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A Murder of Crows

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Reborn touches down in Namimori just as Sawada Tsunayoshi leaves it. When they look into it later, it will turn out the ticket has been bought for three months now, weeks before the last of the Ninth’s son’s have died. There’s no indication that there was any sort of information leak.

There doesn’t appear to be any reason for the 14-year-old boy to buy a ticket out of the country. It’s rather well planned too, with a recently obtained passport and the savings of a summer job.

It might make sense for Sawada to run away from home, considering his rather dismal school life and absentminded mother, but it seems rather well executed and planned for a run away attempt.

Sawada is, after all, a pampered civilian boy.

When he arrives to a single occupant house, still and quiet in the morning light, he questions the mother. She professes some inane story about a school trip to France. He’s suspicious and presses for more.

She talks about a foreign pen pal, a supportive teacher, a wonderful chance for learning a new culture. She makes a perfect cup of tea and doesn’t really see him as he sits there.

It seems that Nana Sawada left a long time ago, and only her shell remains.

Iemitsu comes down and spends a few days in his wife’s presence, long enough to try and determine outside interference and do a thorough sweep of the house, and then he leaves again. If he finds anything unusual in this he doesn’t say so to Reborn.

The only anomaly they find is a series of dream journals on the desk.

The only thing written in them is “NO”.

Over and over, pages and pages of frantic refusals. There’s about 5 of them stacked there, dripping ink.

They check it for mist residue. They don’t find anything. Reborn shoots a couple of the specialists in the knee when one starts debating mental illnesses, and another mentions an old horror movie.

He can’t help but think there’s something wrong with Namimori. He talked with Sawada’s teachers, his classmates, street vendors he was noted to visit, and can’t help but shiver at how they seemed to look right through him. The only one he got any sort of reliable information was from the boss of a delinquent group, who looked at him and smiled with blood in his teeth when he said

“The herbivore is smarter then you, carnivore.”

And then wandered away to beat up more Yakuza. He notes him down for potential guardianship and leaves to organise a search.

The amount of people who know that Vongola’s last legitimate heir is missing is restricted to a small group, led by Reborn. It boast’s the boy’s father, a few of his subordinates, and some miscellaneous men that Reborn feels confident are either stupid enough or smart enough not to blab.

When he finally leaves Namimori to chase after his wayward student, he leaves a few of them to investigate the strangeness of the town.

In the meantime Reborn tracks his wayward student across country lines like some demented game of cat and mouse. Every time he steps down in one city, the boy is on a plane somewhere else. When he plans to head him off at the airport, Sawada pops up in the next town over. Again and again, Reborn just misses the boy.

A few times he gets close enough to see the hint of his presence, an abandoned motel room, a still warm cup of tea at a café, a discarded sweater on a park bench.

It’s rather frustrating to try to catch someone with the famed Vongola intuition. The only silver lining he can see in the whole affair is that at least if Vongola can’t catch him, neither can their enemies.

That doesn’t mean his steadily rising bloodlust abates any as the days go by. When he catches Sawada, and he will, he’s going to make him regret running.

--

Hibari sits at his desk with a cup of tea, stacks and stacks of neat papers, and watches his secretary shuffle through even more reports. The black dye looks rather odd on Tsunayoshi’s head, made even worst by the regency style up do.

Tetsuya stands beside him, a checklist of the day’s duties in his hands, but there’s a smirk on his face that speaks to his very odd humour. The signature hairstyle of the Discipline Committee is good for subterfuge because most people can’t tell the different members apart when they all look the same, but it also takes a certain person to be able to pull it off well.

Tsunayoshi is not one of those people.

“I anticipate we have about a week before anyone realizes that they are chasing a ghost. The only real danger at this point is the hitman, and I am confident I can keep him occupied for a few more days.” He says, eyes not straying from his list.

Hibari grunts, but that just makes Tsunayoshi turn around and smile at him.

“That’s alright, we only really need a little more time before things are ready. I contacted those that can be trusted and we should have a decent sized group. The main issue will be getting them all in the city without our watchers catching word.”
He taps his lips in thought.

“Shoichi-kun should be done his modifications soon, so we will at least have some place to stash them all, but I really don’t know how we are going to sneak so many people in.” He starts scribbling ideas on a convenient blank page. Most of them seem to involve copious amounts of fire.

Hibari snorts dismissively.

“Then we get rid of whoever’s watching. I’ll bite all who trespass.” He isn’t the least bit worried about going up against a bunch of Vongola hitmen and Tsunayoshi smiles.

“I thought we were going for subtle at this point in time?” Tetsuya asks, wryly.

Tsunayoshi laughs.

“For Hibari-san that is subtle.” He says through chuckles. “It would give us the opening we need, but they might just send more men to retaliate.”

“I’ll bite them too.” Hibari says, completely serious. His two right hands simply sigh.

No doubt they will spend the next couple days trying to change his mind. A futile effort on their part.

A knock on the door interrupts them, and they turn towards it. Tsunayoshi quickly tugs up the medical mask that obscures his face for most of the day and calls out a greeting.

Hana Kurokawa pokes her head through and grins when she sees them all gathered.

“Reborn just touched down in New York, I have you recorded as embarking a flight for Nunavut right about now.” She says.

Tsuna frowns, although you can barely see it with the mask.

“Nunavut? Where’s that?” He asks.

She shrugs.

“No clue. I got Kyoko to throw a dart at a list of cities.”

There’s a choked laugh from Tetsuya that he covers with a cough at Hibari’s glare.

Hana raises an eyebrow at them and shakes her head.

“You owe me so much cake for this.” And then she wanders away again.

Hibari makes a note to hire better subordinates.

--

Sawada Nana putters around the house after her husband leaves, righting overturned knickknacks and returning displaced items. She leaves her son’s room the way it is; sheets on a heap on the floor, books knocked about all over the place, a broken alarm clock on the desk.

She carefully tucks her husband’s spare gun back into the safe in the closet wall and locks it.

Then she puts on the kettle for tea and very deliberately places herself in view of the kitchen window. The scope of a gun from the street glints across her teacup.

She sits there until the water goes cold.

Chapter Text

Hibari Kyouya meets Sawada Tsunayoshi when he is eight. The other boy is playing in a sand box in a crowded playground when a couple boys come up to him and start teasing him.

Kyouya has climbed on top of the monkey bars, trying to escape the crowd of children he isn’t allowed to bite. He hasn’t yet intimidated the teachers into letting him skip recess, and tends to sulk up on the highest thing he can climb instead. He spends his time surveying the other children form up high, and teaching them not to bother him.

He doesn’t yet have the need to police the herbivores in his territory, but that will come when he is gifted his first pair of tonfa.

Still, from his vantage point of the tallest structure in the playground he watches as Sawada cringes further and further into himself. The other boy is timid, weak willed and already a target for bullies. There’s been taunt’s before and Kyouya is sure there will be taunts again.

But then one of the boys steps on the castle Sawada had spent the past ten minutes building, and history is made.

The boy goes under a messy punch, and it doesn’t matter that Sawada is surrounded, because he has a fist full of sand and isn’t afraid to bite.

Kyouya stand on the bars and jumps down into the fray. It’s the start of a beautiful friendship.

--

Kusakabe Tetsuya meets Sawada Tsunayoshi when the Hibaris’ come home with a bloody Kyouya and a small shadow. It’s the first time there’s been another child in the house besides Kyouya and him, and he’s immediately curious.

His family has been in the employ of the Hibari family for generations, and when Kyouya finally grows up enough to take the mantel of family head Tetsuya’s the one that’s going to have to make sure he doesn’t get arrested for murder. Which is a legitimate worry, so saying he’s surprised to see Kyouya spending time willingly with someone his own age is an understatement.

The boy is tiny, with a head of feathery brown hair. He looks a little like a blow-dried poodle.

He also has bloody fists and a crazed look in his eye.

Tetsuya sighs and resigns himself to looking after another wild animal.

(He’s only 9 years old, but he already understands duty.)

--

Kurokawa Hana doesn’t meet Sawada Tsunayoshi so much as meet the chaos he leaves behind. She’s waiting for her mother at the gates of her after school daycare when a bunch of older boys run past.

They look like the sort of people her mom would call punks, so she shuffles further into the relatively safety of the courtyard. There’s a great crash, and she can’t see what made it but she can here a group of voices yelling out in pain.

Curiosity swamps her and she tiptoes forward to pear out and sees a pile of limbs.

The boys have all tripped over what looks like a bicycle with a wagon attached. There’s a boy her age sitting on it with a beat up helmet and a medical mask.

He flashes her a smile and then peddles away.

From the other side of the street a dark figure stalks closer and she shrinks back. Not enough to escape the image of the newcomer beating up the gang with what looks like metal police batons, but far enough that when her mom eventually shows up she can fake ignorance as to the blood stains on the sidewalk.

--

Shoichi Irie doesn’t meet Sawada Tsunayoshi and thanks god every day that statement stays true.

Instead they email each other a few times a week and he gets random boxes in the mail he’s never sure are going to blow up in his face.

It’s very stressful being Tsuna’s friend, but on the other hand he does get requests for a bunch of really cool projects, so it balances out somewhat.

They first start talking on a gaming thread online, something about the use of soundwaves in weapons. When Shoichi brings up a few technical contradictions in the supposed weapons design, instead of getting annoyed at him, or not believing Shoichi, Tsuna asks how he would make the gun if he was the one designing it. He doesn’t even become uninterested hours latter when Shoichi is just finished hypothesising about the right conductive metal.

He somehow ends up joining a vigilante gang and spends a large chunk of his time designing weapons, but that’s mostly something he can ignore. It gives him some amount of social credibility anyways, since he doesn’t even have to worry about the police knocking on his door at his fumbling attempts at hacking. Turns out the Hibaris’ own the police department. And the lawers office. And the law courts.

Which explains a lot.

Of course, he doesn’t end up just designing weapons. The group needs surveillance, information, and a place to gather when they do big raids.

Oh, and money.

Which is where the hacking comes in.

And it’s because of the hacking that the Vongola secret comes out. Sawada Iemitsu might be a competent Mafioso, but he’s a little dumb when it comes to his family’s finances. It takes a little digging but there’s not much you can hide from Shoichi when he’s determined and fuelled by all nighters and sugar.

Tsuna pretty much takes this all in stride. The mafia isn’t all that different from what he’s already doing with Hibrari’s soon to be named Discipline Committee after all.

Hibari on the other hand. Well, he doesn’t share very well.

It’s not long after that that they start planning for real.

--

Tsuna sits in the Hibaris’ traditional sitting room and tries not to fidget. There’s a stack of papers on the table that he got from Shoichi and it takes all he cannot to re-read them again.

“Mafia.” Tetsuya says, very calmly. The same way he says to Hibari “Yakuza” or “Fourteen assault charges”. He’s a little proud to finally be the one to warrant that tone of voice.

Since Hibari seems to be content growling and prowling around the room but not stopping to actually talk about the ridiculous situation, Tsuna gives into temptation and shuffles through the papers again.

