Grazhir :: Crossover :: Welkin :: 10

10: 2013-2015

He looked up as Daemon entered his office and paused. Something was off, but he could not tell what. Then he spotted the small figure hiding behind his Mist. “Eh?”

Daemon reached behind him and picked up the child, then closed the door and took a seat. “This little one is Fūta de la Stella. I found him being chased by members of a rather unsavory famiglia.”

His eyes widened. It was so easy to forget certain details when they weren’t being flashed in front of you on a regular basis. He played dumb, of course, for the benefit of the boy. “Does he need protection?”

Fūta’s eyes lit up, but he seemed awfully confused. “You’re so small, though! Even smaller than me.”

Tsuna smiled. “I’m … special. But we run an information gathering business, so it doesn’t matter so much that I’m tiny. You can call me Sora, okay?” After Fūta nodded he continued, “Would you like protection?”

Fūta stared at him blankly, then his eyes went all starry and small items in the room began to float. The boy said nothing, just stared sightlessly, his lips slightly parted. Then everything dropped and Fūta blinked a few times. “Okay!”

“Okay,” he echoed. “How old are you?”

“I’m seven!” Fūta said proudly, puffing out his chest.

Tsuna smiled again and slid off his chair so he could walk around the desk. “How about we go get a snack?”

“Okay!” Fūta squirmed and was promptly set down by Daemon, so Tsuna led him away to the kitchen.

When he got to the kitchen he saw a message waiting for him on the refrigerator: i’ll see if hayato wants to share his room. otherwise, i’ll set up the one next door to hayato.

“We have lots of kinds of drinks, and plenty of fruit…”

Fūta pointed at the bowl of apples kept on the counter, so Tsuna fetched one down and handed it over, and got one for himself.

“Have a lot of people been bothering you?” he asked.

Fūta nodded, his expression turning sad. “I can usually get away. But this last time there were a lot of bad men. Your friend found me and helped.”

“Is there someone we need to contact?”

Tears welled up in Fūta’s eyes and spilled over.

‘Oh dear. I’ll have to get the details from Daemon,’ he thought, then gave Fūta an awkward hug. “It’s fine,” he said softly. “You don’t need to talk about things that upset you. Let’s have our snack, okay?”

Fūta’s tears tapered off and he was soon enough happily munching on his apple. Tsuna thought the kid looked too small and a bit worse for wear. Had he been on the run? Were his parents murdered? He couldn’t wait to be able to talk to Daemon to see what he’d witnessed or stolen from various minds.

Fūta was looking awfully sleepy by the time he finished his apple, so Tsuna led him away to the second floor. Daemon popped up and smoothly steered them into Hayato’s suite. All the rooms on the second floor were doubles that shared a sitting room. Fūta was tucked into the unused bed, now his, and Tsuna wandered off with his Mist to have a chat.

“So…”

“I hate to say it, but…” Daemon looked either upset or annoyed, he wasn’t quite sure. “Fūta’s parents are alive, to start. But once they caught him doing his thing, they freaked out, started treating him differently. They’re normals.”

“Uh oh,” he breathed. “Do you have the paperwork ready?”

“Of course. I was just waiting on your say so, love. I can get that done in no time flat, and we’ll have custody of the boy.”

He nodded. “Do it. Hayato didn’t kick up a fuss?”

“Surprisingly, no, but it might have had something to do with how I buttered him up with subtle flattery. He’s feeling rather chuffed at the moment, all big brother-ish, and seeing himself as a role model.”

“And if he’s feeling all responsible, that means he’ll work even harder to keep his temper under control,” he mused. “I like it! And you didn’t have to do any mental mumbo-jumbo on him?”

Daemon shook his head. “Not even a whisper. I figure, once Fūta is comfortable here, with all of us, we can ease him into a light exercise routine, and keep building on that.”

“And of course, never ever ask him to rank anything for us.”

Daemon nodded again. “If he volunteers, that’s one thing, but even then I think we should be sparing there. And if he never does, that’s fine, too. It’s not like we’ve needed that kind of helping hand in the past for our work.”

“Any idea yet if he’s actually an Earth?”

“I don’t know. Maybe once he’s a little older we can give him a ring and see if he can spark it, but for now…”

“Okay. Soon as you have the paperwork completed I’ll see about getting him enrolled locally. Guess I should sit him down for a talk about that ability, though, try to impress on him to not do it in public if at all possible. Unfortunately, they won’t be in the same school, else I’d ask Hayato to keep an eye on him. But, they can walk together, there and back.”

“I can also keep a spy on the boy, in case he unthinkingly ranks something. That would allow me to fix people’s memories. The fewer people who know anything about him the better.”

He nodded. “Right. And I’ll let Byakuran know he’s here.”

*

He was preparing for dinner when Fon wandered into the kitchen with a little person in tow. Tsuna did a double-take, nodded, and went back to chopping vegetables. ‘Solves that problem, then,’ he thought. ‘Though I have to wonder how Fon stumbled over I-Pin while in Sicily.’

“Hello, Sora,” Fon said serenely.

“Does the little one like steak?” he replied. “Because I’m in the mood for steak. And are there any vegetables she doesn’t like?”

Fon looked momentarily surprised, but said, “I-Pin is not very fond of broccoli.”

“Oh? Took me years before I learned to appreciate broccoli. But I will never like cauliflower.” He shook his head and shuddered.

I-Pin giggled quietly.

He finished up the last carrot and started on a pepper. “Well, have a seat. Tell me all about your minion.”

Fon stared at him, then hoisted I-Pin up onto a stool, then went to fetch a juice box for her before taking a seat for himself. “She is three. I have decided to take her on as an apprentice.”

“Super cool! And Hayato can have another sibling.”

Fon relaxed a skosh, though Tsuna was having trouble understanding why his Storm would be nervy over having brought home a stray. He would not have done it without a damn good reason, after all, and it saved Tsuna some trouble down the line.

“She only speaks Chinese at the moment.”

“Oh.” His knife paused. “Good thing you and Reborn taught me, then. Well, when she’s done with her juice, set her up in the room next to the boys. We can talk about particulars later.”

It wasn’t until much later, after I-Pin had gone to sleep, that he walked with Fon to his office and settled in on the loveseat in there. “So what happened?”

