Grazhir :: Crossover :: Welkin :: 09

09: 2011-2012

“So, how’s it going?”

Tsuna eyed Dino’s efforts as he battled against his guardians. Brutus, a Cloud, and Brizio, a Mist, had completed the blond’s bonds. “Well enough, I suppose,” he said, “though I’m having issues with… Well, he’s ex-military, and…”

Reborn nodded. “It’s always been something of a point of contention. It’s not all that different in the end to how Skull wasn’t mafia.”

He leaned into his Sun. “You might not want to hear it, but I’m really happy you seem to be getting on with Skull. I mean, he was one of my first real friends.”

Reborn wrapped an arm around him. “I was an arrogant asshole, Sora. So damn sure of myself. So easily taken in by those promises of challenge and wealth. And to find out that one of the chosen seven was some silly stuntman?” He half-shrugged. “I’m not proud of it. And I realized, after we harmonized, that anyone who could mean so much to you must be an upright guy, even if I might never be the best of friends with him.”

Tsuna pressed closer, smiling softly when he felt Reborn kiss his head. He twitched when a gun was fired and Reborn barked out, “This isn’t a dance recital, ladies! Though you should know how to do that, too!”

Tsuna sniggered. “Right. You teaching them that, and shooting when they step on their partner’s toes?”

“Perhaps. If nothing else, it would be another fine way to mess with their heads.”

“Just a thought,” he said musingly. “Is this your way of instilling a healthy amount of paranoia and suspicion?”

“Might be,” Reborn replied lazily.

*

“And this is your room,” Tsuna said, waving a hand around. “A nice soothing blue. Well, I think it’s soothing.”

“It’s very nice,” he said agreeably as he set down his bag.

Tsuna bounced a few times. “Let’s go check out the back!”

He was hustled off by an excited Sky and was shortly outside, standing on a deck. Land stretched out before him, partly tamed, partly a wild profusion of flowers and other plants. There was a line of old-growth trees delineating the boundaries of the property, as well. All in all, it was more than enough room to create a proper obstacle course if that’s what his Sky really wanted.

He had given a lot of thought to what Tsuna had said and realized he was stuck in a rut. He’d spent years at Mafia Land, doing the same old same old, with little hope to buoy him. They were all going through the motions, in a way. But his prior military training had kept him from realizing what he was doing.

On top of that, his relationship with Lal had stalled to the point of a serious nose dive from thirty thousand feet after engine failure struck and with a pilot too inexperienced to recover. Except for the part where it just hung there, in limbo. There was a reason he had not chosen to follow her and join CEDEF.

He was glad for that now, standing next to a vibrant Sky Arcobaleno, one untainted by the weight of years rolling by. The little guy made the world seem brighter and more a place of hope. If they harmonized? He could see himself doing information gathering, sure. He could see himself maybe opening a new training facility, one that could handle the less wealthy, and would still allow him to be home every night.

Yes, it would be, in some respects, more of the same, but it would be a conscious choice, a deliberate decision, and not a holding pattern. And he would have a home. He looked at Tsuna and saw such resolve and so much joy. It was almost unnatural. Or maybe he was just that jaded.

“Hey, hey,” Tsuna said. “Wait, I need to stop doing that when I’m not in disguise.” He shook his head. “You never said what you’d like for dinner.”

“Oh, uh… Veal piccata?”

“Okay.” Tsuna gave him a sweet smile. “While you’re getting settled in your rooms I’ll hit the grocers.”

“Do you want me to go with you?”

Tsuna smiled again. “It’s fine. Kiri or Kaminari usually go, simply because they’re tall. Even so, they’re kind of used to seeing me shop by now. Most of them are somehow of the opinion that I’m a very sweet and reliable little boy who helps his mummy with errands.”

He snickered after a moment. “And would Kiri have happened to plant that idea in certain heads?” His Sky adopted a wholly innocent look of confusion, which caused him to start snickering again. “Right. I’m going to unpack, then.”

They parted ways and he returned to the suite set aside for him. His few changes of clothing went into the dresser, but as he was closing a drawer he stopped and stared. Why was everything he owned still based off the COMSUBIN uniform? He was no longer military and hadn’t been for a long time. Lal didn’t even dress that way. “I am a blind old fool,” he whispered.

He needed to change, for his own sake, not just endlessly walk on that treadmill and zone out so hard he couldn’t recognize what a mess he was. He shut the drawer and turned away so he could ferry his kit bag to the bathroom and set a few things out.

Colonnello wandered back downstairs and saw—‘Fon?’

His fellow Arcobaleno looked up with a serene smile and nodded a greeting.

His brow went up as the obvious smacked him upside the head. Fon had harmonized with Tsuna already. His Sky already had a Mist and Lightning who were not Arcobaleno, so Viper and Verde were out, but it meant Skull was a possibility, if not already a reality. “Yo.”

“How are you finding the manor?” Fon asked.

“I like it,” he said. “It’s got personality. It’s not one of those stuck-up places trying so hard to look impressive that it’s cold and impersonal. You know what I mean. You walk in and you’re afraid to breathe too hard for fear of breaking some priceless, thousand year old vase or something.”

Fon’s eyes gleamed with amusement. “Yes. We had a meeting when this place was purchased, to decide how to decorate, and what amenities to include. Claimed rooms were decided on individually.”

“So you went with a girly pink instead of a manly red?” he teased.

Fon’s habitual smile widened. “I take it that Tsuna is off getting groceries?”

He nodded. “Asked me what I wanted for dinner, then off he went.”

“He does that. If someone is visiting, they get to choose dinner that first night. But there’s a schedule up and we can claim meals, so long as we don’t get greedy. We always get to claim our birthdays.”

In point of fact, he vaguely recalled something to that effect during their discussion at Mafia Land. “So he really does cook all the meals?”

“Yes.” Fon moved closer and lowered his voice. “And we all feel spoiled rotten with love because of it. He takes very good care of us.” He moved away a moment later and smoothly turned to say to an arriving Tsuna, “I left my reports on your desk, Sora.”

In response, Tsuna tapped the side of the bag he was holding and said, “I got the stuff to make pineapple tarts.”

