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When you were there

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Lay your head where my heart used to be
Hold the earth above me
Lay down in the green grass
Remember when you loved me

General Nyne's shouts were lost in the cacophony of battle, and even though Timothy could vaguely hear them he still moved forward, eyes darting wildly around for his Master. 

There was the sick sound of blood bursting from skin and splattering onto the floor, and he jerked aside to see Kanda bending double, heaving and coughing until his mouth was clear. It slicked shiny over his shoes and slowly puddled onto the floor, and Timothy felt bile build up. Then Kanda wiped the back of his hand across his mouth, spat one more time, and hurled his sword at an approaching akuma.

They were in a clearing just between a town and a forest where a shrine was housed. The shrine held a shard of Innocence, and Timothy had been sent to accompany Kanda as part of his training. General Nyne tagged along only to monitor and teach Timothy - the majority of the assignment had been given to Kanda. 

The finders were dead. They'd been the first casualty, and one of them had curled over Timothy to protect him from the akuma bullets. Timothy felt tears build up, because even though he'd seen Allen take bullets for everyone and had resolved himself to do the same, the sudden wide-eyed fear that had overtaken him when that Level 1 had locked it's sight on him had frozen him solid. Nyne had sadly commented that the finder probably could not bear seeing a child get shot right in front of him. Timothy could only shift through the dust littering his lap where the finder had smiled at him softly before disintegrating into fine ashes.

"Don't cry," Kanda had said harshly. "Get up."

Nodding jerkily, Timothy had, and Kanda had looked away, moving to slice down the Level 1. Without looking at Timothy, Kanda spoke gruffly. "Don't be like the idiot beansprout. Don't gamble your life so easily. Yours matters more than theirs."

Timothy shook his head fiercely, but Kanda had already left, sighting down a Level 3. And then they were in the thick of battle, and while Nyne stood guard over his body Timothy had possessed a Level 2. When a Level 4 descended on them Nyne had called him back and told him to retreat.

Then three more Level 4's came down and Timothy had been ordered to hide, Kanda had been impaled, and suddenly there was a cherubic face hovering in front of his.

"Oh?" It sang. "It's a... child!" It knocked its head twice with a fist, smiling. "I was just made, so some of the memories are a bit loose still. Though I do think it's frowned upon to have children fight wars, right?"

Timothy's mouth ran dry, and a fine tremble overtook him. He could hear in the distance Kanda shouting, screaming, yelling things. Timothy's world narrowed to the Level 4 hovering in front of him, reaching for him.

"But," it continued, eyes cold as death. "All soldiers are prepared for death, no?"

It closed its hand around Timothy's neck and chin, lifting him bodily. Timothy began to choke as the weight of his body pulled down, and the akuma continued to tighten his grip until Timothy saw colors pop across his vision like fireworks. His hands scrambled at the akuma's hand, and then his body gave a harsh jerk to the side.

"Hey!" It screamed, glaring to the side. "Don't shoot at it! I'm trying to kill it!"

Oh, Timothy thought dimly, seeing the stars spread on his hands as his vision dimmed. I got shot. The pain didn't register.

The akuma sighed and regarded Timothy again. It smiled. "This is boring." Timothy could feel the akuma's hands flex.

Crunch. Crack.


 

Timothy shot up in his bed, sobbing and chest heaving. His eyes rolled around his room wildly and it was too dark, too much, too many things. He scrambled from his bed and caught his foot on a blanket, chin slamming onto the floor and biting his tongue. He swallowed the blood and tasted the iron coating his teeth as he desperately tried to free his foot.

"Please, please, please," he begged, finally pulling free and stumbling up and almost falling over again. He jammed his toe on his skates and on a book on the floor but continued anyways, wrenching the door open.

Soft candlelight lit the halls and washed over him, a warmth much preferred over the cold moonlight in his room. The halls were empty and Timothy immediately started down it.

He kept taking deep breaths, trying to remind himself that he wasn't dead, that the bruises on his neck would fade soon. But under the bandages he could still feel phantom fingers tightening, squeezing until the bones cracked and his skin tore. 

He pulled and scratched at the cloth wrapped there, desperate to get any kind of pressure ripped away from his neck. By the time he made it to Allen's door there was blood lining his nails.

