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Tsuna dies on a Thursday.

Tsuna dies and wakes up in a small bed with well-loved blankets and well-worn bed posts, so very removed from the luxuries of money. Tsuna wakes up, sits up, to look out past a window that he knows is not bulletproof (which, if Hayato knew about, he'd throw an absolute fit) onto a sight that he hadn't seen in, hell, maybe ten years: Namimori.

It's Namimori as it'd used to be, small and sleepy, with its roads unburdened by traffic and with a population being just enough for people to greet each other on the streets. The busy metropolis of the future (of Tsuna's present), returned to its roots as a no-name place, quiet and nostalgic and absolutely perfect.

It's a nice landscape to see. Probably the best one to see, the only one that could possibly hope to relax the tension of his shoulders. It's one that Tsuna hasn't known to have missed before now.

Because isn't that what people say? There's a flash of light, and then the dying sees parts of their history, their memory? Or something. He should've probably paid more attention when Hayato had told him this, but it hadn't seemed important at the time. After all, he hadn't been dead then. At the time, death had simply been a part of living.

Tsuna looks down at his lap to his hands, bandaged. They itch with the characteristic irritation of crusted blood on skin. Tsuna flexes them and smiles around the ache of it all. The proof that he could yet bleed, could hurt.

Once upon a time, he'd only been Decimo in name.

"Reborn?" Tsuna says into the dark, because Reborn will be here. There would be no one else more appropriate for him to see, to kick his butt into gear for one last hurdle.

"Why aren't you asleep, Loser Tsuna?" comes the eventual response, just like Tsuna had known it would.

Reborn isn't someone that will ever be entirely predictable, but it's been years -- Tsuna knows, now, as well as he knows the limits of his own skin, of the handful of areas in which Reborn will allow himself the comforts of routine. Like needing his coffee in the morning, in how he cleaned Leon (the gun) in a certain way. Like how he'd allow Tsuna to borrow Leon (the chameleon) even when he'd allow no one else. Like how he'd always, always, answer Tsuna's call without fail, especially when Tsuna sounds as he does now: scratchy and subdued.

Throwing his legs over the side of the bed is easy with that kind of confidence, as is the way in which he pats at the space to his right. He waits with the kind of certainty that lends itself onto serenity, never raising his head to check. Faith is easy when one was tasked with believing something as sure as this.

He waits with his hands folded in his lap until Reborn hops down onto his bed with palpable irritation, small again. Toddler-sized for how the curse was beginning to subside, a fitting symbol for the middle chapter that spanned between Tsuna's end and Decimo's beginning. It's not a bad thing to see, especially considering how Reborn had been towering over Tsuna for years (the asshole), ever since his growth spurt, but here and now, at the end of it all, they should be as they'd started. It's only fitting.

Tsuna looks at Reborn, dressed in his usual, ridiculous sleeping outfit. At a young, pudgy face and a pair of eyes that are too dark and too haunted to be nothing but old. How he could've ever doubted Reborn's true age, Tsuna has no idea, but, eh, whatever. Reborn had taught him, and Tsuna had learned.

Just like how Reborn had shown him, day after day, with hint after hint, how he could tolerate being touched. Which makes it easy for Tsuna to reach for him now, keeping his hand within Reborn's line of sight and keeping it slow enough as not to spook him. Slow enough to give Reborn a chance to turn away if he so wished by hitting him, probably. To push him away.

Reborn does neither, and Tsuna twirls his finger into one of Reborn's sideburns in victory. Takes his spoils by laughing softly at Reborn's narrow-eyed expression, a sound that echoes as something fond and vulnerable, even to his own ears. It's sloppy, but -- it's fine, surely. It's just Reborn, and Tsuna is already dead.

"What are you doing," Reborn says, his voice flat, his violence leashed only by his curiosity and the oddity of this moment.

"There's a question," Tsuna says. The hair is soft and malleable under his touch; all natural, just as Reborn had always claimed. Just another thing that Reborn will be right about. Tsuna pulls away. "Dying, probably."