Colonnello watched in amazement as Fon practically floated over to their Sky. Just how good was this kid to be able to win the hearts of people like Fon and Reborn? ‘Ah, hell, admit it, you old fool. You’re already half under his spell yourself. He’s the first person to make you wake the fuck up in decades and take a good look around.’ He absently joined the group headed to the kitchen and hopped up onto one of the bar-style chairs that fronted the island.

Tsuna was chatting away with Fon and Kiri as things were put away and drinks were secured, though another one was quickly produced when a stranger to Colonnello sauntered in. He was young, had messy “I just rolled out of bed” black hair, blue eyes, and a lazy smile.

“Kaminari,” Tsuna said, “this is Colonnello, presently a high mucky-muck over at Mafia Land.”

‘High mucky-muck?’ he thought, then nodded to the young man. “Yo.”

Kaminari flashed a victory sign at him. “A pleasure to meet you. Sora was telling me earlier all about that obstacle course you have charge of. It sounds wonderful, though I might not have said that a ways back.”

“Oh?”

“When I first started training seriously Sora could wipe the floor with me in seconds.”

“Still can,” Tsuna muttered.

“It was very humbling,” Kaminari said as if everyone hadn’t heard that. “But I’ve come to quite enjoy the sparring we all do, and it really helps me with my flames.”

The sound of rapid footsteps sounded out in the hall, and Tsuna called out, “Hayato! What have I said about running in the house?”

Colonnello looked toward the door and saw a silver-haired boy peek around the frame, then edge into the room.

“I’m sorry,” the boy said quietly, then he erupted with, “But can you blame me? It’s like the floors are just begging for people to slide on them! I was just getting up a good speed, too.”

Tsuna sighed and rolled his eyes. “Fon…”

Fon nodded. “I’ll beat some sense into him later,” he said as the boy took off hastily.

“Hayato…” Tsuna looked indecisive for a moment. “I won’t say why he contacted us, but I will say he’s in our custody now. Aside from attending school like any other boy, he’s being trained to eventually become an agent.”

He nodded.

“Maybe I should buy a Slip’N Slide for him?” Tsuna said, pressing a finger against his lower lip.

“In any case,” Kaminari said, “I left my reports on your desk.”

Tsuna nodded. “I’ll go over them shortly, along with Fon’s.”

Kaminari looked at Colonnello, then Fon. “Spar?”

They parted ways with their Sky. He followed the two men to a training room and was shown the changing area and showers. There were plenty of Arcobaleno-sized uniforms, so getting outfitted was no trouble.

Fon and Kaminari—Romeo, as he had been informed by the man himself—faced off first. He continued to stretch lightly as he watched, impressed by what he was seeing. While it was true that Romeo had a ways to go, he was giving his best to the effort and Fon was likewise keeping up a steady commentary of issues to be addressed.

Colonnello was further impressed when Romeo managed to create a quarterstaff formed from Lightning Flames. He used it mostly in a defensive manner, though he was learning to fashion blades at the ends for something a bit more messy. As it was, the staff was intended to shock people, literally. That particular aspect would be less likely to properly affect another Lightning, but the odds were in favor against it, assuming another Lightning had someone they also were protecting.

‘Maybe I can teach him about traps,’ he thought. He had no idea if any of the guardians were well versed in those. Kiri might be, but he was a Mist, and his idea of traps would be less than physical in nature.

He went up against Fon next and had a grand time. Romeo was watching avidly even as he went through a series of cool-down stretches. He was smiling broadly by the time they concluded their spar. “That was great,” he said happily as they began their cool down. “I never get to test myself properly, normally.”

“Well, we spar with fair frequency here,” Fon said, “though it depends on who is around.”

A glance at the clock embedded into one wall showed it was nearing dinner time, and not terribly long later they were cleaned up and arrayed in the kitchen, watching Tsuna handle the end stages of dinner preparation. Fon and Romeo took care of getting the table set.

“Skull will be here,” Tsuna said absently as Romeo went to get plates from the cupboard.

Indeed, the Cloud Arcobaleno—buzzed, was the word that came to mind—into the room, gave Tsuna a fierce hug, then claimed a seat at the table. “Oh, ciao, Colonnello,” the purple-haired man said cheerfully.

“Yo.” Since when was Skull so damn cheerful and openly affectionate? “Reborn still tutoring that kid?” he asked no one in particular.

Kiri nodded. “For now. But not much longer, we expect.”

“He said he’d get them up to speed by the time the young master was twenty,” Tsuna said, then, “Have at it, guys.”

Colonnello was amazed at how good dinner tasted, and he didn’t even particularly care for veal piccata. He had just said the first thing that came to mind. Dessert featured pineapple tarts, some Chinese thing that had Fon glowing with pleasure. They weren’t half bad, either.

He ended up bonding with Skull a bit that evening by playing video games and trading mock insults about each other’s performance, with Tsuna egging them on from his position on Kiri’s lap. He also came to the conclusion that Kiri had a very creepy laugh. But then again, the man was a Mist, and plenty of those were a bit on the insane side—perhaps it was the illusions they worked with doing a number on their brains.

The next morning after breakfast he spent time with Tsuna helping him to sort through paperwork, mainly so he could get an idea of what Welkin did and how he might possibly fit into things. After all, Tsuna was not a “normal” Sky, and he wasn’t heading up a huge famiglia or anything. His guardians were still proper guardians, but considering the nature of the business Tsuna had conceived of and made a reality, the necessity of actually guarding their Sky was not an onus. ‘Not that it would be, anyway,’ he thought. ‘But they’ve been clever in keeping attention away from themselves. Nobody sees Welkin Est in person, apparently.’

“The Cavallone Nono has.”

He looked sharply toward the voice to see Kiri smirking at him.

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “He has a habit of doing that. Pay it no mind.” He picked up several folders and offered them to the Mist.

“It’s more than a little creepy,” he commented.

Kiri looked up from his reading and smirked again. “And here I was under the impression that Mists were required to be creepy.”

Tsuna snorted. “You’re adorably creepy.”

Kiri looked smug for a moment, then went back to reading the material he’d been given.

Colonnello, for his part, tried not to think too loudly.

*

“I think I could fit through some of the vents.”