“The Vongola Family to be precise. Supposedly one of the stronger ones.” He flips a few pages before he finds what he’s looking for. “Information is sparse, but there’s a lot of chatter if you know where to look for it. Mostly smaller families suddenly disappearing, or talk of alliances.”

“Mafia gossip.” Tetsuya’s voice doesn’t change at all, and Tsuna cringes a little.

“Uh, yeah.” He mumbles into his notes.

“And you’re related to the boss.” Still level, still perfectly calm. The back of Tsuna’s neck pricks.

“Uh, yep. A couple times removed or so. Ugh, I guess that explains how my idiot father could get such a high paying job.”

Tetsuya nods.

“He’s got to be pretty strong though, to get that high up.” Tsuna continues nervously. “Not to mention he’s supposedly a department head or something, so there’s got to be a whole bunch of uh. I guess they’re called lieutenants? So a whole bunch of strong people.”

There’s a sudden stillness as they all look at each other, and then Hibari very deliberately takes out his tonfa’s.

“Wait! Hibari!” Tsuna yells, as he has to dodge the strike. “Let’s talk this out first! I don’t even have my gloves!”

Chapter Text

Delight Basquez is a quiet man, with a soft voice and an open, inviting face. He’s good at talking to people and getting into their secrets with a smile. In one lifetime he would have made a very good therapist.

In this one he’s a competent con artist who freelance’s for the mafia. He’s got a good reputation for being discreet and for knowing his place: at the bottom of the food chain.

As long as the money keeps coming he doesn’t really care what power plays are happening higher up.

Servius Vultuo on the other hand is a tank of a man with a loud voice and a loud personality. He uses his storm flames to disintegrate things with a pair of special knuckle busters, and what he lacks in precision he makes up in pure punching power. He has a scar running from his hairline right down to his chin, just missing his eye, and when he uses his flames it lights up red and demonic.

They are stationed together in a small Japanese town to patch up the information network that’s let a prized Vongola asset escape. Basquez is tasked with investigation while Vultuo runs interference. It’s a job they have done before, and despite their lack of any sort of goodwill towards each other, they never fail a job.

Until now.

58 hours after Reborn leaves Nanimori Vultuo and Basquez are found 24 miles out of Namimori city, cuffed to their standard issue car and arguing. They apparently have very little memory of who attacked them, but refuse to step back into the town for fear of more retribution.

When someone question’s the neighbours of the small apartment they were based out of, every single one of them professed ignorance. It was a quiet night according to them.

The overturned furniture and blood splatters paint a very different story.

Basquez has a bloody nose and a broken leg while Vultuo is very silently crying while nursing his broken ribs. Neither men will look the other in the eye.

The damage seems minor, but when backup picks them up and a medic finally looks them over it turns out the injuries are resistant to sun flames. The medic very reluctantly patches them up the old fashion way and then cautions them not to aggravate their injuries too much when they get reprimanded by their supervisor.

Three hours later they are sent back to the medic for treatment of a couple of bullet wounds. Those heal just fine with sun flames.

The next day Cecilia Herrdive and Nanaki Tsukabaki arrive into town.

Basquez just sends them a salute when he passes by, hobbling on one leg.

--

The Namimori Vender Association is made up of restaurant owners, providers, organisers and event planers working together to support local business.

They spend a lot of their time sitting around drinking and gossiping.

It’s the perfect front for a secret society.

Tsuyoshi Yamamoto and his son enter the drinking parlour and say hello to a few businesses they know. The Udon cart down the street waves back and yells out a playful insult. Tsuyoshi responds in the same, and soon there’s some good-natured heckling going on.

Takeshi laughs and leaves his father to it, instead going to say hello to the hostess. She smiles at him, points to a backroom and winks.

He silently pads over and slowly lets the smile drop. His eyes are cold and dark.

The backroom is unlocked, but there’s a disquieting click when he turns the knob. He pauses until it clicks again and then walks in.

Sawada Tsunayoshi smiles at him.

--

Reborn calls the Ninth on the fourth day. He’s kept him apprised of course, but for the most part was confident he could wrap the whole affair up before it truly became a problem.

Reborn doesn’t fail. He’s the greatest hitman in the world. Failure isn’t even an option for him.

He isn’t used to asking for help.

When the Ninth hears that he’s having trouble over the norm in finding his errant student, that it appears almost like the boy is a ghost, he chuckles for a second before realising Reborn is being serious.

There’s silence on the phone before finally a tired voice responds.

“I can give you more men, but at this point it might be better to call it in.” The boss says.

Reborn frowns.

“Do you trust them for a job like this?” He makes sure to keep the disbelieving tone out of his voice, but some amount of sarcasm comes through anyways. The Ninth laughs.

“I’ve made my mistakes in trusting the Varia before, but they are Vongola. And Vongola will listen.”

--

When the Varia hear that the last legitimate heir to the Vongola throne is missing they laugh, and laugh and laugh.

Then they go to wake up their boss.

--

There’s a photo in the Sawada’s residence attic that shows a smiling woman caught in the hold of a large blond man. In the corner is written:

To my dearest Nana
Your loving husband

In the background there’s a swaying cherry tree, and at the base of the tree the blurry silhouette of a woman in a white dress.

There’s a smudge where her face should be.

--

Nana opens her door to a killer and invites them in. It’s the third this week and her tea selection is becoming rather pitiful, but she doesn’t complain. She smiles and makes small talk as the man fidgets with his pockets.

“And your son? Where is he?” He asks, interrupting her in the middle of her sentence.

Her smile doesn’t tighten and her eyes never clear of the fog covering them.

“Oh, he’s right where he needs to be.” She says cheerfully.

The sound of the gunshot is loud in the ensuing silence.

--

The truth is something like this:

Sawada Tsunayoshi grew up weak. He was awkward and clung to his mother’s dresses and was constantly teased by his father for not being manly enough.

The truth is something like this:

Sawada Tsunayoshi grew up smart. He saw the way the world would crush him under its heel and refused. He learnt violence and trickery and the sweet rush of a successful con.

The truth is something like this:

Sometimes you don’t need to be great to do great things.

--

The truth is this:

When Nana was left gasping alone in her own blood and filth on the birthing bed, when her dotting husband sends her a postcard and wilted roses for their anniversary, when she doesn’t sleep for a month because her baby has colic and all the nannies she hires end up quitting after phone calls with her husband, the only one who would help her is herself.

She looks at her son and sees none of her husband in him. Instead she sees her grandmother’s soft hair, her father’s wide eyes, her mother’s determination.

She sees her own loneliness.

The next week she enrols him in a day program against his own pleas.

A week after that he meets Hibari Kyouya and history is made.

A mother’s desire means seeing her children prosper. And she will make her children prosper. No matter the blood or the tears.

--

The truth is this:

Iemitsu made a mistake in marrying Nana. He thought her sweet, simple. A pretty flower, something that would never wilt. Flighty and airy. He saw himself as her one constant.

He forgot that the most colourful creatures are also the most poisonous.

Chapter Text

It starts with Hibari’s Discipline Committee.

They’re a bunch of upstart delinquents, united by a boy who cares more about order and a good fight then about doing good deeds. The police can’t touch him, and he tends to break bones for even the smallest infractions.

It starts small.

Tsuna follows behind Hibari, close enough to help, not to crowd, and watches the swath of destruction in his wake.

He righten’s the upturned food stall that gets knocked over in the chaos, steadies an old woman shoved aside by panicked thugs, soothes a crying child.

When it is over, when the gang has been punished and the authorities notified, Tsuna stops for a second to crouch down and talk with Hibari’s newest victims. They are guilty men, but he smiles at them and stay’s with them until the ambulance arrives.

Then he isn’t just waiting to help. He scouts ahead for Hibari, talks to the citizens on the street, asks after their problems and their worries. He makes traps, designed to control the chaos. He plots out the best areas of attack, how to minimize collateral when they take on the big targets.

Hibari takes down the city brick by brick and Tsuna builds it back up again, without the rot.

They route the Yakuza out and consume its livelihood. Their numbers bloat with those lost on the fringes, looking for something bigger than themselves. When they need to be reminded that they are something greater by themselves, it is Tsuna who comes to them.

The people fear Hibari and his wrath, respect his power and ability to actually do something against the petty crimes inflicted against them, but it is Tsuna they love.

And that is a powerful thing.

--

Namimori is supposed to be a mafia-free sanctuary. They come anyways.

Namimori takes those it can heal of their darkness, and then eats those who refuse to bend. It becomes a graveyard for men too big for their words.

Hibari is its gargoyle, but Tsuna is its gravedigger.

--

It’s a quiet revolution. Tsuna sends out word to the businesses, to the late night gambling halls, to the hand-tied police. It spreads, and it spreads, and during all of this the Discipline Committee prepares. Shoichi makes his weapons and spins his web.

Those with ties with the Yakuza quietly pass the word on.

Namimori goes on as it always does, but underneath it something changes.

There are a lot of ex-mafioso in town, and they know the price of not acting when the mafia comes calling. And it wouldn’t just be Tsuna who would get dragged down into the pits of that hungry beast.

It would be their sons, their daughters, their friends and co-workers. There’s a web of people working to keep their city safe, and they have home ground.

The mafia never stood a chance.

--

Nana goes to the market on a Sunday and pretends obliviousness towards her pair of stalkers. Cecilia watches her enter the building and nods to her partner. He walks back to the house to continue bugging the rooms and setting up surveillance.

Cecilia watches the doors and waits for the woman to come out again, hand on her phone and ready to call Tsukabaki off.

She waits and waits. She slowly grows anxious as the minutes tick by.

She doesn’t feel the blow to the back of the head.

--

Nana gossips with the ladies at the shopping center. They are polite enough not to mention the blood on the end of her sleeve.

--

Reborn gets the call a few hours later and feels a migraine coming on. The second pair of Mafioso sent into Namimori are missing, and once again no one in town knows how.

He stands in Perth Airport, Australia, gets the notification that Sawada has been sighted in Sydney.He also gets the notification that Sawada is sighted on a plane to the Maldives. And on a train through England. He very calmly destroys his phone.

He takes out his spare and calls the Ninth.

“I’m going back to Japan. We’re being played with. Let the Varia run after ghosts, but I’m starting to think that Sawada Tsunayoshi never made it out of Japan to begin with.”

--

Basquez and Vultuo walk into Vongola’s Italian headquarters and hobble over to the briefing room. They have the copy of their reports, lingering injuries, and mist covered wireless bugs in their hair.

The tiny spiders are a recent innovation and they can transmit both audio, video and infrared.

As the men walk through the crowded halls they slowly fall out, clinging onto passing Mafioso and scuttling into dark corners.

On the other side of the camera lens Shoichi Irie smiles grimly.

--

There’s a rumour on the wind that there’s an anti-mafia group waking up. That if you have a grievance with the arrogance of the mafia, that if you have something to protect against the darkest underbelly of the world, they can take up your cause.

Mukuro Rokudo lifts his head up in interest.

--

Kyoko laughs as she walks home from school with Hana. Hana who has been so busy lately, even more so then Kyoko who has turned her popularity into a weapon that needs constant maintenance.

Even more then her brother who spends his spare time sparring with the members of the Discipline Committee.

