Grazhir :: Crossover :: Welkin :: 08

08: 2010-2011

Tsuna blinked when he took in the contents of the latest letter from Reborn; it was almost effusive. His gift of sweets for Reborn’s birthday had gone over well, it seemed. It was seriously weird, this otherwise hidden side of Reborn’s, but he contented himself with a smile. He sent back information on his next planned visit and got on with his work.

He took Romeo with him, which unfortunately meant the trip took longer, as Romeo in no way had Daemon’s confidence when it came to evading the police (and he could not confound them with illusions). They arrived at Cavallone Manor an hour or so after lunch, in time to see Reborn barking orders at three men instead of two.

He ghosted on over to Reborn’s side and eyed the stranger curiously.

“That’s Ivan, Dino’s Rain,” Reborn said quietly.

“Oh? That was quick.”

His Sun smirked at him even as his eyes roamed around, presumably reassuring himself as to Tsuna’s health and well-being. “I have incentive. And you helped in your own way. He’s far more receptive to the idea after having met you.”

“Oh,” he repeated. “Glad I could help, then. Like I said, I think he’s a sweet kid and—well, maybe it’s my own issues confusing things, but I thought maybe it’d help for a not-his-father Sky to…”

Reborn nodded sagely. “I fully intend to have the kid ready by the time he’s twenty. The wording on the contract is a little fuzzy in places—all to my advantage, of course—because I had warning.”

He leaned into his Sun. “Of?”

“You.”

Tsuna straightened up so he could look at Reborn properly. “What do you mean? My coming was foretold like in some epic multi-book saga?”

A smile flashed by before Reborn said, “Luce’s daughter, Aria, had a vision. Told me I really ought to take up the strange offer I was going to get soon.”

“Huh.” He eyed the three Cavallone as they shifted from warming up to entering a three-way spar. Romeo wandered into view long enough to use hand signals to report an all clear, then disappeared again. “Well, some people just have interesting talents. I never thought to ask. How did the young one actually handle his first kill?”

Reborn snorted softly. “After it finally sank in he fell apart, but I was expecting that. I gave him a bracing pep talk.”

“Did it involve explosives?”

“Well, of course,” Reborn drawled. “I knocked some sense into him. Once he finally wraps his head around the concept of protecting those who can’t protect themselves—while still making loads of money, of course—he’ll be fine, and a lot less like a wild, unbroken stallion.”

“And you complain about my people and puns?” he retorted.

“I am just trying to cater to whatever genetic imperative it is that causes puns to dribble out,” Reborn said innocently.

Tsuna giggled madly. “Hai, hai. So ka. I have been experimenting. You know the ribbon I make, yes? I have tried a, um, trip wire? To warn me. A spider’s web, of sorts.”

Reborn’s brow slid up, though his gaze never left the ongoing spar. “A single wire wouldn’t do much, but a web? Yes. Can you keep it up even while sleeping?”

“Mm, no, not yet. My resolve slips. But if you keep the strands like fine silk… Perhaps not noticed. I started thinking after talking to you, how I worry I rely on Kiri too much. Then when I went to prepare my gift for your birthday it hit me, what I might be able to manage. Even if it does not work in the end, perhaps it would serve as a method of teaching fine control,” he mused.

“I’m going to think on that for a while,” Reborn said thoughtfully. “Do some of my own experiments. On a side note, I’ve checked into Mafia Land’s schedule and am working on plans for that. The pipsqueak has been reminded that it’s no one’s business but ours, the harmonization. We’re cutting it close, but Mafia Land will be in the vicinity in February. I’ll spin it off as a birthday present. An exciting birthday present.”

He nodded and winced as the Rain, Ivan, was knocked out. Dino had done it accidentally while attempting to get in a hit on Romario. Tsuna considered using his Earth ring to float the man out of the way, but checked himself. These were not his men, and they would have to learn to deal with complications like the downed. Instead he glanced at the entrance to the courtyard where Romeo was presently skulking.

*

After their usual greeting of an exchange of bullets and insults, Colonnello proceeded to beat the snot out Dino, Romario, Ivan, and Michael. The Rain Arcobaleno had the advantage—after all, the back side of Mafia Land was designed as a training ground, unlike the courtyard of Cavallone Manor. Colonnello could afford to pull out all the stops and bring his best game into play.

Reborn strung up a hammock between two trees and hopped in to relax a bit and watch. Once Colonnello started them through the obstacle course they could speak, or later, in Colonnello’s quarters, while Dino and his men slept the sleep of the exhausted and nearly dead. That is exactly what they did, hours later.

He ensured that his charge was properly in his suite before hastening off to visit with his old “friend”, and was shortly ensconced in a comfy chair with a White Russian to sip.

After the initial pleasantries were out of the way Colonnello said, “Any interesting news?”

He could take that to mean many things. He was saved from having to invent something witty when the island shook, reminding him that it was that time of the year. It was something of a joke at Mafia Land, how Carcassa staged a protest attack annually, and failed, annually.

Colonnello scowled and reached for a remote so he could turn on a series of wall screens linked to island security cameras. “Seriously, what’s with these maggots? Is this some kind of initiation ritual, and the picciotto who survive get promoted? Every damn year these assholes attack. Wish to hell I could just go wipe them out.”

“Oh?” he said, brow rising slowly. “Been frustrated lately?”

“Shut the fuck up, Reborn.”

He smirked and sipped, letting the liquid roll around on his tongue before swallowing. “You can have my stalker if you want,” he said, then tilted his head slightly to avoid the bullet that whizzed past. “You heard or seen anything yet?”

The blond eyed him huffily. “No. Not a damn thing. Wherever this Sky is…” He shook his head. “How the hell have they managed to hide?”

Reborn eyed his “friend” closely under cover of another sip. “I wonder… Well, even if found? What would you even do?” He shrugged and turned his gaze on the screen which would give him the best peripheral view of Colonnello’s expression.

Narrowed blue eyes stared at him, and he thought for a moment he had blown any attempt at subtlety. “What the hell does it matter, anyway?” Colonnello said bitterly. “It’s like we were chosen because the odds were stacked against us ever finding that kind of happiness.”

