“HIIIEEE!” There’s a grey d-d-d-do- err, a grey not-cat-pet staring at him. He’d been walking home when a little mewl from a closed box had attracted his attention. He doesn’t like to admit it to his Kaa-chan, but he’s lonely. He has no friends, not any more, and he gets bullied. If he had a cat he’d love it and cuddle it and maybe he’d not be so scared all the time. But when he had lifted the flap, it wasn't a cat.
He backs away when the … not-cat makes that sound again, staring at him. He can’t leave it; it looks so alone. Like him. Lost and alone and sad. He picks it up, and it licks his chin.
“Kaa-chan, can we have a pet?”
“Ara? Sure, Tsu-kun! I don’t see why not. What do you want? A cat? A rabbit? A bird?”
“Umm … I kind of already found one?” She turns around.
“Tsuna! Put that back outside! That’s not a pet!” She stares in shock at the baby fox her son brought home.
“But Kaa-chan, someone threw him out! He was in a box with water and a blanket and it said ‘FREE’!”
“Tsuna …” She tries to be gentle; her son is only ten, after all, and has a delicate, gentle personality. She won't tell him the fox had likely made a meal of the animal - or animals - that had been in the box before jumping in for warmth. “That’s not a dog. That’s a baby fox. We can’t keep him; foxes don’t belong in homes.”
“But he’s light grey and he’s got spots and floppy ears!” It does. Why does it have spots and floppy ears? A shorter nose, too. Wait, hadn’t she seen something once about those people in Russia who bred foxes to be friendly?
“Well, let’s take it to the vet. If the vet says it’s safe, then we can keep it.” She smiles as her son cheers and almost melts when the fox cub licks his chin, making her normally withdrawn and quiet boy giggle. Maybe this is a good thing.
"Haha! That's a cool dog! What kind is it? Does it have a name?" He stares up - way up - at the tall boy who seems vaguely familiar. Hayato - the name he'd decided on for his fox last year - makes that whine-chuff noise and he gets that ache behind his eyes again and he remembers. Days spent exploring, sleepovers, play-dates, birthdays, sushi. A kind man who looks just like his son, hugs, a kind woman with the same chin as her son, laughter, tears and a funeral. Learning stances and grips and how to move, how to redirect shoves and hits, how to use momentum against people; how to pinch and stomp, where to hit, how to get away, how to scream, how to run and hide. Sushi and steaming donburi, cold soba and shiruko, snowball fights and water battles, sledding and wagon rides, baseball and kendo and naginatajutsu. His hands try to hold a nonexistent naginata, and he feels more coordinated, muscle memory returning. He remembers Takeshi watching him, too, for years, and keeping him safe from the worst of things.
"Takeshi-nii? It's me, Tsuna. We used to play together when we were little … we were like brothers …” Takeshi-kun's eyes brighten, and his smile becomes more real.
"Tsu-tan! You remember me now! So where'd ya get the fox?"
"Hiiieee! You knew?"
"Tsu-tan, I'm not an idiot, no matter what it looks like." Takeshi-nii's always been smart, but hates school, prefers learning things as he moves. "That is so a fox. What's its name?"
He smiles at his Takeshi-nii, who has plopped down next to him. Maybe they'd be friends again! "This is Hayato. He's a Russian Domesticated Fox, and I found him in a box in the alley behind the bakery Eiko-kaa liked last year. Aa, Takeshi-nii?"
"I'm sorry for forgetting you."
"Maa, maa. I can't say it didn't hurt my feelings, because it did, but you remember me now! I'm happy you - crap. Mochida. He hates you. Wanna go home and hang out? You can call your mom from my place - it's closer." Takeshi-nii pulls him up and starts running, leaving Hayato to run at his heels. "Come on! Oyaji'll make us both sushi!"
His son barrels in through the front door of the shop, pulling someone behind him. He recognises that shock of hair - does the boy ever comb it? - and gapes openly before collecting himself and smiling. "So, who's this, Takeshi?"
He sees the confusion on the boy's face, and a tiny stirring of locked Flames, and Tsuna's face smooths out, and the boy who was as much his son as Takeshi smiles. "Hi, Tsuyoshi-tou-san. I'm sorry for forgetting. Can Hayato and I come in, please?" A little grey-splotched white fox pokes his nose into the shop, then bounds over to the tiny brunet boy, yipping happily, left ear-tip flopping around. "This is Hayato. He's a Russian Domesticated Fox and he's very friendly - most of the time. He doesn't seem to like Takeshi-nii getting close to me much, but I think that's 'cause he's never seen him and thinks he's being too friendly too fast."
"Welcome back, Tsuna. I'll call Nana-san for you. Why don't you go upstairs and I'll bring you three snacks, hmm?" He eyes the little fox, who eyes him back, nods, and follows his master up the stairs. He smiles knowingly; for a second the little fox's eyes had glowed bright crimson.
