Grazhir :: Crossover :: Welkin :: 07

07: 2010

They beat a retreat not long after, with Tsuna apologizing to Reborn for the brevity of the visit. Daemon didn’t say a word in the car until after he had thoroughly checked for bugs and thrown up a barrier of Mist to confuse anything he had not found. Tsuna’s pulse of flames had not encountered anything that would count as disharmonious, but the extra precaution was just as well.

“It was coincidence more than anything, Tsuna,” Daemon said. “She was actually there to see Reborn. She’s heard a lot about him and wanted to meet him. But then she saw the emblem on the back of your hoodie and switched focus.”

“So she decided I must be a dwarf?” he asked disbelievingly.

“Well, you obviously can’t be like Reborn. He’s a legend.”

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “Okay, and Hayato? What the fuck?”

“Tsuna, my love, you turn me on with such dirty language,” Daemon replied silkily, then continued, “He knows there’s something wrong. I arranged, back when, to ensure the household staff did not gossip about his mother—his real mother—but he suspects something. As he’s still at home and has no pressing need to spend his allowance, he has money. He’s heard about Welkin and wants to hire us.”

“I always knew he was smart,” he muttered. “From what I remember of all that shit in the future, Bianchi was able to prove that Lavinia was very much in love with Hayato’s father, but she was ill, and that’s why she never married him. They think the crash was caused by her illness, because it wasn’t suicide and it wasn’t a hit.”

Daemon glanced over for a second.

“No, I’m not upset that you meddled. You made a tiny change and so far it’s kept him safe and off the streets.”

“The trade-off is that his sister still gets to poison him.”

Tsuna growled. “How can she claim to love her brother when she keeps poisoning him so he’ll play all wonky? I don’t give a damn that it’s her father telling her to do it. And he can’t love him, either, not with those instructions. Who allows the systematic poisoning of one of their heirs?”

“I can always adjust the man.”

Tsuna shook his head. “No. Or at least, not right now. If Hayato comes to us we can see if he’ll open up properly. Even so, his father has custody, even if he chooses to run away. We can’t very well kidnap the kid. I wonder if the man even bothered to send people to look for him when he ran last time. Shamal may have reassured the father, I guess, but since everyone thought he was just a kid only good for playing the piano…”

He snarled silently, then blinked. “Did you call me ‘my love’?”

“You only now caught that?” Daemon said with a laugh. “Get some rest. You know how long a drive it is, even with me speeding like a madman.”

He went to bed properly once they got home and the next morning went shopping so he would be able to cook what Daemon was craving. Romeo played bodyguard and burden carrier. At the house once again Romeo skipped off to do some surveillance and Fon filled him in on what happened while he and Daemon were away. “Okay. Pork Marsala for dinner.”

Fon nodded. “I’ll be home in time, then.”

“Okay.” He gave Fon an impromptu hug and headed to his office. There he sent off a text to ask Skull if he would be joining them for dinner, then refreshed his memory on the paperwork that infested his desk. He also dashed off a letter to Dino as both a written apology for having to leave so quickly, and to remind him of a few things. He banded the envelope with a ribbon of flames instead of a more customary seal and set it aside for a construct to deliver.

Life continued on more or less normally for the next few weeks, with the addition of letters from Dino to those from Reborn. One of those letters was an invitation from Reborn, and permission to try to teach Dino to harmonize with his surroundings. Tsuna opted to ask Romeo to come along, too.

“Sure I’ll come,” his Lightning said easily. “But why?”

“I’ll be teaching Reborn’s student something that may or may not be complicated—or trying to, anyway—and I’d feel a lot better with an extra guardian watching my back. But it begs the question of which name you’d be using. If I introduced you as Kaminari, that’s a dead giveaway that you’re a guardian. But you might not be comfortable using your real name. What is your opinion?”

“Uh… I know you’re walking a fine line on this. So for this I’m Romeo, one of your agents at Welkin.”

He nodded. “I’ve mentioned you in passing when the question of whether I’d done tutoring before came up. Okay. I don’t expect to be there for any longer than the previous times, but pack an extra set of clothes just in case. Also, Reborn is very intelligent and can spot a lie like you wouldn’t believe. So don’t lie to him if he asks you any questions, but don’t necessarily tell the whole truth, either.”

He brought a box of sweets with him, both to be kind and to be a tease. The second Reborn saw it he called for a break. Dino coiled up his whip and trotted over, then stared hungrily. Tsuna beamed a smile and twinkled his fingers at the blond, who staggered back under the assault. Romario, also present, did not fare much better.

Tsuna could see in his peripheral vision that Romeo went absolutely still, so he just knew his Lightning was desperately trying not to laugh. Reborn sauntered over oh so casually and gestured toward a table that had appeared since the previous visit, so Tsuna nodded and set the box down. He looked at Reborn and tapped the lid. “You have to share, you know.”

“Right,” Reborn said. “May I?”

“Sure!”

Reborn had the box open a split second later and was eyeing the contents with badly disguised hunger. “I think we should have a snack,” he pronounced solemnly, then reached under the table to pull open a drawer with plates and napkins and cutlery. The only person Reborn catered to was Tsuna, serving up one of each sweet on a plate and laying it down at one of the seats.

“Thank you,” he said warmly and took the seat, but he waited for the others to have their own plates and be seated before he introduced Romeo.

“Lightning?” Reborn asked him, then promptly started eating.

Romeo nodded. “Sora helped me to access my flames.”

“Really?” Dino said after swallowing hastily. “He helped me, too.”

“It’s pretty cool, right?” Romeo said. “It didn’t take too terribly long before I could make a shield with mine. You’d think foam projectiles wouldn’t be much of a threat to defend against, but they still sting if thrown hard enough.”

Tsuna smiled to himself and finished devouring his thin wedge of cassata cake and moved on to the next delight, a thin wedge of cheesecake. He had avoided coffee-based desserts this go around, and decided on cakes instead. A sidelong look showed that Reborn was enjoying the hell out of them anyway. A look across the table showed that Romario was sitting awfully close to Dino, which made him wonder if his calculated comment had prompted some harmony.

