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Dark Sun

Chapter Text

Six months had passed since Hayato found his Sky; six months of heaven on Earth. No longer were his days filled with anger and desperation; instead he had the glow of Harmony and the routine of life with Tsuna-sama. He still had nightmares sometimes, less often than before but worse, horrors he could never have conceived of in his old life. He dreamed that Tsuna-sama died in a dozen painful ways, and waking alone in his rat-hole apartment was no comfort. He needed to see that his Sky was all right, and after an especially bad night, he couldn’t bear to wait for morning.

Pulling on whatever clothing was in reach, he stumbled out the door and through the darkened streets of Namimori to Tsuna-sama’s house. There, the lingering warmth of Sky Flames was enough to soothe him. He wouldn’t dare to interrupt Tsuna-sama’s rest, and he was no stranger to sleeping rough, so he tucked himself into the doorway to doze away the rest of the night.

He had only been there a few minutes when the door clicked open. Standing there was Tsuna-sama, who had saved his life in more ways than one; his boss, his Sky, his superior in all things. Hayato laid his head on the floorboards. “Deepest apologies for disturbing your rest, Decimo.”

“I don’t mind, Hayato. Come in.” Tsuna-sama turned aside to plug in the kotatsu, then lifted the edge of the blanket. Hayato obeyed the silent order and laid himself under it; Tsuna-sama crawled in beside him. “Do you want to tell me about it?”

He didn’t, but he would not keep secrets from his Sky. “I had … a nightmare. I was at your funeral. You died and I wasn’t good enough to save you!”

Tsuna-sama rubbed his back. “This isn’t the first time you’ve had a nightmare like that, is it?”

“No, Decimo.”

“Hayato, tomorrow you’re going to pack up your things and bring them here. There’s room.”

Hayato gaped at him. “You would permit me …?”

His Sky smiled. “Hayato, you’ve got to stop thinking like a mook. You’re my Storm, my Right Hand, you’re there for me when I’m weak. You deserve a place under my roof. Clear?”

“Clear, Decimo.” Tsuna-sama’s Flames enveloped him, their warmth combined with the kotatsu; Hayato surrendered to them. He belonged to Tsuna-sama, to order as he pleased.

***

Now Hayato slept in the Sawadas’ spare room; Nana didn’t seem to care, or notice, that she had an extra boarder, and so he had three meals a day and a roof over his head, no questions asked. He rose at dawn as usual, to join his Sky in morning training, along with Takeshi and Reborn.

“Good morning,” chirped the tutor from his perch on Tsuna-sama’s head. “I’ve planned something special for our session today.”

Tsuna-sama rolled his eyes. “Is it snakes? Again?”

The hitman just smirked, which was never a good sign. A few minutes into their run, Ryohei the boxing maniac jogged up to them. “Reborn-san! I am extremely grateful for your training advice and for this extreme uniform you have provided!”

Said uniform consisted of a green spandex body suit, yellow leg warmers, and a bowl-cut wig. Hayato clenched his jaw to keep from laughing. Tsuna-sama snickered. “You’re evil, Reborn.”

Takeshi said, “You’re looking very youthful today, Ryohei-kun.”

Reborn, the World’s Greatest Troll, announced, “Ryohei, your assignment today is to run one hundred laps around the school – backwards.”

“I’m extremely ready! Let’s go!” Ryohei dashed off, backwards, and Hayato pinched the bridge of his nose.

Please tell me he isn’t going to end up as Sun Guardian.”

“That would be extremely exhausting,” replied Tsuna-sama.

***

After training, the Familgia returned to Tsuna-sama’s house for breakfast and more importantly, coffee. Hayato was in charge of the machine, a high-end espresso maker that was Tsuna-sama and Nana’s gift to the household. A spoon-melting Turkish blend for Reborn, a medium roast for himself, mocha for Tsuna-sama and decaf latte for Lambo. Takeshi, I-pin and Nana preferred green tea; a fourth tea cup sat on the windowsill in case Hibari decided to show up.

“You all take your coffee so seriously,” said Takeshi.

“It’s a proud Italian tradition,” Hayato proclaimed.

“Haha, I get it – Italians are mostly Christian, so this must be Holy Communion!”

Oh God, he almost laughed at that; his sense of humor was being corrupted. Hayato sneered. “Idiot.”

Sitting on the counter beside the machine, Reborn pulled his fedora over his eyes. “Amen.”

***

It was the first day of Tsuna’s second year of middle school, and not much had changed. He, Hayato and Takeshi were in the same class again; Tsuna suspected that Hibari had pulled strings (or thumped heads) even though he was now in high school. The school bullies had apparently decided they were safe from the Cloud’s discipline, and tried to corner Tsuna by the shoe lockers. He was momentarily alone; Takeshi had been held up by the baseball coach, and Hayato was in the lavatory.

“Hey, Dame-Tsuna. Looks like your friends finally ditched you. They get tired of having a loser tag-along?”

Tsuna remembered Hayato laying his head on Tsuna’s knee; Takeshi proudly introducing him to his father; both of them standing vigil while he battled the seal on his Flames. “I doubt that, Honda-senpai.”

His calm confidence took them aback for a moment; they were too used to his old, shy self. The other bully, Kuno, visibly dismissed the change. “A no-good like you doesn’t have real friends. What’cha gonna do when Blondie dumps you? Cry?”

Attend his funeral, probably; it was the only way Hayato would ever leave him. A sad smile crossed Tsuna’s face. Hayato was willing to die for him and that was a lot to live up to. These two thugs would never understand. It was only now sinking in that Tsuna wasn’t afraid of them.

“I think we oughta remind you of your place around here,” Honda sneered. His place? Oh, if only they knew.

Hayato emerged from the washroom. “Are these two bothering you, Decimo?”

“Not really.” Tsuna looked past Honda’s shoulder. “Hello, Hibari-san.”

Kuno scoffed. “Like we’re going to fall for that, you – ”

“For harassing the Small Omnivore, I shall bite you to death!” They shouldn’t have been so surprised; the high school was right next to the middle school. Tsuna left Hibari to it and strolled out through the school yard, Hayato at his elbow as usual.

“My deepest apologies, Decimo, for being out of position.”

“It couldn’t be helped, Hayato. And I wasn’t about to let them do anything to me.”

“Che. Those worms aren’t worthy to feel your fists.”

Tsuna scratched his neck, embarrassed. “Well, Hibari has them handled. Are you meeting up with Shoichi tonight?”

Just like that, Hayato’s mood flipped from annoyed to enthusiastic. “I am! We’re building a perpetual motion machine.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be impossible?”

“With machinery, yes, but this one’s going to run on Flames!” Considering they had met Shoichi because of a time travel device, it wasn’t that far-fetched. (And really, who thought it was a good idea to use a bazooka as a time machine? And then give it to a five-year-old?). However, Hayato didn’t move from his side until Takeshi arrived.

***

Takeshi listens to the coach politely; he’s not surprised to be approached, though he’s left baseball behind. He declines; his place is elsewhere now. “Maa, I would be holding the rest of the team back.” Without him to cover their lack, the players must train themselves. Train their skills. And still the coach doesn’t see.

“Surely your arm is fully healed by now, isn’t it?”