He refrained from pointing out that Colonnello had played hero and landed his own fat in the fire. “But what if you did? I’ve been asking myself the same question. What would I do if I stumbled over the Sky. I’d probably pray,” he muttered.

Colonnello scoffed. “Whoever it is is probably like Luce was, already fully bonded. Why bother to hope?”

He wanted to ask what the point of living was if hope was gone, but considering for how long he had buried his own dreams he could not bring himself to voice that hypocrisy. Instead he affected mild surprise. “Oh. I thought you were perfectly happy here. I didn’t realize you would seek harmonization if the new Sky was open to the idea. You’ve always been so independent.” He swirled his drink and had another sip, his gaze flicking to a different screen. Mafia Land’s security forces were making short work of Carcassa, though not even close to as swiftly as Colonnello could manage solo.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” Colonnello said testily. “Most people would give their left arm to harmonize with a good Sky.”

“True, I don’t dispute that,” he said reasonably. “I just didn’t realize you were one of them, especially since it’d mean giving up your position here.”

Colonnello poured himself another drink, which told Reborn just how agitated he was. “It is a lot of fun here, but for the right Sky? I’d give it up in a heartbeat.”

His lips pursed in response, and then he noticed something in his peripheral vision. A look that way, disguised as changing which screen he was watching, revealed a message floating in the air. Daemon obviously had spies in the room and was coordinating with Tsuna. He nodded slightly and said, “I see.”

“Wouldn’t you?” Colonnello said a bit roughly.

“Yes,” he replied. “I know what I’d like in a Sky. You’d probably want much the same.”

“I expect so.” Talk returned to the ineptitude of Carcassa for the remainder of the evening, and he returned to his room.

The next morning Dino and his men were being run ragged on the obstacle course again. Another illusion message had appeared for him so he knew what to expect. In light of that, when he got a warning message, he strung up his hammock again and took a “nap”. Like Colonnello, he had a disturbing habit of sleeping with his eyes open at times, and this was one of them.

The blond twitched in surprise when his pacifier began to glow, signaling that another Arcobaleno was nearby, but when he turned to Reborn, Reborn continued to feign sleep. He did not “wake up” until an hour later, when an illusionary warning flashed up. He covered a fake yawn and dropped down from his hammock, then eyed the obstacle course. Dino looked like he had been dunked in a mud puddle and pulled backward through a hedge.

The subway train schussed to a stop and ejected two small figures. Reborn blinked slowly when he realized they were identical, with silky, blue-black hair that lay flat, cat ears, and sky blue eyes. He tucked away the intent to ask Daemon about his kinks later. They were also both distinctly European and dressed in smart little suits—Armani? Gucci? They each carried an envelope with a certain amount of reverence. The one he thought was Tsuna strolled over to Colonnello and presented the envelope, laid flat on his palm. Reborn smirked faintly on seeing the orange ribbon banding it in lieu of a traditional seal.

“What the hell?” Colonnello said, eyeing the two “men” and the envelope.

“Oya! You never seen couriers before? Front desk directed us here.”

The second “man”, the one he suspected was Daemon, was guarding Tsuna’s back and looking around with squinty-eyed suspicion as he scanned the surrounding territory.

“Since when are couriers this small?”

Tsuna frowned. “Oya! You gonna make something of my height, short-stuff? You’re not exactly making me look up to you.”

Colonnello scowled and adjusted his gun.

“Compensating for something?” Tsuna asked. “Now, you gonna accept this delivery or what? I got shit to do today and a roller coaster to conquer before duty calls once more and we hafta leave.”

“Do you even know who I am?” Colonnello demanded.

Tsuna sighed dramatically and rolled his eyes. “Yeah. The recipient of a letter the firm was paid to deliver. Beyond that, I don’t give a shit.”

Colonnello started to snarl, then visibly took a breath and calmed himself. “Fine. Hand it over,” he said, reaching out.

Tsuna set the letter in the blond’s hand, then whipped a pen and a small clipboard out of his jacket and scribbled something on the paper secured to it. “Initial here, please,” he said, tapping a spot with the pen nib, then offered it up.

Colonnello sighed and did as directed after giving the paper a thorough look, then handed it all back.

Tsuna and Daemon then switched roles, with Daemon approaching Reborn and Tsuna taking up guard duty. Reborn kept his expression clear as he accepted his letter and initialed where indicated. “Very efficient,” he commented quietly.

Daemon winked and gave him a distinctly cat-like smile, then hastened off with Tsuna, back to the subway car. Once they were away—and he had his doubts on that point—he broke the seal on his letter and smirked when he read: what do you think? were the cat ears cute or what? i’ll have to let you read my kuroshitsuji collection. ciao, taiyo!

He folded it up and tucked it away in one of his many, many pockets deep inside his outfit. He looked up to see Colonnello staring at his letter in disbelief. “Something wrong?”

Pale blue eyes snapped over to look at him, then went back to examining the letter. “It’s a non-disclosure agreement.”

His attention was diverted by Dino staggering out of the end of the course, looking like some big dog had used him as a chew toy. His guardians did not look much better. He clapped his hands and said, “Right. Time for a short break, I think. Go get cleaned up and have lunch.” He walked rather than use his student as a perch, following as they trudged off toward the subway. “More after lunch?” he called back to Colonnello.

“Eh? Yeah. See you then.”

*

‘This is fucked up,’ he thought. His head ached, he was irritable, and that delivery person had thrown him for a loop. What mafioso did not know about the Arcobaleno? ‘I really need to stop drinking on Carcassa Invasion Night. I can’t handle weird shit nearly so well with a hangover.’

He looked down at the paper in his hands and wondered what Reborn got. He had noticed the faint smirk of amusement. But getting information out of Reborn was like pulling teeth out of an eldritch horror; if the man didn’t want to talk, he wouldn’t.

‘This here shows they’ve done their homework and know I consider my word sacred, which would explain the NDA. If I sign it I’m bound to that promise. And my pacifier earlier. Wait—is this somehow connected to our missing Sky?’ He stared at the NDA again. He could ask Reborn, but if Reborn had also been approached with the same, he probably wouldn’t be willing to share. The Sun Arcobaleno kept his cards close and hidden most of the time, unless it was to his advantage to let someone get a peek at his hand.