Reborn stares at him in the same way that someone might blink, hard and assessing and so, so confused. Tsuna grins.

"Let's talk, Reborn," Tsuna says, because this will be the last time that they can. The last time, for everything. (Finally.) "Let's talk."

*

He talks about Kyoko first, because she'd been the first person for whom his flame had burned, for whom it'd first burst free. She'd been the epicenter of the quake that had begun to rumble underneath his feet, sweeping him off his feet and shaking his life apart. For that (and a myriad of other reasons), she deserves the honour to be the first person that he complains about at the end of his days.

"She's still just so pretty," Tsuna sighs.

Pretty, but more than that, she was horribly, absurdly competent. She'd integrated herself neatly into the dirty underbelly of the mafia world with a kind of ease that Tsuna had (never) envied. To this day, he has no idea why she hadn't usurped Tsuna's tenuous title as Boss, gently staging a coup to crown herself as the Vongola Eleventh. She'd have been so much better at it, diplomatic and terrifying as she could be, armed with a smile that could level mountains, surrounded by people who loved her.

But mafia wrangling was probably easier than the trials of motherhood, huh? At which she'd been excelling the last time he'd checked, so it's, like, no wonder. She had created life from within her own body and had raised them to adulthood while Tsuna could barely keep a fish alive. It'd taken all that he was, sometimes, just to keep his Family whole.

She'd laughed when he'd told her this, once upon a night, had laughed into the shoulder that she'd been leaning against. It'd been on a night when they'd shared one too many glasses of wine together. The details are fuzzy, he's not really sure who'd died (which is a lie, Tsuna knows exactly who'd died, but he's Boss now; omitting key details is just something he does), but it'd definitely been a night when he'd needed someone to stay by his side to remind him why he's doing this, still doing this, someone that could ground him. And Kyoko had done just that, slipping her hand into his before leaning her cheek into his shoulder and piling him with good wine.

Because ice cream, Tsu-kun, is overrated.

Well, he'd told her, grimacing through the wine. At least it's not whiskey.

"You're the boss because you still need me to do this for you," Kyoko had said after spilling him into bed. She'd seemed so ethereal that night, tucking aside a stray strand of hair behind her ear before bending down to brush her lips over Tsuna's eyelid. "And I will always do this for you, for as long as you never stop being you."

"I love you," Tsuna remembers slurring out in response, and Tsuna's face burns even now, just from remembering how gone he must have been to blurt out something so embarrassing, true or not.

Reborn smirks.

"Shut up," Tsuna says.

*

Hayato is next. Loyal to the point of personal detriment, Hayato had been his Right Hand in every sense of the word. Sometimes shielding Tsuna from the uglier side of their shared reality, sometimes pushing him along. And, eventually, after decades together, finally learning how to say no. To pull him back when Tsuna could find no reason to waver, his Dying Will burning bright on his forehead and in the circle of his fists.

Tsuna talks about how Hayato had learned and earned the other Families' respect, having grown into such a force of nature that it wasn't uncommon for the unaware to mistake him as Decimo. (Which was hilarious, because Hayato would always get so mad, offended by the very idea. Irony at its finest.) How he'd become someone great when the world had told him that he'd amount to nothing at all.

"Used to bother me, you know?" Hayato had muttered, confessed. In such an odd and awkward place too: they'd been discussing business up until ten minutes ago on the Vongola's main grounds, before being distracted by an ice cream truck of all things. Then they'd gotten sidetracked (how, Tsuna still had no idea), and then suddenly, Hayato was saying stuff like:

"But it's made me stronger for it. Strong enough for me to stay by your side, so I guess I can't mind it that much."

And -- god, he's embarrassing. He's always been embarrassing, but he's especially embarrassing now, making Tsuna's face do something odd and acrobatic in the face of his earnesty. Even the truck owner had looked uncomfortable, and Tsuna had done nothing as wise as guiding them back around to making their way to the... park, or something. Tsuna could spend the rest of his years with Hayato (by his side, as it's been said) and he'll still find this embarrassing, even at the end. There's no getting used to something like that.

