He was dead. He had been dead for a long time; borrowing others’ bodies, living in the spaces between their lives. His heart had been the first to die, leaving only a shell, pain and rage. He bent his resolve to ruin those who had destroyed him, and the Vongola were his tool. For ten generations he had watched and shaped them, wielded them from the shadows while plotting how they, too, would fall; he had become his name.
Now a son of the family was rising in the East, and his measure must be taken. He knew where to find him; he had known before it was secret. It was a simple journey, tourist to traveller to train operator, until he alighted as a pedestrian in Giotto’s resting place. When last he came here, after the war, the town was burnt and broken; now it was in Flames. They blazed all around him, Sun and Rain, Storm and Lightning, Mist, Cloud – and Sky. Faint but pure, like none he had sensed since he last lived.
He guided his borrowed body towards it, and discovered … a cat. A grey tabby, short haired, ordinary except that it glowed with orange Flame. How had this come to be? He jumped from his current host to the cat, and found himself wrapped in Sky, warm and bright. Ah, he had missed this.
The cat’s mind showed him what he wished to know: a boy, his scent better remembered than his face, laying warm hands on its back. Curiosity satisfied, he prepared to jump back into a human body – and could not.
Tsuna skidded to a halt in the middle of a dance step, almost crashing into Chrome. He had distinctly felt an Element bond forming – but everyone around him already was his Element. He, Hayato and the girls were learning ballroom dancing, while Fon trained some of the others outside. Hibari was also present, watching the dance class from the roof beams. They felt the feedback from the bond, too, and the whole lesson paused; the Leon-stereo stopped the music as they all looked around in confusion.
“Fluffy-Tsuna, what have you gotten into now?” Reborn, crisp and elegant in his temporary adult form, sounded annoyed that his lesson had been interrupted.
“I don’t know!” Every one of his Elements, including Kyoko, his latest, had had to touch him for the bond to form.
Lambo appeared at the door, pulling Takeshi by the wrist; his face fell as he looked around. “Aww, Lucky Lambo wanted a new brother or sister!”
“Maa, why did we feel that if nobody new is here?”
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” said Tsuna. Every time he thought he was used to all this Mafia business, a new wrinkle tripped him up.
“Decimo, is it possible that someone harmonised through your decoys?” asked Hayato; Tsuna’s Intuition confirmed the idea.
“Apparently.” And why did his Intuition only work after someone suggested something? “We should go and find whoever it is.” He hoped they weren’t upset; he had harmonised with some of his Family very quickly, but a person he hadn’t even met yet was going too far.
“How are you planning to do that, Fluffy-Tsuna?” Reborn prompted him. This task, at least, he was familiar with.
“We’ll need two – no, three groups. Hayato, Matteo-sensei and, um, Haru with me. Takeshi and Chrome, trail after us as backup. Kyoko and Fon, stay here with the kids and watch the base.”
“Got it, Boss!”
“Lambo, help them out, OK?” His youngest Element pulled himself up proudly. Hibari made a disappointed noise as Reborn returned to infant form, and wandered off.
Haru was once again amazed by Boss’s super cool powers. This would make eleven Guardians that he was harmonised with, and Boss seemed to know just were to find them. He stopped his bike in front of an alley and cautiously stepped inside. At first Haru thought there was nobody there, but then she spotted the cat. It was a plain grey tabby that she had seen before, one of Boss’s decoys, and now it was surrounded by a knot of indigo Mist as well as Sky.
Boss crouched down and held out his hand to it. “Hi there. I’m Tsuna; sorry about this.”
The cat mewed, then looked annoyed at the sound. A swirl of Mist formed above its head, and a man’s voice came out. “You’re sorry ? Do you know what you’ve done? Do you know who I am?”
“Um, no, Mist-san.” Boss sat down cross-legged and lifted the cat into his lap. “All I know is that your Flames fit into mine. And I guess you don’t know much about me either. I’d be happy to have you as part of my family, though.”
The cat laid his ears back. “And if I’d rather be left alone?”
“That’s fine, but – ”
“I knew it.”
“But , I’m going to make sure you have proper food, shelter and medical care, Mist-san. Should we look around for your human body?”
“Fricking Skies,” grumbled the cat. “My human body has been dust for centuries. There is no point in looking for it.”
Wait, that would make him … a ghost! Haru gave Hayato a triumphant look. “Ha!” If he got a UMA in the Family, then she got a ghost.
“Fools. I am Daemon Spade! I was the terror of Italy, and now I’m stuck as a cat.” He paused and looked himself over. “A neutered cat.”
Reborn’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “The Daemon Spade, of the Vongola first generation?”
“Yes, that Daemon Spade. Are there any others?” The cat replied snidely. He looked up at Tsuna. “And you look like Giotto with a bad dye job.”
He really did; it was one of the many things Reborn found entertaining about his Famiglia. “It’s true, Fluffy-Tsuna. And Hayato looks like G if he fell in bleach.”
Spade turned to look at the Storm, and his ears went flat. “Uncanny.”