“Damn it.” He folded the NDA and tucked it away, then called for men to fix up the course while he went to have lunch. He sucked down way too much of his favorite sports drink to try to get his electrolyte balance back into whack, and ate his meal without really tasting any of it.

When he returned to the training grounds Reborn was set up at a little table and munching on something. The smile on his face was slight, but beatific. A look sent the four Cavallone onto the course again, so he marched over and took a seat, eyeing the box Reborn had. “Tell me that isn’t from your stalker.”

“Not a chance in hell,” Reborn said after swallowing, then put a brownie on a napkin and pushed it over.

He took it cautiously and let the scent waft up to his nose, then nibbled a corner. His eyes slid shut at the taste.

“Good, right?”

His eyes snapped open. “Good? This is way better than good. Where—?”

“A very good friend of mine,” Reborn confided. “I get regular care packages. When he heard I was making a trip to Mafia Land he included something extra.”

Colonnello mourned the fact that his brownie was gone so quickly. “And?”

Reborn reached into the box again and removed a cookie of some kind. That, too, was placed on a napkin and pushed over. “He likes to call them Flu-Fighters.”

He examined the latest offering. He saw nuts, what looked like cranberries… Were those sultanas? A bite revealed cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves wrapped up in a buttery dough. He was fairly sure there was a lot more going on, but he was having trouble picking out the individual flavors. It was wonderful, and he quickly finished it.

He stared at Reborn unhappily. “How do you rate?”

“I told you, he’s a very good friend. And obviously, an exceptional cook.”

Colonnello shook his head. “There’s cooks, and there’s bakers.”

“He’s both.”

Reborn said it with such confidence that Colonnello simply accepted it. It was too bad that Lal was neither. And speaking of Lal… He was reminded of the NDA in his pocket. If he signed it, he would have to keep it from her. She understood as well as he did about operational security, and while this might not be on the same order, it was close enough for government. He absently accepted another napkin and nodded his thanks.

Reborn packed the box away after that and refused to share any more of it, which was upsetting. He really liked those cookies. That evening, after a healthy dinner, he went over the NDA again. If he signed it, then the actual offer on the table would be revealed. Was it a job? Was it their missing Sky ensuring his privacy? What?

Signing it did not compel him to accept whatever it was, just to not talk about it; the NDA was very clear on that point. With that in mind he unfolded the contract, grabbed a pen, and signed. After that he ran it through the copier and collected the copies so he could file them, and hunted down an envelope so he could have it delivered back to the included address. Considering that was a post office box he assumed it was a drop point, possibly one of many it would go through.

*

He was walking with Colonnello, with the intent to share dinner in his fellow Arcobaleno’s quarters, when the sound of light, quick footsteps caused him to glance over his shoulder. A child that could have passed as his own son was scampering down the hallway toward him, a joyous smile visible. ‘Right.’

“Hey, hey!” the child cried, then stumbled, going down on one knee. A tear escaped from one eye and his lower lip began to tremble.

Before he or Colonnello could do much a man hastened around the corner in an anxious pother. He was dressed in a butler’s suit. “Master Ciel, please don’t run like that,” the man pleaded, “it’s not dignified.” He rushed over and picked the boy up.

Reborn was amused to see a mightily confused look on Colonnello’s face. “It’s fine, Sebastian,” he said calmly. “I’m sure Colonnello won’t mind extra for dinner.”

Sebastian gave him a dubious look, then finished checking over his charge. He set Ciel down carefully to avoid being kicked from all the squirming going on, and sighed delicately when the boy scampered over to Reborn and gave him a sloppy kiss on the cheek.

“Hey, hey! I missed you!”

“I missed you, too, Ciel,” he said honestly, trying not to laugh.

Colonnello finally did something other than frown. “What the hell?”

Ciel gasped and stared at the man in horror, then addressed Reborn again. “The nice men at the gates told me where you’d be,” he said, smiling happily. “Maman said I could visit.”

“Is it that time of the year already?” he mused.

Ciel nodded and stared at him adoringly, then switched focus to Colonnello. “Hey, hey, that gun is really big! Do you fall over when you shoot it? It looks heavy! How do you know Reborn? I’m Ciel, who’re you? Are you Reborn’s friend?”

Colonnello’s mouth shut with a click of teeth, then he stared at Reborn blankly.

“There’s a lot you don’t know about me,” he said.

Ciel tugged on Colonnello’s sleeve. “Hey, hey, why don’t you answer? Are you okay? Do I need to get Maman? She can, um, I forget the word. But there’s pretty lights involved. Does that make a lot of noise when it’s fired? Does it make things … explode?” He sounded entirely too thrilled about the idea.

“How about we go inside?” Reborn said smoothly, and gently nudged Colonnello. A minute later they were in the privacy of the Rain Arcobaleno’s suite and seated at the table. Sebastian took care of ordering the food and soon enough they were all served their meals, while the “butler” took up a spot nearby and tried to blend in with the furniture.

“Have you been keeping up with your studies?” he asked conversationally as he sliced into his veal.

Ciel beamed at him and nodded a few times. “Yes, Papa Reborn! I’ve been a good boy!”

“Papa Reborn?” Colonnello mouthed, then shoved a forkful of vegetables into his mouth.

“Good,” he said. “If you work hard you can be super cool like me when you grow up.”

Ciel squealed, which made Colonnello wince.

“And eat all your veggies,” he added.

“Ho-kay.” Ciel stabbed a carrot and stuck it in his mouth, then chewed industriously. After he swallowed he whispered, “They have honey on them. It’s really nummy.”

He chuckled, ostensibly regarding Ciel, but in reality at the look on Colonnello’s face. He quite enjoyed watching Tsuna mess with people, so long as he was not the target.

When it was time for dessert, Sebastian stepped back into the picture and produced three individual-size cheesecakes drizzled with raspberry sauce. Colonnello had just taken a bite when Ciel said to him, “Hey, hey.”

Colonnello quickly finished his mouthful and replied, “…Yes?”

“Do you like it?”

“Yes.”

“Ho-kay! If you’re nice to me, maybe you’ll get care packages, too.”

Colonnello’s brow furrowed in confusion. “Huh?”

