Lenalee caught only a fleeting glimpse of the boy named Timothy when they brought him in. His young features were contorted into a sullen expression, unhappy, and the glistening orb in his forehead -- the Innocence -- made him look eerie and fey. How old was he? she wondered unhappily as they hastened him to the Science Division to see if they could remove the Innocence from him.
Her fingers tangled together, and she held fast, hoping against hope that it could be removed, that he wasn't the conformer. No one that young should be made into an Exorcist. He should be back at his orphanage, playing with other children his age, hoping to go to a loving family someday...
Behind the rush accompanying Timothy trailed the Exorcists who had brought him in. Allen and Marie looked worn to the bone, and Lenalee started to step forward to congratulate them, but before she could, her gaze caught on Kanda, and the young blonde woman attached to his arm.
Oh, she thought, startled. The stoic Japanese swordsman had suffered lots of female admirers since he'd become a teenager, but he'd never seemed interested in any of them, and certainly never been inclined to let them touch him so intimately. Her arm was hooked through his possessively, and she was leaning against his side while she looked around with a measuring, wary gaze, as if he were the only person in the whole world she trusted at the moment.
Who in the world...? Kanda caught her looking at him and glanced quickly away, a very faintly flustered look coming into his face.
Lenalee shoved her way through the crowd up to them and offered them a smile. "Welcome back, Kanda," she said warmly.
"Yeah," was his uninspired response, still not looking at her.
She nodded to the blonde girl also. "Are you here with Timothy? I'm Lenalee. It's nice to meet you," she said, smiling, and extended a hand to the other girl, although not without a quick darting glance at the arm holding Kanda captive and wondering if she would dare to risk him fleeing long enough to shake hands.
She did not. "You should dress more like a lady, you know," the young woman said flatly in heavily accented English, after a long look. "Gentlemen will get the wrong idea about you."
Lenalee stared, bewildered, and glanced down at her clothing. Sh, should she have worn her coat...? Kanda made a half-choked, half-growled sound and tried to snatch his arm away from her, but the blonde woman was not to be shaken off.
That was Lenalee's introduction to Emilia Galmar.
She learned the young woman's name later from Allen, and her connection to Timothy, and that she was completely enamored with Kanda (related with great exasperation by Allen, who had already been on the receiving end of that sharp tongue when he had disagreed with Kanda and thus earned her ire). Lenalee had to struggle with exasperation. Was that level of abrasiveness really necessary among friends? Did she have to take sides in Allen and Kanda's sniping?
And more importantly, why had the only female near her age to enter HQ decided to snipe at her when they first met instead of welcoming the opportunity to make friends?
It was just depressing.
She had the misfortune to be present when Emilia made her case for staying to Komui. The young woman was impeccably dressed and groomed, her blonde hair shining gold, as if she expected to be speaking before some grand council, and she seemed somewhat out of place in Komui's office, surrounded by jumbled papers and envelopes and test tubes, facing a man in a disheveled white coat and a beret. From the pinched expression on her face, she felt out of place, but was determined not to show it. She was so successful that she almost managed to make Lenalee feel under-dressed.
Maybe I should look into longer skirts, she thought uneasily, glancing around the tray she was holding down at her legs, the knee-highs and the tiny shorts that left part of her thighs bare. She'd never really thought of her attire as indecent until Emilia had mentioned it.
"I'm not leaving while you people are keeping Timothy here," she declared.
"Miss Galmar, there is still a good chance that Timothy will be able to go home as early as tomorrow," Komui said, soberly, and then sipped loudly from his coffee mug. Lenalee saw Emilia flinch at the sound. "You are welcome to stay until we're done, and accompany him on his trip home if he can in fact return to the orphanage. But if he is the conformer for that Innocence, you must understand that he won't be going home."
"Then I won't either," Emilia declared, tossing her hair back over her shoulder. "I can be a great asset to your organization anyway. I'm a very competent teacher, and can help take care of the local children."
Komui took another sip. "There are no local children," he said. "Most of the people in the Black Order are your age or older, and the offspring of our employees are not permitted to join them here at headquarters. We maintain a strict professional--"
"You separate parents from their children?" Emilia demanded. "That's inhumane! Think of those poor--"
"This is our policy," Komui said simply.
Lenalee knew well how much he hated that part of his job, and she tightened her fingers on the tray instead of touching his shoulder reassuringly or offering him a hug. Emilia struggled with his unmoving certainty, and then she snapped, "Okay, so you don't need a tutor. I'll do that finding thing, then!"