Tsuna nodded. “Quite possibly, yes. What if they had metal mesh inside? Or cameras?”

“People actually do that?”

He shrugged. “Not having squirmed through any vents recently, I don’t know. But it’s possible. Small animals have been known to use such conduits, so it’s reasonable to assume there might be methods in place to prevent egress.”

Hayato frowned.

“I know of one place… It was winter, plenty of snow. Raccoons got into the duct work under a house, for the heating system. Made a nest because it was warm. Frightened the people living there with the noises they made.”

“Um…”

Tsuna let the boy think for a bit longer, then said, “You most likely have Storm Flames, so…”

“Oh!” Hayato looked up. “If there was mesh, I could in theory disintegrate any. Maybe the wiring for the cameras, though I guess that might clue people in that something was off.”

He nodded. “Now you’re thinking. But that’s enough for now. Go get your homework taken care of.”

Hayato slid off his chair and dashed out of the office.

Tsuna sighed quietly. In theory, training Hayato to be an information specialist was safer than being an average mafioso, right? And he would have a better home life with them. He already did! Hayato was not being poisoned on a regular basis by his own blood. ‘Come to think of it, I’m a bit surprised Bianchi hasn’t been sniffing around the area already. But she is obsessed with Reborn, so… Doubt she could find us any more easily than anyone else given Daemon’s protections. At least once Reborn joins us he should be free from her.’

Would it be better to coax flames out of the boy now, or wait until later? It was gamble waiting until Hayato hit puberty, after all. Things were hard enough when every passing cute thing carbonated your hormones, so was it not a bad idea to add supernatural abilities to the mix? Perhaps teaching him earlier on, in conjunction with Fon’s meditation, would smooth the way later?

He made a note to ask Daemon about getting a Storm ring.

*

“We’re going where?” he asked.

“A laser tag facility,” Tsuna replied. “I don’t have much experience with a gun, but this is for fun, so… And you and Reborn are good with them.”

They piled into a car and Romeo drove them to the facility. Romeo got them all their equipment and they trooped off to one of the arenas to play after they geared up, though a number of adjustments had to be made considering how small most of them were.

Colonnello politely refrained from laughing at just how bad their Sky’s aim was.

“Hey,” Tsuna protested after the first round was over, “this isn’t like my usual weapons. The aiming is all different!”

Reborn snorted softly. “We can fix that, you know.”

Their Sky’s eyes went wide, then he laughed nervously. “I’ve seen your training methods. Not sure I want to subject myself to that.”

Rich laughter spilled out of Reborn in response, and an arm was wrapped around Tsuna’s shoulders to pull him close. “I would never be quite that demanding, Sora.”

“Forgive me if that doesn’t entirely soothe my nerves.”

“You seem oddly good at spotting us, though,” he observed.

Tsuna smiled sweetly—and mysteriously, somehow.

“Come on,” Romeo said. “Time for another round.”

It was during round five that things got weird. Colonnello noticed a bunch of young men stumble into their arena—which should not have happened—and immediately start jeering. They were drunk, if the stench of cheap liquor meant anything. They sounded a bit like braying donkeys in his opinion, but he bristled in indignation when they targeted Tsuna, not only with words, but by trying to aim the lasers from their guns into his eyes. His Sky easily avoided the attack, but for some reason they persisted. Was it the generally kind eyes and sweet expression? The obviously foreign features?

Romeo, being the only “adult” of their group, attempted to talk them into exiting the arena in his lazy and relatively nonconfrontational way, trying to redirect their attention away from their target and onto him.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. They were too drunk and too belligerent and, frankly, too stupid. One of them reached behind him to pull a real gun out of the back of his trousers and promptly hit the floor when Colonnello shot him in the leg.

“Wow, you actually use guns that aren’t anti-tank weaponry?” Reborn said, then shot one of the others when they also went to pull a gun.

Tsuna, off to one side, sighed and shook his head. “I swear, this is why we can’t go do fun things.”

He sent a disbelieving look at his Sky. “But this is fun,” he protested, then shot a third.

Tsuna swore a blue streak in Japanese as he dropped his laser gun and summoned up kunai, then started flinging them with disturbing accuracy.

Thirty seconds later the drunks were all down, some bleeding, and they had vacated the arena and jammed the door behind them. Romeo gathered up all the equipment and dumped it off at the desk, and they piled back into the car.

“Well this sucks,” Tsuna said grumpily. “But at least we got a few rounds in before it went weird.”

“You were really good,” he complimented. He was impressed with just how blithely ruthless his Sky could be when the situation called for it.

“Oh? Well, thank you. I do practice a fair amount.” Tsuna whipped out his phone and sent off a text message. He tucked it away and said, “How about pizza? I’m in the mood for pizza.”

Reborn looked at their Sky with hopeful eyes.

“Yes, I meant with me making it,” Tsuna said promptly.

It was so strange seeing Reborn act that way. He wanted to act that way, too. He wanted to harmonize with their Sky, to feel that bond in his heart, to—Tsuna’s head snapped around to look at him with wide eyes as warmth blossomed inside him. His hand went up to press against his chest in wonder.

“I still want pizza,” Reborn said huffily. “Harmonization is no reason to skip out on the pizza.”

Tsuna giggled and nodded. “Of course, Taiyo.”

“Welcome aboard, you old fool,” Reborn said to him with a smirk. “It won’t be long after you move in that I do, too.”

Tsuna took his hand, causing his heart to squee like a young girl, and said, “I wish it could be sooner, but you did say twenty for the young master.”

“Why do you call him that, anyway?” Romeo asked.

“Um…”

A sideways look revealed a slightly confused look on his Sky’s face.

“You know, I’m not sure. He’s not the Cavallone boss yet, so… Maybe I picked it up from Romario? Anyway, grocers, please.”

“You got it, boss man.”

Unfortunately for his liking, the remainder of his visit was far too short, and he was soon enough back at Mafia Land, dealing with the usual grind. He was therefore more than a little startled when his door banged open and Lal marched in, slamming it behind her. “Ciao,” he said simply.

“What the hell are you thinking?” she demanded. “This is so incredibly immature of you!”

“I’m well, thank you for asking. You?”