To that end he leaned sideways and whispered, “Did those two…?”

Reborn paused mid-chew and nodded.

“Wow,” he breathed and sat straight again. Once everyone was done and he got the okay from Reborn, Tsuna drew Dino away to sit under a tree with him, facing each other. “First, congratulations.”

Dino broke out into a warm smile. “You’re right, it’s like a flower. And thanks.”

He nodded. “I wanted to try to teach you something today, one Sky to another. I have no idea if it’s a personal quirk of mine or if any Sky can learn it. So we’ll see. If you’re willing, that is.”

“Uh… Okay.”

He blinked in surprise at Dino’s willingness, but nodded. “I call it being in harmony with your surroundings. It’s an awareness. Knowing your surroundings. You can actually use your flames to determine things that way.”

“Huh?”

“As an example, I use my flames on food and drink that I didn’t make myself. I look for disharmony. If I find any, that means there’s something wrong with it. I learned how to do it by accident. But it applies to your surroundings, too. Take this courtyard. You’ve been all over it your whole life, yes? You should know, even if not consciously, exactly what’s here. And when you sense something out of place, out of harmony…”

Dino seemed to catch on at that point. “Like someone hiding, or…”

“Exactly. So, an exercise for you to practice when you have the odd minute.” He raised his hand to bring the Sky ring he had put on into view. “I’m going to do something I call pulsing. You’ve sparked flames off your ring, but you can also create a pulse off it. Imagine a circle or even a sphere. Watch.” He waited until Dino’s eyes were firmly on the ring and then pulsed his flames out from it as a circle, then again as a sphere.

“You learned it by accident?”

“Yes. It was when I was learning how to cook,” he said, speaking a half truth. “I don’t even remember what made my flames pulse like that, but when it happened, I got back an odd feeling from the food I’d just made. Turned out I had accidentally put the wrong spice into it, which threw off the harmony. So, this is something you can practice whenever you get a minute, and use for various things.”

Dino nodded and focused on his own ring. Tsuna waited patiently, keeping an ear open for what was going on with the others, and taking note of the fact that Romario was hovering nearby. He spent the next space of time mostly enjoying the day, though he was running options in his mind regarding meal planning for the next week. He attention was claimed when Dino managed to send out a small flat pulse of flame. “Very good,” he praised.

“Cool. I didn’t learn anything from it, but… That was pretty small. I’ll work on it.”

Tsuna reached over to pat Dino’s arm. “Okay. And remember, once you have the pulse thing down, try it against things or places. Maybe enlist the kitchen staff for an experiment. If it works for you the way it does for me, it’s a super useful skill.” He got up and rejoined the others, paying only passing attention to Romario swooping in closer to Dino.

“Taiyo!” he chirped. “Why are you staring at Romeo like you wish to dissect him?”

“He has admitted to having dinner cooked by you on numerous occasions,” Reborn replied grouchily.

“I enjoy cooking,” he said simply. “I hope that at some point you will be able to partake.”

“You said you have your own reasons to be bitter.”

Tsuna eyed Reborn; those liquid black eyes gave nothing away. “My mother was murdered by members of an unsavory famiglia. We were alone, because my father thought that staying away would be all the protection we’d need. I was on a trip with a friend when it happened.” He looked away. “My mother taught me how to cook. I cook now in her memory.”

“And the curse?”

He looked back, his brow furrowed. “It did not make me bitter, if that’s what you mean. It saved my life, in a way.” Then he smiled. “And I’ve made some interesting friends. How is it that you’re so good with a gun? Are you using some application of your flames to enhance your performance? I mean,” he said, plowing on rather than letting Reborn speak, “is it even possible to do something with your eyes to perhaps increase visual acuity and range of vision?”

Reborn smirked at him after a moment. “Interesting. Most people are too dazzled to dare ask questions like that.”

An illusion flashed for a second behind Reborn’s head, letting him know that Bianchi was in the vicinity. It was replaced with a short message detailing a plan. “They’d be better off asking, because you might be able to help them improve. Assuming they’re intelligent enough to read between the lines or extrapolate from what you do say,” he retorted.

Not long after that she showed up, spotted him, and charged. After angling his eyes sidelong to blatantly ensure Reborn knew he was aware, he kept watch on the illusion Daemon was creating for him, like the feed from a CCTV camera. Bianchi had a cake in her hand and was gunning for him.

Right as she threw Romeo stepped in and slammed a barrier up in front of Tsuna and, incidentally, Reborn. “What the hell are you doing, miss? Is it normal for you to be actively suicidal?” Romeo asked as Tsuna smoothly turned to watch directly. Cake was sliding down the barrier to adulterate the ground.

“The stupid little dwarf needs to sdie,” she hissed as the barrier vanished.

Tsuna quirked a brow at Daemon, then beamed a smile at the girl and twinkled his fingers at her.

Unlike most people she did not stagger or trip or otherwise make a fool of herself; her eyes went wide and a blush tinted her cheeks. “Oh. You’re—”

“Ciao!” he chirped, then adopted a sad and uncertain look. “Did—did you attack me? Was I bad?”

“I—no? I mean—um—I need to go,” she stumbled through, then whipped around and fled.

Tsuna snorted softly. “Thank you, Romeo. Your intervention was both timely and effective.”

Romeo smiled lazily. “No problem, boss man.”

“She’s already tried to kill Dino,” Reborn commented, smirking faintly.

“She’s become obsessed with you?”

Reborn nodded. “She’s a very pretty girl, obviously skilled, but I have to say I’d rather not be accused of pedophilia.”

Tsuna giggled madly and nodded. He wondered anew if that “relationship” had been a way to keep her somewhat under control and her obsession aimed in a direction where it would do the least harm. “I think she’ll grow up to be a real beauty. She should still set her sights on someone closer to her own age, I agree. Crime is our business, but she’s taking it too far.”

“Is she gone?” Dino whispered from behind a tree.

Tsuna bounded over and grinned. “Yep. But that reinforces what I said earlier, now that I think about it. If she’s already tried to kill you, well… Check your food, yeah?”

Dino nodded fervently. “Incentive to learn that.” He paused, then said, “Um, what did you mean about the kitchen staff?”