“I’m sorry, Sensei.” He’s not; he is free, with only the boundless Sky to rule him. He leaves; the school is empty around him. Tsuna is waiting, and Takeshi has a duty. “I’m sorry for taking so long, Tsuna-kun.”

“It’s about time, baseball idiot!”

“That’s all right, Takeshi-kun.”

Storm yields to Rain, his eyes to guard, his arm to shield him. It’s for Tsuna that Takeshi took up the blade; when he holds steel, he feels real. It’s too much for this ordinary place, so he hides; only the Sky knows his true face. “Training tonight, Tsuna-kun.”

“Yeah, after we pick up the kids.” Tsuna smiles; at his side, Takeshi is all of himself.

***

Tsuna’s Elements had been mother-henning him ever since winter break, when they had witnessed him tackle the seal on his Flames. From their reactions, it must have looked as awful as it felt, but it was working. The seal was mostly gone now, and Tsuna could feel the difference; he could pay attention in class today. He might even get good grades this year. Maybe he could learn to swim!

It was a short walk to the elementary school, where the younger children were running around in the yard with a couple of teachers watching them.

“Tsuna-nii! Tsuna-nii!” Lambo pelted across the grass, I-pin close behind him, and tackled Tsuna’s shins. Takeshi’s hand on his back stopped him from toppling over.

“Hi there, Lambo, I-pin. How was your first day of kindergarten?”

“It was great!” Lambo crowed. “There are so many kids here! But none of them are as awesome as Lucky Lambo, bwa-ha-ha!”

I-pin elbowed him. “Your head is broccoli! I-pin had a good time.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Tsuna let I-pin climb onto his shoulder – by now he was used to the weight – and got a firm grip on Lambo’s hand. One of the teachers strolled up to them.

“Pardon me, are you Sawada-kun?”

“I am,” Tsuna replied. “I hope these two weren’t any trouble.”

“Oh, none at all,” the teacher assured him. “I wanted to thank you for informing us about I-pin-chan’s epilepsy and the device in her hair clip to treat it. It’s important for a school to have that kind of information.”

Tsuna scratched his neck. “Well, her seizures are pretty alarming.” And that was putting it mildly. “We didn’t want her having one in the middle of class.”

“You’re such a thoughtful boy. Your mother must be so proud.”

“Yes, well …” Nana loved him, he was sure of that, but proud of him? She was convinced of his no-good reputation; that bothered him less than it used to, now that he had his Elements and his Famiglia around him. “Come along, you two, let’s go have a snack.”

“Lucky Lambo wants grapes! Can we play catch with Takeshi-nii?”

“Ahaha, as long as we’re away from any windows!”

***

Watching his students dodge bullets always gave Reborn a warm fuzzy feeling. He was hot on their heels, chasing them through the woods around Kokuyo Land; Fluffy-Tsuna had no trouble dodging – he was capable of catching bullets, if he exerted himself – and his Right and Left Hands were taking their cues from him. Already, after only weeks of group training; such was the strength of their Guardian bonds.

“At least he’s using rubber bullets this time,” Fluffy-Tsuna called out.

Little did they know he was doing so because the less dangerous rounds were more difficult for Hyper Intuition to detect. Reborn had seen many things in his long Mafia career, but seeing his fluffy student progress to quickly still sent sparks of excitement along his nerves.

He paused to reload. The three teens kept moving; good. The other point of this exercise was to learn the terrain of the area, such as the creek they were about to fall into. The splash was music to his ears. By the time he caught up to them, the boys had climbed onto the bank and were wringing out their shirts. Amusement bubbled up in his chest; Tsuna and Hayato were sneaking glances at each other’s bare skin. When they inevitably caught each other looking, both of them turned bright red. Takeshi appeared oblivious, but Reborn could sense his hidden grin.

He waited a few moments before rescuing his students from embarrassment. “You shouldn’t be so quick to let your guard down, Fluffy-Tsuna.”

Tsuna just gave him a flat look. “Are we done?”

Reborn suppressed a pout; it was no fun when his student could sense that he didn’t intend to shoot. He couldn’t even startle Tsuna into flaring his Flames anymore. He hopped onto Tsuna’s shoulder. “Get back to the café and dry off. On the way you can tell me what the point of this exercise was.”

Tsuna rolled his eyes. “Apart from dodging bullets without tripping over each other?”

“We learned that there’s a creek there,” said Takeshi.

“Idiot,” snorted Hayato, but the tone indicated he agreed.

“Better to learn that now than in a real emergency,” said Tsuna. “Also, we need to stock the secret base with towels. And changes of clothes.” Ah, he was getting wise to Reborn’s teaching methods; time to take things to the next level.

“Since you know my methods so well, Fluffy-Tsuna, you’re going to create the training plan for the next stage of your training.”

“Hieeee?!”

Reborn smirked; he still had it.

Chapter Text

“… And the uniform turned out to be a Rock Lee cosplay.”

Haru giggled at her friend’s story. “Hahi, did your brother catch on?”

“Not yet,” said Kyoko. “The sad thing is, it suits him.”

“What a monkey,” added Hana. The three girls’ meeting for Cake Appreciation Day was Haru’s favourite day of the month. Why? Because she enjoyed Kyoko’s good cheer and Hana’s biting commentary, and both of them were more accepting of Haru’s eccentricities than her classmates. Hana waved her fork. “Speaking of monkeys, I noticed that Sawada isn’t mooning over Kyoko anymore.”

“Hahi?”

Kyoko nodded. “He must have been more lonely than anything. Once he started making friends, his crush just kind of faded. How about you, Haru? Are you still stalking him?”

Haru blushed. Sawada-kun had fascinated her for years. Why? She wasn’t sure, but she now suspected that it had something to do with the green fire that had burst from her when she stopped a cabinet from falling on two little kids. The same kids, in fact, that Sawada-kun had asked her to look after. A few days later, her grandpapa had sat her down for a Talk about flames, and organised crime, and the keeping of secrets. He had told her about Namimori’s refuge status, and about Inten-sama, the Hidden Sky. He had even taken Haru to a park so she could feel Sky Flames laced into a tree. She didn’t mention that they reminded her of Sawada-kun.

“He’s just as much a monkey as the rest of them,” Hana said dismissively. “Anyway – ”

She was interrupted by the squeal of tires and a truck’s horn. The three girls looked up in time to see a truck barrelling through the nearby intersection, about to run down a small figure crossing the street. In the instant before it hit, the person burst into indigo flames. And then there was a streak of orange fire, which scooped up the indigo and landed safely on the sidewalk, where it was revealed to be the very subject of their conversation: Tsunayoshi Sawada.

He spotted them at the same time as they recognised him. “Um, hello. Are you all right, miss?” He asked the girl he had just rescued. She nodded shyly, and he set her on her feet. Haru suppressed a squee. Why? The girl was too moe for words, and she was still clutching Sawada’s sleeve for security. Sawada-kun still glowed faintly orange and it was a good look on him.

Across the street, his two best friends raced into view, only slowing when they saw that he was unhurt. Sawada-kun nodded at them, and then gently guided the indigo girl into the bakery. He was such a gentleman! That must be where that kid Reborn got it from.

