The Order's cafeteria was busy as always, even moreso with all the Parasitic types feasting after an especially long and draining mission. Jerry hummed joyfully as he pushed along the carts and carts of dishes, elated that his creations were consumed with such gusto.
Allen took a large walnut and chocolate cake and divided the pieces Jerry cut out. He spared a glance at General Nine, asking for silent permission - she gave it, today was an exception after all.
"You did wonderful, today Timothy," Allen praised the boy with a warm smile. "As reward for your hard work this mission, please accept this big, fat slice for yourself!"
There was a thunderous applause coming from him, Emilia, Lavi, Lenalee, Miranda, Krory, Marie and Klaud; even the ever stoic Link had a small curve upwards on his lips. They all looked forward to see their youngest member feel appreciated and celebrated, letting him eat as much as he wanted and then for once skip studying and play instead - however, Timothy did none of that.
Allen's smile wilted barely noticeably. "What's wrong, Timothy? Isn't this your favourite dessert?"
"I-it is," he confirmed meekly.
"Is there a problem?" he asked patiently, caringly. "Is your stomach hurting perhaps?" Maybe he ate a bit too much too fast?
He perked up seeing Timothy raise his hand to his shame-reddened cheek. "M-my tooth… hurts."
Understanding little 'oh's echoed around the table.
"Then it's clear what needs to be done", Klaud said, "it needs to be pulled out as soon as possible."
"NO!" Timothy screamed clamping his hands above his lisp, wagging his head madly.
Emilia sighed irated. "Timothy please, we've been over this before. Come, we'll go to Chief Komui and-"
"NOOO!" the boy wailed even louder, turning to flee. Allen stopped him by gently, but firmly clasping a hand around his thin shoulder.
"Timothy, please don't run, it's ok, we won't take you to Komui and his drills," he promised quickly to calm the child. Heavens, he got it, he really got it how terrifying Komui could be. He didn't even dare to imagine what Krory goes through. Shaking the thoughts away, he rubbed Timothy's lithe back comfortingly, easing out his hiccups. "It will be alright. We're going to go get some anesthesia - you won't feel a thing."
"M-m!" Timothy persisted, wanting to flee but couldn't escape Allen's grasp.
"Timothy, please, it's going to get a lot worse if you leave it like that. It will hurt a lot more," he insisted, raising a gloved hand to gently wipe his tears. "I know you're a bit scared but it will be fine."
"How can you say that, you're not teething!"
"Well, I did when I was your age. Actually I pulled out my tooth in advance when I learned how much rich people pay for them, I even went to bars and provoked fights so-" He cut himself off with a nervous laughter seeing the absolute horror written all over Timothy's and everyone else's faces. "B-but that's only my experience! I'm sure the others have similar to yours! Right, Lenalee?" Surely, Komui would absolutely treat her with utmost gentleness-
He didn't like the way she fidgeted in her seat. "Actually… I lost all my baby teeth on my first mission. A Level 2 slapped me hard. When I woke up I had severe concussion and all my teeth were gone."
Only the cafeteria's rumbles could be heard for a while.
"Ahaha, that must have been… a pain," he laughed, looking around, desperate to keep up the morale. "Um hey, Lavi, how did you lose your teeth? You must have had a… less dramatic experience. You were travelling around with someone with a vast medical knowledge like Bookman, I'm sure he knew how to remove it painlessly-"
"I wouldn't say that," he said voice unusually somber, "actually he got so annoyed by my tantrums over the whole ordeal that he smacked them out."
"W-well, with Miranda being a civilian for so long, I'm sure-" he cut himself off seeing her cast down her eyes.
"A-actually… My teeth fell out because I kept tripping over my feet and hitting them out… haha…"
He smiled at Allen apologetically. "Whenever I had a loose tooth my flowers would rip it out and eat it. I guess they were deciding if I was worth eating once I died."
With a sharp inhale, Allen's eye turned at Link.
Sighing the German shrugged. "It was a strength of will to take it out yoursel-"
"Ok that's enough." Seriously what the heck.
Link gave him a judging look of "oh the pot calls the kettle black" but remained mute.
Allen turned to Klaud "General, I'm sure you-"
"No," the woman replied curtly as she took a sip from her tea. Lau Shimin chittered on her shoulder.
… Yeah maybe they were better off not knowing.