Tsuna blinked. “Once you can pulse reliably, ask the kitchen staff to make, uh, three of the same dish, but one of them needs to be wrong in some way. Then you can send pulses through them to learn how to find the problem.”

“Oh, oh,” Dino said. “Okay. Yeah, I see what you mean now.” He nodded, as if to himself, then got a bit of a shifty cast to his expression. “Um, can I talk to you about something? Privately?”

Tsuna blinked again, then nodded. Dino picked him up and headed to the far side of the courtyard. Tsuna didn’t have the heart to tell him that Daemon would be spying and Reborn probably had insects listening in. He simply looked curiously at the blond.

“Are—are you—” Dino bit his lip, then blurted out quietly, “Are you going to take Reborn away from me?”

His jaw dropped and his breath came out in a whoosh. “You mean harmonize with him.”

“Yeah. If you did, he’d leave, right?”

Tsuna shook his head. “Okay. I do believe that Reborn and I could be a good fit, and I’m hoping we are, that we harmonize. But I knew he was contracted to a long-term job, that being you, training you. If I asked him to go back on his word, I wouldn’t be worthy of him. It would be selfish and hubristic. Even if we harmonized two seconds from now, he would still be here for you, until you’re ready to stand on your own. Well, with the support of your guardians, because I know you’ll find them.” He reached up to gently pat the side of Dino’s face. “Okay?”

Dino looked at him searchingly, then nodded, though he still looked worried. “Okay.”

‘Time will prove,’ he thought. “Did you like the cakes?”

A smile blossomed. Dino carried him back over to the others and set him down gently, then was barked at by Reborn to start working on his aim again. Tsuna had known from the past that Dino was fond of Reborn, despite being somewhat afraid of him—or rather, his inclination toward blowing his students up—but he’d had no idea of the depth of affection. It was sweet.

In truth, though, he had very little else he wanted to teach Dino, if anything. The two most important things he had already imparted. He wanted to keep visiting to learn about Reborn from a new perspective, though even he could see, from his few visits, that Reborn’s relationship with Dino, while in some ways very similar to the one he’d had, was very different. Dino wasn’t broken. A little slow on the uptake at times, but not broken.

He shook his head and sidled over to Romario, intent on getting to know the man better. He was as much of a cipher as before. Aside from knowing the man had a good sense of humor, he knew very little except that he must be a good man if Dino had harmonized with him.

*

The next time he arrived for a visit his eyes were drawn straight to Leon. He blinked a few times on seeing Leon cocooned on Reborn’s hat, then deliberately set it aside in his head. The usual box of sweets was offered, though in a preoccupied manner. Reborn had Romario hustle the box off to his suite—and he would know if anyone did any sampling because of the ribbon—before returning, as they had arranged to go have dinner as a group.

Tsuna and Daemon were both dressed in smart suits, though his pacifier was hidden by illusion and Daemon looked to be about five years old for some reason he did not bother to inquire about. Dinner itself was delicious and he made certain to catch Dino’s attention prior to sending out a pulse of flames to check for problems before tucking in.

It was on the way to the car that it happened. Tsuna was expecting something; Leon would not have gone wonky otherwise. At least two dozen men blocked the access lane to the parking garage.

“Now we got you,” one of them said smugly. “Your daddy ain’t here to protect you.”

Dino started trembling, but jerked when Reborn kicked him in the calf.

Tsuna mostly tuned out the posturing being thrown around and leaned in to whisper with Daemon. “Plan?”

Daemon skipped over the obvious and whispered back, “Hey, we’re just little children. They’re either going to ignore us or use us to bait Dino into acting. If they do, let’s play along for the moment.”

“And unleash a whirlwind of death if necessary,” he whispered, nodding.

Daemon smirked. “I’ll inform Reborn.”

A few seconds later Reborn nodded in their direction, so Daemon had obviously flashed up an illusion for him. Tsuna plastered a frightened look on his face and clung to Daemon. Reborn would never be mistaken for an actual child, not with his pacifier out on display, not if those men had any standing whatsoever in the mafia world. They would have to be ignorant, uninformed, half-witted noobs to not recognize the Sun Arcobaleno and tutor of their target.

Reborn, of course, was looking supremely bored by the whole thing, but Tsuna knew he was waiting for the right moment to say something guaranteed to get Dino fired up and allow Leon to gift the young man with what he was incubating. A slight shudder wracked his frame. It still creeped him out that Enzo was essentially Leon’s child, but it also showed the depth of the bond between them, or at least Leon’s regard for the human.

Sure enough, when the aggressors decided they were not getting the reaction they wished for, a quartet zipped over to Tsuna and Daemon and took them hostage. Dino, predictably, freaked out, and was given another sharp kick from Reborn. Sadly, they were too far away from Dino, Reborn, and Romario to hear exactly what Reborn said, and the general unruliness from the mob was creating rather a lot of noise pollution.

Tsuna decided to help things along by bursting into tears and wailing. Daemon followed suit and they clutched each other desperately. Dino’s head snapped around their way and his eyes went all flinty. He said something that was lost to Tsuna, and at that moment Leon blimped up and exploded, raining ragged bits of whatever it was companions were made of all over the area. A whip and Enzo bashed into Dino’s head, driving him to his knees.

Dino got back up, tucked the turtle into his pocket without overt thought, and cracked his new whip. A head went flying. Tsuna’s tears cut off abruptly as kunai came to his hands. Two of his captors went down in the next second, their guts spilling out onto the pavement for having dared manhandle him. Then he dashed toward the main mass and started disabling everyone within reach. Some of them had to be alive, after all, to be questioned.

He was startled at one point when one of them went down to a bullet and risked a quick look over his shoulder. Reborn was there, eyes an endless cold sea of black. His heart lurched as a connection formed, but he pushed it aside for the time being.

It was only after their attackers were dead or down did he mutter, “For the love of cannoli, what the fuck is wrong with my life that…”

Daemon laughed creepily.

Romario got his phone out and made a call asking for men to come sanitize the area and get the prisoners squirreled away.

