Revel In Your Time - Thai_Tea_Addict (2024)

Chapter 1: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 1

Summary:

It takes only a moment.

Chapter Text

A/N: Hi y’all!

WARNING TAG: The first chapter contains a scene of attempted sexual assault on a child. It is plot-relevant and will be dealt with in-storyline. If you are particularly triggered by themes of sexual assault/abuse & consent, this story is probably not for you.

Chapter 1

Sawada Tsunayoshi was a forgetful child. It was a trait he’d likely inherited from his mother, his neighbors would mutter to each other; indeed, cheerful Sawada Nana was a prime figure of ditziness, and little Tsuna did so take after his mother. With big amber eyes and pale skin, tufts of fluffy brown hair stuck out from his scalp, untameable with a comb. He smelled sweet, as most young Omega do – an indefinable sweetness, like cotton candy dissolved into the air. Ditziness could be endearing, at least for an Omega, and it wasn’t as if an Omega like Tsuna needed to worry about anything outside of his home.

So when Tsuna forgot to bring a handkerchief, it was fine; Shiori-sensei lent him a new one, and made sure to throw it out once he’d used it.

He’d once trotted halfway to school before realizing he was still wearing his house slippers, resulting in a smiling Nana escorting him late to his kindergarten class.

A hundred, a thousand different instances culminated in the impression young Tsuna left on his community: a pitiful little Omega with a head of fluff.

A forgetful child he may be, but little Tsuna was not always like that. But he had forgotten that – it just became so hard to hold onto the realization, along with basic coordination and, for a while, even short-term memories.

Because as it turned out, Flame suppression was not an exact science.

So when five year old Sawada Tsunayoshi had his active Flames sealed by a kind old man in a nice suit, Tsuna lost more than just his connection to the warmth of his inner fire. The effects were not obvious, and the two men were only around long enough to make sure Tsuna woke up after the fact. Besides, who would notice anything strange in a little child tripping over their own two feet, or forgetting to do basic chores, or zoning out for long stretches of time?

And so for two years, little Tsuna slowly acclimated. No one paid him much mind, because as far as Namimori was concerned, Sawada Tsunayoshi was just a baby Omega with no remarkable features, a head full of air, and with no Alpha in the home.

And as many in his dynamic do: he will present in his teens (late teens if he is lucky, so that he may at least attend school, early teens if his notorious brand of ‘luck’ continues on), and before he reaches his 20th birthday, he will be Mated and happily breeding out children of his own. Hopefully he will keep house as nicely as his Beta mother, and perhaps his children will be bred from an Alpha with better mental faculties.

This is the future expected of Sawada Tsunayoshi.

It promptly dies on a late afternoon in chilly October, when Tsuna is seven years old.

Tsuna is playing alone at the neighborhood park; he was not alone ten minutes ago, when Takao-kun and his mother were near, but the other boy claimed he didn’t want to be friends with “dumb Tsuna” and complained to his mother that he wanted to leave. The woman had glanced between her son and the young Omega child he’d left behind in the sandbox, but experience with other Omega told her that Tsuna would just run on home with no one in the park left to play with, and so she left with her son in tow.

Tsuna would have left – it’s getting cold and his mother has likely almost finished preparing dinner – but his eyes catch on the blazing orange of an autumn sunset, something (pleasant? unpleasant?)sparking in his chest but dying before it can even dare dredge up any kind of memory.

A passing whim, a lingering thought – these delay Tsuna for an extra 20 minutes, but 20 minutes is all it takes.

A child, no matter Omega or Beta or Alpha, will not be able to gauge others with their senses until they properly presented; that is, go through puberty when their first and secondary genders fully develop. They can recognize others by scent if a person draws close to them but strangers have no business coming into such close contact with children, Omega children especially.

A sharp scent, one that Tsuna cannot properly describe because it’s the first time he’s confronted with a full-grown Alpha’s aggression, a pheromone so thick that it stuns Tsuna into compliance. The spark has returned, beating hard and fast like Tsuna’s heart, but it is intermittently smothered like a candle in turbulent wind.

Tsuna is dragged out of the sandbox and into a bruising hold. He’s carried away from the park, from view, into trees and shrubbery that block his view of anything familiar. Tsuna does not know that this is because the Alpha male has no quick getaway, spurred into action by the sight of an Omega so small and vulnerable and alone, that this isn’t even a planned abduction, only a spur of the moment cruelty brought on by opportunity.

So Tsuna is dropped onto the ground, because while it is known Omegas crave gentle touch and soft surfaces, it does not register because it does not matter. Tsuna does not matter. He was nothing more than an opportunity snatched up.

The Alpha’s pheromones are stifling, so much that Tsuna thinks he may choke on them. It’s hard to move, but the point is moot when the Alpha’s hands descend on him.

An Omega child does not have the matured pheromones developed that could help soothe a riled-up Alpha. Those were developed after they’d “presented” – the equivalent of a puberty for their second gender.

For Tsuna’s dynamic, that meant fully-developed scent glands that would be able to emit pheromones that could denote his emotional and physical state, a scent meant to entice prospective mates, and when the time came, catch the scent of the one he mated with to showcase their claim. His body would also fully develop, his genitalia fully-formed, able to self-lubricate and bear children.

An Omega child lacked the fully-formed uterus, the self-lubrication formed from their glands, the ability to emit their own distinctive scent outside of a mild sweetness that only turned biting when they were in distress but could not extend more than a couple meters from their body.

The Alpha’s pheromones are screaming but Tsuna’s cannot respond because he is a child, too young to do much more than whimper. Hands pull at his shirt, ripping fabric apart in their haste, and the spark in Tsuna’s chest flashes with a startling but familiar heat that momentarily clears the choking pheromones in his nose, just enough for Tsuna to draw in a breath to wail.

A growl is felt more than heard, a large hand clamping over Tsuna’s mouth that robs him of his ability to breathe. The fire in Tsuna’s chest blazes, swirling like a tightly-contained maelstrom, a voice whispering in Tsuna’s mind that ‘I’m going to die, I’m going to die’, his very own funeral dirge as an Alpha attempts to take more from Tsuna than just his life.

Hot, damp breath ghosts over the sensitive flesh of Tsuna’s neck, and even though he does not fully understand it, the flame in his chest is climbing further up just as teeth clamp down in an attempt to claim him.

To mark an Omega, an Alpha need only bite down on any exposed flesh and inject some of their pheromones into the Omega. A grown Omega would meet the pheromones with their own, their body would acclimate to the invasion, and depending on the circ*mstance – if willing, one bite may be enough to lay the Claim; if unwilling, the chemical make-up of the answering Omega pheromones could conflict with the invading Alpha’s, allowing a short period where the Omega’s body could actively reject the Claim if they’re strong enough to do so.

To accept or to reject was a moot point for Omega children, because their bodies were not developed enough to meet the foreign invaders. It would cause an adverse reaction, their pheromones too weak to fight and their undeveloped bodies unable to answer the Claim. And so in answer, with a near 90% rate – Claimed Omega children died within the first hour.

On a late October afternoon, Sawada Tsunayoshi does not die.

But the seal on his Flames does.

There is heat, intense and overflowing, and it takes everything with it: the scent, the view, the sounds, and the feeling. More importantly, it takes the Alpha with it – it is too sudden and too violent, a scream aborted before it could even make it out of the Alpha’s jaw.

The pheromones, the disgusting poison lodged into Tsuna’s throat from a weeping wound, attempt to convince a convulsing and unwilling body to submit, but Tsuna cannot feel the pain; the flames are everywhere, inside him and outside him, a blazing orange fire more comforting than even the softest cocoon of blankets.

The flames burn everything related to the stain on Tsuna’s skin: flesh and bone are disintegrated in unrelenting orange, and only when the last bit of threat is gone do the flames retreat back into Tsuna, a warm glow in the cavity of his heart.

There is a bleeding Mark on his throat, terror laden in his bones, and a vague threat of ‘submit, submit’ lingering in the scent still scorched into his throat. (Deep inside, the flame whispers “no.”) Tsuna knows what has happened, laid out on the forest floor covered in bruises. Tsuna knows what he has done.

But he doesn’t want to, and so his memory does something very strange: it allows him to forget.

For now.

Sawada Nana is a Beta, like her parents before her and their parents before them. A long line of Beta, which is perfectly fine for Nana – Betas make up the majority of the population, after all, and as romantic as the daytime dramas she sometimes enjoyed made Alpha-Omega relationships out to be, she was perfectly happy with her own fairytale romance.

Iemitsu was her own roguish Beta prince charming, with an infectious smile and hands calloused from work. He could not spend as much time at home as he would like, but Nana was a very understanding person, knew that his job was important to him and she had married him under no delusions that he’d be able to stay at home. She had even known a child would not change that.

She had hoped with a child, though, she would feel...less lonely about it. Her prayers were answered once she’d learned she was pregnant, and months spent waddling around with her own special gift was heaven.

It still was, even as she held the squirming bundle of her baby boy in her arms, listening as the nurse filled out the paperwork with Nana’s input.

Sawada Tsunayoshi, son of Sawada Iemitsu and Nana.

Male.

Omega.

As far as Nana knew, there were no Omega in Nana’s line. At least, not for three generations; she wasn’t as up to date on her own lineage. Iemitsu had cooed at the bundle in her arms, as in love with their son as she was, but the quiet look in his eyes likely matched her own.

An Omega. A dynamic meant to be protected, meant to submit, fragile and delicate and weak. Every citizen in Japan learned about dynamics throughout their years of schooling but it essentially boiled down to this: Alphas were meant to dominate and succeed, Omegas were meant to submit and breed, and Betas were meant to fill in everywhere else.

Nana had baby-proofed the house far before she’d given birth, but when she returned home with baby and husband in tow, they’d had to Omega-proof it too. An increase in soft things – blankets and plush animals and pillows and blankets – soft detergent, lighter colors, anything Nana could get her hands on that Parenting Omega books recommended.

Iemitsu had helped, of course, but his work came calling for him once again, so Nana kissed him on his cheek and raised Tsuna’s delicate, chubby wrist to mock a farewell wave as Iemitsu left once more.

Nana was ditzy and a bit of an airhead, but she was an excellent homemaker. Tsuna grew under her doting hands, and her shy but adorable toddler turned into a ditzy, clumsy child with flyaway hair and wide, innocent eyes.

‘Our little Tuna-fish is too cute,’ Iemitsu once remarked, grinning widely as his boss played with their 5-year-old son in the yard.

‘You’re going to have your hands full with mating applications, once Tsu-kun finally Presents,’ Nana had giggled. Nana wasn’t conceited but she knew she was pretty – and their son had definitely taken after her.

Iemitsu mocked a scowl. ‘No one is good enough for our Tsu-kun!’ he declared.

Nana had laughed.

Mating applications were formal, slowly falling out of style with the next generation, but a traditional, hard-working man like Iemitsu would never consider anything else for their son, Nana knew.

Omega mated young. Nana had only known – not personally – a handful of Omega during her time in high school. After they’d presented, they’d been inundated with Mating offers; of the seven in her school, only two had graduated. She’d never seen any in her college. Less than 10% of Omega in Japan attended higher education, though, let alone graduate with degrees.

Omega were expected to settle down and have children. Nana, in one of her many whimsical moods, had once thought she would have made a good Omega: a gifted homemaker and unfailingly loyal wife to her husband. She believed this was why she would not have much difficulty raising an Omega child. She’d read up on all she could of Omega children, from newborn to preteen; lately she’d been perusing Omega teen and young adult parenting books, intent on making sure she’d be ready when it came to Tsuna presenting and helping him choose a suitable mate.

Tsuna was gentle and delicate. When he outgrew some of his clumsiness, she’d start teaching him to cook, would start assigning him more chores so that he could grow used to tending a home. He was cute, with his large eyes and soft, fluffy hair; Nana thought (rather biased) that Tsuna would make a fine Omega husband.

This idea died one early evening in October, to the background smell of perfectly cooked dinner.

She heard the door creak open before being quietly closed once more. Tsuna was quiet but messy – something Nana had planned on rectifying once Tsuna was able to reliably fold his own laundry by himself.

“Tsu-kun, welcome home!” Nana called out. There was a slight chiding quality to it; Tsuna should have remembered to announce his return, but her son really was just so forgetful.

There’s no reply, but there are soft footsteps. Nana finishes plating their dinner just as Tsuna’s gentle, sweet scent reaches her – this alone causes her to turn around. There’s no reason for Tsuna’s scent to extend so far, but her Beta nose is unable to parse out the undercurrents as easily as a grown Alpha or Omega could. But she is a mother before anything, and her heart reminds her of this as it hammers in her chest before her gaze falls on her only child.

“Mama,” Tsuna says, voice weak and amber eyes locked somewhere on the vicinity past her head. Sticks and dead leaves are caught in his unruly tresses, his pants are stained with dirt and soot, the nice pastel blue sweater she’d bought for him last week is ripped from his right shoulder to his collar, where blood seeps into the fabric. “It hurts.”

Nana rushes forward, adrenaline in her veins and horror on her face. There is no room for disbelief, not while her child is injured and smelling-

Smelling of-

Nana is scared but her eyes find the angry, bleeding red of the Mark so clearly torn into Tsuna’s neck. A messy, cruel thing – meant to subdue, meant to hurt. Tsuna’s pale skin stands out all the more because of it.

She can smell it, no matter how weak her senses. An Alpha’s Mark.

The sobs get stuck in her throat. This can’t- Not her Tsuna-

“It hurts,” Tsuna repeats, quieter, and now there are tears in those gorgeous amber eyes.

Nana’s on the phone, counting the minutes.

How long does Tsuna have before the Alpha’s claim kills him?

An ambulance brings Tsuna to an Omega-designated ward of the general hospital. Nana sits at her wailing child’s bedside as doctors and nurses bustle in and out; they are gentle in every approach to her son, treating him like shattered glass and murmuring among themselves about the Mark on his neck.

Tsuna says he doesn’t remember. He was at the park playing in the sandbox, and then he was standing in the foyer of his home; whatever happened in between is a mystery to him. The doctor said it was shock, and though they do not want to push it, they also feel the window of opportunity on finding the monster who would do this closing with every passing minute.

A near 90% fatality rate. That was the result of an Alpha mark on an Omega child.

Tsuna had returned home at 5:14PM. It was now just five minutes past six.

Most died within the first hour. Some lasted a couple hours more.

A Beta nurse had the time stamped somewhere on the forms. There was nothing they could do – pumping Tsuna full of more pheromones would only further wrack his body, and anesthesia would work in the Mark’s favor – killing him quicker than anything. The only thing they could do was put him in the softest bed, prop him up on the softest pillow, cover him in the softest blankets, and wait for his body to give up on him or win.

Almost 90% of the time, the Omega child did not win.

Nana’s hands are shaking and her eyes are dry. Too dry, and she blinks to bring the room and Tsuna back into focus. Outside of the room, just in range of Nana’s hearing, two doctors and a nurse are debating on whether they should suggest euthanizing Tsuna so that he’d no longer be in pain, or let him continue to try and fight just so that they might have more time to glean information from him about the attacker.

Nana’s eyes fall on Tsuna’s frail wrists, leading into small, pale hands. She wants so badly to hold him, to gather him up and hold him just as she had when he first came into the world.

But she is so scared to touch.

Tsuna is not sleeping – he’s in too much pain, and instead his eyes are focused on the TV blearily. A children’s cartoon is playing, a cartoon bear singing something about the colors of the rainbow. He slowly mouths along with the words, but his eyes refocus back on Nana when the commercials come on.

“I like orange,” he says. It seems to cause him pain, and brings attention to the bandages wrapped around his throat.

Nana forces a smile onto her lips but it wobbles dangerously. “Me too, Tsu-kun,” she murmurs back. “It’s a lovely color.”

She watches him avidly, obsessively. She does not want the last words he hears from her to be about colors, his favorite or not. She wants to cry but knows she can’t, not as long as Tsuna is still fighting.

Iemitsu had given her two numbers to memorize in case she ever needed to contact him. One connected directly to his phone mailbox; all calls were returned within three hours if she left a message there. She’d used it once before, when she’d needed to ask Iemitsu for proof of employment when enrolling Tsuna in his kindergarten.

The second number was for emergencies only. She’d never used it before tonight. She’d called it for the first time as Tsuna was rushed into ER. It had rung twice, before there was a click and young woman’s voice filtered down through the receiver in cool, professional tones.

“What is your emergency?” No greeting, no explanations – all business.

“Is- This is Sawada Nana,” Nana choked out.

“We know who you are, ma’am,” the other woman stated. “Please state your emergency.”

This was not the voice of a person who worked on a construction site. But Iemitsu had given her the number and Nana trusted him.

“Tsu-kun – my son, Tsuna, he- He...” The words were so hard to say, she could not get them to leave her throat. “H-He’s in the hospital. Namimori General. Please, tell Iemitsu – tell him he has to come home. He has to come home right now.”

“...Ma’am, why is your son in the hospital?” the woman had lost the glacial tone but rigid professionalism lined her words. Oddly enough, it was more calming than not.

But the words still could not come.

An Omega’s worth was dependent on their breedability. They needed good genes: attractive looks, intelligence, no known deformities or conditions. The younger, the more virile; the purer, the higher the pedigree.

Tsuna was seven years old and he’d been violated through the Mark on his throat.

“Because he’s dying,” Nana said into the receiver, and then hung up before she would be asked to explain why.

Shame bit into her gut.

Five hours later, Sawada Iemitsu storms into the Omega wing of Namimori General Hospital, flanked by a handful of Betas in suits. Nana sobs into his chest as a doctor explains why his son is sleeping fitfully in a room paces away.

Friday morning, Tsuna wakes up to his parents on either side of his hospital bed. A nurse steps in to check his vitals once more. There is an air of shock that nearly swallows the relief radiating from his parents’ faces at the sight of his open eyes.

Saturday morning, Sawada Tsunayoshi is checked out of the the hospital. There are bandages wrapped around his throat, hiding bruised flesh.

The physical wound will heal.

The psychological one will not.

End Chapter 1

A/N: Very disturbing themes.

Notes on Tsuna: Just as in canon, the Ninth sealed his Flames when he was a little kid. But given the assault and near-murder of Tsuna when he was seven, his flames reacted - as he really would have died had they not. They'd lashed out and killed his assailant, which is what pushed Tsuna over the edge; he'd been assaulted, almost murdered, and then he killed someone all within the span of about 20 minutes.

--"...and so his memory does something very strange. It allows him to forget."

This is not Flame-related or anything - it is just human psyche. Tsuna repressed his own memory of the attack. This will be dealt with in-storyline.

Notes on the A/B/O 'verse: Most will be answered in storyline but for this 'verse in particular - unlike in other A/B/O, this one considers 'presenting' as more a second puberty. When people are born, you can immediately tell their second gender; they just don't have fully developed parts until their teens (much like puberty), and people call this process 'presenting'. So Tsuna is definitely an Omega, but he won't go into Heats or anything of the sort until later after he's presented.

Feel free to comment with any questions or concerns.

Chapter 2: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 2

Summary:

Tsuna meets Reborn - but, perhaps more importantly, Reborn meets Tsuna.

Chapter Text

A/N: I see you and appreciate you, all my regular readers. <3

Chapter 2

An Omega by their nature is already weak and delicate; they needed high levels of physical contact with others just to be a functioning member of society. Maintaining high levels of physical contact come to be seen as a sign of weakness - after all, without relying so obviously on others, Omegas could not hope to cope with even daily necessities. The result was the Omega dynamic being stereotyped as frail and sickly, which even after years in which the dynamic’s needs began to be more publicly addressed in order to decrease Omega fatality rates, it was a notion that pervaded to the youngest generation.

More recent fields of research were looking into the statistics in which an Omega’s needs are exploited and abused by other dynamics; it is far too easy for an Alpha to claim they were only doing something for an Omega’s benefit, whether or not it was consensual. If the Alpha laid a strong enough Claim, theycould argue that the Omega needed them – needed to be “f*cked into better health.”

Not much research had been done into bonds between Omegas and Betas, or Omegas and Omegas. A Beta was considered a substandard substitute for a mate to an Omega; it was regarded as a shameful yet public secret, and couples were careful not to flaunt their status. It was different in cases of Beta parents and Omega children; the Beta parents were still considered only substitutes, until a preferably Alpha mate was eventually found for the Omega.

An Omega-Omega intimate relationship was nigh unheard of. It was considered forbidden, illegal in most countries except for Canada and some Nordic states, who have particularly vocal Omega groups fighting to further their rights. An Omega-Omega intimate relationship was too ‘seductive’, as it had been argued; the resulting pheromones would be too much for any Alpha to bear without trying to squeeze in, which would have resulted in a harem-like relationship should the Alpha lay Claim on the Omegas involved. The relationship between Omega parents and their Omega children were considered perfectly acceptable, until the child came of age and could be Mated off.

Sawada Tsunayoshi was known for having two Beta parents. His mother served as an acceptable substitute for physical affection, and any who knew of sweet Nana knew she could deliver. As a young boy, Tsuna had thrived under his mother’s hands, enjoying her single-minded attention for years.

This changed, as most things had after that one October night.

Returning home with bandages wrapped around his throat, Tsuna had slept uneasily for several nights. Nana and Iemitsu had been advised to spend as much time with their child as possible, to often show him physical affectionto ensure his body registered he was safe. One of the doctors had also advised finding an Alpha surrogate but the suggestion died at the look of fury eclipsing Iemitsu’s face, and the doctor wisely did not push.

They’d stayed with Tsuna throughout the days and nights. He’d been excused from school, Iemitsu spinning some story about a family emergency that their community easily bought. (“That poor Sawada boy,” the neighborhood ladies would shake their heads. “Too much emotional strain for an Omega tyke.”) Iemitsu had also promised to take care of the hospital staff, and Nana believed in him desperately; there were no rumors, no news reports about a young Omega child assaulted in the evening. The incident was quiet, disappearing into the air just like Tsuna’s attacker.

Iemitsu had not yet returned to work but he’d take calls on his phone and disappear into their bedroom from time to time, arguing vehemently but quietly into the receiver. He’d been granted leave, he said, but Nana could tell by the look in his eyes that it wouldn’t be for long. But still, he was here now, and it was the ‘now’ she had to take care of.

Tsuna seemed...almost normal after he’d returned home from the hospital. He still couldn’t remember the incident that had landed him there, didn’t understand why his parents were so sad, and seemed only annoyed by the bandages around his throat. He played games with Iemitsu, watched TV with Nana, sat tucked into their arms as Nana read him stories or Iemitsu played with his hair.

He was still quiet, or at least, on the quieter side. A bit more jumpy as well, unlike the near-lethargy he’d had before; his eyes would flick from corner to corner, and he seemed to sense when people drew too close to their home. His form would grow still and his eyes would lock onto the door, long moments before the mailman dropped by or a concerned neighbor rang the buzzer.

Nana could not will herself to check out the books she thought she may need to deal with this new development. Instead, Iemitsu had bought some online, and then just as quietly slipped his purchases into their bedside drawers. She could not bring herself to read them, not yet, and she excused this weakness by busying herself with nurturing Tsuna as best she could.

Finally, two weeks into this horrible fever dream, Iemitsu could no longer put his work off. Nana knew it was coming – he was the bread-winner of the family, after all, and the fact that he’d been there for as long as he'd been was more a miracle than anything. Nana knew she could not keep him, but still, the desire for him to stay was suffocating.

“We’ll be fine,” she said instead, looking into her husband’s eyes. If she said it enough times, she may even start to believe it herself.

Iemitsu drew her into a hug, swallowing her petite frame. “We will,” he agreed quietly, his voice as close to tears as ever.

He’d promised nothing of the sort would happen again. He had favors he’d called in; nothing and no one would hurt their son again. Nana believed him.

Iemitsu left, promise made and with every intention of keeping it.

It was broken five days later.

Tsuna was wrapped in a fuzzy orange blanket – Nana had made sure to buy more orange articles – and staring vacantly at the TV. Nana had just finished putting the dishes away, as acutely aware as ever: the sound of the children’s show in the other room and the gentle breeze blowing in through the open window. She moved into the living room, eyes instinctively latching onto her child.

Her wristwatch chimed, a digital reminder she herself had set: Tsuna. She timed their cuddling, even though most of the time, she was already doing so. But she would not leave it to chance, wanting to make sure her son was never left wanting. The wound on his neck had healed; the bandages were gone now, the Mark nothing more than a few stray scratches that could almost look like an accident with a sharp object. She planned to wait another week until the very last of it was gone, and then Tsuna could resume attending school. He still appeared to not remember anything about the attack, the excuse of shock no longer working in the face of it. The idea that Tsuna was psychologically damaged in some way was too painful to Nana bear, and even Iemitsu's presence had not been enough to bolster her. He'd taken some of the mental health books with him when he'd left for work, leaving only a couple for Nana to read when she finally felt ready.

Nana tooka seat on the couch next to her child. She reached out, intending to draw him closer as usual. The doctors had said her scent would calm him, would reassure him of his safety. Tsuna had been confused when her and Iemitsu had first started this; he was used to physical affection but never to such a zealous degree, but after all this time, he just regarded it as normal for them now. A child could make a million excuses so long as it fit into their version of the world, and Tsuna seemed content to live in a version where the assault on his person had not happened.

So it came as a shock when her boy’s voice rang out, sharp and demanding: “Don’t.”

Nana flinched back, more from surprise than hurt. “Tsu-kun?” she asked unsurely, hand partially outstretched but not making contact.

“...I’m sorry, Mama,” Tsuna finally said, eyes on her as he edged further away, as far as their small couch would allow. “But please – don’t touch me.”

The words were hard to understand because it was such an abrupt change. She wanted to argue with him. Even if he did not fully understand it, surely he could feel it – the way his body craved physical touch, craved reassurance. She may not be Alpha but she was family, and that should be enough. (Please, please - let it be enough.) An Omega needed physical contact to maintain health and vitality. Without it-

Without it, Tsuna would be sick.

“Don’t touch me,” Tsuna said again, hunched in on himself, allowing the blanket to swallow him. He was pale and thin and small, as he'd always been. The scabs on his neck were reminiscent of blood spatter.

Do you remember? Nana wanted to ask. Did he remember what happened to him, what happened in that park when he was alone and vulnerable? Was that why he was now recoiling from touch? She wanted to tell him it would be okay now, that his father had promised them that nothing would hurt Tsuna ever again.

But Nana said nothing, because looking at her child now, she could see it - that Iemitsu had lied.

After all, how could they hope to protect Tsuna from himself?

Seven Years Later

Reborn is no stranger to favors.

For a hitman, he’d lived quite a long life; now as an Arcobaleno, it seemed twice that. His cursed baby body is not enough to stop his work from progressing though, and so when an old friend calls in a favor, Reborn obliges. The pay promised was good, the premise something he’s done before, and he rather liked the person asking.

Or he did, until he entered the office of the Vongola Nono and found Sawada Iemitsu lounging in an adjacent armchair.

Reborn feels like he knows where this is going but also knows better than to make assumptions – those could kill lesser men.Timoteo was getting on in the years and the issue of inheritance was a big one in the mafia. The Vongola had found itself lacking in proper heirs, according to Reborn’s network: the Ninth’s three eldest sons had all died, and the last was...no longer fit to inherit. This had left some of the peripheral members wondering, and other famiglia eyeing the possibility of a power vacuum in Italy with increased interest.

Thus, when Timoteo called in a favor to Reborn, asking for him to groom the next heir to the Vongola crime family in much the same way he’d done for the Cavallone, Reborn had agreed.

Sawada Iemitsu was a complication.

The head of the CEDEF was no stranger to Reborn, and he’d interacted with the Young Lion of Vongola often over the years. They’d never talked about private matters because for all his faults, Iemitsu was not an idiot willing to blabber about his family to all who would listen – their safety was too important to him. The only reason Reborn even knew the Beta male had a family was because he’s, well, Reborn.

But for Iemitsu to be in this room, this meant he was personally involved in the selection process for the prospective Vongola Decimo. Reborn knew the Vongola Primo had fled to Japan following the Secondo’s coup, and he – among many others – highly suspected there to be a second line, but the Vongola had followed the Secondo’s line for hundreds of years. To go back to the Primo’s line was a move of desperation.

Buon giorno, Reborn,” Timoteo greeted him with a smile.

The Ninth carried such a noble presence, befitting the head of a crime family and an Alpha. Reborn tempered his instincts; as an Alpha on foreign territory, he was expected to show respect to the other male. This was not a hard feat, as Reborn truly did respect him, even though his instincts – correctly – knew he could defeat the older man if pushed.

But he wasn’t here for primal instincts, he was here for a job. Reborn was not a man ruled by instinct.

Buon giorno,” Reborn returned with a tip of the fedora. It was the only concessionhe would allow to show.

Timoteo showed no adverse reaction to it but there was a small, practically minuscule flare in his pheromones. This territory is mine, it seemed to ring. These people are mine. Abide.

Reborn did not react. Iemitsu made the smallest movement of restlessness.

“Thank you for taking this job, Reborn,” Timoteo continued, sliding a simple manila folder across the desk. Reborn approached cautiously, but not out of concern – just respect. Moving too fast would be aggressive, and so he moved and picked up the folder with practiced ease and at a comfortable gait.

Both Vongola men remainedquiet as Reborn opened the file to peruse its contents, confirming most of what he’d suspected. Another bloodline in Japan, descended from Vongola Primo himself; Sawada Iemitsu really was descended from the Vongola bloodline, but Reborn knew that his role as head of CEDEF disqualified him as candidate.

Sawada Iemitsu had a son.

Reborn did not allow the surprise to show. Not that Iemitsu had a son – Reborn had suspected he’d had a child, given his presence in the office for this very meeting – no, the surprising thing was what the Beta male had spawned.

An Omega child. An Omega would inherit the Vongola crime family?

“Sawada Tsunayoshi,” Reborn read aloud. “A strong name.”

Iemitsu stood, his stance neither defensive nor aggressive; he was beaming but Reborn was not fooled. Only idiots believed that the Young Lion was as harmless as his grin belied. “My little Tsu-kun is strong!” he chortled brightly.

“I’ll make sure of it,” Reborn agreed blandly.

This assignment would prove to be very interesting then. It wasn’t as if Reborn had never seen an Omega crime boss before, but the circ*mstance then had been wildly different. After all, Luce was...different. And a moot point, Reborn reminded himself. Death was the greatest equalizer of all.

“Tsunayoshi is a sweet boy,” Timoteo spoke up warmly. A civilian Omega, came the unsaid statement. “He has a lot of promise. We believe he will make a stronger Vongola.”

Make a stronger Vongola. The interest dimmed a bit as Reborn understood the implications; he was meant to groom Sawada Tsunayoshi into the Vongola Decimo – but not to lead the Vongola, only to further it. It was not an uncommon tactic, and though it had not happened in the Vongola before, there were cases in some Triad or smaller mafia families where blood inheritance fell into the hands of an Omega.If there were no other blood alternatives, the families opted with the most natural outcome: have the Omega mate with someone they felt worthy of the line, and then their child could be considered the true leader of the family. Of course, the Alpha mate chosen for the Omega would have to be worthy, and assume most of the responsibilities of leading the group until the child came of age.

Sawada Tsunayoshi would not be the real leader of the Vongola, but he would breed one.

Reborn flipped through the report on the boy. A bit on the small side, even for an Omega; Reborn would have to get him fit if he was to bear strong children. His grades were abysmal, he had no friends noted, and – fortunately – he had yet to present. Flipping forward more, he came across hospital records.

...hm, Reborn thought. He looked up to meet Iemitsu’s eyes, who gazed back at him with grim expectancy.

“He survived,” Iemitsu stated after a moment, voice carefully controlled. It was a good thing the blonde was a Beta; that kind of tone coupled with any amount of pheromone would have sounded threatening.

A 90% fatality rate. It seemed Primo’s blood was a godsend for Vongola’s last hope. “Who else knows?” Reborn asked. There were no other notes on the incident, no police report or follow-up examinations. It was common for families of Omega victims to keep such incidents quiet, not wanting to ruin their children’s chances of finding a good suitor.

“His mother, Nana,” Iemitsu responded. “Doctor Ishigaki, Doctor Itou, a few nurses, and Hibari Sasako.”

The hospital staff was expected, of course, but the last name – it wasn’t included in any report. Reborn turned an expectant look on Iemitsu.

“The Hibari family have a peculiar view on Namimori,” Iemitsu said. “They’re rather protective of their town. Even if we had sent independent investigators, they’d be bitten to death if they couldn’t provide a reason for being there.”

Reborn flipped through the pages once more. Nothing, no indication of a completed job. It meant either two things: one, the assailant had been found and erased from existence, or two...

“We never found them,” Iemitsu said, a tightness to his eyes. Killing intent clung to his skin, tightly coiled, not lashing out but undeniably present. If there ever was a sore subject to bring up with the Young Lion, this was definitely it.

Outside of this one-page report and a handful of people, however, it was clear no one knew. This worked in their favor, and so Reborn knew Timoteo would prefer to keep it that way. Reborn would just have to groom Tsunayoshi into such a desirable mate that one black spot in his record would mean nothing.

Reborn was certain he could.

"Anything else about Tsunyaoshi?" Reborn asked, not expecting much. Iemitsu would put what was necessary in the report on his son, and Reborn would do his own reconnaissance anyway. Everyone already knew this.

Iemitsu smiled. "Tsu-kun is a sensitive boy," he said cheerfully. "Please be gentle with him."

Reborn snorted.

Namimori was a quaint place. The lifestyle was slow, almost peaceful had it not been for the underlying claw of strength that screamed ‘Hibari’. Reborn was interested in the family that apparently Sawada Iemitsu had trusted enough to investigate his son’s assault but Hibari Sasako had died years ago, leaving a Beta husband and Alpha son behind. The investigation died with her, but not the seat of power the Hibari family held in Namimori.

According to Reborn’s sources, the Alpha woman’s child was running something of a Disciplinary Committee in his junior high school, but from the description of the group, it sounded more like a crime syndicate than school club. Reborn mentally filed that away for further research; an Alpha male from his hometown would be a good candidate for mating Tsunayoshi, and if the Hibari boy was as strong as the rumors suggested, there may not be anyone better in this town.

Of course, getting worthy Mate candidates for his new student would be more than half the struggle; the picture attached to Tsuna’s file was months out of date, showing only a young boy with wide eyes and petite build. Cute, in a general way – but that wasn’t enough to get the truly good Alphas to start biting.

Reborn toyed with the idea of going straight to the Sawada residence but decided he’d swing by Namimori Junior High instead,to get his first look at his new student. Seeing Tsunayoshi in his home environment without the knowledgeof the Vongola crime family hanging over his head would be a great initial observation, so Reborn settled himself into the branches of the tree closest to Tsunayoshi’s homeroom.

As most classrooms in schools do, the room was split along dynamics rather than surnames. There were a handful of Alphas in the classroom, put in different sections so that they were never seated directly next to each other; Betas, of which made the majority, filled out the rest of the seats, save the lone seat in the front corner closest to the door, reserved for the class’s sole Omega.

Sawada Tsunayoshi really was small and thin. He was scribbling into his notebook as the teacher lectured, seemingly concentrated, but going by his grades, he was likely just doodling and trying not to get caught. He kept his gaze to the front, seeminglywary of meeting any classmate’s wandering eyes, an indication he at least understood enough of relationships with other dynamics not to accidentally entice any of the unpresented Alphas in the room. The one Alpha girl wasn’t paying him any mind but a couple of the Alpha boys tended to glance in his direction with looks Reborn could understand.

Kids and their hormones. It was going to be a nightmare once they started Presenting. It made Reborn recall Dino’s stage of presenting with a light scowl; his already dame student became a hundred times worse, easily falling for just about any unmatedOmega’s scent and forcing Reborn to beat him into the ground to bring him back to reality.

Tsunayoshi didn’t do much else. He’d occasionally tense up, most likely registering the attention of the Alphas in his room, but he’d keep his attention on his notebook. The teacher never said anything directly to him, even when it became obvious Tsunayoshi was not following the lesson at all. That was not surprising – it was common for Omegas to pass from one grade to the next no matter how bad their scores, as it was an unstated fact they would have no future in a career or higher education. Just giving them the basics of an education would be enough, which for Tsunayoshi especially was good, as his marks were just terrible.

Of course, Reborn wouldn’t allow his student to lag behind academically either. An Alpha capable of running the Vongola empire until Tsunayoshi produced a blood heir would need a good head on their shoulders, and it was unlikely they’d want an idiot for a Mate, no matter how cute.

Satisfied after a couple hours of observation, Reborn jumped downfrom the tree and continued on his way to the Sawada residence. He’d learned a bit more about Tsunayoshi, at least enough to confirm preliminary reports: he had no friends, maintained a distant relationship with his classmates, and was prone to distraction. He was clearly not going to top the academic scoreboard nor the social one, but Reborn could still work with that.

The Sawada residence is a modest two-story home with a small, traditional courtyard. It fits perfectly into the neighborhood, neither too much nor too little, and Reborn finds the small garden flourishing in open view appealing. Iemitsu had noted his wife as being a devoted homemaker, and this was apparent in the way she maintained their home even in her husband's absence. She’d make a good role model for Tsunayoshi, and Reborn planned to use Sawada Nana as such a figure. She may be a Beta but she had the loyal homemaker role down pat.

Springing forward to ring the doorbell, Reborn heard the soft footfalls before the door was pulled open. Nana’s gaze faced forward first but finding nothing but air, she glanced around until her eyes caught Reborn’s tiny figure on her doorstep.

“Oh my, hello there!” Nana squeaked out, surprised but now smiling. There was something very soothing in her presence, but no scent – a characteristic of her dynamic. Betas had no pheromones to emit and the only smell they had was plain body odor. Nana was using a light perfume fragrance but Reborn knew it was artificial.

“Ciaossu!” Reborn returned. “It’s nice to meet you, I am the home tutor Reborn.”

Nana co*cked her head to the side, confusion evident. “You’re a home tutor? But you’re just a baby!” she said, still smiling. She took a small sniff, her eyes tightening at the scent she could just barely glean from her uninvited guest.

Reborn observed this with calculative eyes. It was not an unexpected action, given Tsunayoshi’s history; naturally his parents would be more protective. An Alpha, no matter how small, would not be so welcome into their home. Not with Tsunayoshi’s history.

“I come highly-recommended, I assure you,” Reborn said smoothly. “I was actually sent by your husband, Sawada Iemitsu. He expressed a concern in your son’s academic records and believes I can help.”

Nana frowned. “Iemitsu sent you?” she echoed, edging more to unsure. Reborn counted this in his favor; if she really were as loyal a wife as Iemitsu had lead him to believe, as long as Reborn could get her to agree, then he’d have free reign when it came to Tsunayoshi.

“If you need, please call him to check,” Reborn suggested. “I understand your reservations, especially where your son is concerned.”

Nana met his eyes, disbelief trying to bloom on her face. She had frozen on the doorstep, eyes widening at the implication that Iemitsu would tell some Alphashe had never seen before something so private about their son.

A minute passed in stiff, awkward silence. Then, almost mechanically, Nana stepped aside to allow him in. “I’ll get us some tea, then call my husband,” she decided.

Reborn took his first step into the home, knowing he’d won.

Reborn sensed as the young Omega drew near, relaxed as he was in his seat as the front door opened and closed, Tsuna’s voice ringing out a half-hearted “I’m home!” Nana called back a greeting, also asking her son to step into the kitchen.

Tsuna did as such without fuss, flashing a smile at his mother before his eyes fell on the infant seated at – or more accurately, on – their dining table. Amber eyes widened and Reborn was treated to Tsuna’s scent trailing into the room. A light scent, as most Omega youths had, reminiscent of sugar dissolved on the tongue.

It was also a bit stronger than Reborn had expected. An increase of pheromones indicated a higher level of anxiety, and Reborn had expected that much with his arrival, he just thought it would take the Omega boy longer to realize he was a threat. Perhaps Tsunayoshi had better instincts than expected?

“Ciaossu, I am Reborn,” the world’s number one hitman greeted calmly.

“Your Papa sent you a home tutor,” Nana explained, almost painfully cheerful.

She’d accepted her husband’s decision but Reborn had overheard her conversation; apparently the fact that he was an Alpha was a point of contention. Although his mind was that of an adult, his body was still that of a very young child – he posed no danger to an Omega. Sawada Nana was a very cautious woman.

Tsunayoshi’s eyes widened at the statement. “A-A baby?” he choked out.

Reborn launched from his seat, tiny feet connecting with Tsunayoshi’s head and knocking the slight boy over. Reborn had held back, of course – he had no intention of seriously hurting an Omega child, for god’s sake – but a sharp intake of breath from Nana indicated she did not appreciate the manhandling of her child.

She kept quiet, though. It was only natural – a baby’s body or not, Alpha was Alpha. Now that he’d been given the Iemitsu Seal of Approval, Reborn was considered Alpha of this home. It would be new for the Beta-Omega Sawada household, but Tsunayoshi would have to grow used to being under an Alpha’s rule.

“Let’s take this upstairs,” Reborn ordered imperiously.

