Yamamoto glided through dreams with ease; eyes calm, mouth smiling, and always dressed in black. Mukuro thought it was amusing that even in sleep, with all the surreality of Kafka swirling about in jarring pieces of discontinuity, Yamamoto stepped around like he was born from dreams. Through bloodied streets and sun drenched fields, dust haze, sushi, talking cats and key ring charms, custom bats, universes black and bright, ramen stalls, bodies supine on the ground, Yamamoto streamed across in each existence, aware and unaware, one line continuous- never surprised.
Through his nightly rounds in the Vongola’s dreams, Murkuro lingers in Tsuna’s head, messes with Hibari’s, but always pauses here:
Young and in his room, Yamamoto nodded, eyes pointedly serious at the question. “I know, the only reason you like udon is because socks aren’t the only things you wear.”
Reborn snores while ignoring everything around him including the response, eyes wide and black in his sleep, mouth opening robotically with metallic clicks as a gun comes out of his mouth, shooting colored gumballs at the wall in clacking sounds. Static licks at the edge of his vision when Leon transforms into Gokudera, who is also transforming into Leon as his mom comes in through the window carrying donburi and a lemonade.
“I’m sorry Takeshi but I’m afraid your father’s dead.”
Yamamoto smiles, eyes calm, taking out the battery from his calf, “I know, but that’s no reason for me to stop going to the game.”
Leon turned Gokudera scowls at him before taking Gokudera turned Leon out from behind his desk by the tail, shaking the lizard till it turns purple and stretches out into a katana. Reborn starts reciting the specs of Tsuna’s mansion as Yamamoto puts the battery into the hilt and brightly laughs, clutching his mitt before heading out into the door, not even bothering to open it on his quest to find his soul.
Beneath this ridiculous play Yamamoto’s thoughts chant subconsciously that tomorrow he has to remember to charge his cell phone. Mukuro stands at the opposite end of his mental jumble, recognizing that as a side observer Yamamoto doesn’t know he’s even there. Yet it’s that curiously clear gaze always makes him pause, as if Yamamoto could see everything beyond his scope, through the veil of washed out dreams and into his realm of control. Mukuro laughs in childish amusement.
He thinks to himself, as if in challenge:
The next time Yamamoto dreams, he will not have that look on his face.
A slight pensive look passes the Rain guardian’s eyes as he spaces out in front of his espresso cup. “Did you have a really weird dream last night, Dino-san?”
Dino splutters coffee all over himself at the non-sequitur. People around them on the outside patio of the café glance over, looking surprised at this outburst coming from two sharply dressed men, fully intimidating in their business attire as the Cavallone boss chokes and tries not to kill himself with his napkin. Here he thought they were talking about the best way to remember when to turn in their paperwork and reports, but the questioning glint in his kouhai refused to be ignored.
“Er- um. Ahem, not really. I mean, there was that thing with Squalo’s hair getting tangled in some Christmas gazebo lights and then I couldn’t help him and Enzio had to climb up his-” Dino’s face scrunches up in incomprehension, wondering for the first time how his mind came up with something so strange, lapsing silent in embarrassment as he remembers that Yamamoto was still sitting there, intently listening to his babbling. Dino realizes how odd it sounds to the younger Vongola, and it’s not like he wants Yamamoto to misconstrue anything…
“Not that dreams aren’t really weird anyway, I mean, it’s not like I dream about Squalo all the time- just sometimes- …what is this about again?”
“Ha ha ha! Nothing, it’s just that I had this dream about Reborn being a robot and something about Leon and Gokudera, then I took this battery out of my leg and was leaving to play baseball, but then when I woke up in the morning I remembered to charge my cell phone even though I forget all the time- and no one had to remind me.”
Dino nods at the incoherence, understanding completely. “The mind works in strange ways. I mean, usually I’m really clumsy without Romario or one of the others around, but this one time I was walking with my dinner plate and glass in one hand, Enzio’s food in the other, and almost tripped, but managed to save myself because I thought that the carpet pattern looked like a pear.”