“And so Tetsuya says they were ready for the next stage and that I could stop sending all those false Tsuna reports. Which was good, because it was seriously getting annoying having to find all those airports and getting in contact with people to leave things around for the hitman to find.” Hana says, waving her hands.

Kyoko giggles.

“But instead?” She prods, because she knows her friend and Hana does have a rather twisted sense of humour.

“Well I figured just stopping them all completely might be mysterious and all, but not very poignant. And I had already queued up a bunch of other alerts, so why waste all that work?” Hana says grinning.

Kyoko dramatically gasps.

“You didn’t!” She giggles.

Hana sighs.

“I wish I could see the dude’s face. It would make all this work worth it. At least Tetsuya appreciates it, I swear Hibari wouldn’t even know who I am if I wasn’t –” She pauses at Kyoko’s wiggling eyebrows.

“What?” She asks, a little defensively.

“Tetsuya, huh?” Kyoko grins. Hana just waves her hands.

“It’s weird using an honorific with him. He’s so subservient to Hibari he might as well be a shadow sometimes. Not to mention can you imagine calling him Kusakabe-san?” She responds.

The two girls think on it for a while before making a face.

“No it really doesn’t fits.” Kyoko agrees.

Hana scrunches up her face and shakes her head.

“Enough about those monkeys. I am so tired of idiot boys and this stupid mafia conspiracy or whatever. We should go to the arcade and destroy children at DDR.” She flicks her hair in a dramatic fashion, a teasing glint in her eye.

Kyoko laughs again.

--

Cecilia wakes up tied to a tree in the middle of nowhere. She has no phone, no gun, and no idea what happened. There’s a map nailed to the tree besides her. She snaps the rope restraining her and stands there in shock for a couple minutes.

She half expects this to be some kind of training simulation from her captain, but no, then she wouldn’t even have the map.

Someone was able to get the drop on her, tie her up, transport her into the middle of the forest and leave before she woke up.

Someone went through all that trouble, when it would really be easier to kill her.

She feels a shiver run through her veins.

Chapter Text

Sawada Nana and Yamamoto Tsuyoshi bump into each other at the market. In between small talk and laughter Tsuyoshi slips Nana a little list and winks.

“I see you’ve been helping with cleaning up the city, good work!” He says laughing. She smiles slyly.

“I’m just doing my duty to the younger generation really, imagine if my Tsu-kun had to live in a place filled with garbage.” She responds. He nods his head, eyes upturned.

“Oh of course, as adults we have a responsibility to keep this town filth free. My own son has been so eager to follow in his dear old father’s footsteps, how could I do any less?”

--

One by one the mafia men stationed in Namimori go missing. Not just Vongola’s, but rival families and those vultures circling around like hungry animals. Those outside the city are left scrambling around, trying to find their missing pawn pieces. Those inside the city find themselves cut away from the pack, isolated.

As one, the city turns against them.

--

Reborn steps off the plane one last time and feels a shiver run down his back. People are staring at him, silently, judgingly. His instincts are screaming that there is a bulls-eye painted on his back, and he has to stop himself from looking for cover.

It’s just a bunch of civilians, not even flame sensitive.

He can’t help but feel like he’s being hunted anyways. He narrows his eyes and slips his hand into his jacket for his phone.

His hand hits nothing but lint.

--

 

Tsuna is looking at their map of Namimori on their wall, the pinned up reports of the Mafioso they’ve been able to route out, the profile of those they’ve recruited. He traces city boundaries and frowns.

“We should branch out.” He tells Tetsuya, working at the desk on some training plans for the Committee. Tetsuya raises an eyebrow.

“You mean outside of Namimori? We are barely keeping the mafia out of one city as it is.” He says a little incredulously.

Tsuna hums.

“And they’ll keep coming unless we can establish a buffer zone.” Here Tsuna taps the map. A little fiddling with the display and it zooms out, the projection from one of Shoichi’s gadgets wavering briefly before showing Japan in its entirety.

“And knowing the mafia, that buffer zone is going to have to be really, really big.” He quirks an eye towards Tetsuya, nodding to the bandaged around his wrist.

Tetsuya sighs.

“Boss isn’t going to like this.” He says, slumping forward a little. Tsuna laughs.

“Boss will like anything that will get the mafia out of here faster. Besides, conquering more territory means more intense fights for him.” Tsuna turns back to his map.

“And I have a feeling these fights are going to be very intense.”

--

Namimori’s history with the mafia has always been rocky. Before it was a safe zone it also was a largely contested area for a larger goal; japan itself. Before the Yakuza could fight them off completely, there were quite a few families greedy enough to want such a prime country for exporting. The death toll for some fights was so high they couldn’t hide the bodies.

Its not talked about it in the mafia families because its such a small area, insignificant now a days. No one cares about the battles that took place because the families involved have already moved on.

 

Vongola sanctioned it off, and then forgot to abide by their own rules. Had the audacity to stash their heir there, to bloat Namimori with their numbers and say that they were retired. To invite greed and chaos back into the quiet streets.

But Namimori remembers. Some of the families of those killed are still alive, have passed down the stories. Some of them have businesses that were burnt during the skirmishes; some still have the scars or the missing pieces in family photographs.

It doesn’t take a lot to re-kindle old grudges, and Namimori has a lot of them.

--

Recruitment for the Discipline Committee is in overdrive, and there’s a quiet marketing campaign being run in school halls and arcades and in homes. Art clubs are making cute little signs encouraging people to “Clean up Namimori” and “Become the youth leaders of tomorrow”. Teachers keep a close eye on their students.

Parents are holding meet-ups and group newsletters, exchanging tips on how to keep “Kids safe after dark” and “Free from negative influences”. The Namimori Mother’s Gardening Group stocks up on fertiliser and hedge shears. The neighbourhood watch becomes a well sponsored organisation.

The complaint boxes at police booths slowly fill up with observations, concerns, encouragement. There’s a quiet stir in the department, as those higher up turn a blind eye and those closer to the ground slowly build what power they have. With the support of quite a few influential and rich families in the city they are able to go over old case files, comb over previously locked up evidence, route out the disease in the city.

They pull over unmarked cars for speeding tickets, setting up random searches through the city’s new “Drug Free Program”, very deliberately gives the delinquent Discipline Committee free reign.

Away from prying eyes, people put down their quarrels with each other and start planning.

--

Xanxus wakes up to Lussuria giggling quietly to himself.

There’s a soft blanket half-hazardly draped over him, and for once in a long, long time, he feels warm. His mind can barely comprehend the sensation. It’s like the absence of burning, and how odd that the ice had felt like fire licking the inside of his brain, but warmth feels like a distant blaze.

He blinks ice encrusted lids and sits up.

“Boss!” Levi cries. As in actually cries, tears and all. Xanxus tries to punch him through the wall reflexively when the other man goes in for a relieved hug. Levi hits the opposite wall with a crash, but the plaster doesn’t even break.

Xanxus frowns at his trembling limbs. He feels sluggish, weighed down by some invisible force. The flames that roared all throughout his childhood feel cold now. Reserved.

“How long?” He barks at the gathered Varia.

In the back, leaning against one wall with dark eyes, Squalo clears his throat.

“Eight years.”

There’s a resounding silence before the room collapses outward. Wrath flames eat away at the walls, and it’s only their good reflexes that save anyone from burning in the blast.

--

Xanxus locks himself up in his office before anyone is able to tell him about the other missing Vongola heir.

--

An exhausted group makes their way into town. From the tops of apartment buildings and grocery store windows people watch them go by, this strange group. An old man, two identical emaciated men, two boys walking side by side with caution in their eyes.

A dark youth with two toned eyes stares back at silent watchers. He notes the wariness in the people’s eyes and approves.

The devil has come to Namimori.

--

Shoichi get’s the alert that Mukuro Rokudo is in town and just bangs his head into his desk. He moans weekly in protest before calling Tsuna.

As if Mafioso weren’t enough.

Chapter Text

They don’t have a plan for Mukuro Rokudo. It never seemed like something they would have to plan for. For one, he was supposed to be locked up in prison after murdering a bunch of people, and for two, he’s never a part of Namimori to start with.

Tsuna watches Hibari pace as he and Tetsuya flip though reports, a little worried about the expression on his face. The bloodlust is practically visible in the air.

“He knows we can’t just go after them because he wants to try fighting him right?” Tsuna ask Tetsuya, nervously.

Tetsuya smiles at him and shrugs his shoulders.

“I mean, he might be useful even if all reports point to him being an absolute maniac. He hates the mafia, we hate mafia. Sounds like a match made in heaven right?” Tsuna continues.

“Your setting the bar pretty high there.” Tetsuya laughs. Tsuna doesn’t stop his anxious hand wringing.

“Also I’m not sure how you’re supposed to fight against an illusionist. There’s a tactic for that right?” He mumbles.

Tetsuya sighs.

“Stop that, it’s weird seeing you worried about this. You’re usually a lot more level headed then this.” He says.

Tsuna stares at him for a second.

“No I’m not.”

Tetsuya lifts an eyebrow and cocks his head towards Hibari, who’s still pacing.

“You met Hibari because you got into a fight with a bunch of older boys over a sand castle, and you’re still friends with him. Your response to mafia trying to interfere in your life was to organise the city into fighting back. You regularly put yourself in danger just by walking down the street. ” He says.

Tsuna shrugs.

“That’s Hibari.” He says simply. “Also, it’s the mafia against the whole town, plus Hibari.”

Tetsuya groans.

“There’s something really wrong with your priorities.”

--

Reborn has to admit he never expected to be in the situation where he wouldn’t have all the cards on the table. But then again, everything to do with the Sawada family has been one big headache so he should have really realised this to start with.

After all, this was all to train Iemitsu’s son. And Iemitsu on his own is such a trouble to deal with that he should have expected the son to be doubly so.

Still, for someone to have pick pocketed him just as he lands in Namimori is more then just troublesome. It’s lucky he keeps a multitude of spares.

It’s also a good thing that his phones are protected against intrusion, and any sensitive data will be deleted before some enterprising hacker thinks of getting in.

How, the supposed thief did it, he doesn’t really know.

As the greatest hitman in the world it should really be impossible for someone to do it without flames, and he would have noticed if they had used flames anyways.

He doesn’t know if he wants to kill the person who did it or recruit them.

For the moment he sends a quick text to the Ninth and quickly exits the crowded airport. He want’s to get to cover quickly, start investigating from the ground up. He has to rethink his whole plan of attack since it is obvious that Tsunayoshi isn’t alone in his plan, whatever it is.

He tries to think who would have been able to get his claws in the boy and is plagued by the thought of rival families for a minute before sanity creeps back in. If a rival family had been able to recruit Vongola’s heir, they would have either set him up as a plant and therefore not bother impeding the training process, or have bragged to the whole mafia world about it.

Which means it has to be an independent faction meddling.

--

It never occurs to him that Tsuna might be acting for himself.

--

Three hours after Reborn starts his investigation once again, a group of people slowly wander into an apartment building. In small groups they take the elevator down to the bottom floor, pass the only listed basement and deep underground.