Tsunayoshi rose automatically at the tone, turning and doing just that. Reborn may have lost some of the advantages of being an Alpha with his cursed body, but one of the things that had remained was his ability to Demand.

It was an Alpha skill inherent to their dynamic; a certain tone that emitted a pheromone that directly targeted Omega. It was meant as a measure of control over the Omega in a pack, although exploitation and abuse was common; thousands upon thousands of instances of coercion fell into the laps of law enforcement, dealing with an Alpha using this ability to lure and assault Omegas. It was considered rude to use it in public, downright insulting to use it on strangers – but commonplace to use within the home.

This would be his home for however long it would take Tsunayoshi to get Mated. Reborn had no qualms about using whatever he could to get his work done.

Reborn kicked the door shut once they’d entered Tsunayoshi’s bedroom. The boy stood stiffly in the center, eyes on Reborn and trembling. Reborn considered this; likely this was the first time an Alpha had used a Demand on him. It was best Reborn get it out of the way now, though, so thatTsunayoshi could grow accustomed to it and would not be taken off-guard and submit to some peon who tried it on him first.

Well, there was a chance Tsunayoshi’s assailant had used Demand on him... but the point was also moot. Tsunayoshi still did not remember anything from that night and he would have to grow acclimated to an Alpha’s Demand at some point anyway.

Reborn pulled back his will, allowing the Demand to dissipate. He’d have to explain the Vongola and the things now expected of Tsunayoshi as the apparent heir, which was why he’d had them sequestered in the boy’s room. Reborn would say it with enough authority so that even a simple-minded boy like Tsunayoshi would understand, and then they could get started on this tutoring business.

At least, that was the plan – before something that felt distinctly like a pulse of Sky Flames brushed across Reborn’s skin, and then Tsunayoshi’s hand grabbed his face and smashed the back of his head down into the floorboards.

End Chapter 2

A/N: Next chapter is from Tsuna's POV! :)

Please be kind and drop a comment.

Chapter 3: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 3

Summary:

Reborn re-evaluates. Tsuna deals, until he suddenly doesn't.

Chapter Text

A/N: Reborn will understand. Eventually.

Chapter 3

Reborn's head made contact with the floorboard, just as he'd grasped a thin wrist between his tiny hands and twisted. A sharp squeal of pain and the Omega boy yanked his hand away and recoiled, back hitting the edge of his desk and cradling his wrist to his chest with wide eyes. He cut a sharp picture, all trembling petite frame and wide eyes, as if he hadn't just attempted to brain Reborn against his bedroom floor.

Reborn may have a baby's body but it took a lot more than a child's attempt at assault to actually hurt him. Reborn resumed standing quickly, flaring his pheromones and dark eyes intent on the Omega before him.

This was the first time Reborn encountered an Omega with such aggression. No matter Tsunayoshi's countenance now, he'd just attempted to lash out at an Alpha as soon as he was able to. Was it a result of his assault as a child?

Omega victims of physical or sexual assault were a messy business. Their dynamic's need for physical affection led to complications when dealing with the psychological repercussions assault left on their psyche. Their body craved physical touch; their minds were terrified of it. It was generally decided that the best course of action was to assign an Alpha to mate with them, the underlying reasoning that their Alpha mate would be able to fulfill their physical needs, and that the resulting Bond and (preferably) children would sufficiently heal the psychological wounds. 'Love heals' was the wisftul reasoning; 'f*ck them into better health' was the standby.

Omega children that survived assaults were rare. Omegas that retaliated against dominance with violence was unheard of.

'A sensitive boy,' Iemitsu had said. 'Be gentle.'

Reborn wondered if the man's words had a double-meaning. The CEDEF leader could not spend much time at home, seeming to only return to Japan once or twice a year for short periods of time, but there was a chance he may have known about Tsunayoshi's surprisingly violent tendencies. What Reborn initially thought of as a father's advice for an Omega child was starting to turn into a warning to Reborn.

Was just the fact that Reborn was an Alpha setting Tsunayoshi off, or was it the attempt at dominance? Reborn wanted to know.

"Do not do that again," Reborn ordered the boy coldly, slipping Demand once more into his voice.

Tsunayoshi's reaction was instantaneous: his eyes flashed with what Reborn disbelievingly recognized as flames, and then Tsunayoshi leapt forward and attempted to kick his face in.

Reborn grabbed his student by the ankle, turned and flung him into the wall with a resounding smack! Tsunayoshi fell atop his bed with a grunt of pain, no longer cradling his wrist – Reborn hadn't twisted it, just bruised it something fierce – and was now raising a hand up to stem the blood from his nose, a result of hitting the wall face-first.

Well, at least it was clear Tsunayoshi hated an Alpha's Demand. It was more noteworthy, however, that he had not heeded it.

An Alpha's Demand was not absolute, after all – Omega with strong enough willpower could fight it. Demand was still strong though, enough so that Alphas who had used it on unmated Omegas to coerce them into sexual acts could be prosecuted. Unfortunately, given the nature of society's treatment and expectations of Omega, Alphas that exploited Demand in such a way were forced to mate with their Omega victims, as it was believed Omega who had sex with those they were not Mated with were not looked upon favorably. A better solution was to Mate the attacker and the victim, so that the Omega at least had a chance at a normal life.

However, Reborn was not some common Alpha riff-raff from the street, and Sawada Tsunayoshi had not even hesitated before flinging himself at Reborn in attempted assault.

That was...interesting.

"W-What is that?"

Reborn's expression didn't shift at the unexpected voice. Tsunayoshi had one hand partially cupped over his nose, frightened amber eyes trained on the baby-shaped hitman, and the tremble in his voice was characteristic of his dynamic, especially when faced with an Alpha like Reborn – but when it came after two attempted attacks, Reborn couldn't quite believe the seemingly genuine tremor of fear.

"...an Alpha's Demand," Reborn answered. "You should have already learned about it in school, dame-Tsuna."

Tsunayoshi edged himself back to his feet, warily eyeing Reborn but making no more aggressive moves. He still seemed utterly frightened but Reborn did not let that fool him. "We did," Tsuna replied, wincing a bit. "Learn it in school, I mean. But- I've never felt it before. You're not supposed to use it."

Reborn rose an eyebrow, condescension radiating from his person. "Alphas use it in the home. This is now my home," he pointed out.

The sweetness in Tsuna's scent sharpened, a sign of distress at the words. It was obvious he did not like Reborn's reasoning, and yet just like his mother, he didn't refute it; it was nice to see the boy was not ready to fight the inevitable. Or at least argue it – Reborn was quite certain that if he tried Demand again, Tsuna would ignore his bloody nose and try to rip his face off.

"If you could sit down, dame-Tsuna," Reborn started. "I can explain why I'm here."

Tsuna eyed him distrustfully. "Are you asking me to or are you going to demand I sit?" the Omega boy shot back.

"As amusing as issuing you a Demand would be, I'd prefer to explain it without having to throw you around your room again," Reborn replied dryly.

Tsuna didn't move for a long moment, seemingly testing the waters. Reborn watched him boredly, which was enough; Tsuna gingerly took a seat atop his bed, never breaking eye contact with the hitman. Some part of Reborn was entertained by this; not many people dared to match his eyes, let alone those of the young Omega variety.

Another part of Reborn was irritated. The Sawada residence was now his home, his territory, and he'd just been forced to react to aggression from another person. Instinctively, he wanted to put Tsuna in his place; a young Omega should be taught submission, and the Alpha in Reborn wanted to teach that to him. It was disrespect of the highest order to attempt violence on an Alpha in their own territory.

But Reborn would not.

For one, he had been hired to mentor Tsuna. Whatever his place would be, Reborn was not supposed to dominate the young Omega. He had no intention of dominating or mating with the boy, complications aside. For another, Reborn was not ruled by his instincts – he trusted them, but only to a degree where they actually helped. Tsuna had reacted badly to Reborn's attempts at dominance displays; this was something Reborn needed to know beforehand, and clearly something they would have to work on if Reborn was to complete his assignment satisfactorily. And Reborn wouldn't be pleased with the results unless they were perfect.

It was not hard to guess why Tsuna reacted the way he did to Reborn's dominance displays. An assault by an Alpha would have had a dramatic effect on his young psyche, and there had been no Alpha surrogates to help ease the recovery process afterwards. Reborn would have to gauge whether or not Tsuna actually remembered the attack seven years ago, but as it was now, Reborn knew he would not get a straight answer if he asked the boy directly.

Demanding a straight answer was also pointless. Tsuna had already displayed an ability to resist a Demand, and if Reborn wanted to make a stronger Demand, he'd have to actually Mark the boy. Reborn could only wonder how well that would go down.

Reborn pulled out the briefcase he'd stashed away in Tsuna's room prior to the boy's return from school, opening it with professional efficiency. Methodically and under Tsuna's horrified gaze, he snapped the disassembled parts back together.

Click, ka-chak. "My true line of work is assassination," Reborn told the boy flatly. Tsuna tensed on the bed, a coiled spring ready to either flee or fight. Given the extreme of his responses within the last ten minutes, it could very well be the latter.

Ka-chak, ka-chak. "My real job," Click. "Is to make you a mafia boss."

Staring down at the cleanly assembled, now fully-functional assault rifle, Tsuna's expression morphed from disbelief to terror. "A-A what? A mafia boss?!"

"I was assigned by the Vongola family's Ninth generation boss to come to Japan and raise you to become a mafia boss," Reborn explained. "The Ninth is getting old and will soon need an heir. That heir will be you."

To a degree, Reborn added mentally. Given Tsuna's age, however, not to mention his violent reaction to dominance displays, Reborn would not explain what exactly the Ninth had implicitly planned for Tsuna. If his tutoring was effective, Tsuna would figure that out by himself.

Reborn could not accurately gauge Tsuna's reaction to that. If it had been the Omega as presented in the reports Sawada Iemitsu had handed him, he'd have expected the boy to obediently do as told. Reborn was now partially convinced Iemitsu had outright lied in the reports, though, because nowhere had it mentioned Tsuna trying to viciously attack those who tried to dominate him.

Then again, a Beta like Iemitsu had no way of properly gauging that. Tsuna's previous lifestyle in Namimori did not put him in the direct path of Alphas, and his school was ruled by a Disciplinary Committee that did not condone such behavior. It was entirely possible Iemitsu had not known. Hell, Tsuna himself could not have known his own reactions until Reborn. He apparently hadn't known what a Demand felt like.

"I don't understand!" Tsuna cried out, leaning away as Reborn toyed with his rifle. "What do you mean, I'm heir to a mafia?!"

"You will be the Tenth generation boss of the Vongola family," Reborn said, pulling out a few polaroid pictures from his inner suit pocket. "The Ninth's three sons have all passed away. The eldest, Enrico, was shot in a feud."

Reborn shoved the picture in Tsuna's face, and the boy jerked back with a squeak of dismay. "The second son, Matsumo, was drowned." Cue picture number two. It was more gruesome, in that it clearly detailed Matsumo's bloated corpse. They'd managed to fish out his remains after a week, and it had not been a pretty scene to witness.

Tsuna turned decidedly green.

"The favorite son, Federico, was reduced to nothing but bone," Reborn finished. The least gruesome but most ominous of the photographs. The Topazio had been behind Federico's untimely demise, apparently having used some weapon they'd excavated from whatever was left in the ruins of the Estraneo family. The resulting bloodbath from Vongola's retaliation had sent shuddering shockwaves throughout mainland Europe.

"So now you're the only candidate left to be the Tenth," Reborn finished, tucking the pictures back into his pocket.

Tsuna's distressed scent was strong. Reborn made a mental note to work on that; he could probably get cavities from it at this rate. "How does it work out like that? I thought mafia families had to be blood-related!" Tsuna said hastily.

"The first boss of the Vongola retired early and immigrated to Japan," Reborn replied. "He was your great great great grandfather, so you are a part of the original bloodline of the Vongola and thus a legitimate candidate. And as of now, you are the only candidate."

Tsuna stared at him. Then stared at the assault rifle, then back at Reborn.

"That's insane," the Omega replied slowly. "And I refuse."

"Don't worry. I'll make you a fine mafia boss," Reborn steamrolled right over the doubt.

"Is this a prank? Did my dad set this up?" Tsuna continued on, rallying himself together a bit more. Reborn decided to put an end to that with a few shots of his rifle next to Tsuna's head, which had the Omega diving to the side with a short scream.

Scrambling to the corner furthest from Reborn, Tsuna's trembling had returned. "I-Is that gun real?" he demanded tremulously.

"Of course it is," Reborn scoffed. "I'm the World's Greatest Hitman. I use the best."

It was interesting that Tsuna didn't try to attack for the perceived threat. Was the gun too much, or was it really only dominance displays by Alphas that set the boy off? Reborn would have to see how Tsuna interacted with Alphas at his school, at least without a teacher getting in the way.

"I can't be a mafia boss! I'm not even Italian! Shouldn't I be considered yakuza, at the very least?" Tsuna shot out, edging a bit closer to hysteria.

Reborn hoped the expression on his baby-face properly showed condescension. "That's why I'm your home tutor. I will make you into a mafia boss," he repeated boredly.

"I don't want to be a mafia boss!" Tsuna cried.

Reborn checked his wristwatch. "Is dinner soon? I came too late for lunch, and Maman didn't seem willing to provide snacks earlier." Reborn hadn't asked for some while alone with Tsuna's mother because he wasn't entirely convinced Nana wouldn't have tried poisoning it.

"Are you listening to me?" Tsuna continued on. "You- Reborn, right? Reborn, can an Omega even be a mafia boss?"

Reborn matched eyes with Tsuna, voice dismissive. "Clearly, or I wouldn't be here." Tsuna would just have to figure out why an Omega was acceptable by himself.

Tsuna's brows furrowed, his eyes darting to the breastpocket where Reborn had stashed the pictures. Reborn watched the expressions flicker across the Omega's face in mild fascination, reminded once more of what he were sure were Sky flames dancing in the boy's eyes earlier.

It should not be possible. It was clearly stated in the reports that Tsuna had had his Flames sealed since he was five years old, by the Ninth himself. In the extremely rare circ*mstance that it had broken, Iemitsu would have noted as such to the Ninth or in the reports. No such information existed in Tsuna's file.

But those were definitely Sky flames that grazed Reborn's skin during Tsuna's first assault. It was possible that the assault on Tsuna seven years ago had prompted an extreme reaction from his Flames; perhaps rather than Primo's blood, it was the Sky Flames that had ensured Sawada Tsunayoshi survived being Marked that day.

It would certainly make sense. A traumatic incident could very well have damaged the seal on Tsuna's Flames, at least enough to fuel his defensive actions. This would also explain his reaction to Reborn's attempted dominance; Tsuna had instinctively recognized an act of dominance by an Alpha, comparing it to the assault from seven years ago and prompting a defensive (violent) reaction.

So the seal must be damaged, Reborn cataloged. The fact that Tsuna had Flames strong enough to break through the Ninth's seal and fight off an Alpha's mark was interesting. The Vongola blood ran strong in the child before him.

"Those guys that died," Tsuna began quietly. "The sons of the current boss – what were they? What were their dynamics?"

Reborn pointed the barrel of his rifle back in Tsuna's direction, to the boy's obvious distress. "That doesn't matter," the hitman stated.

"Why?" Tsuna argued. "They weren't Omega, were they? None of them were Omega, and now that they're dead, you guys are just going to have some random kid in Japan take over your mafia business-"

"Famiglia," Reborn corrected candidly. "Family. The Vongola do have contracts in business though. And I told you, you're blood. Descended from the first boss himself."

"Would mafia men-"

"Mafioso," Reborn corrected.

"-even listen to an Omega?" Tsuna persisted. "You pushed your way in here and then Demanded as soon as you could!"

Reborn made another mental note to work on trust issues. Most Omega didn't react so negatively to an Alpha's Demand, let alone one as innocuous as Reborn's had been. Still, if Reborn didn't explain his reasoning now, Tsuna seemed likely to nurse that grudge for who knows how long. "I used Demand on you because it's something you need to be able to recognize and resist," Reborn said. He was stretching the truth, but he doubted Tsuna would appreciate being told 'you need to get used to being ordered around by an Alpha.' "When you're targeted by rival mafia or hitmen, they may use Demand on you. It's important you know what to expect and how to fight it."

"You could have warned me," Tsuna muttered.

"That defeats the point of it, dame-Tsuna," Reborn retorted.

"And why are you calling me that?!" A sheaf of papers smacked Tsuna in the face, falling to the floor. Stark red marks, with scores ranging from 27 to absolute zero, stared up from Tsuna's test papers. Hot red humiliation burned its way across the Omega's face as he bent down to gather the papers and hide them from Reborn's dark eyes.

"Dame is dame," Reborn reiterated. "But don't worry – I am your home tutor. You will start getting better marks, even if that means you start coughing up blood."

Tsuna's expression said it all. "That is not how tutoring works," fell numbly from the Omega's lips. He came back to himself, which was a bit of a pity because Reborn rather enjoyed how easily Tsuna was playing into his hands. "Wait, you didn't answer my question. Would they really accept an Omega mafia boss?"

Reborn co*cked his gun. "You will be the first," he allowed, then smiled. "You will just have to convince them to accept it."

Tsuna's resulting expression showed he didn't much care for the idea.

Reborn, for the first time in a long while, thought this was going to be fun.

The home tutor Reborn's arrival into Tsuna's life sparked a dramatic change in his previously lax lifestyle. Their small household was accustomed to a two-person home, both of whom were quiet and gentle in a way that allowed a soft atmosphere. Even with the occasional visits from his father, it came with the ever-present background knowledge that Iemitsu would soon leave.

Even then, there'd never been an Alpha that had staked a claim on their premises. Tsuna vaguely remembered a time a long time ago, when an Alpha had been present in his home – but those memories were vague at best, more fuzzy figures and information related to him via his mother one drowsy morning a couple years ago.

Reborn was an Alpha, albeit a tiny one. Tsuna had grown used to the presence of unpresented Alphas courtesy of school, and while Reborn was reminiscent of his classmates' dynamics, there were stark differences. His classmates were unable to issue a Demand – it was something that developed after Alphas presented – although some of them had tried to affect it a handful of times before, cornering Tsuna during passing periods and trying it on him.

It never worked, as expected. Tsuna had just stared back at his classmates bemusedly, and the Alpha boys were loathe to try anything more forward, given the presence of teachers nearby and the ever-present shadow of the Namichuu's Disciplinary Committee stalking the halls. Alphas stalking and cornering Omegas could be seen as crowding, and the hellish wrath of Hibari Kyoya was the stuff of nightmares.

Now, sitting in his class and away from Reborn's unwanted presence at home, Tsuna could reflect a bit more on the chaotic mess that was now his life. He really should be taking notes, but Math was his least favorite subject and Nezu-sensei explained algebra about as well as a wet dishrag, so there was no point. The only good thing as class 1-B's sole Omega was that calling Tsuna out on his ineptitude could be seen as bullying, which was why his teachers tended to just ignore him instead. Of course, they had more aggravating ways of dealing with Tsuna, but he didn't want to dwell on those because the thing in his chest burned hot and heavy when he did. The last time that had happened, Kurokawa Hana's eyes had bulged nearly out of her head, and nowadays she avoided him altogether.

Reborn was aggravating, but more than that, he was confusing. For one, there's no way he was an actual baby – his body may be but the way he acted and spoke was far too mature. There existed geniuses in the world, of course, but there were too many idiosyncrasies in Reborn's demeanor to qualify him as just a really, really intelligent baby.

For another, he had control over some of an adult Alpha's skills. Demand was one, although after that first day, he hadn't used it at all for the past few days. He still had a presence but that may have been unique to Reborn; Tsuna had never felt anything quite like it before. It was something that had the burn in Tsuna's chest reacting, alerting him to Reborn's presence far before he actually set eyes on the hitman. Was it possible Reborn had been watching him, even before Tsuna had returned home from school that day? He'd felt something different in class that day that had made him tense inexplicably, and his reaction had been noticed by some of the Alphas at that time. It had been written off as an 'Omega thing' but Tsuna rather thought it was a 'Tsuna thing'.

It was the burn in his chest. Tsuna lacked the words to accurately describe it, or even the courage to actively use it. It nestled underneath his skin, settled into the very fibers of his heart, ready at every touch. It soothed him in a way nothing could; the physical touch he so abhorred wasn't needed when he had the fire around his heart. But sometimes...

Sometimes, it did more than just soothe him. Such as when Kurokawa had talked to him with the patronizing tone she used so often when she thought she was making a good point, only it was so much worse because her Alpha pheromone had winded throughout her words, and that had sent the heat in Tsuna's heart radiating up. The way her nose twitched and eyes widened had stilled the brewing flames, and Tsuna had turned and fled before the fire that so itched under his skin could flare its way out. The flame that consoled him never acted benign when confronted by Alphas. Tsuna ended up taking longer, winding ways home to avoid the ramen stall run by a surly Alpha who'd once called out to him, voice mocking and sultry, lest the impulse to let the flames out become reality.

There was something about Alphas, adult ones in particular, that grated on Tsuna. He found the way they talked to him annoying, the way they looked at him indecent; they looked at him without actually acknowledging him, seeing and placing higher importance on 'Omega' rather than 'Tsunayoshi'.

Tsuna didn't remember when that first started to bother him. The condescension wasn't new, couldn't have been something that just started recently – it was just that he'd only recently started to notice it. Tsuna believed it was the burn's fault; it reacted to an Alpha's presence almost violently.

The lessons taught to Japanese schoolchildren covered dynamics, and in his first year at Namichuu, Tsuna finally learned the word for the something that trailed along all the Alpahs he'd interacted with. 'Pheromones' – the presence of which was bundled into every conversation Tsuna had with Alphas.

The burn didn't like Alpha pheromones – every time it felt them, it wanted out. 'Alphas need to dominate,' Nezu-sensei had stated in that Dynamics lesson. He'd said it so certainly, as factual as the sky is blue. 'Omegas need to submit.'

(But the sky wasn't always blue, was it? Sometimes it burned fiery orange as the sun fell into the horizon, one of Tsuna's favorite times.)

'Omegas need to submit,' Nezu-sensei had said.

'Submit,' the Alpha pheromones cajoled, running over Tsuna's skin every time he left the safe haven that had been his home before Reborn had forced his way in. Every time an Alpha spoke to him, it was to order him around, or tell him something with their imperious voices, or coerce him into doing what they wanted him to do for them. Every time a Beta talked to him, it was as if they thought he couldn't understand, or that he was too delicate, or that he needed to be coddled and babied.

'Submit, because you are weak.' A message as clear as day, paraded in Tsuna's face every waking moment.

But the fire in his chest said 'no', stronger and more violent with every passing year. And Tsuna... Tsuna was inclined to agree.

"An Omega's body is as delicate as a little flower!" That's what Tsuna remembered from a television show he used to watch when he was little. An animated brown bear had popped up at the end of the program to provide life advice for the impressionable kids watching. "Give your Omega family members lots of hugs! Being gentle and nice to your Omega family is like water for them; they depend on you for their health and protection! A delicate little flower can't protect itself – it needs you!"

Tsuna had known he was an Omega all his life but he'd never really understood it until then. Not until he was seven years old, watching his favorite television character proclaim his inherent weakness and ineptitude.

"Oi, Sawada!"

Tsuna perked up, brought back to reality by his classmate's call. It seemed class had ended, leaving them for their 45-minute lunch break. His classmates were already moving about, rearranging desks for their favored lunchtime positions, but it looked like Kenkawa had been caught at the door.

"Sawada, Mochida-senpai is looking for you," a girl from the neighboring classroom said, poking her head in after Kenkawa had gotten his attention. "He said to meet him in Science Lab 3."

Mochida was an upperclassman, an Alpha and captain of the Kendo club. Tsuna knew of him but he didn't remember ever directly interacting with the popular senior. It was well-known the Alpha was harboring a crush on Sasagawa Kyoko – she was the school sweetheart, a pretty little Beta with a glittering smile and genuinely kind demeanor. If Mochida was going to be calling anyone out from class 1-B, it should be her.

"Did he say why?" Tsuna asked unsurely. He really would rather not talk to Mochida, especially alone. If his experience with Reborn was any indication, he apparently didn't react well to any Alpha that tried to Alpha him.

Experimentally, Tsuna flared his pheromones a bit, pretending not to notice the reaction. Given that none of his classmates had presented, it was all very subdued: the Betas didn't notice anything, too undeveloped and his sweet scent otherwise smothered by the smell of their lunches, but a few of the Alphas tensed and turned their attention to the interaction.

Kurokawa Hana had been partially listening in, but on seeing that Tsuna was directly related, resolutely turned her attention back to her lunch with conspicuous avoidance lining her shoulders. Iwasaki Gorou was looking at Tsuna, head co*cked and dropping food into his lap when the distraction proved too much. Yamamoto Takeshi had turned to look, sushi bentou sitting forgotten in front of him.

Alphas reacted to everything he did. Tsuna had been forced to sit out during P.E. because he was considered too delicate for contact sports, and the last time he'd run the track, Iwasaki and Murota had tailed him in a daze. Tsuna rather thought they should be the ones sitting out, if just a bit of sweat made them addle-brained.

"He didn't say why," the girl replied with a shrug.

"Why would he want to talk to Sawada?" Iwasaki interjected. Tsuna sensed the possessiveness in his tone and choked down the flame that wanted to burst out at it. It was expected that the Alphas in his class wouldn't like him – their class's Omega – getting called out alone by another Alpha. It trespassed on them in some capacity, although the teachers had repeatedly told them that there was no Alpha claim on the school. Perhaps that would be easier to believe if Hibari Kyouya wasn't among the student body.

"I don't know, I'm just the messenger!" the girl huffed. "Consider the message delivered!"

She turned and stormed off without so much as a by-your-leave. Iwasaki rolled his eyes, mollified somewhat by the response. "Are all Betas such huffy bitches?" he groused lightly.

"Not as much of a bitch as you're being," Kurokawa snarked, tone bland. She wouldn't have intervened had the boy not insulted Betas, which in turned implied insult on Kyoko, Kurokawa's best friend. Given that Kurokawa was about ten times smarter and a hundred times scarier than him, Iwasaki wisely didn't retort.

Tsuna idled at his desk for a moment. On one hand, it would be perfectly acceptable to ignore Mochida's summons. On the other hand, he did want to know what the older boy wanted from him. Calling Tsuna out of the blue was uncharacteristic, especially since he wasn't even friends with Kyoko.

A good mafia boss wouldn't ignore a challenge.

Tsuna let his head drop down to his desk. I don't want to be a mafia boss, he reminded himself. Reborn was scary, and the Alphas in Namimori were frightening enough – the Alphas of the criminal underbelly would defy description.

"You will be the first. You will just have to convince them to accept it."

Reborn had such an annoying way of talking. He insulted Tsuna, always calling him "no good," and he even smacked him around. (What kind of behavior is that for an Alpha?! Tsuna had wondered.) The strange thing was, after that first day, Reborn never actually talked down to Tsuna. Sure, Reborn would ignore his multiple protestations, but he never treated Tsuna like a particularly dim toddler. Maybe because he looks like a baby, so he knows what it feels like? Tsuna mused. If that were the case, Tsuna would recommend turning all Alphas into terrifying infants too.

Reborn was annoying in that way. He was also plainly terrifying, waving around his multitudes of guns, and one time even the lizard on his hat had come down and transformed into a gun, and Tsuna had been forced to review his homework with the barrel of a green pistol aimed at the back of his head.

But Reborn said things as if they were absolute.

"You will just have to convince them to accept it."

Reborn was here to tutor Tsuna into a mafia boss, and he wasn't going to let a thing like Tsuna being an Omega get in the way of that goal.

It was...refreshing.

"I'm not gonna be a mafia boss," Tsuna re-iterated to himself, muttering into the top of his desk. Afer a moment, he heaved a sigh and stood, making his way to the door.

"You're going to see Mochida-senpai?" came Yamamoto's bemused voice.

Tsuna shrugged, not bothering to turn around as he headed out. "He's still our upperclassman," he replied. "Good underclassmen respect their senpai." Or so it had been explained to him by his mother when he was eight, after she'd caught him trying to set fire to Koharu-senpai's dress.

The science labs were two floors up, where all the senior homerooms were. Tsuna had never been there alone, as his class tended to flank him when they had to change classrooms. There were only eight Omega total in the whole student body of Namichuu, three in Tsuna's year, three more in the year above, and two in the year above that. Tsuna didn't personally know the other Omegas, usually sequestered away in his class or doodling in his notebook, and Omegas were always put in separate classes whenever possible.

It went unsaid that the teachers didn't want to deal with the possibility of their Omega students getting too close to each other. Omegas that weren't family hardly made friendships; it was widely believed that Omegas only needed the companionship of their Mate and family, and it was an idea often reinforced throughout their schooling. Friendships with Betas were acceptable, but if an Omega befriended another Omega, they might want to be more than just friends with that Omega and that was unacceptable.

Tsuna entered the third floor, eyes flicking this way and that. He registered the attention he garnered, the fire in the cavity of his chest prickling at his heart. The last time it had done that was the day Reborn arrived.

Tsuna entered Science Lab 3, stepping into an otherwise deserted room save for Mochida standing slouched by the lab counter closest to the door, one hand grasping a sheet of paper. The older male looked up at his entrance, a small smile pulling up his lips a moment later.

"You came, Sawada," Mochida greeted, seemingly puffing up in confidence.

Tsuna nodded in greeting. "Was there something you needed, Mochida-senpai?" he asked politely, eyes locked somewhere on the vicinity of Mochida's chin.

"It's rude to stare at their eyes, Sawada," his fifth grade teacher had once lectured him. "A proper Omega doesn't challenge an Alpha like that!"

Tsuna didn't really understand that rule, and he'd broken it quite a few times. The first time had been with Kurokawa, and now the girl wouldn't go near him unless forced. He'd broken it when he first interacted with Reborn, too, but that was mostly because Tsuna was wary of being attacked by a hitman.

Tsuna didn't try to challenge it at school when he could help it. His Alpha classmates rarely ever talked to him directly, so it hadn't been an issue for the most part. Mochida was an upperclassman too, so Tsuna could do as he'd been vehemently taught and not directly challenge him, even if the fire in his chest urged him to.

Mochida raised the paper in his hand as if to give evidence of something. "Iwasaki slipped this into my shoe locker. It's a letter of challenge," he said.

Tsuna's eyes went to the letter, brow furrowing. If Iwasaki sent it, then why was Tsuna here?

His confusion must have been obvious, as the smile on Mochida's face turned patronizing. "It's a letter of challenge for you," he said slowly.

Tsuna gaped. "Wh-What?!" he stuttered out in horror.

A letter of challenge for Tsuna? From Iwasaki? To Mochida?

Where the f*ck did Iwasaki Gorou get the nerve?

"I was surprised too," Mochida commiserated, expression understanding but not understanding at all. "I mean, I wasn't even aiming for you – no offense, Sawada – but, I mean, a challenge is a challenge. You know how it is with us Alphas, right?"

Tsuna stared at the senior. "What do you mean, 'a challenge is a challenge'?" he echoed weakly.

Mochida frowned, apparently irritated (but not surprised) by Tsuna not understanding. 'Typical Omega,' was clearly broadcasting from his face. "The Alpha of your class challenged me, another Alpha," he explained, affecting the tone people usually reserved for explaining topics to dim-witted children. "I have to accept the challenge, obviously."

"The challenge for me," Tsuna repeated for clarification.

Mochida nodded with a roll of his eyes.

"What does that even mean?" Tsuna questioned, disturbed. "And Iwasaki isn't the Alpha of our class. Kurokawa is smarter, and Yamamoto is stronger." At least, Tsuna thought Yamamoto was stronger; he was the star of the baseball team, and Iwasaki wasn't even a first-string in the table tennis club.

"He challenged me to a match," Mochida said. "After our last class today, we'll meet in the kendo clubroom. You need to be there. That's why I called you out right now – that little sh*t Iwasaki didn't even tell you he was interested in you, right? I figured he wouldn't tell you to come."

Tsuna would have marveled at the fact that Mochida apparently thought it smart to waste their lunch hour for this pointless venture, but it was buried somewhere under all the fire spreading out from his chest.

"I don't see why I have to be there," Tsuna said. "Or why there has to be a match at all. Mochida-senpai, you just said you aren't interested in me." Thank God. "And for what it's worth, I don't think Iwasaki is either."

If anything, this had to be a prank. If Iwasaki had had any designs on him, surely Tsuna would have noticed it before. The burn in his chest seemed rather attuned to that, if only so that he could smother it before fledgling interest turned into something full-blown.

Mochida shook his head. "A match is a match, Sawada," he refuted. "And since it's a challenge for you, you're the prize."

The world froze instantly. Tsuna's eyes did not widen, his scent did not change, his heart continued to beat in its steady rhythm – but the world fell away. Mochida continued speaking but Tsuna could not understand the words; he had lost the ability to listen. Understanding came slowly, came painfully, like dragging a wounded appendage through molasses. It felt familiar, like a bandage wrapped around his throat, something unseen sending spikes of pain into his body.

"No."

Mochida stopped talking, taken aback. Tsuna lifted his gaze from the older male's chin to his eyes.

"I'm sorry, senpai," He wasn't. "But I won't. I'm not a prize."

The very word felt like poison on his tongue. To be thought of as some token to be won was one thing; to be told so to his face was the greatest affront. It meant Mochida hadn't even felt the need to hide such a thought from him.

"You can't win people like prizes," Tsuna continued on, gentler this time. "That's not right, senpai."

Tsuna should leave it at that. He wouldn't go to the supposed match, that was that; whether Mochida and Iwasaki decided to have their match anyway meant nothing. Tsuna isn't some prize to be won, and if they wanted to be idiots, they didn't need to involve him.

Tsuna turned to leave, but was stopped when Mochida grabbed him by the arm harshly, pulling him back around. Tsuna grit his teeth at the touch, fire racing through his veins.

He's touching me, Tsuna thought. His scent sharpened, and Tsuna gritted his teeth trying to hold it at bay, but the thought echoed in his head over and over. He's touching me, he's tOuChing Me, He'S TouCHiNg ME-

"Sawada," Mochida bit out, eyes narrowed and nostrils flaring. His pheromones laced the words and stained the air, brushing over Tsuna's skin harshly. Mochida smelled of steel and rice straw, subdued somewhat by his undeveloped glands but from this close, Tsuna could discern the spike in intensity.

"You're coming," Mochida repeated, fierce and so much more threatening. He was too young to make it a Demand, but the intention was clear regardless. "I'm not interested in you like that, but you're gonna come anyway. Just be a good little Omega and accept it."

"Accept it?" Tsuna echoed numbly. "Accept being some toy to win?"

Mochida scowled, shaking him a bit. "Don't talk back," the older male warned him sternly.

Come to the match, accept being the prize, don't talk back. The orders may not have an Alpha's Demand in them, but that was only because Mochida couldn't physically do that yet. But if he could, if at this very moment he had the same ability as Reborn, Mochida would have Demanded it of Tsuna.

He would Demand Tsuna come to the match. Demand that he accept being a prize. Demand that he just shut up.

An Alpha demands. An Omega submits.

Mochida was still touching him.

The fire raged, but it did more than just urge Tsuna into action, as it had done when confronted with Reborn. Because the fire knew that Reborn had no intention of Dominating Tsuna so intimately, the same way it knew that if it weren't for their pre-presentation bodies, Mochida would have.

The fire raged, and so – for the first time in a long time – Tsuna let it go.

It danced under his skin, and Mochida's eyes widened as Tsuna's visage abruptly –shifted. But Tsuna had no time to acknowledge Mochida's change in expression, because he suddenly knew exactly what he had to do. And he did just that.

Tsuna grabbed Mochida's arm with his free one, and twisted. Mochida released him with a yelp, louder even than Tsuna's squeal when Reborn had twisted his wrist earlier in the week. Tsuna pushed forward with Mochida's jerking away, gaining momentum and knocking the older boy off-balance, bringing Mochida crashing to the floor.

Tsuna followed him down, only he had both hands clasped around the Alpha's throat. The fire raged in his veins, positioning his body so that his knees kept Mochida's arms pinned to the ground, and he felt every attempted (and subsequently failed) jerk to knock him off-balance.

An Alpha's strength outstripped that of a Beta, let alone an Omega. Even a young Alpha like Mochida had this inherited strength, which was only reinforced by his training in the kendo club. He freed one hand, grabbing Tsuna by the front of his shirt and pulling the younger boy off him with physical strength alone.

Tsuna fell back, clinging to Mochida's hold rather than fighting it, twisting slightly so that his right leg came up. Before Mochida could figure out what he was doing, Tsuna brought his leg sweeping down, the heel of his slipper-clad foot meeting Mochida's nose with a sickening crack.

"You f*ck-!" Mochida choked out, words muffled and pained.

Tsuna twisted his body, bringing Mochida's arm with him in the movement, eliciting a scream of pain before releasing the older boy's appendage. Tsuna rolled off the older male's form, springing up to his feet. Mochida was not as quick, hampered by both surprise and injuries. Tsuna brought his leg back, kicking forward and sending the older boy sprawling.

"I'm sorry, Mochida-senpai," Tsuna started, words cold but heat flaring so hotly under his skin, he wondered if he was imagining the flames that danced across his skin in open view. "But I am not going."

Tsuna pulled the older boy up by the lapels, then brought their foreheads together with a crash. Mochida's eyes bulged before sliding closed; Tsuna released him and he slumped to the floor, unconscious.

Tsuna was brought back to himself in pieces. His forehead stung from the impact, and he registered that first. It was quiet in the room, now void of one conscious occupant, and Tsuna took the moment of silence to look at his hands.

What had he done?

...He's not touching me anymore,Tsuna thought distantly.

Because Tsuna wasn't a delicate little flower, and he'd set this entire f*cking world ablaze to prove it.

End Chapter 3

A/N: Gokudera is coming soon~ Did you enjoy the hint of Yamamoto and Hibari in this chapter? They're gonna be exciting.

Notes on Tsuna:

-Concerning the assault when he was little: It was an important moment, one that had very real and significant impact on Tsuna – but the trauma doesn't define him. He's more than just that one horrible moment. It's still repressed, as evident in this chapter, but it clearly affects him, even subconsciously. Just don't expect it to be some be-all, end-all for Tsuna. He is so much more than one traumatic moment.

-Concerning Tsuna's View on Dynamics: There's a certain...hypocrisy to Tsuna's thinking, in how he thinks about Alphas and Omegas. He's quite (rightfully) irritated by how society treats Omega, but sometimes he'll use those same societal expectations and thrust them on Alphas. I think this can be very true to life: our own thoughts sometimes warring or coinciding with society's as a whole. Some of this will serve as points of conflict as Tsuna engages more with the world, but it's needed for personal growth, and I hope to show that.

Notes on Reborn:

-He's used to life as an Alpha, and it shows. Please give him time, he comes around...eventually.

Notes on Sawada Iemitsu:

-I am going to leave you all in a perpetual state of 'does-or-doesn't-he-know' concerning Tsuna until the story answers it. LOL

Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Comments and kudos are appreciated. :)

Chapter 4: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 4

Summary:

Tsuna's peaceful lifestyle goes down in flames.

Chapter Text

A/N:So I know I listed the pairings as 10th Gen Guardians/27 and All/27, but I feel I should clarify:

It's more like Everyone/Everyone? But mostly hints, 'cause a lot of these guys are underage, and any actual concrete romance would be like really far down the plotline. I mean, there will be a lot of crushes and obvious mooning over so-and-so (probably mooning over Tsuna 'cause he's awesome and all), but not full-on ABO smut for a long while.

And while it is still very much All/27, this fic also includes strong elements of 8059 (YamamotoGokudera), 3387 (RyoheiHana), 10051 (ByakuranIrie), XanxusSqualo, others to come. But, you know, everyone's still mooning after Tsuna too.

Endgame 'pairing' for Tsuna? ;) You will just have to wait for it.

Additional tags: Polyamory, and intersex characters.

Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyou Hitman Reborn.

Chapter 4

Maintaining order was imperative in any school, especially those that mixed dynamics as Namimori Junior High did. For generations, the school had been mostly successful at keeping a peaceful, stable atmosphere; there had been handfuls of incidents in every generation but nothing that a few apologies from Alpha students and/or their parents couldn't soothe over.

Omega had been introduced into the school in the mid-1990s, the former school that specialized in their dynamic being absorbed into Namimori Junior High after having fallen on hard financial times during the recession. It was not as drastic a change in environment as it would have been had their students been old enough to present, but it was enough to make those first few years very rocky.

Of course, that was until Hibari Sasako came of age to enter junior high and subsequently claim the reins of what had initially been a small Disciplinary Committee. After she'd convinced – exclusively through vicious attacks – the more delinquent members of the student body to reform, the numbers of the Committee swelled and established a seat of power that would come to be handed down from one generation of Hibari to the next.

With her hold on Namimori Junior High – Namichuu – secure, violence between students (excluding the DC) went down considerably. This had much to do with the fact that Alphas butting heads out of pride or territorial claim were either absorbed into the DC and fell under Hibari's hand, or they simply learned the hard way and ended up in the hospital.