Ciel smirked, the childishness draining from his expression. “Well, you signed the NDA. That means you won’t come down with a case of loose lips.”

Colonnello suddenly face-palmed, his cheeks tinting red. “Ciel? French for Sky? Good God.”

He chuckled again and enjoyed more of his cheesecake, only for the blond to glower at him. “You knew!”

“Of course I did,” he said with a shrug. “Someone had to find out if a personal meeting was warranted.”

“Hey, hey,” Ciel said, “don’t pick on my Sun. If you’re interested in the possibility of harmonization, I’m willing to try. I had to be certain you’d be okay to leave this place if it happens. And if we do not suit, I still don’t want word getting around.”

Colonnello eyed his Sky. “Who else do you have?”

Ciel shook his head. “Not really relevant at the moment. This is about you and me. Now, if I can get a verbal oath from you, I’ll revert to my normal appearance, share contact information, and that sort of stuff.” He reached back in time to accept a piece of paper from Sebastian, which he slid over to Colonnello.

When the blond shot a look at him he smiled and said, “I advise you to take the oath.” He knew Colonnello would sooner commit seppuku than break his word.

“Shit,” Colonnello muttered, then started reading. Ten minutes later—which gave him and Ciel plenty of time to finish their dessert—Colonnello heaved a sigh and read the oath out loud, then fished out a pen and signed the paper, as well, and pushed it back over.

Ciel nodded, folded it, and tucked it away, then signaled to Sebastian.

Reborn snorted and said, “Nice ears.”

“The delivery guy, too!?” Colonnello complained.

Tsuna scowled and looked over his shoulder. “Kiri!”

“But you look cute!” Daemon protested. “Oh, fine.” He pulled out a chair and sat down, then removed the alterations to Tsuna’s appearance.

The colour drained from Colonnello’s face. “No way,” he breathed. “You’re the missing Vongola child.”

Tsuna’s eyes flared orange and his smile was cold and sharp. “And you gave your oath.”

“…I did,” Colonnello said with a faint nod.

Tsuna beamed an innocent smile, complete with sparkles and rainbow halo, and Reborn choked back a snort of amusement when the blond got a poleaxed look on his face. His Sky turned to him and said, “Did you like those cookies? They were an experiment.”

He nodded. “Very nice. Maybe next time I’m at home you can make some fruit tartlets?”

Tsuna pulled out his phone and entered a note, then tucked it away.

“How—? What the hell?”

Tsuna tilted his head. “You say that a lot, Ame. Well, it’s like this. That man thought that by essentially abandoning us it would keep us safe. He was wrong. I don’t like to talk about him. The fact that you recognize me means it’s likely he was bragging at some point and showing off pictures.”

“He was,” Colonnello confirmed.

Tsuna sighed and shook his head. “Enough about him. So, I am Tsunayoshi Sawada, also known as Sora, also known as Welkin.”

Colonnello stared for a moment, then nodded. “You’re an information broker. Good reputation.”

“I hope so. My people work hard. So, just so I have some idea, are you contracted to work here, or…?”

“It’s a yearly contract,” Colonnello replied. “I renew the first of January.”

Tsuna nodded. “Plenty of time to get to know one another, then, without jumping the gun. It seems to take, eh…”

“About six months,” he supplied.

“Hai. Arigato, Taiyo. To give you a quick background, I woke up on my fifth birthday as Sky Arcobaleno, in a memorial of sorts. It gave me some information about my fellow Arcobaleno, plus a whole lot about flames in general. It was there I learned how to, um, reconcile the roles of each guardian. I was away with a friend when my mother was murdered, and left Japan the next day in the company of two friends. I have been in Italy ever since. Shortly after that I decided to start my business.

“I have no plans to reveal myself to Vongola until and unless it becomes necessary. Vongola problems are not my problems. So, I will schedule time to be here, to visit, so we can get to know one another, yes?”

“I have plenty of vacation time I can use,” Colonnello pointed out.

“And you can be a sneaky bastard when you want to be,” he said.

Colonnello nodded. “I would have to be.”

Reborn watched as Tsuna appeared to think things over, his eyes going a bit unfocused in a way that made him think Daemon was giving him advice via illusions. His Sky pulled a notebook out of his pocket and wrote something down, then ripped out the page and slid it over to Colonnello.

“Memorize that, please. The first address is to a drop. The second is to a meeting point where, to visit, the first time you would have an escort. There is already a suite set aside at the house. What we do—well, perhaps it’s not as exciting as the annual Carcassa invasion, but…”

Colonnello scoffed rudely. “Stupid maggots,” he muttered.

His Sky turned wide and innocent eyes on him. “Taiyo… You’re here for a few more days, right?”

He smiled in good humor. “Yes, Sora. What would like me to do?” His Sky was a manipulative little beast—he wondered how much of that trait came from spending so much time with Daemon—and when he was telegraphing it loudly it really was a request and not an order.

“Um… I can’t really stay, so I was hoping that since you’ll be enjoying your holiday of watching the young master not have one, you could fill Ame in on a few things. I trust your judgment, so whatever you think is relevant prior to the possibility of harmonization…”

He nodded. “I’ll handle it.” A warmth kindled in Tsuna’s amber eyes that made his heart squee.

“Well, we have a long way to go, so I should get some rest,” Tsuna continued.

Daemon immediately got up and snatched Tsuna off his chair. Tsuna wrinkled his nose and said, “Okay, I guess I’ll say good-bye from up here. I look forward to getting to know you, Ame. Reborn has had much to say.” His eyes twinkled mischievously as Colonnello shot a look of suspicion at Reborn.

He shot a look at Tsuna and shook his head slightly. “Thanks so much,” he said with a sarcastic lilt.

Tsuna grinned. “Ciao, Ame! Ciao, Taiyo!”

He waved lazily and nodded at Daemon. A moment later they were gone, and he was left with a scowling Colonnello.

“What the hell?”

“He’s right, you really do say that a lot,” he observed. “Never noticed it before now.”

“Shut the fuck up, Reborn. What the hell have you been saying about me?”

“If I’m supposed to shut the fuck up, how the hell can I answer that?”

Colonnello clutched at his hair, then took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.

“Christ, man, you’re a Rain. You’re supposed to be all tranquil and shit.”

