symbolism_egg: (Inspector)
[personal profile] symbolism_egg
Summary: Link believes that Allen needs a haircut. He believes it very strongly.
Disclaimer: The D. Gray-man series and characters don’t belong to me.
Notes: Thanks to [ profile] personaru for beta-reading! Also, this story has been translated into Italian by [ profile] terryh_nyan, who is still amazing. You can find it here.

Link couldn’t help but notice: Walker’s hair was growing longer.

Of course, in the natural course of time one’s hair was bound to get longer. Around here, it might also get longer in the unnatural course of time, a mishap that had once befallen Walker in the Science Department. But that hardly counted, unnatural as it was, and had Linalee Lee not given Walker a haircut after, who knew what harm the hair-growth potion might have caused through some side effect, poisoning or strangulation even, because never had Link seen as careless a man as Supervisor Lee. And here he neglected to remember watching the suspicious bottle slide towards Walker’s head—not everything was his job, actually.

Walker, sitting there across the library table with his head bent over forms, made it difficult not to notice that his hair was growing longer. He kept brushing it out of his face, which the white strands would obscure again when they slipped right back down, a few seconds later. Now it was a cycle. Every five seconds he lifted his hand; one could measure time by it.

Any second now, he would notice Link staring.

When he didn’t, Link said, “Walker, you need a haircut.”

He’d stopped the clockwork. Allen Walker looked up. “It’s fine.”

“It’s getting in your eyes,” Link said with the finality of logic.

Walker cleared his bangs from his face again. He didn’t seem to notice he’d proved Link’s point. “Really, it’s not worth the trouble. Why are you telling me to get a haircut anyway, with your hair?” he added, peeved by the forms or a forgotten slight, maybe.

“I tie mine back,” said Link. Neat and tidy and out of the way.

“Could be I’ll grow mine as long as yours, then.”

“That would take too long.”

This time Walker blew the hair away from his eyes, and one of the strands tucked behind his ear got stuck in his mouth.

“I do need your responses written in by this afternoon, Walker,” said Link. He jabbed the end of the pen at the neglected paperwork. In this way the two of them filed away the small point of contention to be brought out later.

It was entirely possible, thought Link, that Allen Walker would die before he could grow his hair long enough to decently braid. It was possible that he would die before he could do any number of things.

A list of things Allen Walker might die before doing:
braid his hair
read the Bible through
build a model ship
learn to do his laundry regularly
remember the rules of chess
celebrate his next birthday
go dancing

He tried to throw the list away, but it was difficult to discard something he’d never written down. Incidentally, Link was passing along that day’s paperwork to a trusted staff member of Central for delivery at this time. The man bowed, and Link stared at the back of his uniform with narrowed eyes.

When Link had become a full member of Crow, they’d cut off his hair, which had been braided then, too. Tevak had been kneeling there alongside him. It was such a shame to see the thick curls she’d grown all her life shorn away like that. But rules were rules and tradition was tradition, which was hallowed. Link determined to regain his braid.

There was an irritating period when his hair was too short to tie back and too long to keep out of his way.

No few died with their hair still cropped. They were not talked about. No casualties were much talked about, being a natural result of their service, but still, there was a certain unpleasantness to dying with one’s hair still short.

Tradition allowed small licenses. Once inducted into the ranks, a Crow had free rein over their hairstyle, a small and peculiar freedom. Tokusa grew his out partway and tied it up, keeping his bangs evenly trimmed. Madarao kept his short for a time before growing it out in back, and became partial to a crow’s-feather fetish later joined by other adornments. And Tevak let hers grow unchecked until it was once more a glossy wild length cascading down her back. Link only wanted his out of his face.

Walker wasn’t like them. Walker wasn’t like them at all.

“Where are the scissors?” asked Link, shutting his top desk drawer with a rattle.

“We have scissors?” asked Walker from his sprawled position in the armchair.

“I’m sure I’ve seen them,” said Link, frowning. He wondered if Walker had hidden them.