Naturally, the lack of overbearing Alphas clamoring for power allowed the school atmosphere to settle into something resembling peace. Betas enjoyed a violence-free zone and Omegas only had to contend with condescension rather than outright dominance displays.

It was as close to peaceful as a mixed-dynamic school could get, only broken by the occasional scream of pain from a wayward Alpha who thought to challenge Hibari's seat of power.

Notably, the power came from Hibari herself. So when she graduated into Namimori Senior High, she'd left behind the structure of the Committee but without her continued presence, the school slowly slid back into its old ways. There was a notable surge in violence and dominance displays that continued to worsen in the years since her graduation from their ranks.

Until the next generation of Hibari.

Hibari Kyouya took after his mother in many ways: immense, unyielding strength; a core of steel; a high-pedigree Alpha with a brilliant mind; a god-like capacity for violence. What differed was that Hibari Kyouya lacked the learned trait for restraint, something that his mother had not been able to teach him as her life had been cut so short. So Hibari had learned all the strengths of his mother but none of her limits – which had made his entrance and takeover of Namimori Junior High and subsequently Namimori itself a bloodbath.

One of the most basic tenants of Hibari's rule over the school was to not crowd. The definition of 'crowd' changed by the day; Hibari could be fine stalking the halls through swarms of students one day but may enact violence on a couple of Alpha arguing in open view the next day. It was the Alpha in him, his teachers had reasoned – if he found Alphas showcasing any kind of dominance display, he'd put them down without mercy.

By government-issued decree, all schools within Japan were not allowed to be claimed as territory by an Alpha. In Namimori's reality, Hibari Kyouya was the undisputed ruler. And so, when scuffles arose within Hibari's domain, they were inevitably brought to his attention.

Such as when third year Mochida Kensuke was found beaten and unconscious in the school science lab.

In the direct aftermath of a fight, there would be scents left behind giving some clue as to who was behind it. If the participants were pre-presentation youths, the scents dwindled that much quicker; when the scene had been left too long, the scents were virtually undetectable.

Thus Kusakabe Tetsuya only had a lab filled with the scent of Mochida's defeat, and a crumpled challenge letter carelessly tossed into the trash bin.

"The letter is supposedly from Iwasaki Gorou, first year Alpha," Kusakabe reported, eyes on the Committee Chairman's desk, head slightly bowed to denote respect. His station as a Beta meant eye contact couldn't be seen as a direct challenge, but through long years of exposure to Hibari, Kusakabe knew it was better to be safe than sorry. "However, Iwasaki has an alibi; he had been in his homeroom throughout lunch and in class with witnesses for the rest of the school day."

Kusakabe placed a sealed plastic bag onto Hibari's desk, wherein contained the wrinkled form of the challenge letter. "Cross-analyzation shows this to be Iwasaki's handwriting but he insists he never wrote it. We think it may be a professional forgery," the tall senior said.

Hibari's eyes scanned the document, no expression on his face.

"There is one other party," Kusakabe continued, voice tinged with the slightest hint of doubt. "A classmate of Iwasaki's, Sawada Tsunayoshi. He's an Omega, and the challenge letter was over him."

Kusakabe paused, ruminating briefly before he continued. "During lunch, he was summoned by Mochida to Science Lab 3. Sawada was apprehended for questioning-" By Kusakabe himself, because even though the Committee members feared Hibari's wrath, Kusakabe wasn't going to leave them alone with a possibly-distressed Omega. "-and he admitted to seeing Mochida at the location. He said they talked about the challenge, of which Sawada was sure was a prank, and then Sawada returned to his homeroom for the rest of the lunch period. He reported Mochida was fine and conscious when he left."

Hibari stilled briefly. "Sawada Tsunayoshi?" he echoed faintly, tone thoughtful.

Kusakabe nodded. "He seemed surprised and scared by what happened to Mochida, but not to a degree where it looks like he may have known who the perpetrator is and was threatened to keep quiet." Sawada's scent had held that sharp sweetness that Kusakabe had learned to associate with an Omega in distress after the Beta had told the boy what had happened. However, Sawada didn't seem particularly terrified, as he would have been had whoever had attacked Mochida threatened Sawada to keep quiet.

"Mochida regained consciousness hours ago, but said he never saw who his attacker was," Kusakabe reported. Kusakabe didn't believe the senior but the kendo club captain had an inflated sense of ego, which had doubtlessly been hit hard by his defeat. There was no point in persisting in questioning an Alpha with a wounded sense of pride.

"Cease all investigation."

Kusakabe stilled, breath caught in his lungs.

Hibari pulled the sealed plastic bag closer, dark eyes flicking over the words once more. Kusakabe didn't smell any change in scent but he felt the spike in pressure; this wasn't pheromones, he knew – this was killing intent. The corners of Hibari's lips turned up, bloodlust radiating in his eyes.

"I will find them," Hibari stated smoothly. "And bite them to death."

The heat wrapped around his heart glowed strongly for a moment before settling, putting an abrupt stutter in Tsuna's steps. Given that he was just oustide the front door to his home, he could only guess why his instincts had reacted – most likely to the looming Alpha presence Tsuna felt behind the door.

Tsuna hesitated only briefly, before rallying himself back together and pushing open the door. "I'm home!" he called out into the house, shutting the door softly behind him.

"Welcome home," Nana called back, emerging from the kitchen with a smile. Reborn popped out from around the corner, Leon wrapped around his arm and dark, beady eyes trained on Tsuna. The hitman's expression was flat as usual, although Tsuna felt he was beginning to learn the minor differences in expression, even without Reborn saying anything.

For example, right now he was getting the impression of cautious irritation.

"Dame-Tsuna," Reborn greeted blandly. "How was school?"

The voice was piping and casual, but Tsuna somehow instinctively recognized the underlying message: I know what you did. Explain yourself.

Tsuna knew what he did too, and hopefully, this was something only he and Reborn were privy too. Tsuna thought he'd played out Kusakabe pretty well; the older Beta had seemingly bought Tsuna's words, his impression of Omega working in Tsuna's favor for once.

Who would ever think a fragile Omega like Tsuna capable of beating down an esteemed Alpha like Mochida? It was impossible. It was so much easier to believe that Tsuna had just luckily gotten away before Mochida's assault, and the Disciplinary Committee had bought his words hook, line, and sinker. The only person who could contradict such a thought was Mochida himself, but considering Tsuna had returned home without incident, the senior had likely kept quiet about him.

Alpha pride, Tsuna recognized. It'd be the death of them.

"I didn't understand Nezu-sensei's lecture at all," Tsuna blithely admitted, to Nana's well-intentioned giggling. "Oh, and I met with Mochida-senpai."

Reborn stared at him. Nana tilted her head, expression open and curious. "Mochida-senpai?" she echoed.

Tsuna nodded. "He's captain of the kendo club. Someone was playing a prank on him, though, and he wanted to talk to me about it because he thought it was me," Tsuna explained, eyes never leaving Reborn.

Nana raised a hand to her mouth, surprised. "Oh my, that's horrible! What happened?"

Tsuna shrugged. "I don't know who was behind the prank but it wasn't me," he replied. "Mochida-senpai just needed some convincing."

Leon crawled into Reborn's hand, contorting into the shape of the green pistol Tsuna was starting to become very familiar with. Reborn's eyes never left Tsuna, even as Nana made comments about how silly kids could be, returning to the kitchen intent on preparing snacks and leaving the two alone in the living room.

"Did you successfully convince Mochida?" Reborn asked casually, noticeably clicking the safety off his gun.

Tsuna stared back at him, fire in his eyes. "I tried," he replied after a moment.

Then, to Tsuna's confusion, Reborn's lips quirked up in a smile. "Not bad, Dame-Tsuna," he allowed softly. The illusion of goodwill was abruptly ruined when the baby hitman shot two warning shots next to Tsuna's head. "But you still have lots more to work on."

"We have a new transfer student who was studying overseas in Italy," Class 2-B's homeroom teacher introduced bright and early the next morning. "Gokudera Hayato."

Silver hair framed a delicately-sloped face, jade green eyes currently narrowed in a fiery glare directed at the class at large. A scowl marred the lips of an otherwise very attractive face, and the air seemed to buzz around the lithe figure standing at the front of class.

Tsuna wondered what it was about the other boy, because that definitely was not pheromones in the air. Gokudera Hayato was a Beta.

"Hey, isn't he really hot?" Kobayakawa whispered to her neighbor, sending a few of the nearby girls tittering. Murota heard and snorted, skeptical eyes on the transfer student; as one of the bigger Alpha boys in the room, he wasn't impressed by the chain-wearing Beta at the front.

Gokudera didn't even deign to acknowledge the commentary. He completely ignored the teacher's suggestion to introduce himself, moving forward – glaring eyes fastened on Tsuna.

Tsuna watched him approach warily. The burn in his heart did not react but there was a twinge that alerted Tsuna to expect something hostile from the approaching male. Sure enough, Gokudera kicked at his desk, the edge smacking into Tsuna's midsection with an oomph! Gokudera ignored the resulting whispers and stern reprimand from Matsumoto-sensei.

"Oi, transfer student," Murota snapped out. "What the hell's your problem?"

Gokudera didn't reply, taking his assigned seat in the second to last row, still glowering in Tsuna's direction. Tsuna corrected his desk position, absently rubbing his midsection, cringing down to avoid Gokudera's gaze.

In Matsumoto-sensei's subsequent lecture, Tsuna never noticed the way Yamamoto's eyes lingered on him.

Gokudera vanished during third period and some of the more academically-inclined students marveled at his gall; it took guts to skip class on his first day at a new school. Tsuna was just relieved the guy wasn't there to glare daggers into his back for another two periods, and almost felt relaxed when lunch rolled around.

Tsuna had just opened his bento lunchbox when Iwasaki crowded into his space, frowning worriedly. "Hey, Sawada," he started, pulling up a chair from a nearby desk to take a seat adjacent. "You heard about what happened to Mochida-senpai, right?"

The whole school had heard what had happened to Mochida. Current reigning theory was that Mochida had pissed off some third year thugs that weren't under Hibari's direct command, and they'd caught him alone and pummeled him. Mochida appeared to be running with that, although he'd exaggerated the number to five.

Tsuna nodded at Iwasaki, snapping open his disposable chopsticks. "Yes. I was lucky I left when I did, or I might have got caught too," he replied quietly. He flared his pheromones lightly, an appropriate reaction to distressing news.

Iwasaki nodded, smiling in relief. He patted Tsuna's arm, not noticing the way the boy tensed and the grip on his chopsticks threatened to break them. "Yeah, thank god you weren't caught up in that. An Omega has no business getting tied up in Alpha fights," he agreed.

Tsuna stared at him, amber eyes locked on the boy's jaw. "Yeah," Tsuna murmured. Because they're stupid, he thought privately.

"Anyway, I wanted to know if you and Mochida-senpai talked about, um, why he was there?" Iwasaki hedged. "The Disciplinary Committee talked to me yesterday, accused me of, uh, writing a challenge letter to Mochida-senpai..."

Finally, the crux of the matter. "Oh, that," Tsuna started. "Well, I mean, it was obviously a prank – I know you don't think like that, Iwasaki-kun."

Iwasaki's eyebrow raised at the weird phrasing. "Um, yeah... I mean, it's nothing personal, Sawada – but I just don't feel that way about you," he said, voice affecting a gentle tone, as if to let Tsuna down kindly.

"I know," Tsuna replied shortly. He just wanted to eat lunch. This was the second day in a row an Alpha was wasting his lunch hour because of an over-inflated sense of pride.

"Oh, well, um," Iwasaki stuttered. "Good."

Tsuna nodded.

Iwasaki stood, putting the borrowed chair back and shuffling away, vague confusion on his face as he left the classroom. Some of their loitering classmates watched him go, amused despite themselves, although Kurokawa eyed Iwasaki's retreating visage with something close to understanding on her face.

Tsuna dug into his lunch, glad to be done with the whole mess of Mochida's arrogance.

Arrogance was an Alpha trait.

Tsuna already knew that, but some part of him hadn't fully understood that until after school that day. He'd been tasked with mopping the stairwell, and was in the process of putting the mop away when Murota's unconscious body was thrown into the wall next to the cleaning supply closet, falling to the floor with a dull thud.

Tsuna turned, surprise widening his amber eyes as he took in the sight of Gokudera Hayato scowling at him, clearly in a fighting stance.

"You sent your Alpha bitch after me?" the silver-haired teen growled. "Because you're too weak to fight me yourself?"

Tsuna took in the accusation with numbing shock. "M-My what?" he asked faintly.

The heat in Tsuna's heart crooned at the sight of Gokudera, who was lighting up a cigarette. "If a weak prick like you becomes the Vongola Tenth, the Family is doomed," Gokudera hissed. "There's no way I'll allow that to happen."

Tsuna knew it. He knew it was all Reborn's fault – an Italian transfer student with anger issues? That had Reborn written all over it. As if to cement this fact, a small, black silhouette jumped down from a second story window and to the ground, revealing Reborn adorned in his usual suit, Leon-pistol in hand as he gazed between the two teens.

"Ciaossu," Reborn greeted. "You're earlier than I expected, Gokudera Hayato."

"Of course you know him!" Tsuna cried out.

Reborn utterly ignored him. "Murota isn't part of the Family, by the way. He's just an idiot," he told the Beta boy.

Gokudera straightened up at Reborn's attention, green eyes flicking away from Tsuna to Murota. "So he's just a civilian? He was saying I heard to learn my place, and not threaten Sawada or whatever," Gokudera said around his cig. "He was f*cking annoying."

Reborn nodded. "Do you hear that, Tsuna? Gokudera beat up an annoying Alpha for you," the baby hitman observed aloud.

"What?!"

"I didn't do it for him!"

Reborn was smiling; Tsuna wasn't fooled. "What are you up to, Reborn?" Tsuna demanded, eyes meeting beady black.

Amusem*nt colored Reborn's next words.

"Gokudera Hayato is here to kill you," Reborn informed the Omega teen. "If you die, he becomes candidate 10th boss."

Tsuna gaped at the baby. "But- you said it was by blo-"

His intuition twinged, Tsuna's body moving of its own accord, pelting away just as a stick of dynamite exploded where he'd just been standing. Tsuna turned wide eyes to where Gokudera stood, at least ten lit cigarettes between his teeth and more than a dozen sticks of dynamite in his hands.

"Dynamite? You have dynamite?!" Tsuna squeaked out, just as Gokudera lit all the bombs at once via cigarettes, throwing them with frightening accuracy in Tsuna's direction. The first floor courtyard exploded in a hail of dirt and concrete debris.

"It's said that Gokudera Hayato conceals dynamite all over his body," Reborn's voice piped up, figure hidden by the smoke. "His other name is Smokin' Bomb Hayato."

"How did he get past Japanese Customs?!" Tsuna shrieked.

"Dame-Tsuna, if you don't focus, you'll die," came Reborn's reply.

A handful of dynamite sliced through the air, aimed for Tsuna's face. Tsuna screamed, body moving instantly to smack and kick the bombs out of the way, sending them high into the air to explode without casualty.

"f*cking hold still!" Gokudera yelled at him ferociously, lithe figure discernible through the settling dust and smoke. Tsuna was horrified to see that his dynamite number had increased from a couple handfuls to over three dozen.

Tsuna's fire didn't rage against his ribcage, as it had done with Reborn and Mochida. It flared from under his skin but to a more subdued degree, aiding Tsuna in moving quicker out of the path of explosions. But why was it not lashing out as vindictively as it had before?

"Dame-Tsuna, you have to fight back," Reborn's voice cut through. "Defeat him, just as you did Mochida."

Tsuna could. He knew he could, had recognized Gokudera's fighting pattern and located a handful of ways to attack the other boy. The silver-haired teen favored offense over defense, lacked any true shield and sacrificed protection of his body in favor of sharpening his attack.

Tsuna was quick. He could slip forward, bit by bit, dodging Gokudera's array of dynamite to land a hit. He could aim for those green eyes – it would be hard to aim when he couldn't see. He could jerk and twist Gokudera's arm at an angle, so quick that the momentum itself fractured it. He could aim a sharp kick at the rib, breaking a couple bones and incapacitating Gokudera from further movement.

Tsuna could wrap his fingers around that slender, pale throat and squeeze.

The very idea made him nauseous.

Tsuna recoiled, and a stick of dynamite slipped into his personal space in his moment of inaction. His feet threw him back but the explosion knocked him off balance and to the ground. His entire body was trembling, his pheromones filling the immediate area.

Reborn's nose twitched. "...did you finally realize, Dame-Tsuna?" the hitman asked, voice flat.

Tsuna did, once he met the hitman's eyes.

Tsuna did not enjoy violence.

It was frightening, and scary, and the idea of hurting someone so much that their bones cracked under his fist, that their blood gushed over his skin – it horrified him. Tsuna didn't want to fight, didn't want to crush people beneath him just for the sake of it.

The smoke cleared, and Tsuna stared down the barrel of a green pistol.

Reborn was smiling. "You'll know when you die," the hitman said gently.

He pulled the trigger, and pain exploded between Tsuna's eyes.

His fire swelled, and Tsuna was distantly aware of his body hitting the ground and blood spurting from the wound between his eyes. Then there was rage, but without the anger – it fueled the flames, pushing together into a form concentrated around a single unifying thought:

Stop Gokudera with my Dying Will!

Tsuna and the flame were one and the same now, and he tore through the bindings to emerge back into existence. Pure, unrestrained energy pushed him into motion, and Tsuna exploded from the ground, barely taking Gokudera's shocked face into consideration as he surged forward towards the Beta.

Gokudera flung dynamite in his direction, seeming almost frantic. Instead of batting them away, Tsuna's fingers closed over the burning fuses awe-inspiringly fast, extinguishing them and letting the dynamite fall to the ground uselessly.

Gokudera tsk'd, pulling out even more dynamite. "Double Bomb!" he shouted, lighting all the fuses at once and sending a cascade of explosives in Tsuna's direction. Once again, Tsuna snuffed out the fuses.

"f*ck you!" Gokudera snapped out, arms now filled to capacity with dynamite.

Tsuna screamed back just as vehemently: "No thank you!"

Reborn's eye twitched.

"Triple Bomb!" Gokudera yelled, lighting all the dynamite in his hold. In his zealousness, one lit stick slipped from his over-filled hold, and green eyes trekked the fallen explosive with horrified acknowledgement. The distraction caused even more to spilled from his hold, and through the raging intensity of the flames, Tsuna recognized the expression filtering onto Gokudera Hayato's face with startling clarity.

Acceptance.

For Gokudera, it was the acceptance of death.

For Tsuna, it was the acceptance of everything he'd hated long before he could name the emotion. Accept his role as the Omega, as the submissive, as the one who bore the brunt of society's condescension. Tsuna had faced the continuous urging to just accept his role, just accept the expectations of his dynamic.

And Tsuna fought it. It was the strength to fight it, to refuse what society had planned for him just because of the state of his body parts. Sometimes this meant looking Kurokawa in the eyes and letting the flames light his amber irises, it meant trying to make Reborn physically incapable of issuing an Alpha Demand, it meant beating Mochida down into the floor so that Tsuna knew he could stand up for himself.

This didn't mean Tsuna had to enjoy violence. Tsuna didn't want to subjugate others, just because he could. That's why he was hesitant to fight Gokudera Hayato, who had no intention of dominating him, who didn't even seem to care that 'Omega' was part of the many labels associated with Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Tsuna dashed into Gokudera's periphery, hands moving faster than the human eye could see. Dynamite scattered around their feet, fuses vanquished, and green eyes watched in disbelief as Tsuna dropped to the floor, hands slamming over the last few lit fuses and nullifying the last of the threats to Gokudera's life.

The cigarettes fell from his slack-jawed mouth, and Tsuna kicked dirt over them to extinguish the glowing embers just as the flames receded back into him, coiling once more around his heart, satisfied.

Tsuna blinked the stinging smoke out of his eyes, taking in the scene around him. It was different from how his flames usually surged forth, and he felt much more exhausted afterwards. Not to mention colder-

Wait, where the hell are my clothes?! Tsuna suddenly realized, looking down at his naked chest, only his sunset-orange boxers keeping him a step closer to decent.

"I WAS MISTAKEN!"

Tsuna jerked forward in surprise, pivoting to find Gokudera kneeling, head slammed towards the ground. "You're the one who's fit to be the 10th Boss!" Gokudera continued loudly, looking up with an expression Tsuna hadn't known the delinquent teen capable of making.

A light pink flush had settled over pale cheeks, green eyes wide in open adoration. Gokudera-

"Tenth!" the Beta boy said excitedly. "Command me to do anything!"

Gokudera Hayato was a f*cking psycho.

"It's a Family rule to have the loser serve the winner," came Reborn's explanation, the tiny hitman emerging from wherever he'd been as to not get caught up in Gokudera's explosives. At the sight of him, Tsuna abruptly remembered when he'd seen him last: namely, putting a bullet between Tsuna's eyes.

"Reborn, you shot me!" Tsuna screeched, pointing an accusing finger at the baby.

Reborn leapt forward and pistol-whipped Tsuna at the side of his head. "Don't point, Dame-Tsuna, it's rude," the Alpha baby chided airily.

Tsuna cradled the abused area in his hand, tears welling up in the corner of his eyes. That hurt. Reborn snorted, Leon transforming into a giant mallet which the hitman held in front of Tsuna threateningly. "Stop emitting that scent, I know you have some control over it," he ordered.

Tsuna frowned, but allowed his Flames to dampen the pheromones that had flared up at Reborn's attack. The only reason he'd done as told was because not only had Reborn not made it a Demand, he also had solid reasoning; they didn't want people stumbling across two students in an exploded courtyard.

"I shot you with the Dying Will bullet," Reborn explained, Leon reverting back to lizard form as Tsuna's pheromones dissipated. "A person shot with it will resurrect with Dying Will after dying."

Tsuna stared at Reborn. "You mean I died?" he screeched.

"You got better," Reborn offered blandly. "Your Dying Will is based off on what you are regretting when you die."

Tsuna processed those words. What he regretted...

He regretted trying to get violent with Gokudera. "I wanted to 'stop Gokudera with my Dying Will'," Tsuna said, more to himself. "All that dynamite... I thought he was going to get hurt." And explode the school, which wouldn't bode well for anyone. His Dying Will must have recognized what his troubled thoughts had yet to realize at the time, and lead him into stopping Gokudera.

"Tenth...!"

Tsuna turned. Thankfully, Gokudera had resumed his feet, but the adoring look on his face had only magnified. Tsuna stared back in bemusem*nt, heat creeping across his face. Gokudera had absolutely no qualms matching his eyes, a Beta quality through and through; but unlike others, awe shined back in those pretty green irises.

"Tenth, I just want you to know, I actually had no ambitions to become the 10th boss," Gokudera started, his demeanor almost...shy. "It's just when I heard from Reborn-san that the 10th Boss was some civilian kid in Japan, I thought I should test his strength!"

Is Reborn just going to throw assassins at me and see if I survive? Tsuna wondered in horror. "That is not how tutoring works, Reborn!" Tsuna hissed out of the corner of his mouth. Reborn cleaned his Leon pistol, pretending not to hear.

"But you're much more than I expected!" Gokudera fairly gushed, brightening considerably.

Tsuna eyed the other male worriedly. "...in what way?"

"You saved me, even though I was trying to kill you!" Gokudera exclaimed, smiling. Tsuna was reminded of a puppy, could practically see a metaphorical tail and ears sprouting up on Gokudera's form. "You're amazing!"

This time, a hot blush stole across Tsuna's face, and he was shaking his head before he could even think about replying to Gokudera's sincere gratitude. This was the first time in Tsuna's entire life someone had ever looked at him like that, and he wasn't sure how to react.

"N-No, I'm not amazing," Tsuna refuted, stumbling over his words in his embarrassment. "I'm just an Omega, you know?"

Did Gokudera even realizehe was an Omega? He'd never even mentioned it, not when he was angry before and not when he was so- so pleased now. Gokudera was a Beta, but even a Beta could recognize an Omega's scent, and surely the silver-haired teen would have noticed the way their classmates treated Tsuna.

"Tenth, you are amazing!" Gokudera insisted. "And you smell good!"

What. "What?" Tsuna croaked out.

Reborn tensed.

"For putting you life on the line to save me," Gokudera continued, seemingly not realizing he'd frozen Tsuna with his 'you smell good' comment. "I'll give you my life! I'm your subordinate from now until the end of my days!"

Tsuna was shocked out of his stillness into incredulity. "My subordinate? No! I'm not a mafia boss!" He'd almost forgotten the Beta boy was from the mafia!

Gokudera didn't seem to hear him, too excited by his newfound allegiance to Tsuna. "My life is yours to command!"

"Can't we just be normal classmates?!" Tsuna asked desperately.

Gokudera's green eyes flashed, expression turning sharp. "Absolutely not," he claimed ruthlessly.

"Congratulations, Dame-Tsuna, you have your first Family member," Reborn said. Tsuna was not imagining the amusem*nt coloring the hitman's tone.

"Listen, Gokudera-kun, I'm flattered," Terrified, he was terrified. "But, uh, let's just be friends instead, okay?

Gokudera was scary, and he was violent, and he carried around f*cking dynamite – but he was also the first person to ever look Tsuna in the eyes and claim there was something more to him than just being an Omega. And Tsuna- Tsuna really liked that.

"Is that an order, Tenth?" Gokudera asked, pleased expression on his face and excitement in his eyes.

It was also entirely possible Gokudera was something of a pervert.

"...I don't know," Tsuna replied cautiously. Which answer would get Gokudera to calm down a bit? Tsuna was worried about the abrupt personality shift, but then again – it was entirely possible Gokudera really was just this kind of person. He even admitted to only attacking Tsuna to 'test his strength' as a future boss; an impulsive move that temperamental youth are prone to.

There was something oddly innocent about Gokudera. Was this why his intuition hadn't registered him as a threat, as it had when Reborn had first appeared? Gokudera had no designs on him as a prospective Mate or whatnot, which meant he had no intention of trying to dominate Tsuna.

Was this why Tsuna didn't really mind Gokudera crowding so closely into his personal space like this? It couldn't be just because Gokudera was a Beta; Tsuna sometimes talked with the Betas in his classroom but preferred to be alone rather than suffer their patronizing demeanor for longer than necessary.

Possible perversion aside, at least Gokudera was sincere. Tsuna's intuition told him as much.

Just as Tsuna worked up the courage to accept his new friend (possible underling but Tsuna would deny that vehemently), Tsuna's intuition screamed. His Flames simmered along his veins – too exhausted to flare but recognizing danger when a hint of the coppery tang of blood and the earthy scent of green tea invaded the courtyard.

The other sense – the one that had nothing to do with dynamic and everything to do with survival – choked under the pressure.

"Killing intent," Reborn observed lowly, audible to Tsuna. But Tsuna didn't need to even look to know who had swept into the disaster of the first floor courtyard, heart hammering in his chest as he reluctantly turned amber eyes to the tall figure standing at the doors, the red armband of the Disciplinary Committee a stain of red against a monochrome backdrop.

I just made my first friend, Tsuna thought, terror numbing his mind. And now I'm going to die.

Hibari Kyouya looked Tsuna in the eyes impassively, small smirk turning the corners of his lips up, steel tonfas gleaming under the afternoon sun.

"Little animal," Hibari started, Wrath itself given physical form. "I will bite you to death."

End Chapter 4

A/N: Out of the frying pan and into the fire~

Notes on Tsuna:

-Tsuna reacts badly to attempts at being dominated, namely by Alpha's who react poorly to his resistance of said dominance. Most of the time, as seen - the reaction is violent. A lot of it also stems from his refusal to submit, and his growing belief that he is not weak just because he's an Omega. However, this does not mean Tsuna actively enjoys violence - he is just capable of violence when needed. This sets him apart form others who are prone to fighting for violence's sake. This will be further fleshed out as the story continues.

-First appearance of the Dying Will bullet! Tsuna has some kind of natural control over his Flames, as seen in previous chapters; but consider it more along the lines as a heavily-subdued Hyper Dying Will mode. Those who fight against him can sometimes see Flames flash in his eyes, or in Mochida's case, even sparks fly across his skin - but it's not the continuous, flashing force of Dying Will or Hyper Dying Will. It makes Tsuna a more able fighter, but he has to rely far more on agility and flexibility - his strength is still virtually the same.

Notes on Gokudera:

-Probably not a pervert (lol), but the chapter is from Tsuna's (flawed) view. A lot of the dialogue was taken form the manga, which was fun to re-read because the art style is so different and Gokudera's first appearance is hilarious.

Please be kind and drop a comment. :)

Chapter 5: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 5

Summary:

Hibari gets excited.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thanks again to all those who commented! <3

Chapter 5

Seven Years Ago

“Kyouya.”

Eight year old Hibari Kyouya looked up at the call, having previously been observing the rustle of the leaves as they crunched under foot. The distant sounds of Namimori preparing for sunset could be heard, past the shrubs and trees that obscured his vision from the small park he’d first passed to get to their current location.

His mother, dressed impeccably in pressed black slacks and a crisp white button-up, was looking down at him where he stood at her elbow. Hibari Sasako cut a sharp figure; no matter where she tread, she stood out with the sort of magnetism only the truly respectable Alphas carried. Her thin lips were usually pressed into a straight line, denoting neither interest no pleasure; she regarded everything under a steely grey gaze, seeing more than she ever said aloud.

Kyouya had inherited much from her. Virtually the only thing his Beta father had given him was the slim stature of his build and the sharpness of his jaw, but other than that – Kyouya was all Hibari Sasako.

His mother tilted her head just slightly, unnoticeable to anyone save those who knew her well. Kyouya nodded at the silent query: what can you sense?

Kyouya turned his gaze back to the immediate area. It was a small patch clear of shrubs and trees, nondescript for the way it faded into the wooded area that was spread throughout Namimori. His mother had brought him out with no explanation as to why, but figuring out the reason was part of her training – if he couldn’t figure it out, it would be disappointing, and Kyouya had no intention of disappointing his mother.

First, Kyouya catalogued what he could see with his eyes: evergreen shrubs, chilly to the touch. Trees in a multitude of autmun colors, their dead leaves carpeting the ground. The patch of ground where they stood. An empty can of soda.

Next, he turned his attention to what he could smell: the natural earth under his feet, stronger than any other smell in the immediate area. But – there. It lingered, faint but present; a sharp scent, unpleasant to Kyouya but familiar in a sense. Familiar how? Kyouya tried to place it, and it took him several moments, but finally his quick mind found the answer: Alpha. A lingering scent of Alpha, in an empty patch of woods, near a playground.

“Alpha,” Kyouya stated, glancing up at his mother for confirmation.

The woman nodded, her expression unchanging but she brushed a hand across his neck in pleased acknowledgment. Kyouya had been right, then.

“Someone fooled themselves into thinking they are a carnivore,” his mother said softly. Her eyes were on the ground closest to a tall shrub, the branches of which were crushed slightly, as if someone had crushed them trying to get past. “And a little herbivore paid the price.”

To the Hibari’s, the world was simple: herbivores and carnivores. The Hibari were carnivores: they claimed a territory, and the herds of herbivores that dwelled in their territory lived under their rule. The Hibari reigned over these herbivores, but they also protected them – from threats both foreign and domestic.

Kyouya’s young face contorted into an expression of contempt, a simple narrowing of steel grey eyes and slight downturn of the lips, as close to a snarl he would ever come. The scent that was just him intensified, but he was too young for it to be much more than a sense of ‘sharp’.

“They must be bitten to death,” Kyouya said.

His mother gave a single nod but her eyes never left the ground. Smooth with a predator’s grace, she lightly dug the tip of her black heeled foot into the ground, sweeping aside the dead leaves. Kyouya watched her actions in interest, brittle orange floating away to reveal cold, hard earth.

And-

His mother’s scent suddenly filled the area, the taste of metal at the back of his throat and something reminiscent of the tea she so favored. Kyouya found comfort in it, as children always do in the scent of their parents, but he kept his body still despite how he wanted to seek his mother’s touch.

Hibari Sasako bent down, pale fingers closing over a charred fragment of human bone.

She was smiling.

“Little animals,” she murmured, a purr to her voice as she turned the bone over in her hand. “Can be so interesting.”

Present Day

“I’ll handle him, Tenth!” the silver-haired herbivore said, dynamite appearing in pianist’s fingers. Hibari recalled the list of rules that governed Namimori Middle School – there was nothing against explosives. There was, however, a rule against resisting punishment from the Disciplinary Committee, which meant Hibari was justified in crushing the male before him.

That, and if dynamite were the herbivore’s chosen “teeth,” then he was littering school grounds. Hibari mentally tallied another mark against the youth. Fighting on school grounds – another mark. Smoking cigarettes while underage and on school grounds – two marks. Punishment: five times the normal level of violence Hibari enacted against violators.

“W-Wait, Gokudera-kun-“ the fluffy-haired malestarted shrilly.

Hibari acknowledged this without a twitch. He knew the fluffy-haired boy, of course – Sawada Tsunayoshi. A little animal with a sweet scent.

And fatal poison.

Hibari launched forward, deciding to get minor threats out of the way before he took on more interesting prey. He knocked aside the explosives pelted in his direction with simple flicks of his tonfa, and then whipped his right arm forward in a slashing motion. Steel tonfa met soft flesh with a satisfying crunch, sending the silver-haired herbivore flying into the wall of the school building.

Hibari’s eyes flicked to the noticeable cracks now in the wall, displeased. Six marks against the dynamite herbivore.

A very mild spark of pleasure flashed in Hibari’s chest whenthe silver-haired teen stood up, if a bit wobbly and favoring the arm that Hibari’s tonfa had not cracked. This particular herbivore was stronger than the usual herd, which was entertaining. Of course, Hibari would put him in his place all the same – Hibari was the carnivore of Namimori.

Hibari made to rush forward once more, intent on breaking more bones. Six times the level of usual violence was the punishment he’d decided on, after all, and he’d make sure the dynamite herbivore would be taken out of school grounds on a stretcher.

A sweet scent clogged his nostrils, and Hibari ducked to the side just as a pale leg came sweeping towards his face.

Grey eyes met burning amber. “Little animal,” Hibari said coldly. “Wait your turn.”

Then he swept the full length of his tonfa up, hitting Sawada Tsunayoshi full in the chin and sending the small male sprawling over the ground.

Hibari cataloged the slights: not dressed in his school uniform, one mark. Fighting on school grounds, one incident verified via his explosive-ridden battle with the dynamite herbivore; one incident under suspicion, given his proximity to the herbivore kendo captain at the time of assault. Attempted assault on a member for the Disciplinary Committe, another mark. Punishment: four times the usual level of violence.

“You bastard! How dare you hit the Tenth!” the dynamite herbivore screamed.

Hibari pivoted, moving forward once more; the silver-haired teen dodged one strike, but Hibari lashed forward with the other tonfa and struck the youth clean across the face. The herbivore fell to the ground, and this time Hibari knew he wasn’t going to get up again.

Hibari turned his attention back to the little animal, who had moved back to his feet and was watching him with blazing amber eyes.

Sawada Tsunayoshi was poisonous, especially to would-be carnivores that foolishly tried to dominate him.

Hibari had never felt the need to do so, as unlike some others, the little animal understood his place in Hibari’s domain. A little animal but not a carnivore, Sawada Tsunayoshi went about his life quietly and of no threat to Hibari’s order. The poison added a highly-dangerous element to the little animal, and while that intrigued Hibari, he had a territory to maintain. So now, the chairman of the Disciplinary Committee had to act.

“I will not dominate you,” Hibari stated, voice plain. “But I will bite you to death.”

The little animal’s eyes had widened at his statement, and the sweet scent receded from Hibari’s immediate area. The Alpha male moved once more, tonfa whirling; the little animal was agile, keeping just out of his sweeping arcs. Hibari pushed more resolve into his movements, speed increasing, and was rewarded with tonfa connecting and a sharp intake of breath before the little animal was sent flying once more.

Instead of allowing the small boy to recover again, Hibari followed through, bringing his tonfa down on the little animal’s exposed midsection. Pained and dazed by the abrupt loss of air, Hibari kicked forward and sent the little body flying across the ground once more.

He would not be getting up.

Hibari turned his eyes back to the unconscious silver-haired herbivore. He was injured, but not enough for an ambulance – Hibari would have to rectify that.

...Like spun sugar on the tongue.

One delicate hand grabbed Hibari’s face; instinctively, Hibari lashed out, knocking the offender back with a forward stike of the tonfa. It hit a solid mass, five nails forced back but etching angry red marks that wept small droplets of blood from their trails across Hibari’s face.

Sawada Tsunayoshi skidded back, managed to keep on his feet, only slightly hunched over and with amber eyes trained on Hibari.

The tonfa in Hibari’s right hand fell into reserve, as he raised his fingers to his face to gently touch at the drops of blood slowly running from his new wounds. Hibari pulled back his hand to stare at the red on his fingers.

Little animals can be so interesting.

Hibari smiled, “Wao.”

The smell of freshly-spilled blood and green tea swept through the courtyard, mingling with the scent of sugar so warm it bronzed.

“That’s enough.”

A small, high-pitched voice. Hibari’s eyes were drawn to the suit-clad infant now standing between him and the little animal, one green pistol aimed in the prefect’s direction. “You’re strong after all,” the baby said, speaking with a child’s voice but an adult’s words. “Hibari Kyouya.”

“I don’t know who you are,” Hibari stated flatly. “But wait your turn.”

Hibari made to move forward, aiming to knock aside the baby and go straight for the little animal that had set his blood to boil. He was intercepted when the baby procured a bomb from out of thin air, and grey eyes could only watch as the lit fuse reached its destination and exploded the first floor courtyard into a thick haze of dirt and debris.

Once the dust settled and smoke cleared, Hibari stood alone in a courtyard, only Murota’s unconscious form lying untouched at the foot of the steps to the entry doors.

Tsuna trudged into his home, wincing slightly as the action of pushing open the front door pulled at his bruised ribs. Pain was ricocheting throughout his body, chin still smarting and his arms sore and so heavily bruised, it was like he’d been bashing them against concrete walls.

He’d survived an encounter with the Hibari Kyouya.

Of course, he’d probably have ended up hospitalized had the fight continued on if not for Reborn, but just the fact that he’d managed for as long as he had made Tsuna feel pride in his own abilities. Even beating Mochida had not incurred such gratification.Tsuna had taken on Hibari in direct confrontation, and lived to tell the tale. Alphas three times his size could not say the same thing.

“Mom, I’m home,” Tsuna called out, pulling at his jersey sleeves self-consciously. Reborn had tossed his PE jersey at him once they’d fled the courtyard, and Tsuna had hastily pulled it on before anyone could come by and see a half-naked Omega covered in injuries. It covered all of Tsuna’s skin, save his face; but the only injury there was his chin, which could be hidden so long as Tsuna angled his head just right.

Gokudera wasn’t quite as lucky.

“And I brought a friend,” Tsuna added, just as his mother came down the stairs. Her honey-brown eyes widened at the sight: Tsuna dressed in his jersey, disheveled and chin undoubtedly bruised, and a bandaged Beta boy trailing behind her son.

Tsuna glanced back; Gokudera was glancing around the home, expression caught somewhere between abashed pleasure and eagerness. He had several bandages on his face, and more wrapped around his arms and – Tsuna knew, seeing as he’d wrapped them – his torso. Tsuna originally had wanted to take the bomber Beta to the hospital to be checked, but at Gokudera’s horrifyingly detailed report on his own injuries, Tsuna figured the other boy knew if he needed a doctor or not.

“Nice to meet you!” Gokudera yelped, eyes now on Tsuna’s mother. “I’m Gokudera Hayato, new subordinate!”

Tsuna flushed. “Friend, Gokudera-kun – we’re friends!”

“Yes, Tenth!” Gokudera agreed eagerly.

Reborn came swinging in at that moment, using Tsuna’s head as a springboard to enter the Sawada home. “Gokudera Hayato is currently considered your Right Hand Man, Dame-Tsuna,” the tiny hitman stated. “A good mafia boss knows how to treat his loyal subordinates.”

“I’m not going to be a-“ Tsuna was cut off as a Leon-hammer came swinging at his face.

“O-Oh,” Nana said, wide eyes on Gokudera. “Yes, nice to meet you, too... um, Gokudera-kun.” She sniffed at the air, expression turning pensive. Tsuna tensed, not knowing what to expect of his mother in response to his uncharacteristic behavior.

Tsuna had never brought home friends before. He’d never had friends before; his status as an Omega had ostracized him, and his own personality alienated him from getting along with his Beta classmates. It had never been a point of concern for his mother, though, because he was an Omega after all – all he would need is a Mate and children.

And now here Tsuna was, bringing in a Beta boy who had clearly emerged from a fight. Gokudera was covered in bandages, slightly singed, adorned in skulls and chains and spikes. His foreign blood sculpted his features exotically, with his long silver hair and pretty green eyes.

Tsuna stepped back, unsure, moving closer to Gokudera as if to shield him from his own mother. If Nana objected to his new friend, Tsuna had no idea what he’d do; his mother was important to him, had been his whole world for many years as Tsuna had scorned the one he’d been born into. Nana may not have understood him, limited as much by her dynamic as Tsuna was by his, but she had been there and she’d never faulted him just for being born Omega.