He didn't even look in Kanda's way, knowing that his teeth was always replaced because of his healing factor - at times due to Allen. Most of the times, actually.
"Marie?" he asked imploringly.
The man smiled reassuringly and patted Timothy's blue hair. "I had mine pulled out the traditional way. I had a string connect me to a door and it was simply yanked out so fast that I didn't even feel a thing."
Timothy visibly relaxed hearing that.
"Same for me," Jerry said placing a muffin he just made in front of the boy. "I bit into a muffin like this and my tooth stuck into it!"
Allen beamed a grateful smile at the man who blew him a kiss. "See Timothy? It's not scary at all! It's just a temporary inconvenience that once overcome has great rewards."
"Me too," Emilia added. "I simply plucked it out because it felt good that Papa and Mama complimented me for being brave. Be brave you too as well, ok, Timothy?"
Timothy sniffed a few more times but eventually got hold of his trembling. "M'ok. I'll try."
Allen squeezed his small hand. "It's going to be alright. The Head Nurse will give you a nice painkiller and-"
"The Head Nurse?!" Allen felt like kicking himself when Timothy went off another round of wailing.
"Come now, she's a very nice person!" Well, when she wasn't pissed off. Not that he knew, the Head Nurse always yelled at him for being so reckless. He really understood Timothy's sentiments but further postponing would only make the woman just angrier.
Apparently, there was only so much patience for Timothy's tantrum. Kanda shit up from his seat, yelling "For fuck's sake!"
The swordsman stomped over to the young boy, roughly grabbed him by his shoulder, and without any tact whatsoever, he shoved his fingers inside the mouth that was left open in a panicked cry, and remorselessly ripped out the tooth.
There was a moment of absolute silence as Kanda dropped the tooth in Allen's gloved hand, the boy's blood staining its pistrine whiteness. Timothy gaped at the organ that was inside him just seconds ago and set off to another round of loud sobbing.
"Kanda you-!" Allen cut himself off before he uttered some nasty curse word. Not in front of Timothy. Instead he turned to comfort the boy with a warm embrace. "Sh, Timothy sh, sh, it's alright now, sh. Come, show me okay?"
Between sniffs and hiccups, the boy complied opening his jaw wide. The pearly teeth contrasted greatly against the fresh blood leaking out of the open gum. Allen's face went pale.
"What," he snapped, irritated that he couldn't even eat his meal in peace, yet intrigued hearing Allen's tone.
"You took the wrong tooth."
"... Hold him down."
"NO!" Timothy screamed again, turning to run but unable to escape Allen's arms.
"Kanda, no, I'll handle this, sit down," he growled threateningly. Kanda's eyes narrowed but judged the whole ordeal to be too troublesome.
"Shut him up already."
"Stop upsetting him! Or do you want me to help you part with a few teeth?"
"If you two don't stop right now, I'm sending Lau Shimin on you."
The General set her fork down, turning with a stern but also concerned gaze at her pupil. "I understand your feelings, Timothy, but you can't run away from your problems. The more you delay the worse it will get. You have to learn to be strong."
The words sounded harsh, but Allen knew well the underlying fear lurking behind them. They were Apostles of God. Humanity relied on them for their continued survival. They couldn't afford to run away. Not to mention those who attempted were punished - executed - ruthlessly. Sometimes he still had dreams of Suman, and the pain had yet to fade away.
Wiping his mind clean of the tragic memory, Allen turned back to Timothy with a reassuring smile, raising his hand to wipe away the stream of tears. "Timothy, please look at me." He smiled at the blue wet eyes. "I know you are scared but we're here for you ok? You're not alone in this." He once again enclosed the boy in a comforting embrace.
Wiping his hands and smearing disinfectant Marie approached with a smile. "It's alright Timothy. I'm going to take it in a flash."
The boy sniffed a few times, but Allen's and Marie's proximity seemed to have calmed him.
Half-hiding his face in Allen's neck, Timothy opened his mouth, breath hitching as he felt the strings of Noel Organon wrap around his loose tooth and with a single confident yank, it was ripped out of his gum. With a whimper he quickly hid his tear-soaked face in Allen's neck, who didn't waste a second to offer reassuring words of 'I'm so proud of you'-s as he comfortingly rubbed his small back and Marie's hand came to tousle his hair affectionately.
Between his hiccups he did admit that despite the pain, Emilia was right; Allen's warm embrace and everyone's compliments made it all worth it.