She scowled at him and sat down primly. “I was fine, until I heard you decided not to renew your contract here.”

He nodded, wondering why she cared so much about that. ‘Actually, who the hell squealed? I will train them until they beg for mummy.’

“Well?” she demanded.

“…I’m a little lost here. Why does it matter?”

She scowled again. “You have a good job here, steady work. Why give that up?”

“Um… Nope. Still not hearing why it matters to you.”

Lal visibly reined in her temper and said, “Where will you go? Were you planning to talk to Iemitsu?”

He blinked at her and shook his head. “No, no I wasn’t. I have something lined up already, of course. I’m tired of this place and this job. It’s time for a change. Still not seeing why it matters. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love you, very much, but given the nature of things we barely see each other, and when we do? It’s just another reminder of everything we can’t have. There’s a reason I didn’t follow you to CEDEF back then.”

A hurt look flashed through her eyes, but she nodded. “I know. That’s why I never protested it at the time. Will you at least give me some idea where you’re going?”

“Around Naples,” he said vaguely.

“You’re going to work for Gesso?” she asked in surprise.

“Didn’t say that, just said around Naples. I have things to finalize before I can provide any details. It’s all aboveboard. Well, as much as anything can be in the mafia. I need a change. I’ve been stuck in this rut for so long I’m surprised there wasn’t moss growing on me. You know what I mean, Lal. I’m the hamster and Mafia Land is the wheel.”

She nodded slowly.

“Besides, I’ll be able to visit more easily.” ‘And see just how good I am at not ripping Iemitsu’s throat out while I do.’ He honestly didn’t see why she’d flipped out. He had a ton of money banked, so it wasn’t as though he would be hurting financially. She couldn’t possibly be concerned about his safety—right? Because if she was, he would have to consider feeling rather insulted. The woman had personally trained him, for fuck’s sake.

She nodded again, looking a bit less angry. “True. And I could visit you more easily.” When he did not immediately leap to agree the anger ramped up again. “What?” she said accusingly.

‘I’ll just have to get a place in Naples?’ he thought, then nodded to himself. “Just wondering where a good spot would be. You know, near good places. Somehow I’m not seeing us hanging out at the local park and playing in the sand pit.” There was just no way he would even consider asking Tsuna to get her under an NDA. She was too close to that man, and as much as Iemitsu liked to act the fool he was incredibly sharp. Besides, she probably wouldn’t sign one anyway, not if it might possibly conflict with CEDEF whatsihoosits.

She sniffed. “Gesso may try to recruit you.”

“They can try,” he drawled.

“Not sure if I trust them,” she continued as if she hadn’t heard, or hadn’t cared to. “I’ve heard some things about the Gesso heir that concern me. People are wondering if he’s a little … off.”

His brow went up. Byakuran had struck him as being certifiable, actually, not “off”. But he was a close and trusted friend of Tsuna’s, so he would give the young man a proper chance. “Doesn’t matter. They can try if they like, but I’m not biting if they do.”

She let out a strangled sound that may or may not have been a frustrated sigh.

He shook his head minutely and decided to change the subject. In fact, Tsuna had given him a huge box of baked goods as a care package before he left. He wondered if Lal was just as susceptible to their effect as the rest of them.

*

“Wow, they’ve really improved,” he said admiringly.

Reborn adopted a smug look and nodded. “I’m good.”

Tsuna giggled and gave him a peck on the cheek. “They’re like a well-oiled team now. Kiri has been messing with the—well, he calls it warding—around our place, so that anyone we care about can come visit, but people following them will get their memories messed with and sent off on a wild goose chase.”

Reborn eyed him for a moment, then returned to watching Dino’s group. “So this lot could come visit, in theory, and not arouse too much attention.”

“Yep. Kiri tested it on a dodgy warehouse property we ‘borrowed’ for a bit. I think he got the idea from those Harry Potter books and muggle-repelling charms. So the young master could come visit, still get to see you…”

“He is surprisingly fond of me,” Reborn admitted, “despite the hell I put him through.”

He made a rude noise. “Don’t be silly. You’re a foundation stone, Taiyo. You’ve been pounding it into his head from the beginning that he’s capable and have never given him a chance to really make excuses. He looks up to you. So what if he’s a bit nervous when you’re around? It just gives him incentive to not get blown up again.”

Reborn hummed. “Well, it’s not like we don’t have room to host this lot for a visit. In any case, Dino has mostly taken on the Cavallone reins. Nono is just waiting until he’s twenty to officially hand them over.”

He nodded, then materialized a single kunai and flung it into the mayhem. Dino’s whip lashed out to wrap around it and release it to the side, making Tsuna grin. “Very nice.”

Ten minutes later Dino came over and wrinkled his nose at Tsuna. “What was that?”

“Just seeing how good you really are,” he said lightly. “I’m very impressed.”

Dino blushed.

“Go get cleaned up,” Reborn said. “Lunch in my suite.”

The two of them snuggled on the loveseat in Reborn’s sitting room while they waited, though Daemon popped up out of nowhere and bundled them onto his lap. Tsuna just hummed; he had two loved ones to snuggle with!

Dino fumbled his way in a bit later, his men in tow, and they all made an attempt to sit at the table in an orderly fashion, carefully not noticing when Dino tripped on thin air again. “Oh, there you are,” Dino said, finally spotting them on the loveseat as a servant unloaded a cart of its burden.

Daemon gracefully rose and made something of a mockery of the blond’s general skills at locomotion when he glided to the table and popped Reborn and Tsuna into chairs, then took one for himself. They were having lasagne, apparently.

Tsuna pulsed the food out of habit before picking up his cutlery.

It was not until the servant had hastened away with the cart and closed the door that Dino gave Tsuna a sad look and said, “So, you’re going to take Reborn away soon-ish, aren’t you.”

“Why do you say that?” he replied, then popped a forkful of yumminess into his mouth.

“It was a huge clue when he said I’d be ready soon and would have to fly the nest.”

“I’m not taking him away, silly, you’re going to graduate soon. You’ll become a boss in your own right and show everyone just how well trained you are. Besides, can you really blame either of us for wanting to live in the same place?”

Dino looked a little shamefaced at that. “No,” he admitted.