Nana’s eyes widened even more at Tsuna’s move, a thousand expressions flitting across her face at once before finally settling on one: determination. She smiled then, bright and cheerful. “Are you staying for dinner, Gokudera-kun? We’re having nikujaga tonight!”

Tsuna marveled at his mother’s abrupt change, as Gokudera hem-hawed at being invited for politeness’ sake.

“Tsu-kun, why don’t you go upstairs and get changed?” Nana suggested, flashing her son a reassuring smile. Tsuna relaxed, the intuition he relied on so much letting him know her message without her having to say it aloud.

Your friend is always welcome here.

Tsuna smiled back at her, slow and genuine. Nana’s whole face lit up in response, and she laughed cheerfully as she went into the kitchen. Tsuna watched her go for a moment, overwhelmed by how much he loved her, before turning and leading his new friend up the stairs.

Tsuna tossed and turned in his bed, sheets tangled around his body, obscuring the bruises and scratches littered about his frame. He found he couldn’t sleep, aware of every brush of fabric against his bruised flesh; his flame was emanating soothingly from his chest, but it was his intuition that kept him awake - forcing his mind to go through the memories of the day over and over again.

Tsuna was bothered by something, he just couldn’t find what. It couldn’t have been Gokudera; if it had, it would have occured to him before the other boy had left after dinner. (Gokudera had given Tsuna that big smile he’d shown him before, all awestruck. Tsuna had felt pretty awe-struck himself, receiving such an expression in the first place.) So it couldn’t have been his fight with Gokudera and subsequent new friendship that had Tsuna’s intuition on edge.

Was there something to his fight with Hibari? It had been exhilarating, but not something Tsuna was keen on repeating. However, the older boy was...odd, in a way Tsuna had never realized. Perhaps because he’d never directly interacted with the demonic prefect before, but surely it would have been more natural for an Alpha to at least hesitate in attacking an Omega.

Hibari had not held back in trying to beat Tsuna down. The older boy lived and breathed violence, but from the few words he’d said in the midst of their fight, Tsuna realized there was more than just a thirst for blood to Hibari Kyouya.

“I will not dominate you.”

Why had Hibari said that? Why had he known to say that? The words had broken through the cloud of flames that had pushed Tsuna’s body to resist, the Omega in him believing Hibari’s series of attacks were laden with the intent to dominate him. His natural urge to resist had lead him to trying to subdue someone who had littered the streets with the beaten and bloody bodies of yakuza.

But Hibari had said he had no intention of dominating Tsuna. Just ‘biting me to death’, Tsuna remembered. Biting held its own horrible connotations, but every Namimori citizen had heard and known the Hibari family’s unusual catchphrase. They meant biting – not in an innocent way, per se, but definitely in a non-sexual way.

It was as if Hibari did not care for dynamics either.

Tsuna knew the other boy had strange ways of referring to others: crowds, herds, herbivores. Tsuna couldn’t recall a time he’d ever heard Hibari use terms like ‘Omega’, or ‘Alpha, or ‘Beta’, but Tsuna had never actually spent time around Hibari Kyouya. He’d never had a death wish, after all.

But if the boy did not care for dynamics, his actions certainly didn’t match: he’d staked a claim on Namichuu, arguably even Namimori as a whole. No one did that without some primal instinct fueling them.

Tsuna remembered steel grey eyes, and the smell of blood and tea.

How primal was primal?

“Dame-Tsuna, do I need to shoot you for you to go to sleep?”

Tsuna startled, turning over in bed to see the tiny hitman reclined in his hammock. Reborn had set up his own sleeping area in Tsuna’s room, to Nana’s agitation; guns and bullets and all manner of weapons were interspersed with Tsuna’s schoolbooks, multi-sized pillows, and heaps of fluffy pastel-colored blankets. The end result looked like an Omega was trying to build a nest with guns and ammo, and Tsuna was still trying to figure out if that amused him or not.

“Death is the final sleep,” slipped out of Tsuna’s mouth before common sense could stop it.

Reborn co*cked his gun threateningly.

“Just kidding!” Tsuna shot out hurriedly, burrowing under his covers and moving into the corner furthest from Reborn. He eyed the hitman distrustfully for several minutes, but eventually relaxed enough so that his gaze was blurred as his thoughts ran wild, a blur of gecko-patterned baby pajamas halfway in sight.

There was something about Reborn.

Tsuna’s eyes fluttered closed.

Well, there were a lot of things about Reborn. He was a mafia hitman, he had a magical pet gecko, he was a sinfully good shot, he was an Alpha, he had the body of a baby, and he was a one hundred percent verified sad*st. That all bothered Tsuna, to wild and varying degrees, but it wasn’t what was keeping him up.

Tsuna’s eyes opened slowly, bringing the room back into focus. Reborn was always close to Tsuna; in his school, in his house, in his room, practically in his bed at this point. He was always watching Tsuna, analyzing him, but Reborn’s thoughts were too obscure for Tsuna to truly understand.

Reborn was always watching him.

That, there was something about that. Tsuna knew why, kind of, abstractly; Reborn had outright admitted he was there to turn Tsuna into a mafia boss. It was only natural he’d watch Tsuna.

But when Tsuna watched Reborn watch him, he couldn’t understand what the hitman was thinking.

Awareness swam back to Tsuna’s mind. “Reborn,” Tsuna’s voice was so quiet, as if he were afraid to breathe the words into existence. His intuition was buzzing, urging him on, so he was on the right path – but his survival instincts were warning him as well, coming to life to tingle up his arms and legs.

Reborn did not answer him. A light snore met his ears.

He’s faking it, Tsuna knew automatically.

“Reborn,” Tsuna said again, a bit louder, much more firm. The light snoring continued, but so did Tsuna. “How did you know about Mochida?”

Tsuna had confirmed Reborn’s suspicions about being the one to beat up the older Alpha earlier, but how did Reborn know Tsuna was involved in the first place? He hadn’t been present when the Disciplinary Committee had detained Tsuna for questioning, and rumors hadn’t spread until the next day. So how did Rebornknow about Tsuna’s involvement in the incident when Reborn had seemingly been in the Sawada home the entire day.

Reborn was always watching Tsuna, but what if watching wasn’t the only thing he was doing?

Tsuna sat up, amber eyes on the infant. “The letter was forged,” Tsuna murmured. The pieces came together, the picture clearing, verified by his intuition – one of the few sources in Tsuna’s life that had never lied to him. “You forged the challenge letter, so that Mochida and Iwasaki would fight over me.”

But that didn’t make sense. Mochida was gifted with the bokken, and popular, and an Alpha to boot – if Reborn had wanted to acquire him for the Family he seemed so dead-set on Tsuna gathering, there were better ways of convincing Mochida to join. So why had Reborn forged a challenge letter?

“No, not to fight over me,” Tsuna corrected himself. Iwasaki would not have known about the letter, despite being the supposed challenger. If Mochida had accepted it at face-value, he would have set up a kendo match with someone who had not known to show up.

“You knew,” Tsuna breathed out, eyes wide. “You knew Mochida would call me out. You knew he would tell me about the challenge.”

It hadnothing to do with Iwasaki, or Mochida, or Alpha challenges. They were only a means to an end, and the end – the end was Tsuna. But what did that mean? What had Reborn been trying to discover?

Reborn already knew about Tsuna’s refusal to submit; Tsuna had spent their first meeting trying to incapacitate Reborn just because of that. There was nothing new to the hitman about Tsuna lashing out against dominance displays done against his person.So what was Reborn looking for? What was he trying to confirm?

Tsuna understood then. Reborn had not only been trying to gauge how Tsuna would react to an Alpha of his peer group attempting an act of dominance on him, he’d been trying to see how Tsuna would deal with it. No, not just that – Reborn had to have known Tsuna would react violently, had expected as much when he’d set up Tsuna as the prize. Tsuna, who resisted subjugation with such hostile force that his flame helped him attempt to crush the world’s number one hitman.

Tsuna had fought Reborn, too, after all.

Reborn saw something that day, Tsuna realized, the clarity of his understanding so sharp that he found it hard to breathe.

The flame around his heart uncurled.

Oh.

Tsuna laid back down in his bed, amber eyes still on Reborn’s falsely-sleeping figure.

Tsuna had not needed a magic bullet to be set aflame, and Reborn...had not expected that.

End Chapter 5

A/N: Guess what~ Yamamoto finally comes in next chapter!

Notes about Hibari:

-He knows about the whole A/B/O thing, of course - but they're about as important to him as gender was in the canon series.

Chapter 6: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 6

Summary:

Yamamoto Takeshi is a mess.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thank you so much for yourcomments! :)

Chapter 6

"Are we done choosing teams?"

Tsuna watched his classmates disperse with hollers. He was sat in the bleachers nearby, excused from any actual work in PE as always; he'd have to help clean up afterwards, of course, a task his teachers felt comfortable assigning him as it was a skill Omega would have to develop.

Tsuna, for the first time, didn't really mind. His whole body ached, still recovering from Hibari's onslaught just last week. He hadn't seen the prefect today, thankfully – Tsuna almost believed he'd have to face the Disciplinary Committee's chairman at the front gates, as prefects manned the school at all hours of the day.

It was a relatively quiet day, all things considered. Gokudera had skipped class, showing up at Tsuna's house early in the morning to explain he had to go and "re-stock" his dynamite supply. Tsuna chose not to think about that, fearing he'd be worried for Japan's future if dynamite was readily available in a place like Namimori. Instead he'd nodded and sent Gokudera off with a smile (and breakfast, courtesy of Nana), then started walking to school.

In a change of pace, Reborn had followed him. There'd been no change in Reborn's behavior, even with Tsuna's epiphany two nights ago that had left Vongola's apparent heir wary of his own tutor. Tsuna doubted Reborn was actually sleeping through his deduction process that night, but just like Reborn, he was not going to bring it up. Currently, they'd exist in this limbo where Tsuna was just as shocking to Reborn as Reborn was to Tsuna.

The baby hitman had disappeared before Tsuna had reached school, and classes resumed as they always had. There was some gossip about the courtyard; someone had apparently seen Gokudera beating up Murota last week, so everyone was currently under the assumption the resulting wreckage of the first floor courtyard was a fight between Hibari and Gokudera. Gokudera's absence gave credence to the fact, many students believing the wild boy to be hospitalized, as all Hibari's victims were after a fight with him.

Tsuna curled a little more in on himself, smothering a smile.

All those who fought Hibari ended up in the hospital – except for Tsuna. He'd gone toe-to-toe with the prefect, and emerged with only bruises hidden by clothes and body aches. Tsuna couldn't help but feel proud about it. He knew a lot of that had to do with Reborn's crazy bullets. 'Dying Will' had given him a strength he'd never imagined, allowing him to get up no matter how hard Hibari had struck him.

The memory of the 'dying will', of what Tsuna had felt as he and the flame had become a single entity – it was exhilarating. Everything about Tsuna had fell away: that he was a student, that he failed so many of his courses, that he was an Omega; all of that didn't matter in the face of the flames. And that had been freeing.

Tsuna's attention was pulled back to the mock-kickball match as his classmates went particularly loud in their shrieking. It was an Alpha-Beta mixed game, although some of the Beta girls had opted out of participating and instead were running the track around the baseball field; that was only an excuse to act as a sort of cheering squad, though.

Tsuna, as the sole Omega, was excused from all PE activities. He'd spend his time in the bleachers, seated atop a plush cushion like a glorified trophy. In order to excuse his lack of participation in physical education, the teacher had him clean up after the activities were done; a common practice for Namichuu's Omega students.

Tsuna had tried participating in his first term. This had subsequently led to Iwasaki and Murota acting like idiots, disqualifying Tsuna from future endeavors. This was also a common routine for the teachers: allowing the Omega students to try and participate, and upon the inevitable fallout, giving the Omega a way out of future PE activities. This helped to solidify the Omega as someone to shelter, and also staved off possible jealousy by their classmates when they saw that the Omega was not forced to participate in PE activities.

Clever and systemic. The reminder caused Tsuna's heart to burn.

PE came to a close; the Blue team, led by Yamamoto Takeshi, easily defeated their opposing team, led by Iwasaki. As they were all classmates and it was hard for anyone to feel anything negative for Yamamoto who was still injured, the results were taken graciously.

The teacher motioned for Tsuna to start cleaning as his classmates trotted off, and then soon the teacher himself was gone, leaving Tsuna alone on empty baseball field with a broom in hand. Tsuna eyed the scattered equipment, only mildly irritated; while it was true he'd been rather vindictive lately, it was hard to work up those same emotions when faced with something he was used to. This was just the way things were for Omega.

Omega need to submit.

Tsuna's grip on the broom tightened, the handle creaking under the hold.

"Help has arrived!"

Tsuna eased his grip, eyes widening as he turned to view the owner of the voice. Yamamoto Takeshi had walked up, smiling cheerfully, broom in his left hand, his right still wrapped up in a cast.

There was something very peaceful about Yamamoto. He was an Alpha, and it was obvious in his scent: as sharp as the knives his father used to slice sushi, and something reminiscent of the air after a rainstorm. He was refreshing, with all the charisma of an Alpha but the genuine kindness and good cheer that was only Yamamoto. He was popular in school for his prodigal skill in baseball, although recently Tsuna heard the baseball team's star pitcher was in a bit of a slump. In an effort to get out of that slump, he'd practiced too hard and ended up breaking his arm just a couple days ago.

"Oh, you don't have to, Yamamoto-kun," Tsuna said, almost meaning it. This would be the first time Tsuna ever had a conversation with the Alpha boy without his classmates around to act as a buffer.

"It's fine, it's fine!" Yamamoto laughed, broom to the floor as he began to help sweep. "Two people cleaning is faster than one."

No one ever expected Alphas to help clean. There was something of an underlying expectation that they wouldn't need to; they'd eventually find a mate to do such basic chores, so it was better they focus on their studies or their athletic pursuits. Kurokawa, for all her micromanagement, often foisted off her school cleaning duties to Tsuna with the excuse he needed them to teach him some sense of responsibility.

"Hey, Sawada," Yamamoto started, after Tsuna attempted to wander further away under the excuse of cleaning the other side of the field. Why are we both cleaning the same side? Tsuna wondered, now more than a little irritated. If Yamamoto was going to help, he could at least be smart about it. "Aren't you a bit different lately?"

The serious tone in Yamamoto's voice was uncharacteristic. Tsuna glanced over, his intuition peaked, but Yamamoto looked normal. "What do you mean?" Tsuna asked after a moment, when no further clarification came forward.

"I don't know how to explain it," Yamamoto laughed, rubbing at the back of his neck. A nervous gesture, Tsuna's intuition informed him. "You just seem different. Like you have more of an oomph than usual."

...Am I supposed to understand what that sound effect means? Tsuna wondered, staring at the Alpha boy haplessly. Tsuna suddenly remembered Yamamoto, for all his many virtues, did just as badly as Tsuna did in school.

"...is that good or bad?" Tsuna asked.

Yamamoto finally turned to look at him, dark eyes matching amber. Tsuna consciously placed his stare on Yamamoto's ear.

"...it's just different," Yamamoto replied softly. Tsuna's intuition urged him instinctively, the fire around his heart glowing briefly, but Tsuna was still tying to place what the other boy's tone could possibly mean. Yamamoto didn't move.

Tsuna's eyes did, tentatively meeting Yamamoto's once more.

"Is that good," Tsuna replied just as softly. "Or bad?"

Yamamoto didn't say anything, and after several long moments, the Alpha turned away first.

Yamamoto Takeshi was born April 24th on a bright, sunny day.

He was born to loving parents, Yamamoto Tsuyoshi and Keiko. His Alpha father had proudly held him within Takeshi's first hour of life in this world, and his Omega mother cooed over him every moment after. She'd taught him his first word, held his hands as he took his first steps, and smiled encouragingly as he attempted to play with the baseball she had gifted him.

On a day just as bright as his birth's, his mother died.

The official report labels the death as accidental; there is a gas leak in the house, and Yamamoto Keiko dies during her afternoon nap. Tsuyoshi had taken then five year old Takeshi out to the local park to play, returning home only to find poor Keiko laying atop the bed, heart never to beat again. The autopsy cites inhalation of gas as the official cause of death, and Yamamoto Keiko is cremated two days later. All the official reports are stamped with Hibari Sasako's seal.

The truth is not so clear cut.

The facts: Yamamoto Keiko dies on a sunny day. Takeshi was five years old. Hibari Sasako stamps the reports and closes the files.

The truth: Yamamoto Tsuyoshi commutes daily to his sushi restaurant, and is gone from the Yamamoto home for that reason. (He is saving up to purchase a larger restaurant, one that can also serve as a home.) Yamamoto Keiko is home, folding the laundry inside as Takeshi plays with a baseball out front.

When the sun grows too hot and Takeshi too hungry, he goes back inside his home calling for his mother. Her scent lingers in the home, but it's so much sharper than he's used to, and there's something new about it.

Takeshi does not get to see why directly. His father comes storming in through the front door seconds later, Alpha pheromones – something Takeshi learns about much later – fierce and filling the immediate area. His father orders him to hide, and Takeshi does, and so he only hears the rest: yelling, and clanging steel, and a sound similar to his father's knife slicing into the flesh of something that used to be alive.

Takeshi emerges from his hiding spot in the kitchen cupboards, grabbing one of the kitchen knives as he eyes the interior of his home. The clanging and the shouts have stopped, instead replaced by a soft crooning in his father's voice. Takeshi follows the sound, up the narrow stairs and into his parents' bedroom.

There is so much wrong with the bedroom, and Takeshi lacks the maturity to fully understand it. The red smears, the strangers littered around the floor, the foul smell, a thick taste of copper invading his throat; Takeshi hardly registers this, focusing on his father, one hand holding his mother's body, the other a long blade covered in red.

The sun shines through the bedroom window, alighting on Yamamoto Keiko's unseeing eyes.

The rest is a blur, and the memory is stifled by age and a lack of clarity. Yamamoto Takeshi will spend one afternoon five years later looking up the obituary on his mother, will see the official reports by Namimori's police ruling the death accidental. He forgets, almost.

What Takeshi does remember is Hibari Sasako kneeling down to match his eyes, finely-manicured hands gripping his shoulders. "You must be stronger," she had said, her words lined with power.

"Why?" he asked.

Takeshi knows, just knows, that his father is strong. And yet his mother is still dead.

"So you can protect what's important to you," she had replied.

Yamamoto Takeshi does not say it, but he thinks it:

How one-sided.

Yamamoto Takeshi meets Sawada Tsunayoshi on a rainy day.

It's the first day of school, and their classes are gathered in the auditorium for the opening ceremony. Namimori Junior High is a nice, clean campus, and his father had been pleased Takeshi would be attending. Takeshi thinks this is in part to Hibari Kyouya's attendance to the same institution; Hibari Sasako's son is a figure of awe and terror in their town, but the owner of Take Sushi regards the boy like a protector. Takeshi, who has had no interaction with the fearsome boy-Alpha, shrugs off his father's convictions with the same guileless smile he did with most things outside of baseball.

The auditorium is buzzing with energy but conversation is quiet, mostly in part to said frightening prefect. Hibari Kyouya stands atop the stage along with the faculty and student leaders, his dark eyes surveying their numbers like a despot king. He is there only for the first minute, and once the ceremony actually starts, he disappears out the door with determination to hunt down the Namichuu students who dared miss the opening event.

Takeshi zones out from that moment on, standing in line with his peers. It's a single line, divided first by secondary gender, and then each section alphabetized. Yamamoto's eyes drift over his class's line in consideration; the Alphas are put in the back, the better to keep everything in view. Iwasaki is distracted for most of the ceremony, Kurokawa has slipped a book out and has started to read, and Murota glances around at the other Alpahs around them with a small frown. Betas, a majority of the line, are in the middle; they're restless but mostly complacent. The few classes that have Omega have put them at the very front of line, so that they are clearly visible to the teachers.

Yamamoto's class is one of the few. Sawada Tsunayoshi stands at the front of the line, shoulders hunched, eyes on the floor. He is small and thin, and unlike some of the other Omega in the auditorium, he doesn't look around cautiously.

Takeshi's eyes idle on him a moment longer, and then move on.

"That stupid Sawada," Kurokawa had muttered, audible to Takeshi as he returned from his errand for Inoue-sensei. The Alpha girl was bent over the class register, scowling fiercely. "He forgot his homework again."

Ikeda giggled, waving her hands in a conciliatory manner. "It's not a big deal, ne?" the Beta girl offered. "Cut him some slack, Hana-chan; you know he's not the brightest."

"At least he's cute," Kakei shrugged lightly.

Kurokawa muttered some more under her breath, slamming the register closed and stalking out of the classroom. Takeshi watched her go, wondering if he should step in; Kurokawa was a fright when her rigid management was in any way compromised, and she had a bit of a temper when it came to her classmates, specifically the ones she'd labelled "monkeys." It was fine when she snapped at some of the Betas, and she'd gone head to head with Murota a few times when he got too obnoxious – but if she snapped on their class's Omega, it'd reflect badly on them as a whole.

Yamamoto was all about teamwork.

With a smile and wave to his lingering classmates, he left the class. Sawada had been assigned to take out the trash, so Kurokawa had probably went to confront him on his return. Sure enough, Yamamoto found them in the eastern stairwell, the place deserted – probably from Kurokawa's clearly riled pheromones.

The most frightening thing about Hana was not her temper, but the fact that her temper could be controlled; she did not rage, she criticized. Her words were spitfire, burning everything under her to their base. It's why she could win against the likes of Murota and Iwasaki, who so often let their more base emotions run them.

"...and I'm sure it's hard for you," Hana was saying, voice chilly and steeped in such sarcasm that Takeshi felt bad for Sawada on principle. "Being able to sleep through classes on that cushioned seat of yours, but try to at least think of the rest of us. Every time you forget a homework assignment, Inoue-sensei assigns extra for all of us as punishment!"

Takeshi could see her point, but he personally didn't find it that big of a deal. It was just the only way teachers could actually punish Omega students; singling them out looked bad, so if they punished the collective, at least the Omega student was part of that. Their class had just learned to accept it, especially with the ditzy Sawada Tsunayoshi as a classmate. Besides, as a small mercy, Inoue had not assigned them that much extra.

But Kurokawa Hana was a woman of principle.

"I'm sorry, Kurokawa-san," Sawada had replied lowly. His voice seemed to hint this was not the first time he'd said it. "I'll make sure not to forget again. Today was just a bad day-"

"That was your excuse last time, Sawada!" Kurokawa hissed, pheromones flaring. Sawada flinched in reaction.

"I-It's just," Sawada had stammered out. "M-My dad returned home last night, and I-I got distracted."

Kurokawa let out an explosive breath. The entire class knew Sawada was raised in a practically one-person household, and more importantly, one that lacked proper Alpha guidance. This was the reason many attributed to Sawada's lackadaisical nature.

"You could do with an Alpha, Sawada," Kurokawa had said, a throwaway line more than anything. If the Sawada's had not found a surrogate Alpha for their son in all this time, there was no way they'd start now. They seemed content to let their child remain listless throughout his adolescence, likely waiting for him to come of age so they could Mate him. It was a common practice for Beta parents with Omega children, although there was a recent rise in popularity to find Alpha surrogates to help guide their Omega children.

It should have stopped there. Kurokawa could nag but seemed to see there was no point in persisting when it came to their class's Omega, and she could just walked away. She would have, too, but then Sawada...stilled.

"I could?" Sawada had said, voice still quiet.

Takeshi felt something brush down his spine.

Kurokawa was looking down at the Omega, both figuratively and literally. (Sawada was one of the smallest in the class, of equal size to the Beta Sasagawa Kyoko.) She was still scowling. "You could," she asserted, more from obstinacy than conviction. "They'd protect you, hopefully from your own idiocy."

Wrong.

Protect what's important you.

No matter how strong the Alpha, they could not hope to protect those they loved from everything. What a funny (ridiculous) idea. Takeshi's father was strong, and yet his mother was still dead because Omega are weak.

"...an Alpha like you?" Sawada's voice broke through, stilling the breath in Takeshi's lungs. The voice was still low, still the characteristic quiet – but it was so much more. The very air in the room seemed to sizzle and Takeshi's eyes locked once more on the petite form. Takeshi could not see Tsuna's face, as he faced the boy's back, but Kurokawa's expression was in clear view.

The Alpha girl's eyes were wide, and she'd – taken a step back?

Yamamoto's instincts told him to run but he remained rooted to the spot. He remained there as Sawada Tsunayoshi turned, and Takeshi could see why Hana could say nothing in response to the small boy in front of her.

Amber eyes seemed to glow with some inner flame, Sawada's face a smooth mask of indifference. He continued walking down the stairs, descending to the first floor without another word to the Alpha girl he'd left stunned in his wake.

Alphas were strong, until they weren't. Omegas were weak...

Until they weren't.

Takeshi is the first to notice, despite how carefully Kurokawa Hana observes him. Sawada Tsunayoshi's change is not gradual, or perhaps – perhaps he had not changed, only finally torn down the blinds he'd kept up for so long.

Mochida Kensuke, captain of the kendo club, calls out Sawada one normal school day. Yamamoto watches the Omega boy leave, knows Kurokawa does the same, and he wonders if perhaps they are thinking the same thing.

Takeshi doubts it. Kurokawa had frozen in fear from what she had glimpsed in Sawada's eyes that day; Takeshi had been revitalized because of it.

All his life, Takeshi had been told two things about himself: he was an excellent baseball player, and he'd likely end up with an Omega. It was a commonly-held notion that Alpha children born to Alpha/Omega parents sought out Omega to mate with; an ideal family, all things considered. Beta were not as attuned to pheromones and so sometimes there was friction in the family dynamic; an Omega could read their Alpha's pheromones well, and served as the ideal submissive for their partners.

Yamamoto Keiko had been ideal. Gentle and submissive, she'd never raised her voice or hand against others. She cleaned house and cooked meals perfectly, and she raised an Alpha boy, content with her family as all Omega should be.

Yamamoto Keiko was dead.

"You must be stronger, to protect what's important to you."

Sawada Tsunayoshi returns to class, attempts to finish his lunch before the bell rings, and sits through classes not even feigning interest in the lessons. As classes end, and before the Omega can get started on his assigned classroom cleaning duties, prefect Kusakabe stops by and escorts the boy out for questioning.

Takeshi hears why at baseball practice that afternoon: Mochida Kensuke had been found, beaten and unconscious, in one of the school science labs. Sawada Tsunayoshi is the last one to have seen him.

Takeshi's teammates ponder on how Mochida ended up that way, remark on Sawada's good fortune to not get caught in the same state – "Worse for an Omega, right? No one wants used goods!" Hirano chortled. – and practice resumes as normal. Takeshi sits out, only there to act as moral support until his arm heals, and instead lets himself ruminate on his classmate.

The next day, Takeshi sits in his desk before homeroom starts and his eyes find Tsuna once more. The boy is seated on his plush orange seat cushion – all Omega in the school have their own cushions, to provide them with more comfortable seating. Omega are delicate, don't you know? – and his eyes are on his open notebook.

Gokudera Hayato – Beta, and exotic, and furious – is introduced to their class. He bullies Tsuna in the first five minutes of his introduction, and Takeshi's eyes remain on Tsuna throughout the class.

Takeshi wonders how long before Gokudera, too, is burned.

The answer comes the following week, when Gokudera is absent – hospitalized, some people whisper – and the first floor courtyard is in the process of reconstruction. Sawada Tsunayoshi sits on his plush orange seat cushion, as always, eyes on his open notebook, as always. There is a light bruise on his chin, so light that unless one looked closely, they would not see it.

But Takeshi is always looking at Sawada Tsunayoshi.

After their PE lesson, Takeshi pretends to leave with the rest of class, before doubling-back and grabbing a broom on the way. He finds Tsuna still on the baseball field, alone and small, broom in hand but not moving.

What are you thinking about? Takeshi wonders, looking at the other male. Could he be thinking about Mochida, claiming to have been ganged up on by five Alphas? (Mochida, beaten and broken, who no longer went near their class despite his previous crush on Sasagawa Kyoko.) Could he be thinking about Gokudera, his unknown anger and subsequent absence? (Gokudera, who'd dared sneer and snarl at him, and then disappeared.)

"Help has arrived!" Takeshi says aloud, and finally, Tsuna turns his attention on him.

Takeshi has never had Tsuna's undivided attention before. Classmates for half a year, Takeshi watching the other boy for most of that time – and yet Tsuna had never done the same. Now, standing alone in Takeshi's home turf (territory), there was something...exciting, about the fact that Sawada Tsunayoshi stood so close, acknowledging Takeshi's existence.

"Oh," Tsuna says, voice quiet, familiar. His scent was amazing, so sweet and warm; like a dollop of honey, put atop a trap waiting to catch and maim predators. "You don't have to, Yamamoto-kun. Your arm-"

"It's fine, it's fine!" Takeshi laughs off. "Two people cleaning is faster than one."

Tsuna murmurs a soft, bemused 'thank you'. Alphas aren't known to be particularly good with household chores, something Takeshi had never understood; in a house like his, with two Alphas, they couldn't just wait around for someone to clean up after them.

Some of his neighbors had expected his father to take another mate, if only to provide a homebody to help with household chores and raise Takeshi. However, Takeshi's father had not – against the general wisdom of the neighborhood – and had raised Takeshi by himself. With a business to run, Takeshi had been left in charge of chores, and he'd done it all without issue. What did dynamic have to do with basic responsibilities?

The ridiculous idea served Takeshi well today though. With Tsuna left alone in charge of cleaning, Takeshi could enjoy his company without their classmates watching. Tsuna was always interesting to Takeshi, but there was a part of him he'd hidden so carefully that Takeshi could only glimpse the aftermath.

"Hey, Sawada," Takeshi started carefully. He dropped the cheer from his tone, as it always made him sound like he was joking, and the last thing Tsuna was was a joke. "Aren't you a bit different lately?"

But Tsuna had always been different; it was just that he'd finally started to show what that really meant recently.

"What do you mean?" Tsuna asked, voice subdued. A familiar chill swept down Takeshi's spine, and he welcomed it.

"I don't know how to explain it," Takeshi laughed, rubbing the back of his neck, suddenly nervous. He didn't want Tsuna to see him the way he saw Kurokawa, or Mochida, or Gokudera; he wanted Tsuna to see him as who he really was, to see Yamamoto Takeshi. Not the baseball prodigy, not an Alpha wanting to protect Tsuna from himself. "You just seem different. Like you have more of an oomph than usual."

"...is that good or bad?" Tsuna asked.

Like honey, like scorched sugar; the smell was on the tip of Takeshi's tongue. Blazing, blazing amber; Takeshi turned fully to the other boy but Tsuna wasn't looking at him directly. Please look at me, Takeshi willed but would not say, would not allow for the slightest twitch because if Tsuna didn't do it for himself, it was useless.

"It's just different," Takeshi replied, voice going soft. Please look at me, please please look at me-

Amber eyes met his, lit by a smoldering fire. Takeshi felt a rush grip him, similar to the way he felt during a particularly good baseball game.

"Is that good," Tsuna repeated, soft and candid and deadly. "Or bad?"

Takeshi could not respond, not even after several moments. His body wanted to react, but his instincts were screaming at him – his survival instincts telling him to flee, his Alpha instincts telling him not to submit. Takeshi ended up turning away, breaking the hold those amber eyes had on him, and he resumed sweeping.

After a minute, Tsuna continued sweeping as well.

Run. Dominate.

"Sawada," Yamamoto stated, voice as strong as steel. His pheromones slipped out. Tsuna stopped sweeping. "Can you meet me here tonight? There's... There's something I want to talk to you about."

"...that doesn't sound very safe, Yamamoto-kun," Tsuna replied.

What was dangerous? The Disciplinary Committee members who patrolled at night, finding them on school grounds after hours? Tsuna meeting with an Alpha like Yamamoto alone? ...or Yamamoto meeting with someone like Tsuna alone?

"Please," Takeshi asked. His hands trembled.

Atop a rooftop looking down on the baseball field, Reborn watched them thoughtfully.

"Dad, I'm going out," Takeshi said, rushing from the stairs that lead up to their home proper to the front door of Take Sushi.

His dad looked up, waving and calling out a farewell; Takeshi was too much of a good, responsible son for Tsuyoshi to question where he'd be going at 8 at night. Takeshi mentally thanked his popularity; his father probably thought he was going out with friends or something along those lines.

Takeshi jogged the way to school, adrenaline and excitement evident in his scent. He had to make a conscious effort to reign it in, unwilling to let his natural reactions garner suspicion. Being on school grounds so late at night was already delinquent activity.

It hadn't been a promise, though, and Tsuna had protested even more after Takeshi had persisted in his request and even set a meeting time. They'd split ways after cleaning, Takeshi making sure to state he'd be waiting at the school, and then left before Tsuna could say anything to dissuade him.

Takeshi's Alpha instincts had wanted him to be more assertive, to demand that Tsuna meet him at the time. Takeshi easily and efficiently ignored it. He wouldn't let hormones get in the way when he was so close to finally seeing the real Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Namimori Junior High was practically deserted, front gates locked and all lights except for exterior safety lights off. Takeshi waited at the corner adjacent to the gates, knowing better than to be seen loitering too close. His heart was hammering in his chest and his eyes scanned the streets, hopeful.

His hopes were answered. Sawada Tsunayoshi was coming down the road, dressed in jeans and an orange hoodie. He'd pulled the hoodie over his head, but Takeshi recognized that figure and stride.

Takeshi moved forward, smiling. "You came," he greeted. There must have been something to his demeanor and scent, because Tsuna only looked up at him questioningly. (Because it was excitement and relief that Yamamoto Takeshi gave off, not arrogance – and Tsuna didn't understand that.) Takeshi looked at the locked gate, and motioned for Tsuna to follow him.

A popular 'test of courage' the baseball club used to take part in before Hibari Kyouya had descended on their school like a force of nature was to sneak into school after hours, and go looking for the school's 'seven horrors.' These were nothing more than common school myths, like Hanako or the headless samurai. Takeshi and his fellows had never been able to do the test because their upperclassmen had not been willing to send them on a suicide mission to invade Hibari's precious school in clear defiance of the prefect's rules.

But the baseball club's secret was the chain-link fence that separated the baseball field from the neighborhood streets, weak and worn in one spot for the more lithe students to slip under. This was the spot Takeshi led Tsuna too, and together they slipped under and entered Namimori Junior High school grounds.

Most of Namichuu's students would never dare do something so blatantly against Hibari's rule. Some of the braver – read: reckless – Alphas would sometimes do something small to test the waters, like litter or mutter insults about the school under their breath, but they'd be found out and punished, and never step out of line again. No one would dare breach Hibari's rule about vacating school grounds after hours.

And yet here Sawada Tsunayoshi was, quietly following Takeshi into the darkened school building. His scent remained sweet and mild, unperturbed by where they were or what they were doing.

Takeshi led Tsuna up the stairs, up and up, until they'd reached the roof. The prefects on patrol never actually went inside the school, after all, let alone looked up; this was the best place for Takeshi to talk to Tsuna unhindered.

"What did you want to talk about?" Tsuna asked.

Takeshi looked at Tsuna, really looked. Everything he remembered about the boy, everything he'd learned just watching, everything he'd thought about concerning the Omega before him: that he'd scared Kurokawa with just a look after she'd talked to him with that voice, after he'd been called out by Mochida and left a beaten and bruised Alpha in his wake, that the first floor courtyard was a mess and Murota swore the Beta Gokudera had been gunning for Tsuna and Tsuna alone.

Takeshi had been watching and seeing Tsuna for so long, and finally – now Tsuna could see him too.

Look at me.

"Did you know I broke my arm practicing?" Takeshi asked. Tsuna had to – it was common knowledge around their school. But it had to be done this way, because this was the only way Takeshi could be sure, could be really sure – that Tsuna could see him.

"...Yeah," Tsuna replied, voice tinged just slightly with the unsure.

Takeshi's smile was small and bitter – and genuine, for once in a long, long time.

Because if Takeshi could see the real Tsuna, then he could see the real Takeshi too.

"The baseball gods threw me away," he continued. "But baseball is the only thing I know, it's the only thing I'm good in. You know?"

Tsuna's amber eyes came alive then, the warm honey as sweet a trap as ever. Takeshi wondered if Mochida had seen this, before he'd gone down; if Gokudera had seen this, before the earth erupted around him.

"That's not true," Tsuna refuted. "Yamamoto-kun, it's true you have an amazing skill in baseball-"

"Had," Takeshi corrected quickly, smile lined dangerously with self-degradation. "I don't have anything anymore. I'm nothing without it."

Amber eyes widened, the dots connecting – and then they looked away, to the chain-link fence behind Takeshi's back and the edge of the rooftop behind it.

"You're different," Takeshi said, and Tsuna's eyes went back to him. The Omega took a step closer; Takeshi took a step back. "You understand that feeling, don't you? When you feel like you're nothing and it feels like the whole world is against you."

"Yamamoto-"

"I saw you with Kurokawa that day," Takeshi interrupted. Tsuna's mouth snapped closed. "When she said those- those things to you. They were unfair and untrue, and you were right, you know – to get angry. But it surprised me, and I didn't know why."

Tsuna didn't say anything.

"My mother was an Omega," Takeshi continued, voice going softer but no less vehement. "She was nice and sweet and people are always telling me she was the ideal Omega."

But she was dead dead dead dead-

"I never saw her get angry. She never raised a hand to me, even when I acted like a brat," Takeshi said. "An ideal Omega. So soft, so kind, so sweet."

Still, Tsuna said nothing.

"Do you think, if she was like you – if she'd gotten angry when people said she was ideal because she could cook and clean and bear offspring, that that's the only thing she was good for, and it's fortunate she's just so good at that – if she had gotten angry enough to-"

"Protect what's important to you."

How one-sided.

"If she could have fought back like you, do you think she wouldn't have died?" Because his father had not been there, because Takeshi was just a child, because his mother had been there and she'd died because she was weak.

And so is Takeshi.

Tears leaked from his eyes, burning the corners and blurring his vision of Tsuna's vivid eyes. Look at me- don't look at me- What does it matter? Takeshi thought, wild and desperate and sick. Sick of smiling when everything hurt, sick of pretending he didn't know his mother was murdered, sick of being the ideal Alpha son.

Ideals don't exist; only people do. And people were weak.

Look at me, Takeshi thought, blinking the tears out of his eyes. Tsuna was closer now, an arm's length away. His expression was a new one to Takeshi: concerned and terrified. On any other Omega, it would have been expected; on Sawada Tsunayoshi, it meant so much more.

Takeshi's smile returned. "You're finally looking at me," he murmured.

Takeshi leaned back against the railing; metal creaked and gave way, and Takeshi did not fight to regain balance as his body fell back to be embraced by the air.

Look at me, Takeshi thought. And watch me die.

"YAMAMOTO!"

Blazing amber and warm honey enveloped him. Tsuna's hands, small and thin, grabbed fistfuls of Takeshi's shirt. Takeshi's eyes widened, the sharp intensity of sweetness in scent bringing him back to reality.

"Tsuna-" Takeshi croaked out in horror.

Tsuna was not supposed to fall with him. No no no no no-

The sound of the wind rushing by his ears muffled the sound of glass breaking as a single bullet shot out from a fourth floor classroom. Tsuna's head was knocked back, but Takeshi didn't have enough time to understand it as suddenly the hands grabbing him let go just enough for Tsuna to position himself more fully over Takeshi.

"Save Yamamoto with my dying will!"

Fire filled Takeshi's vision, burning and bright and warm. Tsuna crawled over him, for some reason shirtless – and then he grabbed Yamamoto, one arm around his shoulders and the other under his knees.

Bridal carry-?! Takeshi thought in shock.

Tsuna's feet scraped the side of the building as he attempted to slow down their freefall descent. His face – amber eyes narrowed in concentration, burning orange flame atop his forehead – drew Takeshi's eyes.

"sh*t, can't stop!" Tsuna growled, notable skid marks on the side of the school building left behind him. "Yamamoto, it's gonna be a rough landing! Hold on to me!"

The authoritative tone, the confidence with which he spoke – Tsuna was clearly determined to save Yamamoto, and more notably, was confident he would. So Takeshi used his good arm, wrapped it around Tsuna's neck and held on tight, eyes never leaving Tsuna's face.

Something green sprouted from the ground directly below him, beady yellow reptilian eyes peering up from a rounded surface, and Takeshi gripped the slim body next to his tight as they hit-

A trampoline?

Tsuna bounced off agilely, Takeshi still cradled in his arms, landing somewhat crouched meters away from the trampoline. Takeshi's feet brushed the grass of the ground floor, and besides a good jostling and windswept spiky hair, showed no damage.

The flame on Tsuna's face extinguished, drawing back and warming those familiar amber eyes once more. The slight boy shifted, faltering under Takeshi's weight, and they both crashed down much more ungracefully. Takeshi was half-sprawled over a Tsuna's small frame, and upon further contact, realized the boy wasn't just shirtless – he was stripped down to only fish-printed boxers.