Yamamoto also nods; sometimes the strangest distraction, completely unrelated, could end up jolting the senses and veering you back on track. They both look at each other, sharing a moment only understandable to them, their natural gracelessness of mind easily reading thoughts that would baffle anyone else.
Dino enjoys his time with Yamamoto whenever he comes to commiserate as an envoy between the Vongola and Cavallone. He’s open, easy going, and they always seem to have something to talk about, even if they’ve already known each other for years. Their personalities seemed to mesh, being both friendly and naturally positive. Paperwork and casual conversation were on equal levels of importance whenever they got together, and no matter the topic they both seemed to understand each other well. They both had taken to volunteering for these meetings if they knew the other was coming.
“So what did Enzio do with Squalo?”
“Hahaha…nothing. It was nothing! How’s Tsuna holding up with…”
A hard, cold smack in his side jolted him from his thoughts.
“Heeeeeeey! You aren’t. Paying. Attention!”
Yamamoto tries to breathe evenly, the lunge into his side with the cold, metal practice sword winding him briefly as he smiled sheepishly. “Haha, I’m sorry. I was just thinking about something, I guess I wasn’t focused enough.”
Squalo doesn’t even pause as he rips up his opponent’s side and smashes the flat of his sword down Yamamoto’s back. He coughs and winces as he nimbly dodges, the blow connecting but softened as Yamamoto grips his katana tighter, spinning around to catch Squalo’s diagonal follow through.
In the edge of his eye all Yamamoto ever sees is the glint of silvered hair and the dark imprint of the assassin’s clothes. Whenever Squalo deigns to practice with him all he ever sees for the next few of hours are these teasing streaks of light. Yamamoto can barely tell what the room looks like, what Squalo looks like, but he can picture his blade and every angle, every glint off the sword, the individual tightening muscles of his hand, and the sharp vibrations of the air. Around him the world is mystical but all the focus gathers around him, sharpening his grasp on himself.
Enclosed, it’s hard not to fall into a one man world, but when he strikes all Yamamoto feels is a nagging emotion. He trails behind the long twist of white hair trying to catch this other human being; one touch and tag at a time he closes the distance only to be pushed away again. A hit upon his back, two on his side, he feels nothing. One hit against the enemy’s arm, against his leg, and he feels burning satisfaction. Once in a while though, when those two blades glide past one another he feels like he’s caught up, like he has finally found his goal, the be all end all of his search. Even though through the sheen of sweat and blurred vision he barely sees Squalo, all he sees is Squalo.
One hit low towards the ground, the tips scratch and groan against each other, and they both pause, surprised out of their attack by their first meeting face to face. The glare of the overhead lights washes color away into glittering sheen against skin as they throttle their lungs into submission and squint their eyes to show them what they found.
“Hahahahaha!” A sword clatters to the ground. Squalo flips his hair out from his face and tosses his head back while laughing, the still savage look in his eye. “Heeeeeey, what the hell were you thinking about before?”
The smile comes natural and easily to his face as Yamamoto gives a small laugh. It’s nice to see his friend in such a good mood. “Oh nothing, me and Dino were just having coffee and talking about how some things happen completely randomly that make you think of thing or do things you wouldn’t have thought of before.”
A brow smashes down in confusion at the vagueness being waved around and the congenial, almost misty look in Yamamoto’s face. “The fuck are you talking about? Since when did you and Bucking Horse get so…!”
The slight grin on Yamamoto’s face doesn’t fade, despite Squalo’s fervent talk against the other boss, the mumbling gave it away. Crescents form from his eyes as his hand scratches his head as if perplexed. “Haha who knew you would get so jealous?”
“Voiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii I’M NOT FUCKING JEALOUS. WHAT THE FUCK GAVE YOU THAT STUPID IDEAAA?!”
The rain guardian drops to the floor to grab the katana he’d let clatter to the ground, still smiling. Squalo really was a worthy opponent to still have energy after that fight. He’ll tell Dino-san the next time he sees him that Squalo seemed to be in good spirits.
The shockwave of a downward blow strikes all other thoughts away as he prepares to find himself again one hit at a time.