“Fuck you.” Colonnello got up and hunted down glasses and some wine, then poured.

Reborn took pity on him after a sip. “I didn’t say much. It’s better he gets to know you from personal interaction and not from someone else’s perception.”

The tight set of Colonnello’s shoulders relaxed slightly.

“Just like I’ll share some things with you, but you have to decide on your own what you think of him and how you feel. To give you an example, we met at one point at a little café and he told me that before he even considered approaching me he did some investigating.”

“Well, he is an information broker,” Colonnello muttered.

Reborn nodded. “He’d heard a rumor that I’d deliberately repressed some of my memories from Before, and if that was accurate…”

“He wouldn’t be getting to know the real you.”

“Right,” he said, glad to see that Colonnello was on point. “Don’t talk about his father. That much I will say. He loathes his father. He’s also an excellent actor as you might have noticed, but if you pay attention, you’ll learn his moods.”

Colonnello nodded. “He’s ten. Is he—what kind of skills are we talking about here?”

Reborn had a sip of wine first. “He’s good. I’ve watched him fight, both to kill and to disable. So don’t go thinking his age is a factor. In fact, start thinking of him as an adult now. He does have his childish moments, but by and large, he’s not one, not any longer. Suspicions aside on that, because it doesn’t matter in the end.”

“You think he’d let me run him through the course during a visit? So I could see for myself?”

He shrugged. “Probably. He might think it was fun.”

“Well I know he’s a good actor. He certainly had me snowed. Twice, even! That Kiri fellow—his Mist?”

He nodded. “They are an unholy duo. So…”

*

He looked up as Daemon breezed into his office and sighed at the lack of expression on his Mist’s face.

Daemon nodded and gave a little shrug. “Iesada Sawada was born.”

Tsuna bit his lip. “I wonder how many.”

Daemon shrugged again. “The more there are, the more chance of a Sky. But we won’t know for a few years yet, at the earliest. There’s something else, though.”

He frowned, trying to figure that out. The only thing—“Hayato?”

“Yes. We may end up taking him on.”

He slumped in his chair and propped his head against a fist. “Oya. That reminds me, actually. Will you see if you can track down Fūta? I have no idea when his talent activated.”

“Thinking of taking in another stray?” Daemon asked with a quirked brow.

“Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe we can park him with Dino if he ends up in trouble.”

Daemon rolled his eyes. “Whatever. Yes, I’ll try to track him down to keep an eye on him.”

“I’m sorry, all right? I can’t help but feel a little responsible. I know he’s not the same person, but I did promise to protect him in another life. Though… He can be pretty tricky with using ranking defensively, but I think he’d be wise to actually learn how to defend himself properly. And that’s assuming he has the same talent here. With the way he makes stuff float you’d think he was an Earth.”

Daemon started to scoff, but then adopted a thoughtful look. “You just made the assignment way more interesting, Tsuna love.”

A few days later a letter arrived from Hayato. He had finally worked himself up enough to want to hire Welkin. “Damn it,” he muttered.

Fon looked up from where he was perusing requests and quirked a brow.

“You remember I told you about the Scorpione thing? Yeah. The boy wants to hire us. And, as a suspected Storm, if… ugh.”

“I could take offense to that, but I won’t,” Fon said wryly.

Tsuna stuck his tongue out. “If I bring the kid here, will you please be present?”

“Yes,” Fon said agreeably. “Will you have Daemon ensure the boy won’t speak of our roles?”

“Absolutely. I don’t like doing it, but I will. Last thing I want is for half the country to know where most of the Arcobaleno call home.”

“Yes, well. I will take a few short jobs so I can stick closer. Just let me know when I need to be here properly.”

He nodded. “Thank you, Fon.”

Daemon was sent to get Hayato and escort him to the manor, and his arrival happened to coincide with a visit from Reborn, who promptly invited himself to the meeting and set about cleaning one of the many guns he somehow secreted about his person. How he managed it without destroying the line of his clothing was not something Tsuna had ever figured out.

Hayato entered Tsuna’s office with Daemon behind him and stopped dead on seeing three tiny people awaiting him. “Eh?”

“Konnichiwa, Scorpione-san. You may call me Sora. Please, be seated. With me are—”

“I know you,” Hayato interrupted, eyeing Reborn. “You’re like a legend.”

“And you’re rude,” Reborn shot back. “Might want to work on that, kid.”

Hayato blinked, then scowled. He looked around and saw that Fon was giving him a cool look, and Daemon’s expression was like ice. He hastily took the chair set aside for him and looked at Tsuna.

“As I was saying,” he said evenly, “with me are Reborn, whom you seem to recognize, and Arashi. You already know Kiri. This request of yours, it is … delicate. You ran away. Kiri picked you up off the streets. Why?”

He stayed quiet through the passionate rant that followed. Nothing he heard was a surprise. It was just different hearing it come from the mouth of a ten year old as opposed to that of a boy who’d been on the streets for years before Reborn snatched him up. Hayato eventually wound down.

“So to summarize, your home life is shit, you suspect something about your mother, and you want the truth.”

Hayato looked vaguely sheepish when he nodded.

“Oya. Got to work on that temper of yours. Let me ask you: if what you suspect is even true, what do you plan to do? Stay on the streets? There’s a lot of bad people out there who’d snatch you up and put you to work as a child prostitute. I should know, they tried it on me once.”

Hayato went green and his face scrunched up in disgust.

He shrugged. “They learned better, but there are still plenty of that ilk out there. Setting aside your suspicions for the moment, what is you want out of life?”

Hayato looked confused. “…I want to be taken seriously.”

Tsuna nodded. “And are you willing to work for that? Because that’s the kind of thing you earn.”

Hayato erupted again, and a gun went off. The bullet took a stripe of skin off the boy’s nose.

Reborn coughed. “My hand slipped,” he said apologetically. “I’ll get the wall fixed.”

Tsuna sent a warm smile his way and nodded.

“He almost shot me!” Hayato squeaked.

Tsuna sighed. Seeing his once friend like this, so raw again, was painful and made his heart ache. “There are a couple of ways you could pay for what you’re asking. One is money, obviously.”

“And the second?” Hayato asked, his shoulders hunched slightly.