Daemon waved his hands around in an obvious show, causing transparent barriers to go up around the area, then set about binding the still living ones with illusionary ropes.

Reborn strode over with a slight spring in his step and stopped at Tsuna’s side. “We’ll have to talk soon.”

“Hai. As you can see, Kiri is keeping the police away. Perhaps after the young master is safely at home we could…”

“There are places at the manor we can secure,” Reborn said, “or we can rent a hotel suite.”

“I don’t want those sweets to go off, so…”

Reborn nodded. “My suite will be fine, and the extra security won’t hurt.”

Cavallone forces arrived fifteen minutes later with several vehicles and began loading bodies. A few Storms took care of disintegrating any evidence. Their group continued on to the garage and reclaimed their car, and Romario drove them back to the manor. Dino was exhausted by everything and was quickly hustled away, so Reborn, Tsuna, and Daemon repaired to Reborn’s suite.

Daemon immediately swept the place for non-living bugs and emplaced some barriers, then grabbed a book and sat down to read.

Tsuna giggled quietly and took the seat Reborn gestured to. “Why did you shoot? Your life wasn’t directly in danger.”

Reborn pinned him with a look, then opened the box and peered inside. A sigh escaped his lips. “One of them was aiming for your head. I’m fairly certain you would have been fine, but I was unable to stop myself from protecting you. It was like my hand moved on its own.” He turned away and fetched supplies from a sideboard, then portioned out the sweets.

Daemon’s plate was picked up and ferried to him by a construct, but he otherwise stayed out of things.

“Taiyo,” he said slowly. “Reborn. I have secrets that I will share, but I need to know that—”

“Yes, of course,” Reborn interrupted. “My honor would allow nothing less. I refuse to betray my Sky.”

He smiled and nodded. “My name is Tsunayoshi Sawada and I’ll be ten years old in October.”

Reborn fell into his chair and stared at him. “You’re the missing Vongola child.”

He nodded again. “Things changed when I was made Sky Arcobaleno.”

“Obviously,” Reborn drawled. “Estraneo…”

His jaw tightened for a moment, but he nodded. “Yes. Kiri’s real name is Daemon.”

That garnered a sharp look toward his Mist, who was pretending to be oblivious. “Daemon Spade.”

“Uh, yes,” he confirmed. “You obviously know your history. Anyway, I was away on a trip—at Mafia Land, actually—when it happened. Oh!” He turned toward Daemon, who immediately sent a net over. Tsuna slid it across the table to Reborn, then got out his own and secured it over his pacifier. “I’m not even going to ask why you had that ready.”

“Anything for you, my darling,” Daemon said sunnily, then went back to his book.

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “Right. That net will mask your pacifier, should you, for some reason, wish to sneak up on another Arcobaleno. Like I did when I visited Mafia Land. Except that I didn’t sneak up on Colonnello, I just wanted to avoid a confrontation. Anyway, my identity is my biggest secret.”

Reborn nodded and inspected the net before tucking it away. He ate a piece of biscotti before saying, “Romeo is your Lightning Guardian.”

“Hai.”

“Why not Verde?”

He frowned. “I tried to open a line of communication with Verde by offering to fund his research. He sent assassins after me in response, unknowing that I was a fellow Arcobaleno. I killed them, and Daemon sent the pieces back in a box. As he had no idea he was going against the code, I let the matter drop at that point. He knows that his optical camouflage suits failed for some reason, and may or may not know that the tracking method he used was discovered. I assume he does considering that one of the assassins was carrying a device similar to a Geiger counter and it was not returned with the bodies.”

Reborn eyed him thoughtfully. “I’m not the first. I recognized some of those moves. You have Fon, at least.”

He nodded. “Fon was third,” he said, then giggled. “I went for the little guy first.”

Reborn stared, then groaned and lifted a hand to his forehead. “Skull? Skull was first?”

“Yep. Probably just as well, because I made a lot of mistakes at first and he caught on really fast. He’s quite smart, has a good mind for strategy. But we also had the whole common ground of not being mafia until we had to be. I was only five, so he was … gentle … with me. Taught me a lot of things. We harmonized the same night my mother died. Daemon a couple of days later because he was so busy making arrangements and getting us out of Japan. I harmonized with Fon right after I killed those assassins from Verde.”

“So that’s why…” Reborn nodded and consumed another piece of biscotti. “So it’s just Rain,” he muttered.

“You two are funny together.”

Reborn’s brow went up.

“I was watching the meeting at the Pacifier Spring,” he admitted with a laugh. “You and Colonnello argue a lot. I’ve been concerned about possibly contacting him, because of Lal Mirch.”

Reborn nodded and said, “And she’s CEDEF, and therefore too close to Iemitsu.”

“Yeah. But he’s also military, and would understand keeping quiet.”

“You don’t need to spell it out. You must loathe your father, quite possibly Vongola in general.”

“My father, certainly. It was ironic that his first visit in years coincided with Estraneo’s actions, and he was too late. She was tortured before they killed her, and she didn’t even know where I was. Skull and I were at Mafia Land, rating the attractions. We were on the Ferris Wheel when I felt—so wrong.”

Reborn’s eyes widened. “You have the Vongola Hyper Intuition. Amazing. Well, I can’t argue that,” he said with a shake of his head.

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“Your … choice of how to proceed. Gaining guardians. I would still prefer to have been first, but…”

He giggled. “I told you, Taiyo, you’re intimidating. I couldn’t come to you first. You’d have run roughshod over me.”

Reborn flapped his hand in agreement, then pulled out his phone and looked at him expectantly. Once Tsuna’s number was in his contacts list he said, “I’ll see about arranging a weekend off, or even a week. I’m sure the ninth will agree to it on the basis of harmonization. Where are you based?”

“Gesso territory, in Portici. We were in a loaned house, but my investments got to the point where I could easily spend the money to buy a house of my own, get it fixed up.” He imparted the address and waited for Reborn to make a firm nod. “And of course, when you’re able to visit, you will have to let me know what you’d want for dinner that first night.”

Reborn hummed happily. “How much do you know?”