Takeshi sat up, face hot and falling back onto his butt. Tsuna sat up, rubbing at his chest from where Takeshi had accidentally elbowed him in his rush to get off, but his eyes were reserved for the Alpha boy before him.

"Are you okay?" Tsuna asked, looking him over, the warm glow of concern once more in his eyes.

Takeshi was trembling from head to toe, his right arm was aggravated from the jostling earlier, and his mind was a mess.

"Tsuna," Takeshi managed out, unsmiling and real. "You're amazing."

Tsuna stared at him. Then, after a moment, leaned forward – and smacked Takeshi clear across the face.

"What," Tsuna ground out. "The hell were you thinking?"

"I couldn't play baseball anymore, so I thought I wanted to die," Takeshi responded promptly. "As long as you were looking at me, I could die happy."

"What?" Tsuna choked out. "Wha- Why? No, wait, before that – what you were saying earlier, about being 'nothing without baseball'. What the hell was that! You're so much more than just baseball!"

The very idea that Takeshi seemed to think so little of himself clearly enraged the little brunet; Tsuna ended up slapping him again. Takeshi touched his smarting cheek in wonder.

"I don't know what happened with your mother," Tsuna continued on, this time quieter, but the look in his eyes – it was a heat so concentrated, Takeshi couldn't look away. "But do you think she'd really be happy, seeing you throw away the life she'd given you?"

"Protect what's important to you."

Yamamoto Keiko was an Omega, was a wife, was a mother. She was not a fighter. So one sunny day, faced with people so much stronger and so intent on hurting her – she did the only thing she could do: she died quietly. One whimper, one plea, one scream – if she'd done any of that, her young son out playing in the yard would enter the home and out of the view of their neighbors. It may be futile, it may be only for a few minutes more – but she could believe in those few moments, if it meant her child would live.

And so Yamamoto Keiko protected her son, the only way she could, and died.

Takeshi did not.

"I'm sorry," Takeshi said, staring into those amber eyes. He'd known, he'd always known – he'd just never accepted it, felt too scared and hurt and guilty to do so. "I'm so sorry."

Apologies spilled from his lips, matching the tears rolling down his cheeks. It was unclear just what he was apologzing for: to Tsuna, for nearly killing them both; to his mother, for thinking so little of her even though he should have known; to his father, for trying to leave him family-less; to the world in general, for his stupidity and selfishness. Maybe he was apologizing for none of it, or all of it.

But the words came, over and over. Honey-scented warmth wrapped around Takeshi once more, Tsuna enveloping him in his arms.

An Alpha like Yamamoto Takeshi can be strong, until he wasn't – but that was okay. Because an Omega like Sawada Tsunayoshi was only weak, until he wasn't – and could help catch Takeshi when he fell.

"Reborn – Reborn, are you listening to me? I've had two people nearly kill themselves on me within the last week! This is crazy! And somehow your fault!"

Bang! "Shut up, dame-Tsuna. Just be glad you've gained a good Family member."

"I am not going to be a mafia boss!"

End Chapter 6

A/N: This chapter got surprisingly heavy. Whoops.

I left out some of the slapstick comedy, namely hitting Tsuna's random body parts with bullets to add special effects. It was a bit too wonky for the plot. (lmao)

Notes on Tsuna:

-He went through huge character growth this chapter, but you'll see more of that next chapter when it switches back to his POV.

Notes on Yamamoto:

-He's a huge tangle of issues, honestly. His mother's murder served as a traumatic moment for him given the brutal way she was killed, and his survivor's guilt burrowed deep and warped a lot of his thinking. It's why his mind kept going in circles: look at me, she's dead, protect what's important, how one-sided. He initially blamed his mother for dying, focusing on the 'inherent weakness' of Omega. This got dashed when he encountered Tsuna and Hana fighting in the stairwell, and then Tsuna continuously destroyed the idea of all Omega being weak. Hibari Sasako's words to him ("Protect what's important to you.") got all twisted up in his mind. Fortunately, Tsuna proved they were words one could live by.

-"You must be stronger... so you can protect what's important to you."

Hibari Sasako's words were not actually referring to Takeshi's father (as he initially believed, leading into the whole 'it doesn't matter how strong an Alpha is, Omega are weak and will die anyway' mentality). She was actually referencing Takeshi's mother, who had "died quietly" so that Takeshi had a chance to survive.

Please be kind and drop a comment.

Chapter 7: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 7

Summary:

Tsuna's new subordinates have no concept of social boundaries.

Chapter Text

A/N: My blood is coffee at this point.

Chapter 7

"This tastes really delicious, Sawada-san!"

"Thank you," came Nana's light, tinkling laughter. Her chopsticks hovered just over her bowl, paused as she once again glanced around the table. Her cheerful expression did not waver but Tsuna knew his mother was confused. It was only natural, of course.

Tsuna had brought home an Alpha.

No, Tsuna thought, correcting his own thoughts as the fire wrapped a claw around his heart. He brought home Yamamoto Takeshi, who just happened to be an Alpha.

It was the morning after; a glorious 10 hours after Yamamoto attempted to throw himself off the school roof. Tsuna had tossed and turned all night, unable to stop thinking about it, the memories playing on loop on the back of his eyelids.

Yamamoto, all brittle smiles and wild eyes-

Yamamoto, asking Tsuna-

(Why is she dead? Why is she dead?)

Yamamoto, smiling, leaning back and then there was nothing but the Namimori night sky-

Tsuna knew terror; it was his most loathsome friend, a constant in his life from the moment his flames wrapped around his core and forced his eyes open to reality. Tsuna was terrified on a daily basis: from Reborn, to magic bullets, to strangers who eyed him speculatively on the street. There was no end to his fear, a feeling that was morbidly encouraged by his community who believed an Omega was better off fearing every dark corner than growing to overcome it.

It had been the first time Tsuna ever felt terror for someone else, though.

There had been a similar occurrence, when Gokudera had nearly blown himself up 'testing' Tsuna; but that fear had been overpowered by the assurance that as soon as Tsuna put out the fuses, Gokudera would be perfectly safe. Gokudera had been in immediate physical danger, and so long as Tsuna nullified that danger, Gokudera would be whole and safe afterwards.

Yamamoto was far away from that school rooftop, but Tsuna couldn't stop himself from thinking that may not be enough.

Yamamoto Takeshi had always been idolized by their school; friendly, genuinely kind, with a refreshing amount of restraint and cheer. His natural charisma and physical prowess were hallmarks of his dynamic; the only thing that could be seen as a detraction from the otherwise perfect Alpha Yamamoto Takeshi were his poor grades, but it was common knowledge that his schoolwork suffered because of his devotion to baseball.

Yamamoto had escorted Tsuna to the roof of their school and attempted to throw himself off it.

Nothing about Yamamoto was dominating. He was courteous and amiable, all smiles when he knocked on the Sawada front door early this morning. It was as if last night had never happened, as if he hadn't spent nearly an hour sobbing into Tsuna's chest, a mass of trembling limbs and keening whimpers.

Yamamoto was a superb athlete, lithe form lined with muscle from his afterschool activities and influenced by his dynamic.

Tsuna didn't think he'd ever seen anyone so frail before.

It was hard to keep his eyes off Yamamoto. It wasn't some fear the other boy would disappear if he did; Tsuna knew – in that way of his, the same way he knew how to fight Mochida and lie to Kusakabe – that Yamamoto would make no further attempts on his own life. It was just that the fragility Tsuna had seen behind Yamamoto's smiling mask had been fascinating.

It had been fascinating, and terrifying, and beautiful.

"Mama," Tsuna had said that morning, coming up behind his mother as she stared at the Alpha boy on her doorstep. "He's my friend. Can he stay for breakfast?"

His mother had allowed it. If this had been last year, if they had been the same Sawada Nana and Sawada Tsunayoshi they were last year – Tsuna didn't think she'd ever allow an Alpha into the home, unPresented or not. The Omega-rearing manuals she had stacked in her bookshelf had been adamant on not allowing Alphas easy access to Omega, especially without a platonic Alpha in the home to protect them. Betas were only tolerated because there was no inherently-dominating gene in their dynamic, but even then – Gokudera had been a nest of delinquent mannerisms and bruises. No one sane would have let either him or Yamamoto into their home, least of all a home with an unMated Omega.

And yet, his mother had helped tend to Gokudera's wounds. She'd allowed the silver-haired Beta to be alone with Tsuna in his room. And now this morning, she'd allowed an Alpha boy – unPresented or not didn't really matter – into her home and fed him breakfast.

There was no social connection between the Sawada family and the Yamamoto family. The only reason Tsuna even knew Yamamoto was the son of the owner of TakeSushi was because it's common knowledge at their school. (A back-up career, their teachers had noted of the Alpha. Should baseball playing not pan out. Ideal Alpha material.) Sawada Nana had never spoken to either Yamamoto or his father personally.

Tsuna didn't want to question his mother's change of mindset. It was troublesome enough just dealing with his own.

Tsuna had not much cared for Alpha. It had been understated before Reborn's appearance; irritation and toleration colored most of his interactions with his Alpha counterparts, but even those interactions were brief and sparse. His mother had made a safe space for him, Hibari's reign of terror over their community dissuaded dominance displays from happening in public, and so the most Tsuna had to deal with was condescension on a creeping scale.

This did not mean Tsuna was left unaware of what an Alpha was capable of. During lessons on Dynamics, Tsuna would have it hammered home: Alphas dominate. Alphas have pheromones that can subdue Omega. Alphas can Demand. Alphas can Mark an Omega, can Claim Omega as if they were nothing more than things to be possessed.

(There was something about an Alpha's Claim, an Alpha's Mark, that really caused Tsuna's blood to boil.)

Tsuna had seen, first-hand, just what Alphas were like. He had four in his class, after all. Iwasaki and Murota were practically the classic archetypes, prideful and prone to rankling each other if left to their own devices for too long. Kurokawa was quieter but led the class with a harsh efficiency, prone to cutting remarks and didn't bother to soften her words if facing someone she thought less of. Yamamoto was the type of Alpha so popularized in shoujo manga, capable and kind with natural charisma and infectious goodwill.

Iwasaki and Murota were little better than wild dogs; Kurokawa held herself on a pedestal with the disposition of a regent and the flexibility of a stone column (breakable); Yamamoto's smile was bullsh*t.

They were young, though, and everything changed after they Presented – or so Tsuna had been told, sitting in a room with the other two Omegas of his year group for their own personalized Dynamics lesson. After they Presented, Alphas would turn into capable, protective Mates that they as Omega would rely on. Alphas were meant to lead, strong enough to bear the burden of responsibility for their Omega mates and were not prone to overly-emotional reactions as an Omega was.

Society told Tsuna that an Alpha was dominant and strong. His school experience told Tsuna that an Alpha was egotistic and incapable of emoting much more than anger and arrogance.

Yamamoto Takeshi promptly took both these views and threw them off the roof along with him.

Tsuna wondered if Reborn had known, if that was why the baby-shaped hitman had pressured Tsuna into going along with Yamamoto's invite the other night. Tsuna had not wanted to; for one, he had had no intention of listening to an Alpha, and two, his body still ached from Hibari's assault just last week. If he had to endure round two should the demonic prefect find them on school grounds after hours, Tsuna would probably die.

But Reborn had been adamant. He hadn't ordered Tsuna to do anything – they were learning from each other quite well – but he'd certainly guilt-tripped Tsuna enough. And when that failed – "Omega shouldn't be out alone after dark," Tsuna had shot back at his tutor, voice dry – Reborn had then started making casually threatening remarks, such as wondering aloud if Tsuna needed additional lessons on world history and foreign languages, all while his gun stockpile grew around him. Tsuna had thought rather spitefully that Reborn may as well aim that AK-47at his back and drop the pretenses.

Whatever Reborn's machinations may be, Tsuna had ended up on that rooftop. Reborn may have been the one to shoot the bullet that gave Tsuna the strength to actually save Yamamoto from his fall, but it was Tsuna that had cradled Yamamoto in his arms afterwards as the taller boy broke apart.

Omega were not inherently submissive. Tsuna knew this, because he was an Omega, and he wouldn't even submit to someone that held a gun to his head.

It should have occurred to him that Alpha were not inherently dominant. Yamamoto, trembling in his arms, had no intention of domination.

It shouldn't have been as shocking to Tsuna as it was. After all, he'd met Hibari; the older boy had plainly stated he had no intention of dominating Omega either. Of course, he'd also said this while attempting to pummel Tsuna into the dirt, so maybe Tsuna just couldn't associate Hibari with anything but domination.

But Yamamoto – Yamamoto wasn't like any other Alpha. No, Tsuna thought, correcting himself, the burn around his chest warning him against the direction of his own thoughts. Yamamoto was just Yamamoto – Alpha had nothing to do with it.

That had been what Tsuna had learned, diving off the roof after the other boy. It was just like when Tsuna had become one with his flames – dynamic didn't matter. When Yamamoto fell back into the star-laden sky of Namimori, the fact that he was an Alpha didn't matter; the only thing that mattered was that Yamamoto Takeshi was hurting so much so that he'd rather die.

So Tsuna did what he'd learned from watching Reborn – he adapted, Dynamic prejudices be damned.

"Yamamoto-kun," Tsuna began softly. Nana had risen to start cleaning the dishes, and despite her low humming, Tsuna was aware of the tension in her shoulders. Maybe his dislike of Alpha was inherited?

"You can just call me Takeshi," Yamamoto said brightly, smiling.

Tsuna took in the smile quietly. It wasn't as real as it'd been on that rooftop, but it was far better than the ones Yamamoto had been showing for most of the school year. With a little more time, it might even become genuine.

"O-Oh," Tsuna stuttered out. He could call Yamamoto so familiarly? Why was everyone he was getting to know these days jumping so many social barriers so quickly? "T-That's-"

"A little inappropriate," Nana interrupted, tone candid. "People might think you're betrothed."

An outdated tradition, to be sure, but not unheard of. Some parents of Omega children betrothed their offspring to others while young, thus ensuring a Mate for their child in the future. It had fallen out of favor as post-Presentation matchmaking became popular.

Tsuna's pheromones flared a bit at the insinuation of Yamamoto being his Mate, even as the more rational part of himself knew that Yamamoto had no intention of dominating him. His mother tensed, a slight startle in her dishwashing, but Yamamoto only co*cked his head with a guileless smile and knowing eyes.

"That's silly of them," Yamamoto said amiably. "I'm never going to dominate you."

Tsuna relaxed. Yamamoto was harmlessly clueless and one hundred percent genuine. It was rather calming just being in his presence, if Tsuna were honest with himself.

Yamamoto was still smiling. "Oh, but you can dominate m-"

Reborn, who had been quietly and peacefully drinking his espresso throughout the whole awkward breakfast, shot a warning shot at Tsuna's feet. This startled Tsuna into yelping and jumping out of his seat, inadvertently cutting off whatever Yamamoto had just been about to say. Nana was already turned around, staring wide-eyed at Yamamoto for reasons Tsuna didn't understand, but he wasn't given any time to think on it as Reborn spoke.

"Gokudera's arrived," the hitman stated boredly.

"You had to shoot at me for that?" Tsuna screeched. "You couldn't just tell me like a normal person?"

"I'm the world's number one hitman," Reborn retorted. "Does that seem like something a normal person would be?"

Tsuna threw his hands up in exasperation.

Yamamoto laughed. "What a funny baby!" the baseball player chortled, not at all chagrined by the way Nana was still staring at him in perplexed wonder. "Is that a game you're playing? Like cops and robbers?"

The doorbell rang at that moment. Nana came back to herself, tearing her gaze from Yamamoto and leaving the relative chaos of the kitchen.

"We're mafia," Reborn told Yamamoto frankly.

"I'm not!" Tsuna protested and went ignored.

"I'm Reborn," Tsuna's baby-shaped terrorizer continued. "I'm training Tsuna to become the tenth boss of the Vongola family."

Yamamoto nodded in good-natured humor. "That's a good choice," he agreed, throwing Tsuna a smaller but more sincere smile. "I'd definitely follow if Tsuna was leading."

Reborn smiled. "That's good, because you're going to join the Vongola Family too," the hitman said.

"Don't arbitrarily involve normal people!" Tsuna interjected in rising horror.

Yamamoto laughed. "It sounds like a fun game!" the Alpha boy said, and then the expression on his face smoothed into something much more predatory. "If Tsuna's playing, I want in on it too."

Maybe Tsuna should rework his definition of 'normal'.

"TENTH!"

Tsuna's head whipped around so fast at the boisterous call, he may have gotten whiplash. He'd gotten completely distracted by Reborn's antics that he'd nearly forgotten what the hitman had first said.

How he could have forgotten something like Gokudera's newly-arrived presence was a mystery, one that was soon rectified as the silver-haired bomber skidded into the kitchen with all the eagerness of puppy and decorum of a devotee to their idol.

"Good morning, Tenth!" Gokudera greeted, at a much more acceptable volume as Nana entered the kitchen on his heels. The look in his eyes was this side of fanatical.

"Gokudera-kun, good morning," Tsuna managed out, more from reflex than a sense of calm. He actually found the silver-haired boy's presence reassuring; that likely had something to do with the amount of Alphas in the room. With a Beta, the Alpha were at least slightly outnumbered. "Did you eat breakfast?"

"I had Cup Noodles," Gokudera reported to him happily.

Nana's expression was horrified. "Gokudera-kun, that's not a good breakfast!" she chided, motioning for the boy to sit at the table and moving back over to the stove, clearly intent on rectifying the situation herself.

Gokudera, simultaneously touched by his friend's/boss's mother's generosity, was halted from thanking her profusely when his eyes finally latched onto the new addition. Tsuna, with a sudden spike of dread, nearly groaned as six sticks of dynamite appeared in Gokudera's hands.

"Who is this?" Gokudera growled out, green eyes on Yamamoto.

To Tsuna's bemusem*nt, Yamamoto seemed equally surprised. "Gokudera?" the baseball player uttered quietly. His eyes were tracking the bandages wrapped around Gokudera's arms, barely visible from under the sleeves of his uniform shirt and assortment of bracelets. Illogically, Yamamoto's expression was starting to brighten even more.

"This is the new subordinate, Yamamoto Takeshi," Reborn stated. "He joined the Family last night."

"Yamamoto's my friend, not a subordinate!" Tsuna interjected. He was once again ignored.

Gokudera launched forward, grabbing Yamamoto by the lapels of his shirt. "Listen here, you little sh*t," Gokudera snarled into the taller boy's face. "I don't accept you. As the Tenth's Right Hand-"

"Oh, this Mafia game has that too?" Yamamoto interrupted brightly. "Then I want to be Tsuna's right hand!"

"How dare you say his name so casually!" Gokudera yelled, shaking the boy. Tsuna wondered where the Beta boy got the energy to be so angry all the time. "And I'm the Right Hand, you bastard!"

"Well, he said we were friends," Yamamoto replied. "You can be the ear lobe, Gokudera."

"I'LL KILL YOU!"

"Gokudera-kun, no-!"

Tsuna wondered in despair if this was how his mornings would go from now on.

Six Years Ago

Alpha surrogates were sworn as one of the best medical and psychological treatments an abused or otherwise damaged Omega could get. While Betas were seen as acceptable surrogates, it was generally believed they lacked the 'true ability' to satisfy the needs of an Omega; only an Alpha could Claim an Omega, only an Alpha could Mark an Omega, only an Alpha was capable of truly fulfilling the biological contract that required Omega to seek frequent physical contact.

Beta parents were thus presented with an issue when they produced Omega offspring: a lack of Alpha. Alpha parents of Omega children could Scent their offspring, fulfilling the biological obligations; Beta parents could not, leaving their Omega children vulnerable to the world at large.

Within the past decade, the medical community began to explore means to resolve the issue of high Omega fatality rates, in which it was believed Beta-raised Omega children tended to have shorter lifespans. Curiously, these statistics did not take in the social or cultural context of their populations, and thus did not account for things like how unClaimed Omega – usually raised by Beta parents – were subjected to greater levels of violence or suffered from domestic abuse at much higher rates.

Doctor Laurent, renown Omega specialist and purist, led the movement to promote the use of Alpha surrogates for victimized Omega. It was accepted by the medical community that Omega required physical contact to maintain health, and in light of the common practice of Mating Omega victims to their Alpha abusers in an effort to give the Omega a semblance of a normal life, Doctor Laurent did not have to push his agenda especially hard to get it accepted.

Alpha surrogates were initially started when an unMated Omega required an Alpha's presence to recover from some trauma. The traumas covered a wide spectrum, anything from death of their original Mate to drug abuse rehabilitation. As Omega go into Heat at least six times a year, Alpha surrogates provided a back-up solution should an Omega not have any other way.

Medical specialists allied with Omega purists promoted the use of Alpha surrogates in just about everything. By far, however, the biggest push-back was the suggestion Alpha surrogates could be used in place of Beta parents. Beta parents provided just enough for Omega children to grow to adulthood, these medical professionals had agreed – but they weren't enough to really allow Omega children to thrive.

But people cannot change dynamic, and so, the most natural solution was for Alphas to offer themselves as surrogates. While it was generally agreed upon Alphas were best for Omegas, heavy resistance came from Beta parents of Omega children.

In an effort to promote the Omega purists' vision and resolve the recurring issue of high fatality rates of Omega within their population, the government of Greece legalized the use of Alpha surrogates and institutionalized their use by requiring Beta parents to agree to an Alpha surrogate for their Omega children, or pay heavy fines. Only about 6% of Greeks were identified as Omega, and of that 6%, there were only 11% (about 74,000 individuals) Omega aged 15 and under. (Fifteen being the average age an Omega presented, rendering them no longer a child but a possible Mate.)

By the end of the following year, of the 74,000 Omega children forcibly matched with an Alpha surrogate, 92% of the children displayed a higher sensitivity to change in pheromones and a "general increase in appropriate Omega behavior." Their health was also in general good form, and when compared to Omega who lacked an Alpha in the home, ranked much higher.

As per usual, the inaccuracies of the study were ignored and swept under the rug. A Norwegian counter-movement occurring at the same time attempted to bring to light the defects: a lack of a base sample, no credible information on how the Greek study documented "Omega health" and what exactly "appropriate Omega behavior" entailed.

And then there was the 8%.

Of the 74,000 Omega children matched with an Alpha surrogate, 5,920 – 8% - did not survive unscathed, or in some cases, survive at all. During the 1.5 year-length study of Alpha surrogates, 5,920 Alpha surrogates could not – as they argued in court – curb their natural instinct to claim unMarked Omega. Vulnerable Omega children fell under this umbrella; a majority of the Omega victims were between the ages of 12-15 years of age. Of the nearly six thousand Omega children, 352 died in the course of an Alpha's Claim. The remaining 5,568 Omega children suffered from varying degrees of sexual abuse, none of which involved a Mark. As set in their societal precedent, once the remaining 5,568 reached of age and Presented, they were Mated with their abusers if the courts had decided their their abusers had offered the proper repentance and could take responsibility for their Omega. If the Alpha surrogate/abuser could not match this criteria, then the Omega victims were matched with a different Alpha surrogate.

The 8% was swept viciously under the rug, smothered by the Omega purists and the study lauded for showing incredible improvement in Omega healthcare.

(In the following ten years of the conclusion of the study, another 1,204 Omega victims of the original Greek study had committed suicide.)

The use of Alpha surrogates slowly spread to other nations, meeting resistance but ultimately accepted – if not politically, then socially. Japan was one of the most resistant, unwilling to allow 'strangers' into their homes – Alpha or otherwise. Given the high fatality rates of Japanese Omega, however, and following the upheaval of a yakuza sect in Kyoto that unearthed a multi-national Omega sex trafficking ring, Alpha surrogates began to be pushed with more ferocity.

Japanese doctors began to fall in line.

When a young Omega boy had been brought into the Namimori ER one October night, Doctor Itou had taken one look at the Mark on the child's neck and knew he was a lost cause. (Any Alpha that had done something so cruel with absolutely no hesitation would definitely dominate the small, fragile thing laid out in a hospital bed.) Thus, when the young Sawada Tsunayoshi sat eating strawberry yogurt two days later, scratching irritably at his bandaged neck and large amber eyes following the nurses as they ambled about his room, Doctor Itou was forced to reconsider.

And so, Doctor Itou had found himself suggesting an Alpha surrogate for the doubtlessly traumatized child. Namimori was a small town, allowing Itou a considerable modicum of social flexibility when it came to his patients. Sawada Iemitsu had not taken his suggestion well, but the victim's mother looked as rattled as her son at times. She'd mentioned, in one of Tsunayoshi's check-ups, that the boy still couldn't remember what had happened to him that night.

Itou knew children were adaptable and quite fond of make-believe. If he thought the Omega child could get away with it, Itou would happily let the child pretend until the end of his days. But trauma did not work like that, and Itou knew young Tsunayoshi would have to face that reality someday – and it would be best for the boy if he had an Alpha to rely on.

So he'd suggested an Alpha surrogate many times over the course of a year. Tsunayoshi had come in for check-ups, although at the beginning it had been Doctor Ishigaki dealing with it personally. After Ishigaki passed and Tsuna came under Itou's direct care, Itou didn't even have to keep needling Sawada Nana personally about Alpha surrogates given their popularity – her own neighbors were perfectly capable of doing it themselves.

Itou was unprepared, then, for Sawada Nana to call his office and cancel then 8 year old Tsunayoshi's upcoming appointment.

"Mrs. Sawada," Itou began, professional and exasperated. "I understand medical appointments can be a point of stress-" Tsunayoshi always looked at Itou like the doctor was a wolf in disguise, all wide eyes and posture like a coiled spring ready to launch; it just made Itou more persistent that the child get an Alpha surrogate as soon as possible. "-but they are mandatory for Omega children. And with Tsuayoshi-kun's history-"

"Oh, I know they're mandatory!" Sawada Nana's voice came cheerfully through the receiver. "My husband has arranged a different doctor for Tsu-kun!"

Itou frowned. "I have a specialized doctorate in Omega care, Mrs. Sawada- the only one in Namimori. While it is your right to take your child to whichever doctor you feel appropriate, I am the best in my field in Namimori," he pointed out diplomatically. Just when he thought the woman would finally see reason.

"That sounds nice, Itou-sensei," Mrs. Sawada giggled. "Thank you for understanding. Have a nice day!" And then she hung up.

Itou had been so disgruntled by the interaction, he'd ended up complaining not only to his fellow hospital staff, but also at his usual bar after his shift.

Word spread, however slowly, that Sawada Nana was ignoring a doctor's suggestion to find an Alpha surrogate for her child, but also that she was apparently taking her son to some unknown clinician. This news had been frowned upon heavily among the Sawada's immediate community, and an already-ostracized Tsunayoshi was subjected to another layer of subjugation because of it.

(Pity had a way of blinding; willful ignorance was just hateful. Combined, no one was able to acknowledge that 8-year-old Tsuna was so much more capable than ever, and much healthier in comparison to his Omega peers. But instead of fostering a thirst for knowledge, he was never acknowledged in class and excluded from most activities; instead of involving him in community projects and building a sense of teamwork and cooperation, he was left to play alone in the park or isolated at home.

And so, Tsuna allowed his grades to fail – because what did it matter, if he was never going to be able go to university? Tsuna ignored school activities and clubs, because what's the point in joining if he'd just be a glorified decoration at worst, a trophy cheerleader at best?)

Doctor Itou continued in his work as usual, not really keeping up with the chaos Namimori kept so well-hidden. The hospital was in a frenzy nearly every day nowadays, as more and more beaten bodies of yakuza members were dropped at their doors. The police force was out in force, trying to find out the source of the the sudden crackdown on crime, so eerily reminiscent of Hibari Sasako's reign of terror in Namimori's school system.

The answer came to Doctor Itou one evening. Or, more accurately, strolled straight into his office, face and limbs adorned in a variety of cute animal-printed band-aids, a local elementary school's sailor-styled uniform stained with dirt and suspicious red splatter.

Doctor Itou knew those eyes, though, and realized with sudden, horrifying clarity that he was matching eyes with Hibari Sasako's Alpha spawn.

"Herbivore," the child growled out, and no voice that had so clearly not yet entered puberty should sound that frightening. "You will tell me what I want to know or I will bite you to death."

Doctor Itou's automatic reaction was to say 'no,' a professional response when people started asking for confidential information they were not privy to. But then a tonfa impaled the wall behind him, the Hibari child on his desk within the blink of an eye, snarling down at him.

Itou agreed hastily.

And so, Itou became witness to the first tides of Hibari Kyouya's bloody usurping of power within Namimori.

Why the Alpha child had wanted Sawada Tsunayoshi's personal medical history was a mystery to him.

"The answer is...t-three?" Tsuna stuttered out unsurely, eyes on the math problem he had sketched out.

"Wrong," Reborn said, and then his tiny hands were pushing down on a lever- oh god, was that a detonator?!

BOOM!

Exploded glass rained over the Sawada residence, a small plume of smoke enveloping Tsuna's room before being swiftly carried out by a timely breeze. Tsuna, bruised and scratched, peeked out from behind the remnants of the small table he'd been using as a desk before the explosion.

"In what world does a tutor use bombs when their student makes a mistake?!" Tsuna demanded in a strangled voice. It was only Wednesday and he'd have to get his windows replaced. Again.

"This one," Reborn replied easily. "And this is part of an experiment. Gokudera gets perfect scores on all of his schoolwork. Gokudera uses bombs. Perhaps there is a connection."

"Don't make up excuses!" Tsuna snapped back.

The week was only halfway over, and Tsuna was dead tired. If he thought last week was exciting, he was unprepared for the chaos of this week. The only good thing was that Hibari had yet to show up, which meant that the DC chairman either thought he wasn't worth pursuing – highly possible – or he was planning to attack later.

Still, Tsuna hadn't been able to dwell on his inevitable tonfa-related death, as the new additions to his previously nonexistent social circle made themselves known. Gokudera often cut class, but turned up for the enitre school day in order to glare daggers into Yamamoto's head. Yamamoto's interactions with Tsuna would have slid under the radar, as he was naturally very friendly, except he now insisted on calling the Omega 'Tsuna' and spent any and all of his free time in Tsuna's company.

Tsuna had tried very hard to ignore the reaction of their classmates. Fortunately, it was hard to discern their reaction because Gokudera and Yamamoto got along as well as gas and lit match.

Tsuna managed to escape school without too much hassle, Gokudera acting as a delightful barrier between Tsuna and the greater community as they walked home, Yamamoto having run off to baseball practice.

Tsuna almost relished going back home to Reborn's hellish tutoring, because at least Tsuna seemed normal when compared to a pint-sized death machine.

Tsuna picked broken glass out of his hair. Maybe next time, he'd ask Gokudera if he wanted to do homework together. Misery loves company, Tsuna thought absently, eyes trailing over the disaster area of his room and looking out the (no longer existent) windows with a sense of resignation.

A tiny child in a cow-print onesie grinned back at him, pistol aimed in their direction.

"It finally happened," Tsuna choked out. "I've finally gone insane."

"I'll review what we did now," Reborn stated, black eyes on Tsuna's math work and completely ignoring his student's impending breakdown.

"Reborn, I'm hallucinating," Tsuna replied blankly. "Probably because you're always kicking me in the head."

"DIE, REBORN!" the cow-patterned hallucination crowed out, pulling the trigger with victorious grin. Round eyes grew even wider at the empty clicking, and the child flailed his arm wildly as if bullets would appear if he only moved.

The tree's branch, already weak from the numerous explosions at the Sawada homestead, creaked in warning before finally snapping. The child fell to the ground with a high shriek, Tsuna jumping up and moving to where his windows were supposed to be in order to look down.

At least he's okay, Tsuna thought, watching the cow-child hallucination rise up onto his tiny feet.

"Dame-Tsuna, remember this formula," Reborn continued on.

And he's still ignoring it! Tsuna sighed, turning around to eye his tutor apprehensively. The doorbell rang ominously fom downstairs.

"Did a kid in an animal onesie just attempt to shoot you?" Tsuna asked, aware that it was resignation in his voice. This week was just too much.

"Use this formula to solve the problem," Reborn pretended not to hear him.

Before Tsuna could throw window debris at his demon tutor, his bedroom door slammed open and a blur of cow-print barreled inside.

"Long time no see, Reborn!" Tsuna's former hallucination yelled. Tsuna was struck by a sharp scent, barely discernible if not for Tsuna's constantly heightened senses. Alpha, Tsuna recognized, eyeing the cow-printed child. "It is I, Lambo Bovino, hitman of the Bovino famiglia! I'm five years old, from Italy, and my favorite foods are grapes and candy!"

Tsuna stared.

"You have thirty seconds to solve number 3, dame-Tsuna," Reborn chimed in boredly. He leaned on the detonator threateningly.

"Stop destroying my room, Reborn!" Tsuna cried out, grabbing the work paper. His favorite cotton blanket was already singed from the last blast!

Sniffle. "...To~ Le~ Rate~!" Tsuna glanced over, heart twisting a bit at the sight of the tears brimming in the child's eyes. "The answer... is four?" Tsuna tried again.

"Correct," Reborn replied, leaning away from the detonator.

"Don't ignore me!" Lambo screamed, charging forward.

Tsuna couldn't stop him in time. Reborn lashed out, a black blur of movement that sent Lambo sailing across the room and smacking into the bedroom wall. Tsuna winced in sympathy, remembering his first meeting alone with Reborn.

"R-Reborn, you shouldn't hit kids," Tsuna spoke up on Lambo's behalf. It was painfully obvious that Lambo really was just a child, unlike whatever Reborn was. The little Bovino scrambled back up, if a bit unsteady, fat tears rolling down his cheeks as he whimpered out another "tolerate" drawl.

"The Bovino famiglia are a rather small mafia group," Reborn said. "I don't associate with those who rank lower."

You egotistical maniac! Tsuna eyed his tutor in horror.

"Reborn, you jerk!" Lambo cried out. "How dare you say that! This time I have a lot of weapons I borrowed from the Boss!"

Tsuna inched forward as Lambo began to- dig into his afro? Tsuna just didn't understand mafiosi.

"Lambo, no fighting in the house," Tsuna began. "Here, why don't you calm down? I'll give you some candy."

Tsuna felt more than saw the way Reborn turned to regard him. The flames coiled around his heart stilled his movements, his Intuition filling in the gaps: Omega are always good with children.

Lambo, who had paused at the word 'candy', was now eyeing Tsuna warily. "Your eyes are weird," the child told him frankly.

Reborn tsk'd under his breath.

Lambo's attention snapped back to his target. "Don't mock the great Lambo-sama!" the child snapped, and then pulled out a purple- is that a bazooka?!

"Please tell me that's a toy," Tsuna whimpered.

"Ta-da! The 10 Year Bazooka!" Lambo crowed out in triumph. "Those who are shot with this switch places with their self 10 years in the future, for five minutes!"

"How did you fit that into your hair?" Tsuna marveled.

Then Lambo aimed the bazooka at himself.

"Three people, Reborn!" Tsuna screeched, jumping forward. He was too late, though; a bang! and then the pink smoke exploded and obscured little Lambo from view.

The first thing Tsuna registered was the scent: sharp like the smell of industrial wiring, and the tantalizing bitterness of red wine. And then Tsuna found his hands – from where he'd attempted to reach out and grab Lambo – resting on a firm chest covered in a silky, cow-printed shirt.

The smoke cleared, and Tsuna looked up into drooping green eyes that inexplicably softened as they stared back into Tsuna. Hands came to rest on Tsuna's waist, gentle and well-mannered.

Alpha, Tsuna's instincts recognized.

Tsuna's hands twisted into the cow-printed fabric, lifting and bodily throwing the other male away from him and into the closest wall. The Alpha teen hit the wall with a resounding smack and small groan, rolling onto Tsuna's bed. After a moment, he sat up – completely unruffled by the rough treatment, one green eye closed in what could only be described as a lazy expression.

"Tsuna-nii," the teen whined, a keening noise that had no business coming from the stranger. "You didn't have to throw me!"

The teen pouted, eyes roving up and down the boy. Only the fact that he wasn't moving caused Tsuna to halt his own attack. Aside from the sharp scent of the other boy, nothing about him was particularly dominating.

"I'm here because of the bazooka," the teen said, casually straightening out his shirt, answering an unvoiced question. "It's the 10 year bazooka. I was brought back here from ten years in the future, my younger self was sent 10 years forward."

Tsuna understood what the child Lambo had said, in his zealous description of his own weapon. He just hadn't expected it to be the truth. The mafia are capable of time travel, Tsuna realized in horror.

"What a funny face you're making, Tsuna-nii," teen Lambo giggled.

"You- Why do you keep calling me that?" Tsuna squeaked out.

Lambo co*cked his head. Tsuna, for a horrifying moment, thought it was cute.

"Oh, I should thank you," Lambo said, springing back up onto his feet. "For taking care of me since ten years ago!"

Since ten years ago. Tsuna stared at him, then swiveled his head to pin Reborn – who had been watching the whole scene unfold with vague amusem*nt – with an accusatory glare. "This is all your fault," Tsuna bit out.

Reborn nodded in mock-solemnity. "A single father at 14," the baby hitman agreed. "I have failed you as a tutor."

"Wha- No!" Tsuna screeched. "It's your fault I'm surrounded by mafiosi!"

Lambo was now looking at Reborn, a surly look on his young face. "That's 'cause you're the Vongola Tenth, Tsuna-nii," he stated.

Reborn looked decidedly pleased at the confirmation.

Lambo was less so, staring into Reborn's eyes. Tsuna couldn't quite place the expression on the teen's face: there was a healthy dose of fear (Tsuna understood that), but there was something else to – something sad, or perhaps disappointed. Tsuna guessed Lambo's poor relationship with Reborn never got better.

"The 10th boss of the Vongola famiglia, Sawada Tsunayoshi," Lambo said again, tearing his eyes away from Reborn and back onto Tsuna. His previous expression melted away, replaced once more by that soft look in his eyes. Tsuna hadn't known anyone capable of making such a soft expression, his heart suddenly harshly beating in his chest.

"No matter what, you will always be our boss, Tsuna-nii," Lambo declared. Tsuna watched, frozen into place, as the teen got down onto one knee, gently grasping Tsuna's right hand and bringing it to his lips, placing a soft kiss to his ring finger.

His flames coiled around his heart, glowing in contentment.

Lambo was smiling up at him. Tsuna was struck by a vision of green flames and was taken aback by the warmth that flooded into him. "So young, and yet your flames still repond," Lambo murmured. "As expected of Tsuna-nii."

Lambo rose from the floor, still smiling, but took a step back as Tsuna tried to regain himself. What the hell was that? Tsuna wondered, and to his surprise – he was trembling. But not from fear, no – it was as if his body was alight, too pleased to be still.

"Oh, so it's only June?" Lambo mused, eyes on the calender pinned to the wall that hadn't suffered from any explosions or bodies thrown against it. The teen looked thoughtful. "So you still have a little over a year..."

Tsuna couldn't make heads or tails of what the teen was saying, still wrapped in the throes of whatever was going on with his Flames. Reborn was looking between them, seemingly calm, but Tsuna knew – just knew – that the baby hitman was bemused by teen Lambo's attitude as well.

"Tsuna-nii."

Tsuna's head snapped up, taking in Lambo's serious expression. "Y-Yeah?"

"We only have one and a half minutes more, so while I'm still here, let me apologize. And this still counts! Even if it's ten years too early!" Lambo said hurriedly, serious demeanor falling away as he nervously wrung his hands together. He looked like a little kid about to get reprimanded, Tsuna observed absently.

"Okay, so first – it's not my fault the east wing is gone. That was totally Lawn-head's fault!" Lambo began. "He said he wanted to do, uh, 'an EXTREME sports day' and when Octopus-head told him no, Lawn-head thought he could 'extremely show him an example' and, so, the east wing is gone now."

"..." Tsuna said.

"I was trying to stop him!" Lambo continued on frantically. "But then he punched holes all along the walls again, and that damn Pineapple told us that that was the support base for the wing only after the fact, and stupid Gokudera didn't help at all because when he tried to stop Lawn-head, he thought dynamite would solve his problem, and you're always telling him dynamite doesn't solve all the problems but he never listens, Tsuna-nii! It's always dynamite this, dynamite that, 'Lambo if you get less than 100 percent on your test I'll make you swallow dynamite!'"

Tsuna cantered a look over at Reborn. Maybe I should keep Gokudera way from him, Tsuna thought.

"And so Haru-nee started freaking out and then tried to ask that damn Pineapple to cast an illusion of the east wing until we finished reconstructing it, but the stupid Pineapple said you can always see through his illusions and disappeared," Lambo said. "I don't know why we keep him around, Tsuna-nii, all he does is laugh at our misery and eat all of our chocolate."

Tsuna nodded with a solemn look. Inwardly, he was collapsing. When? Tsuna wondered in despair. When does a magic pineapple appear in my life?!

"Fifteen seconds left," Lambo mused. "Okay, Tsuna-nii – please remember to always eat ice cream with me on Fridays! Those are our days!"

Tsuna nodded like a broken marionette.

Lambo turned a harsh look onto Reborn. "And stupid Reborn," he enunciated clearly, and this time – Tsuna could see the sparks of green lightning that flickered over the teen's horns. "Wake the f*ck up already."