"You really need to stop living for me," Tsuna had said, just barely reigning in the desire to sigh. Or, you know, look sad over how one of his best friends was literally pledging the rest of his life to Tsuna and the madness that followed the Decimo's name. "You shouldn't. Not just for me."

Hayato had snorted, which is something else that he'd had to learn to do in Tsuna's presence. To learn that it's okay to be onto Tsuna as he was onto others: prickly as heck. Soft-hearted, too, but that was a trait that was only expressed in addition to his usual acidity, one that tasted vaguely of a burning cigarette, scaled down by, like, a million. So not very prickly at all, in hindsight.

"Twenty years too late for that, Tenth," Hayato says.

"It's not too late," Tsuna remembers saying, which is when he should've known for everything to start going horribly wrong and terribly right. "Find something other than me to live for. Marry and have kids or something."

"Who'd I even marry, Haru?" Hayato had scowled. The scowl had faded as soon as it'd come, smoothing out into something thoughtful. Something more kicked and rueful, almost sad. Damn it. "Fuck, you know she's too good for me. No one should marry me." He blows out a breath. "Kids, though. I mean, maybe. But what about you, Tenth? Everyone's starting to get antsy about your heir. Even if you're going to live for another fifty years."

Tsuna was definitely not going to live another fifty years, holy hell.

"I'm not having kids," Tsuna says instead, because he'd decided, years ago, that the Vongola blood and curse was to die with him.

"But you want kids?" Hayato asks, shrewd and scarily in-tuned as always. It's almost as though he's constantly tapping into the frequencies of Tsuna's moods and well-being. It's creepy and endearing and flattering all at once.

"Stop doing that," Tsuna says in answer.

"Huh," Hayato says. "Okay."

Okay eventually finds its translation in the flurry of research and activity that Hayato throws himself into, headlong and obsessive. He doesn't tell Tsuna, doesn't tell anyone, until he's found and deciphered everything that'd had to do with adoption. In how to make it work for a single man with seven Guardians and a Family that was growing in both power and wealth, adding to the legend of the Vongola Famiglia, of its tenth generation. He does this in the span of five years, somehow managing to juggle that responsibility alongside everything else, which included (but wasn't limited to): paperwork, budget debates with Haru, the assassination attempts, the attempted coup, the police inquiries, and the supremely difficult task of keeping Tsuna alive and sane.

Somehow, Hayato brings a single piece of paper for Tsuna to sign at the end of it all while asking him, "Hey Tenth. How do you feel about marriage?"

*

Takeshi. Now, Takeshi--

"Wait," Reborn says, interrupts, "Go back to the marriage thing."

"I don't want to talk about the marriage thing," Tsuna says.

"Too bad. Talk."

"I'm not going to talk. About that." Tsuna says, grimacing his way through every word. "Hayato was just asking me how I felt about it."

"There's more to it than that," Reborn says, surer than Tsuna's ever been about his place as Decimo. That's the sort of confidence that'd always been a little annoying. "Why was he asking?"

"He wanted me to marry someone, okay," Tsuna says, looking down at his lap. At his hands and the fists that his hands create, the tiny bursts of flame that he can feel under his fingers. "Apparently it's easier for a married man to adopt kids."

"And? Did you pick someone?"

"Well," Tsuna says, and says nothing else. He doesn't retell a story that Reborn must already know, seeing how he'd been there for the whole thing. He doesn't talk about how intensely Tsuna had deliberated over the choice, weighing the pros and cons of marrying someone. (How it'd kept him up at night over how his chosen person would become a target for all those that'd stand in Vongola's way, because such was the way of the mafia.) He doesn't talk about how he'd allowed the farce by offering up nothing more than his signature, stoutly declining any offers of ceremony. Gatherings were where people died. He doesn't talk about how Hayato's face had looked at Tsuna's wariness, the pain and regret etched into it.