Despite it all, he was still hesitant as he knocked lightly. If they don't hear it, he told himself, knocking only twice. I'll leave. If  they don't hear me...

The door opened easily and Link stood there, a frown marring his face. His eyes shot to Timothy's and then immediately to his neck, and though he was still frowning it was a different kind of expression. Link dropped to his knees, hands hovering over Timothy's.

"...what happened?" He asked, and his voice sounded forced and stern.

Timothy's chest heaved and his breath hitched. "I-is Allen h-here?" He asked, trying not to sound like a child, but even to himself he sounded small and tired.

Allen said his name from inside the room, and with a pleading glance at Link he stepped forward. Link nodded and stood, moving to the side and letting Timothy rush in. He barely registered the door closing behind him and Link lighting a lamp as he threw himself into Allen's open arms where he sat in his ed, collapsing onto his lap and sobbing.

"Timothy, Timothy," Allen soothed, rubbing his hands down his back and shifting until Timothy sat on his lap properly. Allen ran his hands over Timothy's hair, fingers carding through strands, as his other hand grabbed reached out. Link handed Allen a blanket from the foot of the bed that he used to cover Timothy with. "Timothy, what's wrong?"

I had a nightmare, he tried to say, but his voice wouldn't work and his throat was still sore. He pressed his face into Allen's chest, near his throat. Allen was warm, and his shirt tugged where Timothy's face was until skin and cloth alike were covered in his tears. I had a nightmare and now I feel like I can't breathe. Please, make it go away.

"It's okay," Allen murmured, strong and fierce and gentle. "You're safe. You're safe now, nothing will touch you. I won't let anything hurt you, not here not now."

But later? When you're gone and I'm alone? Timothy begged, desperate to be soothed but still gasping, still feeling cold hard hands wrapped around his neck. He curled his fingers into Allen's shirt until even through the cloth he felt the bite of his nails on his palms. 

"Timothy, Timothy," Allen said like a lullaby, softly rocking back and forth. He was humming so very lightly that Timothy felt it more than heard it, and still chanting his name as softly as the down of Innocence feathers. Allen's hands were firm and warm on Timothy's back and on his head, and he could hear Allen's strong heartbeat, quiet but sure. "It's okay, you're safe. No one will touch you. No one will hurt you."

Timothy heard a soft keening, and as he pressed his face into the crook of Allen's neck to hide his tears he realized it was him. 

They sat there like that, with Allen speaking words like the soft rain on Paris streets that Timothy used to turn his face to, with his chest warm and firm and heart steady and strong, with Timothy curled there until it felt like, finally, he could breathe.

"Timothy," Allen said at last, a different kind of sound. A question, a wonder, a need to know. Timothy hid further into Allen's neck, turning his face into the bunch of his sweater there. "What happened?"

"Let me see his neck," Link said, and Timothy shuddered but allowed Allen to grab his sides and pull Timothy away. He still sat on Allen's lap but now Link, who sat on the bedside, could turn his shoulders enough to see his neck. Allen hissed angrily, and Timothy winced.

"Are you mad at me?" Timothy asked, trying hard to keep the tremble that he felt in his hands from his voice. He tightened his grip on Allen's shirt, trying to force the shiver away.

"Mad?" Allen asked incredulously. Link stood up to retrieve a first aid kit. "Oh, Timothy," Allen said quietly. He smoothed Timothy's hair away from his face where it clung to his panicked sweat, and then traced the curve of his other cheek. He smiled tenderly, eyes like liquid silver in the fire light, casting copper hues. Allen was crying, Timothy realized. It was there, in the shine of his eyes and how his chest trembled with hitched breaths. 

"I'm not mad at you," Allen said, and Timothy felt the last of his fears drift away, banished by the light warmth Allen held in his arms. "I'm just worried."

There was a light touch to his chin and Timothy jerked in surprise to see Link back. His brows were drawn down and his eyes looked angry even as his lips were set in a thin line. "Look up please," Link said, and Timothy tilted his chin up to show his neck. His cheeks burned in shame.