“Could I know your name, miss?”

“It’s Nagi,” she answered in a whisper. Too cute!

He turned to the shopkeeper, who was still staring at him in shock. “Moko-san, could you get a cup of tea for Nagi-san, please?”

“O-of course.”

***

By now, Hayato was certain that Tsuna-sama was going to give him a heart attack. He’d thought he was used to Hyper Intuition, and then Tsuna-sama snapped into Hyper Dying Will mode, dashed off, and dove into traffic to save a total stranger. Hayato didn’t know whether to praise his heroism or yell at him for recklessness. And then, when the girls who witnessed the whole thing demanded an explanation, Tsuna-sama didn’t brush them off; instead he decided to recruit them.

“I’ll tell you what’s going on, but not here. Let’s go to our secret base.”

Police sirens were approaching, and the last thing the little Mist girl needed was cops asking awkward questions. “Hayato, can you text Reborn and ask him to meet us there?”

“Yes, Decimo.”

***

She wasn’t dead. She hadn’t wanted to die, but she so rarely got what she wanted. It was fire from inside and outside that saved her. Deep blue fire that created a shield, and orange fire that wrapped her like a blanket, offering warmth and shelter. With the gift of life came the gift of tea. Orange and red and blue on one side, green and gold and purple on the other; the rainbow carried her away into the woods, to a place of secrets. There the sun came out and scorched away her old hurts.

“Fluffy-Tsuna. These injuries aren’t from the accident. They’re days or weeks old.”

Orange fire blazed hot. “Nagi-san, who did this to you?”

The words were too heavy for her to speak.

“Your parents, then,” said the sun; she nodded.

The green springtime burst out, “That’s just not right! You can stay with me, you don’t have to go back there.”

Yes, she thought, her long cold winter was over; she would live in the springtime and shelter under the wide open sky. Deep in her heart, something precious fell into place.

***

Her own family. Haru was going to be sick; she didn’t know how she would explain this to her family, but she would die before she left Nagi-chan in the hands of such beasts.

She saw the same determination in Sawada-kun’s orange eyes. “We’ll take care of you, I promise, Nagi-san. Haru, please let me know if you need anything; I’ll make whatever arrangements are necessary.”

Haru believed him. Why? This ‘secret base’ was proof. She had expected tarps and boxes; instead, they were sitting in a clean and well-appointed former café. There were shelves of reference books along the wall, and Yamamoto-kun was making soup on a tabletop stove. It was organised.

“Hahi, I look forward to working with you.”

“Same here.”

Haru offered her hand, Western-style, and they shook on it. As their hands clasped, so did their Flames. It was a piece of herself she hadn’t known was missing; she knew that she could always count on him for support, and he could always count on her. It felt … nice.

Sawada’s eyes went wide, and then he smiled at her. “Welcome to the Family, Haru-chan. Please, call me Tsuna.”

“Is someone going to explain what’s going on?” said Hana.

***

Tsuna was surrounded by his Elements and he had never been happier. The six of them, plus Reborn and Tsuyoshi, were lounging around the Yamamoto’s living room. They were only missing a Sun now, and Tsuna’s intuition told him it wouldn’t be long. He wondered who it would be, one of the several Suns he had met, or someone new?

His newest Element, Nagi, was quietly reading a magazine about Gothic Lolita fashions, while Hibari hovered over her. The Cloud took offense at the way the ‘small animal’ had been treated. So did Tsuna; Nagi was as shy as he used to be, and her own parents were the cause of it. They hadn’t even looked for her yet. Tsuna had asked Hibari to get Nagi enrolled in Haru’s school, though he didn’t know yet how he was going to pay the tuition.

Haru and Hayato were having an animated conversation on whether ghosts were as likely to exist as UMAs. However different their views of the world might be, they already agreed that Tsuna was the most important thing in it, with intensity that was equally alarming and adorable. Haru had started calling him Boss and got Nagi to do the same. They barely knew him! And they were willing to follow him right into the teeth of the Mafia. Tsuna was going to make sure he didn’t let them down.

He and Takeshi were playing a Pokemon card game and chatting about school. “I still can’t believe our class voted for a cosplay contest for the school festival.”

“Ahaha, I’m going to be Puss in Boots! How about you?”

“I haven’t thought about it. I might ask Haru for advice, she’s into that kind of thing. I’ve been more worried about getting Nagi settled in.”

Takeshi scratched his neck. “I’m sure Dad and his friends would pitch in if you asked.”

Meaning, Namimori’s Flame Active adults, who honored him as their Sky. “But, I don’t want to take advantage …”

“Fluffy-Tsuna.” Reborn appeared between them, standing on their playing cards. “It’s a Boss’s right to collect tribute from the businesses in his territory. In fact, I’ve learned that many of them are already setting aside a share for you.”

“They are?” Tsuna said in a small voice. That so many people looked up to him was already overwhelming, but tribute? Really?

Tsuyoshi came out of his office, carrying a bankbook and seal on a tray, which he offered formally to Tsuna. “Tsuna-sama, this is the trust fund which was created to receive tributes in your name.”

“Thank you,” Tsuna said, just as formally. What else could he say? He picked up the bankbook, and wow, that was a lot of digits. He flipped through the list of deposits, page after page of them, going back to when he was six years old. Just months after he had created his first decoys. “All this, just because of my Flames?”

His Elements noticed his distress and gathered around him. ‘There’s no just about it,” said Hayato. “Your Flames are part of your soul; they show who you really are. That is why we follow you, Decimo.”

Tsuyoshi nodded. “We are your people, Namimori is your territory; this money is yours by right.”

They were going to insist, weren’t they. In that case: “I’ll do my best to use it wisely.”

“Fluffy-Tsuna, this is the Mafia. You could spend it all on blackjack and hookers, and no one would care.”

Hookers? He was fourteen. Tsuna rolled his eyes. “I’d care.” At least Nagi’s tuition was taken care of.

Chapter Text

Hayato studied his target from a park bench across the street. It was a normal condo tower, ten floors, with exterior stairs and walkways as was common in Japan. He and his mission partner would have no trouble infiltrating it.

“I never thought I’d be adding breaking and entering to my resume,” Hana said drily.

“Then why did you come in the first place?”

“As if I’m going to let one of you monkeys paw through Nagi-chan’s delicates. Us girls have to stick up for each other.”

“Che.” This barely even counted as a heist. A civilian building, no alarms or cameras; Nagi’s stepfather was at work, and her so-called mother was off at a flower-arranging class. He wouldn’t even have to pick the lock, since Nagi had given them her key. “Let’s get this done.”

“We’re going to look strange, wandering around in the middle of the day.”

“That’s what the pamphlets are for.” Hayato waved a stack of Jehovah’s Witness tracts which he had printed from their website as a prop.

“Coming from you, I’d buy it,” Hana said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?!”

Hana rolled her eyes. “You are such an ape. What’s Sawada going to give you for this, a pat on the head and a biscuit?”

If only. Hayato paused for a moment to imagine it; a warm, fresh biscuit, straight from Tsuna-sama’s hand. Along with his Sky’s fingers in his hair, it would be sheer bliss.

“Are those sparkles in your eyes? … Never mind, let’s just go.”