He only talks about how Hayato had ultimately bitten the bullet to sign the document with him with only Takeshi as their witness. It'd been fitting anyway, that Hayato and Takeshi would be his accomplices in this little farce of theirs, because marriage was supposed to be about love, right? About the pledge and promise of forever? Hayato had never lied about his devotion to Tsuna, had never even tried to hide it. He'd never faltered in his affections, which is all that Tsuna had ever come to want, that sure and steady something that he could hang onto. Something that wouldn't break. And Hayato had been that something for such a long time even before the marriage and the kids, that signing those papers had felt nothing more than routine. It wasn't as though they hadn't already been sharing everything anyway.

Besides, the kids aside, it hadn't been much of a marriage in the end, no more than a humorous piece of trivia to be shared. An inside-joke, of a sort.

It'd also been something that'd bothered Takeshi (of all people) more than he'd let on. And Tsuna, to this day, cannot figure out whether the envy that had gripped Takeshi into a near-chokehold had run against him or Hayato, from whom Takeshi had desired affection.

"Idiot," Reborn says, as if the answer was so simple as calling Tsuna out on his chronic bouts of idiocy.

And maybe it was. It wasn't as though Tsuna had been entirely unaware of the different levels of (co)dependence that he'd cultivated between his Guardians and himself. Of how, out of them all, Takeshi had been the one to stand by him almost as long as Hayato, unfailingly loyal. A rock when he should've been rain, he'd been the immovable force upon which Tsuna could rest his head, cradling the weight of his responsibilities against Takeshi's shoulder for as long as Tsuna needed the rest.

Takeshi had always taken that all in stride, wrapping an arm around him when Tsuna needed the reprieve, chattering in Tsuna's ears with babble that had ranged from the weather to baseball to asking him things like,

"You want them gone, Tsuna?"

What a question. An oddly dressed one, seeing how Takeshi was offering up a hit as easily as a guy might offer chocolates or sushi, casual and friendly. The Vongola's dog, the underworld had used to call him, a menace that would smile while gutting a man at Tsuna's word. A wild thing that'd chosen to be tamed by Decimo's hand, lying obediently at his feet until he was ready to take flight and hunt. Fearing Takeshi's very name while cursing Tsuna's, calling Tsuna the monster's keeper when there was no one more than Tsuna who'd sometimes be chilled by how readily Takeshi had taken to this game of politics and murder.

The only difference between Tsuna and everyone else is how Tsuna was messed up enough, in his own way, to think: it's okay. That this was just how Takeshi was, a part of who he was. After all, the tasks that Takeshi used to take on, often without Tsuna's conscious input, was simply doing what had to be done so that Tsuna didn't have to. It'd felt a bit too much like hypocrisy to judge Takeshi for it.

Tsuna remembers laughing in one such insistence, choked and startled against where he'd rested his forehead against Takeshi's shoulder, fingers curling desperately into the fabric of Takeshi's dress shirt. As if he could stop Takeshi from becoming the assassin that Reborn had warned him to be, as if Tsuna alone held the privilege of keeping him human when it was in his name that Takeshi split blood. Jesus Christ.

"No," Tsuna had said. "Let them live." Let them live to regret it.

"Sometimes it's nice to be told not to do something," Reborn says at the end of the tale, ever dismissive despite the burn of understanding in his gaze, how he turns his eyes away for a moment as if to fix his imaginary fedora. "It keeps things interesting."

*

In-laws that he'd never asked for: that's how he'd describe Ryouhei and Hana under the threat of death. (Or more paperwork, since, you know, dying kind of happened all the time.) Of how they'd been Ryouhei and Hana instead of being Ryouhei and Hana, Ryouhei or Hana, in the end, a symbiotic creature made of all the things that Tsuna found overwhelming: overbearing, ruthlessly efficient, and incredibly devoted to all that Tsuna could ever want accomplished.

There'd always been an absolution to the type of loyalty that Ryouhei had worn like a badge, an unwavering pillar of support that would choose to stand by his shoulder with more certainty than even Hayato, at times. Ryouhei had been his biggest supporter as well as having taken on the arduous task of becoming his moral compass, someone who could wipe out an entire armada and refuse to kill one man in the same breath. There'd been no politics to Ryouhei's behaviour, only instinct, responding entirely to the minute details that he seems to pick up from Tsuna's general demeanor.

