Alaude prides himself on his connections, and on his knowledge. Knows that he’s sharp enough to avoid most pitfalls most people wouldn’t think of while on this job, knows that if he needs information about something he can get it just by asking, because everyone knows the Commander of the Intelligence Bureau would not ask unless he needed it.
But even with all those connections and all that intelligence, he has failed this time.
For months, close to a year in fact, they’ve been chasing a thief. A phantom, young in appearance, but one with the know-how and knowledge of all the rotten apples lurking within the city. Slowly he’s been putting out names and faces, and steadily the rotten apples have been fading. And were that all he’s been doing, it wouldn’t be so bad. But he’s been challenging Alaude’s order - challenging Alaude by stealing things in plain sight and leading him on merry chases all through the city. Chases that end in alleyways and sharp turns, in black spots or sudden trips, where Alaude loses him.
It’s a lucky break, he supposes, to finally catch this misbehaving brat. Or at least it would be, were it not for one tiny fact.
This thief is a Sky on the cusp of maturing, and he has been Hunting from the very get go.
Alaude might not have known it then, but he has been responding. He follows when the thief leads, chases when the thief taunts, and has recklessly been searching for him. Searching for names, leads to follow. Searching to spot him so he can chase again.
And now that he finally has the boy in his grasp, he is in the very precarious position of being an Active Cloud that has been in a year’s Hunt alongside a baby Sky.
They don’t have many Active on the force, but they have enough to realize the situation and go running to tell the higher-ups. Who, predictably, don’t take the reasoning against locking away the resident menace well.
“For God’s sake man, just Reject him and get it over with. Stop talking like it’s some kind of choice .”
“ You’re our finest man, Alaude. I would hate to see you lose your badge over something as simple as this. Please, don’t overthink it.”
“So what? There are plenty of Skies out there. Besides, there will be plenty of Elements for him to flaunt in front of when he gets to prison.”
And perhaps if the Vindice weren’t an existence to Flame users everywhere, Alaude would be able to do all those things. Reject and forget the boy with the golden gaze who feels like a fox in a henhouse. Ignore the truth and send him straight to the depths of prison, to be used and forgotten. But Alaude is not that kind of man, and so he sends word to the Vindice of his plight.
And the Vindice react with anger. They erupt into the room as Alaude goes to give the boy his breakfast tray, an act he alone carries out because he doesn’t trust anyone else to do it without trying to poison, coerce or drug the boy.
“Breakfast,” he announces, as he steps into the small cell they’ve put the boy into. He kneels, uncuffs the boy’s hands. Brown eyes ringed with molten gold flicker up to meet his own, and Alaude steps away. “Let me know if you require anything else.”
He closes the door, and goes to return to his paperwork. He doesn’t know what the Vindice have said in that small time, but when he opens the door to the office fourty-nine pairs of eyes fix on him in muted horror. The Vindice do not turn from where they’re looming over his direct higher-ups, who all have gone a queasy shade of pale.
“Ensure this does not happen again,” One of the Vindice guards say, and they fade like a bad dream seconds later.
“How-how-how d-dare you--” One of his bosses starts to wheeze.
“Blackmail,” Alaude says calmly, “And more importantly, coercion into a Rejection between a possibly Sky and a Match is seen as a very serious crime among the Vindice. I have no wish to be thrown into the depths of the Vendicare simply because you can’t stand the idea of me Bonding.”
“He’s a thief!” Several voices shriek.
“A petty one,” Alaude corrects. “He has stolen a handful of valuable objects. He has stolen paperwork that can be duplicated. You don’t want him because he’s a thief, you want him because he’s hurt your precious prides. ”
“And what about you,” someone sneers. “You were off chasing his tail just days ago.”
Alaude shrugs. “The way I see it, should the bond be true, it’s an easy matter to have him work off what debts he owes. Take a portion of his paycheck for the valuables, duplicate paperwork, put new locks on things, security he can’t breach across things that should not be breached.” He checks the clock, stands. His Potential Sky should be done with his breakfast by now. “I’m not going to argue with you about this. He is harmless, compared to those we’ve put away before. And if my idea of Bonding is so very disgusting, then consider this my resignation.”
Ten months ago, he would not have pulled his badge off and walked calmly away. He would not have offered his hand to a golden-eyed boy that feels like home and hearth and safety. He would not have said, “It’s Alaude. You are?”
But he does so now, and the small, fragile smile and the sensation of warmth rushing down his spine he gets in return is more than worth the small sacrifices. “It’s Tsuna,” his new Sky says. “Sawada Tsunayoshi.”