Tsuna smiled. “You’ll be able to visit, you know. We like our privacy, but we also like you.”

Dino sent a nervous look Reborn’s way, then nodded. “And I know what’ll happen if word gets out.”

Reborn smiled dangerously and stabbed his fork into his lasagne before cutting into it. Some of the rich, red sauce oozed out the side, causing Dino to start twitching.

*

January brought about two things. Colonnello moved into the house and started taking on jobs while also looking for a fake home in Naples and a place where he could potentially start up a training facility. He still wasn’t sure about that. Daemon not only tracked Fūta down, but was able to quietly let him know that the boy’s ranking power had kicked in. Several spies would be nearby at all times, just in case.

February brought Reborn to the house properly. He started doing a mixture of Welkin jobs and hits. Never anything that took too much time, though. Both he and Colonnello had been feeling the strain of being away from their Sky for so long, and preferred to stick around as much as possible until things smoothed out and they didn’t feel quite so twitchy.

It was in April when Daemon wandered in for dinner with that blank look Tsuna loathed. He groaned softly.

Daemon nodded as he took a seat. “Massimo drowned.”

Tsuna stared, then started swearing under his breath about the general incompetence of Vongola. Thank heaven Hayato was sleeping over at a friend’s house that evening.

“One step closer to them looking for you again,” Romeo said quietly. “I need to get better.”

He smiled warmly at his Lightning. Oh, he had plans. He and Daemon had discussed the very possibility, and with Massimo’s death it was time to make sure, if it came to it, that Romeo could wipe the fucking floor with Levi. They had gone over the original Varia event with a figurative microscope, picking at every thread and plot and plan they could see Xanxus had devised.

Romeo would find himself being electrocuted a lot in the near future, for one thing. Daemon’s spies would be keeping an eye on the principle Varia members just to see what kinds of tricks they had up their sleeves. No sense getting cocky and ending up in a Scramble Battle with no clue what might be different. Levi could turn out to be competent this time.

‘That reminds me, I need to have it firmly impressed on young Hayato that a battle is no place to start monologuing,’ he thought. ‘I’ll check with Fon later to made sure the kid isn’t developing any bad habits.’

Daemon shook his head slightly.

‘Okay, he’s good, then. But that begs the question, if I have to be found, where would I be? If a Scramble Battle happened, where would that be?’ He munched on some buttery bread and considered. “If it comes to that,” he said slowly, “and they try to find me … where would I be? Because if they find me, it’s going to—”

“You don’t have to appear the way you are,” Daemon interrupted. “And no, I don’t mean that bizarre little option you have.”

Half the eyes at the table aimed his way. He smiled nervously. “I can appear as my real age if I want to, but it cuts time off the end.”

His Arcobaleno guardians all frowned and started shaking their heads. “Not a chance in hell,” Reborn said to him, then eyed Daemon. “Considering that I’m practically immune to illusion and you can still get past my guard, I have to assume you can fuck anyone up, even Viper.”

Daemon smirked and nodded, then his eyes flicked toward Tsuna, who had watched as his hands and wrists and arms had puffed out to normal size between one heartbeat and the next. He frowned, because he did not understand how it worked. He was even viewing things from a different perspective.

“Okay, that’s weird. Make it stop, please.” A second later he was himself. He shuddered and stabbed a carrot. “I didn’t like that. It felt like a tease.”

Daemon nodded. “Then, in the event, we have to come up with some kind of plan. I, for one, would prefer not to be caught out flat-footed.”

“I really need to get better,” Romeo repeated.

“We’ll help you, don’t worry,” Reborn said. “You might not like it, but…”

That was enough to get Tsuna giggling again.

“Yeah, I know,” Romeo said. “I did go on a few of those trips north, after all. I’m well aware of just how much of a sadist you can be.”

Reborn smiled, showing far too many teeth. “Oh. Your words are like a pillow of heaven against my head.”

Romeo rolled his eyes and went back to eating.

‘Well, at least they all get along for the most part,’ he thought happily, then stared at Daemon while thinking, ‘Can you fake Sky Flames?’ He got an uncertain look. ‘Because I know you can manage Earth Flames. Just a thought, just in case, for misdirection purposes.’

‘We’ll discuss a few particulars when we’re alone,’ was flashed over his plate.

“The worst case scenario is that Federico gets offed and they come look for me,” he reiterated. “But there is also the issue of Xanxus. He’s on ice right now, but if it came down to that, I have to wonder if the Varia wouldn’t do their damnedest to figure out a way to free him so he could make a claim.”

“I’m having a hard time seeing the Vongola Nono acknowledging it,” Colonnello said, “not after what he did.”

“Perhaps. But consider that there are probably plenty of people in the famiglia who would choose him over a ten year old. Or however old I’d be. And try to create a lot of pressure.”

“And on top of that,” Skull said, “I have to wonder just what that man would do. The long lost son found?” He shrugged. “They’ve not found anything in five plus years already. Would they contact someone outside, but trustworthy, to do the search?”

Tsuna’s eyes widened as he looked first at Colonnello, then Reborn. Then he started laughing so hard he almost fell off his chair. The only thing that saved him was a construct popping up to steady him. The very thought of that man contacting Colonnello through Lal had him in hysterics, and he could certainly see, after Reborn’s work with one of the higher-up families in the alliance, the Vongola Nono considering asking him to do some work tracking down the missing heir.

He distantly realized that Daemon was imparting his thoughts to the others on his behalf, but was still having trouble breathing after laughing so damn hard. Romeo picked him up and held him close for a moment, then set him back down and offered him his drink. A sip of wine helped settle him and he gave Romeo a grateful nod.

“Okay,” Skull said chirpily, “now that our Sky has stopped laughing like a loon, let’s discuss this.”

“I think it’s a bit of long shot that Vongola would contact me,” Reborn said, “but I can see your reasoning. I have never failed, and that might tip the balance.”

“They might go for both of us,” Colonnello said, “a two-pronged approach. But I can’t really see us being anywhere but Italy. I mean, sure, we could go to Japan, since that’s where Tsuna is from, but… Do you want a base over there?”