Because when Tsuna faltered, Ryouhei refused. If Tsuna looked at him in the eye and told him to kill, Ryouhei said, okay, Sawada.

God, and he'd been so loud, before. Loud and embarrassing and endearing all at once. By the end of it, he'd only been -- endearing. Reliable. Still loud at times, sure, but only in the company of Hana, his sister, their family. He never got around to calling Tsuna by anything other than Sawada, but twenty years in, he thinks that it's purposeful. Tsuna finds it a comfort, really, that Ryouhei had never found it necessary to call him boss.

Hana, on the other hand, had used boss as a form of punishment, ruthless in how she'd step in to smack the nervous jitters back into Tsuna whenever his flame burned too brightly, fierce and unrelenting like the storm she was not. She'd been the family's sword as well as its shield, a lawyer worth every penny that she squeezed out of Tsuna, keeping their goals in her ledger even when the rest of them swayed.

Ryouhei and Hana. An inseparable pair of unwavering morals and lofty goals. The two that bore the brunt of Tsuna's well-meaning idealism, a duo that even Hayato would accuse to being codependent, as though he had any room to talk when he was the primary net upon with Tsuna's psyche fell upon when things were actively falling apart. As though Hayato hadn't already pledged to live and die by Tsuna's will. Inseparable except for the moments that Tsuna hadn't wavered even when he should have.

What Hayato didn't know was how they were the two that Tsuna approached when he knew that he needed to doubt. To be given a chance to be just Sawada rather than the infallible Decimo. He turned to them when he couldn't be too certain whether he was doing the right thing, the rare moments when his will would waver with the kind of sentimentality that he hadn't yet let Reborn beat out of him.

"You're not making any sense," Reborn says.

"It's not meant to make sense," Tsuna says wryly, because that was kind of the point. People who'd been born into this role like Reborn shouldn't get it.

Because just as Takeshi might sometimes need Tsuna to tell him no, let them live, Tsuna sometimes needed to hear that his choices were correct. That he was doing it for his family, that there was no other way. He needs to know that Ryouhei will stand behind him and Hana will shield him when he brings down the old mafia, a massacre that would have the world calling him Decimo with more fear than respect.

"It had to be done," Tsuna says, and Reborn doesn't say anything at all.

*

Lambo stopped being a child at fifteen and I-Pin at ten, but given how they'd been the youngest of their group since its inception, they were all guilty of babying them a little. Tsuna was especially weak against the combined strength of their begging, the pouty puppy eyes that they'd level against him when he wasn't moving to their desired tune and rhythm.

And so it was only natural, maybe, that they'd grow up to becoming particularly good at dragging Tsuna away from the rigors of paperwork and murder when the days grew longer and harder, gifted in how they'd grab him by the hands and make him feel like big brother again. Turning him back into someone that could belong to any family rather than just the Vongola, making him feel like a person rather than the centerpiece of an empire built on bloodshed and deceit. They'd (re)introduce him to the little wonders in life like video games and cookies, would give him reasons to visit theme parks. They gave him reason to cry over the velocity of said roller coasters even when they all knew Tsuna could fly faster than anything man-made, could bring forth more death and destruction with a single push of his palm.

It'd been a dirty job, keeping Tsuna sane. They were often the two that their Family had grown to depend on to bring Tsuna back when even Hayato (and Takeshi, Ryouhei, Hana) would fail, to lull his flame into silence. They'd seen Tsuna at his best and at his worst, when he was at his scariest and most ruthless. They embraced him as both their big brother and as their leader, never flinching away from the calm-eyed killer that Tsuna could become under the influence of his flames.

There's any number of scenarios that Tsuna could remember them by, all of them valid and important, but he narrows it down to the morning when Tsuna had (tried to) lock himself in their training bunker, standing still as the eye of a storm. He remembers how potently he'd felt his anger even through his Will, his fingers clenched into fists as he burns, burns, burns, doing his best to burn himself down to the bone before his flames could burn anything else.