It was easy to master things. If he practiced hard, if he concentrated, he would be able to achieve proficiency. Swordsmanship, using his ring, his box, even assassination. Doing something enough times had given Yamamoto the reference to improve it again. Baseball may not be something that he does now, but it was the principle of the game that stayed with him, even if the game he played now was slightly different.
Yamamoto thinks to himself, whenever he is in the company of Gokudera, or Tsuna, that he wishes he could be like them sometimes. Striving is one thing, but for both of his best friends, it seemed to be internal attachment to their hardship that made achievements worthwhile. Never has Yamamoto once seen Tsuna pass over a victory, whether it be in combat or Go Fish, unappreciative. Gokudera was the same, even though he scoffs and says that it should be nothing for the Tenth’s right hand, there’s always a hard, desperate glint to his eye as if he’s finally come to the point where he thinks he is worthy of that title.
When mastering something, Yamamoto has never stopped to look at the long road behind him that took him there. He accepts that what he has done had been right, and there is only more to be done in the future. If it had been wrong, he simply goes back and alters the routine until the right solution comes along again. His eyes are blind to paths of victory, which is why he needs Tsuna to take him there. The only thing he has ever regretted, and Yamamoto was not prone to self-reflection and regrets, was that this internal blindness of his makes him easily blunder.
Contrary to belief, he can be surprisingly intuitive about others, but of himself he never knows why and how he functions. It is simply fact, corded and bound and not to be unwrapped. Yamamoto wished, sometimes, that this self-tranquility would rip apart so he can understand like the other members of the family seem to understand. Sometimes he feels like Tsuna, Squalo, Mukuro, Dino and Hibari have all reached this epiphany he never will, and no amount of practice will ever get him there.
Everyone is too far away to be reached, and when they go beyond the limits of their own power, Yamamoto simply can’t, and it makes him sad. He could never be extrodinary, so he simply does what he knows. He can't find his own limit to surpass, so all he can do is practice day by day by day until somehow something new will flow into his veins.
“Don’t eat it Takeshi. You’ll die you know, there’s more than mercury in tuna.”
Yamamoto drops his maki roll, rice scattering across a blue marked plate as his father looks at him through eyes dead tired and glassy. From behind the familiar black brown iris, blue and red tints flood up and tears start pouring out Tsuyoshi’s mouth in gushes too forceful to be called a stream. Deep in his gut Yamamoto feels a pain stabbing, as he wrenches from his chair with wild eyes blurring the wooden counter and shelves around him into sable whirls.
A foot steps into view crunching the tumbled remains of broken china and sprays of rice, leading his eyes up to a hand with an all too familiar ring. The flame burning orange and hot is smothered by a dowdy baseball cap as Tsuna looks down at him as if he wasn’t even there.
Spit comes out his mouth as he heaves and heaves; a choking noise in his throat catches on a marble lodged too deep to puke as he claws the air. Instead of blood that pools from his tongue, black ink writhes across the floor and all of a sudden he is no longer on the floor but drowning in the dark. Bubbles pile up in great distortion as from the filtered sunlight above the too-vast sea he sees blobs of lotus leaves block his view of a face all too precious.
Helpless as he is, deadened by his own weight, brown-red-blue eyes and tall styled hair that saved him from dying once look down from far away at his drowning self.
“Any closer to me and I will bite out your throat.”
Yamamoto stops trying to be sneaky, and instead of tip-toeing the rest of the way to the shaded pear tree he simply stops on the grass where he is, a quiet observer of Hibari’s closed eyes and outstretched arm, extended by a tonfa straight and still. The clime was warm and balmy and although the scene entirely different from their native homes, somehow the flutter of white petals was made familiar by the traditional house off to the side.
“I brought you a box since my friend went to visit his aunt in Okinawa and sent some seiobo to me.”
One eye slits open to show a lazy iris piled in derision. The only movement comes from the wind and the smooth flap of coats from Yamamoto’s blazer and his companion’s suit jacket. “Since when have I ever said I enjoyed sweets.”
A small bag, pink and light with white characters, was set down upon the bed of grass. Its owner kneeled down, eyes never wavering from their target, genial as ever, like this precarious picnic was not unwelcome. Hibari was seldom one to talk without reason so his uninvited guest explains as short as possible.
