Sawada Nana lay in bed and stared up at the ceiling, the room lit only by the streetlights creeping in through the uncovered window. She knew it was late, late enough to be considered very early, but sleep evaded her. It was no surprise, her nights had been like this for over a year now. She would go through the motions of preparing for slumber only to spend most of the hours of darkness tossing and turning or rising from the messy covers to restlessly roam the house.
The too quiet too empty house.
Tsuna, her baby boy, had been missing for one year, three months, one week, and four days.
He'd be fourteen now. He should be going to school each day, giving her a smile and wave as he rushed out of the house each morning, babbling how he'd be bitten to death if he was late. He should be bringing how his usual poor grades, dreading that she'd be disappointed and finding it so hard to motivate himself with his future so uncertain. For goodness sake, she'd even accept him being trained by that Reborn friend of her husband's to be a mafia boss!
Just so long as he was home...
Finding out about Iemitsu's connection to the mafia had been a surprise, but not as much of one as it maybe should have been. Nana would admit she was a bit of a ditz, that some obvious things would pass her by, that she didn't always notice the things other found so apparent. But she was not blind or stupid, and a person would have be both and more to not have suspicions if given the same information she had.
Construction workers didn't go to the South Pole to take a picture with penguins or some of the other fanciful excuses her husband had given for his absences over the years. She knew quite well he was hiding something from her, but she also knew his love for her was as strong as hers for him. He did not have another lover, he did not keep part of his life hidden out of cruelty or spite, and he did not like to have to be away from her so much. One day, he'd come home or he'd let her into the rest of his life, and she'd just love him faithfully as she waited. Being part of the mafia was unexpected yet made so much sense. Learning this probably would have upset her more if her son hadn't been missing for nearly two weeks by that point.
Tsuna just hadn't come home one day. He'd gone to school, promised he'd pick up a few groceries she had asked for on the way back, nothing abnormal. But the sun had sank into the west, the stars had filled the night sky, and Tsuna had not returned. She had waited all night and watched the sun rise the next morning, hoping and praying to no avail. Then she called the hospital and the police, part of her fearing he'd gotten hurt or in trouble yet wishing he was there only so she could find him and hold him close and scold him for worrying her.
There had been no sign of him.
Well, no, that wasn't quite true. A systematic search of the town discovered Tsuna's school bag and Namimori-chu blazer tossed in a public trash can.
Both were stained with blood.
Tests had revealed the red stains had been Tsuna's blood.
Nana had been dithering in the kitchen, staring at the phone as she debated whether or not to call Iemitsu. Would he come home? Surely he would, but what if he didn't? Could she take another blow to her heart if he told her he was too busy with work yet again to be there for his family? The matter had been taken out of her hands when a baby wearing a fedora and well-made suit had walked into the house and asked to speak with her son.
She had burst into tears.
Between sobs and gasps, she had managed to inform him that her little boy, her dear Tsuna, was missing. Abducted was the word she'd heard one officer use before he'd been silenced by another. They didn't know if that was true, but no matter what words they used, the truth was simple. Her son was hurt and nowhere to be found, and she was terrified for him.
The baby, who she later learned was named Reborn, had whipped out a cell phone and made a call, his oddly adult-sounding voice urgent and firm. Whoever had been on the other end had kept things short as only a moment passed before the hitman - by the time she learned that fact, Nana had been too numb to be upset or stunned - had turned back to her, lifted her chin with one small hand, stared into her eyes with his resolute black ones, and said the words she'd been clinging to as a lifeline ever since.
"We will find Tsuna, I promise you this. He will come home to you, Sawada Nana."
With a sigh, Nana sat up, the blankets pooling around her waist. Reaching over to her nightstand, she picked up a photo frame, smiling sadly as she gazed upon the picture in the glow of the streetlights. It was one of her and Tsuna, taken only a month before his disappearance. She had her arms around his shoulders, cheek pressed against his soft brown hair. In turn, Tsuna had one hand curled around her forearm, leaning into her to keep from falling over. Both had large bright smiles on their faces, a memory of happier times. Biting her bottom lip as tears prickled her eyes, she hugged the image to her chest.
Iemitsu had come home the day after Reborn had barged into her life in Namimori. Her husband had swept her into his arms and held her tight, swearing they'd find Tsuna - her son, she'd stopped thinking of him as their son years ago - no matter what. Somehow, Reborn's words had been more a comfort than the rambling vows spilling from Iemitsu's lips, but she hadn't pushed him away. No, that had been ten days later when she, frustrated and scared, had yelled at the man she had married, venting the hurt and heartbreak of the past thirteen years and demanding the truth of why he. had. never. been there.
So she learned of Iemitsu's position as the leader of the CEDEF, as the Outside Advisor for the Vongola Nono. He was a high-ranking member of one of the most powerful mafia families in the world, and his work had kept him away. No, he had admitted it was partially that he feared bringing the darkness and danger of his world to her doorstep. Part of her understood his wish to protect her and Tsuna, but another voice within her heart raged how he had not been there for her or Tsuna. He had not been there for Tsuna's first day of school. He had not been there to counsel her boy about bullies or girls or any of the matters fathers would teach their sons. He had not been there to keep her Tsuna from being taken from her.