A difficult thing to do, when it'd only taken the memory of having been forcibly ejected from the medical wing by Shamal that day, leaving Hayato and Takeshi in his care, both unconscious, to set him off again. (Still unconscious after a disastrous meeting with one of the last famiglia that'd managed to escape Tsuna's purge. Had been the last, rather, seeing how they no longer existed beyond the crater of ash and bone that Tsuna had left them in.) He doesn't know why he feels so numb when he knows he should feel worried, coldly furious when he should be feeling guilty over a perceived slight against a member of his Family.

"Hey. Tsuna-nii." Lambo's voice had taken on the rasp that they'd always known it would, courtesy of his future by his ridiculous bazooka, but no one could've made Tsuna believe that he could also sound so calming, coaxing Tsuna to look at him with nothing more than his voice. "C'mon, Tsuna-nii. Let's take five, 'kay?"

Lambo says, "You owe me another churro, remember?" while also saying don't do this without so many words, staring back into the chilling abyss that even Tsuna avoided, (seemingly, supposedly, absolutely) unafraid of the way in which he was standing only an arm's length away from where Tsuna's flame burned along the lines of his body.

"I-Pin's already waiting for us," Lambo adds, and then smiles, all crooked and young, "She'll be sad if I don't bring you with me."

He'd been dragged outside on those words, had been held steady when he'd flinched beneath the natural glow of the day. They'd been there, grounding him and keeping him solid when he thinks to slip back into the familiar numbness of his Will. Holding him to the very human concept of pain and grief, chatting about their day until Tsuna had been able to smile again.

"The cow actually grows up to be useful. Shocking," Reborn drawls. He doesn't look nearly as shocked as he claims to be, and Tsuna allows the bravado without comment.

*

Sometime into his first decade as Decimo, Mukuro had caught onto the fact that no crafted nightmare could overtake the terrors that Tsuna's twisted psyche could weave. There was too much fanaticism in Mukuro's creations while Tsuna's dreams stuck stubbornly to reality, borrowing a day's events and spinning them out of control, exploring the million different ways that Tsuna could've failed. Somewhere along the line, Mukuro caught onto the fact that Tsuna was beginning to look forward to his little nighttime visits, that he found reprieve in them, whereupon he promptly decides to leave the act of crafting little terrors to Tsuna's subconscious to take on another form of torment: the mundane.

They find themselves sitting at the Vongola dinner table more nights than not, the place where the chaotic and the heartbreaking often took place. It's quiet in Mukuro's illusions, made eerie by the lack of people, made peaceful by it. Because here, in this crafted little reality for two, there's no death, no politics, no responsibilities. Just them, the two that'd started it all by awakening the Vongola that'd have been content to sleep in Tsuna's veins.

"It's almost as though you dislike being part of the mafia, Tsunayoshi," Mukuro had said.

"I've literally said that from the start," Tsuna had said into his arms. His shoulders are slumped, his spine curved into an angle as he lays his head down into the cushion of an elbow. He doesn't have to pretend to be anything around Mukuro, he'd found, because -- well, Mukuro knows them all, Tsuna's shadows. He knew of what lurked beneath the oath that Tsuna had taken prior to taking the mantle of the Vongola Decimo, the brilliant struggle between violence and serenity that existed in his inherited blood. There's no hiding what cannot be hidden, no point in trying to be more or less than what he is.

Mukuro had seen, and Mukuro was still here. It's different from how Ryouhei obeys his will, how Hayato accepts Tsuna's whims. It differs immensely from how Takashi matches violence with violence, how Lambo pulls Tsuna out of the worst of it. Mukuro had seen, had all the right in the world to disapprove, but had still remained, entrusting Chrome in Tsuna's care.

Or, well. Entrusting Tsuna in Chrome's hands, which was. Just as bad? Or was that good? Tsuna can't keep track. Not that he'd consider Chrome as anything but good, even if her morals had always been the most twisted of his Guardians, the most aligned with those of Tsuna's. She never questioned him, though maybe that faith had been more so with how she trusted Mukuro to shut Tsuna down if he did something that erred on the side of too much so that she could do what needed to be done in Tsuna's stead.