“My hair isn’t that bad,” said Walker, parting his bangs and trying to tuck the ends behind his ears, “like you make it sound. Besides, Linalee’s out and I don’t know when she’ll be back.”

Linalee’s cutting of his over-long hair had been an emergency intervention to forestall Lavi’s cutting of his hair. She had done a neat and commendable job. But already Walker’s bangs were creeping close to his eyes.

Link tried to calculate weeks and months and centimeters. How long had it taken for him to grow out his hair? Once as a young child, again in early adolescence—he’d only done it twice, and didn’t remember. He wouldn’t have paid attention; it was a mere natural process. How long would it take for Walker’s hair to reach halfway down his back? At once too fast and too slow.

Link gave a sharp sigh. “I didn’t mean you should get a haircut right this second, only that we should have them on hand, in case.”

Walker straightened, sitting in a less slovenly manner. He had on the serious face that meant he was actually smiling. “In case it suddenly attacks, and you have to fend it off?”

learn to bake a pumpkin pie
surpass me in height

Link was tempted to dignify the joke with no more than another sigh, but he said, “Nothing of the sort.”

The smile escaped, and one side of Walker’s mouth quirked up. “Bravely wielding scissors—”


“Oh, I’m not even doing anything. Anyway, I’m sure they’ll turn up when you need them.”

If I do, thought Link.

Clearly, the way to erase the list was to see that Allen Walker lived as long a life as possible.

This was an impractical solution. Well beyond Link’s modest skills. To be sure, Central wanted Walker alive, so long as he served them, so long as he fought on the Order’s beleaguered side. But Walker’s survival was first of all in Walker’s hands. Needless to say, Link would exchange his life for an Exorcist’s (it was only practical), but how well he knew he might be trading for very little, when the battlefield claimed death after death.

Nevertheless, he thought, if Walker could live enough to grow his hair long. Nothing followed the if, but he held the thought in his mind, considering it. Perhaps next time he’ll reach out his hand to catch the bottle, in case of poison.

It was high time Walker had his hair trimmed, that much was clear from looking at him. At least the bangs, but probably the back as well. Link was no manservant to wait on Walker hand and foot, but he wouldn’t begrudge a haircut where one was necessary. Let Walker see without anything in his eyes. Let him live to be an old man with long hair, or very little.

Link knew his thoughts were making no sense. They were impractical thoughts, and not worth his time.

Link found the scissors at the bottom of the sock drawer.

The chain of Link’s pocketwatch was wrapped around the back of the chair. He had a conference with the Secretary by telephone within the half-hour. Walker was seated facing the dresser mirror with his eyes closed.

look at a mirror without fear
be freed of the ghost

He brushed out Walker’s hair to make certain he trimmed the ends evenly.

“Look, I don’t even know how they got there. Or that we had any.”

Clean the bureau drawers, Link thought uncharitably, but no, he would strongly suggest that Walker do so sometime in the next week. “Never mind that, Walker. Just—hold still, please.”

Walker stopped trying to scratch his neck, and settled for pulling the towel draped over his shoulders closer. “It’ll grow out more in the next week. You might as well wait instead of being in such a hurry.” He made it sound a wonder anyone bothered to get their hair cut.

“You may as well do it now,” said Link, tugging the brush harder through Walker’s hair and meeting no resistance; it was acceptably free of tangles.

A sigh. “I guess. At least we’ve the time for it, right now. And there’s been less paperwork this week,” he added brightly.

“If you’ve nothing else to do, would you care to learn the rules of chess?”

“Sure,” said Walker, whose suggestion that Link learn the rules of poker had long since been rejected.

“Then I’ll teach you sometime,” said Link.

Sometime soon. Link wished for some diversion besides reading, and Walker had been restless. They could play a game of chess here or there all through the time Link was stationed with him, he told himself as he took the scissors and snipped at the ends of Walker’s hair, sending white locks falling onto the deep-blue cloth.

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February 2011

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