“You want to be taken seriously, yes? I could train you to become an agent. You can get away with a lot when you’re sub-adult, and training now would make you that much more effective when you are grown up.”

The silveret’s brows drew together as he processed that. “Wouldn’t that put me deeper in debt?”

Tsuna held back a smile. “It would delay payment on your part, and when you were ready to take jobs, a portion of your pay would be withheld. However, I would expect you to still care about your normal education. This presents a problem, because even though you’ve run away, your father still holds legal custody. That being so, you might prefer to simply pay the fee. Now, it’s a big decision to make, so let’s table it until tomorrow, yes?”

“I—but—”

“Good. I’ll get you set up for the night in one of the guest rooms.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Fon said.

“Oh? All right. Thank you.” And hopefully Fon could knock some sense into the kid. “Dinner at the usual time.”

Fon efficiently bundled Hayato off. Once they were safely away Tsuna grinned at Reborn.

“What? He annoyed me.”

He giggled madly and nodded. “Well, from what I’ve been able to find out, the kid is real good at mathematics.”

Reborn’s expression smoothed out. “Oh? Hm.”

“Maybe if he takes up the offer of training, you can put the fear of God into him during your visits,” he suggested. “Just, you know, save the explosives for outside.”

“For you? Yes. If you make steak tonight.”

“Okay. Sides?”

“Mm, something vegetablish.”

Tsuna snorted. “All right, then. I need to go shopping.” Daemon accompanied him and they were back an hour later. Tsuna made sure the grill was good to go, then returned to the kitchen so he could chop various vegetables and slide them on skewers to grill along with the steaks. He was halfway through making them when he realized he had no idea how Hayato liked his steak. “Um… Reborn?”

“Yes?”

“First, stop stealing the peppers. Second, can you find out how Hayato likes his steak, please?”

Reborn stole another slice of pepper. “Sure, sure. Be back shortly.” He strolled off insolently munching on his treasure. He was back by the time Tsuna was done putting the skewers together. “Medium.”

“Okay.” He got a few other things ready, such as a grill sauce for the vegetables, and loaded up a cart. Reborn followed him like a lost puppy as he pushed the cart outside to the grill area. “Hm?”

“I keep thinking if I just keep watching you cook, I’ll be able to figure out how you do it,” Reborn said a bit distantly.

He simply hummed. He knew damn well Reborn had it figured out. His Sun just wanted to spend as much time as he could nearby during the short visits he could manage, so he came up with ridiculous excuses. Reborn had somehow maneuvered Dino into another harmonization, with a Lightning named Bono, and he had two others his eye was on that might mesh well with the young master.

Tsuna was just putting the skewers into place when Romeo wandered out and spotted them. He walked over and gave him a quick squeeze on the shoulder, then sighed happily over the food soon to be consumed.

“That kid’s here?”

Tsuna nodded. “He’s a bit, um…”

Romeo snorted. “Yeah, okay. You need me to get anything ready?”

He eyed the sky and decided it should be safe enough. “Can you bring plates and stuff out here? We can eat on the deck.”

“Sure thing, boss man.” Romeo sauntered off. When he returned with another loaded cart the others were following him. Daemon and Romeo set the table, sans plates, and poured wine; even Hayato would be getting some. Daemon trundled the cart over and held the plates as Tsuna loaded up each one. The only person who liked medium well was Tsuna, so it did not matter who got what plate aside from the one.

Hayato just watched the proceedings with wide eyes. Fon must have told him there were no servants in the manor—a sensible person would have, and Fon was an imminently sensible person—so the wide eyes must be disbelief at seeing the truth unfold.

Tsuna took the head of the table, looked at his friends, and nodded. “Have at it, guys.” With that he used his fork to slide the vegetables off the skewer and set it aside, then snagged the butter dish so he could put a decent chunk on his steak. While that was melting he stabbed a broccoli floret and began to eat.

Hayato was very cautious when it came to actually eating anything, but after seeing everyone else gleefully dig in, he sliced off a bit of steak and popped it in his mouth. His eyes went wide again and he began to eat normally.

Tsuna nodded to himself, stabbed Reborn’s hand when he attempted to steal a pepper off his plate, and had a piece of steak himself. A little blood never hurt anyone, right?

Daemon had constructs do the clean up work, so they all repaired to the living room and Tsuna enticed Hayato into playing a video game with him. Every time Hayato got too worked up Fon would shoot a look at the boy, and he would settle back down again. Tsuna could only pray that his Storm had things well in hand. Even so, there was always the chance Hayato would opt to just pay the fee. When ten o’clock rolled around Fon hustled Hayato off to bed.

Breakfast was fairly quiet, and Tsuna called for a round of training before Hayato could get any ideas about making a decision so quickly. The boy was parked in a corner of the training room they chose and got to watch as everyone warmed up a bit. Tsuna went first in a spar against Romeo; he drew the fight out a bit, but won the match handily enough. Of course, with three other guardians watching, they could all consider ways to bring Romeo along even further.

Reborn went against Fon next, purely using martial arts. Fon had the edge, but Fon was conversant with over a hundred styles. They both seemed to understand what Tsuna was up to, so they showed off a bit and drew things out, even going so far as to do things like bounce off the damn walls. Fon won, of course, but Reborn took the loss with good grace.

Tsuna laughed. “I love watching you two.”

They both bowed. “Let’s cool down now,” Fon said.

Twenty minutes later they were trooping off to bathe, leaving Daemon to keep an eye on Hayato. By the time Tsuna returned to the kitchen, after a stretch in his office, to see about lunch, Hayato was already in there sipping some juice. Tsuna smiled and nodded, then went to the refrigerator.

“So you can all do that stuff?”

He looked back over his shoulder inquiringly. “Stuff?”

“Like those orange weapons you were throwing, or that weird barrier.”

Tsuna turned away and pulled a number of things from the refrigerator, placing them on the counter, then closed the appliance and turned back. “What you saw was various manifestations of Dying Will Flames. And yes, we can all use them. In theory, any person could, but the vast majority of people never unlock them and never even realize something like them exists.” Since Hayato was in a talkative mood, he ferried his supplies over to the island and hooked the riser out with one foot so he could step up.