“Unfortunately, I got caught up in, during the course of the job, a massive fight. One side was a bunch of child slavers. They are responsible for little I-Pin being so far away from home. It’s possible they snatched her because she’s an orphan. I did have to take some of them down in my efforts to remove myself from the situation, and she witnessed some of it. Attached herself to me and tried to help. I’d be a pretty poor person if I didn’t help her.”

Tsuna nodded. “It’s fine. You said she tried to help?”

Fon winced. “She kept going for the groin.”

“Oh. Oh my.”

*

When Daemon sat down for lunch he had that look about him again. Tsuna rolled his eyes and set the last plate in place, then took a seat. “Have at it,” he said, then diligently set to work on devouring his stir fry.

I-Pin squealed and dove in, figuratively speaking. She had managed fairly well with learning Japanese, though the kanji kept tripping her up. Italian was also coming along nicely.

As he nabbed a peapod with his hashi a message appeared on the table ahead of his plate: federico died.

Every adult at the table groaned softly. Hayato and Fūta looked around in confusion, but when nobody leaped to explain they went back to eating.

Naturally, they had an after-hours meeting, and Byakuran had stopped by to help. Daemon started things off by repeating himself. “Federico bought the farm. All they found was bones.”

“Then how did they know it was him?” Tsuna sensibly asked.

“Dental records and a metal pin in one arm that was inserted when he was twelve,” Daemon said promptly.

He sighed. “Well this sucks.”

“I have my story ready,” Byakuran caroled. “If it’s ever needed, that is.”

“One moment,” he said, then grabbed a throw pillow, pressed it against his face, and screamed his lungs out. After putting it back and giving it a little pat, he smiled at his fellows. “So, once again, Vongola is proven incompetent.”

“And now we wait to find out if they’re too incompetent to know whom to contact,” Reborn said.

“The alternate location is up and running,” Daemon reported. “Shades are moving about on schedule and the protections there are working as intended. If anyone should bother to dig deep enough, they’ll find that Welkin designed and emplaced the protections, paid for by Gesso. It was very expensive, of course.”

Byakuran sniggered.

“So, Reborn and I just need to see if we get contacted,” Colonnello said, his eyes narrowed.

“So a few days,” Skull said, “if any of them have the sense God gave them, which I doubt.”

In point of fact, several days later, Skull buzzed into his office waving a letter. His expression conveyed shock and confusion. “They wrote to me!”

“Say what now?” He saved his game and exited so he could give his full attention to his Cloud.

“Some ridiculous tripe about how I’ve got an airship and get around, so maybe I’ve happened upon a boy who looks like the picture they enclosed.”

“They? You mean that man?”

Skull nodded a few times, his mouth twisting in antipathy.

“Ugh. Well, do you feel like sending them on a wild goose chase, or would you prefer to be very, very busy with jobs?”

“Jobs. I’ll make shit up if I have to,” Skull replied. “In fact, I’m out of the country and won’t receive the letter for weeks.”

Tsuna grinned and nodded. “Okay.”

Two days after that Reborn and Colonnello were haunting his office, both holding envelopes by their corners, as if afraid of being infected with stupidity. The two exchanged a look, then Colonnello sat down first and cracked open his letter as Reborn also took a seat. Colonnello sighed. “Stupid bastard had enough brains it seems,” he said. “That man has requested my assistance in attempting to track you down. Because I’m so well connected, of course.”

Reborn looked up from his letter and nodded. “The Vongola Nono wants to meet with me regarding a very delicate matter.”

“I just love how I’ve been missing for years, and they only now give a damn,” he said bitterly. “That means either none of my half-siblings are Skies, or Nono thinks he won’t live long enough for one to succeed him. Okay.”

Reborn smirked. “I’ll catch a ride north tomorrow.”

“In that case, I might wait two days,” Colonnello said. “I’m in the middle of something.”

“Sorting your sock collection?” Reborn asked. “Giving names to each and every bullet you possess?”

“No, but now that you mention it…”

*

Reborn strutted into the Vongola Nono’s office feeling smug, simply because nobody had the balls to even consider stripping him of his many, many weapons. And on top of that, they would have to strap him down six ways to Sunday due to his knowledge of martial arts, somehow deprive him of his pacifier without killing him, and subdue Leon. Not happening. Knocking him unconscious would be a start—assuming they could even manage that much—but that would make it a mite difficult to talk about this “delicate” issue.

The Vongola Nono looked old and weary. Lines of age and expression marred his face, but it was still a fairly kindly face. “Thank you for coming,” Nono said, gesturing toward a chair.

Reborn was pleased that it was tall enough to counteract the height advantage the man would otherwise have, and annoyed that he was expected to jump in order to get onto it. He made it seem effortless, his ascension to that perch, and crossed one leg over the other, then nodded. Let the man speak first; it was always illuminating to wait someone out.

After a nice bit of staring, Nono finally deigned to introduce himself as Don Timoteo, the Vongola Nono.

“Reborn,” he said, “the world’s greatest hitman.”

“And Sun Arcobaleno.”

It was only through sheer force of will that he prevented himself from rolling his eyes. It was a sticking point in his mind, having his accomplishments prior to being suckered into a cursed life be tossed aside. It had not taken long before he realized that poor Renato Sinclair had been buried beneath the weight of a sunny yellow pacifier.

Thankfully, Nono decided to move on from stating the obvious and said, “I have contacted you because of, primarily, your sterling reputation, not only your ethics and competence, but also your ability to reliably pass on your knowledge.”

A reference to Dino, obviously, though the boy was hilariously inept at using a gun.

“To that end, and knowing your honor, I would like to ask you to track someone down for me and, should you find him, tutor him.”

“Why?” Best to keep it simple. For a moment there he could swear he saw deep sorrow in the man’s eyes. But considering that his third son had just kicked it, that sort of made sense. A tiny part of him sympathized, but given the amount of failure going on over the last few years, he was hard pressed to hold onto the feeling.

“You may or may not be aware that my sons are all now…” Nono trailed off into a pregnant pause, then continued, “We lost one of our children. He was five at the time. He is the current heir to Vongola, if he lives, and I sincerely hope that is the case.”

“Lost?” His tone might have conveyed a faint hint of something unpleasant, but he was fairly certain “disbelief” would be heard.

“The boy lived in Japan. Estraneo somehow found out about the child and went after him.”

“Estraneo was wiped out, by you.”