Komui blinked and leaned forward, explaining patiently, "Finders receive a lot of training, and even after that training is complete, they go out into the field very often and for long periods of time, during which they are in great danger. It's no easy responsibility, and it won't keep you close to Timothy."
That seemed to be the last straw for Emilia, who stamped a foot, all traces of her composure gone. She jabbed a finger at Lenalee, flustered. "Then I'll do what she does! She's just a coffee girl, right?!"
"Lenalee is an Exorcist, like Kanda."
Then Emilia was staring at Lenalee, her lips thin and compressed, and Lenalee stared back and wondered if she was upset because she had been thwarted, or because...
"Even if you have no other children present, Timothy will need a tutor," Emilia said, calmly. "If he's staying, I am staying to tutor him."
"We are prepared to tutor him, Miss Galmar. The Black Order has raised several children over the years, including Lenalee herself, and Kan--"
"I will tutor him."
And so that was how Komui flaked out and decided that actually they could use one more tutor ahaha, which left Lenalee feeling inexplicably resentful. She hoped, much more darkly than before, that Timothy was not a conformer.
She ate lunch by herself, brooding over why it was that the other girl was so -- aggressive and domineering and judgmental and what made her think that Kanda was hers, anyway? The blonde seemed to bristle every time Lenalee was in the same room with Kanda, every time their names were mentioned in the same sentence. Like she wasn't making her interest well known enough already, and like Kanda wasn't letting her...
Lenalee glanced up from her soup as Kanda entered the dining hall, instantly recognizable; his broad shoulders and long trailing hair unique in the crowd of robed Finders and scruffy scientists. She immediately felt bad for her inhospitable thoughts. Of course he should be kind to their new co-worker, and he was to be commended for not dealing with her in the usual way. He was probably uncomfortable around her and didn't know how to show it. And if he wasn't uncomfortable--
Well, good. Lenalee would be glad if Kanda were finally getting interested in something more than killing akuma. He could do much worse than Emilia, too. It was a smart match: he was so recalcitrant that he needed a confident woman like that to take charge. And she was lovely, after all.
Lenalee got to her feet, mustering a smile and running through all the reasons in her head. She waved at Kanda and beckoned him over when she had his attention. She'd sit down with him and talk about Emilia in a mature, reasonable fashion. Maybe she could even give him some advice, so that if he did in fact like Emilia, the girl would stop feeling the need to defend her claim against every female in the vicinity.
After a reluctant pause, Kanda started heading in her direction with his tray. Smiling to herself, Lenalee sat back down and tore off a piece of roll to dip in her soup, but when she looked up, she found that Kanda had been ambushed.
Astonished, Lenalee could only sit and watch as Emilia, who had come out of nowhere, tugged on his arm and dragged him off, to an empty spot at a table a short distance from Lenalee's. They were too far away to hear their conversation, but Kanda seemed irritated, fighting back against her grip, and Emilia seemed similarly irritated but unwilling to give up. Eventually Kanda submitted to her demands, looking nothing short of harassed, and followed her to her table.
Oh, that is just it. Lenalee got back to her feet, tucking her hair behind her ears and straightening her clothes. Preparing for battle. It felt like the dining hall had hushed, watching her and the dark thundercloud that was surely forming all around her.
"Lenalee, is anyone sitting here?" she heard Allen ask.
"Someone will be," she said firmly, and marched over to where Emilia had absconded with Kanda.
The blonde looked up with a hawklike glower as she approached the table, and Kanda glanced behind him to see what she was glaring at. He stiffened when he saw Lenalee, and turned quickly back around to hunch over his bowl of soba.
"Excuse me," Lenalee said, as reasonably as she could manage. "Kanda was going to have lunch with me."
"I think he's decided to eat with me," Emilia said, equally reasonable.
Lenalee felt her smile sink, threatening to turn into a scowl. She hitched it back up. She had dealt with Kanda's admirers before, but never one quite like this. "I don't know if it counts as his decision when he was wrestled out of the aisle."
"Kanda," Emilia said to him directly, ignoring Lenalee's observation. "Am I holding you here against your will?"
"I just want to eat my damn lunch in peace," he said into his soba.
Lenalee took a quiet, calming breath. Meditate. Imagine you're in the mat room with Kanda. Zen. Just be rational. "Since Kanda was coming to join me first, and since he and I have been friends for a very long time, I would appreciate it if you would let him come back with me. You can eat with him at dinner," she suggested helpfully.
"You think that because you've known him longer, you have more right to his company than I do, is that it?" Emilia demanded, her voice rising. She got to her feet. The dining hall was silent.