Nagi had described where everything was, so they were able to work fast. Hayato collected her documents and books, while Hana packed up her clothes. There wasn’t much to take. These people were the sort who looked down on the Mafia, called themselves respectable, and yet were worse than the lowest cutpurse. They treated Nagi like an inconvenient knickknack; Hayato knew how that felt. He was tempted to vaporise everything in the condo and leave them with bare walls. That would draw too much attention, though; Tsuna-sama’s orders were to leave no trace, no way to guess where Nagi had gone. It was up to Tsuna-sama, as Boss, and Hayato, as Right Hand, to look after her now.

Fifteen minutes after going in, he and Hana were on their way out again, a single small suitcase in tow. “This is pathetic,” said Hana. “I have got to take that girl shopping.”

***

Tsuna returned to Moko-san’s bakery a few days after the incident. There was no physical damage, no sign that anything had happened, except for the way that Moko-san stood up straight when she saw him. Why did everyone insist on being so formal around him?

“Good afternoon, Moko-san.”

“Inten-sama,” she said, and bowed.

“My name is Tsuna, you know that,” he said gently. “I brought your teacup back.” Nagi had taken it with her during their hasty exit; he placed it on the counter, and Moko-san stared at it as if it was an alien artefact. At least she wasn’t as nervous anymore. He couldn’t bear it if one of his people was afraid of him. He continued, “I hope you didn’t have any trouble after the other day.”

“None at all, sir.” Moko-san gave him a smile – a real smile, thank goodness. “That young Mist girl, is she all right?”

“Yes, she’s doing well. I’m sure you’ll see her here with Haru and the Cake Appreciation Club.”

***

Reborn examined the polished wood counter of TakeSushi, and contemplated banging his forehead on it. Not that he would actually do something so uncouth, but it might relieve the tension behind his eyebrows.

“Two Guardians in one day,” he grumbled. “And both of them are girls. ” He was rather proud of that, actually. His fluffy student was still in middle school and he was already attracting the ladies.

“Maa, do you think they won’t be able to handle it?” said Tsuyoshi.

Reborn shook his head. “I knew Donna Daniella, I’m not worried about that. Though training a mixed group of teenagers is going to be interesting.”

“Hmm? Isn’t your contract only to train Tsuna-sama?”

“I can hardly let his Guardians drag him down, can I?”

“If you say so,” Tsuyoshi said with cheerful skepiticism. Why was Reborn talking to him again? Ah yes, because he was the only adult he could talk to about Tsuna’s inner circle.

“So, how is Takeshi-kun’s sword work going? I’ve noticed his footwork is much better recently.”

Tsuyoshi deftly wrapped seaweed around a cucumber roll. “He’s a natural! By this time next year, he’ll know everything I do. What about those girls? Do they hurt Tsuna-sama’s chances of finding a wife?”

“Fluffy-Tsuna has a wife, and his name is Hayato,” Reborn quipped. “And it’s not uncommon for a Sky to marry their Guardian. It’s the sea of hormones I’m not looking forward to.”

“That’s still not what’s really bothering you.”

He wasn’t going to let it go, was he? Reborn’s scalp itched with irritation. He didn’t know why he hadn’t shot the man yet. “You,” he said, “are much sharper than you look.”

Grinning, Tsuyoshi pointedly sliced a piece of fish.

“It’s the last Guardian post that worries me.” Reborn waved at the wall, where Tsuna’s drawing of a flower now had five out of six petals colored in; only yellow was missing. “Fluffy-Tsuna found most of his Guardians very quickly. But he’s now in contact with several suns and shows no sign of harmonising with any of them … Tsuyoshi, why are you smirking like that?”

“I don’t know what you mean, Reborn-san.”

***

Haru’s living room was buried in piles of fabric, with Haru, Nagi and Kyoko nestled in the middle of it. Why? Because Haru was making costumes for the Boss’s school cultural festival. How exciting!

“You’re really good at this, Haru-chan,” said Kyoko. She was carefully cutting a piece of cotton along the line that Haru had marked.

“Hahi, cosplay is fun!” Haru was basting lace onto the hem of another project – a welcome present for her new sister. Why? Because Nagi-chan loved Goth fashion, and had never had the chance to wear it. Every girl deserved to wear her favourite style! The dress was black satin, with layers of black and pale grey trim, and indigo lining. “And now I can talk to you about my, um, other hobby.”

Boss had been very clever in getting around the rule of secrecy. How? By adding Kyoko and Hana to his organisation. Officially, they were Haru’s subordinates; she would have to ask her grandpapa how she should handle that. Kyoko sighed. “I feel bad that I can’t ever tell my brother about this; he’d jump in head-first to ‘protect’ me. Last time he did that he landed in the hospital. Apparently I need to stay out of danger, but it’s perfectly fine for him. I hope Reborn-san can drill some sense into him.”

“Hahi? Do you think he can?” Haru had been terribly disappointed to learn that Reborn was actually an adult. That tiny suit was just so adorable! She clipped the thread end and held up the dress. “Here, try this on, Na-chan.” Nagi ducked behind a folding screen to change.

“Honestly, that guy gives me the willies,” said Kyoko.

Haru couldn’t see why. Boss trusted him, so he had to be all right. She hoped the Boss would like the costumes she was making.

Nagi emerged from the screen transformed. It wasn’t just the dress, which was far more flattering than her previous one; she also stood taller, and Haru felt her Flame glow brighter.

“How does it feel?” said Kyoko.

Rather than answer aloud, Nagi first spun her flames into an image: an ash-grey caterpillar that changed into a bright silver butterfly. “I am no longer who I was,” she said softly. “How do you do? My name is Chrome.”

Playing along, Haru curtseyed. “It’s very nice to meet you, Chrome-san.”

“I hope we can be friends,” Kyoko added.

Haru looked Chrome over; all the seams were fitted properly, and the hem was even. “And now,” she announced, “To the sewing machine!”

***

The girls spent the entire afternoon working on costumes, and Kyoko ended up eating with Haru’s family. Since Chrome-chan was staying with her, that made six of them: the three girls, Haru’s parents and her grandpapa.

As Haru described what they’d been doing, her parents shared a concerned look. “Haru, who is this Boss you keep mentioning? You haven’t gotten involved in a gang, have you?”

Uh-oh; keeping secrets was hard. “No, no, it’s more like a study group,” Haru said quickly. “Boss is the one who started it, he’s into calligraphy and graphic design.” Across the table, Grandpapa tried not to choke on his soup. “And Hayato plays the piano and is good at chemistry. Takeshi is athletic and his father runs a restaurant, and you know Kyoko and Hana-san. And we have a secret base!”

Her mother’s eyebrows went up at that; oops. “A secret base? With boys?”

Kyoko made a show of rolling her eyes. “It’s a café we go to.”

Meanwhile, Grandpapa had gone pale. Why? He must have recognised her descriptions, even though she tried to make them sound respectable. He was Flame Active, after all, and kept up with the local news. He didn’t say anything in front of Haru’s parents, though. Haru’s father asked Kyoko if she had any career plans yet.

“Oh, Hana and I are thinking of going into business together. We want to do wedding planning and such. We’re only in middle school, though, so that might change.”