Nono nodded. “For the torture and murder of a Vongola, the suspected kidnapping of one, and the intent to use one of our own against us. We have no idea what happened to the boy, only that he was not there when we arrived, living or dead.”

He nodded. “No body, no proof. Like Jimmy Hoffa.”

Oh, the old man almost smiled at that. “Quite. The boy I speak of is Tsunayoshi Sawada.”

Reborn allowed his brow to slide up smoothly. “As in CEDEF?”

Nono nodded slowly, then flicked a glance at one of his guardians, who promptly stepped forward to offer a photograph.

He took it and made a show of examining the thing; it was the same one sent to Skull, probably taken by Nana. The only other alternative would have been a Vongola spy, but if any of those had been around, she might yet live. The boy in the picture really was a boy. There was nothing of the Tsuna he knew in it, nothing of the young man he adored. A slight pulse in his chest reminded him that Tsuna was watching, and so was Daemon.

“Should you locate the child, he would obviously have to be tutored. The only information we have is that he was away on a trip with a friend. For all we know they went to Disney World, except that I sincerely doubt he had a passport. But if his companions of the time saw reports of his mother’s death and knew he was alone… We alone are not the only ones capable of things like doctoring paperwork.”

He nodded. All it took was a decent hacker and someone good at slipping into places they ought not to be.

“Odds are the boy has no idea about the mafia. He would need to be taught, trained, raised up to succeed me.”

He held Nono’s gaze for a few seconds before saying, “And if he wants nothing to do with this?”

Nono exhaled slowly, sadly, regretfully. “I am too old. I may not live long enough for the next in line to be old enough to take the reins.”

“So you’re saying there is someone else.”

“Very possibly, but that child is four at the moment, and we are as yet uncertain if the child is a Sky.”

He looked down at the photograph again, considering what to say next. “You have shown no proof that the missing Vongola is even a Sky. That being so, I can see two separate contracts. One to find him, and one to teach him.” He badly wanted to point out just how incompetent they seemed to be, but he could save his ire for arguing over contractual terms. And if he didn’t get his way? Well, they would have to deal with the Sky Arcobaleno, who was not any more of a mind to take shit than he was.

“You would be able to tell.”

“Of course I would,” he said with a bare hint of offense.

“Well, assuming you are amenable, let us discuss terms for a contract to locate the boy. And after that, to tutor him.”

He pursed his lips. “I suppose it’s a good thing Vongola is comfortable, because I don’t come cheap.”

One of the guardians slipped away and returned with a tray loaded down with snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. Reborn selected a few tarts and some espresso—placed on a little table provided to him—and pulsed the stuff reflexively. Nono waved a dismissive hand at a guardian of his who twitched in presumed outrage and settled in to haggle terms.

That took a half hour, and he could swear Tsuna must be laughing from his comfortable seat back home. Daemon was kind enough to offer advice via the usual illusionary messages that only he could see. In the end he got Nono to agree to a flat rate per day, and it was not too onerous. Vongola was loaded, but there was no sense in pushing for too much on a tracking job.

The contract for tutoring, on the other hand, took quite a bit longer. As he said at one point, “I’m sure you’ll forgive me for saying that the Vongola Famiglia has not exactly shown its best colours so far when it comes to heirs of this generation. The very idea that the boy, if found, would be brought here, strikes terror in my heart in terms of his survival rate.”

‘Well, that was putting a cat amongst the pigeons,’ he thought smugly as insulted expressions flashed all around. “I did an excellent job tutoring young Dino Cavallone; he’s become a fine boss and successor to his father. But this child? I realize what I say must be highly offensive, but I would require custody, so that I could protect him. You surely understand I have not unfounded doubts.”

“His father—”

“Father? How often did this father visit the boy? Spend time with him? Would the child even recognize him as anything other than a stranger with an unhealthy interest in him?”

Nono aged about ten years on hearing that, but bounced back reasonably well.

“I am perfectly willing to tutor another Sky, but I do not need a bunch of people getting in the way and causing confusion, people the boy doesn’t even know, and has no reason to trust. Not saying he’d have much reason to trust me, either, but then, I’m such a cute little fellow and so very nonthreatening.”

“I have heard a whisper of a tale, of you and the young Cavallone Decimo, with but a single guardian, taking on over two dozen men,” Nono said quietly.

Reborn grinned. “Oh yes, that was a fun evening. My student blossomed that night.”

“How many of them did you kill?”

He smirked. “One. And that’s only because a little one was involved. One of the bastards was aiming at his head. For the others, well… My student and his man wouldn’t be learning anything if I did all the work. They were brilliant.”

In the end he got everything he wanted, though Daemon helped with some of the wording for persuasive purposes. The man was a genius when it came to being slippery, and Reborn was not above being grateful for a second (and third) set of eyes to point out anything that might try to sneak by him.

He was tired by the time both contracts were printed off, read through with exacting attention to detail, and signed. He got the originals, declined an invitation to overnight, and departed in a manner that suggested speed yet was calculatedly lazy.

*

Colonnello bit back a sigh as he waited to see Iemitsu and wondered how Reborn had fared in his meeting. With any luck he had sweet talked his way into everything they wanted for the moment. He could feel Tsuna’s presence and that warmth helped keep him from fidgeting. His phone chirped and he took a quick look, then smiled faintly. Speak of the devil. So all he had to do was get through his meeting without garroting, shooting, disemboweling, blowing up, or poisoning Tsuna’s sperm donor.

A door popped open a few minutes later and Lal appeared around the frame. “Come on in.”

He slid off his chair and entered the room, tensed when he saw Iemitsu, and cursed himself for doing so. “So what’s up, hey? I don’t normally get invited to a place like this.”

“Colonnello,” Lal hissed.

He ignored her; she wasn’t the one in charge and she wasn’t the one who had asked for a meeting.

“Good to see you again,” Iemitsu claimed with a broad smile Colonnello immediately pegged as fake. “Have a seat, please. Can I get you something to drink?”

He hopped into a chair and shook his head. “No thank you.”

“I heard you left Mafia Land.”

‘Good Lord, I wonder how long he’ll take to get to the damn point,’ he thought. “Yeah. Burned out on the place. Got tired of listening to wealthy little nancy boys whining about my training regimen.”

Iemitsu laughed heartily; it lacked soul to his ears, but Colonnello admitted he was predisposed to seeing and hearing the worst from the man who had so fundamentally failed his Sky. “I can see where that might get a bit tiresome. So, I’ve been thinking.”