He grimaced. “A part of me says yes, but… If it happens, if we’re here, we’re a lot more accessible. But on the other hand, there was always the possibility that Estraneo did manage to find me and haul me to Italy, but screwed up and I was taken from them or escaped or whatever.”

“What, like Dolce stumbled over you?” Romeo asked.

“That would be a possibility, depending on what he thinks of the idea,” he replied, nodding. “He’s crazy enough that it might well appeal to him, and he has plenty of weight behind him. Gesso is not exactly small, and they’re neutral, so it’s not like they look to Vongola, nor can they be accused of subverting a Vongola heir.”

“And that’s assuming Byakuran even knew who you were,” Reborn pointed out.

He nodded, then furrowed his brow at Daemon.

“No, I can’t.”

He nodded again. The memory transfer must have offered his white-haired friend protection, of a sort, so any strong Mist trying to get into his head would gain only frustration from the attempt. He suspected the only reason Daemon could read his thoughts was because of the transfer, which seemed contradictory. But then, the other Daemon had probably stalked him creepily for years and knew things Tsuna couldn’t even remember. When you knew someone that well, you could also predict things with a fair degree of accuracy. But after the bond?

“Something like that.”

He snorted in amusement and shook his head. “Okay, you adorably creepy bastard. We’ll have to talk to Byakuran to see if he’s willing to play along. I would like all of you to consider ways to ‘explain’ how I ended up in this manor, with a business, or if we can gloss right over that based on the protections we enjoy. If either of them do get in contact, we have to consider how to misdirect them so that Vongola doesn’t descend on us en masse.”

Reborn snorted. “Well, considering what a shit job they seem to be doing when it comes to their heirs, do you really think I’d spill a location if they hired me and I ‘found’ you?”

Tsuna grinned. “Now that you mention it… I know, not everyone is lucky to have such amazing guardians, but really now. Do my ‘cousins’ really have such…” He shrugged, unable to put it into words.

“If you consider Xanxus,” Daemon said, “I would say yes. He strutted around Vongola like a king and no one stopped him. Not his brothers, not Nono, no one. He treated underlings like trash. The other three were better, but I think they were a little too cocky about their status, their family, and may not have been capable of creating the bonds you have. They never knew suffering.”

He looked down for a moment, his mouth twisting. Daemon had given him new insight into Reborn’s teaching methods, probably without even meaning to. Dino’s people from Before absolutely adored him, but Dino understood suffering, and not just because of Reborn’s sadistic tendencies. With an ailing father he loved dearly and a mother long since gone, Dino did not take things for granted. He wondered if Dino’s immediate acceptance of him was borne of the recognition of that same suffering, of being Reborn’s student, but also for the missing parent. When this Dino came to visit, he intended to spend a lot of time with him, his once and maybe brother.

“To drop another bomb into the mix,” Daemon said, “a reminder that yet another Sawada will be born shortly. That being so, we’re up to three potential Skies. Even if Tsuna is tapped for Decimo, we have leverage to make it a relatively short tenure. No one gets into Tsuna’s head but me, so there’s no fear of some other Mist scrambling his brains. And all of us are exceptional. On top of that, no one tells an Arcobaleno what to do.”

“Unless Sora bribes us with food,” Skull stage whispered.

Tsuna laughed. “Somehow I don’t think that would work against Viper or Verde.”

“You never know,” Fon said. “It would be amusing to spy on one of them if they ate something you cooked. But let’s not tempt fate. I’m still irate over those assassins. Viper likes strawberry milk, though, for reference.”

Tsuna giggled quietly to himself. Everybody knew that chocolate milk was superior! Though for some strange reason, he found himself wondering what pineapple milk would taste like. Or raspberry.

“For all we know, Cavallone Nono will talk up Welkin and they’ll contact the business,” Fon said. “But we’re agreed, yes? We’ll all start thinking of plans and stories. We can meet again later on this issue to share. And of course, we will run Romeo into the ground.”

Later that night he snuggled with Daemon in a chair in his reading nook. Byakuran was in the other one. Daemon had already thrown up a layer of protection around them so that no well-meaning guardians could listen in.

Byakuran laughed merrily when the idea was explained to him. He nodded and said, “Sure! I can come up with something believable. And you’re right, I have plenty of protection. And it’s not like anyone knows who really owns this place. We could pretend I do, and it was something I arranged to ensure the safety of the little Sky I found and wrested away from those evil Estraneo. If it comes down to it, Daemon here can fake a bunch of same-age guardians and you, even, in a different location, purely for the benefit of any Vongola attempting to spy.”

“All right, so we scout out a secondary location,” Daemon said. “Set it up with the usual protections, seemingly. I’ll do the same thing I did here, but with a slightly different focus. Anyone going past it, looking at it, would be convinced of the lie, that it’s been that way for years.”

“And tutors,” Tsuna said. “We could screw with the local school system to invent this bunch, but it’s easier to just invent a tutor or two, people who live there and keep an eye on these kids. One of them can be some Japanese fellow you imported. Might help to explain how all my guardians can speak Japanese and I can speak Italian.”

“Nice,” Byakuran said admiringly.

“And back to earlier, my adorably creepy Mist, you can manage a whole lot of flame types with the right rings, so why not Sky, or at least a credible fake?”

Daemon started laughing. “If,” he said. “If Reborn is contacted by Nono. If Colonnello is contacted by CEDEF. Who is to say they aren’t both tutors. Or one brings in the other? Both Reborn and Colonnello can imbue bullets with their power. Colonnello used one to teach Ryohei about Dying Will Flames, and we all know what Reborn is capable of, with Leon’s help.”

“And that gives us an excuse for Arcobaleno presence. I already use nicknames, so if it did come to that, and Reborn or Colonnello or both were ‘tutoring’ me, they could be reporting about Taiyo and Ame and never once mention real names.”

Byakuran grinned and nodded. “Mind you, I was too young at the time to worry about the finer details. And it’s not like anyone would have mentioned to me about the missing Vongola child. After all, you were kept a secret. They would not have advertised your disappearance, and they didn’t. I have every excuse for not knowing who you really were, should anyone ask. I simply saved and befriended a fellow Sky, and ensured his safety. I was, what, seven or eight, at the time? My father dotes on me, naturally, and gladly pushed through my little clubhouse.”