Like how Mukuro was doing now, actually. Huh.

There's a scream beyond the windows of Mukuro's crafted reality, and Tsuna raises his head. That isn't a noise that he'll ever hear in one of Mukuro's illusions; it's too real, too blood-chilling, the echoes of the real one reverberating through his body, scratching at a memory that Tsuna doesn't actually want to recall, and yet.

What had he been doing again? Hadn't there been--?

Then there's a hand on his arm, startling him out of the memory that fights to become a dream, a memoir of how easily bodies tended to drop around Tsuna's feet.

"This is a dream, Tsunayoshi," Mukuro murmurs. His eyes are bright and dangerous, his lips thinned with a smile that he doesn't mean. His fingers don't tighten over Tsuna's arm, but nor does it leave, his thumb rubbing comforting circles into the bare skin of Tsuna's forearm. Right, he'd gotten into the habit of rolling up his sleeves when he'd invite his flame to take shape on his forehead, a habit and routine that'd developed over the course of a few months. Something about laundry costs --

"This is my dream," Mukuro is saying again, voice mild as the mist upon a foretold tragedy. "My reality. Do try to be polite and stop trying to escape it?"

And Tsuna remembers cracking a smile, laughter bubbling forth from deep within his chest at the irony of it. He remembers giving into that laughter, his body shaking with little hiccups rather than the tears that he'd chosen not to shed in front of an audience of one, accepting the strange comfort that came with having Mukuro in his head. In receiving the allowance to continue as he is and will continue to be.

"You've done enough," Mukuro says, lulling Tsuna into closing his eyes. There are fingers in his hair now, gentle and tangled into what couldn't be tamed. "Allow me. Sleep, and entrust reality to me for the moment."

Maybe it'd been Mukuro's form of apology, these meetings. Maybe it'd been his way of taking responsibility. After all, if Mukuro hadn't been tempted by the Vongola blood, the best and worst of the mafia may have never come into its current shape. If he hadn't made the game real, Tsuna might've never found the calm of his hyper intuition. Or maybe it'd been none of the above and this had been as of a whim as everything else he entertained these days, a way to kill time. Tsuna hadn't ever been particularly invested in figuring out which it'd been.

"For the moment?" Reborn echoes in the present.

Tsuna looks at him for a long minute. Shrugs when Reborn seemed serious and intent, the skin around his eyes tight with worry. Strange how Tsuna had never thought to notice it before, willingly looking away from the emotion that Reborn had been giving away in obvious and telling ways. So many missed opportunities.

"Well," Tsuna says eventually, "It's not like he'd have made anything worse."

*

Hibari Kyouya is -- complicated.

"Oh?" Reborn says, his smile showing teeth, "Did he finally confess?"

"Kyouya-san is never going to confess," Tsuna says. He shrugs and looks out to the sight of sleepy Namimori, wondering how a man could love a city as much as he did another person. How that other person could feel as though that was natural, no different from how the sun rose from the east and the clouds floated upon the sky. But if anyone could find someone to accept that as the natural order of things, he supposed it'd be Hibari Kyouya.

And it would be Hibari Kyouya that would be the one to approach him when Tsuna was at his most ruthless. It would be Kyouya that would reward him with his company at the end of every execution and carnage, grounding him in a way that was so fundamentally different from the rest of his Guardians.

And it would be Kyouya that would find him when Tsuna was standing amongst corpses, fascinated by how brightly he could burn. He'd been the only one that'd willingly reach out and touch what could hurt him, delighting in courting the danger that lurked beneath Tsuna's skin. He'd be the only one that'd dare to reach out and brush his fingers up against the livewire that was Tsuna's flames, batting away the wisps to reach into the core and grasp it with a grip that would never yield to anything but Tsuna's best.

"Do you plan on burning out, Tsunayoshi?" he'd asked on one occasion. He'd had one of Tsuna's wrists in his hands, his fingers tight enough to be bruising. It would've been painful if Tsuna could feel anything at all, if he could hear anything but the screams of the dead, their ashes buried into the dirt beneath his shoes.