‘Does it hurt?’

“You know a whole lot of people. I’m hoping you can make some very discreet inquiries on my behalf.”

He plastered a confused look on his face, of the sort one might find on an enthusiastic yet somewhat lacking raw recruit.

“A child is missing—has been for several years now—and so far we’ve come up with nothing. You, however, have had the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from all over the place.”

He gave a noncommittal nod that was combined with an almost shrug.

“You’d be doing me a huge favor.”

“Got a picture?”

“Sure!” Iemitsu got up and headed to a huge desk to open one of the drawers, remove something, and return. He offered a 5x7 photograph.

Colonnello accepted it and examined it closely. It was Tsuna all right, but the boy pictured looked nothing like his Sky. Oddly enough, the boy’s eyes were more brown than amber, but he attributed the change to being cursed. “How old is this?”

“He’s almost five in that.”

“And he’s how old now?”

Iemitsu’s eyes darkened for a moment. “Thirteen, turning fourteen.”

“Who is he?”

Vongola’s “young lion” didn’t speak at first; his eyes went to the photograph. Eventually he said, “Considering that we have no idea if he even remembers his name, it’s probably irrelevant.”

He bit the inside of his cheek. Was this some form of plausible deniability at work? Or did the man just want to deny his own culpability? “Right,” he said, his tone shaded with skepticism.

Lal frowned at him.

“Well, I’ll have to spend some time considering what resources I can tap. I’ll get back to you.”

“I’d really appreciate it,” Iemitsu said. “Either way, I’ll owe you one.”

Colonnello tucked the photograph away and nodded, then saw himself out before either of them could object. He was away well before Lal could think to chase him down.

*

“Good heavens,” Tsuna said once they were assembled. “That man couldn’t even admit who I was!”

Colonnello shrugged. “Yeah, well, I have this Mist friend, you see, and he’s going to help me run around the country asking questions and then removing the memory of any of it happening. And since we know nobody knows anything, we have no reason to do anything. So let’s not and say we did.”

His eyes crossed. “Right. Good plan.” He looked at Reborn, who looked much too smug. “I think it’s going to take you approximately a month to track me down.”

“Sure,” Reborn said, and handed over the contracts.

“I find it amusing that my Sun Guardian is also my guardian.”

Reborn smirked. “Well, between the three of us, we got plenty of wiggle room in there. I’m your guardian, and they will be feeling pretty damn stupid once this all comes out.”

“They will,” he agreed, “but what you said was true, no matter how harsh it was. In fact, I’m glad you were that blunt. It’s not like you’re his personal assassin and have a warm relationship with regular meetings with coffee and cannoli.” He ignored Daemon’s fleeting smirk.

“That would be difficult considering it was the first time I’d ever spoken to the man,” Reborn drawled. “Anyway. It means, in case you were napping, that once I admit to knowing where you are and that I’ve taken up your education, I can refuse to say where you are.”

It took a moment for the implications to sink in, but when they did, Tsuna found himself giggling madly. “Actually, I must admit I’m ignorant on one point. Can they even try to claim custody over a Sky with a full bond, where all the guardians are adults? Because…”

Daemon and Reborn shared a look.

“I’m not sure it’s ever come up before,” Daemon finally said. “I’ve certainly never run across a situation where a sub-adult Sky had properly bonded adult guardians. I think a case could be made for custody to be shared amongst them rather than a parent who hadn’t seen the child in…”

“Ten years, almost eleven,” he said dryly. “Admittedly, I have no idea for how long he searched or how good of a job he did. I stopped caring once I was out of Japan. If they were searching here they were awfully quiet about it, so odds are I’d not have heard.”

“No matter,” Reborn said. “I have custody and you’re the boss.”

“The next question is … do we tell Dino?”

“I think we should have the whole group discuss that,” Colonnello said. “It’s ultimately your decision, Tsuna, but I don’t think it’d hurt for all of us to be on the same page.”

“Yeah, okay.”

They all met up, though it wasn’t until the next day, since some of them were away on jobs.

Tsuna started off with, “Reborn, you know him and his men the best. Without tampering, how do you feel about Dino’s ability to respect my privacy regarding my identity?”

“Wait,” Romeo said, sitting up straight. “Why are we considering this?”

“Vongola is actively looking for me again. I suppose I should have started by saying that, as expected, Vongola Nono and that man called for meetings with Taiyo and Ame.”

“Ah, all right.” Romeo nodded and sat back.

“I don’t normally like to make such definitive statements,” Reborn said.

“You mean aside from boasting that you’re the world’s greatest hitman?” Colonnello said with an innocent smile.

Reborn scowled at the blond. “But, I think Dino’s good for it. He’s too fond of both of us. Yes, Cavallone is a Vongola ally, but that doesn’t mean subordinate. Vongola doesn’t interfere with Cavallone, so neither should Cavallone with Vongola affairs. And even if Dino should happen to mention that they’ve been asked to keep an eye out, you are Vongola and can countermand, as the heir, that order. Or close enough. On a personal level? He won’t betray you.”

“Okay. That’s my feeling, too, but… I don’t like the idea of not telling him. I don’t want him caught out flat-footed when it inevitably comes out. Let’s face it, I’m going to end up as Decimo for a few years at least, and I’d like Dino’s full support.”

Nobody spoke for a minute, just eyed each other up curiously, then Reborn said, “I suggest that you, me, and Daemon go visit him. It’d be too odd for him to come south again so soon. Daemon can ensure that no one is listening in when we crack that secret.”

“What about the kids?” Skull asked.

Tsuna shook his head. “Too young. Well, Hayato might not be, but I’m not sure I see the point. They live with Sora and Welkin, not a Vongola heir. And any wacky shenanigans will be away from this manor. By the time I’d be installed at Vongola HQ he would be old enough to… Or well trained enough.” He shrugged. “He would still be here, doing jobs, in theory. But that’s for then. Plans are often enough altered or shattered.”

Skull nodded. “Just checking.”

“Just as well you did,” he said with a smile. “Okay, Reborn, will you arrange a visit with Dino, then?”

*

After Daemon and Reborn both gave the all clear, Tsuna popped open his bribe and shared out the sweets inside. Dino was halfway through some tiramisu—he was being surprisingly restrained in terms of how quickly it was being eaten—when Tsuna said, “Dino… Do you remember when you asked me about my true age?”