Pink smoke exploded into being, obscuring Lambo's figure once more.

End Chapter 7

A/N: Lambo, language. My god.

-Classmates reaction will be more detailed next chapter. As expected, there be waves.

-Yes, Hibari is always up to something. He's Hibari.

Notes on Tsuna:

-He's currently working through his own dislike of Alphas. Yamamoto helps, and now he has Lambo - so that's two Alpha who become dependent on him.

Notes on Nana:

-Much like her husband, she will make sense eventually too. :)

Please be kind and drop a comment~

Chapter 8: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 8

Summary:

Reborn has plans. These plans involve Tsuna but don't actually account for him, which is too bad - mostly for Reborn.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thank you so much forreading and commenting!

Chapter 8

Kurokawa Hana understood how the world worked.

Or, at the very least, she understood how Namimori worked. Children went to school on time, traffic was worse between the times of 4 to 6PM, and the whole town operated under the assumption that their every transgression would surely warrant the wrath of a certain demonic prefect.

There existed a specific kind of logic to Namimori, a unique set of unsaid rules that every citizen learned to abide by – either through integration or tonfa-related measures. The laws of the national government were observed, of course, but in Namimori – the social norms that tended to pervade most of Japan fell a little short. Hana had been raised in this town, and more importantly, tended to share the same learning environment as Namimori's monster – so she was acclimated to the oddity.

The world operated under several simple principles. Among the social interactions between Dynamics, it was clear Alphas came out on top. Hana knew this worked in her favor - her greatest competition was therefore her male counterparts, and she outstripped them within the realms of knowledge and maturity by leagues. She would never be able to compete with Hibari; any person who could not only dominate a school but an entire town, using various means up to and including violence and fiscal management, was not someone Hana would ever be able to defeat. But that was just one of the many realities of Namimori.

When it came to her peers, however, Hana had felt relatively comfortable in her position. In her own immediate class, she was most often looked to for advice and direction. Not that Hana saw any problems with a Beta running the classroom; Kyoko was far better than Murota or Yamamoto, after all, and Hana trusted her friend with just about everything. Alphas were looked to to lead, though, and for the most part – Namimori Junior High followed their world's instinctive natures: Hana lead the classroom, Yamamoto lead the baseball club, Hibari lead the school (and town).

This was just how the world worked. Alphas lead; Betas help where they can; Omega follow. As far back as Hana could remember, she'd been taught these simple facts, and for most of her life, they'd been proven true. Hana always saw Alphas in positions of leadership, surrounded by Betas who could be relied on to competently do their jobs. Omega were there, too, quiet and gentle behind the scenes; tending to the home or their families, never doing anything of real interest to Hana, which was why it had been so easy to write them off.

Even when she had finally started her first year in junior high, it had been nothing different. Still the same idiotic monkey peers she was always surrounded by, still the same Kyoko with her bright smile, still the same quiet and shy Omega that stayed just in the periphery of Hana's vision.

After being privy to the sideshow that was Hibari's reign of terror, one would think Hana would not be surprised by the strangeness that was Namimori.

And yet, nothing had prepared her for Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Her first impression of Sawada had been: Omega. That's it, no fanfare, no special feelings – he had been quiet and refusing to make eye contact for most of the time they spent in class, just as any other Omega. He never talked much to his classmates, shying away even from his Beta peers. He had been renown for his ditziness in elementary school and the reputation followed him as they grew. Clumsy, air-headed Sawada Tsunayoshi, with his too-large amber eyes and thin frame. Hana always thought a well-timed breeze could have carried him away.

Sometimes, Hana wished she could have that ignorance back.

Talking to her male Alpha counterparts always gave her a sense of hives; their rampant stupidity may be contagious, and someone had to be able to manage the classroom before one of Iwasaki's and Murota's brawls interrupted their productive lessons. Some of her irritation with her Alpha peers had attached to males in general, including Sawada. She was mostly annoyed he could sit on the sidelines and avoid them altogether, while she was constantly expected to reign those idiots in.

Such was the life of an Alpha, and such was the life of an Omega. Hana would manage and lead and mediate. Sawada would sit quietly on his little seat cushion and avoid his classmates as a whole. Once upon a time, Hana had thought that avoidance the result of a timid personality.

She'd learned her lesson.

"Um, Yamamoto-kun..." Ikeda started hesitantly. She was standing next to Hana's desk, a subconscious move seeking encouragement from her Alpha peer. She was likely hoping to get some support from the Alpha girl, not realizing that Hana refused to even breach the sheer 'what the f*ck'-ness going on on the other side of the classroom.

Yamamoto perked up, head turned ever so slightly to gift the Beta girl – and the multitude of his classmates who were also eyeing him in bewilderment– with a bright smile. Hana could practically see her classmates be momentarily blinded by the sheer dazzling quality of the Alpha boy's grin.

"Yeah?" Yamamoto prompted kindly, when Ikeda remained quiet as she attempted to blink the starsout of her eyes.

"W-Well," Ikeda stuttered and faltered, then glanced at Hana for support. Hana tensed, reluctantly drawing her gaze away from where she had vehemently lodged it in the opposite direction of Yamamoto, instead re-focusing on what had her insipid classmates gawking for a week now.

Sawada Tsunayoshi, seated on his customary orange seat cushion, doing a damnable impression of someone not at all noticing the ruckus he was causing. Just looking at him made Hana want to go home and sleep for the next few months, vainly hoping the world returned to the state it was in before she'd found herself on the end of the scariest gaze any human being had ever turned on her before, and that included Hibari's own steel-eyed concentrated madness.

Gokudera Hayato had also returned, miraculously not skipping a single class. Of course, that was only because he felt the need to be present and make passing threats at Yamamoto, but only in-between overtly fawning over Sawada. A Beta openly fawning over an Omega was noteworthy in its own right, but Gokudera's interactions with their class's resident Omega was unusual in a variety of ways; their homeroom teacher had looked like he was having a seizure when Gokudera had strode into class Wednesdaymorning and courteously greeted Sawada with fanatical devotion.

Even now, Gokudera was sitting beside the object of his adoration, having pulled up a nearby chair to Sawada's desk and scribbling something into the Omega's notebook, chattering a mile-a-minute with a thousand-watt smile. It was terrifying.

Still, the class could have (naively, ignorantly) shrugged it off as a foreigner thing. Gokudera was Italian, after all, and perhaps that was just how they socialized with Omega in Italy. (It wasn't, Hana knew – it really, really wasn't. The objectification of Omega was a universal thing.) Their class could make up a thousand and one excuses so as to not upset the status quo.

But then Yamamoto Takeshi had went and crushed that hope, as cheerfully as he did just about anything. He sat on Sawada's other side, and though his eyes were currently on Ikeda with palpable friendliness, they'd previously been on Sawada with the same kind of creepy devotion Gokudera exuded with every pore of his being.

It was so indescribably creepy that no one had been able to work up the courage to say anything about it all week. Everyone talked about it, of course, once the weird trio were out of ear and eye-shot; Hana knew their teachers were already devising plans to break up the strange whatever the three had going on – Inoue-sensei had been horrified at how illicit it all seemed – and their classmates gossiped about it as soon as they felt safe to do so.

No one had approached any of the three directly. Murota refused to even look in Gokudera's direction, Iwasaki would obviously rather curl up under his desk in the fetal position than confront Yamamoto, and no one had been able to corner Sawada alone. Either Yamamoto or Gokudera were always around him, usually together except when Yamamoto had to leave for baseball club activities. Gokudera was attached to Sawada at the hip, and no amount of teacher-given orders or scheduled classroom duties separated them. Gokudera even threatened to rearrange Nezu-sensei's facial structure with his fist when the Maths teacher tried to force the silver-haired boy away from Sawada.

Through it all, Sawada remained quiet and unobtrusive, seemingly not noticing the reaction his two new attachments were getting. Their classmates attributed it to Sawada's oblivious nature and exhausting denseness; Hana knew it was just Sawada's weirdness finally infecting the rest of the world.

"Why don't you two give some Sawada some breathing room?" Hana suggested dryly, hoping her tone would be enough to cover the thin trill of fear shooting into her heart at the action of addressing Sawada, even indirectly.

Yamamoto looked at her questioningly, friendly smile still on his lips. Hana easily imagined him making that same face while committing a murder, and then tried to immediately forget thinking that.

Yamamoto turned to Sawada, smile dropping and eyes turning so warm that it became obvious those same dark eyes had been lackingwhen looking at her. Creepiness factor just shot up another hundred points, Hana thought.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to bother you, Tsuna," Yamamoto apologized. The use of the Omega boy's first name had the entire class flinching.

Sawada, who had finally torn his gaze away from whatever incomprehensible things Gokudera had been writing in his notebook, locked amber eyes somewhere in the vicinity of Yamamoto's chin. "You're not bothering me," he replied shyly.

The absurdity of it all only became so much more readily apparent when Sawada did that. When he acted like the every-man's-Omega, playing into a stereotype most of his classmates subconsciously pushed him under – that was when he stood out as something not-quite-right. The way he acted, the words he spoke; it was as if he were acting out a part he had no particular interest in playing. It was jarring, especially when juxtaposed with both Yamamoto and Gokudera – who played so heavily against their assumed roles that Hana was sometimes surprised neither of them started showing Omega traits.

"You bother the f*ck outta me," Gokudera bit out, glaring at Yamamoto. Predictably, Yamamoto laughed that off.

And just like that, the three were once again absorbed into their own little Sawada-centered world. Hana almost envied them, except that implied she wanted to be part of it, and she absolutely refused to join in that madness.

Ikeda looked ready to speak up again, but Kyoko entered the classroom and blessedly distracted the class for a moment. Hana had never been so grateful for her best friend, especiallyas the mild-mannered Beta girl swept to Hana's side and just looked innocently confused by the lingering tension in the air.

"Kyoko-chan," Kakei crooned in relief. "Please, please do something about that."

The 'that' was obvious. Hana's head swiveled to pin Kakei with a glower, silently demanding why the girl would dare try to pressure their class's only saving grace into a dangerous situation.

Kyoko was still smiling, glancing between Kakei's mortified expression and the Sawada-bubble. "What's wrong?" Kyoko asked after a moment, clearly finding nothing wrong with Yamamoto and Gokudera hovering around Sawada.

Hana, not for the first time, wished she lived in the dream world Kyoko apparently traversed through on a daily basis.

"Oh, I brought sushi for lunch today," Yamamoto's voice could be heard clearly. "Dad made a lot, so let's share, Tsuna, Gokudera."

Iwasaki was choking on air, and Kawamura was openly gasping.

"Thank you, Yamamoto," Sawada replied, voice soft.

Hana chanced a look over. Sawada's head was tilted just so, brunet strands of hair sliding out of amber eyes as they momentarily matched Hana's gaze.

Hana turned away hurriedly.

She knew, even if she couldn't see it – that bastard was smiling.

Tsuna hadn't meant to start a monumental shift in the social power structure of Namimori Junior High. He'd just wanted to be with his two new friends in a genuine and open way; refusing to acknowledge their new relationships to him insulted them, and Tsuna did not want to hurt them by pretending it to be anything else.

Gokudera was just eager and honest, and sometimes that translated into acting belligerently – such as when he threatened various teachers when they dared approach him about his inappropriate conduct, or when certain Alpha classmates tried to say something before Gokudera turned furious green eyes on them, shutting them up instantly.

Yamamoto was affable as always, only his customary geniality seemed like a cheap cop-out when compared to the way he interacted with Tsuna. It was as if the greater community outside of Tsuna was only worthy of a shallow imitation of the sheer depths in Yamamoto, while Tsuna got to enjoy an abundance of warmth whenever Yamamoto so much as looked at him.

Tsuna found it all quite humbling. Gokudera was always so open with him, calling out to himregardless of propriety, talking about mafia and family and UMA. (Most of it was incomprehensible to Tsuna, but he enjoyed the way Gokudera's face seemed to light up when he talked.) Yamamoto treated Tsuna as an undisputed equal, grinning brightly whenever Tsuna met his eyes.

Tsuna knew this drastic change in their social power play would affect his class, but he hadn't expected it to be such a spectacle that it eventually shocked the whole school. He really should have known, though; Gokudera and Yamamoto were many things, but 'subtle' wasn't the first thing that came to mind for either of them.

This was how Tsuna found himself in the Principal's office, looking at the Beta man's desk littered with paperwork. Nezu-sensei was standing nearby, arms crossed and displeased expression dominating his face. The Maths teacher was the reason Tsuna was even in here; the man had apparently reported straight to the Principal about whatever it was that had upset him about Tsuna. Of course, it was obvious what Nezu-sensei was upset about.

"I've heard some troubling things recently, Sawada-kun," Principal Itobe started. "And I want you to know that Namichuu is a safe space."

Tsuna, whosetonfa-shaped bruises had only recently healed, valiantly did not snort at the lie.

"If Gokudera-kun or Yamamoto-kun have been pressuring you," Principal Itobe continued. "It would be in your best interest to tell us so we can help you. I know these things can be scary for a young Omega like you-"

Tsuna felt a familiar flare of irritation at the patronizing tone, his pheromones following suit – but this only seemed to confirm the Principal's suspicions. "Sawada-kun, if you are being pressured into doing indecent things, there are ways we can help you!" the older man continued on.

There was a suspicious small shadow just out of sight near the windowsill, and from the pinprick at the back of his neck courtesy of his intuition, Tsuna didn't have to guess who it was. He really does nothing but follow me around all day, Tsuna mused of his demon tutor. Tsuna's eyes moved from the paperwork up to the Principal's necktie. It was an ugly thing, some garish pattern in bold burgundy. Really, the necktie was the most indecent thing Tsuna had beenforced to confront recently.

"There's no issue, Principal Itobe," Tsuna responded quietly. His voice was steady, almost bored-sounding, but Tsuna couldn't quite help that; anything less and they'd probably think he was covering up whatever 'indiscretions' they were imagining.

It said quite a lot about how they viewed the world. A world where an Alpha like Yamamoto and a Beta like Gokudera became friends with an Omega like Tsuna – surely there must be something else! They couldn't just be friends!Of course, there actually was something else behind the scenes, but Tsuna doubted 'mafia business' was the first thing that came to mind for his teachers.

"It's inappropriate," Nezu-sensei spoke up, a sneer dominating his face. "Surely even someone like you understands what it seems like when you have an Alpha hanging all over you."

Tsuna was quiet for a moment. He understood, of course, what Nezu was implying; an Omega should not act so friendly with an Alpha. It gave the impression that the Omega was promiscuous, which was practically a death nail.

Tsuna thought about what that meant for him personally. For one, he didn't much care about what his community thought about him in that regard; they already had a low opinion of him, given his lack of an Alpha surrogate and Beta-only home. Second, whatever effect this had on his chances in Mate prospects in the future, he couldn't even care less about; no Mate was best Mate, in Tsuna's (never to be spoken) opinion.

The only real stickler was how this affected Yamamoto. Tsuna made a mental note to talk to the other boy about it. Tsuna rather liked the other boy's open displays of friendship with him; it cemented a personal bond between them, and Tsuna liked that he could look into Yamamoto's eyes and know he was seeing a friend.

This meant Tsuna didn't want to bring any harm to his friend, either. Tsuna might not care about his reputation, but Yamamoto might care about his own– so Tsuna would have to explain what their association with each other truly meant. Tsuna didn't know what he'd do if Yamamoto took the safe approach and decided to put some distance between them, but... Tsuna would cross that bridge when he got to it.

Gokudera was a different story. It wasn't uncommon for Omegas to befriend Betas; it was the most natural course, given that Omega tended to be kept separate if not related by blood, and any Alpha was seen as a prospective Mate first and foremost. Tsuna definitely thought of Gokudera as a friend, and Gokudera may think that of Tsuna too – but how the silver-haired boy showed this didn't exactly fall under 'normal friends' behavior.

Gokudera was...expressive. And explosive. If he was angry, you knew it; if he was annoyed, you knew it; if he was happy, you knew it. It was honestly rather relieving, because Tsuna never had to guess what the bomber was thinking. Gokudera wore his heart on his sleeve for the whole world to see.

The thing was, this meant Gokudera wasn't at all shy about showing the world what he thought of Tsuna, and to Gokudera – Tsuna was the best. The hero-worship was disconcerting in its own right; Tsuna loved that Gokudera didn't seem to care one whit about Dynamics and threw himself into things full-bodied, but he also knew that he himself was not an object worthy of such extreme adoration.

Tsuna...should probably talk to Gokudera about that too. He didn't know how he'd try to impress upon his new friend that treating him like something just a step below a deity was strange (terrifying), but Tsuna would be better served to bring it up now before Gokudera built him a shrine or something.

"No matter what, you will always be our Boss, Tsuna-nii."

Tsuna winced internally. He knew Gokudera was tied up intimately with the mafia – someone didn't get a name like 'Smoking Bomb' by delivering the neighborhood bulletin, after all – but Tsuna was still having trouble adjusting to the whole mafia heir thing. Even Reborn's constant presence felt more like he was being tutored by a particularly sad*stic demon, rather than being groomed into a mafia don. (If anything, Tsuna felt more like he was being groomed into the next corpse, because Reborn's teaching style was more 'run from the bullets' rather than 'solve for x using this formula'.) Lambo's presence had not exactly helped this.

The cow-printed child wouldn't go home. In fact, all of his belongings had been labelled with the Sawada homeaddress, which meant someone thought Lambo should live with them. And for all her hesitation when it came to Alphas, even small ones, Nana wasn't cruel enough to kick out a child; instead, she'd set up the spare bedroom – previously meant for Reborn, even if he refused to use it – for Lambo.

Lambo was all the chaos of Gokudera in about a quarter of the size. Dinner last night had ended up on the ceiling courtesy of a grenade Lambo had thrown onto the table, and Reborn's subsequent rampage at the ruined meal had left Tsuna with the responsibility of coaxing the Bovino child out from under the kitchen sink.

Lambo had yet to use the 10 Year Bazooka, which was a bit of a letdown because Tsuna wanted to know what the child's older counterpart had meant with his parting words. It nagged at Tsuna in his downtime, when only the darkened ceiling of his bedroom and Reborn's quiet breathing were his company.

"-awada-kun. Sawada-kun!"

Tsuna blinked. Had Nezu still been talking? Oh well, there was a reason Tsuna never listened to his class lectures.

"I'm sorry, sensei, I didn't quite catch that," Tsuna spoke up, voice low. It sounded timid to most people, with the exception of those who actually knew him.

Nezu-sensei snorted. "I see you're as air-headed as ever. I said, it would be best if you didn't have any further contact with Gokudera or Yamamoto. It's not good for any of you. Don't you have any sense of decency?"

The flame wrapped around his heart surged, racing along Tsuna's veins. Tsuna didn't let it push him, though; he refused to let it out no matter how righteously infuriated he felt at his teacher's words. Tsuna took a calming breath, then another, and then one more – he needed to regain himself. He couldn't just beat down his own teachers, after all.

"We're friends," Tsuna explained, his tone almost detached. The Principal sat a little straighter, obviously taken aback; no one had expected Tsuna to give a counter argument. "I don't remember ever hearing that having friends is a bad thing, sensei, so I don't know why this is an issue."

Feigning ignorance pushed the conversation in two possible directions. Tsuna knew what they were getting at but unless he made it explicit that he didn't understand any of the implications, they wouldn't voice their reasoning aloud. Hearing their justification for trying to separate him from his friendswas more for their benefit than Tsuna's; hopefully, hearing their own lame excuses would be enough to wake them up to the fact that they really had no leg to stand on.

Sometimes, though, Tsuna gave people too much the benefit of the doubt.

"An Omega doesn't need friends," Nezu-sensei said tartly. "Give yourself a few years, Sawada, and with any luck you'll have a Mate and a belly full of babies."

For one blindingly horrible moment, all Tsuna saw was orange as the flames in his blood raged and the phantom feeling of bandages wrapped around his throat surged to the forefront of his mind. His chair screeched as Tsuna jerked to his feet, lips twisted into a snarl. Tsuna noted both Beta males had wide eyes now, openly gaping at his reaction; the suspicious black shadow by the window had actually come inside, Reborn's tiny form and stoic expression not enough to halt Tsuna's movements.

The Principal's office door flying off its hinges and smashing into Nezu-sensei was, though.

Tsuna paused, the small office suddenly awash with the scent of blood and tea. Killing intent smothered the room's occupants a second later, just as the tall, dark figure that often sent Namimori citizens into gibbering fits of fear swooped into the office.

"H-H-Hibari-kun-" Principal Itobe choked out, eyes comically wide and so pale, his pallor was more reminiscent of paper rather than skin.

Hibari didn't even look at the man, eyes on Tsuna. The Omega teen stood at attention, posture tense and amber eyes burning. The prefect's lips twitched up in the beginnings of a smirk, tonfas seemingly materializing in his hands.

At the same time, Reborn's Leon-mallet came careening forward and smashed into the back of Tsuna's head, knocking the slight boy over. Tsuna scrambled back up onto his feet, one hand to the back of his head, the flames simmering in his veins no longer threatening to explode as intenselyas before.

Hibari eyed him for a long moment, but then apparently disappointed, his tonfas folded back into their harnesses and the Disciplinary Head turned scathing steel eyes on a terrified principal. "There is a mistake in your hiring policies, herbivore" Hibari bit out coldly to the older man, pulling out a manila folder from the folds of his uniform. (Tsuna wondered where Hibari kept anything on his person. Was Hibari so frightening that even the laws of physics wouldn't dare impede him?)

Principal Itobe stammered incoherently but shut up whenHibari's eyes narrowed in annoyance. The prefect slammed the folder down onto the desk, some of the papers falling out and across the surface.

Tsuna eyed them in muted interest. Most appeared to be exam papers and essays, all with failing marks equal or even worse than Tsuna's average scores. The most surprising thing was that Tsuna recognized the name on all the papers.

Nezu Douhachirou. Tsuna glanced to the floor, where Nezu-sensei had passed out from Hibari's violent entrance.

"Submission of a fraudulent education background is against Namimori Junior High's School Codes," Hibari stated. The prefect turned his eyes to Tsuna, not quite a glare but definitely threatening; he just wouldn't be Hibari without his very presence being registered as a hostile force. "Your presence is no longer required in this office, little animal. You are to leave school grounds if you have no afterschool activities."

Tsuna did not need to be told twice, pivoting and dashing through the gaping doorway and out of the office. Just as Tsuna made it a few steps down the corridor, he paused as conversation resumed once more in the office he'd fled.

"...Sawada Tsunayoshi's transgressions fall under the umbrella of the Disciplinary Committee. You are not to contact him with the intention of correcting his behavior again," came Hibari's words, as warm as sleeting ice.

Tsuna continued down the hallway, fighting back a shudder. The ghost feeling of bandages wrapped around his throat faded once more into the back of his mind.

Reborn hesitated over the blank sheet of paper, tiny body stilled on the desk, half-listening to Tsuna's steady breathing in the bed next to him. It was well past midnight now, only the moonlight that could be barely glimpsed through the curtains and the lamplight illuminating Reborn's start of a letter to the Nono.

There were many ways for this letter to go. The first was the unadulterated truth, which the Nono expected from him regardless. When it came to grooming Sawada Tsunayoshi into a capable breeder for the next generation of the Vongola, Nono had believed no one but Reborn could be trusted with such a task. It would be dishonorable for Reborn to be anything less than honest with the man who had implicitly entrusted him with the next generation of the greatest mafia family.

Plainly stating 'Sawada Tsunayoshi would sooner grind any prospective suitors into the dirt than entertain a courtship' wasn't what Reborn wanted to tell Timoteo though.

The Vongola were desperate for heirs. Timoteo's bloodline was for all intents and purposes, lost; with the death of his three eldest sons and Xanxus no longer in the running, this left them a vacuum for which there were only two outcomes: either a civilian but blood heir ascend to the mantle of power, or the Family would dissolve into a vicious fight for control among the remaining Alphas after Timoteo finally passed away.

Tsuna was the Vongola's last hope. Of the many issues this presented, the most concerning was that the Vongola's hope for Sawada Tsunayoshi could not be more unsuitable for him.

Sawada Tsunayoshi was unwilling to submit.

Reborn understood what that meant and could already see how this would play out. If Tsuna refused to willingly submit to an Alpha's dominance, then eventually – he would be forced to submit. Among the young Alphas Tsuna surrounded himself with, such as his classmates, Tsuna could reject their attempts at domination without much repercussion or issue.

But these were children before Presentation; once they'd finally Presented, finally come fully into themselves as Alphas and Betas and Omegas things would change. That became a whole other ball field, one which would not end well for Tsuna. Especially in the cut-throat world of the mafia, eventually an Alpha would come along that was strong enough to force Tsuna into submission.

That was just the way of their world. Reborn had seen too much of it to expect anything different.

Reborn would stick around just long enough to comb through prospective mates, ones that he felt wouldn't grind such a vibrant soul as Tsuna's into dust. Hibari Kyouya was first among Reborn's considerations; a strong Alpha candidate who already demonstrated excellent leadership skills and frankly amazing battle prowess. He also seemed to understand Tsuna's unique disposition when it came to latent dynamic issues, which was both a plus and minus. Rather than trying to reassert his dominance, as Alphas were supposed to do, especially for traumatized Omega like Tsuna, Hibari just...left Tsuna to it.

Reborn was still trying to puzzle out if this was some kind of Hibari courtship method, where he sniffed out possible Mates for himself based on how violent they could be. Tsuna, at the very least, had piquedHibari's interest in that arena.

Gokudera Hayato had been called over simply to buff up protection for Reborn's student. The Beta would never be considered a possible Mate for Tsuna, but Reborn knew Bianchi's brother was desperate for acknowledgment and a gifted assassin in his own right. Reborn could use him as a bodyguard forthe troublesome Omega while scoping out other possible candidates.

The second consideration had been Yamamoto Takeshi. The boy's prodigal reflexes and natural skill as an assassin would be enough to interest any mafia, and Reborn knew that with some training, Yamamoto could easily become one of the most feared men in the world. His charisma and genuine amiable personality could win over Tsuna, especially with enough time, which was what Reborn had been banking on when he'd pushed Tsuna into further establishing a connection with the baseball club's star member.

Reborn had known about Yamamoto's depression as a result of his slump in his baseball, and he'd even foreseen the Alpha boy's attempt at leaping from the school roof – which was why Reborn had been in the perfect position to make sure Tsuna saved him. Reborn had expected the experience to change some of Tsuna's views on Alphas; Yamamoto's apparent weakness would be enough to soften some of Tsuna's hardline thoughts about his dynamic's counterparts.

This had worked, as Reborn had expected; what he hadn't expected was the Yamamoto end of the equation. Yamamoto Takeshi was supposed to laugh off his own suicide attempt and possibly lament his own silliness in doing so, and befriend Tsuna in the process. Hopefully through sheer exposure, Yamamoto would be able to whittle away at the many guards Tsuna put up when it came to Alphas, which would subsequently make Yamamoto one of the best candidates to mate with Reborn's wayward student.

Yamamoto had dashed all of Reborn's careful planning into the dirt with the same damn smile he wore when cheerfully telling Tsuna that the Omega could dominate him. That was not what Reborn had wanted or expected out of Tsuna's rescue attempt of the Alpha, but now Reborn had another strange Namimori-born Alpha that was willing to let Tsuna do just about anything he damn well wanted. All of Reborn's careful research had come to naught.

Yamamoto Keiko had died in a gas accident. Reborn had seen all the reports, read the obituary, hell – he'd even visited the grave. Reborn had researched Yamamoto Takeshi thoroughly prior to his attempts at pushing him and Tsuna together; Reborn had anticipated that Yamamoto would fall easily for an Omega, as was common for Alphas from Alpha-Omega homes.

But Yamamoto Keiko had not died in a gas accident, despite what Hibari Sasako had filed in the follow-up reports. On the rooftop that night, Yamamoto Keiko's son had wondered aloud that if his mother could have fought like Tsuna, would she have lived– implying thatshe had not fallen prey to a mere unfortunate accident, but that she'd been targeted and murdered.

Reborn knew of Yamamoto Tsuyoshi. A former swordsman, a master assassin that the Varia had once scoped before turning their attention elsewhere. Tsuyoshi had been retired for a good, long while, but that didn't mean he had no shortage of enemies. It was only expected someone would come for his blood someday, and his wife and child would have been easy targets. It just turned out Yamamoto Keiko had been a target. So why did her obituary claim differently?

Hibari Sasako had filed her death as an accident.

Hibari Sasako had investigated the assault of Sawada Tsunayoshi, leaving the case cold.

Hibari Sasako had died on the job, taking her secrets with her.

Reborn's attempts at gathering information about the late Hibari Sasako had yielded nothing. She had become a police detective soon after graduation, ruling over Namimori for a short but peaceful time. For the most part, her track record with cases was fantastic; she'd solved her cases with a near-perfect rate with only one glaring exception.

The assault of Sawada Tsunayoshi was seven years ago. In the weeks after the incident, Hibari Sasako had painstakingly listed out the finer details of the case: times, locations, weather, and a multitude of pictures of where she suspected the assault to have taken place. The file itself showed her to be someone of impeccable detail, and after perusing former cases of hers, Reborn knew she had a sharp mind and trustworthy instincts.

So it didn't make sense for the Sawada file to have nothing more than that.

It was as if Hibari Sasako just forgot the case entirely after only a few weeks of investigation. Reborn knew it was common for cases to fall to the wayside, declared 'cold' after only a short time, but Namimori did not have a high enough crime rate to justify the inattention and Hibari Sasako hounded her cases like vengeance given physical form.

And yet, she'd allowed Sawada Tsunayoshi's case to fade into the obscure?

This uncharacteristic actiondredged up another feeling of discomfort for Reborn, an idea he'd only vaguely entertainedgiven his first interactions with Tsuna.

Would Sawada Iemitsu, the famed Young Lion of the Vongola, really allow his own child's assault to remain unresolved like this?

Reborn knew the answer to that, but that didn't mean he really understood.

Iemitsu had warned Reborn to be 'gentle' because Tsuna was 'sensitive'. Hibari Sasako had stopped investigating the assault, which would haveseemed uncharacteristic of the esteemed detective until Reborn discoveredshe'd had no problem in forging documentsto cover up Yamamoto Keiko's murder. This meant Hibari Sasako would do damn well anything so long as it resulted in effectively maintaining her 'herd'.

Of course Sawada Iemitsu wouldneverallow his child's assault to go unresolved. Of course Hibari Sasako would neverallow a case of hers to go unsolved.

Sawada Tsunayoshi's medical reports were missing.

Reborn turned off the light, allowing the room to descend once more into darkness and leaving his letter to Nono empty once more. He climbed silently into his hammock, turning over but dark eyes open to regard the small form curled into the nest of orange and cream-colored cotton blankets.

Amber eyes stared back at him, before sliding shut and back into the realm of feigned sleep.

Just what was Namimori hiding?

End Chapter 8

A/N: They're going to get you eventually, Hana. No one escapes the mad descent into 10th-Gen insanity.

Decided to skip the whole 'Expel Crisis' since, in this 'verse, Nezu isn't going to try and expel Tsuna. (That is bullying, and you just can't bully a poor, frail Omega, you know?) How Hibari got a hold of Nezu's documents will be explained next chapter.

Notes on Hibari Sasako:

-Her death is left intentionally vague. She's dead for Reasons.

-Oh, but Yamamoto's mom's death and Tsuna's assault are unrelated, save for their connection via Hibari Sasako. Sasako forging the documents is just meant to show the crack in her reputation as a no-nonsense detective. Reborn finally clued in that Hibari Sasako is capable of hiding things, which means a lot where Tsuna is concerned. ;)

Thank you again for all your comments and kudos! It really helps fuel the creative process!

Please be kind and leavea comment! :)

Chapter 9: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 9

Summary:

Everyone is just trying to survive. It’s a lot harder than you think.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thank you so much for your comments and kudos!

Chapter 9


Tsch.

Tsch.

Hayato's eyes lingered on the scattered papers before once again drawing back to his fingers. His fingernails were clean and trimmed, his calloused grip the only indication of their violent nature. He had large hands, he thought; long-fingered and slender, pianist hands through and through. It was funny that he handled dynamite more than piano keys.

Tsch.

Funny in the way that most things in Hayato's life were funny, in that it wasn't at all.

Tsch.

Hayato paused in his ministrations, letting green eyes fall on the paper plane he held in his pianist (murderer) hands. For just a moment, he allowed the world in: the smell of smoke and blood in his apartment, the cold feel of the tile floor beneath him, the light caress of the breeze coming through his open window. His neighbor the floor below him was yelling; Hayato had never seen him, but heard enough from the arguments through the floorboards to glean that the couple suffered from an issue of infidelity.

With a flick of the wrist, Hayato sent his paper plane sailing. It hit the wall with a light tsch!, falling to the ground to join it's many comrades. Hayato would burn them all later; he'd already uploaded digital copies to his computer files. It was far easier to store them digitally rather than physically, especially these days.

But for now, he'd let out some of his built-up stress by playing around uselessly. Hayato didn't claim to have any hobbies, aside from UMA-hunting; but origami helped train dexterity, and one day he'd be able to get that paper plane trick down with enough practice.

Tsch.

Hayato could accomplish anything, with enough practice. He'd just have to train more.

Tsch.

Even though he was a kid, Hayato knew he couldn't slack off. Not now that he'd finally found someone worth following. The very thought of his new boss sent a warm trill down to his very bones, slackening his grip on his next paper plane. The edges he'd been about to fold fell back to reveal the contents.

Nezu Douhachirou's personal documents stared up at Hayato's ceiling. If Hayato's chosen boss had been anyone but Sawada Tsunayoshi, it would have been Nezu's corpse doing the same.

Fortunately for the former teacher, Hayato had followed Tsuna's example and did not try to eliminate threats in solely violent ways. Which was why Hayato had researched the man that had tried to separate him from the Vongola's heir, uncovering Nezu's deceptions and then passing the information along to the one authority in Namimori no one could fight.

Hayato folded the edges back down.

Of course Hayato understood. Sawada Tsunayoshi is an Omega.

Tsch. Hayato had thrown the paper plane; it fell amongst the others. Many of the documents were about Nezu Douhachirou, but not all; some other individuals had made the list.

Tsch. Not all the individuals Hayato had investigated were as overtly-corrupt as the Maths teacher had been. Some were actually considered upstanding members of society. Hayato had had to work a little harder on those.

Tsch. So where there were no chinks in the armor, Hayato had made them. Having been made to do grunt work since he was young paid off here; nothing was easier than forging documents. Not all the lies Hayato had made reality were punishable by law, but socially – socially, he could crush just about anyone.

Tsch. Photoshopping pictures to show illicit affairs, rumors spread about possible theft, identity fraud, false debt collection – with enough variation and time, Hayato could eliminate the perceived threats in Namimori.

Sawada Tsunayoshi is an Omega. The Vongola would never allow someone they believed weak to lead. The Secondo had staged a coup against the Primo for perceived weakness, after all. Outside of Reborn, Hayato was the only mafioso to have contact with Sawada Tsunayoshi. He was the only mafioso period to have fought the Omega male – and what better way was there to truly get to know someone?

Tsuna had saved him. Tsuna had fought him, had saw exactly what Hayato was, knew exactly what Hayato could do, had experienced what Hayato would do – and he'd still rushed forward to save him. Tsuna had forgiven him for his arrogance, for his violence. It was sincerity. It was kindness.

It was weakness.

Hayato understood. Omega were less than second-class citizens, more alike to property than people. The Vongola only saw Sawada Tsunayoshi as a means to an end. What use could the Vongola have for an Omega that spared those that tried to do them harm? Vongola bosses were not weak, naïve Omega that spared those that attacked them.

Hayato knew what Reborn expected of him, as a Beta. Hayato knew what Reborn was looking for, when he'd involved the Alpha Yamamoto Takeshi. Hayato knew what the Vongola expected of the Omega Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Hayato knew and understood all of what Vongola intended. And as long as the world remained as is, it would happen just as Reborn and the Vongola Ninth planned. As a member of the strongest mafia famiglia in the world, all Hayato had to do was play his part.

Tsch. The paper planes composed of various school faculty members' and local government officers' private files lay scattered about Hayato's floor. Hayato knew, after all, that change must always begin at home; Namimori was home now, and so it would have to start there.

Because for Hayato, loyalty had to be earned – and once earned, it was everything.

And Sawada Tsunayoshi had earned his loyalty first.

Breakfast was starting to become quite crowded at the Sawada home.

Tsuna knew why Gokudera came, of course – the silver-haired boy had been personally invited to come eat meals at the Sawada residence, given his poor diet choices. Gokudera seemed to subsist mostly on instant noodles and take-out, to the concern of Tsuna's mother, so she preferred the Beta boy came over to eat.

Reborn was a live-in tutor, and free board and meals were part of his payment. Tsuna didn't mind the hitman's presence too much during this time, and nowadays, Nana wasn't quite so tense around Tsuna's tutor; she'd even started providing snacks and stocked Reborn's favorite coffee.

Yamamoto wasn't over quite as consistently as Gokudera, as he tended to go straight to school on the mornings he had early baseball practice or when he decided to eat breakfast with his father. He still came over often enough that Nana no longer showed any surprise when he turned up, although Tsuna was guaranteed a clamorous breakfast once Gokudera caught sight of the baseball player.

Lambo was the newest addition, and the only people he seemed to like were Tsuna and his mother. Tsuna had easily won the child over with candy, which Tsuna had given him generously in bids to keep the child quiet as he studied or struggled to survive Reborn's training. This didn't mean Lambo was docile in the least, and could be counted on to destroy at least one piece of furniture a day. Tsuna was becoming distressingly desensitized to explosions.

Thus, a morning as quiet as this one was rare. Yamamoto had messaged saying he had baseball practice and wouldn't be making it to breakfast – why the boy even bothered to report to Tsuna in the first place was a mystery – and so only Gokudera was on his way, although through the rote of experience Tsuna knew it'd take the dynamite-wielding boy another 15 minutes to get to Tsuna's home.

So Tsuna got to enjoy entering the kitchen only to Lambo's rapid gunfire, just before Reborn pitched the child out the window. Tsuna paused briefly to make sure Lambo survived the landing, then took his customary seat at the table and greeted his mother with a smile.

"If you go to school with bed-hair, Hibari will kill you," was Reborn's morning greeting.

Tsuna shot up, disgruntled expression in place. "Why would Hibari-san care about the state of my hair? The Disciplinary Committee only checks uniforms!" Tsuna shot back, but nevertheless retreated to the bathroom to comb fingers through his unruly fringe.

Only once Tsuna was reasonably sure Hibari didn't have grounds to bite him to death for any number of reasons did Tsuna leave the bathroom, just as the doorbell rang. Tsuna was rather relieved; if Gokudera was here, he tended to be too distracting that Tsuna didn't have to field Reborn's offhand insults.

Tsuna opened the door with a smile.

"Italian Pizza Delivery~!" the Beta woman on the other side greeted.

Tsuna's Intuition flared to life at the look in those drooping green eyes, long strands of blossom-pink hair kept out of the way by a white visor. He took an instinctive step back, words fumbling out of his mouth in a shameful high squeak. "W-Wrong house," he managed out.

"It's a delivery of Clam Pizza!" the woman stated, sultry smile in place.

Tsuna wanted to know if she really thought this disguise would work. "It's 7 in the morning," Tsuna choked out. "And what pizza place allows their delivery person to wear miniskirts and expose their tattoos?!"

"So you found me out, Vongola Tenth," the woman mused, although her smile never dropped. She stepped further into the house, manicured nails on the edge of the lid of the pizza box. "You're not half-bad."

Were you even trying?! Tsuna wondered.

To Tsuna's mounting horror, the Beta girl whipped out a gas mask and put it on. "Enjoy!" came out muffled from beneath it, and then she opened the pizza box.

Tsuna was struck by overwhelming nausea.

This lasted all of five seconds, just as a bright purple grenade landed atop the glowing foodstuff held in the girl's hands and exploded it into a miniature hail of fire. Tsuna pulled enough of his senses back to stumble away, toppling into the kitchen to curious glances from the two occupants.

Tsuna wondered what it meant of his life, for his mother to not do much more than blink at him and smile – as if her child crawling into the kitchen was an everyday occurrence. Wait, it is, Tsuna thought, idly crushing the burning tips of his hair that had been caught in the fire between two fingers.

"That reminds me," Reborn started. "Bianchi is in town."

"And what the hell does that mean?!" Tsuna replied in a harried tone, picking himself up from the floor. Lambo came flying in from the kitchen door at this moment with a high-pitched scream, fat tears and snot running down his face. Tsuna caught the cow-child full in the face, knocked once more to the ground as the pink-haired girl entered the room.

"Reborn!" she squealed, pulling off her face mask to reveal a besotted expression. Tsuna picked Lambo off him, not bothering to pull the crying child off his lap so that he could eye the unfolding scene in curiosity.

"Everyone that tries to kill me knows you," Tsuna grumbled, shooting Reborn a scathing look. The hitman sipped his espresso without a twitch.

"Ciaossu, Bianchi," Reborn said, beady eyes on the girl as her own green irises welled up in tears.