“About you? Your original name, for one. Your, uh, facility with insects and certain small creatures. And of course your reputation and skill. And I eventually asked Skull about what led up to him becoming an Arcobaleno, so I have the bare facts for that. Pretty sure Fon was eavesdropping at the time.”

“He was,” Daemon said.

“And you? How did that come about?”

He exhaled slowly. “I woke up like this on my fifth birthday. Strange house, like a memorial. A room for each flame, with pictures, and plenty of information about history and flames. I have no idea if the place is even there any longer. It was shortly after that when Daemon showed up.”

Reborn nodded, then shook his head. “Tell me to stuff it if this is—your mother didn’t notice?”

He chuckled. “Uh, my mother was oblivious to a lot of things and very easy to fool. But when I was changed and came to understand, I made it a point to spend a lot of time with her. She actually taught me a lot of things, some of which I’ve ended up using in Welkin, like budgeting. I think part of why I managed as well as I did with my flames was I had every excuse to use them. Skull offered straight away to let me live on his airship, but my friend from Gesso came through with a house. So Skull is free to drift when he needs it, but always has a home with us.”

“And no one has a clue aside from your guardians who you are.”

“Right. And my Gesso friend. But that’s it. I’m almost never seen openly, so people don’t realize who Welkin is. Everything goes through various drops. I only showed up here because of you. Even Fon was contacted through drops after I freaked him out. And speaking of that, that’s another issue with Colonnello. Aside from him potentially mentioning to Lal about being spied on, he seems to be very happy at Mafia Land. I’ve been conflicted because what we do doesn’t seem like his kind of thing.”

“Okay, hold up. Being spied on. Was that you, that seriously creepy and irritating sensation I felt once?”

He nodded. “It’ll feel different now, should I do it.”

“Do it.”

His brow slid up.

“Please.”

He reached up to hold his pacifier and concentrated on Reborn, but kept his eyes open. Reborn suddenly shivered as though he had been dipped into warm water on a chilly day, so he let go. After blinking a few times to correct the double vision, he tilted his head at his Sun curiously.

“That … was super cool. And you did this to Fon and Skull, too. And Verde? Mammon?”

“Skull, yes, and he ended up buying a throwaway phone and writing up a message for me to see with the number on it. Considering at that point I was alone and had no idea how to do anything but peek, that worked out. Fon tested it in several ways, but rather than make him a paranoid wreck I started using Daemon’s constructs and drops. Verde, no. I didn’t want to accidentally throw him off during an experiment and blow him sky high. I didn’t bother with Viper. He probably would have tried to charge me for it somehow, anyway.”

Reborn snickered. “I would be happy to host you tonight, so you two aren’t driving back on no sleep or having to find a hotel.”

He smiled warmly. “That would be nice. I’ll just—”

“No need,” Daemon said. “I already sent text messages letting them know we’d be delayed.”

“Oh. Thank you, Daemon.”

Reborn decided to order some refreshments from the kitchens, so Tsuna was shortly enjoying a cup of hot chocolate.

“Yes, I really am that Daemon Spade.”

“Oh, good,” Tsuna said. “I’m not the only one he does it to.”

Reborn scowled and had a sip of his espresso. “How is that possible?”

“I was driven insane when the woman I loved died, back when I was Mist Guardian to Vongola Primo. I forced him to step down through various machinations, and then became Mist Guardian for Secondo, his cousin. After that I discarded my body and took to possessing others, always keeping an eye on Vongola. It was not until I came upon Tsuna that something fixed itself in my head. He is so very much like Elena, and all she ever wanted was for Vongola to be strong, to protect those who could not protect themselves.

“When Vongola went after Estraneo I was there, watching, while Tsuna was safe with Skull. One of the children being experimented on was a perfect match for me, a young Mist whose soul had been driven out. So I fooled Vongola forces and stole the body, and claimed it for my own. I was then back to my full power and capable of harmonizing with Tsuna, which I did. I found it intriguing, as well, that Tsuna gained the mind of an adult when he was changed into the Sky Arcobaleno. I had very little experience with them prior to that.”

Reborn sipped more espresso before saying, “So how old is your body?”

“A few months older than Tsuna would be, so ten. Oddly, the boy looked almost exactly like I did at that age. I considered it providence, finding him. Tsu-kun, would you get upset with me should I decide to mimic Viper and go give him a fright?”

He stared blankly at his Mist for a few moments, then started giggling. “Please don’t. If I were mean I’d say mimic Xanxus, but that might send the Varia off the deep end, and they’re already pretty cracked.”

Daemon pouted. “Fine.” Then his expression went blank.

Tsuna sighed. “Kami-sama. What happened?”

“One of my spies just dispelled, one on that man.”

He swallowed unhappily. “She’s pregnant again?”

Daemon nodded. “I suspected that might be the case, but it was just confirmed.”

“Okay.” He drank deeply from his cup and sat back. “Half-sibling number two on the way. I hope to hell one of them turns out to be a Sky.” He caught the expression forming on Reborn’s face and added, “As a just in case. One of Nono’s sons has already been killed. There are plenty of people out there who’d like to see Vongola fall, so…”

“What are you going to do if the others are killed?”

“Xanxus is presently frozen, so—”

“Frozen? I know he attempted a coup d’état.”

“Yes. Vongola has a technique, called Zero Point Breakthrough. It can be used to freeze flames, or an entire person, like putting them in a form of stasis. From what Daemon could see, Xanxus was frozen rather than killed. Either way, it’s highly unlikely Nono would hand over the reins to him if it came to it. If Massimo dies, I’m going to start getting nervy. And if Federico dies, well…”

“Then we have a council,” Daemon said. “Personally, I’d wring a number of concessions out of them for the honor of having Tsuna be Decimo, even temporarily.”

He shrugged. “I’ll worry about it when. You still have spies there?”

Daemon shook his head. “I’ll have to create another one. But since we’re this far north, it won’t take long to get it in place.”

A yawn overtook him and he dropped his head as he covered his mouth.

Reborn slipped off his chair and disappeared into the bedroom. Daemon got up and opened the door to the hallway long enough to accept their overnight bag from a construct, which promptly disappeared, and closed up again.