The machine slows to a stop at an unlisted number, opens it’s doors to a steel and concrete hallway, the end of which opens unto a large white meeting room. Projections and maps are cast across walls, screens are mounted in every corner, and in the middle is a large wooden table, filled with papers and dossiers.

One by one the people take their seats, chatting and saying hello to neighbours and friends.

Takeshi sets his sword down by the door and snags a seat next to the end of the table. He waves to a few acquaintances and lets his dad mingle. Tsuna, sitting to his left, lifts his head from his reports long enough to flash a mask covered smile his way before bending back over his work.

Takeshi doesn’t let that bother him and just slumps back, fingers behind his head. To his right, a seat is dragged back with enough force to screech as it goes, and a white head plops itself in his vision.

“Hey Ryohei.” Takeshi says. The other boy beams at him.

“Hello to the EXTREME! And you too Sawada.” He says, nodding to Takeshi and Tsuna.

His sister takes a seat across from him, with Hana right besides her. More hellos are exchanged.

“I feel like I’ve fallen into a bad spy movie.” Hana says wryly, lifting an eye at all the glowing screens and the maps connected by faint glowing red wire.

Takeshi laughs.

“Yeah, Shoichi-san sure outdid himself didn’t he!” He says, nudging Tsuna, who lifts his head once again to smile at them.

“Ah yes, the illustrious Shoichi-san. Does he even exist? No one knows.” Hana says dryly.

“Hana!” Kyoko laughs.

“Trust me, I exist.” A voice says behind them. Most of them jump, exept for Tsuna who snorts quietly. Hana turns around.

A be-speckled red head smiles tiredly at them, a bundle of wires and gadgets spilling out of his arms. His face is pale and his freckles stand out all the more for it, but it is undisputedly Shoichi Irie in the flesh.

“Well I’ll be! Next you’ll be telling me Hibari is planning on retiring to become a monk.” Hana says, hand to her heart in exaggerated shock. A couple chuckles ring around the room.

Shoichi rolls his eyes and takes a seat close to Tsuna. Around the younger boy there’s a few spots still reserved. One of which is soon taken by a woman who sweeps in twirling skirts and distant eyes.

“Hello Sawada-san!” Ryohei says, echoed by others.

Sawada Nana smiles at them and brushes her hand across from her son’s still black head before taking a seat next to him.

From the doorway there’s a big bang, and Hibari and Tetsuya sweep in on the trail of the last stragglers. Business owners and street rats, ex-mafioso and yakuza, students and parents all stand at his arrival. Tsuna, at the head of the table, raises his hand and catches everyone’s attention.

The two other boys step into place behind him and he flashes a tired smile their way before tugging down his medical mask.

He looks the mix match of people gathered in the room, making sure to address all of them with his eyes as he goes, counting heads and determination as he goes.

“Welcome all of you, to Namimori’s Clean Up Committee.”

Chapter Text

Kondo Rei is a short girl with dirty blond hair cut close to her scalp. She has multiple earrings in her ears, and a looping tattoo on her left shoulder of circuits mixed with maps.

She used to live in a rundown apartment with her alcoholic father, but lately she’s been sleeping on friend’s couches and abandoned warehouses.

She’s been pickpocketing since her preteens, and she’s gotten so good she has the nickname of “Ghost” in certain circles. Combined with a flame passive mist ring, she could stab you and be a block away before you realise.

Today though, she only has a black cellphone in her pocket and a smug grin.

“Perfect.” Tsuna praises, passing the phone over to Shoichi to fiddle with.

“No doubt there’s a kill switch in here somewhere, but I should be able to bypass it. We’ll be able to get contact information and past messages, but the real beauty will be cloning the signal. Vongola’s lazy and doesn’t bother changing them between phones.” Shoichi say before retreating to a table in the back.

“Eh, T’was nothing.” Kondo mumbles, rubbing her buzzed hair. Besides her a businessman in a rumpled suit claps her on the back.

“We are pretty secure information wise, but we still need to expand the net.” Tsuna says with a smile, turning towards the business owners and workers.

“See if you can use your contacts to start building outwards. Not only will this let us recruit more people, we will be able to create a larger buffer zone. Make sure you highlight the dangers that will be coming, whether they join or not.” He continues, before nodding to Tetsuya to continue.

Tetsuya steps forward with his clipboard and clears his throat.

“Currently, counting those ex-Mafioso and the Discipline Committee we have about 60 people able to fight. Of those, we only have 25 elite. This is not nearly enough to fight off one family, not to mention the others circling around. We need to seriously start recruiting and training. All those who volunteer for suppression teams will have to undergo training as well.” Here he pauses and looks up at the rest of the room.

“I have a list here of trained teachers able to help us. There are martial artists, flame users, war veterans and yakuza on this list. Those willing to teach others are encouraged to leave their name with me.” He finishes, paying special attention to Yamamoto senior, who grimaces but nods.

He then waves a hand towards a black clad Discipline Committee member who snaps a salute and stands up.

“I’ll be in charge of group training, so all those participating should make sure to leave their contact information with me after the meeting.” The member then sits down again with a thump, bringing to attention for the first time the absolutely insane amount of knives strapped to their person.

A few in the crowd gulp.

Tsuna stands back up and smiles at the group. With a wave of his hand the static map behind him zooms in, and a few dialogue boxes pop up, indicating points of interest.

“Now, let’s talk strategy.”

--

Reborn frowns at the schoolyard and shifts his weight a little. The sensation of being watched hasn’t let up yet, and he knows it’s not just paranoia.

The problem is he can’t figure out where it’s coming from, because it’s coming from everywhere.

The students, the teachers, the passing housewives. All of them see him, and instead of passing him by like they should, they track him with their eyes. There’s something hard and hateful about them.

Which doesn’t make sense, because they should, for all accounts and purposes, see a baby and not a hitman. If he didn’t know better he would say that the whole town knows who he is, and is judging him for it.

He grinds his teeth some more and hops off his perch. So far what he knows about the town could fill a thimble, because everywhere he goes he’s waylaid by some concerned citizen, or the records are corrupted, or the store is closing. Roadblocks at every corner. It’s more then just bad luck.

The teachers’ were a complete bust, since they just spouted privacy laws. Not that it mattered, when he broke into the system the information was practically useless.

He would try and pressure the boy’s mother, but she’s also a complete dead end. Reborn is starting to suspect that there’s something really wrong with the woman.

Her dead eyes are very creepy.

“Tch. So annoying.” He mutters, before wandering back to the Internet café he’s been using. Supposedly Tsunayoshi was a frequent customer there, and he’s hoping the boy will show up.

It’s not like the boy has anywhere else to go, or any friends to hide behind.

--

Tsuna crawls into Tetsuya’s guest bed and rubs his head into the soft pillows. His hair is still dripping, the long black locks just starting to fluff up. He knows if he leaves it it will be a total pain to style in the morning, but he’s so tired he can’t be bothered.

He groans softly. And tomorrow will be just as exhausting, since they were planning on dealing with Mukuro.

He curses and pulls the covers over his head. Some days he wishes he didn’t have such good friends who refuse to let him get dragged into the mafia, because then he wouldn’t have to deal with all this ridiculousness.

Or who knows, maybe he would have had to deal with it all anyways. At least this way he knows he has people he can count on. And he’s doing it on his say so.

--

“Still nothing?” Lussuria asks, sitting next to Squalo at breakfast.

The swordman grunts, raising a hand to make a seesaw motion. Mammon comes gliding in and takes a corner. None of them have figured if the cloaked figure even needs to eat.

Squalo lifts his head a little more from the table and glares at the others. He clenches his jaw a few times before sighing.

“Shitty boss still wants to find the brat. Says he can’t take over the family with the threat of some upstart popping up and trying to claim blood rights.” He says. “He doesn’t seem to care that it will be so much easier to claim the rings without Sawada’s spawn interfering.”

“Tch. Not like it matters, Boss will destroy the kid anyways.” Levi says. Squalo ignores him.

“We could be moving for a true takeover, this just goes to show how weak the Vongola will be, the kid’s a coward hiding from the mafia.” Squalo continues.

Lussuria makes a sympathetic noise, and continues to pour sugar on his cereal.

“Or it just goes to show how weak the Vongola have gotten.” Mammon says, and then continues before anyone can disagree, “I’ve head that even Reborn is having trouble tracking the boy.”

Squalo eyes the small figure suspiciously.

“You know something.” He says, leaning forward.

Mammon shrugs.

“I might. For the right price.” They say. Lussuria snorts.

“We really need to find you a better hobby then money, honey.”

Chapter Text

Reborn is following what leads he can find when his phone goes off from a text. He frowns for a second checking it, worried about the breach in protocol. The Ninth knows he prefers speaking through the phone, since it leaves less of a trace, but he supposes its not too odd for the Boss to be checking in in person with the current events.

“New intell suggests organised resistance. Retired hitman says Discipline Committee boss Hibari Kyoya is harbouring Tsunayoshi-kun. Please take care of it.” Reborn reads.

He furrows his brows and thinks back to the boy he talked to at the beginning of the whole fiasco, and reluctantly acknowledges that he seemed to be too knowing for someone supposedly unconnected to the Sawada family.

Why, exactly, the Hibari scion wants with Tsunayoshi he doesn’t know, but now that he has a definite lead he can at least answer a few questions.

And as soon as he gets the boy back into safe hands the better it will be for Vongola, and the rest of the Mafia world.

--

“It’s not going to work.” Takeshi murmurs worriedly. Tsuna doesn’t look up from his book, but does reach out and pat the other boy on the shoulder.

“Sure it will. Shoichi-kun said it would.” He says. In his corner, Shoichi hunches down a little more, a pink tinge to his cheeks.

Hibari snorts.

“If it doesn’t work then that just means we fight.” He says, uncaringly. Tetsuya flinches.

“You better not make it fail just so you can have a fight, Hibari-san.” He says dryly, some of his tension fading in face of Hibari’s unbothered response.

Most of the time he’s pretty level-headed, but even for him this next plan feels risky. He can’t help but wonder how the rest of the room isn’t more nervous. Perhaps it just goes to show the level of insanity their lives have becomes now.

“If you want to make sure, you can go over the houses defense again.” Tsuna says, turning a page. Tetsuya makes a face at going over all the traps again.

As well as Shoichi’s personalised touches, the Hibari household is chockfull with snares, some installed into the houses very foundation and going back decades. Others have been added over the years, a mix match of different styles and levels of lethality.

Checking them is almost as nerve-wracking as waiting around for the first part of the plan to be initialised.

--

In chess there’s a move called Castlling. It’s when you take your vulnerable King, static up until this point, and swap it with a more versatile piece, the rook. Most use it as a defensive move, moving the King into a more protected spot on the board.

Some use it as an offense, giving their rook a more open space in which to capture enemy pieces. If you’re very careful, it’s possible to bait an opponent into going after a King that’s slated to be Castled.

--

Yamamoto Tsuyoshi kneels down in his dojo and breaths deeply. His body aches with old injuries, but somehow he feels like he’s back a decade, when he was off doing dirty deeds for dirty men.

