcist so recently scarred by his own sword. “You shouldn’t joke about such things.” Besides, you are only a suspected heretic, despite the scar, he corrected in his mind, otherwise you would be dead already.

As he was sitting next to a fire, his thoughts turned to burning at the stake. Not that Walker would be burnt at the stake; if the Black Order gave him an official execution at all, he would probably be hanged or shot, and considering his size Link hoped for the sake of mercy that it was the latter. He would not have a say in it at that point—

--and besides, if the Noah in Walker demonstrated himself as a direct threat to the Order, he would fall to the assassin’s blade before the matter of a formulaic execution ever arose.

The body would probably be burnt. One couldn’t take chances with Noahs, about whom too little was known, and besides, where would one bury a heretic? In Walker’s case, certainly not in a place where he could be remembered. Or venerated.

Link sipped his tea, not tasting it. It was half gone.

Beside him, Walker yawned. The night was only growing more chill. Best that they put out the fire and go to bed soon.

Link found that he was staring into the flames again.

-----

Link fell into another moody silence. Allen stifled a series of yawns as Link took up the poker and prodded at the logs so that the flames shrank down. Allen moved with the heat.

Or tried to.

“Be careful of sparks,” snapped Link.

“Maybe I’ll t-tell the Matron you let me freeze to death,” said Allen, “and were moving your arm around all day, too.”

“That’s unfair, Walker. You’re the one who suggested this in the first place.” For an instant Link looked taken aback by the threat. Aha. Allen had known he wasn’t immune to a healthy fear of the head nurse.

Placing his hands beneath his armpits, he turned to warm his back at the fire. The icy air bit at his face. He sighed out a puff of white.

“I didn’t make you use your injured arm. You were carrying stacks and stacks of papers.” Um. A diversion. “Are you quite used to the cold, Link?”

“No.”

I don’t complain about it like you do, so act like a proper Exorcist, et cetera, or at least try to be prepared, like me. Allen filled in the implication he guessed was there, which might be unfair of him. He almost wished Link were lecturing. But no, he was starting to brood again. Allen could point out that, right now, Link would be more useful if he were a sofa, but that might cause more trouble than it was worth.

Even though the floor was quite hard.

Allen shivered violently, unable to suppress his body’s reaction to the cold. Link was making quick work of the fire, which had died down to a smolder. Considering his luck, Allen wouldn’t be surprised if he froze to death on his vacation down the hall, along with Link, who’d lately been attracting misfortune himself. He smiled ruefully, picturing it.

Link handed Allen his tea.

“Oh, thank you, Link.” It was still half full, and even lukewarm tea held some warmth. Allen took a drink and banished the image of death by unseasonal cold.

“You should have worn your coat.”

“I shouldn’t have t-to wear my coat indoors, by a fire.”

The fire reduced to embers, Link stood, rubbing at his back with his good arm. “You’ll die,” he said.

There was snap as a spark burned out.

“Of hypothermia, I mean,” said Link.

Really, Link was in a dark mood tonight. True, Allen had been joking about freezing to death this entire time, but that was joking. Something Link did not do.

Allen rose and stretched his stiff legs, then patted Link on the shoulder, which made Link frown at him. “No, I think we’ll survive after all. I’ve been through a lot, and I’m pretty tough, you know.”

Link sighed, a barely audible sound. Complete darkness had filled the room, so Allen couldn’t see his expression, or notice Timcanpy’s approach until the golem had landed on his shoulder, tiny feet clinging to the cloth of his vest. Allen felt around for his cocoa cup with his foot.

“We’d best hurry back to our room,” said Link from next to the doorway. Sometimes he moved too quietly.

“Yes, we’d better get back to our room.” Allen drained the tea from Link’s cup, snagged his cocoa cup, and made his way to the hallway, which was also drafty, but at least they were moving now.

He wasn’t certain when Link had started calling it our room. It might have been when they moved away from the first headquarters and were assigned a larger room with two beds, but Allen thought he’d heard Link use that phrasing once or twice in the old Order, too. And he may have called their new room your room for awhile, too—Allen wouldn’t notice him phrasing it that way, while he now caught any mention of our room. He wondered when he would have his own quarters again. Probably not soon, more’s the shame. Still, it was better to have our room than a room that happened to have an Inspector sleeping on his floor.

“I’m sorry?” said Link.

“Nothing—nothing.”

--
What is on you mind? by roygbivgyor

[livejournal.com profile] roygbivibgyor drew this lovely fanart. THANK YOU &hearts

The original is here and was reposted with the artist's permission.


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