As they were finishing their meal, there was a knock at the door. Haru answered it; Reborn was standing on the step. “Ciaossu.”

Grandpapa twitched, but before he could say anything, her father said, “You look familiar. Aren’t you Dr Borin, the mathematician?”

“It’s nice to be recognised,” said Reborn. Was he really a mathematician? “I was in the neighbourhood and decided to check up on part of the study group I’m helping.” Was he spying on them?

Father said, “Haru-chan’s group is lucky to have someone of your caliber tutoring them, Doctor. Please let me know if you need anything.” He strolled off to his after-dinner paperwork, not noticing the frozen look on Grandpapa’s face.

Grandpapa cautiously cleared his throat. “I must ask – Haru-chan’s Boss is …”

Reborn smirked. “Be proud of your granddaughter, Miura-san, and Chrome-chan as well.” He was definitely spying on them! “It’s a rare achievement for a Flame user to be come a Guardian.”

“Guardian?” Grandpapa said faintly.

“Hahi?” Of course the Boss was important to Haru, but it hadn't occurred to her that anyone else would care. “Is it such a big deal?”

Chapter Text

Tsuna looked curiously around Shoichi’s lab. It had originally been his bedroom, but the only vestige of that was the folded futon that Tsuna was perched on. One wall was covered with shelves, which were pile with all manner of tools, wires, lengths of pipe and the occasional Gundam figurine. There was a work bench, equally crowded; the only device Tsuna recognised was the soldering iron.

Hayato was rifling through a stack of papers. “Here it is! Decimo, please allow me to explain our project.” He curled up at Tsuna’s feet and held up the blueprint so he could see it. Tsuna idly ran his hand through Hayato’s hair, and smiled when Hayato leaned into it. He really ought to do something nice for his Storm, sometime soon.

“This is our perpetual Flame device,” Hayato said. The plan looked like a wreath of colored lines and blocks, with seven spokes sticking out of it like points on a star. “As you can see, it’s mostly made of Flame-sensitive circuits, set up so that all the Flame types balance each other.”

“It looks like it uses all seven Flame types,” Tsuna commented, tracing a line with his finger. “How did you get Cloud Flames?”

“We sent Hibari-san a very polite letter and a sample jar,” said Shoichi. He had the actual device set up on the work bench and it looked more like a sculpture than a machine, all its parts gleaming silver and brass. Lined up next to it were six silver jars.

“You still need Sky Flames, don’t you.”

Shoichi shifted nervously. “Yes, well.”

Hayato made a little noise and looked up at Tsuna through his eyelashes. Tsuna had gotten Hayato used to asking about things, but he was still working on asking for things. “Use your words, Hayato.”

The Storm took a deep breath. “Decimo, this one begs you to – to donate your Flames to our humble project.” He blushed, and hid his face against Tsuna’s knee.

How could he say no to that? Not that he had planned to, but still. He stroked the back of Hayato’s bent neck. “I will.”

Hayato hugged his ankles; Shoichi offered him a silver jar. Tsuna had filled objects with his Flames many times in placing decoys around Namimori. He drew his Flames through his fingertips, and coiled them into the bottle with the edges rolled in to keep them from dissipating too soon. They lasted longer in living things, which was why he used trees and cats as decoys; this bottle was made from an alloy that accepted his Flames almost as easily. “Is that enough?”

“More than enough. Thank you, Tsuna-sama,” said Shoichi. Tsuna passed the bottle to Hayato.

“Here. I know you’ll take good care of it.”

“You can count on us, Decimo!” Hayato clutched the bottle close and jumped up to tuck it into a locked, padded box along with the other six. That wasn’t strictly necessary – the vessels were metal, not eggshell – but it was comforting, to see such care taken with his Flames.

“Thank you for participating in this,” said Shoichi. “Even if it’s not useful for anything.”

“I’d have more doubts if it was,” said Tsuna. It wouldn’t feel right, to treat his Flames – his soul – as a product. This, though; “This is a perfect example of a passion project, so I don’t mind.”

“Any project of Hayato-kun’s is a passion project,” Shoichi chuckled.

“I resemble that remark!”

“… And I promise that if we do end up making money, you’ll get your share, Tsuna-sama.”

“Oh, not you too.” Because, tributes? Really? He had gone over the records with Reborn’s help and discovered that some of Namimori’s Flame users started paying more after they met him in person. Why? His people were his, and money didn’t come into it! When Tsuna tried to protest, Tsuyoshi had unleashed a subtle but deadly puppy-eyes technique. Tsuna wondered if it was part of the family style; Takeshi would make it devastating. How could Tsuna refuse the money if his own took it as rejecting them? The whole thing was ridiculous and he didn’t want to think about it. “So, your invention is ready to go now?”

“Yes, Decimo!” said Hayato. “We’ll take it to the sand pit behind Kokuyo Land in case it blows up.”

“Ideally, we should find someone to check our numbers first,” Shoichi added.

“You could ask Reborn,” said Tsuna. “Apparently he’s a big-shot mathematician on top of everything else. With a doctorate and everything.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, Haru’s dad is a math professor and recognised him. I don’t know why he hasn’t mentioned it, with how big his ego is usually.”

“If I had a PhD, I’d brag about it,” Shoichi said wistfully.

***

Kyoya Hibari was on the hunt. There was a carnivore in his territory, one that could give him a proper challenge, but he refused to cooperate with him. Kyoya had been trying to catch the Fake Baby for months, and he always slipped away at the last instant. That only made Kyoya more determined to fight him. There weren’t many other options; the Annoying Carnivore was never around, and the Small Omnivore had not yet reached his full strength.

When the Small Omnivore entered High School, he would be ready to fight; he had promised Kyoya that long ago. The Small Omnivore was unlike all the others in his territory; there was a warmth to him that turned any space into a comfortable den. When he started to gather his pack, Kyoya did not wait long to stake his place in it. If the Fake Baby claimed to be training the Small Omnivore, Kyoya wanted to know what he was made of.

He detected the Fake Baby in a tree overlooking the school grounds; he was scanning them through a set of scaly green binoculars. Students from both the middle and high school were setting up booths for the upcoming joint cultural festival; an excuse for the herbivores to crowd together. The Fake Baby was trying to conceal his Flame, but Kyoya had honed his senses on the Small Omnivore. Taking advantage of the Fake Baby’s concentration, Kyoya sprang up the tree and seized him by the ankle, turning him upside down.

“Ciaossu.”

Kyoya snarled as he realised that the Fake Baby had let himself get captured. He looked unconcerned that he was dangling upside down in Kyoya’s grip, aside from a hand holding his hat in place.

“I’m curious why you’ve been stalking me, Hibari-san. It’s all right to admit if you have a crush, you know; it’s quite common in people your age.”

Kyoya gave him a hard shake. “Don’t pretend to be a herbivore. What do you want with the Small Omnivore?”

“With Fluffy-Tsuna? I’m his home tutor.”

Kyoya knew that already. He shook the fake baby again. “Fight me.”

“No.” The Fake Baby twisted out of his grip and tumbled to the ground. Kyoya gave chase, of course; he shoved aside the herbivores working on the festival booths. By the time he was clear of them, the Fake Baby was out of his sensing range. Kyoya huffed and went to find the Small Omnivore; he wanted a nap.