It’s been quite a few years since he’s picked up his sword for anything more then basic maintenance and training. No matter how much he used to hint to his son, it hasn’t been until these past few months that Takeshi has been willing to be taught. And now he will be taking on other students, although not of his family’s style.

It’s a little overwhelming.

It feels good though, to do something. To protect something again. He doesn’t feel like he’s cheapening his blade, like it did with assassination.

So decided he stands up and stretches. If he is to be teaching then he will need to be at the best of his ability. The town deserves nothing less.

His thoughts are interrupted by his son, padding into the room on mostly silent feet.

“Hey dad.” Takeshi says when he sees him. “Up for some sparring?”

He takes one last deep breath and smiles at his son.

“Always.”

--

Nana is gossiping with the ladies from the neighbourhood knitting circle when she gets the message. She makes apologetic noises that the women wave off as she checks it, a little moue at her lips.

“Is it your cute little terror?” One of them asks, crowding around her. She laughs and tilts the screen so they can read.

Hey Nan-Chan! Things are progression well over here, although a stray cat has wandered into the neighbourhood. It’s got some mean claws but I think we can deal with it (。•̀ᴗ-)✧

Which reminds me, you should ask around about the best way to deal with angry cats, declawing just sounds so cruel.

See you soon!

“Oh my, so soon?” Murmurs one of the women. Nana laughs.

“Those friends of his can be so impatient sometimes. Looks like I’ll have to talk to the suppliers again.” She says with a sigh. The women around her titter.

“And we should make sure we have enough knitting needles.” One of them winks. The group disperses, and Nana starts walking home.

She has people to call.

--

Rei is sidling between two buildings, breath even and footsteps quiet when a voice from above whispers down to her.

“Psst. Ghost-chan.” She peers up and sees the moonlit silhouette of one of the group’s runners. She doesn’t remember his name, but thinks he might be working with the Discipline Committee when he’s not running around passing messages.

“What.” She asks blandly, still not used to half the town knowing her name.

“Boss says you’re needed near base for some sticky finger work.” The boy says, ducking down enough that she can just make out the tattoos winding around his fingers. She gives them a few appreciative looks and then nods.
“On it.” She says, twisting her ring a few times and sliding back into the shadows. She hears the boy start as he looses track of her, even though she’s still right under him.

She smirks and starts making her way downtown.

--

 

“I’m telling you, I saw it!” A dark head bobs up and down as the voice whispers to a friend. Cecilia nimbly bypasses the two middle school boys and starts moving towards the headquarters.

“No way, you’re just trying to scare me.” Complains the other one. The first boy throws his hands up and huffs.

“No way, man, it was huge. I swear, floor to ceiling green fire, it looked like something out of a horror movie!” He says, and Cecilia abruptly stops.

She pushes her hair away from her face and spins towards the two boys, who start when they realise she’s coming back their way.

“Sorry, I don’t mean to interrupt. Where exactly did you say you saw these green flames? It’s just I work with the fire bureau and I think it might be interesting to my superiors.” She says, kneeling down a little to get closer to their height.

The two boys look at each other with an uncertain air, before the first boy turns back to her and shrugs.

“Near that weird rundown warehouse by the industrial area. The one that’s been abandoned for years.” He says. Cecilia raises an eyebrow.

“What were you doing there?” She asks incredulously. Both boys shift nervously.

“It was a dare.” The first one says quietly. The other one nods vigorously.

“The upperclassmen said they would buy us lunch for a week if we went in.” He agrees.

Cecilia sighs.

“You two shouldn’t be going into old buildings like that, fire is the least of your problems with those. What if it collapsed?” She says before standing up. She tries a smile and doesn’t quite get it right.

“Thanks for the info though, I’ll make sure to get someone out there to check it out.”

--

Two boys go running off, bursting into a quiet coffee shop. The waitress waves them into the back and ignores their giggles before going back to her Sudoku puzzle.

“I can’t believe that worked!” The first boy says, dark hair shaking as he laughs. His friend, glasses sliding from his face, laughs with him.

“Everything go ok?” A deep voice asks from the couch in the break room. A dark form in Discipline Committee attire, pompadour wilting in the heat is sitting on it, sharpening a blade.

Both boys salute. Around them a thin haze of purple mist evaporates.

“Mission accomplished!”

Chapter Text

Shoichi found out about flames through the ex-mafioso living in town. Quite a few of them want nothing more then to never see another Mafioso every again, and so with very little prompting gladly divulged any secrets that would go towards that. There’s certain ways to get around Omerta after all.

In some cases being friends with a future mafia boss is all you need.

The flames he has been able to adapt the best are mist flames; the ability to fool human senses was deemed much more useful to a clandestine organisation then pure force. It might be a watered down version of an actual mist user, but it does the job and has the advantage that it is hard for even the most experience user to notice.

The main inventions he has been able to build with them are the spyders, the invisibility rings and now, a mist “net” able to hide smell, colour and taste of even particles in the air.

It took weeks to outfit the whole house with the net, but now it’s a simple thing to pump anaesthetic into the rooms and have it be almost completely unnoticeable. Hopefully unnoticeable enough that Reborn, creeping through the halls with a gun out and whose attention is on the presence of Hibari and Tsuna, won’t realise.

That’s the main issue Tetsuya has with the plan, they can’t bait an empty house. Reborn is too good for that to work. Instead, the two boys are fitted with a discreet breather and are sitting together in one of the sitting rooms.

Worst comes to worst and there’s a multitude of high voltage stun traps surrounding the room, but they all hope it doesn’t come to that. They really don’t want to have to use their escape plan. All of them are aware enough to know they are only doing as well as they are because their opponents are underestimating them.

He sits with Shoichi in the control room and shoves his shaking hands under his thighs. He has the Discipline Committee on call, and Kondo is waiting in the wings with as much mist protection that they can give her along with a breathing mask, but still it doesn’t feel like enough.

The clock ticks over to 2am and a shadow passes through one of the cameras. If Tetsuya wasn’t looking for it he might have missed it.

“He’s here.” Tetsuya says, into the mic and to Shoichi besides him. Hibari taps an affirmative into the small radio in his ear and subtly straightens into a ready position.

Tsuna, hair down for once and in it’s natural hue, puts down his book and bites his lips. Tetsuya keeps one eye on them and one eye on the small form silently walking the halls.

A nod to the corner has Kondo slipping out of the control room and heading over. She’ll stick to the shadows behind Reborn and when the timing is right make sure he’s weird chameleon gun is out of play.

“Right, initiating lockdown in 3, 2, 1.” Shoichi says, flipping the switch to seal the doors and windows.

“Pumping out Desuflurance at a 2:1 ratio, 30 second delay until release of Isoflurance. Dosage just slightly higher than for average child.” He continues, monitoring the levels just off screen.

Tetsuya brings his hand up and bites his thumb.

“Do we even know how it will effect him, being who he is?” He asks nervously. Shoichi rubs his stomach and shrugs. In the dim light of the control room he looks washed out and ghostly.

“Because he’s a flame using hitman or because he’s an arcobaleno?” He asks, eyes glued to his screens.

Tetsuya smiles wryly.

“Both? I assume he would need a higher dosage then your average child either way.” He says. On the screen the little form continues on, no indication of being dosed yet.

“That’s why we’re upping the ratio until he falls. Desuflurance is high onset, so we should see a reaction soon.”

--

Reborn frowns as he walks the silent halls, Leon in gun form in his hand. The house is eerie in it’s silence, and besides a few traps in perimeter and near the entrances, it feels a little too unguarded.

He has to keep telling himself that he is dealing with adolescence, not a rival mafia family. There’s no trap waiting in the wing, no ambush around the corner. Part of the reason he is having trouble disassociating these facts is that he is working off of a lot less information then he normally would like.

He can tell through his beetles where the boys are, knows that both are in relatively good health, and can guess based off of the traps and the subterfuge that they are prepared for some level of violence, but that’s about it.

He’s done jobs on a lot less, but most of the time not for retrieval missions.

How ironic that it is the Vongola jobs that end up being the messiest. He’ll be asking for a big bonus after all of this is done.

He slips into the last room before the one the two kids are in and pauses. Takes a deep breath. Frowns. He can just make out muffle noise, two voices in conversation in the next room.

He rubs his eyes and blinks down into his empty hands, gun suddenly gone. His mind blanks a little as he searches for where Leon might have gone, but stumbles as his vision wavers. He curses clumsily as his fingers go numb and reaches out with his flame, trying to burn what has to be a poison out of his body.

He doesn’t know when he was dosed with it, tries to remember if any of the traps he disarmed could have been laced with something, and struggles against slumping down into unconsciousness.

“Fuck.” He curses, feeling his heart slow. His knees slide out form under him and no matter how much sun flame he uses to burn away the poison it comes back with every breath.

A door opens and blurry form kneels by next to him. Sawada Tsunayoshi finishes clipping a breathing mask to his face and smiles at him through the plastic.

Must be air born, He thinks blearily, as he looses consciousness.

--

Tsuna adjusts his mask a little more and looks over the small black form of the hitman. Hard to imagine even know that he’s looking at a killer for the mafia, and supposedly the one who was supposed to train him to be a mafia boss.

“Visuals confirmed.” He says into the radio, voice muffled. He gets an affirmative and the shadows part to show Kondo holding a sleeping chameleon.

“Do we have containment for the little guy?” Rei asks, idly petting the small animal. If she’s surprised at lizards turning into weapons she doesn’t show it.

“We can get an enclosure set up, but better make sure it’s far away from where we are going to be holding Reborn. We don’t know what sort of powers it has.” Tetsuya says into his ear. He nods.

Kondo taps an informative and slips back into the shadows. Behind him Hibari stretches up from his hovering and makes a small 'tch' sound in the back of his throat.

“Sorry Hibari, no fighting him today.” Tsuna smiles. He gets a glare for his efforts as the other boy walks back into the sitting room.

Tsuna bends down a little more and picks up sleeping form of Reborn. He’s surprisingly heavy for what looks like a year old baby, but easy enough to carry.

Makes it easier that they don’t have much farther to go. He can hear the metallic hiss of a sealed door opening and hefts his burden up a little more as he turns to follow Hibari down to the basement.

Now comes the hard part.

Chapter Text

The screen fizzes with static for a few seconds before it abruptly clears, showing a young man dressed in black sitting ram rod straight in his chair. Behind him an angry looking teenager stands with his arms crossed next to another with a pompadour and a clipboard.

All three of them are wearing school uniforms with armbands, one with an indistinguishable kanji written on it, and another on the opposite arm with a stylised crow.

The boy in front is recognisable as being the missing Vongola heir.

“Welcome.” Sawada Tsunayoshi says with a tense smile, staring at the camera with the kind of intensity you see in dark rooms and bar fights.

“We are The Crows. And we won’t become Mafioso.” Here he pauses, cocking his head like a bird of prey.

He smiles.

“And we can prove it.”

The camera turns, showing an empty but dim room, before it fixes itself on one corner.

Hanging in a slightly glowing glass tube, Reborn sleeps. The wires going from the contraption spread out in a morbid facsimile of a spider web.

The camera swings back towards the three boys, except now there’s a large crowed gathered behind them, wearing blank masks and hoods. At least a hundred people stand straight backed.