Another year with Hayato, another Gotcha Day, and he, his fox, and his best friend are playing around with his little wisps of fire - Sky Flames, Tsuyoshi-tou-san had called them, and he'd learned a lot about them and the other Flames. "So, Tsu-kun, excited to start Nami-chuu? Imagine the teachers when they meet Haya-kun, haha!"
Hayato growls once at Takeshi, who laughs and pets Hayato between the ears, a flicker of blue making the little fox slump into his master's legs and whine sleepily. "Mm, it was nice of Hibari-senpai to allow him. Who knew a therapy animal is an actual thing?"
Takeshi looks at him consideringly. "You shriek less when he's around, and don't think I've not noticed you have less panic attacks. You know I kept an eye out for you even when you didn't remember me. You're more yourself now than you have been in a long time."
He stares sleepily at his Sky, the tall idiot teasing and laughing with him, and his Sky teasing back. It's not so bad, this life, with the soft twisted-rope collar and its shrine-blessed bell, and the pets, and scritches, and good food, and a warm bed he shares with his Sky. He's been working at the clinging, choking Seal and it's almost gone. Another two weeks, and his Sky will be whole again, all of himself. He dozes.
"Hayato!" His Sky calls him, his name - his name, his own name - falling from those soft lips in that voice like bells, and he follows, as he knows he will for the rest of his days.
The idiot Rain has left, and his Sky, his Tsuna, is getting ready for bed, Hayato already curled up waiting for him. He'd showered with his Sky, Tsuna shampooing him and trimming his nails and oiling his fur to make it shine and bounce and fluff up in that way that makes what he is unmistakeable, and been dried off, and brushed. Tsuna didn't take half as much care with his own appearance, and being that valued makes him melt. Tomorrow will be a new day, with a new school, and new challenges.
His Tsuna curls around him, warm and sleepy, and together they drift off.
The first week in school has been terrifying. Hayato bit four people, one a teacher, but it was why that's terrifying: each of those people have left livid black-purple bruises on him, ones that had been dark red just minutes after they had been placed, and one student had pushed him down a stairwell. The bullying had never been this bad; not only is he called Dame-Tsuna, useless, but when he proved he was getting better they'd accused him of cheating, even during gym classes. (How one could cheat at 50 and 100 meter runs never quite made sense.)
At least the physical bullying has stopped. The biting incidents had even gotten two students suspended, one expelled, and a teacher fired. Nezu isn't much missed, but Mochida was very popular and he's already gotten threats due to his expulsion.
Takeshi-kun is settling in as Kendo captain, though, after having beaten all challengers within moments, and is teaching not just how to use a sword but the codes of proper behavior as well. He himself has joined ikebana club and the girls are rather welcoming and had been since his first three arrangements, a sort of challenge where he had to create a seasonally-appropriate traditional arrangement, a semi-traditional arrangement, and a modern non-traditional arrangement, all with specific meanings that the girls had to guess. The third had tripped them up, as he had used flowers that meant things in both hanakotoba and Italian flower language that had very different meanings; here it was an expression of minor annoyance in their views of his competence but in Italy it was a message of peace and safety.
Hayato has been very attentive lately, chiffing at him a lot and staying if not in physical contact then within a meter of him at all times. He's felt amazing, and warm, and focussed, in a way he hasn't since he was very little. His Flames have been coming easier to him, have been more reflexive, and he had felt a thread of them reach towards Takeshi-kun and take root a few days ago, the beginnings of a solid Element bond.
And one more to his Hayato, one that came with a disturbing set of dreams of a very, very pretty boy his own age that he knew with the certainty of the Sky in his blood was his Hayato, with mid-back-length silver hair, clear jade-green eyes, and a tail and a set of fox-ears, the left ear with one tip flopping down. Oh, and gorgeous, pliant lips and a very, very skilled set of long-fingered hands that knew exactly how to touch him and -
He wakes up with a problem, and is thankful that he woke up with the time to take care of it in the shower, Hayato following him, making him blush, and curling just out of reach of the shower spray to watch him, appreciation and love coiling down the bond he still didn’t like to acknowledge he had with his fox.
What is even worse, even more unsettling than his first week at school, is staring down at the Sun Arcobaleno on his doorstep, his mother having called the cursed man to tutor him because of a very unconvincing flyer shoved into their mailbox.
So now he's walking to school, Takeshi-nii already there, Hayato (call me Haya, tesoro) curling contentedly on his shoulders, when he comes across Sasagawa-chan, head of Ikebana club, who greets him and compliments him on the doubled meanings he’s hidden in so many of his arrangements.