Tsuna snickered. He had never actually bothered to ask about the details, but it was interesting to see how his friend spun the story.

“This also ties into a possible Varia scenario,” Daemon said. “If it happens, and they send spies, they’re going to get entirely the wrong information, whereas we will know their every move.”

“Okay. Hopefully all this planning is for nothing, but… I’ll start looking for an alternate location. Daemon, maybe you can coordinate with Colonnello about some obfuscating wards at the place he got to misdirect Lal with. Something … delicate.”

“I can be very subtle, love,” Daemon assured him.

“Oh my,” Byakuran said teasingly. “Is this romance I scent in the air?”

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “Dolce, the only two people in the world I could possibly feel comfortable loving that way due to secrecy issues would be you or Daemon. Forgive me if you don’t rate on quite the same scale.”

Byakuran gasped in mock dismay, then touched a hand to his forehead. “I shall never recover from this blow.”

“And in any case, as is extremely evident, my body is incapable of manufacturing the right chemicals or whatever. My love is chaste, dear one.”

Byakuran stuck out his tongue. “Fine. Won’t stop me from shipping you two.”

Daemon planted a kiss on Tsuna’s head in response.

*

Reborn was walking down the hall when he heard an impassioned, “Son of a horker!” In English, no less. He ducked into Tsuna’s office and observed for a moment. His Sky was frowning at his computer in concentration and some rather peculiar sounds were coming from it, not to mention voices. He finally gave into his curiosity and went to see what was going on.

“Hang on, is that dragon flying backward?”

“Yeah,” Tsuna said, clicking mouse buttons as the fingers of his left hand danced around on the keys. “I’m sure they’ll patch it soon enough.”

“Why English?”

“Helps keep the language fresh in my mind,” Tsuna replied, then grinned as the dragon died and devolved into an odd display of pyrotechnics.

He honestly had no real clue what was going on in the game, but, well, his Sky was enjoying it, so… “Well,” he said. “I was on my way to train Romeo again. Since you’re not busy, would you like to help?”

Tsuna gave him a quick nod, then tapped a few keys, saved his game, and exited from it.

“Nice music,” he observed.

“Yeah, it’s got a great soundtrack. I especially like the Secunda track that plays at night sometimes.”

Reborn claimed Tsuna’s arm and walked with him to the training room they had selected. After a quick change of clothing they were ready to torture Romeo, who had a somewhat uneasy look on his face. “Romeo,” he said gaily, “we’re going to have so much fun!”

Daemon chose that moment to attack with lightning from wherever he was hiding, causing Romeo to shriek like a little girl and dance in place.

*

Daemon hummed. Dino and his men had just come for a visit. Beyond that, a girl had been following them. Bianchi Scorpione was even then being shunted away due to the effects of the wards. He clucked his tongue and called Byakuran.

“Ciao~! What is it, my clever friend?”

“Bianchi is in town.”

“Oh? Well now, someone unaffiliated with Gesso traipsing around my territory and bothering my friends? I’ll have to do something about that.”

“She’ll probably take a room somewhere in town. Shouldn’t be much trouble to figure out which one.”

“I’ll take care of it,” Byakuran said cheerfully. “Ciao~!”

*

Tsuna beamed a smile at Dino (minus any special effects) and hauled him off up the stairs. “It’s down this way,” he said, heading west. The east wing belonged to them, naturally. “There are eight rooms on this level, one of which is a guest room. They’re identical except for the colours.”

All the doors were open. He watched as Dino poked his head into the first room on the left, which was done up in creams and browns. “The next room down is Sun, then Sky, then Rain. The others are on the right side, of course.” He hustled Dino off again by the expedient of grabbing his trouser leg and pulling, and shuffled him into the Sky suite. “Do you like it?”

Dino set his messenger bag down (Tsuna was surprised the man’s guardians had allowed him to carry even that much) and smiled. “I like what you’ve done.”

“It’s not all that different from my suite,” he replied. “Well, mine has concessions to my size, like retractable steps and such, but otherwise it’s mostly a duplicate. And, since I don’t really expect to ever be entertaining another Sky here this way, you can more or less consider this wing as yours. I guess.”

Dino snatched him up for a warm hug. “You’re really cool, you know that?”

His face heated up in a blush. “Well, Dino-nii…”

“Eh? But you’re a way more experienced Sky than I am. Why are you calling me big brother?”

“You’re taller than me?” he said slowly. “Either way, we’re both very fond of Reborn, and he’s fond of us, and I’m fond of you, so that makes us family. Sort of.”

“Right. Right. Okay.” Dino nodded and checked out the rest of the suite, Tsuna still in his arms. “My God, that bed is big enough for four of me.”

“Well, we did go a bit overboard there, I suppose,” he admitted. “I could fit at least two dozen of me on mine. On the other hand, it’s useful if you’re a restless sleeper.”

Romario arrived at that point loaded down with suitcases, which he laid atop the dresser. “Thank you for the lovely accommodations, Sora.”

He smiled and nodded. A short time later he was shopping for dinner with Dino, Reborn, and Romario. Dino had decided on Japanese and asked Tsuna to pick. Dinner would be more costly due to imported ingredients, but that was fine in his eyes. He found it sweet that Dino would choose to honor his homeland.

“I’m going to have to use the dining room for once,” he muttered as they drove back.

“You normally eat in the kitchen, I suppose,” Dino said.

“Hai. Don’t see the point in using that thundering great table for just us normally. The kitchen is cozy-ish.”

Dino agreed once they got there to unload the supplies. “Wow, your house is really homey,” he said, looking around the room. “A table big enough for the family, the island with bar stools… I guess it makes sense, though, right? You don’t employ servants, so it’s best to have everything to your requirements.”

Tsuna nodded and got started. He had decided on oyakodon, gyūdon, miso soup, and for afters, green tea castella. It was a smash hit, even if some of them had no clue what the hell they were eating. Seeing Dino try to use hashi, on the other hand, produced a number of suspicious coughing fits amongst Tsuna’s guardians before the the blond gave up and used Western cutlery.