"Oh my God," Allen breathed, grasping one of Timothy's hands. "Oh, Timothy," he said again sadly. There was a strange scrape on the underside of his nail, and Timothy realized Allen was using his fingernails to scrape away the blood lining Timothy's. It hurt his heart that Allen would do it for him. He could remember Mother doing the same, sometimes with her own nails and sometimes with a file, brushing away the dirt clinging there. "Why did you do this?"

Timothy shrugged, and Link hissed for him to stay still. Something cold and wet touched his sensitive neck and Timothy jumped. "It's a salve," Link assured, smearing it around. Timothy couldn't tell if it was just very cold or if his neck was very hot. "The skin is all inflamed now," Link said, sounding upset.

"Pass me a napkin," Allen asked and Link complied. The strange scrape of Allen's nails left for a moment as Allen wiped off the drying blood and then returned to remove move. Timothy figured it was probably all over Allen's shirt and sweater, too.

They worked in silence as Allen cleaned Timothy's nails and Link disinfected then bandaged Timothy's neck. Finally, Link sat back with a sigh, closing the kit and taking the napkin to dispose of with all the other swabs he'd used. "Don't do that again," Link said sternly. "It'll scar." 

"Scar?" Timothy perked up. "Sounds kind of cool!"

"No Timothy," Allen said with exasperation. "Do not get neck scars. They... look bad."

Timothy frowned in thought but shrugged it off. It wouldn't be very cool to have scars from someone choking him anyways. 

"Alright, now it's time to sleep," Link ordered. "It's late and children need their sleep."

"'m not a kid," Timothy pouted and Allen laughed.

"Timothy, Timothy," he said in a voice that almost sounded patronizing, but was too sad. "You're just a child," and the tone of it was all wrong to be joking. It was heartbreaking and angry and hurt. Timothy looked at his hands and clean nails.

"Walker, stop that," Link said firmly, and Allen laughed wetly. Don't cry, Timothy pleaded. Don't cry for me.

"Link's right," Allen said a moment later, voice stronger. "It's time to sleep - it's late. Do you want to sleep here, Timothy?"

He nodded, not trusting his own voice, and immediately crawled from Allen's lap to sit next to him curled up, pressed firmly against his side. He let Allen pull the covers from under him and then over him, arranging the blanket Timothy still clung to more snugly around his shoulders. Allen pushed lightly on his shoulder to encourage Timothy to lie down.

Then with a mischievous grin, Allen firmly tucked in the cover until all Timothy looked like was a lump with a head. "Hey!" Timothy cried indignantly, wiggling around. Allen laughed, settling in as well. Link snorted and blew out the candle.

The room was dark now, but then Allen laid on his side, head propped up by his hand and turned towards Timothy. He lay snug right next to Allen and under his arm, so warm it was almost unbearable. Even in the dark room the moonlight caught Allen's gentle eyes and smile.

"Go to sleep Timothy. I'll chase away the bad dreams."

Timothy blushed, embarrassed, and turned on his side into Allen's chest, hiding his face. "Shut up! You can't chase dreams."

"For you I could," Allen said lightly with a laugh. "I'll chase away all the bad dreams and all the hurt. You're safe here, it's okay. Go to sleep."

Timothy didn't realize he was trembling until Allen began to soothe his hair, shifting the strands over and over until the fine shuddering stopped. Timothy breathed in deeply. He could smell the antiseptic on his neck, the sleep on Allen, the tangy residue of smoke curling in the air, the soap Allen used, the detergent on the sheets. He exhaled. 

He fell asleep to the soft feeling of Allen's fingers running through his hair, Allen's steady heartbeat at his ear.


 

Timothy woke with a gasp, and the moment he registered the coolness around him, the soft bite of an oncoming spring, and the cold glare of moonlight, he knew.

He stared blankly at the ceiling of his room, and when the tears rolled down his cheeks and left behind the cold wet touch of air he curled into his side with a broken sob.

The nightmare he just had didn't matter anymore. He couldn't even remember it now. The bruises and damages on his throat had long since healed, but in moments like this he could still feel the cruel grip around his neck, and the simple empty ghost of hands no longer there to run through his hair and down his back. To hug him and promise to chase away the bad dreams.

"You lied," Timothy said into his pillow, voice breaking. "You lied." 

You aren't here to chase away the bad dreams anymore.