“A-aa. Y-you think so?” He’s stammering and blushing at the compliment; he still thinks she’s much more skilled.
“Yes! Your use of Italian flower language as well as hanakotoba to make such varying messages is amazingly creative, and not only that but your arrangements are gorgeous, thematically-appropriate, and so creative! You could easily make a living right now on them!" She’s sparkling at him now, the smile and adorable head-tilt she’s famous for, and Hayato takes that moment to lick his ear and gently nip at it, making him blush harder and a curl of arousal thread through his Flames.
She rushes off after her brother, waving a ‘see you at club today!’ behind her, and Reborn, having hidden throughout the encounter, reappears and smirks at him from under a tilted fedora.
“You have a crush.” His stammer and wild denial is ignored. “Of course you do. Why else would a male join a club as girly as flower arranging?”
“Because I like it! And it’s a perfectly gender-neutral occupation in Japan! There are five other boys of varying ages in Ikebana club and two have girlfriends outside of club; one other has a marriage arranged. All of them enjoy it for itself.”
The baby-shaped man in front of him scoffs. “That will have to stop; no Don would be caught dead playing with flowers.” He laughs, remembering the stories Tsuyoshi-tou-san tells him and Takeshi about the various hobbies the Dons of the Vongola Alliance and the other tangential Famiglie have actually engaged in in front of him while hiring the Shigure. Don Vongola actively gardens and arranges flowers in vases in front of various freelance hitmen!
“You think that’s a joke?” The man’s eyes flash.
“I think it's hilarious and a deliberate lie to boot. Don Vongola actively gardens and arranges flowers in front of various hitmen and other Dons. The late Don Cavallone groomed his horses in the same situation and took meetings on horseback checking his herds. Don Scolari embroiders everywhere and wears clothes he has embellished, often ones he’s worked on in front of people. Donna Volpe makes her own clothes and everyone knows it as she does so in front of people. Shigure-sama is very forthcoming about his time in Italy.”
“Well you won’t. It’s long past time for the arts-and-crafts generation to go. And I saw how you blushed and felt that edge to your flames; you will admit to it with your dying will.”
Hayato makes a sound like a Western demon right in his ear, then there’s a crack and pain, and he knows no more.
His Tsuna collapses, a hole in his forehead leaking a thin red trail, shot dead in front of him, and he snarls. He’s about to lunge at the tiny thing that is not a baby when he feels a white-hot flare of Sky and he’s scooped up.
“Re-BORN! Refuse the Vongola and claim my Storm with all the strength of my Sky!” If foxes could blush, he would, and he feels the Mist-binding shift, weakening. His eyes feel strange for a split-second; had they turned back?
He feels the shock rippling through the Sun of the not-baby-thing as Tsuna runs towards the Asari dojo and its well-Warded grounds, where the condensed thing could not follow. He’s set down gently, and Tsuna sneezes violently, expelling a bloody bullet from his nose. He’s dressed in just the under-shirt and leggings he wears to keep warm under his school uniform, and he’s staring down warmly at him. “Those are very pretty eyes, Haya. The dreams were real, weren’t they, sweetheart? You’re mine, aren’t you? My Storm, my very, very pretty Storm, who loves me and calls me pet-names and does all sorts of unspeakable things to me. Things that feel very good and that I would love to feel while I’m awake, Haya-sweetheart."
He feels the Mist-binding shatter, and the last of the Seal on Tsuna’s Flames goes, too, and he hadn’t expected to be nude when he changed back, but he really should have; he’d been seven when he’d been Cursed and any clothes he’d had on would have long since been outgrown, and worn to rags before that as well. And oh, nude but for the collar, apparently, which is much longer and thinner, the bell settling just below his collarbone like a necklace.
“Oh! Umm … hi.” His Tsuna is blushing, and a glance shows him to be painfully aroused, and he drags his little Sky close.
“Hello, Tsuna-tesoro. I am called Gokudera Hayato." He has to cough, then; his voice sounds so strange, and feels even stranger coming out of his throat. “Should have expected the voice-change. Hmm. Well, yes, anyways. Where were we, Tesoro? Ah, yes, when you woke up I was just about to do this.
His Tsuna’s lips taste sweet, and his mouth sweeter, and he knows where to find the futon later, but right now he wants to unravel the gorgeous little Sky. “H-haya! Yesssss … yours.”
“Can I claim all of you, my Tsuna?”
“Yes. All of me. As far as you want to go, sweetheart.” His Sky and love pets what feel like his fox ears, down his hair, down his back, and over his ass, wrapping his fingers around the apparently still-extant tail to stroke down its length; he goes back to claiming his pretty love’s mouth, and thinks about all the things they can do before Tsuyoshi or Takeshi find them. Mm. Yes, it’s going to be a very pleasurable day.