“Haha well Kusakabe is always doing impromptu tea ceremony for you so I thought maybe you’d appreciate some. I doubt you get a lot of authentic desserts from around here. Four boxes was a lot and Haru and Tsuna couldn’t eat even one by themselves, so…”
In fact, the reason he brought these over at this time was because Kusakabe had told him that Hibari was being a bit unlike himself. He was sleeping less than he used to and the naps out by the tree had become as infrequent as he was more irritable. Any more irritable than usual and Yamamoto feels Hibari would explode. He had the feeling that asking about it therapeutically would not fly so instead he brought a peace offering.
Sometimes he thinks he’s the only one who would try to soothe him besides his long time subordinate and Hibird.
The eye closes again as Hibari’s head sunk down further and lazier into the trunk of the tree, disinterested now that he’d squeezed what was necessary from his opponent. “Don’t leave it there go put it on the table. If it’s a gift then I shouldn’t have to pick up after you.”
Yamamoto slings the bag up into the crook of his arm and walks through the open door, meaning to put it onto the low set table decorated only with a lone book, but thinks better of it. His legs take him into the kitchen before setting down the desserts onto a glistening white counter to open a cupboard. Neatly arranged by place and age were several boxes of loose leafed teas and beneath this expansive collection was a pitiful array of snacks, almost all gone, leaving behind only the shells of boxes. He sets down a new pale green box in an emptied slot, and smiles to himself as he takes out a barren one of the same brand.
It was a monthly ritual he up took, cleaning out this small cupboard, and although they were separated by a wall the faint spring breeze made Yamamoto feel connected to his counterpart outside. Closing the cupboard and throwing away an empty dessert case into the trash, he feels somehow refreshed as he breathes in the wind.
When he finally steps outside, leaves trembling in dim sunlight filtered out by shade, he squints to see a lone figure gazing out across the lawn, not at him but something else far beyond. He doesn’t bother putting his shoes back on and simply walks across the small plot to drop a few feet away from Hibari, who, true to tradition says nothing as Yamamoto stretches out onto his back next to him, but never close enough to hit.
Ignoring and not ignoring each other they watch the blinding sky of a new season.
The thing was, even through each stream of time, each life turned and moment passed, never has Mukuro felt something was made clear. The one and only time had been a startling epiphany, drawn out by a pair of peaceful eyes and sure statement. It had been burned into him by Sawada Tsunayoshi, a moment of absolute truth that made achieving nirvana seem paltry. People can exist. It doesn’t matter who, as long as they’re alive they can exist, and as long as they exist, there is the chance that he could one day be like this boy, who all at once was the same as him yet not. Because all he saw in Sawada’s eyes were the eyes of a being who knew no discouragement.
Yamamoto had that look everyday at every time. Each time Mukuro had seen him, it was as if he lived in that state all his life, and it made him laugh, that this simple minded man had achieved something he had felt only once. That clear gaze irritated him the most at night, where dreams and illusion were his forte and no one should be less confused than he. If Yamamoto could master what he did at night, dreaming, when he was awake, then who knew how many steps before Mukuro was made obsolete? The moments pass when each day he finds someone else closer to his own dream than he himself, and somehow he feels cheated.
How many steps before he was last in this race against samsara? How many steps before he was left alone, still blinded by the cruelties of the world? How many steps before he dissolved into nothing, grasping and clinging to life like a pitiful child? So he plays his game, with Tsuna, Hibari, and everyone else around him, delaying and delaying, a being trying to hold up those around him, to make his companions pause and look behind them at himself, Rokudo Mukuro.
He knows all their little hates, their goals and missions. He knows all those things stowed deep in the ocean of their minds, and brings those things up for them to examine at night. What is true and not true doesn’t matter in a dream, where everything is present and relative only to experience. Through this cloud of self-revelation he shrouds them, presenting to his family something not quite real and if they leave they will see the cycle of their lives in clarity. Seldom does anyone know what he is doing though, and slowly through each progressive night he binds them to the earth, where he still lives, despite all efforts to leave.
Those around him cannot falter one step, lest he devour all their struggles.