Reborn came back and rather pushily hustled Tsuna off into the bedroom and pointed at the door leading the facilities. Daemon followed him in long enough to set the bag down, then exited. Tsuna covered another yawn, then got ready for bed and wandered back out. Reborn hustled him over to the bed and stared until he climbed in. “Um…”

“I can make additional, temporary beds,” Daemon pointed out.

“Or we can just share. It’s a huge bed and it’s not like any of us are large,” he retorted.

“Oh, love, I’ll snuggle with you any day, but perhaps Reborn is not accustomed to having people in his bed with him?”

He blushed. “Oh, right. Sorry.”

“It’s fine,” Reborn said. “Just sit tight and we can all go to sleep.”

Ten minutes later all three of them were in the bed, Tsuna in the middle.

They were half way through breakfast the following morning when a knock came at the door. Daemon eyed Reborn, then went to answer it. Dino was there looking confused.

“Come in,” Reborn said, and pointed at a free seat.

“I’m confused,” Dino said as he sat down.

“Yes, that was evident in your expression,” Reborn said blandly.

Dino scowled.

“Reborn and I harmonized during the altercation yesterday,” Tsuna said. “He offered to put us up for the night because of it.”

“Oh,” Dino said with a nod. “Oh! Really?”

“That is what he just said,” Reborn replied. “Not to worry, pipsqueak, I’m still your tutor. I will be requesting the occasional bit of time off, though. I’m sure you understand. And if not, I’ll make sure you do.”

Dino shook his head frantically. “No, no, I do. When Romario and I harmonized… Yeah.”

“Good. I’d hate to have to blow you up over such a simple thing. On the other hand, it would mean Romario would get additional experience in healing.”

“Reborn!” Dino whined.

*

When Reborn arrived (let in by a construct) Tsuna was dancing down the hallway, wearing a pair of headphones, and singing. He was tone-deaf, unfortunately. Just seeing his Sky was a weight off his shoulders. He had not thought being apart would be so hard. It was bizarre enough that he had acted unthinkingly that night and surrendered to his hopes and desires, and harmonized. Seeing Tsuna again made him want to smile.

Tsuna caught sight of him and stopped dead, and blushed as he slipped the headphones back down to his neck. He laughed nervously. “Oh, uh, ciao.”

“Ciaossu.”

Tsuna hastened over and snatched the bag out of his hand, then ushered him down the hallway. The next thing he knew he was up a flight of stairs and into a suite of rooms done up primarily in pale yellow. “I hope you like it,” Tsuna said quickly, “but I can have it redone if you don’t. Whatever you want. It’s no trouble.”

He took the bag back and set it down next to a sofa. “It’s fine,” he assured his Sky. “Do you normally dance down the hallways?”

Tsuna blushed again. “Come on! I’ll show you around.”

He was taken on a whirlwind tour, admired the training rooms, Tsuna’s office, and gratefully sank onto a stool in the kitchen and accepted some coffee. He had barely taken a sip when a white-haired young man breezed in and snatched Tsuna up long enough for a hug, then took a seat.

“Only one more to go!”

“And are you going to introduce yourself, or…?”

“Right.” The stranger turned to him and grinned. “Byakuran, heir to the Gesso Famiglia. Wonderful to meet you.”

“Reborn,” he said with a nod. Tsuna had interesting friends, it seemed.

“Are you planning to stay for dinner?” Tsuna asked.

“I will always stay for dinner when invited. You know how much I adore your cooking,” Byakuran said grandiosely.

Tsuna nodded and poured two cups of tea, then served one to the Gesso heir. “That reminds me,” he said, “one moment,” and got out his phone to fiddle with it, then tucked it away. “So, any news of interest?”

“Well… I heard that the Carcassa Famiglia did something stupid and lost a dozen men. Something about a dodgy shipment of arms. But they’re idiots, so… And the Todd Famiglia got into a fight with Pesca. They lost a dozen or so each.”

Fon glided in and took a seat. “Reborn.”

“Fon.” He felt a bit odd. He had always respected Fon, but being a fellow guardian, to the same Sky—it was just odd, somehow. He was a tiny bit jealous, actually, that Fon lived in the manor, while he had several years yet, most likely, before he could take his place full time. However, now that he had his heart’s desire—or one of them, anyway—he would not fuck it up with misplaced emotion. All he had to do was concentrate on that warmth in his chest, the warmth that helped to thaw the cold from years of loneliness he had never admitted to. “It’s good to see you again.”

His fellow Arcobaleno smiled serenely. “Perhaps while you’re here we can fit in a spar.”

“Yes, Dolce, I can make one for this evening,” he heard Tsuna say indulgently.

“That would be interesting,” he allowed. He was well versed in martial arts; he just preferred using a gun. “Tsuna showed me the training rooms.”

“We have plenty of spare outfits for that,” Fon informed him.

His attention was caught by Byakuran racing off, and he looked to Tsuna curiously.

“He’s gone to purchase a few things. He wanted a chocolate marshmallow pie for this evening and I don’t have what I’d need. He’s obsessed with marshmallows. I don’t understand how he still has his own teeth, to be honest.” Tsuna shook his head and took the cups away to be rinsed in the sink.

He nodded. “Approximately how many jobs do you get a month?”

His Sky managed to spend ten minutes explaining the answer to that, and it told him that should he choose to, he could easily have plenty to keep him occupied down the line. Perhaps he could do both?

“I assume,” Tsuna continued, “that you’ve got some trusted contacts scattered around, or at least one, who line up hits for you to take care of? Or were you looking to mix things up?”

“I’m not sure. Any hitman worth his pay knows how to surveil, because sometimes you’re lucky to get a general direction in addition to the name. I may not presently be taking jobs, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t kept my hand in on the other parts. I always keep up with the latest when it comes to things like hacking, for example. But neither can I see myself taking on any of the longer jobs. Spending a month in deep cover to track down a target for elimination just doesn’t appeal.”

Tsuna smiled softly and nodded. “Yeah. I’d be a bundle of nerves if I took on a job that required that kind of distance. The smaller ones were no big deal, but there were also fewer of us at the start. And now I have plenty of evil paperwork to keep me occupied.”