Iemitsu had quietly waited out her anger and held her close when it shifted to tears. Once she was calmer and just savoring the warmth of being embraced by the man she still loved despite her upset feelings, he apologized, short and simple and sincere. Then he had swore that when they found Tsuna that he would be a better husband and father to them both. She would be holding him to that oath, and heaven help him if he forsook it. With the truth out, he had also revealed the situation that her Tsuna was the last and only possible candidate to become the next Vongola boss. Not sure how to take that particular notion, she had firmly told they would revisit that matter when Tsuna was back home and not a moment before. The idea of her boy being dragged into the blood-soaked world of the mafia wasn't one she was exactly pleased about, but it would ultimately be Tsuna's choice. If he accepted the position, then she would support him, for she knew that when her boy set his mind about something, nothing would keep him from fulfilling his goal.
Members from the CEDEF, the Vongola, and other trusted allies had flocked into Japan, setting to work to scour the country and the surrounding nations for any sign of the missing teen. Even the notorious hitman Reborn remained in Japan, determined to keep his promise to Nana, that he would help find her son. They all did their best to keep things quiet and the reason for their hunt secret. The entire criminal world didn't need to know the future Vongola Decimo was missing, after all. A small but discreet group were assigned as Nana's bodyguards when she refused to leave Namimori for somewhere possibly safer out of the country. Her Tsuna may come home, and she would not have him arrive to a house devoid of her. (Basil, who had suggested she vacate the area for her own safety, had learned the lesson that Iemitsu knew well, one she hoped Tsuna's future friends / possible Guardians would for Tsuna had inherited her temper, one that was slow to rouse but burned with the fury of a thousand suns when they were truly angered) Even though it had been months and months with so many false leads and dead ends, even though the chances of Tsuna still being alive were slim, she believed he would come home, and she held on to that with all her strength. Her son was stronger than any of them knew, and he would come home to her.
The chime of the doorbell jolted the woman from her thoughts. Wiping away the few tears that had streaked down her cheeks, Nana glanced at the clock. What in the world was someone doing at the door at half-past two in the morning? Iemitsu, Reborn, and the other searchers knew to call her if they had news, and the security force posted around the house wouldn't announce themselves by ringing the bell. Curious, she crept through the house and down to the foyer, her eyes used to the dim lights and knowing that turning on a lamp would alert her visitor to her movements.
She paused with her hands hovering over the locks. On one hand, Nana was aware this could be some trick, that opening the door would allow them the opportunity to hurt her if their intentions were malicious. A clever enemy could have fooled the guards or a strong one could have quietly subdued them. On the other hand, some feeling in her gut, some little voice whispering in the back of her head, was insisting that the person on her doorstep was not a threat, that she needed to open that door, that something good was waiting on the other side. Firmly telling herself that just because she knew of the criminal world and was accepting that she had a part in it if only on the fringes at the moment, she would not let fear keep her from living her life as she pleased. Flicking on the porch light in hopes of buying a moment, she undid the locks quickly while the guest's eyes should still be adjusting to the sudden brightness and opened the door.
A teenage boy in an oversized shirt and jeans with the pants' cuffs rolled up stood blinking just off her porch. His hands were empty at his sides, wrists painfully thin and dark bruises dotting his pale skin. From the prominence of his collar bones through the collar of his clothes and the gaunt hollows of his cheeks, he had been surviving on far too little food for a while now. Brown hair was tangled and greasy, dark bags were under his eyes, and the eyes -
One of Nana's hands lifted to her mouth as she stared into those eyes. They were haunted and pained, a thousand horrors hinted by the dark shadows in their depths making them far too old for their young owner. But there was relief and a glimmer of hope there too, emotions that made her breath catch in her throat. And there was a fire within them, a stubborn spark that proclaimed while the body had been beaten and the heart battered, the spirit within the young man had not been broken. Most of all, Nana knew those eyes, brown and no longer so innocent but warming as they gazed at her.
The soft hoarse voice dragged a sob from her as Nana reached out and wrapped her arms around him, ignoring the slight flinch and relishing the warmth as the teen relaxed into her embrace. Those too bony to be healthy arms carefully came around her in turn, fingers soon gripping the back of her shirt desperately. Feeling him shudder, Nana held him a bit closer, running a soothing hand through the dirty hair as she felt her shoulder become damp. Her own tears were dripping down into his mane, but a smile was on her face as she rocked and chanted.
"Tsuna. Oh, my Tsu-kun. You're home. My baby boy, my Tsuna, you're finally home."
Her son clung to her, and she was happy to just be able to hold him again. She didn't care that they were both kneeling in the yard, that it was the middle of the night, or anything else right now.
Her Tsuna was home, and that was all that mattered.