“Let’s negotiate.” Tsuna says, hands resting in front and posture relaxed.

Sawada Iemitsu stares at the screen, and his son, with a numb sort of shock. It doesn’t feel like he’s facing a naïve young boy, doesn’t feel like he’s dealing with teenager rebellion.

Some of the people gathered behind the boy must be at least twice as old, based on height. And yet the presence and attitude he sees is that of a respected Mafia boss.

Or, he amends, staring at the screen, an anti-Mafia boss. He pauses the video and turns towards where Cecilia is standing.

The woman is still shaking, hours later. There’s a wide-eyed look to her as she clenches her hands together, still reeling from her visit to the supposed abandoned warehouse.

It was abandoned maybe, except for the mist trap disguised as a lighting barrier, designed to deliver an unforgettable ultimatum.

Iemitsu is unsure if her shock is to do with the trap, or the contents of the video it held. He himself is feeling a little shock at the image of Reborn floating in a mad scientists wet dream.

“Status?” He asks, refusing to go back to the video before he can get a more accurate idea of the situation. Part of him is hoping that she knows something to disprove his son sitting there on screen. That she can tell him this is some sort of trick.

Cecilia’s wide eyes find his and she swallows.

“We’ve lost all communication with any team up to 40 kilometers out of Namimori. Some of them have been disappearing from neighbouring towns. No sign of your wife. The Varia have also disappeared, but that seems to be deliberate on their part. No reports yet on how Reborn was captured.” She says, mostly evenly.

Iemitsu nods, hands clasped in front of his face. He stares at the paused screen some more before sighing. Unpauses it.

“We claim the land of Namimori as under our protection. Any move by a family, or individual allied with a family, will be taken as a threat. Any move to coerce a resident of Namimori, including descendants of previous Mafioso, will be seen as a threat.”

Here his son pauses again, before nodding the boy with the clipboard, who clears his throat and continues.

“People who will be actively hunted if they set foot in the boundaries of Namimori include Sawada Iemitsu, the Ninth Boss of Vongola, Dino Cavallone, all members of the Varia, Reborn, and the Vendice. Those from other families or who are not of the list may petition for admittance but must abide by the rules set forth.”

“Failure to comply will result in extreme action.”

The video pauses once again, as Iemitsu brings his head to his hands. Behind him Basil and Cecilia fidget but give him his space. It feels like he is already mourning.

He takes a few deep breaths, more to remind himself he can then because he needs to, and continues watching.

The video pans back towards Reborn floating in the strange contraption. The boy’s voice continues but no one bothers walking into frame.

“As to what will happen with the Hitman Reborn, we will hold custody of him for trespass until such a time that it can be determined he is no longer allied with Vongolo or else he abandons his mission to capture Sawada Tsunayoshi. Once those requirements are met we will release him. If they are not met, our scientist has developed a serum that will force a hibernation on even an Arcobaleno.”

A pencil snaps behind Iemitsu, but he doesn’t turn. He can’t. He feels almost mesmerised by the small shape in the blue water.

He’s never really liked Reborn, has butted heads against the baby sized man more then once, but he also never thought he would see the hitman brought so low. It sits in his stomach like a knife wound. It feels like it should go completely against reality.

“…They’re 13 years old.” Basil murmurs, somewhat in awe and somewhat in dismay. Iemitsu knows the feeling.

“We underestimated them.” He says grimly. It’s not something he’s going to be doing again.

“No one could have expected their resources.” Cecilia agrees. Perhaps her mind is on two innocent seeming middle school boys. Or maybe it’s on the machines that mimic actual flame use.

On screen, Reborn floats softly, and a voice evenly describes ultimatums and consequences.

“By now, a copy of this recording will have arrived at every major Mafia house. The information of where those are will be released if we do not have an answer in 43 hours. The information we have at our disposal is large, if we want, we can leak extremely sensitive data. Don’t make us.”

The phone rings and the video cuts out. Iemitsu picks it up numbly. He already has an idea of who’s on the other side.

“Tell me you didn’t know about this.” Timoteo says darkly. Iemitsu closes his eyes.

“No one knew about this.” He says. He thinks back to his wife’s distant smiles and thinks that might be a lie.

He’s not going to say that, though.

--

Tsuna makes tea for two and puts it down on the small table. He’s alone in the room, or appears to be, and he lets himself relax his shoulders some now that the cameras are gone.

Everyone left a while ago, and now there’s just a skeleton crew in the house. Hibari and Tetsuya are still downstairs with Shoichi organising their next step, but Tsuna has something he needs to do here first before he joins them.

“Are you sure that was wise? You are even more of a target now” A voice says from his left. Tsuna doesn’t bother turning to look and simply takes a long sip of tea.

“I made you a cup too, Mukuro-san.” He says when he is done, gently putting the china down. It’s one of his mother’s sets, and she would be sad to see it damaged.

A hair-raising chuckle is his answer, but a hand does reach out to pick up the other cup. The two sit in silence until the morning comes.

Chapter Text

Tsuna with pompadour

 

I said I would draw Tsuna in a pompadour, and I did. Originally posted on my tumblr. 

 


 

 

All around the world, the Mafia sits up. Some point behind raised hands, smug in the face of Vongola’s embarrassment, and yet others look deeper and start raising worries.

Reports of missing documents, mysterious accidents. Of secrets carefully plucked out of secure servers.

The rumours grow, and alliances form. More than one family starts planning to either retaliate or else join with ‘The Crows of Namimori’. A few even send invites for alliances, although the only response anyone ever gets is silence.

Very few of the families seem to understand what truly is going on. Most of them treat it as a rising new family, overstepping their bounds. They complain about those eschewing tradition, how it sets a bad example for the younger generation.

Some of them put in motion a strategy to deal with the upstarts. Some of the more foolhardy try and use mafia law to get rid of them.

When contacted, the Vindice simply report that they have no interest in policing a group not part of the mafia, and that if families are so keen to fight civilians that they should remember not to break oath.

When prompted to consider the Vongolan heir as having broken oath, they point to the laws of Omerta and reply that unless Sawada junior swears allegiance to a family, no matter his blood, he is still a civilian.

The more resourceful families go straight to action. Or they try, despite what is currently going on; Namimori is still considered Vongola territory. To try and send in men now would be tantamount to declaring war on the world’s most powerful family.

Very few families see the situation for what it is, and draw back into their own territories. A trap, designed like a Venus flytrap, where the whole of Namimori is one giant gaping maw. At the first tremor of mafia presence the jaws slam shut.

It is one thing to walk into a trap you are anticipating, and it is another thing to walk into a trap unknowingly out of pride. Much better to remain neutral.

Dino, unfortunately, doesn’t have a choice. As he is allied with Vongola he is already right in the middle of the chaos, and it is his mentor that was kidnapped. He might not like Reborn all that much most of the time, but he also doesn’t want to see the man-turned-child frozen in some sort of stasis in enemy territory either.

“I’m not sure how much help I will be,” he says anyway, face buried in his espresso. He’s been up for nineteen hours straight, and the fatigue shows.

Beside him, working the monitors, Basil smiles. Both of them are stuck in a dark room lit only by computer screens and littered with empty mugs and energy bar wrappers. Of the two of them Basil is the only one actually qualified to be using the computers to investigate Namimori and The Crows, but since Dino is almost useless until an actual battle comes around, he’s been shoved in here with him.

He does at least have the advantage of being a Mafia boss and one that was close to Reborn, so he does have some idea of what he is doing and the contacts to look into it.

Of course, the one that really should be here is Iemitsu, but he left a while ago to talk with the Ninth. The steady ticking of the clock says it won’t be much longer before he comes back.

“Oh.” Basil says, pulling away from his keyboard. Dino looks up from his espresso contemplation and quirks an eyebrow. He’s too tired for anything else.

“What now? More trouble?” He asks, knuckling his eyes. After the tenth hour, where they got almost hourly alerts towards disappearing Mafioso, he’s gotten quite blasé about the idea of more complications. Most of the men were found later anyways.

“Not as such, no. But I think I might have found out where the information leak came from,” Basil says, turning the monitor so Dino can peer over his shoulder.

Two lines of code stream across the screen, and it takes a while before Dino can make out what it says. Computers have never been his forte.

“Does that say what I think it says?” he asks, incredulously.

“If you mean, does it say ‘lol, get dunked on’ and then the timestamp for four years ago, then you would be right,” Basil answers, highlighting a few texts in the otherwise gibberish of whatever programing language is being used.

“Wait, how do we know this has anything to do with Namimori?” Dino asks, leaning in even more.

“Well, it was hidden in Iemitsu-sama’s finances, so I would say so,” Basil says. Dino pauses.

“You’re…looking at the CEDEF’s boss’ accounts? You can do that? Isn’t that type of stuff supposed to be top secret?” he says slowly, watching the blood rise in the younger boy’s face.

“I—I mean, we were told to, to look into everything we could, and it’s not like it’s difficult or anything,” the boy mumbles, rubbing his hair, “and I mean, I’m also CEDEF so it’s not like it’s nothing I don’t already know…”

“Wow, I guess we know who’s the true shadow leader behind CEDEF now,” Dino jokes, making Basil almost burst into actual flame.

“You kids having fun?” a voice says from the doorway, and they both turn.

Sawada Iemitsu looks ragged to the bone, with deep circled bruises under his eyes and the sallow complexion of a man who hasn’t slept in a few days. Basil jumps to his feet, conveniently hiding the screen from his boss in the process, and bows deeply.

“Sawada-sama!” he gushes, true fanatic adoration in his voice. Dino hides a wince.

“How’s the search going?” the CEDEF boss asks, taking a seat at the only other chair. Dino obligingly scoots over, his elbow hitting the back key on the keyboard by ‘accident’, consequently hiding the finance reports.

“Could be better. So far what we know isn’t that much more complete than it was a day ago. Whoever they have hiding their tracks, he’s good,” Dino reports dutifully.

“We do know now that they must have been planning this for at least a year, boss,” Basil adds, bringing up a list of dates, conveniently void of sources.

“Shit.” Iemitsu mutters, rubbing his stubble, “No wonder they’re as prepared as they are. Do we have an identity on the hacker that got the information?”

Basil types in a few search commands and motions to the screen. On it a young boy, photographed in a school science fair exhibit for the local newspaper, smiles nervously up at them. He looks to be about ten years old.

“That was taken around the same time as the first known data extraction, although it appears to not have caught anything about the inheritance. That came later, after the deaths of most of the Ninth’s sons. Shoichi Irie, genius computer programmer, engineer and scientist. He was already on his way towards doing correspondence classes with the university,” Basil recites, before clicking the next page.

On this one, a group of boys are clustered around a computer, with the smiling face of Shoichi looking out of it. Tsunayoshi and the boy that had been standing next to him in the video are instantly recognisable, as well as the Hibari scion in the back.

Iemitsu notes that his son isn’t wearing the black pompadour that seems to have become iconic of the Discipline Committee. The medical mask is present though, as well as the red Committee badge pinned to his sleeve.

“This was uploaded by one of the boy’s in the background to a private blog. Supposedly this was after routing out the local Yakuza group. The boy wrote that Shoichi was responsible for providing stun weapons, as well as intel.”