“So I could do it?”

Tsuna squinted at him. “Personality-wise, I’d say you’re probably a Storm. Like Arashi,” he added.

Hayato looked rightly skeptical.

He pulled out his tools and began cutting. “Arashi has had time to learn to be calm, to be centered. Martial arts tend to do that. Storms tend to be rebellious, explosive, and go off half-cocked.”

Hayato became very interested in his juice for a minute. “What can Storms, um, do?”

“The main property of Storm Flames is disintegration.”

“And the barrier guy?”

He smiled at the description. “That’s Lightning, and the property is hardening. He can increase the firmness of something and project a barrier of flame, as examples. The role of a Lightning is primarily defensive, but any flame user can use their flames offensively. It just sometimes takes more creativity to think of ways to do so.”

Hayato nodded and sucked down more juice. He was adorable as a ten year old. “And you? You’re a…?”

‘I guess it makes sense that he’s so clueless. After all, they never took him seriously, so why would anyone have explained?’ he thought. “I’m a Sky, and the base property is harmony.”

As expected, Hayato looked confused.

“The others are Sun and activation, Rain and tranquility, Cloud and propagation, and Mist and construction. Sometimes people have more than one flame type, but it’s not especially common.”

“So if I decided I wanted to train to be an agent—well, my father could make things difficult.”

Tsuna nodded. “Without some kind of arrangement, you staying here would be tantamount to kidnapping on our parts.”

Hayato almost managed to pull off a nonchalant shrug. “I honestly don’t think he’d care,” he said somewhat bitterly. “The only thing he thought I was good for anyway was playing the piano.”

“Well, no pressure. I want you to think things through and not just decide recklessly,” he said. “Consider talking to Kaminari. He was a freelancer before I hired him. Really good at getting in and out of places without being noticed.”

“Eh… You call people by their flame type?”

Tsuna’s brow went up in surprise.

“My piano teacher was half Japanese and sometimes spoke in a mixture of that and Italian, so I started to pick it up,” Hayato explained.

“Ah. Not everyone wants to be known by their real name.”

“So yours isn’t really Sora,” Hayato said with a nod.

“Right. It’s a real enough name, just not the one I was given at birth.” He finished up his preparations and threw everything into a large glass bowl and tossed it. That went into the refrigerator for the moment to chill. “We might be contacted by your father, anyway. Apparently your sister is upset at your intent to get in touch with us.”

Hayato’s eyes bugged out and he launched into another rant. It was cut short when Fon appeared out of nowhere and gave the boy a disappointed look. Hayato blushed and went back to sipping his juice.

“What are we having for lunch?” Fon asked quietly.

“Antipasto salad. Nobody claimed it, so…”

Fon nodded, then looked at Hayato. “As there is time yet before the meal, I shall teach you a bit about meditation.”

After a surprised expression had the chance to flit over Hayato’s face, he slid off his stool, drank the last of his juice and discarded the container, and obediently enough followed.

He exhaled slowly once they were out of hearing range. His memories of Hayato did not do this ten year old version justice, at all. On the other hand, this one wasn’t stuck on him and jealously sniping at everyone in range. Tsuna washed up and wandered back to his office to shuffle more paperwork around and check his investments.

Reborn left the next day, a box of sweets in hand. A letter came in from Colonnello, with potential times he could visit them. He would have to incorporate that into his planner, as well as times for him to go to Mafia Land.

Hayato very politely asked him, the next day, for a meeting, so after a moment of surprise he led the boy into his office, took his seat, then aimed a questioning look at the silveret.

“I would like training,” Hayato said simply.

Tsuna nodded. “Okay. Then consider the room you’re in yours for now. Assuming we’re able to get things nice and tidy, perhaps we can discuss some personalization. We would also be able to get you enrolled locally. I know that Arashi has started to work with you. He is not always here, as he takes on a fair amount of jobs, but I trust you will continue to do any exercises he gives you.”

Hayato nodded fervently.

Tsuna had no idea what his Storm had done, and didn’t want to know beyond the knowledge that Fon had been a kind master to I-Pin and—‘Oh. I-Pin. Something to look into, though I’ll be damned if I have a clue how.’ “Good,” he said. “I regularly work out, so you can join me if you like. Once we get things settled we can work out a proper schedule.”

Hayato smiled tentatively.

“Okay. I have work to do, so off you go.” When Daemon inevitably showed up later he told him it was a go. His Mist assured him he would work his magic with the Scorpione boss, so Tsuna got to work on seeing about Hayato’s enrollment at the local school. From what he remembered Hayato had tutors all his life, so sending him to an actual school was probably a good idea to get him interacting with people his own age.

Skull showed up near the time he would start making preparations for lunch, so he set the job reports aside for post-meal and caught up with his Cloud.

Skull scooted closer on the loveseat they were paired on and whispered, “Daemon messed with the kid’s head, right?”

“Yep. He won’t be saying anything to anyone about the little people or Arcobaleno, or anything we want kept private,” he said with a nod.

Skull latched onto him in a cozy hug, so they sat there for a bit comfortably.

“Reborn has done some hocus pocus on my laptop,” he confided in a whisper. “I can take it with me now and still get work done.”

“So he’s encrypted the hell out of it,” Skull whispered back.

Tsuna nodded. “So when I make my visits I won’t have to push the work off on one of you. Speaking of which, I’ve gotten into contact with Ame. Taiyo was very helpful there in getting him to admit to or confirm a few things. With any luck we’ll suit, and then we’ll be complete. I never expected it, but it’s like a slight ache, that missing bond. I think it was always there, but it wasn’t until now that I really noticed it in contrast to the bonds I have.”

“…I don’t envy you that feeling,” Skull replied. “I suppose I never thought about it, you know?”

Tsuna patted his Cloud’s hand. “It’s okay. It’s news to both of us.” ‘I wonder if Daemon meant this when he said a lone Sky is a painful thing. Or if that was simply his perspective as a guardian.’

*

Meeting with Colonnello was a bit of a chore, only because Mafia Land moved around. It took a lot more planning than simply driving north to visit with Reborn and Dino. Daemon was his escort the first time, but he was also the most rabid protector. No one had booked a training session during his visit, mainly because Colonnello hadn’t allowed anyone to.