***

Hayato was making coffee. This was a challenge at the secret base since there was no electricity; he had ground the beans by hand, and was heating an espresso pot on a gas burner. He had even roasted the beans himself, in a skillet. The result got Reborn’s nod of approval, so Hayato had no problem offering it to his Sky. He poured three cups, and carried them to the table where Tsuna-sama was being drilled in Italian by Reborn.

“Grazie,” Tsuna-sama said absently.

“Prego, Juudaime,” Hayato replied. His Sky blinked at his choice of address, then giggled.

“You’re silly, Hayato.”

Hayato would be anything if it made his Sky smile like that. He passed a cup to Reborn and took the third for himself. Tsuna-sama sipped his coffee. “You’re getting good at this, Hayato. This is way better than the pre-packaged stuff.”

“I have taught you well, Fluffy-Tsuna.”

Outside, Takeshi was playing kick-ball with Lambo and I-pin, while Hibari dozed on a tree branch. It was a bright early-summer afternoon, just right for a camp-out at the base.

“The girls are here,” Tsuna-sama said. A moment later, Haru and Chrome entered the courtyard, followed closely by Kyoko and Hana. All of them were carrying large bags. “Gather round,” called Haru, “It’s costume time!”

“They’re finished already?” asked Takeshi. The cultural festival was still a week away. Hayato didn’t care what costume he wore as long as he could stand at his Sky’s side.

“You’re first, Takeshi-kun!” From one of the bags, Haru produced a plumed hat and coat with cat ears and tail attached, fake boots and a cutlass. Takeshi picked up the sword first.

“The balance is all wonky on this.”

“It’s only paper-mache,” said Haru. “Go on, try the rest of it on.” She had done a good job; Takeshi made a convincing Puss In Boots. Likewise, Kyoko and Hana as a fairy godmother and wicked queen; Haru had apparently settled on a fairy-tale theme. Then Haru took out the costume for Tsuna-sama: a half length cape with a hood, in bright red. Little Red Riding Hood? But, wouldn’t that go together with a Big Bad Wolf … oh, no. Oh God no. When Haru pulled out the wolf ears, Hayato took a big step backwards.

“No! I refuse!” Even if it was just a costume, he would not so much as hint at attacking his Sky; the very thought of it made him sick.

Tsuna-sama raised his eyebrows. “Hold on, I have an idea.” He turned to Chrome and whispered to her; she nodded, and summoned her Mist flames. When Tsuna-sama turned back around, he was holding a collar and leash.

Hayato’s thoughts stood still. Collar. His Sky was holding a collar. It was bright red. For him. To wear his Sky’s collar. Slowly, Tsuna-sama opened the buckle, lingering over each movement. Hayato couldn’t look away. Tsuna-sama held it open and said, “Well, Hayato, how about it?”

Oh hell yes. Hayato threw himself on his knees at his Sky’s feet and bared his throat. Tsuna-sama put the collar around his neck; Hayato bit his lip. His Sky. Putting a collar. On him. Every touch burned against his skin. Tsuna-sama fastened the buckle, and slid his fingers under the collar to check the fit. He scratched under Hayato’s chin, then put the ears on him and petted them. Hayato made a happy sound, oblivious to the rest of the world.

“Hahi,” said Haru, “Why do I feel like I just watched something perverted?”

Chapter Text

The camp-out was going well, Tsuna thought; the secret base came to life with all of his Elements and friends in it. They packed the costumes away again – all except Hayato’s collar, which was still around his neck with the leash looped around Tsuna’s wrist. The Storm reached up to touch it now and then, as if checking that it was still there. If he liked it that much, Tsuna might make it a regular thing.

They worked together to collect rocks for a fire pit, and then firewood to put in it. Well, most of them did; Lambo and I-pin ran around throwing acorns at each other.

“You can’t escape, Calamity-Pin! Lucky Lambo is on the case!”

“I won’t let you, broccoli monster!”

Neither of them noticed that Hibari was also tossing the occasional acorn at them from his perch in a tree. When the campfire was built, Tsuna used his Flames to light it, and the group settled down for a picnic supper. Nana had made rice balls for everyone; Takeshi had, of course, brought sushi (Tsuyoshi had taught him how to keep it fresh with Rain Flames). Haru and Chrome had brought corn on the cob, Kyoko and Hana had a bag of fruit including grapes for Lambo, and Hayato had bought pickles and drinks. Reborn had brought real Italian cheese and crusty bread. Even Hibari had contributed sausages which they roasted on sticks over the fire. The best item, everyone agreed, were Lambo and I-pin’s slightly lumpy cookies which Nana had helped them bake.

“That was great,” sighed Haru. “All this place is missing is a hot spring.”

“Kokuyo Land did used to have a public bathhouse,” Tsuna said. He added restoring it to the list; with how messy their training got, a way to clean up would be welcome. Especially one that was warmer than getting dunked in the creek. “It’ll take a ton of work to get it running again, though.”

“Hahi, it’ll be worth it!”

Hayato raised his hand from where he was lounging with his head on Tsuna’s lap. “Count me in, Decimo!”

Daylight faded; Lambo and I-pin chased fireflies for a while, then fell asleep on their sleeping bags in a corner of the café.

Reborn stood up. “Takeshi, can you make sure those two stay asleep?”

Takeshi obligingly reached out with his Rain. “Ahaha, are we going to tell spooky stories now?”

“Not exactly.” Reborn held a flashlight under his chin, casting strange shadows across his face. “It’s time for me to give you all … the Talk.”

***

“I think I’m traumatised.”

“Hahi, I didn’t know you could do that with a rope.”

“I’ll never look at ginger the same way.”

Needless to say, Reborn’s version of the Talk was more comprehensive than the one taught in middle-school health class. He’d gotten to it just in time, too, with the way Fluffy-Tsuna and Hayato were acting. He had made a point of mentioning bondage and pet play; Hayato had turned tomato red, but made no move to take off his collar. Now he was curled up around Fluffy-Tsuna as though the Sky was a plush toy.

All of the Guardians were in a pile in the middle of the floor – except Hibari, who was in the corner but still in the same room, positively cozy for a Cloud. Who could blame them, with a Sky as pure as Tsuna’s filling the room? And it was Reborn’s training that would make sure that Sky survived long after he was gone.

He had brought his hammock from Tsuna’s house; he climbed into it, pulled his fedora over his face, and let Tsuna’s Sky wash over him as well.

***

The school festival was upon them and Hayato wasn’t sure if he liked it. He was wearing his collar – a real one this time, not a Mist construct – with the end of the leash in his Sky’s hand. The thought of it alone made his knees turn to jelly; now everyone would see who he belonged to. If they had the brains to understand.

The problem was, the fairground was crowded. These civilians might not be much of a threat, but they were the ones who called Tsuna-sama names and wished him harm. Hayato made a convincing Big Bad Wolf with the glare he directed at everyone around them. He, the baseball fool, and the girls formed a rough square around Tsuna-sama that held back the worst of the crush, and Hibari had the disciplinary committee out in force. Their Sky pretended not to notice, but Hayato could see his relaxed posture and easy smile.