Dino’s head snapped up. “Yeah. Is it that time already?”

“This is … very private, Dino. You’ll understand why when I tell you the whole thing.”

The blond actually set his fork down and gave him his full attention.

“I’ll turn fourteen this year.”

Dino stared, then cracked up laughing. “Nah. No way.”

“Yes way. I may have stretched the truth slightly when you inquired about why I called you Dino-nii. But given that you are taller than me, well…”

“You’re trying to tell me that ending up as an Arcobaleno forcibly matures the brain?”

“Apparently so,” Daemon said.

Dino retreated into his snack long enough to have another bite and chew thoughtfully, something that was difficult to do with tiramisu and subsequently came across as stalling for time. He looked at Reborn with puppy eyes.

“He’s going to turn fourteen this year.”

The blond set his fork down again. “Okay. Why tell me now?”

“Shit has hit the fan,” Tsuna said succinctly. “Something I’ve been concerned about for years now. That, Dino-nii, is the … unveiling … of my identity. Well, not at large, perhaps, because I have every intention of continuing on with my business and sheltering behind that name.”

“Welkin Est.”

He nodded. “The thing is, I’m very fond of you, and Reborn is convinced you would not betray me.”

“You’re starting to make feel really nervous, you know,” Dino complained, the tone of his voice approaching “whine” level.

“Have some more tiramisu. I have plenty more sweets in reserve,” he said. “Dino, the Vongola lost a child seven years ago.”

“Eight,” Reborn corrected.

“Right, eight.”

“You’re that child?” Dino asked, fork halfway to his mouth.

Tsuna smiled warmly. “Very good. And yes. I’m the current heir, not that I ever wanted to be. They’re looking for me again, so I can be Decimo. Because I’m so fond of you, and because Vongola and Cavallone are allies, I did not want you to be publicly surprised or embarrassed. I have no intention of being Decimo for any longer than I have to. I want to be Welkin or Sora, run my business, and have plenty of time for my friends and family.”

“And you’re an Arcobaleno, so it’s not like they can expect you to… You know.”

“Right. There are other candidates, but they’re unproven as Skies, and far too young right now. I won’t say who, obviously. That’s an internal matter and not up to me at the moment.”

“So… Who are you?”

He sighed. “How much do you know about CEDEF?”

“They’re the external consultants for Vongola. A part, but not really, of Vongola. The current head is Iemitsu Sawa—oh. Oh. Hang on. I guess all that history, past and present, that Reborn pounded into my head… There’s no way you’re the Vongola Nono’s son, so … you’re a Sawada?”

“Unfortunately. I loathe my father with the fire of a thousand suns, Dino. He was never there, and by the time he was, my mother was dead. It’s wrong of me to say this, perhaps, but I have very little faith in Vongola. Three heirs dead already, one lost. I met you because you were Reborn’s student, not because you were slated to be the head of an allied famiglia. I won my Sun and made a friend. If things hadn’t gone so badly for Vongola my birth identity would never have mattered.”

Dino started shaking his head. “No, no, it doesn’t matter. I can see the conclusion to that line of thought. I’m deeply honored that you would come here and tell me. We’ve known each other for four years and you’ve taught me things my father would never have known to share. You don’t do that with someone you’re uncertain about. The Vongola supposedly have keen intuition.”

He smiled again. “We do,” he said, feeling grateful that the ability could cover a whole host of things he could never explain.

“The only other person available would be… Um… I forget his name offhand. The one who rebelled. Can’t see him being in the running.”

“Not if they have any sense,” Daemon said. “And he’s still imprisoned.”

“You would know, I suppose,” Dino said blithely. “You’ve got to be the strongest Mist alive.”

“Such flattery,” Daemon purred.

“Don’t let it go to your head, Kiri love.” As expected, it diverted his Mist’s attention straight onto him. In the blink of an eye he was being cuddled on Daemon’s lap. “We have plans.”

Dino laughed again. “Of course you do.”

“We have a number of plans. Reborn is going to find me in a month, and he managed to secure guardianship of this missing Vongola child.”

Dino laughed so hard he fell off his chair and stabbed himself with his fork in the process. Reborn was smirking as he healed the wound. A new fork was found to replace the inadvertent weapon. “That never happened,” he said as he reclaimed his chair.

“It never happened,” he said agreeably. “So, we have plans. We’re going to mess about for a while, Reborn will send reports detailing whatever fictitious things he’s teaching me, and we’ll keep that up for as long as humanly possible. We may or may not be asking you if you’d be willing to join in on the fun.”

“I could come help teach occasionally,” Dino said, “and form a brotherly bond with this adorable new Sky and future leader of the mafia world.”

“And intimidate your men into keeping their mouths shut, assuming your association with Reborn doesn’t already manage that.”

“Well, he is a sadist.”

Reborn looked up from his espresso with an innocent, heartwarming smile.

“That he is,” Tsuna said affectionately. “We have an alternate location with fakes wandering about and protections that mess with your mind. Not yours, of course, but anyone else’s. You and your men are protected from that sort of thing, rather like how you’re protected from the ones at my manor. So any visits you make to this adorable new Sky and future leader of the mafia world will be to there.”

“Sure, sure. Still in Portici?”

“Yep. And Byakuran is ready with a completely fictitious story about how he rescued me from … someone. Something like that.”

“Okay,” Dino said enthusiastically.

*

The Vongola Nono was apparently a sad old man, and an eager old man. He accepted Reborn’s reports without much question, though he did ask for clarification at times on certain points. Tsuna first bonded with a Cloud who was referred to only as “Cloud”. According to Reborn, Nono was rather shocked by that information, as Clouds were notoriously difficult to secure the loyalty of.

Reborn had passed on the location of the house Tsuna was allegedly staying at, but warned that there were strong protections in place, and that visiting without permission would be a bad idea. Reborn took the security of his ward very seriously indeed.

He also sent along pictures. Daemon had simply shrugged on the guise of a thirteen year old Tsuna for Reborn to photograph, and had constructs play the parts of the tutors, both Japanese and Italian, that Byakuran had allegedly arranged for. “Cloud” was only captured from the back, and his hair was a wild shade of purple. Sometimes it was best to play to tradition.

Then came the Mist, “Mist”. They lied about how long it took, of course.