"That's happening already, Kyouya-san," Tsuna had told him.

That's what he remembers telling him, his eyes downcast, distracted by how he'd see the faces of his once-enemies with every blink. How he'd remember, over and over, of their sins, of how they'd killed countless Vongola allies, how they'd put Hayato and Takeshi in Shamal's care. Remembering how this had been the result of his own choices, the actions that he'd taken to bring them to this result and consequence. How he hadn't been filled with regret over that realization, too full of regret over having stayed his hand one too many times instead. Too busy regretting how slow he'd been to carry out his will, this execution of dozens.

"No," Kyouya had said, low and dangerous, "Not yet. You do not get to be extinguished after what you've done."

What you've done. A damning phrase, a curse and accusation that would've followed Tsuna to his grave if it'd come from anyone but Hibari Kyouya. From Kyouya though, it had sounded like benediction, forgiveness. Telling him, without so many words, that Tsuna had only done as Tsuna willed, protecting what deserved to be protected while laying to waste what did not. Reminding him of his duty while honouring his own oath to Tsuna as fervently as Hayato did, but only in the ways that he found palatable.

He'd accepted him as he was and would continue to be, because this was just the natural order of things. Predators hunted, prey died. Tsuna burned, and the world burned with him.

The hand moves from his wrist to the back of his neck, and what Tsuna remembers next is blinking, slow and measured against the curve of Kyouya's shoulder. It'd gotten broader over the years despite his build, still as lithe as a panther. He'd felt sturdy beneath Tsuna's head, strong and stable, unflinching despite the fire that still burned atop his forehead. Unflinching each and every time that he'd have to pull Tsuna in.

Because, for some reason? Even after having spent decades watching for the reasons to steer clear, Kyouya's compass had only ever seemed to shift until the arrow had turned in Tsuna's direction. Until Tsuna had become Namimori's equal in Kyouya's hierarchy of things, which was almost as shocking as becoming gradually aware of the weight of that devotion. Of how intensely addicting it was to command Hibari Kyouya's attention, as well as the costs associated with it.

It'd been -- flattering. In a terrifying sort of way.

And it's not like the fighting had ever stopped between them, not when the only one that could challenge Kyouya was Tsuna. Not when Tsuna was the only one that Kyouya could fight to spend his pent up frustrations, defusing what could otherwise undo the very fabric of world peace (or something). But sometimes, instead of aiming a tonfa at Tsuna's face, Kyouya would do this instead, standing in a graveyard full of ashes, the leftover bodies of Tsuna's enemies and hold him together until he stopped burning enough for others to approach.

"That's as good as a confession," Reborn points out.

Tsuna thinks about how they'd stood together in the middle of dirt and ashes as the only living things for miles for minutes on end. How Kyouya had accepted his weakness, allowing him the exception in return for the casual genocide that Tsuna had carried out between one breath and the next. About how fiercely Kyouya would've guarded his space and his rules against anyone else as he allowed Tsuna the time to come down from the rush of his hyper mode, accepting all the sins that he shouldered.

"I guess," Tsuna allows.

*

"And?" Reborn asks. "Any complaints about me?"

"You already know everything I want to say about you," Tsuna says, rolling his eyes.

Reborn blinks, slow and lazy. Predatory. Assessing. "Humour me."

"Well," Tsuna says, and his smile is a small thing, genuine and gradual. His finger finds that sideburn curl again, letting it tangle against his skin to allow him just enough of a grip to tug. Giving back for all those times that Reborn had tugged on his hair, and his chest feels warm with the understanding that this is Reborn letting him. "You never confessed either."

Reborn snorts, but there's no delivered retribution for Tsuna's quip, so. Hah.

"Would you do it again?" Reborn asks instead. "Being Decimo?"

Tsuna considers the question. Considers the people that the governance of blood money had brought into his life, the laughter and the love alongside the corpses that now paved his path to the afterlife. Draws his hands back to his lap and shrugs.

"Who knows?" Tsuna says.