“Like you’re one to talk,” Hayato shot back. Reborn didn’t doubt that this really was Spade; he had read in the Vongola archives of the Mist’s power of possessing people, and it made sense of some of the stranger rumors he had collected. He also noticed that despite Spade’s bluster, he had yet to use his Flames aggressively; Tsuna’s Sky had struck again.
“Hahi, D-san is really stuck?” asked Haru. She picked the cat up and when he tried to scratch her, just Hardened her skin against his claws.
“Yes, I’m stuck! Do you think I would willingly spend time in such a useless form?”
“You’ll be all right with us,” promised Tsuna. “Takeshi, Chrome, come in here.”
Hayato was impressed all over again at Tsuna-sama’s generosity. He was sitting on the ground in a filthy alley, to make sure his newest Guardian was taken care of, without any concern for his own comfort. Daemon Spade might be a legend among the Mafia, but right now he was vulnerable and off-balance. When Takeshi appeared, he grumbled, “Great, there’s an Asari clone, too.”
Then Chrome stepped into view; Spade squeaked, and lost hold of the illusion he was using to talk. He shook himself and re-formed it. “How? This girl could be my daughter … but I never had any …”
Right, an alley was no place for this. “Decimo, would you like to take this somewhere more private?”
“Oh! Yeah, let’s go to TakeSushi.”
Haru handed the stunned cat to Chrome, who petted him and then set him in the basket of her bike. He was silent for the short ride to the restaurant. While Tsuna-sama asked Tsuyoshi to prepare a plate of sashimi, Hayato composed a text message to let the rest of the Family know what was happening. [ New Element is Mist Ghost of Daemon Spade, harmonised after possessing decoy cat.] He read the sentence he had written, and added, [Not joking.]
Tsuna-sama made introductions. Spade said incredulously, “Do you mean to tell me that I am your second Mist?”
Tsuna-sama scratched his neck. “Um, third, actually. Kawahira-san is at work.”
“Hmph. Has your tutor told you of Daemon Spade? How I turned my back on the Primo and helped Ricardo overthrow him? Does that scare you, little Sky?”
“It’s kind of reassuring, actually.” Hayato wasn’t the only one who made a confused noise. Reassuring? Tsuna-sama explained, “If one of my Elements really couldn’t stand me anymore, they’d be able to leave.”
Hayato gulped. Did Tsuna-sama truly fear that he could drive them away? That it was possible for any of them to hate him? Hayato wrapped his arm around his Sky’s waist and pulled him close. “Never happen,” he said into Tsuna-sama’s hair.
Tsuna-sama reached up and kissed his jawline. “I know.”
Spade made a hacking noise. “Are they always like this?”
Chrome nodded. “It’s cute.” She was picking up pieces of fish with her chopsticks and feeding them to Spade.
“The resemblance is too close to be a coincidence,” he said. “You must be my descendant, and Elena’s.”
“The histories never mentioned that you had a child,” said Reborn.
“They wouldn’t, given the circumstances,” Spade said. Hayato took that to mean that they hadn’t been married; he knew first hand how bastards and their mothers were treated. Spade continued, “I did not know the babe survived. Elena was with child when – when – ”
It was strange to hear the cat’s distressed cries at the same time as Spade’s voice. Chrome stroked his back. Tsuna-sama swirled his Flames around them; he was still tucked into Hayato’s side and showed no sign of moving. “Obviously it did survive, though, since Chrome is here.”
Spade hissed at him. “I defy you to explain how an infant could survive this. ” A flash of Mist, and they all saw the image of a woman’s broken and mutilated body. Hayato flinched; he had seen death before, but this one was nasty. Tsuna-sama trembled against him.
Reborn was naturally unfazed. “Caesarian section,” he announced. Right; back then, it would have been a dangerous operation, but if the mother was already dead …
“By who?” demanded Spade. “Those who killed her wouldn’t have bothered.” Tsuna-sama reached over to scratch the cat’s ears.
“Someone did, and now you’ve met your descendant. Isn’t that enough for now?”
Spade started to purr, then caught himself. “Fricking Skies,” he muttered, but didn’t move to avoid his hand.
Outwardly, she slept; within, she walked a garden of dreams, a realm of her own creation. Here twin suns danced through a sky which hung always at sunset, banded in orange, purple and indigo. She placed broad trees and the flowers of spring; made butterflies as big as eagles and elephants tiny as mice. Would she dress in Spring and dance with the sky, as she did in waking? Would she play with the rain?
Hills and meadows formed under her feet. Rabbits of every temperament gambolled around her. She built a soft bed for a cat to lie in, and a campfire for making ramen.
Now here was something not of her making; a young man, garbed in indigo. How had he come here? She said nothing, and studied him. He stood before her from so far away; there was power in his reach. “Greetings, my dear,” he told her, and held out his hand. “We are alike, you and I.”
Careful, she touched his hand, and felt the threads that connected them. Betrayal by kin and remembered pain; fear of its return and joy in escape. And underneath, where she was not meant to see, the protection of friends. It twinkled in the shadows, gold and blue and red. “We share many things,” she said.
“Kufufufu. Come to me, and I will ensure no one hurts you again. My power will be a shelter for you.”
She looked upward, and smiled. “The Sky is all the shelter I need. Perhaps you will join me there.”