Of note was the day they were window shopping in town, reasonably secure in the knowledge that no Vongola spy was going to pay attention, when a missile streaked past them and exploded the corner of a nearby shop.

He started looking around wildly, then went still on seeing a very familiar figure. “Oh, fuck,” he whispered.

Daemon promptly send out a wave of mind-altering flames that sent the generally clueless and panicking civilians off on random errands.

“Lambo is here!” cried a very childish voice. “Lambo will kill you, Reborn!”

“Kami-sama,” he muttered.

Romeo swooped in and snatched up the boy. “Hey, little man, whatcha doing?”

Lambo scowled at his captor, then widened his eyes to alarming proportions. “Daddy?”

‘Oh, wow, I always knew they looked similar, but seeing them next to each other… It’s mind-blowing.’

“Daddy?” Romeo echoed.

“You’re Lambo’s daddy, aren’t you? You must be! You look just like Lambo,” Lambo said happily.

Tsuna turned his head so he could safely snigger against Daemon’s shoulder without drawing too much attention. A minute later they were all piled into the car and driving away from the scene in plenty of time to avoid the police. Lambo was attached to Romeo like a sandspur and chattering away happily, completely ignoring Reborn, who was eyeing the situation in bemusement.

Romeo carried Lambo into the house and straight into the kitchen, where he sank onto a bar stool. “Kid. Who are you?”

Tears began to well in Lambo’s large green eyes and his lower lip began to quiver. Tsuna distracted him from an all out crying jag with a convenient bunch of grapes. Lambo gasped and followed up with a delighted giggle. His cheeks were bulging a moment later and his eyes were bright with happiness.

“I think for the moment you should take him at his word,” Tsuna suggested. “Have we got anyone who can do DNA testing? Because I am seriously curious here. I mean, look at them. Except for the eye colour…”

Reborn clucked his tongue and nodded. “We could ask Dolce.”

“Sweets?” Lambo said hopefully.

“Eat your grapes, little man,” Romeo said firmly.

Lambo noticed Reborn again and cried, “Reborn! Lambo will—wait. Lambo’s daddy is alive … so Reborn could not have killed him … so…” A sticky finger went up to press against the boy’s lower lip. “Reborn is innocent? Daddy?”

Tsuna had to bury his face against Daemon’s shoulder again at the look on Romeo’s face. “Please get ahold of Dolce,” he said, his voice a bit muffled and shaky.

Several days later they had the results. Romeo was Lambo’s father.

“So…”

Romeo had been doing a lot of thinking recently and was prepared with a potential answer. “It was around the time when we first met. Well, during the time between then and when we harmonized. I met this girl—she never would tell me more than her given name. It was a one night stand. You know, mutual need, no strings attached. She said she was protected, and I used a condom anyway because it was the correct thing to do.”

“And illegitimate children in the mafia are…”

“Yeah. I can only imagine both methods failed. I can’t think of any other possible way I could end up with a five year old son.”

Tsuna nodded. “Well, I don’t have problem with you claiming him and us giving him a home. After all, I’m feeling more than a little miffed that the Bovino boss apparently told the kid that he’d have to avenge his father for a chance at being considered for heir of the famiglia.”

“What exactly did you manage to dig up?”

“The girl was the boss’s daughter and was apparently married off once it became known she was in a family way. The husband took on the Bovino name, to keep things tidy. But they were both killed during a weapons malfunction. I can only assume the Bovino boss is highly embarrassed by the boy and sent him off to get himself killed.”

“Even though Reborn is now associated with Vongola, their allies?”

“He doesn’t know that, presumably,” Tsuna pointed out. “It’s not like they took out an advert in the paper. Reborn would have a meltdown if Vongola put me in that much danger, and I’d be Decimo in fact, not just presumptive, a whole hell of a lot sooner. So, we need to socialize the little cow. Maybe he and I-Pin can cozy up as siblings or something. That girl doesn’t take shit from anyone, so perhaps she can effectively squash his more exuberant antics.”

Romeo snickered madly. “I’m going to guess that the step-father didn’t even come close to looking like either of us.”

Tsuna shook his head. “Like night and day, with a side of next Tuesday.”

Lambo added excitement to their lives. The only people who could get him to calm down were Romeo, as his “Daddy”, I-Pin, via threats of bodily harm, and Sora, because he was such a fantastic cook and always made sure there were seedless grapes in the house. Grapes with seeds had been banned after the very first instance, mainly because Lambo liked to spit the seeds at people in not-so-sneaky attacks.

*

He was checking on his investments when his phone chirped. A look showed a text from Reborn, something about a weapons tuner who—‘Hang on, I remember that guy, and I remember what came next. Why the hell didn’t I make the connection between the deaths and Verde?’ He shot off a text to Daemon and then one to Reborn. No way was he leaving the protections of his manor to meet with that crackpot.

Daemon glided in a few minutes later and took a seat after closing the door, sweeping the room for bugs, and tossing up some protections.

“Giannini is in town, which means those whispers of death we’ve been hearing are—”

“Most likely connected to Verde,” Daemon finished, nodding. “I had forgotten about that. Want to horrifically kill his assassins and send them back with another mocking note?”

“Sure. And we can work up some kind of glowing report for Reborn to send to Nono about how I was a real badass. Help me come up with a way to clue Reborn in without, you know… And then we can prance around obliviously until they take the bait. Because odds are, Giannini was anything but subtle, and Verde will know where to look.”

“You do realize I’ll have to alter your appearance.”

Tsuna scowled and nodded. “Fine. Let’s go to one of the training rooms so I can practice while under the influence.”

A few days later he, a proper-sized Daemon, and Reborn were strolling along “carelessly”. He hated how twitchy his illusionary disguise made him feel, but there was nothing else for it. On the mere chance that someone somewhere was watching, he had to appear to be a teenager.

They found a nice spot and settled in for a picnic. Under a tree. With low-hanging branches. Needless to say the assassins never stood a chance and Tsuna was very pleased with himself for managing to get kunai through all four eyes. “Good thing you explained to me all about that intuition thing,” he said as he stared at the two dead men. “Excuse me, please, I’m gonna go throw up.”