Hayato was very quiet, partly because he was seated next to Fon, and partly because he was a bit awed at having an extra seven adult mafiosi around, one of whom was the boss of a fairly large famiglia. He still followed like a puppy when everyone moved to the living room and, as soon as he figured out which one of the men was Dino’s Storm Guardian, started pestering Michael for ideas on how to use his flames.

Tsuna just rolled his eyes and smiled up at Dino who, for some reason, shuddered. “Eh?”

“That smile—it was too much like Reborn’s.”

“Oh, well, I have been helping him to get Romeo some additional training. I mean, it’s not like we want anyone to figure out who I am, but should it come to it, we’d like Romeo to be just as ridiculously lethal as the rest of us.”

“Why do you keep it a secret?” Dino asked quietly.

He shrugged. “I don’t think it’s anyone’s business, really, who the Sky Arcobaleno is, or even who he’s harmonized with. You’re different because you were Reborn’s student and I’m quite fond of you. Even got to teach you some things myself. You’re a very good student, by the way. Besides, can you imagine the weirdness that would happen if people realized who Welkin Est really is? Or that he has Arcobaleno working for him? We’d be inundated with jobs, and half or more of them would be from people wanting to catch a glimpse or get an autograph. Right now we have a steady stream we’re more than capable of handling, and plenty of time to do other things, like train or play games or whatever.”

Dino’s brow furrowed.

“Colonnello is going to build us an obstacle course out back and then we can have loads of fun,” he added.

“You mean like that monstrosity at Mafia Land?” Dino asked, looking a bit pale.

“Yeah,” he said happily. “That thing was absurdly fun. I want one for myself. C’mon, Dino, what’s not to like about getting to play in the mud even when you’re an adult? Only little kids get to do stuff like that, right? But we can scamper through a course like that and let loose! Nobody thinks it’s weird because it’s ‘training’.”

Dino blinked a few times and started nodding. “You know, you’re right. I was always so nervous as a kid, and so clumsy, that something like the obstacle course sent me into a cold sweat. But why shouldn’t I have fun?”

“I even convinced Kiri to go through when we visited,” he confided in a whisper.

Dino sent a skeptical look at Daemon.

“But he cheated and used illusion to cover up how messy he got,” he further whispered. “I had mud coming off me all the way to guest quarters, after all.”

Dino grinned, then looked a bit uncertain.

“What?”

“Will you…” Dino bit his lip. “Will you teach me a bit about cooking?”

Tsuna gaped for a moment. “Um, okay?”

“It’s just… I didn’t even see that you did anything out of the ordinary, but the results… Wow.”

Tsuna looked around with squinty-eyed mock suspicion, eyeing the other people in the room. “We’ll have to have a super secret closed meeting to discuss this.”

Dino tried for an evil laugh, and failed, causing a number of people to look at him oddly. He blushed and ducked his head.

“Ignore them,” Tsuna said gaily. “Let’s go talk in my suite.”

“What are you up to?” Reborn asked, his eyes gleaming with amusement.

“We’re going to have a super secret Sky meeting,” Tsuna chirped as Dino picked him up and prepared to head upstairs. “Post guards if you want, but this is a closed meeting. Sky business. Super secret. Very hush hush.”

Reborn nodded solemnly. “I’ll make arrangements.”

“Onward!” he cried. Once they were finally tucked away—cozily settled on his bed—he said, “The secret to my cooking is very simple. My mother, before she died, taught me. When I cook, I do so in her memory. Everything I make is with love and honor. Well, Reborn seems to have some suspicion that I put Sky Flames in, too, but I’ve never particularly noticed. Then again, I do like to find harmony in my surroundings and whatnot, so perhaps he’s right, and perhaps I do it without thinking.”

“Huh. I don’t really remember my mother. She died when I was pretty small,” Dino said softly. “Father has never liked to talk about it. I think he still mourns her.”

“I would imagine he loved your mother very much and was left with a gaping hole in his life,” he opined. “I’m not about to ask him, though. So, if you like, I can teach you to make some simple things, to see if you even like cooking. Because there’s no point in teaching you to make a full, complicated meal if…”

Dino nodded. “And the staff at the manor would probably flip out if I tried to take over the cooking, not that I normally have enough free time to do it. Still… It’d be nice if I could occasionally cook for my guys, you know? Show them how much I appreciate them. Reborn practically glowed every time you sent a care package.”

Tsuna giggled quietly. “He intimidated me at first,” he whispered.

Dino gawked at him. “Really?”

He nodded firmly. “Oh yes. He’s got such a reputation, and he’s so incredibly skilled. That’s one of the reasons I started a business, so I could make something of a name for myself. And I practiced like crazy. Still do.”

Dino started to nod, but quickly shook his head. “Speaking of that… You really had me going that night. All I could see was a tiny child, scared out of his mind.”

He smirked. “Sometimes being this small is an advantage. And it helped you to stop being so scared.”

“You’re just as manipulative as Reborn,” Dino accused with a scowl.

“Yep. But I’m cute and you like me.”

Dino rolled his eyes.

“Hey, hey, sometimes it’s an advantage to pretend. You can be really sharp underneath, but people looking at you might get overconfident if you seem a bit… Hm. Unaware? Too nice? And then you nip their heads off when they do something stupid, like attack.”

“You pretending to be what you look like, crying in fear, then disemboweling your captors.”

“Right! They didn’t expect that at all. Now, this is just my opinion, and I’ve no doubt there are Skies out there who would think I’m insane, but we are harmony, and that means, generally speaking, that we’re nice and nonconfrontational. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be effective and it doesn’t mean we can’t be lethal. If people are too stupid to pay attention, that’s to our advantage. The only people who need to know that kind of truth are your loved ones and your very close friends.”

“Well, and allied bosses.”

“To an extent, yes,” he said agreeably. “But they don’t need to know it all, just enough to know that an alliance is solid and real.”

“How old are you really?” Dino asked, his face alight with curiosity.

“Ooo, um, only my guardians know the answer to that,” he said a bit ruefully. “But I think, at some point down the line, I could tell you. You and I have a bond, and I expect it will grow. Not the same as one with a guardian, but a bond all the same. Now, what would you like to learn how to make first? We can start tomorrow.”