“When you’re not spoiling us rotten with your cooking,” Fon said quietly.

Tsuna grinned and glanced at the clock. “Well, we have time before I need to start anything, so how about we go get in some practice?”

Fon nodded.

They were shortly in one of the training rooms and his Sky and Fon were warming up with some tai chi. He tucked himself into a corner to watch this first time. It made his heart glad that his Sky took his skills seriously. Tsuna had already proven he could defend himself, and that he was not afraid to do what needed to be done. He could kill, if need be. The last thing anyone needed was a bleeding heart Sky who forgave everyone because their compassion overcame their sense.

‘I still have trouble with his age,’ he thought, watching as the two flowed around the room. ‘Checker Face is a bastard of the highest order to do that to a mere child. Tsuna barely even had a childhood. There have been those who’ve been raised almost from the start to be mafioso and taught to kill, but this… And now he’s stuck in limbo with the rest of us, cursed in the blink of an eye.’

He sighed almost invisibly and crossed one leg over the other. He drank in the sight of his Sky and cursed Iemitsu even as he thanked him for his ineptitude. As unlikely as it was, should it come to the point where Tsuna would need to take up the burden of Vongola, he would be his sadistic best in order to ensure his Sky would not be taken advantage of.

Reborn stilled for a moment as someone slid into place next to him, then sighed and said, “Ciaossu, Skull.”

“Hey. Glad to see you made it.”

“Thank you,” he said a bit stiffly. It was … hard … to see Skull as anything other than a lackey, but he had to make an effort to refocus his view. “What was he like, at first?” he asked, looking at his fellow.

Skull narrowed his eyes before saying, “A curious mixture of child and adult. A bit loose-lipped in what he said, but that cleared up right quick once he realized what he was doing. He’s bright, and he had counsel in Daemon and Byakuran, too, to help him. We, erm, played, at first. I made a game of things, learning stealth, things like that. But he quickly grew up, I guess. Then again, I can still see the child in him come out on occasion.”

“How long did you know him for before the incident?”

Skull’s face scrunched up in thought. “He started peeking in on me mid-October of, um… 2005. I took a chance and wrote out a message, but as I later learned he could not directly respond. So the next time I gave him a phone number to use. He called straight away and we started talking, though I’d set an alarm to have an excuse to disconnect. The incident happened in mid-May of 2006. So approximately six months. We talked at least once a week during that time and I visited several times. Not too often or people might have noticed I was ducking off to Japan.”

Reborn nodded. “And his understanding of the basic Cloud nature?” He was honestly curious as to just how grounded Tsuna was.

“Very,” Skull replied. “But also hesitant in a lot of things. His mother, bless her soul, was very disconnected. Incredibly sweet and kind, but not really all there.” Skull’s eyebrows wiggled around meaningfully. “I remember talking with Oodako and being confused, because Tsuna seemed to think little of gaining guardians because he knew as Sky Arcobaleno he had a shorter lifespan than most, and he wasn’t sure about…” Skull’s mouth shut and twisted as he looked away for a moment.

“He had abandonment issues because of his father,” he said quietly.

Skull shrugged uncomfortably. “Something like that. He had trouble with the idea of anyone feeling responsibility toward him.”

Reborn snarled silently. He wondered if Iemitsu had remarried for love, or for duty, so he could produce more bloodline Vongola. “And Fon?”

“Um…” Skull wrinkled his nose in thought. “More peeking, then Daemon set up a dead drop and used his constructs to offer a job. Fon was in China and we actually had a request for over there, so it was sent to Fon as enticement. Fon eventually got curious enough to request a meeting, so he was offered a job over here. Tsuna once told me that Fon is the eye of a hurricane.”

He nodded. An apt enough description.

“Fon offered to teach him martial arts and, as we learned after they harmonized, there’s some Vongola technique that requires a lot of training. Unfortunately, actually testing it directly is something of an issue.”

He nodded again. Daemon had told him a bit more about Zero Point Breakthrough after Tsuna had dropped off that night. “Yes, from what I understand it would be problematical.”

“I suppose he could try if he stumbles into another incident,” Skull mused.

He raised a brow at his fellow guardian. For Tsuna’s sake he would lay off on his usual behavior around Skull—and because, much as it galled him, Skull was his senior in this.

“He and Fon went to get gelato one day and were targeted by some people into child pornography and prostitution. They lured the assholes into an alley and took them down. Romeo happened to be walking by and saw them about to be snatched, and raced in to help. It was weird because we’d run into him in Rome while we were sightseeing. Tsuna took one look at him and was… He had Daemon start surveilling him straight away.”

“Probably his intuition,” he muttered.

Skull nodded. “Presumably.”

Reborn eyed his Sky again; he and Fon had smoothly segued into a spar. “Tell me about Verde’s attempt?”

“Mm. He and Fon were warming up out back—at the original house—and from what Fon tells me, Tsuna just suddenly whipped around and slashed through two men who snuck up on them. He was pissed at having been forced to kill. Fon said Tsuna looked green for a while, bit shaky, but Daemon got him to go rest after the two of them harmonized. I went home the second I got word and stayed with him that night. I was more than a little freaked out.”

Reborn chuckled. “Considering how I unthinkingly defended his life, I can understand that. I was furious and a bit unhinged,” he admitted. “I knew he was acting, but still… They were so rough handling him.”

Skull gave him a small smile and nodded. “And that was before you knew his actual age.”

He blanked out for a moment. Had he known? He would have lost it completely. He would have slaughtered every last one of them, shredded them with bullets like so much Swiss cheese. “Yeah.” As it was, Dino had passed through a crisis point and gained a major upgrade to his confidence. He had been more than a little surprised to learn exactly what sorts of esoteric things Leon could do when he felt the need. It was a point of pride that he was fairly certain Leon was the most unique of their companions.

“What do you think of Colonnello?” Skull asked.