Tsuna-sama was wearing the hooded red cape over a ruffled shirt and dark trousers – Haru hadn’t quite dared to give him a skirt, though Reborn had suggested it. The tutor was perched on Tsuna-sama’s head, dressed as a squirrel and looking around at the various booths. “There’s some excellent potential for chaos here, Fluffy-Tsuna.”

“Don’t you start.” Tsuna raised his hand in the air and waved. “Shoichi-kun! Over here!”

The inventor pushed through the crowd towards them. Though he went to school in Kokuyo, he had found out that Hayato would be in costume and he wasn’t about to miss it. He got a good look at them all and snickered. “That’s just perfect. Does he do any tricks?”

Tsuna-sama raised his eyebrows and turned to face Hayato. Was he actually going to …?

“Sit.” Hayato fell to his knees.

“Lie down.” Hayato fell on his face.

“Beg.” Hayato clasped his hands together and looked up at his Sky with adoring eyes.

“Good boy.” Tsuna-sama scratched his chin. People around them were staring, some laughing; morons. Tsuna-sama was their better, and if they knew what Hayato knew, they too would be on their knees at his Sky’s feet.

***

Takeshi is a cat today, and catlike he sees all. A sea of kids at play, and who knows what’s lurking among them. Along the rows of tents he walks in Tsuna’s wake. For his sake, Takeshi’s sword is hung at his belt; it’s wooden, but among civilians, he needs no edge but his own.

They move with the crowd’s ebb and flow. Class 1A is selling onigiri. There is a photo booth by class 3B. Ryohei’s club has carnival games: “Test your strength to the extreme!” he proclaims. A strike of the hammer to ring the bell; Lambo does just as well jumping on the machine. Ding!

“I want to try that one,” says Reborn, and points at a target-shooting game. Isn’t that a bit tame for him? Squirrel tail flicking, he hops up to the airsoft gun; the targets fall one by one, easy pickings.

“You’re good at this,” says the student running the booth. “Have you shot before?”

“Of course. I’m a hitman.” That’s the truth, but easier that it’s not believed.

“Ahaha, it’s one of those role-playing games, you know?”

“Oh, I see.” The student is relieved. “You’ve won the big prize, then.” It’s a lollipop the size of Reborn’s head; he swats Takeshi with it.

“Spoilsport.”

***

The costume contest was scheduled for late in the afternoon, although Tsuna and the others had been walking around in costume all day. That was the plan; once people saw the costumes, they would want to see the judging.

Tsuna sat in a corner of the backstage area, Hayato leaning on the back of his chair, as the class president went over the instructions. “Go out on stage when your name is called. Dame-Tsuna, try not to trip.” Hayato growled; Tsuna reached up and squeezed his hand. The old insult was just mindless habit by now, and not worth getting worked up over. “People with matching costumes will go out together. If you want to do a bit of an act, that’s fine, but keep it brief.”

Hayato perked up. “Can we show them what we did earlier?”

“Maybe something similar.” Tsuna had to keep his Storm on his toes, after all. “Improvise.”

The first of their Family to take a turn was Takeshi. All he did was give the audience a flourished European bow. Several of the girls in the class presented magical girl costumes; then Hana and Kyoko went onstage and held a mock battle with ‘magic wands’ that launched confetti at each other. Haru, Chrome, Lambo and I-pin cheered from the front row.

A few turns later, Tsuna led Hayato out on his leash. “Sit.” Once again, Hayato knelt without hesitation.

“Heel.” Hayato took his usual spot at Tsuna’s elbow. Now, to see what he would make of the next command:

“Howl.”

Hayato thought about it for a bare instant, and then, “Figaro! Figaro! Figaro-figaro-figaro Figaro!

The audience laughed; Tsuna smiled. Hayato had quite a nice singing voice. “Good boy,” he murmured, and led Hayato off the stage.

***

After the festival, Reborn was back in his suit and riding on Fluffy-Tsuna’s fluffy head, drowsy satisfaction filling him.

“I still think you should have won, Decimo,” Hayato was saying.

“Me or Kyoko, it’s really Haru’s win either way,” Tsuna said. He had just tucked Lambo and I-pin into bed, both of them tired out from the day’s excitement. He padded out of the room and slid the door closed. “I don’t mind; I enjoyed spending time with everyone.”

A typical Sky attitude, right there. None of the Skies Reborn had met cared much about keeping score, to the endless confusion of other Mafiosi. “You’ve got your minions working well together, Fluffy-Tsuna.”

Tsuna sighed. “Please don’t call my Elements that, Reborn. Did you enjoy the festival?”

“It was fun.” He hadn’t once felt the crawling itch of boredom, even without instigating chaos. That hadn’t happened since … he couldn’t even remember. He wouldn’t mind spending more days like that.

“I’m glad.” They reached Tsuna’s room and he uncurled his Sky Flames. Without thinking about it, Reborn relaxed into them. And … softly as a feather landing on his hand, something clicked between them. Suddenly he was warm, warm all the way through – right down to the places he tried to forget because he never thought they would be filled. He lost his balance and tumbled into Tsuna’s lap.

His student – his Sky? His Sky was looking at him with a growing smile. “Okaeri,” he said: welcome home.

“Tadaima,” Reborn answered, barely above a whisper. Home. How long had it been since he called any place home? He had safe houses, to be sure, and allies where he could always find a bed. But a hitman’s life was an itinerant one, and all of his possessions fit in a single suitcase. Even then, he’d had to abandon it more than once. A place that was his – a place worth defending – Reborn’s sight blurred.

Hayato muttered something about making coffee and slipped out of the room; Reborn barely noticed. His fluffy Sky gathered him in his arms and held him close, where he was finally able to rest.

Chapter Text

Tsuyoshi is cleaning up after the lunch sitting when Reborn wanders into the restaurant. The tiny hitman doesn’t head for his usual stool at the counter; instead, he goes to the message wall, and takes down the multi-colored flower diagram. He pulls out a yellow pencil and fills in the final petal. Then he lays the drawing on the counter and stares at it.

Tsuyoshi smiles. “Congratulations, Reborn-san.”

Reborn gives him a dark look. “You saw this coming.”

“Months ago,” Tsuyoshi agrees, with the bright smile that he knows annoys Reborn. He can’t resist teasing him; the World’s Greatest Hitman, the Strongest Sun, and he didn’t even notice that Tsuna-sama was drawing him in.

Reborn snorts. “It didn’t even occur to me that I was eligible. I’m still in shock.”

“Maa, we can’t have that.” Tsuyoshi takes two cups from the shelves and pours sake. “Here, on the house. Kampai!”

“Saluti.” Reborn sips his drink. Tsuyoshi goes back to cutting vegetables and waits for him to speak again. “I’ve been freelance my whole career. And I’m so much older than the rest of his Guardians, how am I supposed to fit in with them?”

“Haha, from what I hear, you already fit in well. Trust our Sky, Reborn-san.”

“Our Sky,” the Sun repeats with a gleam in his eye.