Lenalee didn't like fighting with people. She liked making friends, and laughing, and having a good time. She hadn't wanted to be in this situation. But there was no way she was going to back down. Zen could go to hell.
She snapped, "Stop treating him like an object! He doesn't belong to you! And if anyone does have a claim on him, mine is better!"
Utter silence. The moment the words were out of her mouth Lenalee recoiled a little, shocked. A, and after insisting that Emilia had treated him like an object, to say something like that... She glanced quickly at Kanda, but his head was down, any expression he might have worn hidden by his hair and bangs.
"Hey, Yuu," called a voice from across the cafeteria, and then Kanda's head jerked up, agitation flashing over his features. Lavi was leaning forward on his elbow, twirling his fork between his fingers casually. He and Allen were seated with Link at a different table, Allen watching with alarm, Lavi with amusement. "What sort of coward lets two girls duke it out over him without taking a side? Be a man!"
Kanda muttered a rough curse and shoved himself to his feet, hauling up his tray unceremoniously. He held it one-handed and then told Emilia in a voice like ice, "I'm not interested."
His free hand curled around Lenalee's elbow, and he dragged her back to her table with such haste that she stumbled before falling into stride. Lenalee glanced back for Emilia, concerned in spite of herself about how the girl might have taken such a harsh rejection. Emilia was frozen in place for a few long moments, but when she seemed capable of movement again, she looked around and then picked up her tray and glided off haughtily.
"That was a little cruel," Lenalee murmured to Kanda as conversation resumed. He snorted dismissively.
Allen and Lavi were sliding into the seats next to them, with Link just behind; Lavi said in an exaggerated whisper across the table, "You can thank me later."
"I had the situation under control," she said, delayed reaction sweeping to catch up to her and suddenly she was mortified, blushing, oh god right in the middle of the dining hall? Poor Emilia! she thought, and then Miranda dove in to hug her tightly and the breath rushed right out of her.
Lenalee spent the rest of the day obsessing over what she'd said. Why had she been so picky, anyway? What a stupid argument...! To have gotten so confrontational just because she couldn't eat lunch with Kanda, who was company in the same way that a cat was company, silent and staring and easily ruffled... She'd just totally lost control and jumped down Emilia's throat about it. The blonde woman was new here, she didn't need to be made into an outcast practically on her first day. Would eating dinner with Kanda instead of lunch really have been so bad?
When dinner finally did come around, Lenalee spent over an hour just sitting, keeping watch for Emilia. Johnny joined her, finished his meal, and then left. Allen and Link joined her, finished their meals, and left. Lenalee remained, watching the crowd come and go, wondering despairingly if Emilia would show up at all. What if the poor girl was crying in her room, certain that she was the laughingstock of the Order?
Way to go, Lenalee, she thought, putting her head in her hands.
She wasn't surprised when someone seated themselves across from her, but the shocker was that when she looked up, it wasn't Lavi or Marie or Chaoji-- It was Emilia, seating herself with a tray of food and a composed expression.
Lenalee braced herself to apologize, but Emilia said immediately with great dignity, "I think we got off to a bad start." She folded her napkin neatly in her lap and looked up at Lenalee, her gaze clear and serene and for once not narrowed with suspicion or resentment. "I'd like to start over."
It was completely unexpected. Lenalee sat there, confused. It felt like, somehow, being willing to stand up to and shout at Emilia seemed to have... earned her respect in a way that being kind and approachable hadn't. Or maybe like having Kanda turn her down for good instead of just being standoffish had unclouded her judgment.
"I'd -- I'd like that, too," Lenalee said, trying on a small smile.
Emilia held out her hand smartly over the table. "My name is Emilia Galmar," she said. "My father is the Chief Inspector of the Paris police force."
"Oh!" Startled, Lenalee shifted to hold out her own hand and shake it, smiling more warmly. "My name is Lenalee Li. I'm -- an Exorcist of the Black Order."
They both settled back down, and Emilia lifted her silverware, saying confidentially, "I hope we can put all that unpleasant business behind us and be friends, since it seems like I might be here for a while. I don't normally behave that way."
"Me too," Lenalee said, beaming. "I mean, I'm not normally that confrontational, and I would love to be friends." It was a world of relief. And finally she could have a female friend who was her own age... She loved Allen and the others to death, but it simply got awkward sometimes, being the only girl.
Emilia started cutting into her venison, adding with a shake of her head, "I wouldn't have started with it at all if I'd known you were Kanda's girlfriend."