His lips pursed. “I don’t yet know. He’s always seemed very happy at Mafia Land, handling security and training people. If he were with us he’d be… Bored? We’ve never spoken of…”

Skull snorted softly. “None of us ever thought we’d have the chance, right? Besides, none of this is exactly orthodox. Fon is in Asia regularly. You’re tutoring someone up north. I deliberately take multiple jobs at once so I can sate my need for solitude. The only one who’s here more or less constantly is Daemon. None of us have made it known we’ve harmonized. Byakuran knows, of course, and Tsuna doesn’t have a problem with Dino knowing. By and large, people have no idea. But our heart and home is here.”

“It is,” he said, noting how Fon would smoothly correct Tsuna as they sparred on the rare occasions their Sky would go off form. “He’s good.”

Skull nodded enthusiastically. “He actually knew some beforehand, but was very happy when Fon offered to help. There was only so much he could do on his own, and you know I’m not all that good at this kind of thing, though Fon’s been helping me get better. I can’t always rely on Oodako to be my muscle.”

Reborn was honestly surprised at that. He would never have expected Skull to take more of an interest in bettering his physical skills. On top of that, Skull was not acting in a way he was familiar with. He wasn’t pestering him for attention, he was simply there engaging in companionable conversation. He seemed at peace. Reborn could appreciate the changes, though it made him wonder how much he himself might change as a result of harmonization.

“Anything else about his training I might find of interest?” he asked.

“Mm. We spent quite a bit of time testing whether or not his intuition could be trained.”

That took him by surprise. “Eh?”

“Quince also liked the idea, so Byakuran lent us a warehouse for a while. A bunch of corridors were set up with relatively harmless traps in them. He went in blindfolded, and it was dark on top of that, to test the theory. And it works.” Skull shrugged. “He’d get hit with something—a foam noodle, for example—and after a few rounds his intuition would start to kick in. The first test run had three sections, each with its own kind of obstacle, ten per. I think he can navigate the house blind, actually.”

“You’re saying that exposure to danger of some kind, or potential harm, sharpens and widens the scope of his intuition,” he said softly. “Amazing.”

The door opened and Byakuran poked his head in. He quickly made his way over and took a seat, then produced a bag of marshmallows and offered them. Skull took some and Reborn took one to be polite, though he still pulsed it to check before having a nibble. Byakuran grinned at him and shook his head lightly, not at all offended.

Dinner made him want to melt into a gooey puddle of ecstasy. He had come to the decision that Tsuna’s cooking was so good because of the obvious love that went into it, and the honor he felt for his mother, his teacher. And for all he knew, a hint of flames were included. It didn’t matter. Tsuna’s cooking was wonderful and he looked forward to the time when he could have it every day.

He wished he’d had the chance to meet Nana Sawada.

That evening he watched Skull and Tsuna gleefully try to destroy each other in a video game. A fair amount of ribbing and playful insults were tossed back and forth, and it was easy to see the depth of affection the two had for each other. They were like brothers, he thought.

Before Tsuna went to bed he sat with him and mentioned that he had free run of the place (of course) and midnight snacks were perfectly all right. He took the time to more thoroughly investigate his suite of rooms. Everything in it had Arcobaleno-sized features or accommodations, such as a set of steps up to the bed.

Everything was high quality without pushing the boundaries of wretched excess, which pleased him. And beyond the pale yellow of the walls, the rooms were not overtly screaming that it was designed for a Sun. He was mildly surprised that Tsuna ran the house in addition to heading the business. His Sky cooked, did the laundry, cleaned up—though he suspected the others lent their own time toward those. There were no servants, after all, just the family.

A look into the bathroom revealed it owed more to Japan than Italy, but he had spent enough to time in that country to be comfortable. The cupboards beneath the sink were false and could be given a gentle kick to cause stairs to extend, yet another concession for the comfort of an Arcobaleno.

His sitting room had a cozy nook with floor-to-ceiling bookcases, complete with a ladder on rails. Plenty of space for a collection. Even the chairs in the room had steps incorporated into them, that could be kicked back underneath the seat to be out of the way.

He went to bed feeling very impressed by his Sky, and appreciative of the care that had gone into the manor accommodations.

After a quiet breakfast the next morning he followed Tsuna to the office and settled in. His Sky apologized and shuffled through the paperwork on his desk, swiftly sorting things, then looked up with a slight frown.

“Do you have any plans in the future to take the young master to Mafia Land?”

‘Clever,’ he thought. “No, but I can arrange it. It might be interesting to see how Dino reacts to Colonnello. And, I’m going to guess, it would give me an opportunity to sneakily sound him out.”

“It had crossed my mind, yes. I’ve no doubt that many believe the Arcobaleno are remote and untouchable.”

A hint of a smile touched his lips, but it was laced with bitterness.

“How do you want to work this? Trade off on visits? I don’t like the idea of not touching base regularly, in person. If the onus is on me to come north more often, that is fine, but it would be as it has been. There is also the fact that you are highly visible, though I’ve no doubt you can sneak with the best of them.”

His smile became more genuine. “Trades, yes, and you’re right. I could probably get away once a quarter for a few days.”

“Okay,” Tsuna said with a firm nod. “And I can come visit once a month for the weekend, assuming the Cavallone Nono does not get annoyed.”

“I can talk him around,” he said confidently. “With Daemon?”

“Or Romeo. He needs more experience, and sometimes I think I rely too heavily on Daemon. Of course, I could also position myself differently when I’m visiting, such that I have an eye on the approach to the courtyard, or at least don’t have my back to it.”

“Bianchi.”

Tsuna nodded.

“Has her brother contacted you yet?”

“No. I’m more concerned with the girl’s bizarre behavior. It’s not healthy to…”

He happened to agree, but it was experience for Dino—and Romario, for that matter—and she was not attacking him, unless lovestruck proclamations counted as an attack. He supposed if it got bad enough he could have a talk with Daemon about possibilities. He did not normally approve of that sort of tampering, preferring to just shoot, but as the problem was female… “I plan to see how that goes for a bit before considering my options. It’s complicated now.”

“She is in the grey area between civilian and not, which is why Romeo shielded against her and Daemon didn’t put the fear of God in her. She better be careful, because if she becomes an assassin and attacks me again, she’s likely to lose her life. Or become a nun.”

Reborn stared for a moment, then chuckled. “That would be a novel solution.”