“Sounds good, doesn’t it?” Tsuyoshi slides sliced carrots into a bin and picks up a cucumber. Once word gets around, he’ll have a full house tonight. Every Flame user in Namimori will be celebrating their Hidden Sky’s complete circle of Guardians. “It’s a big adjustment, settling down. But it has opportunities of its own.” Tsuyoshi remembers how he felt sixteen years ago, opening the doors of TakeSushi for the first time.

“Oh? Like what?”

“Maa, you can stop pretending that you’re not training young Lambo.”

There is a pause as Reborn sets down his cup. “You,” he points at Tsuyoshi, “are much sharper than you let on.”

“You’ve said that before, haha.” It’s obvious; of all the hitmen who want the price on Reborn’s head, the only one to track him to Namimori is the five-year-old? Reborn allows Lambo to follow him. To openly take him as a student would make him a target, but as long as Lambo is hunting him, Reborn has first call on taking him out. As long as he doesn’t exercise that right, Lambo is safe from other Mafiosi.

Eventually, Reborn says, “I didn’t coddle him as much as you think. The kid has real potential as a bounty hunter.” Another pause. “And maybe I like teaching the brats. But if you tell anyone I said that, I’ll put a bullet in your ass.”

“Hai, hai.”

***

His Sky. The thought still made Reborn dizzy. He sat in the secret base café, among Tsuna’s Elements – his fellow Guardians – with his gaze unfocused and his posture relaxed. Surrounding him were the scent of roasting coffee and the glow of Sky Flames. His Famiglia – not a combination of words Reborn ever thought he would use.

There was Haru, sketching costume designs and periodically giving him a measuring look; Chrome, brushing I-pin’s hair with an intent expression. Hibari perched on the windowsill, giving Reborn a bloodthirsty stare. If he wanted a spar, he was going to have to work for it. Lambo was reading a Lucky Luke comic to Takeshi, translating as he went. Hayato was making the coffee.

“Deep thoughts?” asked Fluffy-Tsuna, settling beside him.

“I wonder how Timoteo will react to my ending his contract.” Fluffy-Tsuna didn’t need the Vongola accounts; the tributes he got from Namimori were more than enough income. It would be one less piece of leverage for Nono to hold over Tsuna when the time came to take over the Famiglia. Besides, the mere idea of standing back while Tsuna fought made his skin crawl. It was his right to stand between his Sky and whatever threatened him, and damn the contract.

“I’ll still be counting on you for training,” Tsuna said. “Though maybe now you won’t be able to rent packs of tigers to chase me, or something.”

As if he could pass up a straight line like that. “Is that what you think, Fluffy-Tsuna?”

“Me and my big mouth,” Tsuna groaned, but there was laughter in his eyes. Truly Reborn couldn’t ask for a better student, or a better Sky. One that took his antics in stride, and relieved his incessant boredom by his presence alone. For that, Reborn would put his back to the wall and fight.

“I have enemies, you know. Once they hear you’ve harmonised with me, they might come after you.”

“Then we won’t tell anyone,” Tsuna shrugged. “Make up an alias, and we’ll say that’s my Sun Guardian.”

Hayato set a cup of coffee in front of him. “Maybe choose something less obvious than ‘Dr. Borin.’”

His fluffy student was a natural at subterfuge; it warmed Reborn’s heart. A name came to mind at once, one that he hadn’t used in decades. There was no one left with the right to use it, until now.

“Matteo,” he announced. “Matteo Rica, at your service.” To match the introduction, he took off his fedora and held it against his chest with a bow.

“Matteo-sensei,” Tsuna said experimentally. His eyes gleamed orange; thanks to Hyper Intuition, he would know just what sort of name Reborn had given him. It sounded right, coming from his Sky’s lips; he looked forward to hearing it more often.

***

A week later in Italy, a tired old man was opening his mail. Most of it had already been screened by his secretary, of course; invitations, petitions, and reports. The sealed envelope caught his attention, as did the handwriting on it. Reborn usually contacted him by secure email, so why a paper letter now?

He took out a butterfly knife as old and worn as he was – though, he liked to think, still as sharp as ever – and sliced the envelope open. He prayed that it wasn’t bad news. He had had to trust Reborn to handle his heir’s training; his own hands were full with keeping his famiglia together in the wake of his last son’s death. It had taken nearly a year, but they were closing the net around Federico’s killers. He unfolded the letter.

“To: Don Timoteo, Vongola IX, salutations. I am writing to advise you of recent developments which require that our contract be modified. You will also find enclosed a letter from my fluffy student. He is making excellent progress in becoming a Mafia Boss and he now has a complete set of Guardians. They are as follows: Storm – Gokudera Hayato, Rain – Yamamoto Takeshi, Cloud – Hibari Kyoya, Lightning – Miura Haru, Mist – Chrome Dokuro, Sun – Matteo Rica.”

Timoteo almost choked on his coffee. He was one of the few still living who knew that name; Reborn refused to reveal it to anyone. Until now. Modified contract, indeed – he might as well ‘modify’ it with a cigarette lighter. There were clauses in it no Guardian would stand for. Now he understood the veiled hostility in Reborn’s previous messages; even if he hadn’t harmonised fully yet, it was his Sky who Timoteo had wronged.

Of all the errors he had made in his life, his treatment of Tsuna and Xanxus were the two worst. It had been a bad time, so soon after losing both Enrico and Ganauche II. He had always planned to hand the Vongola to his heir, thaw out Xanxus and probably die by his hand. Add Reborn to the Varia, and he was bound for a closed-casket funeral for sure. He sighed and opened the second letter, which was written in a careful but steady hand.

“Dear Don Timoteo, I hope this letter finds you well. I am taking this chance to write to you and practice the Italian that Matteo-sensei has taught me. Hayato also has taught me some Italian words, but I am not going to use them here! I was very surprised to learn about the Mafia and the Vongola. I offer my condolences for the death of your sons. Sensei told me some stories and I regret that I was never able to meet them. It must be very hard for you. Please hold on a little longer until I finish my education. I hope we can get to know each other better. – Your heir, Sawada Tsunayoshi (Hidden Sky).

P.S. I’ve heard that my father works for you. Could you please ask him to write to me, as I have not heard from him in several years.”

Timoteo ran his finger over the signature, which was infused with a tiny spark of Sky Flames. This … was not the Flame of a naïve innocent. Nor of one who had only recently learned to use Flames. Timoteo did not have as much Intuition as some in his family, but in that moment he knew that his seal had been beaten. That Tsuna understood in full what had been done to him, and he still offered sympathy to an old man.

The postscript made him snort. From listening to Iemitsu’s description, Timoteo had worried that Tsuna was too soft to handle Mafia Life; now he wondered if the man knew his son at all. He could believe they hadn’t spoken in years, and really, what kind of family relationship was that? He would make sure to pass on the request; if Iemitsu couldn’t relate to Tsuna as a son, he could at least treat him as his future boss.

He went back to the rest of Reborn’s letter. “I assure you that I will continue to train Fluffy-Tsuna and his Guardians to take over your post. I am confident that they will be ready by the time my student turns 18. I would appreciate if you kept the changes to the contract quiet, and if you choose to continue funding, please do so through the same channels. I will be in touch. – Reborn.

P.S. Does the villa in Mumbai still have those tigers? If so, I would like to borrow them.”