“Dreams are strange, ne?”
Across from him at the door Mukuro shrugs off the skirt he had on, moving to put on something more appropriate. Pants were already laid out for him by Yamamtoto who took out the spare from his duffel bag on the floor of the hotel. He had went in on this reconnaissance with Chrome and came out with her alter ego, and while he didn’t quite know the ins and outs of illusionistic pants and their properties, the mist guardian had walked back with him to their lodgings with the skirt still on.
The pleated thing was left on the floor as well as the uncomfortably small jacket, rumpled in a corner as his unexpected partner rolls on the spare shirt as well.
“Dreams aren’t strange it’s your self that’s strange.”
It startled Yamamoto that he’d never thought of that before. It was obvious now that someone else had pointed it out to him. “You know sometimes I never know what happens in them?” He laughs a bit sheepishly, it’s as if he knew his own brain liked to play tricks on him. “You would think I could remember everything that happens if it’s in my own head, and about me.”
“I could tell you if you like.” The smirk, soft and subtle on Mukuro’s face no longer alarms him but Yamamoto knew the origins of that smile. “Fights. Sushi. Cellphones.”
The short list of mundane nouns is somehow not what he expected. Yamamoto is slightly disappointed. If anything he thought Mukuro would try some weird “mind bender shit” as Squalo would like to say, filled with inner revelations and doubts. He’d seen the way some of the family looked after just two minutes of conversation with him.
So Yamamoto lays himself back against the bed, sun filtering through cream linen dim in afternoon light while he sighs. Somehow he feels cheated, and doesn’t know why. “I thought it’d be more interesting than that. Isn’t there a meaning to why something is so strange? Like I don’t know, why penguins are black and white.”
Mukuro starts to button up his shirt, slightly bemused at how much he’s humoring this man who stole all his ideals by simply existing. “And why are they black and white?”
Yamamoto sits up on his elbows abruptly with a hunched shoulders, a strange sight for a grown man to do. “You mean you don’t know? It’s better camouflage for when they swim in the water.”
The strain on his back makes him flop back down onto the bed. Yamamoto traces the small cracks on the ceiling with his eyes as he makes random conversation. He’s never around Mukuro much; one because Chrome was usually the one around and two they never went out of their way to see each other. Strangely, it doesn’t bother him or feel awkward. He wonders why that is.
“What do you dream about then?”
A shadow passes over his eyes as next to him Yamamoto spies an arm, then another, then the fall of hair black and matte in the orange shadow of a tired sun. Blue and red tints flood up in dark eyes that seem at once serious, the abrupt turn in mood made unwarned, with no fanfare.
“Fights. Dissatisfying fights, like Hibari dreams of all the time, never pleased at anything. Days filled with fear and disappointment that fog Tsuna’s senses in his sleep. Short tableaus in your room with homemade food and abrupt, illogical turns that somehow are complete.”
And here, in the stifling heat of the room, Yamamoto can do nothing but stare up at eyes that brim with unspeakable trial and error, blank as the cloth of his jacket, hiding just as much as the guns and swords beneath it. For an instant, it was as if he had a flash of those dreams, hidden and forgotten in his head, filled with tragi-comedy unspeakable, caught in the reflection of Mukuro’s covert face as he speaks a language too nuanced to hear.
Then the world turned bright again as the cast shadow of a body lifted away and a light laugh rang from the body that had covered him in lingering heat. Yamamoto wants him to come back somehow and doesn’t know why. His body simply lays still.
“Of course I flitter in and out of everyone’s nights alone, I don’t really have the need to sleep. I’m not a penguin.”
Somehow a wry smile twists his mouth at that remark as Yamamoto gets up to kick off his shoes. Of course, who would have thought, Rokudo Mukuro was not a penguin! “What’s wrong with penguins? Maybe being one isn’t that bad.”
A full three sixty rotation turns Mukuro around, a softer look on his face, distant though a cold red eye may be, and somehow Yamamoto is mollified. He smiles again, a small thing since the opening gambit of their conversation. He feels like, somehow, something was returned between them.
“I can’t stand them but I suppose being near one isn’t as bad as I thought.”