Tsuna wandered into the center of a clump of bushes and, just in case someone was watching from a distance with binoculars, pretended to lose his lunch as Reborn shot off a prearranged text. A van with tinted windows arrived not much later and two men got out, dumped the bodies in the back, then drove away. In reality, it was a disguised Romeo and a construct. Daemon had every intention of doing evil things to the assassins and sending them back to Verde in a box.

Back at the manor he said, “So that’s twice now Verde has inadvertently sent assassins after the Sky Arcobaleno.”

“I’m starting to think that he’s an idiot savant,” Reborn commented. “And that he took a job from the other side of the tracks. Why the hell else would he go after so many bosses and their heirs?”

“I think I’ll be watching this time, when the delivery arrives.” And he did. Daemon prompted him at the appropriate moment.

Verde had just opened the box when Tsuna peeked in, and the little green-haired scientist went through a full-body twitch at the sensation before launching into a screaming hissy fit. “I am not impressed,” he said softly, eyeing the destruction taking place at Verde’s laboratory. ‘Actually, he kind of reminds me of the previous Lambo in a way, except Verde is old enough to know better. Hell, even my current Lambo is better behaved than this guy.’

“I wonder if he’ll assume that Welkin got involved,” Daemon murmured. “Same general area, after all.”

“Maybe after he calms down? We’ll wait and see. I don’t want to do anything directly against him, against the code.” He gasped suddenly and looked at his Mist. “The decoy puppets.”

Daemon started laughing. “I can piece together what we knew of before, with what he has now. Yes, I’ll get started on that right away.”

Tsuna couldn’t even remember in what context he originally knew of them, but he did remember just how effective they were. He could remotely manipulate a puppet and most people would never know the difference. His other guardians could as well. It remained to be seen just how long they could fool people for, but if it meant his identity as Sky Arcobaleno and Welkin Est remained a secret…

A few days later Daemon was back with a peculiar little earring. It was designed to pierce through the top of his ear and therefore be mostly hidden. What little could be seen would look like a small mole more than anything. Daemon fooled his senses enough that he never even felt the pain of it being inserted, and Reborn healed him after giving him a funny look.

Tsuna went over to a mostly decorative mirror on one wall and gawked for a second. His hair was an inky black and much like it had been during his brief stint masquerading as a courier, and his features had shifted so that he no longer looked like a male clone of his mother. “It’s all in the earring,” he said, watching his Mist’s reflection.

“Yes,” Daemon said with a nod. “I put a piece of me, so to speak, in that earring. So long as you wear it, this is the form of the Sky Arcobaleno. I can still override it if necessary.”

“You know,” he said thoughtfully, “with this in place I could call for a meeting. I look different enough, right?”

Reborn smirked maliciously. “That would be interesting.”

He glanced at his Mist, who nodded, then headed to his desk to write out three identical notes. Once he was satisfied he bleached them with the light of his pacifier and placed them into envelopes he banded with a plain ribbon of Sky Flames.

“When?” Reborn asked as Daemon took the envelopes for Lal, Viper, and Verde.

“Two weeks, at the Pacifier Spring.”

*

Skull arrived first, of course. Fon was second. They exchanged the usual, somewhat detached greetings expected of them, and sat back to wait. Viper was next, floating in and taking a spot next to Fon; he neither looked at nor greeted either. Lal arrived with Colonnello, and she provided a buffer between Skull and the blond, not that she knew it was no longer necessary. Verde was next and took position near Viper; he looked irritated.

And finally, Reborn arrived, with Tsuna walking beside him. Reborn provided the buffer between Verde and their Sky. Daemon was blending into the scenery somewhere.

“What is this about?” Lal asked after a pregnant pause.

Tsuna smiled and set down the basket he was carrying. “For one, I thought I’d meet you all. For two, I need to air a grievance.” He turned to stare at Verde, the smile slipping away. “I am … annoyed … with your attempt on my life.”

Verde shook his head. “You’ve obviously mistaken me for someone else.”

“Because that’s so easy to do,” Tsuna replied coolly.

“Who are you, anyway?” Verde said, affecting boredom. “The pacifier says one thing, and that can’t be faked, but…”

“You may call me Welkin.”

Verde went pale and his eyes widened before he recovered and wiped any expression off his face. “How the hell was I supposed to know?”

“Ever heard of a little something called research?” Reborn asked snidely. “You attempted to assassinate the Sky Arcobaleno, you fucking moron.”

“I sent you an offer of funding,” Tsuna said, just so Viper and Lal were aware of the circumstances, “as an investment. You came back with a wholly over-the-top response of sending assassins. And then, when they were returned to you, you had an epic temper tantrum that any spoiled toddler would be envious of.

“Now, I let it go at the time. You didn’t know, though you should have been more careful. I couldn’t see that you were working on anything particularly unethical. The people you had as experimental subjects were all mafiosi, flame-active, and had done something against you personally to potentially deserve their fate.”

Verde pulled off an entirely unconvincing shrug. “Then why bring it up now?”

Tsuna smiled in a way that caused Skull to wince. “More recently, you sent assassins after someone under the personal protection of Reborn. Again, for a scientist, you seem to have serious issues with not understanding the concept of research. Had you bothered, you would have known. And at that, you sent two cowards, using optical camouflage, after a boy barely in his teens. That’s pathetic. And you threw another temper tantrum when they were returned to you. Out of all of us, you’re the only one who actually acts like a damn toddler. Maybe you should stick to your playpen and leave the outside world alone.”

Verde’s attempt to look supremely unaffected showed cracks. “It’s not like you can do anything.”

“Oh?” He smiled again, and that time Colonnello grimaced. “I, unlike you, won’t go against the code. But I don’t need to kill you to neutralize you.”

Verde scoffed. “You’re a Sky. You’re probably just as soft as Luce was.”

Tsuna tilted his head and smiled as Verde shot up into the air and hung there. “Oh? Do you make it a habit to insult your peers? Guess I could hang you off the Eiffel Tower as a time out. Or, you know, make your every moment a living hell, so much so that you curl into a little ball, only coming out so you can choke down some food and handle other bodily functions. I’m starting to wonder if you’ve inhaled too many chemicals.”

“How are you doing this?” Verde demanded.

“My oh my,” he said. “Could it be that our little scientist friend is clueless … again?” He clucked his tongue in disappointment. “Guess I could put you into daycare, have you go through the school system again. It’s one thing to stay apart from the rest of us, but to be so detached that you don’t care you who kill? I am so disappointed in you, Verde. So, look. You behave yourself from now on, because if you step one toe over the line, I will spank you like the unruly toddler you appear to be. If you want to know just how ruthless I can be … well … go ahead and test me.”