Another click, another slide. This one showing two girls smiling up at the camera, arms linked. Behind them two boys are playfully shoving each other, one with a baseball bat slung over his shoulder. In the very back, Tsuna is half hidden by a swinging arm.

“Sasagawa Kyoko, Kurokawa Hana, Yamamoto Takeshi, and Sasagawa Ryohei. Friends of Tsunayoshi-san, and noted as active participants in the Discipline Committee. You’ll be interested to note that Kurokawa is enrolled in long-distance university classes for math and data analysis. Yamamoto is the son of a retired hitman and seems to have inherited his sword, both Sasagawa siblings are influential members amongst their peers, and the brother is captain of the boxing club. He also happens to be a frequent member of the underground fight clubs.”

One final click.

Sawada Nana stands tall, besides a woman in white. Both are holding baseball bats and cheerful grins. Behind them, nailed to the wall, is a broken and bloody body.

Iemitsu takes a step back, and Dino winces at the look on his face. The photograph had startled them as well the first time they saw it. In the end it was because of it that he stayed for the rest of the night instead of going back to his hotel.

“What,” Iemitsu says, flatly. If Basil notices the conflict going on in his boss, he doesn’t mention it.

“Sawada Nana and an unknown woman, sixteen years ago. Male body belongs to a local Yakuza member, and the photo appears to be the confirmation photo towards an assassination by a rival group. It was probably never meant to survive, the original message was destroyed when that group was exterminated in an ‘accidental fire’. The boss was petty and stupid enough to keep a copy in his personal account.”

Basil finishes, giving his boss a moment to register that, before closing the file and opening a new one. All the photographs are linked by thick arrows, with notes attached to each. Almost like one of those data boards you see in cops shows.

This is where Dino takes over. Most of his time had been spent on it after all, and he knows the details the best.

“Ok, so here’s what we got as a timeline. Around fourteen years ago, Sawada Nana quits her job as a freelance contractor, most likely because she becomes pregnant at the time. Seven years later she enrols her shy child in an after-school care program, where the youngest Hibari is wreaking havoc. The two meet and somehow bond. Hibari then goes on to build up a nice little gang of delinquents, aimed at keeping the schoolyard in order. Of them, the most notable is Kusakabe Tetsuya who becomes something of a right-hand man when the group becomes official. Fast forward a few years and a pile of assault charges, and you have a very effective enforcement group. It is speculation as to whether without the mitigating and enthralling nature of a young Sky the group would have been quite as successful. As it is, quite a few of the members of the group display classic signs of Sky attraction.” Here he pauses, taking a sip of his espresso and letting Iemitsu absorb it all. He appears to still be in shock over his wife.

“The truly deciding factor, though, is when Shoichi Irie comes into the picture. You’ve already seen some of what he is capable of: hacking, weapons design. And with it, of course, the ability to poke into Mafia secrets. This is, if you will forgive my dramatics, the start of the end.”

“That explains some of it, but a small-time delinquent group shouldn’t be able to have the resources that Namimori does. Not to mention being able to convince the amount of people currently living there to go along with it,” Iemitsu interrupts, seemingly willing to ignore the thought of his wife as an assassin.

Basil nods. Dino on the other hand makes a so-so motion with his hand.

“Maybe, but you're forgetting something. Namimori is outrageously stuffed with flame sensitives due to being the dumping ground of a lot of civilian Mafia family members. Not to mention the Yakuza. Put that together, on top of a strong Sky descended from one of the strongest possible Sky bloodlines…?”

Iemitsu winces.

“His flames were supposed to be sealed though.”

Dino shrugs.

“Doesn’t seem to have stopped him.”

 

Tsuna watches Reborn float in what the rest of the group has taken to calling ‘The Dream Machine’ and what Shoichi is adamant is ‘that highly advanced piece-of-crap you’ve somehow convinced me to design, AKA The Morpheus v2.24’.

Somehow, he still can’t believe that their plan worked. It’s true that the Mafia is outrageously prideful, and wouldn’t expect civilians to be able to use guerilla warfare tactics, but this was supposed to be the strongest man in the world.

This was supposed to be someone unbeatable. This was supposed to be the man who would end up turning him into a Mafia boss.

His teeth grind at the reminder before he forcibly relaxes his jaw.

Maybe at one time he would have been weak-willed enough to follow along with a scheme like that, but not now that he’s been able to talk to people who’ve actually dealt with the Mafia. Maybe some would say that the idea of being a Mafia boss is exciting, but after meeting the widows, the orphans, the broken men and woman of the Mafia, the thought just curdles in his gut.

It doesn’t matter how ‘lenient’ Vongola is supposed to be, he doesn’t believe in their goodwill at all.

So far, twelve families have sent their answers. Out of those, only four have indicated that they will respect the ultimatums mentioned in the video. All four of them are notorious for being stoutly neutral, interested mostly in science or technology.

Honestly, that’s better then Tsuna expected.

It does mean though that he should probably step away from the glass seal and head towards the war room to help plan their next step. They need to organise the individual traps for each family they expect to send a negative, as well as comb very carefully over the positive responses for deception.

On top of that he has to manage his team, as well as the various offshoots like Mukuro’s gang.

He turns away.

Maybe one day after all of this he will be able to sit down and actually imagine what life would look like if the man in the glass was actually his tutor. Right now, he is much too busy.

Just before he seals the basement off again, he takes one last look at Reborn. In the glow of the machines he can almost imagine that he is watching him go.

“They’re making a disgrace of Vongola,” Squalo mutters, rewinding the video again so that he can watch the camera pan back to Reborn, “should have at least killed the shitty baby.”

Across the table Mammon snorts, before tapping the tablet and projecting the image in the air above the table, letting the rest of the group see it.

“That means we get to kill them, right?” Bel asks, sounding bored. He hasn’t even bothered looking up from sharpening his blades.

Xanxus, still and silent up to this point, narrows his eyes and crosses his arms.

“They were able to get the drop on an Arcobaleno, means they can’t be completely useless,” He taps the video forward, so it pauses on Sawada’s face, “still trash though.”

Squalo makes a tsking sound in the back of his throat. Besides him Lussario hums consideringly.

“Just means the fight will be worth it.” He says while inspecting his nails.

Xanxus bangs a fist onto the table and snarls at the men.

"And the shitty boss still wants the brat as a heir. Fucking can't cut his losses like a fucking leader should." His flames hover just over his skin, turning the air around him into steam. His team all casually lean away, used to it.

"This just gives us a reason to kill em, though," Bel says, sneer firmly plastered on his face. Mammon shakes their head.

"If Sawada was officially a part of the Family, we would have grounds to initiate an inheritance battle. If he was completely outside the family we would be able to exercise our authority to organize a hit on him. As it is, he exist both inside and outside the family. For all points and purposes, untouchable,” the Arcobaleno says in a monotone. They appear completely uncaring.

The rest of the group make disgusted expressions, and start muttering about the uselessness of rules.

"Quiet, trash!" Xanxus snaps, drawing his gun. For the most part the noise subsides.

"Quality means being certain of our outcome, which means having a family still standing to take over. Which it won't be, if we take on the whole of it," Lussario says thoughtfully. The more bloodthirsty of the group make disgruntled noises.

"But all we need to do is give definite proof that Sawada is unsuitable for inheritance, right? We don't actually have to kill him,” he continues, getting a hum of consideration from Mammon and disgusted looks from the rest. Xanxus is tellingly quiet.

"Get on with it, shitty peacock," Squalo complains, leaning heavily on the table. The video plays another loop, static showing for a second before the face of Sawada reemerges.

"So, what sort of things disqualify you from inheriting? Death of course, which is looking to be tricky. Complete ineptitude, which we have just been shown is also not an option. That leaves us with mental instability and-" he trails off.

"And prior engagement," Xanxus finishes. Lussario grins smugly.

"We just have to prove that these so called 'Crows' are a Mafia family, and that Sawada is the boss, and he will be ineligible from inheriting anything from Vongola."

 

Cecilia and Nanaki watch as their boss paces the hallway in silence. Technically both of them fall under the greater Vongolan hierarchy, and Iemitsu is only their supervisor on this mission, but he is, currently, their boss.

Unfortunately.

“It has to be fake,” Iemitsu mutters, footsteps echoing down the hall. He had grabbed the two of them on his way out of the research closet, looking even more worn down then when he had walked in.

“I would have noticed something, there’s no way she could have kept that a secret. It’s Nana,” he continues.

The two Mafioso share a look, but keep obediently quiet. They don’t bother reminding the older man that they don’t have time for his rambling. Although Cecilia’s eye does start twitching when, after a stopping to stare at the wall for a few seconds, he continues pacing.

Nanaki chews on his toothpick and watches both of them with lazy eyes, looking completely unconcerned.

“She’s a housewife,” Iemitsu says in something between horror and confusion.

Cecilia sighs.

“Might I remind you that one of the most popular tactics for women assassins is that of the black widow?” she says, crossing her arms.

Iemitsu snaps around and stares at her with an open mouth.

“Are you trying to say she married me for a hit?” He yelps.

Cecilia’s lips purse and she very carefully shrugs. It’s probably not a good career move on her part to suggest that her superior’s wife only married him so she could kill him later.

“Maybe she got tired of the life and married the first guy she came across. Which just happened to be you,” Nanaki pipes up, words mumbled through the wood in his mouth.

Cecilia elbows him in the gut.

“I’m sure it’s nothing. In the meantime, was there something you needed us for, sir?” she says, smiling through her ire.

Iemitsu pushes one hand into his loose fringe and sighs.

“We have some intelligence that suggests a rival family will try and break into Namimori tonight. No doubt they are looking to take over the territory now that it is contested. It is, as I am sure you are both aware, a trap. While both groups are occupied I need you to sneak in and relay back more information. We need to know what’s going on in there.”

Cecilia nods, glad to finally have some semblance of competence from her otherwise lackadaisical boss. Nanaki, on the other hand, just sighs and shoves another toothpick into his mouth.

“Understood, sir!”

Shoichi leans back and cracks his neck. In front of him, the newest readout from the latest Spyders sweep across his screens. Beside him are a few of the other more computer savvy volunteers, a mismatch of street kids and office workers.

“Sir!” one of them yells, bringing his attention back with a snap. He’s still not used to the respect being one of the team leads gives him.

“Yes?” he asks, standing and wandering over. The tech who called him is one of Ghost’s, a tired-looking teen of indeterminate gender.

“Thought you would like to see this, I have transcripts from a conversation between Sawada Iemitsu and two grunts. Looks like orders for infiltration. Tonight,” the youth says, beaded bracelet jangling as they bring up the records.

Shoichi snags the dangling headphones attached to the tech’s desk and lets himself be ushered into their seat. Pressing play, he watches as both the transcribed audio and the hidden video roll by. The angle is pretty mediocre, as the Spyder had been clinging to one of the grunts’ heads, but it gives enough for a basic body language program to start spitting out some details.

“Looks like they found out about Mama’s past,” he says with a frown, before bringing up a dialogue box with a list of saved console commands. It takes a single click to bring up the backdoor he installed into the Vongolan network, letting him bypass several more annoying security measures.