So when they got to the area out back Colonnello looked at him with an odd expression, half hopeful and half skeptical, and asked if he would like to give the obstacle course a try. “Sure,” he chirped, then removed his jacket and allowed Daemon to take it. He also handed over anything he wouldn’t like to get lost, then nodded and ploughed on in.

He had a blast. When he emerged from the end, covered in mud he had not been able to dodge, he was laughing a bit breathlessly. “Kiri, you have to try it!” he enthused. “It’s fantastic!” He pretended to ignore the shocked cast to Colonnello’s expression as he bounced over to his Mist, little clots of mud shaking off and hitting the ground with a dull splut. When Daemon did not immediately seem all that inclined to have a go, he daringly and teasingly said, “C’mon, Kiri, get dirty.”

Daemon’s eyes gleamed in response. “Anything for you, love.” He set aside Tsuna’s things on the table out there, stripped off his own jacket and added a few things to the pile, then headed in.

Tsuna giggled madly, though he fully expected Daemon to come out of it looking pristine, even if only due to illusion. He wondered at times if Daemon saw him as the reincarnation of Elena, and not just so very like her, but he got on so well with the man that he refused to let the idea bother him. He turned to Colonnello and grinned. “I wonder if there’s enough room at the manor to put in something like this. It’s a bit hard to tell just how big that course really is.”

Colonnello blinked at him. “I can check, when I visit.”

He nodded sharply. “I would appreciate that. My normal routine is all very well, but that—” He glanced over. “That is absurdly fun. Is it your own design, or…?”

“…Mine.”

He nodded again. “Hopefully we have room, then. I can see it now, the First Annual Est Obstacle Run. Winner gets to choose the menu for the entire next week.” And that started them off on a discussion of cooking and food in general, which lasted through Daemon’s run. His Mist created a construct to carry their things back to the suite set aside for them, for Colonnello’s guests. They showered, got dressed, and joined Colonnello in his suite for lunch.

He gifted an entire box—two dozen—of his Flu-Fighter cookies to the Rain, and was gratified to see the man’s expression go a bit sappy. In all honesty, he was having trouble figuring out how to connect with the man. What memories he had were all connected to that scuffle with the Varia and how Colonnello had trained Ryohei. The man was a crack shot, good at training other people, but beyond that…

Reborn trusted him, even if they weren’t exactly friends, and he trusted Reborn, so he was inclined to trust Colonnello. But that didn’t involve his heart, just his head. That evening he asked Daemon his opinion.

“Well, you seemed genuinely enthusiastic about his obstacle course, and he seemed impressed by your enthusiasm. Perhaps you could bond over planning additional defenses for the manor? I mean, there’s nothing wrong with having a bit more. I suppose you could attempt to get him to open up about the woman in his life, though he might balk given that he thinks he knows your true age. It is harder, in that sense, because he does know certain truths.”

Tsuna nodded, the corners of his mouth twitching down. “That does make it harder. He’s not like Skull. I was uncertain and more childlike then.”

Daemon laughed. “You’re still childlike at times, Tsuna, but then, this body has never felt the effects of growing up, yes?”

His gaze drifted to the side. Daemon was right, of course. Physically, he was a child. He might be an adult mentally and emotionally, but that didn’t mean his body would cooperate. ‘So much for a love life,’ he thought moodily. ‘But Daemon seems…’ He shook his head. “Bonding over guns and obstacles and food.”

“And skill.”

The next day they were back at the course, and Tsuna asked Colonnello to explain how he’d designed the thing, walking through it with him. The course was a marvel of work, designed to test a number of things, the least of which was flame use. After all, the vast majority of mafiosi could not access them. They never got to play with the pretty lights. Probably just as well considering that too many people already couldn’t be trusted with conventional weapons.

He actually respected people like Reborn and Colonnello for their incredible skill with guns, just as he respected Fon for his dedication to training his body. “Do you think something like this could be constructed on multiple levels?” he asked.

“I suppose so,” Colonnello said slowly.

“I mean, do you love doing this? Training people?” he persisted.

“Well, yes.”

He nodded. “Is it an advantage or a disadvantage that this is all attached to a traveling island?” He could see that caused Colonnello to figuratively step back in thought. “I can see the appeal,” he added, “I suppose, for someone coming here for training, to also have the attractions to visit before or afterward, or for family members.”

“I don’t care about any of that,” Colonnello said. “I never visit any of it myself. I can see the appeal, too, but a stay at Mafia Land is expensive. The people who come to me for training are very wealthy, or very well connected. The Cavallone kid… His fee was slashed because Reborn’s his tutor.”

“And Reborn’s a legend here.” He well remembered those damn balloons. “I—ah… I just realized, I almost sound like I’m denigrating your work. I apologize.”

Colonnello gave him a wide-eyed look. “What? No. You’ve actually given me something to think about. I greatly enjoy training people, but because of how Mafia Land is set up, I don’t necessarily have to train a lot of people. On the other hand, being here means it’s a bit more difficult for the average person to get to me.”

“But don’t you also—I mean, aren’t you the one protecting this whole place?” he asked. He knew there were security forces, but Colonnello had single-handedly destroyed the Carcassa fleet—once he had woken up from his nap, anyway.

“I am the head of the security forces, but they are primarily responsible for keeping Mafia Land safe. I do train them, though, and ensure they don’t get lax. They run their own sessions, but I occasionally haul in groups to make sure.”

“You were military … Before?”

“Yeah, hilariously enough. I have a lot of good memories from those days,” Colonnello said, his voice getting softer.

Tsuna bit his lip to keep himself from bringing up Lal. He could pass off the knowledge to several sources, but he didn’t feel comfortable saying it. “Well, I like Mafia Land for what it offers. Certainly safer for us to be, um, less than adult here.”

Colonnello snorted softly. “Some people come here deliberately around the time of the annual invasion, just so they have an excuse to let loose.”

“What, like kids in a candy store with Daddy’s credit card?” he said, vaguely remembering all the mafiosi who had jumped at the chance to proclaim Mafia Land “boring” and whip out guns to combat the invasion forces.

Laughter greeted that comment and a grin was aimed his way. “Aren’t all men little kids at heart?”