He set Verde down—gently!—and watched as the man scowled and took off. Daemon flashed him an all clear, so he turned his attention back to the others. “So… How’s everyone doing?”

Reborn was so stone-faced he knew his Sun was in hysterics internally.

“I brought food!” He opened the picnic basket and pulled out a blanket, flicked into place, then sat down and started portioning out food. His guardians took places at, for them, glacial speed, and were joined by a curious Lal and a seemingly indifferent Viper.

Tsuna pulled out a nice cold bottle of strawberry milk and offered it to Viper with a warm smile. Viper’s mouth flattened out from its usual unhappy slant, and he snatched the milk away. He turned that same smile on Lal as he offered her bruttiboni, which Colonnello had helpfully told him she favored. Reborn got the brownies he liked so much, Colonnello got his cookies, Fon got pineapple tarts, and Skull got cheesecake.

There was plenty for everyone, of course. Tsuna was enjoying some dango when Lal said, “You’re that Welkin?”

He nodded, because his mouth was conveniently full.

“You obviously know Reborn.”

‘Way to state the obvious,’ he thought, and swallowed. “Hai. He’s a sartorial powerhouse, so naturally I went to him for advice.”

Lal eyed his jeans, hoodie, and grass-stained canvas sneakers skeptically.

“I wasn’t sure if you were vegetarian or vegan,” he continued, “so I made you fully vegan bruttiboni, just in case.” Another sphere of dango went into his mouth.

She looked down in surprise. “Oh. Just vegetarian. But I—they’re wonderful. Thank you.”

He nodded, swallowed, and said, “I have also have some vegan strawberry shortcake in my basket. I wasn’t certain about Mammon, either, but then I remembered the milk thing and…” He shrugged and slid the third sphere into his mouth and tucked the stick away.

“You must be very good at your chosen work,” Viper said softly.

“I try my best,” he replied. “After a little incident with Reborn I decided, for the most part—” He looked off toward where Verde had fled. “—to not use one of my abilities and did things the old fashioned way.”

Viper somehow managed to convey a brow raise behind his hood.

“I can demonstrate, but it won’t feel very good.”

Viper’s head angled toward Reborn.

“It feels weird,” Reborn said promptly. “Doesn’t hurt or anything, it’s just super creepy.”

Viper sipped more of his milk, then said, “Try me.”

Tsuna nodded and reached up to hold his pacifier, and concentrated. Viper stiffened and his unencumbered hand twitched. The moment he nodded sharply Tsuna released his pacifier. “Basically, I can look in on you. It could be considered a gross violation of privacy, though, so…”

“You could drive Verde to the brink of insanity, or over the edge,” Viper said.

“Hai. I have other ways to neuter him, though, if he chooses to test my patience.”

“Do you have guardians?” Fon asked, simply so that it was not just Lal and Viper asking questions.

“I am not alone,” he said simply, then produced the strawberry shortcake and cut a slice. Movement from Viper saw him offering it to the Mist Arcobaleno. He cut a second slice and kept that for himself. It had taken some doing for him to be satisfied with vegan versions of bruttiboni and the shortcake, but he thought they tasted just fine in the end.

Small talk started up between Colonnello, Fon, and Reborn, so Tsuna happily consumed his shortcake, well aware that Lal and Viper were eyeing him speculatively. A message from Daemon flashed up for him and he nodded, then ate the last strawberry on his plate.

“Well, I have a plane to catch, and my aide is waiting for me, so…” He put the plate and fork away, then quickly made up little care packages with the remaining sweets and handed them around. He got up, brushed any bits of grass off himself, and took hold of the basket’s handle. “It was a pleasure,” he said, then waved before trotting off into the trees.

He met up with Daemon within minutes and they quickly made their escape to the Aérodrome de Pontarlier and the private plane they had rented. For the sake of appearances all his Arcobaleno guardians would be getting home individually.

When they did meet back up at the manor his guardians were all in good humor. “You know, I think you may have won those two over a little,” Skull said.

“If nothing else,” Colonnello added, “I think you made a fair show of what you’d be prepared to do if necessary, without doing more on the spot than provide a little embarrassment.”

“So the toddler comment wasn’t going too far?”

Fon chuckled.

“I figured I could give away the peeking thing since Daemon can spy on those three if necessary. I’d like to think that Verde is seriously considering his options, and that Viper and Lal wouldn’t cause problems.”

“Viper would if Xanxus ever gets free, but not against Welkin,” Colonnello.

“Which makes it a free pass of sorts,” he said. “I can’t very well get pissy at him under those circumstances.”

“I’m still surprised Viper didn’t try to charge you for anything, like taste-testing that shortcake,” Reborn said with a shake of his head.

Skull nodded. “That’s why I think Sora might have won him over a little. He never even said ‘time is money’ like he usually does or stare pointedly at a watch he isn’t wearing.”

Daemon shifted and somehow managed to catch everyone’s attention by doing so. “I have stolen an idea of Verde’s, with Tsuna’s encouragement, and have managed to get it working. Verde calls them decoy puppets. The idea here is to create decoys for all of us to place at our alternate location, so that I do not have to expend so much energy moving shades around.”

“How do they work?” Romeo asked.

“The simulate both flames and things like a heartbeat, and can be operated remotely. You can speak through them, as well. Obviously, they’d be useless for anything other than a diversion. In addition to that, as you have all seen, the earring I provided Welkin has maintained his new appearance without me having to be directly involved. I would like to attempt the same for Tsuna’s guardians.”

Reborn frowned slightly. “You would need a puppet for me, or a construct.”

Daemon nodded. “Depending on circumstances, yes. You can’t very well be Tsuna’s tutor and his Sun Guardian at the same time otherwise.”

“Guess it depends on how obvious it is controlling one.”

“The earrings would, of course, alter your stature. Tsuna did not in the least appreciate my original attempt, as you may recall. However, he has been practicing in that form. If I can get earrings to work, are all of you willing?”

“We kinda have to be,” Skull said. “I don’t want our privacy shattered any more than I think you guys do. And that means dealing with being uncomfortable and adjusting to it when we need to fool people.”

Tsuna looked at each of his guardians in turn, then nodded. “Okay.”