"Oh, Reborn-chan's friend has come to visit? How nice!" Nana laughed cheerily. Tsuna envied her oblivious nature and adaptable composure.

"Reborn," Bianchi started, moving closer as a blush dusted her cheeks. "Just as I thought – this life really doesn't suit you. It's too peaceful... You belong to a world of darkness and blood!"

Tsuna tuned out immediately as the girl went on about whatever bloody misadventures she'd shared with the baby hitman, with the same tone a sane person would use to describe a romantic date. Of course Reborn would have some crazy assassin girlfriend; Tsuna just hadn't expected a chemical attack. And what kind of assassin posed as a pizza deliveryman, of all things?

"...I see! You can't come back because of him," Bianchi's exclamation brought Tsuna back. The pink-haired girl was glaring down at him. "Unless the Vongola Tenth dies, Reborn won't be free!"

Tsuna stared at her. "...you can have him," Tsuna offered, motioning to his tutor. Reborn shot at his feet without looking away from his drink.

"Reborn, when he's dead," Bianchi declared, wiping away her tears. "I'll come back for you!"

Bianchi disappeared out the door, only the smoking remnants of her previous assassination plot and a silent kitchen left in her wake. A generous pause later as the past few moments' events sunk in, and then Tsuna slowly turned accusing eyes onto Reborn.

Reborn met his gaze boredly. "You're going to be late, dame-Tsuna," he stated.

Tsuna shrieked as he finally realized the time, pelting out of the kitchen and up the stairs to grab his things. Nana had finished boxing up the boy's lunch, along with two extra bentou boxes; after she'd discovered Yamamoto's father had been packing additional food for Tsuna and Gokudera, she thought she should do the same. This meant that lunchtime for the three boys consisted of either a Yamamoto Tsuyoshi sushi meal or Sawada Nana homemade meal.

Reborn watched the humming matriarch of the Sawada home in consideration. "Mama," he began after a moment. Nana turned around to smile at him, a silent cue to continue. "You must be tired from doing so much housework. Why doesn't Tsuna help you cook?"

Nana eyed him, then burst into giggles.

"Reborn-chan," she managed out between laughs. "Tsu-kun can't cook!"

Tending to the home was an Omega's duty. This included menial house chores, such as cleaning and doing the laundry, as well as cooking; their Mate was the breadwinner, which left the Omega to keep the home tidy and cook the meals. In couples that did not have an Omega partner, it was acceptable for the Beta to assume the role of homemaker, and generally this fell to female Betas over male Betas.

Schools took this to heart, and it shown no more clearly than in Home Economics. For Namimori Junior High, Home Ec was an elective course; students could either attend Home Ec or Art/Music Appreciation. Alphas and Beta males were generally pushed into the latter category; Omega and Beta females into the former. Although the electives were presented as a choice, students had to be granted acceptance by the teachers leading the class, which filtered them out appropriately.

This was how Tsuna found himself in Home Ec, despite having no ability to cook or desire to learn. He'd much rather be in Art/Music Appreciation; apparently, they spent most of the time listening to random snippets of music and goofing around. Tsuna spent most of Home Ec watching his more competent peers cook or wasting ingredients in his attempts at doing the same.

Asai-sensei, the Beta teacher of Home Ec, had already given up on Tsuna months ago and now just pretended not to see him in class. In the event he was grouped up with others, his groupmates did most of the work. When it came down to individual work, Tsuna either failed horribly or failed not-too-horribly.

Even then, Tsuna understood the general principle of it all. He may abhor the reasoning behind his school putting him in Home Ec, but even he realized that cooking should be considered a basic survival skill. He couldn't live off instant noodles and takeout for the rest of his life. This was why he tried not to step on any toes in class and even made attempts at cooking.

Reborn, as he always did, had to mess everything up.

"At the suggestion of the genius Reboyama-sensei," Asai-sensei fairly gushed at the front of the class, producing a picture of said genius which was really just Reborn with a fake moustache and chef's hat. "Today we'll be making onigiri!"

They were supposed to be learning about different traditional Western dishes today. Why had they suddenly gone to onigiri? Tsuna eyed his tutor, dressed – of all things - as a large wooden spoon.

"A mafia boss should be able to make something as easy as onigiri," Reborn stated.

Tsuna glared down at him. "How are onigiri related in any way to being a mafia boss?" he hissed back.

Reborn launched himself at Tsuna's face, the wooden face of his spoon costume practically pistol whipping Tsuna across the head. Everyone in class pretended not to notice the Omega collapse to the ground with a small shriek, clearly well-trained in the art of avoidance after a week and a half of pretending not to notice how Tsuna affected the likes of Gokudera and Yamamoto.

Asai-sensei's expression dropped a bit, before a flash of terror came across her face and she resolutely continued her instructions. All the teachers in Namimori Junior High had been appraised of the 'Sawada situation', as it was being referred to; namely, they were told to ignore any strangeness about the previously docile Omega boy. Any issues with his behavior were never to be addressed, and if they as teachers had any problem with that – they could take their concerns to the head of the Disciplinary Committee himself.

Naturally, no one had any such suicidal inclinations and instead vowed to pretend everything was normal. This included Asai-sensei pretending not to notice Sawada arguing with a wooden spoon.

Nana hummed as she carried the overly-filled laundry basket down the hall, having finished folding another load of clothes. It was her own clothes this time, now smelling vaguely of the lavender-scented detergent she used for the wash. She found the smell calming, and the false scent of it tended to soothe Tsuna because then it became harder to detect his own and – now – even Reborn's or Lambo's scents.

Her home was livelier lately. It was the type of environment she'd yearned for, once upon a time – when she'd wanted a big family, wanted possibly a dozen kids she could love and raise and nurture. Reality had changed such dreams, and Nana had buried such notions years ago as she watched her child almost die on a cold hospital bed.

But now here she was, making food for four children and the number only continued to grow. Lambo was a delight; all the energy and wild imagination of a child, with a gung-ho attitude that produced interesting reactions in Tsuna. Her lovely son had always been on the quieter side, beaten down by one aspect of society or another, but only Lambo had been able to pull out such a look of fond exasperation on Tsuna's face. Nana intended to spoil the cow-print child sweet for that reason alone.

Yamamoto and Gokudera were another two mouths to feed. While neither lived in the Sawada home, they were over often enough to become common fixtures. Nana was not stupid nor blind, which she'd have to be not to see how the two absolutely adored her son. Gokudera may look like a teenage gangster, but his manners were extremely polite and his eagerness reminded her of a really adorable puppy. Yamamoto had been a spot of concern for her – an Alpha boy, of all people, trailing after Tsuna! But the athletic teen was polite and always smiling, and he never made any overtures that Tsuna found uncomfortable.

And it was Tsuna's response to these new additions that Nana watched most closely. Tsuna, who complained when Lambo got too noisy but played with him whenever he was free; Tsuna, who shuffled awkwardly as Gokudera degenerated into university-level science ramblings but made sure he ate a proper breakfast, lunch, and dinner; Tsuna, who chastised Yamamoto when he tried to start a game of catch with a still not quite healed arm but offered to cheer for him at his next school game.

Tsuna, who watched Reborn's every move with caution but allowed himself to be taught.

Reborn was an Alpha, Nana knew – and he was also not a child. There were many things in this world Nana could not understand, and in her daily life, knew better than to dwell on them. Reborn happened to be one of those things. She may never know the full story behind the baby in the suit who had come to tutor her child.

But that did not mean she could not theorize.

She knew it was unlikely to ever be confirmed, and that was okay. Being married to Iemitsu had taught Nana many things, and among those hard life lessons was that she may never have all the answers. Iemitsu used to tell her that she could have her suspicions, but that she should keep them close to herself until they were inarguably confirmed.

Nana understood the reasoning. Suspicions and assumptions made up quite a bit of her life, and confirmations very little. It's why she could always give Reborn an airy smile even as she carefully observed the developing relationship between her son and his tutor.

Nana entered her bedroom, not surprised to find Lambo rummaging through her things. The little Alpha child was a bit of an airhead, misplacing his various explosive toys here and there. Nana didn't mind, setting the laundry basket down on her bed.

"What are you looking for, Lambo-chan?" she asked.

The boy turned a sulking expression her way, and Nana valiantly contained a giggle. Children were adorable. "The Great Lambo cannot find his grenade launcher," he reported to her. "I bet that evil mastermind Reborn hid it, fearing my wrath!"

Nana nodded good-naturedly. "I'll keep an eye out for it," she promised the boy.

Leaving the room and Lambo to his own devices, Nana went back downstairs. Lambo's toys were always brightly colored so she wasn't sure how he'd managed to lose them, but Reborn did often send the poor child flying – often crashing into neighboring homes and yards. The Sakaki housewife had stormed into Nana's yard just a few days ago, carrying Lambo by his collar and practically shoving him into Tsuna's face while loudly reprimanding him for his lax watch of the child.

The scene had been especially interesting to Nana: Lambo, who had been crying loudly at the rough treatment; Tsuna, who had registered Sakaki's actions with a faint frown; Gokudera, who had picked up on the Omega's irritation and glared at the middle-aged woman, lit cigarette between his lips and a stick of dynamite in his hand.

Sakaki had quickly backed off with stuttering apologies, fleeing without a backwards glance. Nana now had to leave the neighborhood bulletin on the woman's gate as she dashed into her house and locked the door when any of the Sawada household meandered past.

Nana courteously pretended not to be amused by it. Sakaki used to rail the hardest against her about Nana's refusal to find Tsuna an Alpha surrogate, once causing a scene at a nearby grocery store. Nana had kept then 11-year-old Tsuna behind her at the time, mostly shielding him from view as their neighbor lectured her about proper Omega rearing.

Oh, Nana was reminded, entering the kitchen and spotting the calendar tacked onto the wall. Tsu-kun's doctor's appointment is soon. She'd have to prep the home, and occupy Lambo and Reborn so that Tsuna could have his privacy. It was nice having the doctor come see them rather than the other way around, but now with more people in the home, Tsuna may be more stressed.

"Mama! Mama!" Lambo's piping voice called out excitedly, and Nana could hear thumping, tiny footsteps quickly making their way down the stairs. She couldn't help a smile; Lambo's natural exuberance was just so endearing. "The Great Lambo has made a huge discovery!"

"Oh, did you find your grenade launcher?" Nana asked, just as the child sprinted into the kitchen. Her eyes caught on what he held between his small hands, heart momentarily stopping.

Honestly, her children were going to be the death of her. Nothing but a constant parade of shocks.

"A treasure box," Lambo snickered, holding up the shiny metal box. It was plain, closer in size to a small gift box, firmly shut and locked with a miniature coded padlock. There was nothing distinctly remarkable about it, and the padlock was the kind that could be easily removed with enough time and effort.

That was fine, though. Nana hadn't needed an impossible lock, just a guarantee that the box wouldn't open because she had accidentally dropped it.

"Lambo-chan," Nana started gently, moving forward to pull the box from Lambo's hands. "This is Mama's treasure. I'm afraid you can't keep it."

Lambo's bottom lip wobbled dangerously, pretty green eyes filling with tears. "But the great Lambo found it," he said, although all his fight had left him. This was the effect she had on children, Nana suspected; she was the Mama, and her word was law within her home. Even the rambunctious Lambo understood that.

"You did, and I'm very impressed," Nana said, still smiling. It was impressive; she'd kept the box under the floorboards of her bedroom near her bedside, just as Iemitsu had taught her. She hadn't asked him why he had taught her such a trick, in just the same way she never peered at what he kept hidden under the floorboards near his side of the bed.

Marriage was all about compromise.

"Mama's treasure is a secret, Lambo-chan," Nana continued, crouching down to be more level with the child. Her smile turned conspiratorial, her words playful. "Now it's a secret between you and me."

Lambo blinked wide, innocent eyes at her. "Our secret?" he echoed.

"That's right!" Nana giggled. "And because Lambo-chan is such a good boy, I know he will definitely keep this secret and not tell anyone!"

Lambo nodded a bit hesitantly, evidently still put out he would not get the 'treasure'. Nana's smile was blinding – children really were adorable.

"But you know what, Lambo-chan?" Nana said, rising back to full height. "I have an even better treasure."

Lambo's eyes flicked from her smiling face, to the box, then back to her face. His expression was curious and eager, as she'd hoped.

"I've hidden it in Lambo-chan's favorite place," Nana winked. "Mama thinks you deserve it, so she bought you a whooooole lot!"

Lambo's face lit up, and he pivoted to go dashing back out of the kitchen with a cheery squeal. Nana made a mental note to clean up in Tsuna's room – Lambo's favorite place – once the boy found the stash of grape candy her son kept hidden in his desk drawer.

Nana turned the metal box over in her hand, the light thunking sound of the object inside barely audible in an otherwise quiet kitchen. Lambo was now safely distracted upstairs, and both her son and his tutor were out – at Tsuna's school, she suspected of the latter. She had time to herself for now.

She hadn't seen the metal box in years.

She'd thought about it every single day.

Reborn was not amused.

"Well," Tsuna hedged out hesitantly, chagrined smile affixed firmly to his face. "This is definitely one of my better attempts. It's even the right color this time!"

"It's grey," Reborn retorted, voice alarmingly droll.

Tsuna's onigiri was held between them; three mostly-rounded shapes of rice, seaweed partially disintegrated into the grossly moist grain. Tsuna's best guess was that he'd cooked the rice too soft, resulting more in porridge-quality grain rather than the appropriate stickiness needed for onigiri. Even though he'd opted for shredded salmon for the filling, some of the fish could be seen every time the shape of the onigiri began to fall apart.

Tsuna had no idea why the rice was grey. Maybe he shouldn't have tried adding sauce? Then he'd started adding salt and sugar in an attempt to balance it out, but now there was this strange grainy quality to the onigiri…

"Come on," Kaneda called out from the front of the class. "The guys are really excited for this!"

It was common for the goods produced in Home Ec to be given to their classmates in Art/Music Appreciation. Given that all of Tsuna's attempts at cooking never actually produced solid results, this would be the first time he'd actually be able to present something.

this will definitely kill someone, Tsuna thought, taking his plate of onigiri and looking down at it in consideration.

"Dame-Tsuna," Reborn intoned, and Tsuna's intuition rang the warning bells. "Your new assignment is to get someone to eat your onigiri."

Tsuna eyed him in horror. "Reborn, they'll die!" he screeched.

Reborn's flat gaze was that of sad*stic expectation.

Tsuna could not hope to argue his point, ushered out by his classmates and back to their original classroom. Most of them avoided looking at him and his creation, but Tsuna could not fault them for that; it was actually kind of eerie that his onigiri didn't have a smell.

Thus it was a shock when the visible gap between himself and his peers was breached. Sasagawa Kyoko, holding her own perfectly-made onigiri, was smiling at him brightly. "Oh, yours looks so interesting, Sawada-kun!" she greeted, looking at his onigiri with excitement.

Sasagawa Kyoko was pure, unadulterated sunshine. As a Beta, she didn't have a scent, but her aura was soothing and her every smile was like a bright, sunny day. It was no surprise to any who saw her that she was universally popular in their school. Tsuna never really interacted with her directly, nothing more than morning greetings in the classroom. She was genuinely nice and very pretty, but Tsuna had never entertained the idea of getting to know his classmates.

This had changed a bit, after Reborn entered his life. After Yamamoto, Tsuna found himself regarding his classmates with more open eyes instead of writing them off as quickly as he had before. So now, instead of acknowledging Sasagawa Kyoko's comment with a shrug as he would have done in the past, he actually put forth a bit more effort.

Tsuna smiled. "I guess it's like a test of courage?" he suggested in vague self-deprecation. It would take a whole lot of bravery to swallow the abomination, Tsuna figured.

Kyoko giggled, flushing a pretty pink. "That sounds fun! Maybe I'll try one too!"

Tsuna did not want to be responsible for accidentally poisoning the school idol. "I think it'd be best if you didn't," he replied hollowly.

Their group entered their classroom to the sound of enthusiastic cheers. Tsuna found great comfort in Gokudera's thoroughly unimpressed look, practically making a beeline to the unenthusiastic Beta. The moment Gokudera caught sight of him, however, the silver-haired youth shot to his feet with a blinding smile.

"Tenth! Thank you for your hard work!" Gokudera greeted boisterously.

Tsuna stubbornly refused to acknowledge the horrible silence that followed Gokudera's exclamation, followed by a hurried and awkward rush to drown out the atmosphere with meaningless chatter. Recently, his classmates had taken a peculiar attitude in regards to Tsuna and his friends: pretend nothing was happening.

It was…not very successful.

"Oh wow, Tsuna!" Yamamoto grinned, eyeing Tsuna's onigiri. There was another class-wide flinch. "What funny looking onigiri!"

"Shut your mouth, baseball-freak!" Gokudera yelled, roughly shoving the taller boy out of the way. Tsuna wondered what the two were like when he wasn't around. How was anyone still alive in Art/Music Appreciation?

"It's fine, Gokudera-kun," Tsuna demurred, setting his plate down on the desk. "They really are funny-looking." Who will even dare to try them? Tsuna mused, agonized over Reborn's new assignment. He couldn't help but sigh over it.

Yamamoto co*cked his head, curious. "What's up, Tsuna?" he asked.

"Reborn said I have to get someone to eat them," Tsuna replied tiredly. He'll probably kick my ass if no one does, but seriously, who would-

"Reborn-san said that?" Gokudera blinked. "That's easy enough, Tenth! As your right-hand, I will happily receive them!"

Tsuna stared at the bomb-happy boy. "….Gokudera-kun," he started gingerly. Oh god, this wasn't a mafia-related thing, was it? How could Tsuna talk Gokudera out of accidental food poisoning without hurting his feelings?

Murota, from a couple rows over, was watching them with a disgruntled expression. "An Alpha should be eating Sawada's food," was the barely-audible grumble. He seemed to be indicating Yamamoto with everything but words.

Naturally, Gokudera flared up. "Tenth's handmade food is wasted on this baseball-idiot!"

Yamamoto frowned. "Tsuna can give food to whoever he wants," he spoke up, tone mediating. His scent was as calming as ever, but there was something else more reminiscent of Hibari in the way Yamamoto was smiling at Murota. He looked down at Tsuna's plate of onigiri in consideration. "There are three though, so we can both have one, Gokudera," Yamamoto offered peaceably.

"But-" Tsuna spoke up, realizing with a dawning sort of dread that he wasn't going to have a hard time finding people to eat his onigiri – he was going to have a hard time convincing his foolhardy friends not to do something so obviously hazardous.

"Hana-chan," Kakei whimpered from across the classroom. "If they eat that, they're going to die!"

"Good," Kurokawa Hana snorted out, chewing on Kyoko's onigiri and refusing to look in Tsuna's direction.

Both Gokudera and Yamamoto were reaching for Tsuna's onigiri now. Tsuna despaired over how abysmal their survival instincts must be – surely every warning bell must be going off just looking at Tsuna's food! Even Tsuna's intuition was screaming at him at this point!

Before he could talk himself out of it, Tsuna smacked both boys' hands away from the plate of food. Hurt attempted to filter out onto both Gokudera's and Yamamoto's faces, but it was aborted as Tsuna scooped all three onigiri and practically shoved it into his own mouth.

…Mud was more palatable.

Tsuna choked a bit, but at the sight of his friends' wide eyes, stubbornly chewed through and swallowed his own abysmal creations. The onigiri, if it could even be called that, slid down his throat like sludge; an unpleasant after-taste, like seaweed left out in the sun, hung in his throat even after Tsuna swallowed the last bite.

Silence engulfed the classroom.

Tsuna raised one hand to his mouth. "….I think I'm going to throw up," he wheezed out.

Several people shrieked as Tsuna keeled over.

Unnoticed in a corner as the classroom devolved into chaos, Bianchi was left holding a plate of her own Poison Special Onigiri, eyeing the fallen Omega in wonder.

"I understand now," Bianchi said, tears glistening in her eyes.

Reborn stared at her, knowing what was coming next but still not really wanting to hear it. Hearing it meant acknowledging it, acknowledging it meant dealing with it, dealing with it meant coming face to face with the issue he'd been putting off for days now.

"He saved Hayato," Bianchi continued on, emotionally touched. Reborn felt the strain behind his eyes grow exponentially at the sight. "His poison cooking skills need a lot of work, but anyone who protects his family so daringly will become an admirable boss!"

Reborn had just wanted Tsuna to learn how to cook. That was it; no poison cooking, no accidental assassinations. Tsuna's abysmal cooking skills were just another hurdle to work on, and Reborn had only given Tsuna an assignment because he wanted to see who in Tsuna's immediate circle would be willing to even dare try the clearly lethal onigiri.

Gokudera had an instant reaction to any scent of food poisoning courtesy of Bianchi, and Yamamoto had natural instincts and a baseball game coming up. Both should have known better!

Reborn had expected Bianchi to slip in some assassination attempts throughout the school day, of course, and had been interested in seeing how Yamamoto and possibly Hibari reacted to it. She hadn't even gotten a chance, though, because Tsuna had poisoned himself with his own damn cooking.

Bianchi apparently found that to be a good thing.

"My heart yearns for you every day, Reborn," Bianchi said, hand over her chest. "Which is why I'll be staying here from now on. I can help tutor your student in poison cooking. Anything to help you!"

"Bianchi," Reborn started delicately. "Tsuna will not be an assassin."

"He'll be the Tenth Vongola Boss," Bianchi nodded, wiping tears from her eyes, expression becoming determined. It was painfully obvious to Reborn she had no idea what Reborn was trying to imply; for a Beta female that had been raised since a young age to be an assassin, it was not a surprise Bianchi did not understand what Reborn's real mission was.

But still, she should have figured it out easily enough. Sawada Tsunayoshi was an Omega, for god's sakes.

Reborn felt like he was thinking that same thought much more frequently, with an increasingly more bemusedtone every time.

Reborn glanced behind himself, where Tsuna lay sprawled out on his bed. Reborn had Yamamoto carry the slight boy home; Gokudera would have happily done so, but when Bianchi made herself visible in Tsuna's homeroom, the dynamite-wielder collapsed into a phantom-pained heap. Yamamoto had thankfully made himself useful, carrying both Tsuna and Gokudera back to the Sawada residence, earning himself more than his fair share of swooning fans and terrified looks from onlookers who recognized just who exactly the baseball player was lugging around.

It was not lost on Reborn just what exactly was happening at Namimori Junior High. Why exactly the Disciplinary Committee was involved with Tsuna was a mystery, but getting a straight answer out of Hibari Kyouya would be nigh-impossible. Reborn wasn't going to even waste his time trying to beat answers out of a kid, even if the kid in question essentially ruled over an entire town.

"REBORN!" The bedroom door slammed open as Lambo vaulted inside. On the bed, Tsuna's lax expression became a pained grimace, slowly coming back to consciousness at the ruckus. "PREPARE TO DIE!"

Reborn had been reasonably successful at tutoring Tsuna in various school subjects. With the proper motivation – i.e. a gun to the back of the head – Tsuna became quite diligent with his schoolwork. He even now had study sessions with Gokudera and Yamamoto, which Reborn was still trying to figure out if that counted as a victory for himself or not.

Reborn absently deflected the gunfire with a Leon Shield, then grabbed the rocket launcher from the hands of the Bovino wannabe assassin, firing it at him and sending the child flying out the open bedroom window.

A proper Omega didn't have study sessions with Alphas, after all, but Yamamoto was a prospective Mate and natural hitman. Then again, proper Alphas didn't offer to submit to Omegas, even if the Omega in question did jump off a roof to save them.

Somewhere along the way in tutoring Tsuna to be a valuable Omega mate, Reborn had hit a snag. Tsuna was turning into a valuable Omega mate: he'd have decent grades once Reborn was through with him and now every prospective mate Reborn had identified so far was showing interest in Tsuna.

But it wasn't working out quite how Reborn had expected. Yamamoto's and Hibari's interactions with Reborn's student were proof enough of that.

Tsuna sat up in his bed with a groan. "Wh…What happened? And what is this taste in my mouth?"

Reborn's lips twitched.

Who'd have thought tutoring an Omega could be so entertaining?

Lambo came to with a certain grogginess, features pinched into a disgruntled expression. Shards of glass from where he'd crashed through the window were stuck in his hair, so he stood up on wobbly feet and shook out what he could. He would have started bawling from the myriad of small scratches and light bruising, but the air was- different here. Where ever 'here' was, it was nothing like the Sawada home: most of the light had been choked out by thick curtains, and the air was stifled in an unpleasant smell.

"…Mama?" Lambo called out hesitantly into the dark.

There was no kind voice in answer, but there were footsteps. A sweetness swung into the air, barely detectable under the omnipresent stench, but enough so that Lambo felt himself relax minutely; the smell reminded him vaguely of Tsuna, although it was different, like comparing lollipops to jelly chews.

"…you came in through the window," came a quiet voice. It was softer than even Tsuna's voice when the older boy became scary. Lambo wasn't afraid of it, though, especially as the speaker finally stepped into view.

A boy around Tsuna's age, with wild curls of red hair that framed white-rimmed glasses. He was vastly different from Tsuna, though; his posture was more curled over, thin arms wrapped around himself, his sweet scent so much stronger that it drowned out the overhanging stench when he finally came within a meter of Lambo.

"Who're you?" Lambo demanded of the other male.

The redhead curled more into himself. The bandages wrapped around his arms loosened at the movement, unspooling to reveal heavily bruised arms. The sweet scent sharpened, but Lambo could not understand it; more than anything, the blood soaking into the bandages caught his attention.

What was this?

"The window's broken," the redhead whimpered. "He's going to be so mad. You have to leave."

The older male reached out to Lambo. The last of the bandages fell away, revealing a myriad of marks that made no sense to young Lambo.

"Come on," the redhead urged. "I'll take you home."

Lambo's brows furrowed. "What's wrong with you?" he asked with the ignorant curiosity of a child not understanding what exactly they were looking at. The redhead followed Lambo's wide-eyed gaze to his own mess of injuries, a weak, bitter smile coming to his lips.

The older male rested one hand on his own throat, where his Alpha's Mark branded him in clear view.

"It's not me that's the problem," Irie Shouichi murmured.

End Chapter 9

A/N: Daily Life Arc has a few more chapters, because there's just so many damn characters introduced, holy sh*t.

But yeah, Tsuna is not going to be the only Omega in this story. He is also not going to be the only BAMF&Furious Omega in this story. Everyone's angry, it's just taking awhile to see that LMAO.

Notes on Gokudera Hayato:

-Yes, Gokudera was the one to give the Nezu documents to Hibari. You'll see what he does with the rest of his research as the story progresses.

-Gokudera's character and history will be further expanded on, but like canon, it will take awhile. His character arc was one of the longest for the side characters, after all. Just know that he did grow up in the mafia and it wasn't exactly a positive experience.

Notes on First and Second Genders:

-Obviously sexism exists here. It is also intersectional; for example, Alpha Males generally have more social advantages than Alpha Females. Beta Males and Beta Females are 'secondary' to Alphas, so while they may not enjoy the same advantages their Alpha counterparts do, the fact is they are the bulk of the population so they fill out a lot of societal positions. Generally, Beta Males fare better in the workforce than Beta Females, but the disparity isn't as huge as it is between non-Omegas and Omegas. Omega Females fare better than Omega Males, but both have the shortest end of the sh*ttiest stick.

Notes on Irie Shouichi:

-I love Irie.

-As in canon, he is still young. Omega Age of Consent is based on Presentation, not their actual age. Doesn’t it make you angry? I’m even the one writing it, and it makes me furious.

Please be kind and drop a comment. :)

Chapter 10: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 10

Summary:

Shouichi needs help, and ends up helping himself.

Chapter Text

A/N: Let’s see how many chapters I can churn out before work drags me back.

-There are so many characters introduced in the Daily Life Arc. I’m screaming on the inside. And yes, I plan for every character in the canon series to be in this one too, EXCEPT for Naito Longchamp. That wasn’t even on purpose – I just forgot he actually existed LMAO.

Disclaimer: I do not own Katekyou Hitman Reborn.

Warnings for this chapter in particular: violence against women (listen - if they try to hit Tsuna, Tsuna is gonna hit back), child marriage, implication of dubious consent and marital rape of a child.

Chapter 10

Tsuna was swiftly growing accustomed to the chaos that was now his life, but even so, he tried to cling desperately to his limits. There had to be limits, otherwise the last shreds of his sanity would fly out the window the next time Lambo detonated a grenade in his bedroom again.

So just once, he’d like to walk downstairs in his own home and not find unconscious bodies. That the unconscious body was Gokudera this time was even more alarming. Tsuna’s distressed scent at the sight of his silver-haired friend out cold on the couch didn’t even phase Reborn, who had managed to get a foothold in Tsuna’s unruly brunet tresses.

“Gokudera passes out at the sight of Bianchi,” Reborn explained, completely unconcerned.

Tsuna, now hovering over the unconscious Beta, paused in bewilderment. “Why?”

“Conditioned response,” Reborn shrugged off. “According to Bianchi, when she first began experimenting with her poison cooking, Gokudera…helped.”

The pause was telling. Tsuna wondered if he should find a blanket to put over Gokudera for a moment, Reborn leaping off his head and idling into the kitchen, where Tsuna could hear his mother starting on dinner. There was also some light conversation, and Tsuna realized – with a resigned sort of feeling – that that was definitely the infamous Poison Scorpion Bianchi in there with his mother.

Reborn had essentially explained what had happened in the short window of time Tsuna had been out of commission: Bianchi had given up on assassinating Tsuna (“You’re too dame to kill, so she’s taking pity on you.”) and would now be living in the Sawada home. She’d taken over the guest bedroom, and a hammock like Reborn’s had been set up in there for Lambo so that they could have a similar sleeping arrangement.

Tsuna wondered just what this said about his life, that people aiming to kill him ended up sticking with him long-term. As if on cue, Gokudera groaned in pained misery; Tsuna absently patted the Beta boy on the head in a consoling manner. Tsuna made a mental note to thank Yamamoto for bringing him home – the baseball player responded very well to positive reinforcement, Tsuna figured it was an athlete thing – and was just about to enter the kitchen when the heat wrapped around his core flashed.

It was a new feeling. Unlike when Reborn first appeared, or when Mochida threatened him, or even when teenage Lambo dropped to one knee and promised him fealty – Tsuna’s skin ran through a light shudder, the hair on the back of his neck on end, movement halted out of a sense of anticipation.

The doorbell rang.

“I got it!” Tsuna announced. Nevermind the fact that Omega should not be answering the door when a stranger comes, in case there was danger and especially if there were perfectly capable Alphas and Betas present. It said quite a lot that his mother only made a sound of acknowledgement and no one else bothered appearing in the kitchen doorway.

Before Tsuna had even reached the doorknob, he could smell it. It was not unpleasant, not by any stretch, but it was strong; it was as if someone had just pushed a plate of strawberries and cream under his nose. Tsuna’s hand stilled on the doorknob, knowing what he’d find on the other side of the door but not quite believing it himself.

Omega, naturally, recognize other Omega. Post or pre-Presentation marked the difference; after Presentation, an Omega’s scent grew more mature and definitive. Tsuna’s was sweet; the Omega on the other side of the door had matured into a fruity sort of sweetness. But there was more, now that Tsuna stood as close as he dared – an earthen quality that no Omega naturally had.

A mated Omega was on the other side of the door.

Tsuna pulled open the door as the bell rang once more.

Lambo’s wide-eyed gaze met Tsuna’s first. Tsuna blinked down at the Alpha child; his hand was being held, and Tsuna followed the length of the appendage up and into equally startled green eyes framed by a mop of wild curls so red that Tsuna couldn’t help but think strawberries really suited the male before him.

“Oh,” the boy stuttered out, shock immobilizing him. Tsuna could understand that – finding someone his own age looking back at him wasn’t what Tsuna had expected either.

“Oh, u-um,” the redhead started haltingly, glancing from Tsuna to the child whose hand he still held. “He said he…lived here?"

The Omega glanced behind Tsuna, as if searching for someone he thought should be there. It took Tsuna a moment to realize – of course he would, because there should be someone there. His Beta mother would have been expected, or perhaps Bianchi or even Reborn. No normal household let an Omega answer the door without some sort of protection.

Gokudera groaned a little more from the couch. Tsuna steeled himself, pulling on a tight smile. “R-Right!” Tsuna managed out, looking at Lambo – who had now detached himself from the redhead. “Yeah, he does, sorry – um-”

“This is the Great Lambo’s new minion,” Lambo declared to Tsuna’s knee. “Sho-chi!”

“Shouichi,” the redhead corrected in a tone Tsuna was very familiar with: exasperated resignation. Clearly he’d been trying to correct Lambo for however long they’d been acquainted; Tsuna fully sympathized.

“Lambo, why are you bothering strangers now?” Tsuna sighed, pulling the cow-print child into the home.

“It was that evil Reborn’s fault!” Lambo cried out, recognizing Tsuna’s Mean Voice. “He tricked me!”

“…he came in through the window,” Shouichi spoke up, awkwardly stood at the door. His arms were crossed over his stomach in a distinctly defensive gesture that Tsuna didn’t understand. It brought attention to his long sleeves – wasn’t he hot? Namimori summers were nothing to scoff at!

Tsuna glanced between the redhead and Lambo. “…the open window?” he asked with dwindling hope.

Shouichi’s shake of the head immediately killed that. “I should head back to…” the bespectacled boy trailed off. It was obvious he meant to say “fix it” but seemed to realize he didn’t know how.

Tsuna felt a flash of acute sympathy for the other male, but it was swallowed by the overwhelming sense of irritation. “Reborn!” Tsuna snapped out, turning his attention to the kitchen door. “You broke the neighbor’s window!”

A Leon mallet came swinging out of the kitchen doorway, hitting Tsuna in the head with pinpoint accuracy and throwing him to the floor. Lambo shrieked and dashed up the stairs, clearly reading the atmosphere: namely, Reborn’s oncoming entrance.

“Don’t yell, dame-Tsuna,” came his home tutor’s bland tones. Tsuna sat up, ignoring the way Leon crawled down his form to rejoin the tiny hitman, just to glare at Reborn sullenly.

“Your fight with Lambo destroyed his window,” Tsuna accused him, jerking a thumb in Shouichi’s direction.

The smell of strawberries and cream had overpowered the entire room now, stilling Reborn’s movements. Tsuna watched his tutor in curiosity; through sheer exposure, he’d never seen Reborn act like a stereotypical Alpha when they were together. But was that always true? Tsuna had never seen Reborn interact with any Omega but himself.

“The Bovino famiglia would have already sent someone to repair it,” Reborn said dismissively. He remained standing framed in the kitchen doorway, relaxed yet unmoving. Given Shouichi’s clearly-riled state, the tiny hitman seemed wary of exacerbating the situation further. It was a responsible decision, all things considered – but the idea that Shouichi was so wary of the baby Alpha was tugging at Tsuna’s intuition.

“Just because they fix it doesn’t mean it’s okay to break it!” Tsuna snapped out, half-turned to send Reborn a chiding look. It was surprising, then, when one pale hand reached out to grasp his arm and tug him back – away from Reborn and closer to a trembling Shouichi, who refused to let Tsuna go. There was an odd hesitation that hovered in the room, Reborn unwilling to move from his position in the kitchen doorway and Shouichi clinging to Tsuna’s arm, either using Tsuna’s body for protection or doing some half-made attempt to pull Tsuna away from his own home.

“Um, Shouichi-san?” Tsuna asked unsurely.

Shouichi didn’t respond, watching Reborn’s figure with wide eyes. Tsuna just knew the other boy was afraid, it was obvious from the sharp tang of his scent, and he wondered what he could do to calm him down. Tsuna had never interacted with another Omega so closely before; the Omegas in his school were only caught in fleeting glimpses, nothing more than a passing look before they moved from one place to the next. To not only talk with a fellow Omega for so long, let alone be held so closely, and know that neither of them were related by blood – it was a completely new experience for Tsuna.

But from this close, Tsuna finally saw the Mark scarred into Shouichi’s neck.

It was partly hidden by the collar of his shirt, but there was something about an Alpha’s Mark that was so distinct. It was an ugly and brutal thing, Tsuna knew – jagged and vivid against Shouichi’s pale skin. It made Tsuna think of how it must have been for Shouichi: young Shouichi, trembling just as he was now, his words swallowed in a choked breath as teeth sunk into the vulnerable flesh of his neck.

Tsuna’s hands fisted at his sides, eyes still locked on the Mark.

A Bite wasn’t a quick thing, wasn’t an easy thing; it took time, it took intent. The Alpha had to want to lay the Claim, had to want to permanently disfigure the skin, a physical marker of ownership.

Tsuna knew it hurt.

It hurt.

It hurt.

It hurts-

“Tsu-kun?”

Tsuna took a sharp intake of breath, eyes tearing away from Shouichi’s Mark and to the kitchen doorway, where his mother now stood behind Reborn’s still form. Her face showed open concern, glancing between her son and the redhead clinging to him. He realized with a start that his free hand had reached up to graze fingertips against the right side of his own neck.

The flame in his chest has winded throughout his body, coiled and ready to spring.

“I-I should go,” Shouichi stammered out. He released Tsuna’s arm with a nervous jolt, and he turned and fled with a fleeting glance in Tsuna’s direction. There was something in Shouichi’s expression that Tsuna caught but didn’t understand, and then Shouichi turned the corner at the gate and disappeared from sight.

“He’s around my age, isn’t he? He was Marked,” Tsuna said. The tone of his voice frightened even him.

The room fell silent.

“Unfortunate,” Reborn remarked solemnly.

Tsuna remembered bandages.

“Unfair,” Nana corrected quietly.

Kyoko was kind. She genuinely liked people, she wanted to help, wanted to succeed. Her kind nature fueled her actions, and in turn, turned the world around her just bit more kind as well.

Even as a small child, Kyoko’s kind nature had been prevalent. It’s what had urged her to nurse a stray kitten back to health – but just the same, it had been what hurt after she’d found the kitten’s carcass being haplessly prodded by two boys. Her kindness had prompted her action, had help sewn the seeds of attachment that two cruel children had ripped out just as the love started to bloom. Ryohei – her loving older brother who would take on the world for her – had seen her tears and wreaked havoc.

Her doting older brother would do anything she asked, so Kyoko was hesitant to ask him anything. Ryohei had a scar on his temple that would never heal, and Kyoko was always reminded of the dead kitten when she saw it.

The world continued on.

Kyoko liked her classmates, but she loved Hana; Hana was strong, and honest, and didn’t chide Kyoko for her sweet nature or compassion. They got along so well, years of friendship weaving them irrevocably together – and yet the world still refused to understand. The world saw an Alpha with the strength to lead, and a Beta supporting her in the endeavor. It didn’t see the way Hana grew tired of the expectation, refused to allow her to even rely on others, and so all Kyoko could do was watch her community grind her friend into the ground.

Hana began to view the world warily, resigned to her place as leader and everyone else as advantages or disadvantages to her position. Kyoko always thought back to the time when they were little, and Hana had scraped her knee playing tag; she had to be carried home on Ryohei’s back, bawling the entire way.

The world continued on.

Kyoko was popular in school. Her smiles made her pretty, her kindness made her naïve; a potent combination for predators seeking out new fancies. Kyoko would make a pretty ornament on anyone’s arm, and Mochida Kensuke had hoped that arm would be his. Kyoko was kind because she didn’t understand how the world worked, and before she wised up, Mochida would make her his – that was his idea. Kyoko had smiled prettily throughout his advances, but not because she was naïve – but because she knew that if she stopped, he’d realize she wasn’t as oblivious as he had hoped, and there was nothing more dangerous than a predator who realized their prey was planning an escape.

Kyoko continued to smile despite the way he crowded into her personal space, continued to support her peers despite the fact that they stood aside and let Mochida run his fingers through her hair, continued to stay out of trouble for her parents despite the fact that they approved of Mochida walking her home even if she had asked him not to, continued to study hard to keep up her grades despite spending hours crying into her pillow.

The world continued on.

Mochida stopped going near her classroom – he avoided their floor altogether if he could. He didn’t walk Kyoko home, approach her in any way, didn’t call her house or just show up near her favorite cake shops. If Kyoko saw him on campus, his eyes would dart around as if searching for a specter and then he’d head in the opposite direction.

Hana stopped grinding her teeth whenever a classmate looked to her for guidance – because there was no time to seek an Alpha’s leadership when Gokudera Hayato was threatening a teacher with bodily harm. Hana instead had to pretend to be above everything, despite the new lightness to her shoulders as everyone realized there was nothing anyone could do to stop their class’s inevitable descent into weirdness.

Kyoko still studied but didn’t have to worry about failing because Nezu-sensei didn’t approve of something she’d said or done that day. Nezu-sensei was gone, the teachers left floundering after Hibari had discovered the fraudulent paperwork that had gotten Nezu hired in the first place. There was no time to smooth things over, not with the Disciplinary Committee apparently going through the administration’s documentation with a fine-toothed comb.

Kyoko didn’t mind the changes, but not because she was oblivious or naïve. No, Kyoko didn’t mind the changes because she wanted the change in the first place.