A neat and tidy list of servers pop up, and he clicks the right port for the satellite HQ that Iemitsu has been using for his investigations.

“Hmm, looks like they have someone who’s not completely useless at computers. I should have thought to erase more things. Oh well, it’s too late for any of this to be useful to them anyways.” He mumbles, scrolling through the time-stamped documents and searches.

“Do we not have any bugs in there?” the youth of indeterminate gender asks, and he hums in thought before checking the blueprints.

“Looks like they’ve been doing all their digging in a storage closet for some reason. Possibly it’s the only room that gets good Internet speed, which they would need to be able to keep up with the security on our firewalls. Here, I’ll add it to the Spyder’s search radius.”

He then brings back up the audio file, along with the video recording and the finished analysis, and watches the words roll on by for a few seconds.

“Well, looks like we have two jobs tonight. Call Mama, would you? She’ll want to be in on this one. I’ll contact Tsuna and Tetsuya and set up some sort of plan,” he finally says, tugging at a stray lock of hair.

The youth of indeterminate gender nods vigorously. Shoichi gives back their chair and heads back to his desk, side stepping bits and pieces of unfinished projects as he does.

A few heads nod toward him, either in the process of building more equipment or watching the monitors, and not for the first time he wonders at the amount of human beings in his life. He really thought for a while he would only ever have robots and online friends.

And now look at him, heading his own department. Having something he can comfortably call friendship with Tsuna and his group. He’s even mostly gotten over his stomach aches whenever he has to meet someone new.

On the other hand, people.

He sidesteps an older man in rumpled clothing swearing at the soldering kit in his hands, streaks of silver melted into the front of his sweater. This brings him closer to a girl with a rainbow flag stitched across her leather jacket, hair dyed a bright neon green, the contents of her screen stopping him in his tracks.

“Is that…ethical?” he asks slowly, watching the grinding bodies in what appears to be one of Vongola’s media entertainment rooms.

The girl unhooks one headphone and grins at him, teeth flashing at him.

“Is anything that we’re doing ethical? Can you rank the scale of morality involved in spying and voyeurism?” she retorts, shrugging.

Shoichi fidgets, but something about that has him pausing.

“But we are spying on the Mafia, not on people, doing, you know. Not on sex,” he says, face as red as his hair.

The girl nods slowly.

“That is true, crimes committed against a person are much more looked down upon than crimes committed against an organisation. Especially when it comes to privacy and sexuality. Think of it like this then,” she says, sweeping her arm out, “we don’t watch the raunchy stuff, we turn off the cameras every time someone goes to the washroom or makes out in the break room. You are now reducing your watching time by about a fifth. Now imagine what can happen in that time, how slow your reaction time will be when someone decides to be efficient and pass on mission plans at the same time that they fuck James from acquisitions.”

Shoichi feels his eyebrows rise, the blood in his cheeks spread out until he’s absolutely sure he’s red all over.

“Right. Carry on,” he finally gets out, conceding the point and running away at the same time. The type of people that usually end up in tech tend to be odd, nerds and enthusiasts, but he thinks that some of them might be weirder than others. Or maybe just a lot more knowledgeable than he is. He feels like he’s just been lecture by his computer ethics teacher.

“I’m not sure this is a good idea.” Tsuna worries, watching his mother pack. A few unmarked bottles filled with unidentifiable liquids, rope, duct tape, a variety of knives, a lighter, more rope…

“That’s what I said about you conceding leadership over to Hibari,” his mother says evenly. Tsuna winces.

His mother has always had strong opinions about not being beholden to anyone, including being a subordinate under someone like Hibari. He figures it’s something she carries from her time as a contractor, but it has only strengthened over the years when it became obvious that the Mafia had their sights on him.

If he had taken the position of boss, he knows she would have a lot less of an issue with it all. As it is, she’s supportive only because she considers him some sort of shadow leader, craftily planning things from behind his much more bloodthirsty boss.

She’s not altogether wrong.

“Hibari is much more suited towards being the leader. Besides, it looks bad if I were to become boss when the Mafia is gunning for me. Like this it looks like I’m being protected, not dragging in everyone else for my own goals,” he says with a sigh. He gets a kiss on the head in reply.

To think, a few years ago she was still pretending to be the perfect housewife. He wouldn’t say he’s ok with her past job, but he’s made his peace with it. It helps that she has no desire to go back to it, finds the very thought distasteful.

Although that doesn’t mean she’s not prepared to kill, or indeed, that she feels any sort of regret in the act at all. He’s quite aware that there’s something wrong with her, but she’s still his mother, and he loves her.

“Be safe, I’ll see you tonight at the meeting.” She says, ruffling his hair a little before drifting out of the bedroom and heading for the stairs. He runs after her.

“Wait!” he calls out, stopping her before she gets to the door, “you’re forgetting these.”

He holds out the box of plastic gloves to her and basks in her surprised delight. Nana’s small hands delicately pick up the box and she tucks it into her overlarge purse.

“Oh course, silly me. You be good now, Tsu-kun,” she says, before turning away.

Tsuna watches her walk down the road and bites at his nails, before a phone call has him scrambling to find his cellphone.

“Hello?” he asks, bringing the device up to his ear.

“Tsuna! Glad I could catch you. You’re still at Hibari’s right?” Takeshi says through the phone. Tsuna blinks. He had been sure that the other boy was still on that ‘top secret training mission’ with his father.

“Yeah, why?” Hh asks, tucking the phone into one shoulder so he can pick up one of Shoichi’s tablets and start poking at the schedule saved on it. Just opening it requires both sets of fingerprints, a blood sample, and a biometric reading.

He supposes it really isn’t paranoia if they are out to get you.

“I have something awesome to show you. Me and dad were experimenting, and...just hang on a sec. We’re almost there,” Takeshi hangs up, and Tsuna is left blinking once more.

His friends are so energetic.

“Should I get the others?” is the first thing Tsuna says upon seeing Takeshi and his father walk through the door, swords in hand.

Takeshi laughs.

“Probably, but I’m not sure I can wait. C’mon, we need to go outside for this,” he says, dragging Tsuna away from his tablet and out the door. Tsuyoshi watches them go with an indulgent eye and waves at Tsuna’s stuttered protests.

“I’ll get the fire extinguisher!” he yells, as both boys go around the corner.

“Fire extinguisher?” Tsuna yelps, tugging his arm out of Takeshi’s hold. He’s a lot stronger than he remembers, so the training trip must have done something.

“Haha, ha,” Takeshi says with a grin, but doesn’t slow down.

Finally, the enter one of the lesser-used gardens, slightly overrun by creeping weeds and dry leaves.

“Ok, this should do it,” Takeshi says, before taking a few steps away from Tsuna and turning so he’s facing him.

“What exactly are you going to do?” Tsuna asks cautiously, edging away a little. He’s gotten used to Takeshi’s insanity, which means he is legitimately worried about what the boy is about to pull out.

“Watch,” he says, swinging his sword down from where it was resting on his shoulder, like a baseball bat.

He tips the blade until it is resting almost vertically to the ground, loose-handed and with the sort of concentration most people don’t consider him capable of.

A few seconds pass.

“What? I don’t see—“ Tsuna is interrupted when the blade, suddenly and without warning, bursts into flame.

Dirt and leaves go kicking up, and he brings his arms up to protect against the blast, realising as he does that the fire feels almost cool to the touch.

There’s a sickening crunch above them, and then water pours from the suddenly black clouds. Tsuna opens his eyes to see Takeshi, water pouring down his face, collapsed on his knees with his sword digging into he suddenly wet soil.

He quickly moves to his side, hands fluttering a little before sanity reasserts.

“That’s nothing a fire extinguisher would help with!” he can’t help but complain, crouching down and checking up on the downed boy.

“Haha. Well, the first few times there was maybe some fire, and then water. The fire ate the water by the way. I guess this means I’m getting better at it?” he says through heaving breaths.

Tsuna shakes his head, before hauling the other boy up and settling him back on his feet. He doesn’t appear to be any the worse for wear, besides being out of breath.

Tsuna takes one more look at the heaving clouds, the suddenly very muddy garden, and then down to their equality wet and muddy clothing.

“Oh man, Hibari is going to kill us.”

Nana catches a cab a few blocks from the Hibari residence and gives the driver the address to a popular café in the area where the two grunts are supposed to be. She sits down and orders tea with mochi, and sets about to wait.

She had the foresight to bring a book, which conveniently hides the small tablet that her target information is currently being streamed to. Popping in some earphones gives her the appearance of relaxation, while also giving her access to the tech department on the other line.

“Scan complete,” a female voice says through the headphones, “calculating most advantageous ambush spots, escape routes, local ‘Crow participation and chance of interference. Thirty seconds until calculation complete.”

Nana hums and takes a sip of her tea. How nice it is to have competent handlers; it’s too bad she never had the resources that the Crows seem content to throw at her now.

“There’re three alleys in your general area, two of which have access to Crow-approved safe houses. Downloading coordinates to your tablet now. Closest route back to base highlighted here. There’s a total of twenty-four local Crows in your area, and zero unapproved Mafia members. There’s a thirty percent chance of rain, and the current schedule for the Corridori family elimination is proceeding according to plan. You have an hour.”

She murmurs her thanks, conveniently timed with the arrival of her order of mochi, and settles in to read.

The grunts are nothing particularly interesting, although she is amused to see that they are ones that she has come across before. The woman in particular, having been one of the ones she disposed of gently, in accordance with her son’s wishes for minimal bloodshed.

Today however, she doesn’t intend to be so nice.

She’s not too worried about either of their fighting skills, having no real intentions of facing them in a fair fight, but she does frown a little at the thought of having to take down both of them at the same time.

There’s no way they will let themselves be separated now that they are officially in enemy territory. On top of that, she will have to make sure they don’t notice her once during the whole affair, since they will have been warned by now as to her true nature.

A pity, she does it enjoy it when her prey comes up to her unsuspecting.

“You have incoming, your 3 o’clock. Both targets identified, body language appears to be cautious but relaxed, they should come into sight in forty seconds,” the voice in her ear says, and she turns in her chair so her face is out of sight but she has a clear view on the café’s mirrored backboard.

A quick tap of her tablet has a bunch of cameras popping on screen, giving her even more area to cover. There’s even one in the alley she has selected as her first choice.

Good, now just for the bait.

She shrugs her jacket off and tugs the hood up on the sweater underneath it. On her back, a soaring Crow takes flight in red thread. The number 11 is written right under it, and she makes sure she’s positioned in such a way that when the two goons round the corner it’s the first thing they see. A nod to the waitress and she walks out, angling her face away.

One of the nearby Crows takes her seat and continues acts as if they were at her table all along. Her things will be safe with them until she can reclaim them.

She doesn’t even have to look to know that the trap worked, the sudden prickling along her scalp tells her the grunts have noticed her. How predictable.

Still, she has to tuck a grin back down as she walks towards her chosen alley. One of the woman in the neighbourhood-knitting circle winks at her as she walks past, and she returns it with one of her own.

It’s good to be back.