Kyoko didn’t have to worry about walking home anymore. She could walk with friends or by herself, could stop at her favorite cake shop without having to look over her shoulder, could do something as simple as walk down the school corridors without having to steel herself for confrontation.

Kyoko didn’t have to stand behind Hana anymore – she could stand beside her. Hana would turn to her now, would ask Kyoko for help, would seek her out for guidance when their classmates became too much: when Gokudera ended up lecturing their substitute Maths teacher, when Yamamoto fell asleep in class, when a tiny child in a cow-print onesie crashed through their classroom window and had to be carried out by Sawada.

Sawada Tsunayoshi was another change Kyoko appreciated. The boy had been so alone before; he’d shied away from any interaction, refused to get to know his classmates, never responding with more than a cursory greeting and a glance. He was a marvel, with his large amber eyes, petite frame, sweet scent – he was widely acknowledged as cute, though pitiful. That had always seemed so strange to Kyoko because whenever she thought of Sawada Tsunayoshi – she’d never thought of him as someone in need of pity.

But the world was always quick to point out that was because she was too kind. How could she not see how pitiful he was? An air-headed Omega, slight in frame, with no strengths – physical or academic – to speak of? It wasn’t his fault, of course – Omega just weren’t capable of the kind of physical or academic rigor demanded of Betas and Alphas. It was just pitiful, is all.

The world continued on.

“Oh,” she starts at breakfast, smile wide and innocent on her face. Her father is already gone to work, her mother is in the kitchen frying up extra food because Ryouhei eats enough for a small army. Her doting older brother is seated across from her at the table, and though he had been eating enthusiastically, he pauses and turns his attention to Kyoko.

“I think I know someone who would be a good addition to the boxing club,” she says to her brother. There’s a clatter from the kitchen as her mother drops whatever she’d been holding, having heard Kyoko speak the forbidden words. Already, Ryouhei’s eyes are shining, his grip on his chopsticks breaking them cleanly in half.

“An extreme friend of Kyoko’s?” he asks, voice already raising in excitement.

Kyoko nods. “He’s very extreme,” she agrees. Her mother pokes her head out the kitchen doorway, staring at Kyoko with wide eyes from behind Ryouhei’s back. “He even made extreme onigiri in Home Ec and ate them himself!”

Ryouhei looks confused but still excited about the prospect of ‘extreme onigiri’. Her mother, on the other hand, is beginning to shake her head with plain horror eclipsing her features. Her Beta mother would of course know that only Beta girls and Omegas would be in Kyoko’s Home Ec class, and the idea of subjecting anyone from either category to the chaotic hurricane that is her brother was enough to make her parents weep.

“His name is Sawada Tsunayoshi,” she informs her brother. “He’s in my class.”

Sawada, with his large amber eyes, staring out at his classmates as if waiting for them to argue the presence of Gokudera and Yamamoto at his side. Sawada, with his thin frame and sweet scent, keeping up with them during PE because Reboyama-sensei was watching. Sawada, with his standing as an Omega, not caring about the bewildered masses left in his wake.

Because the world had seen ‘Omega’ before they’d seen ‘Sawada Tsunayoshi’, and they were desperately trying to keep up.

Change was coming. Everyone knew it, whether they chose to admit it or not; and once it finally swept Namimori up into the windstorm, everyone would have to decide where they would fall. They could fight it or they could accept it – but the one thing they could not do was ignore it.

And Kyoko knew exactly what she was going to do.

Reborn makes a point of walking Tsuna to school most days. Tsuna generally doesn’t mind, as the baby hitman’s presence was overshadowed by whatever argument Gokudera and Yamamoto were having (or, more accurately, whatever verbal lashing Gokudera was doling out, aimed solely at Yamamoto for no discernible reason aside from breathing), and the only thing Tsuna had to focus on was making sure they made it to school on time.

This morning was a bit different; Gokudera had sent an apologetic message just before breakfast explaining he had some ‘extracurricular work’ to do and wouldn’t be at school until later in the day, and Yamamoto was once again at baseball practice. Tsuna had been walking to school alone long before Reborn had come into his life, so doing so again wasn’t anything unusual, but it was a bit lonely after having enjoyed the company of his two new friends.

Granted, he would much prefer that to what he was currently experiencing.

“Would you be my friend?”

The Alpha’s heavy breaths are evident of excitement and anticipation of a positive answer, body trembling with barely-restrained glee. The scent is light, customary of a pre-presentation youth, smelling vaguely of mint. Refreshing, if a bit…caustic – which readily fit the strange girl blocking their path to school.

Miura Haru, the Alpha girl who lived in the house whose fence Reborn often trotted over.

Miura Haru, who’d jumped in front of them, introducing herself to Reborn, eagerness oozing from her every pore.

“Sure,” Reborn replied easily.

Tsuna tried to continue walking. She was, for better or for worse, speaking directly to Reborn – which freed Tsuna from interacting with her personally. As far as Tsuna was concerned, Reborn was more than capable of taking care of himself, and despite how weird this Miura Haru was – his intuition had not registered her as a threat. Perhaps she just really liked babies.

“Can you… Can you hug me? Like this?”

Tsuna paused, glancing back. Haru was giving herself a pretty tight hug as an example of what she wanted, and she was pretty well-flushed now, likely over-excited Reborn had agreed to friendship. Still, the suddenness of the approach and the forwardness of the requests were more than off-putting to Tsuna.

Reborn wasn’t a baby, but it’s not like Haru knew that. Alpha or not, she’d just asked what she thought was a small child for intimate physical contact even though they’d just met. Surely at this age, she should know there are limits to what is appropriate?

“Reborn, we’re going to be late,” Tsuna spoke up.

Reborn turned beady black eyes on him knowingly. Tsuna had just essentially given him an out, even when one wasn’t requested and certainly not needed. The Tsuna of just a few months ago would not have bothered, instead continuing his walk to school without interjecting himself between them.

“Hahi!” Haru crowed, spinning around to pin Tsuna with a wide-eyed stare. “You’re Reborn-chan’s brother, right?”

“No,” both Tsuna and Reborn responded immediately.

“I’m his tutor,” Reborn explained in a droll tone. “It’s my job to raise Tsuna as the 10th boss of the Vongola mafia.”

Haru completely froze, earnest expression vanishing from her face. This was all the warning Tsuna got before her pheromones flashed, a subtle change that would have gone ignored by adults, but to Tsuna – was essentially like lighting a warning flare.

“You’ve gone too far!” Haru screeched, closing the distance between herself and Tsuna, righteous anger lighting her steps. “Babies are angels with pure white hearts! What horrible things have you been teaching Reborn-chan?!”

There was nothing about her that Tsuna found alarming. After facing dynamite and people literally throwing themselves off rooftops, having an Alpha yell at him about ruining Reborn’s purity was absurd to the point of comical, and Tsuna couldn’t rouse much more of a reaction aside from trying to smother a snort of laughter at the idea of Reborn being considered something as sweet as an angel.

That was, until Haru fisted the front of his shirt.

There’s a particular level of physicality that Tsuna was used to. For years, the only person who had breached his personal boundaries was his mother, and even then, it was only fleeting touches or simply close proximity. His mother seemed to know Tsuna didn’t want to be touched constantly, coddled and comforted for things his peers and teachers thought he needed.

The imperial rule Hibari held over school enforced a code of conduct that did not condone physical intimacy. Tsuna was left untouched through hours of schooling, kept under near constant supervision by both his teachers and his classmates to ensure there would be no rumors spread of anything illicit.

Even now, with Gokudera and Yamamoto beside him most of the time, their touches were still reserved; sometimes Yamamoto would clap a friendly hand on his back, or Gokudera would crowd close to Tsuna’s side for either conversation or to conspire – but there was a reserved element to their intimacy, unwilling to force physical contact on Tsuna.

Haru was very close, so close they practically breathed the same air; the grasp she had on his shirt pulled him in even closer. An Alpha’s strength, an Alpha’s smell, and the thick contempt that lay naked in her eyes – it was enough.

Tsuna abruptly kneed her in the groin.

An Alpha she may be, but Haru was clearly on the more slender side of the scale, and she fell to the ground frightfully quick. Tsuna blinked down at her, surprised she had gone down so easily; given that he’d had to defend himself against the likes of the kendo club captain Mochida and hellish deity Hibari, he had expected a bit more of a fight.

“If your aim is to incapacitate, you should strike major weak points first,” Reborn advised him.

Tsuna cast him a glower on principle. “She’s down, isn’t she? What does it matter if I hit her groin or her solar plexus first?”

Reborn didn’t say anything, face impassive, but Tsuna got the impression that Reborn was satisfied by his counterpoint. Tsuna tried not to think too much about that, a silent thrill stealing up his spine as he turned back to Haru – who was crouched before him, making a small keening noise that honestly made Tsuna feel a bit bad.

“Sorry,” he mumbled to her, remorse clear in his voice. “I just…wasn’t, uh…” Wasn’t expecting you to go down so easily. “I mean-”

“EXTREME!!”

The excited holler came from further down the street, but the ear-bleeding volume of it made it seem a lot closer. Tsuna was caught off-guard once again, head whipping up to see a white-haired teen barreling towards them at a speed that was somehow sending up dust despite being made on pavement.

Tsuna had no time to react, the white-haired male having reached him and clasping hands on his shoulders in a forceful display of camaraderie. The other boy was fairly vibrating with energy, a wide grin stretched on his lips that reminded Tsuna more of the crazed look Yamamoto got in his eyes when he held a baseball.

“One hit and you’ve triumphed over your competitor! And you even stayed back to ensure their health and well-being – what great sportsmanship! I’ve heard all about you from my sister!” the older boy bellowed in his face. “You are an EXTREME warrior! Join our club, Sawada Tsuna!!”

No scent, just an intense aura of enthusiasm – the boy was a Beta. “I’m Sasagawa Ryouhei, captain of the Boxing Club! MY MOTTO IS ‘EXTREME’!!!”

What incredible passion, Tsuna thought, ears ringing.

“So your name is… Sawada Tsuna…”

Tsuna’s attention was reclaimed by Haru, who finally rose up on unsteady knees to give him a baleful look. “I’ll never forgive you…for corrupting a pure innocent soul like Reborn-chan…” she managed out, her pheromones flaring.

Innocent?” Tsuna echoed, pointing an incredulous finger at Reborn. “He just gave me fighting advice because I didn’t hit you hard enough!”

It was then Tsuna realized Reborn had at some point donned an elephant-shaped hat and boxing gloves, which was jarring enough an image in its own right – but then Ryouhei snapped to attention, gazing at Reborn with wide, adoring eyes.

“Master PaoPao!” Ryouhei yelped. “You’re in Japan?!”

“Hahi?!” Haru cried out at the same time. “Where did Reborn-chan go?!”

Tsuna had never so keenly wanted to go to school before. At least there, he was spared the sheer incomprehensibility that seemed to affect everyone who interacted with his self-appointed hitman tutor. Things only worsened when he caught sight of Sasagawa Kyoko turning the corner, looking rather flushed, but then her eyes landed on Ryouhei and then Tsuna – causing her to light up in visible joy.

“Good morning, Tsuna-kun!” she greeted, reaching them with hurried steps. The smile on her face was innocent and sweet, which did not fit the current atmosphere at all: Ryouhei punching the air in a display of power to Reborn, Haru lamenting ‘Reborn-chan’s’ absence with unshed tears, and Tsuna standing stock-still between the two extremes like a frightened deer.

“Good morning, Kyoko-san,” Tsuna replied automatically, the casual address falling a bit too easily from his lips. Maybe if he concentrated on Kyoko, he could pretend everything else wasn’t happening. Kyoko was safe, Kyoko was normal; Kyoko didn’t rant at him about child-rearing or yell in his face about joining boxing clubs that Tsuna knew, for a fact, did not accept Omega students.

“I bet Reborn-chan ran away because of you!” Haru declared, leveling an accusing finger in Tsuna’s direction. “You’re a bad influence on him!”

Tsuna stared at her. After a moment, he decided this was a battle better ignored than fought, and completely ignored her as he turned to Ryouhei, who was gushing about boxing and Muay Thai to a rather indifferent ‘Master PaoPao’.

“Don’t ignore Haru!” the Alpha girl cried out.

“You move any closer to me and I’ll aim for the shins this time,” Tsuna cut back in a low tone.

“True warriors can communicate with their fists!” Ryouhei declared, interjecting himself between Tsuna and Haru like a bloodthirsty referee, utterly divorced from reality.

The expression on Haru’s face went from menacing to frightened, realizing Ryouhei fully intended to have them spar in the street. Tsuna would have corrected her assumption that Tsuna was completely okay with brawling in the street, but then she turned a disconcertingly resolute stare on him.

“This isn’t over, Sawada Tsuna!” Haru cried out, giving him one last glare before storming off.

Kyoko stepped up to Tsuna’s side, smile disarming as they both watched Haru beat a hasty retreat. “Oh, was she a friend of yours, Tsuna-kun?” she asked brightly, doing a damn good impression of personified sunshine. Tsuna would have wondered about Kyoko’s thought process regarding friendship, but then remembered that Gokudera had essentially did a complete 180 regarding Tsuna in under an hour, without a whisper of warning to their classmates.

Tsuna decided it was better to pick his battles.

“We’re going to be late for school,” he said.

“You’re an adult now. Be proud.”

Shouichi had been twelve when his mother told him those words. The guitar his older sister had bought him for his birthday was still a bit too big for his petite stature at that time, and it had rested heavily in his grip as his inexperienced fingers plucked at the strings. He’d only had it for a short while, and the songs he’d been trying to learn were still too difficult even when playing them had his full attention, and it was even worse when he was focused solely on keeping the rest of the world out of mind.

The jarring thrum of the chords kept his attention away so that he didn’t have to watch his mother pack a small suitcase with trembling hands. She was packing his nicest clothes, full of bright colors and needlessly loud designs, graphics dominating a fair amount of the shirts within. The suitcase itself had the sticker of his favorite cartoon character, and it stood out against the bright yellow color. A child’s suitcase, full of a child’s clothes.

But Shouichi’s body was no longer that of a child.

His scent hung strong in his closed bedroom and grew ever stronger with every folded article of clothing his Beta mother tucked into his suitcase. Her every calm, measured word was offset by her shaking limbs and inability to meet his eyes. The knot of nausea in his stomach grew as well, and he curled around his guitar.

“Mom…” he managed out.

She did not turn around. She was zipping his luggage closed.

“Satoru-san is a good Alpha,” she said.

Shouichi knew only a little about the Alpha Watanabe Satoru. He was the son of his father’s boss, and they’d only met a handful of times at company parties. He had started a mid-level job at his father’s company last spring. He’d complimented Shouichi’s hair once, twirling the curly strands of red between his fingers. He was 12 years older than Shouichi.

“Mom, my robot,” Shouichi spoke again. It was a blocky, garish thing – but fully-functional, and he’d built it himself from spare parts he’d salvaged from dumpster diving. His older sister had covered for him every time he came home with a new part, and his mother had sighed but occasionally he’d catch her smiling at it with open marvel.

“You don’t need it. It’s a child’s toy,” she replied sharply.

Only children played with toys. Only children got dirty when they scavenged for spare tech in garbage bins, only children had a curfew that needed to be followed so that their older siblings would lie to cover their late returns, only children cried and screamed when faced with something that terrified them.

“You’re not a child,” his mother told him.

(“He’s just a kid!” his sister screamed. She was an Alpha, so their parents took the time to sit her down and explain things to her.)

“He’ll be good to you,” his father told him quietly.

(“Be a good Omega,” his Alpha ordered him, voice sickly-sweet. Shouichi’s stomach was tied up in so many knots that he felt like a coil of barbed wire had replaced his intestines.)

The rules to being a good Omega are simple when taught in class: keep a tidy home, breed a happy family, submit to your Alpha’s command, be virtuous and conscientious to honor your Alpha’s claim. If Shouichi and his fellows followed these rules, they would be happy Omegas.

If Shouichi kept a tidy home, he would be a happy Omega. So when he accidentally dropped a dish, or forgot to pick up after his Alpha, or didn’t iron the laundry perfectly – then it only made sense that his Alpha punish him.

If Shouichi bred happy offspring, he would be a happy Omega. So when ongoing stress and anxiety resulted in a delicate state of health that was not conducive to conceiving children – then it only made sense that his Alpha punish him.

If Shouichi submitted to his Alpha’s command, then he would be a happy Omega. So when he refused his Alpha’s advances after he came home drunk – then it only made sense that his Alpha punish him.

If Shouichi kept being virtuous and conscientious in order to honor his Alpha’s claim, then he would be a happy Omega. So when his Alpha thought otherwise – then it only made sense that his Alpha punish him.

“Stop crying,” his Alpha told him. “You’re not a child.”

Lambo’s abrupt intrusion into Shouichi’s life had been startling, but in the end, changed nothing. Shouichi had returned to his Alpha’s home that night to find what the strange Alpha baby had said was true; a construction crew had been hard at work replacing the damaged window frame. The crew had given him polite nods and a wide berth, the majority of them Beta males but a solitary Alpha had been surveying their progress from outside the homestead. Shouichi knew this was because his own Alpha was not home to allow the other Alpha entrance.

They were done quicker than Shouichi had thought possible, everything almost exactly the same as before Lambo’s sudden entrance. They’d even gone so far as to clean up the debris, which had saved Shouichi the time and effort.

After the construction crew had left, Shouichi changed clothes, wary of wearing anything that would have hinted at being elsewhere when he should have been at home preparing dinner. His Alpha had returned home hours later, never realizing what had transpired while he’d been gone. Shouichi would never tell him, this rush of keeping a secret the only thing to bring him some measure of control over his life in the past two years.

Now, he ran shaking fingers through his wild curls, trying for some semblance of neatness, but refocused on his task of preparing dinner. He’d been late about starting it tonight, having been distracted by a strange package that had been delivered to his doorstep. He’d put it in the bedroom, tucked under the desk and out of the way, covered by some folded blankets. If he made something relatively simple for dinner, then perhaps it’d be finished in time and his Alpha wouldn’t punish him for “slacking on his responsibilities.”

An hour passed, then two. The fried fish, rice, and bowl of miso soup grew colder with every passing minute. Shouichi put plastic over them, debated putting them in the fridge but decided it would be easier to just pop them back in the toaster oven once his Alpha returned home. Another hour passed; Shouichi picked at his rice and fish but didn’t dare start eating it. His stomach rumbled unpleasantly. Another hour came and went.

Finally, just past 11 o’clock, the front door rattled open. Shouichi jumped from his seat at the table, running another hand through his wild locks, then tugging his shirt back into place. There was a low rumble, inarticulate from this distance, but Shouichi was too scared to move from his place in the kitchen; instead, he assumed that was his Alpha’s attempt at a greeting, and he called back his own customary ‘welcome home!’

His Alpha’s large stature filled the doorway. The smell was always the first thing Shouichi noticed: pungent and thick, like freshly-turned earth on a hot summer day. It was also doused with the heavy smell of alcohol, and indeed, his Alpha staggered into the kitchen, intoxication weighing down his steps.

“I made dinner,” Shouichi squeaked out, frozen in place beside his chair. “Are you hungry, Satoru-san?”

His Alpha stared at him, still standing (blocking) the doorway. Alcohol was dangerous; if he drank too much, his Alpha would become drowsy and pass out. He’d be unbearable the following morning with a hangover, but at least Shouichi would be spared in the interim. But if he was drunk and conscious, his Alpha was at his most dangerous – all violence, no restraint.

“C’mere,” his Alpha growled out.

Shouichi’s stomach tied in another knot; steel wool shredded his intestines to ribbons. “I-I haven’t eaten yet… I was waiting for you…” he tried, voice quiet. He turned his eyes to the floor, tried to stop his body from trembling.

“Why’re you bitchin’?” his Alpha garbled out. Heavy footsteps crossed the distance between them; the wire coil in his stomach turned ice cold. “Just c’mere – f*ck, stop whimpering!”

Shouichi hadn’t even realized he was making the sound and cut himself off abruptly. His Alpha grabbed him by the chin, roughly pulling his head up, the hold and angle uncomfortable and forcing Shouichi to his tiptoes. He let out another cry, but his Alpha only sniffed disdainfully down at him.

“Stop crying,” the older male growled. “You’re not a child.”

Shouichi knew that. That’s why he never got to bring his handmade robot, that’s why he never got to practice playing guitar, that’s why he’s spent the past 2 years crying into his pillow after his Alpha is done with him and falls asleep. His robot is long gone now; his guitar is in pieces after his Alpha decides the noise is annoying; he learns to cry, so silent and still that he does not disturb the male beside him.

It’s less than an hour but feels like a lifetime. Once thick, drunken snores finally emit from the body trapping him, Shouichi dares to crawl his way slowly out of bed. Every movement sends spikes of pain seemingly throughout every tortured vein in his body, but he keeps his cries silent.

He stands in his Alpha’s bedroom for a long moment and just thinks. Thinks about the cow-printed child he’d helped return home, who would have been lost without him; thinks about the young Omega he’d met at the doorway, who had answered the door without fear, who talked bitingly to the strange baby Alpha in his home. Shouichi thinks about that Omega’s unmarked skin, his pre-Presentation body with its undeveloped scent.

Shouichi thinks about that child Omega.

Shouichi thinks about himself, an adult Omega.

Shouichi thinks about how close they are in age.

There’s a small crate crammed into the corner of the room, pushed under the desk and out of the way. It’s addressed to Watanabe Satoru, meant to be opened and appreciated by the drunk slumbering in the bed behind him. Shouichi’s name is nowhere on the package; indeed, Shouichi’s name isn’t anywhere in the home. Every letter is addressed to Watanabe Satoru – even though it’s Shouichi who budgets, even though it’s Shouichi who maintains the home, even though it’s Shouichi who helped little Lambo return home unharmed.

But Shouichi is just an extension of Watanabe Satoru. No, not an extension – a possession. Everything Shouichi does, is done in his Alpha’s name. It doesn’t matter that Shouichi had yet to change his family name, it doesn’t matter that Shouichi slips letters into his family’s mailbox whenever he can in the hope that his Alpha sister would see them and would argue for ownership of Shouichi, it doesn’t matter that she never does. It does not matter, because Shouichi does not matter.

If Shouichi was a good Omega, he would be happy.

He opens the box with trembling hands, and doesn’t know why his limbs shake as they do – fear of the unknown? Or perhaps, with the child he’d buried inside himself years ago, they shake in anticipation of what he may find inside?

Multicolored toy weapons greet his wide eyes. They’re obnoxiously bright colors – purples, and greens, and reds, blues, yellows. There are edibles packed tightly in, addressed to Shouichi’s Alpha in particular; the rest of the non-perishables are meant for little Lambo, according to the note inside. Toy bazooka shells weigh heavily in his hands as he picks them up and sets them to the side, and only when he sifts through the multicolored ammunitions does Shouichi realize the only thing childish within the box are the colors.

The weapons are real. The bullets, and the bazooka shells, the pasta and bottles of olive oil, the two bottles of expensive wine – all real. Someone had sent an Alpha child a legitimate weapons stash. Shouichi remembers the amber eyes of the strange Omega child that answered the door of that home. The exasperated tone he used when reprimanding an Alpha, as if destruction were par for the course.

Shouichi remembers that he had not been afraid.

A lime-green pistol sits near the bottom of the crate.

“Stop crying,” Shouichi murmurs to himself, wrapping trembling fingers around the handle of the gun. “You’re not a child.”

The pistol is the same color as the little robot Shouichi had built all those years ago, a toy meant for the child he had been. But he’s not a child anymore, and no longer meant to be playing with toys.

A single shot rings out.

A/N: I wanted something in this chapter to be fairly light-hearted but all the characters conspired against me. T_T Next chapter should be the last for this story’s equivalent to the Daily Life Arc (unless it gets too long, so it might be the second-to-last), but then we can finally enter the Kokuyou Arc and get the actual plot of this thing rolling.

Notes on Miura Haru:

-Her introduction isn’t actually finished, but I’m trying to tie her in more with other characters like Ryouhei, Hana, and Kyoko this time around. (Friendship between girls is so important!!) But yes, Haru is an ALPHA.

-I toned down Haru’s violence in her introduction (which was played for laughs in the manga) because even as baby-crazy as she is, she’s not gonna pummel Omega!Tsuna. She’ll be fleshed out more next chapter.

-By the way, I was really creeped out by Haru when she first premiered in the manga. I like children too, but if some girl approached my niece the way Haru did, it would set off all my inner alarm bells. There’s socially-awkward, and then there’s f*cking creepy. If you’re asking a child you just met for a hug, their parent/guardian has every right to be like HELL NO.

Notes on Sasagawa Ryouhei:

-So ideas of ‘chivalry’ are a bit different in this universe, obviously, given the multiple genders. So Ryouhei’s ‘men can communicate through fists!’ mentality is more all-encompassing; what’s considered the ‘fairer’ sex would be Omegas first and foremost, and depending on local culture, Beta girls. I substituted Ryouhei’s “real men” usage with “true warriors” since it’s more gender neutral.

-Why is Ryouhei seemingly cool with letting Omega!Tsuna into the Boxing Club? Because Ryouhei believes warrior spirit trumps gender any day. (Like in canon, when he tries to get teen!I-Pin to join the boxing club.) That means he really does want Tsuna in his Boxing Club, and he’s just too stupid to realize that the Boxing Club does in fact have rules against that, as Tsuna notes to himself.

Notes on Irie Shouichi:

-I was taken by surprise – a lot of you had really interesting ideas on how Irie would play out in this story! I really, really liked some of those ideas too!

-Irie does have a very important purpose in the narrative, and yes – this also involves Byakuran. (By the way, ‘Watanabe Satoru’ is an OC and is honestly not that important to the overall plot aside from how he affects Irie.) The thing with Irie though – how important he is takes awhile to show. Since we’re still in the Daily Life Arc, like in canon, Irie’s much more involved in the plot when we enter the Future Arc.

-Good catch on the importance of ‘Alpha surrogates’ too! ;) You’ll see how that works out later.

Notes on Byakuran:

-HahahAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!

-Oh my god, you’ll see. I promise, Byakuran… Byakuran is coming.

-But Mukuro is first.

Please be kind and drop a comment. ;)

Chapter 11: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 11

Summary:

Surprisingly, Tsuna doesn't break the rules. Unsurprisingly, Hibari breaks the law.

Chapter Text

A/N: I’ve given up on asserting how many chapter are left until we get to the Kokuyou Arc because it just feels like I’m lying now. But! We’re getting closer…

Chapter 11

Blood and brain matter had pooled into the sodden pillow and bedsheets, soaked into the mattress, and spattered onto the floor. The bullet itself had blasted a path past soft flesh and hard bone, through and out the thalamus, then popped out the other side of the Alpha male’s skull and through the wooden bedframe until it met the end of its trajectory in the floorboards of the bedroom.

Death had been instantaneous. Watanabe Satoru had been sleeping one moment and was dead in the next with a single pull of the trigger.

Kyouya’s eyes slid from the gore-stained bed to the assorted members of the Disciplinary Committee already beginning to clean up. They were the older counterparts to the DC of Namimori Middle, most former yakuza having found their lives reformed at the business end of his tonfas.

The Disciplinary Committee of Namimori had a primary function: preserve the order of Namimori. This tenant had necessitated an increase in numbers, which lead to a takeover of local yakuza groups to either be dismantled or absorbed into Hibari’s follower count. While the core members of the DC were former thugs still in attendance at Namimori Middle, there was more than a fair amount of henchmen that were adults and operated outside of schoolgrounds.

All members were required to perform patrols of Namimori, both for safety and for intelligence-gathering. Any incidents considered to be suspicious in nature were brought to Kusakabe, who in turn informed Kyouya if they proved to be important. Kyouya himself made a point of having a say in the setup of patrol routes, and though all routes covered nearly all of Namimori proper – there was one section of this small town that the DC had been explicitly told not to interfere with.

Only Kyouya knew this exempted area was the area within a few kilometers of the Sawada residence.

The Watanabe home fell within these parameters, so when patrol heard what sounded like a gunshot within the area, they had immediately notified Kusakabe, who reported it to Hibari. Through witness reports by DC members and neighbors peeking out their windows to try to ascertain the source of the commotion, Kyouya had been able to narrow down the general area of where the sound may have originated from.

The dead body visible through the bedroom window had been a pretty clear sign that the sound came from the Watanabe home. The young Omega herbivore crumpled on the floor, with his own vomit and the murder weapon resting scant feet away, was another obvious clue. So too were the myriad of bruises and still-healing injuries littered over the herbivore’s thin frame.

Kyouya would have to confirm it, verify the clear indications of prolonged abuse. It was not uncommon for Alpha-Omega pairs with such an age difference, and though the smell of it had faded significantly in the aftermath, Kyouya could still discern traces of intoxication and sexual intercourse. There was an open crate left near the desk, packed with a strange assortment of firearms, ammunition, and perishables, all from a ‘Bovino famiglia’. Food was one thing – but to smuggle these kinds of weapons into Namimori and get them into the hands of a middle manager’s child-mate was unheard of in peaceful Namimori.

Irie Shouichi had been a sight unto himself, all wide viridian eyes and trembling pale form, nude and covered in the blood of the mate he’d murdered. Frightened little animals could become deadly in an instant – Irie had proven that when he followed along with the likes of Sawada Tsunayoshi rather than what his community expected of him.

Watanabe Satoru will be reported missing later, after failing to return home after a night of drinking. No one will be ever be sure where the Alpha male had gone, but people would whisper that perhaps he’d found someone else and eloped; perhaps he’d been dissatisfied with his work and left town; perhaps he’d owed money to disreputable people and gotten in over his head. Eventually, a week or so later, someone will claim to have seen him heading out towards Tokyo. Someone else will claim to have spotted him in Nagano.

The truth will never be so clear cut. Kyouya would ensure it.

For now, Kyouya returned home. It was nearing 6:30 AM – too early to head to school, too late to go back to sleep, and pointless to make more rounds and arouse suspicion. He would check in with Kusakabe later, take a nap during the day, and then seek out Gokudera Hayato after the school day ended to see what the silver-haired herbivore knew about this ‘Bovino family’.

The courtyard included in the Hibari estate is extensive and peaceful. It obscured the neighboring houses and hid the public roads from view; a gravel path led up to the otherwise humble 2-story home, a traditional Japanese house that had been renovated with modern fixtures. It was never considered crowded, because for the past several years, there had only been two occupants.

This morning, there were more.

She’s a small thing, not even quite to Kyouya’s knees, and it seemed like her head was half her total height. She was dressed in a red cheongsam-style shirt and dark shorts, tiny little house slippers on her feet. A single black braid pulled all of her hair back and showcased a prominent bald forehead, round cheeks rosy and eyes practically slitted closed. The smell of breakfast served hot and steaming on the table covered any scent she may have had, and as Hibari drew closer, he easily picked up that she had no scent – a young Beta.

None of this explained her presence.

“你好-” Her words stopped abruptly when she caught sight of his face. Her already rosy cheeks darkened in a much deeper blush, and then the Pinzu-Timed Super Explosion began its countdown on the child’s head.

Kyouya connected the dots for the full picture: the child assassin known as the Human Bomb was in his dining room, and she was about to explode. He swiftly picked her up and – instead of striking her out the window with his tonfa, which he briefly considered – then aimed for the sliding door that opened into the inner courtyard before pelting her up into the air with as much strength as he possibly could.

The resulting explosion blew a strong gust of wind throughout the residence, knocking over a few yard decorations and sending loose leaves raining over the yard. Kyouya didn’t bother to check on the child – if she was using the Pinzu-Timed Explosion, she should be strong enough to make her way back to the house and wouldn’t have suffered any injuries from her own attack.

“My, my,” a smooth tenor admonished teasingly from behind Hibari’s back. “That was rather rude, Kyouya.”

Kyouya turned abruptly, glowering at the tall male leaned comfortably against the doorway separating the dining area from the kitchen. Wild black locks of hair were swept out of icy blue eyes, which were gazing at Kyouya with the kind of soft fondness reserved only for those of close relations. He was smiling and relaxed in the face of Hibari’s irritation, as he always was – even if the dark bags under his eyes were present as usual. Kyouya didn’t know what upset him more: the seemingly permanent state of exhaustion or the never-ending cheer.

Hibari Reo, his father, seemed to exist only to agitate him.

“That is the student of that annoyance,” Kyouya ground out. “Why is she here?”

His father chuckled at the acidic words. “Now, you shouldn’t speak about family that way. Your cousin has his redeeming qualities,” the man returned candidly.

“That annoyance is not my cousin.”

Reo stepped fully into the dining room, taking a seat at the table. Everything about him seemed designed to be the exact opposite of Hibari Sasako; he was slimmer and elegant, with smooth skin and gentle features. No body odor, no pheromones – a Beta through and through – and yet, it was as if Reo’s presence was saturated into the very fibers of the home.

“First cousin once removed,” Reo corrected himself with that same teasing smile.

Kyouya ignored the implied admonishment with the ease of long practice. “Why is she here?” he repeated.

“Her master sent her here to train,” Reo replied. “He thinks it’s important that I-Pin-chan gain experience through discipline.”

Kyouya doesn’t think his first cousin once removed has any right to be sending his students to Japan, much less Namimori – the domain of the Hibari. His extended family loved to test their limits, though, especially after Sasako had re-opened relations to them. Now Kyouya had to deal with that annoyance, but he was going to draw the line at rearing that annoyance’s young.

“She can’t stay here,” Kyouya said.

Reo didn’t appear to have heard, motioning for Kyouya to take the open seat across from him at the table. Kyouya noted there were even several dishes of dimsum on the table alongside the otherwise traditional Japanese foods, and he took a seat across from his father with no little irritation.

“You’re in quite a mood this morning,” Reo noted mildly. “Rough night of patrols?”

Kyouya didn’t answer.

The older male picked at his food, swift and small bites that gave reason to that delicate frame. Hibari wished he’d eat more, wished he’d rest more; it was frustrating, being treated like a child by a man who could barely take care of his own health. Little animals needed to be taken care of, but sometimes they were too stubborn to accept aide. Everything about the man was gentle, the only truth he’d ever dare share preferred to be shown through action rather than words. It’s the reason Kyouya’s mother had fallen in love with him, after all.

“She can’t stay,” Kyouya repeated. The last thing he would tolerate was a crowd in his own home.

Reo’s smile never faded. “So stubborn, Kyouya… But if you’re so certain, then I’ll send I-Pin-chan to a friend,” he conceded.

Kyouya finished eating just as the small figure of I-Pin stumbled in through the back door, loose leaf debris stuck in her small braid and clothes lightly singed. Kyouya glanced back at his father, who was watching the tiny girl approach with a small, amused smile.

Kyouya stood with a flutter of his gakuran, making to grab a plate of shrimp dimsum before he halted at his father’s words. “Oh, there’s no need,” Reo said, eyes cutting clear across the table to match Kyouya’s gaze without flinching. “He’s already eaten.”

Kyouya nodded once, but before he could leave so that I-pin wouldn’t work herself up again, Reo set his chopsticks down and turned attentive eyes to his only child. Kyouya stopped in his tracks, and though by standing he towered over the others present, he couldn’t help but tense under his father’s eyes.

“We can’t keep him forever, Kyouya.”

Kyouya felt a sneer trying to turn his lips. “I’ll figure something out,” he returned evenly.

His father’s eyes never wavered. “He has to go back to his family,” Reo said. “After the- disappearance of his mate, ownership falls to them-”

“I know.”

His father’s eyes only softened. “I know you do,” he said softly.

Kyouya climbed up the stairs swiftly, passing the closed door of the guest bedroom – the smell of strawberries and cream lingering in the air just beyond it.

The Athletic Festival at Namimori Middle School was the event of the season, the only time of year Alphas felt comfortable showcasing their abilities without needing to fear getting pulverized by Hibari or his army of followers. It was easy to mask dominance displays as simple feats of athletic prowess, and they took full advantage of the time to do what their teachers implicitly encouraged.

The entire school was divided into three teams, dynamics equally dispersed as much as possible so that everyone was on fairly even ground starting out. There were a multitude of events and all students were expected to participate in at least one, although because of widespread fear of escalation should an Alpha’s dominance display disturb the relative equilibrium of Namichuu, the sports festival was only held for one day. Perhaps because of these factors, the competition between teams was really intense, and the fever of domination was ripe in the air.

The most intense and extreme of events was the Pole Knocking event, held at the climax of the sports festival. Leaders of each team climb and sit atop a tall wooden pole, held and defended by team members as competitors attempt to knock them down. It was a simple contest, made extraordinarily brutal given the fervor of the students – it was a no-holds-barred battle where team leaders had to be carried out on stretchers.

It was only natural, then, that team leaders and the bulk of the fighting force be Alphas, helped along by Beta males. Beta females and Omegas were generally pushed into the cheerleading category, and in the case of those in the latter category, participants in non-contact sports. That’s why Tsuna isn’t particularly surprised when he’s slotted into the 100m run.

Team A then completely blindsides him by having Sasagawa Ryouhei as team leader.

The exuberant Beta male is not a bad pick for team leader – he has the passion, the competitive spirit, and the experience of leadership that he’d earned as the Boxing Club president. It had just been expected to have an Alpha be chosen, and it seems Tsuna isn’t alone in his confusion at Team A’s apparent leader.

“Sasagawa-senpai is team leader?” Tsuna murmured audibly. He’s seated among his throng of classmates, between both Yamamoto and Gokudera, and is one of three Omegas in the room. He can’t see the other Omegas but knew they were upperclassmen; they were seated among their own classmates, noticeably kept away from interacting with anyone not from their class.

Kyoko, seated in front of him with Kurokawa Hana, turned around with a bright smile. “Oniisan challenged the other possible team leaders to a boxing match to win the rights of team leadership!” she explained to Tsuna. “After Takada-senpai lost, the others gave it to him.”

Takada was the president of the sumo club and an Alpha. Tsuna could understand why the others were quick to concede – Sasagawa Ryouhei wasn’t even injured.

“ULTIMATE WILL TO WIN!!! This will be the Team A motto for the sports festival!! Unless we win, everything is meaningless!!” Ryouhei yelled from the front of the large conference room held by their team. The students roared in approval, and the one teacher sent to keep watch on them – a very fatigued Inoue-sensei – was cringing into the corner at the noise.

He’s so passionate, Tsuna thought.

“So annoying,” Gokudera grumbled. “Can’t he use a normal speaking voice?”

Hana snorted, not even bothering to turn around. “So says the monkey who spends half his day snarling,” she cut back dryly.

“You want to say that to my face, bitch?” Gokudera predictably snarled.

Yamamoto’s disarming laugh only had the infamous Smoking Bomb grinding his teeth, especially as he interjected a relaxed “Now, now…”

Before blood could be shed, Ryouhei’s excited words once again regained their attention. “The pole knocking competition is the key to winning this year!” he said.

Gokudera blinked. “Pole knocking?” he echoed in confusion.

“It’s another sports event,” Tsuna replied. “Us first years are just the support for the upperclassmen though, since they have more strength.”

Gokudera’s obvious doubt regarding the strength of the upperclassmen was left unsaid, as Yamamoto’s casual grin turned rather strained and Kurokawa groaned. Tsuna understood a second later – while Tsuna and Kyoko would likely be pushed into cheerleading for the last event, and perhaps even Gokudera and other Beta male first years would act as glorified errand runners, Yamamoto and Kurokawa, along with the other Alphas, would be enlisted to actively participate.

“Such a pain,” Kurokawa muttered, cementing the fact that she had indeed been pushed into it.

Kyoko’s smile had dropped from her face, replaced by one of obvious concern. Kurokawa only shook her head at Kyoko’s expression, a silent dismissal of any further conversation.

“It’s been tradition for the team representative to act as leader in the pole knocking event, which means I should be doing it,” Ryouhei continued. Inoue-sensei managed to peel himself out of the shame corner to nod in agreement, clearly relieved Ryouhei understood this.

“BUT I WILL RESIGN!!!!” Ryouhei roared.

Inoue-sensei was practically pulling out his own hair, “Then why did you want to be Team A’s leader so badly?!”

“Rather than being a leader, I want to battle as a soldier!!” Ryouhei declared.

What selfish reasoning!! everyone thought in shock.

Kurokawa put her face in her hands and heaved a heavy sigh.

“There is no need to worry!!” Ryouhei continue spiritedly. “I have found an extremely better leader!!”

“But Takada is still in the hospital!” a third year cried out.

What did Sasagawa-senpai do to him?! Tsuna thought in alarm.

Ryouhei leveled a finger in a direction that Tsuna did not expect – namely, in their class’s direction. Both Yamamoto and Kurokawa froze, clearly not expecting to be singled out, and the rest of the room’s eyes turned to them in bemused expectation.

Expectation which was cleanly and viciously uppercut straight into blatant disbelief at Ryouhei’s proclamation: “Sawada Tsuna from Class 1-B!”

A pin could have dropped and it would have been audible in the unmoving silence that swallowed the room.

Then, Kurokawa dropped her face once more into her hands and groaned.

“Wait,” Tsuna squeaked out.

“That freak knows the greatness of the Tenth?” Gokudera beamed. Yamamoto’s approval was obvious by the wide smile on his face.

Wait,” Tsuna managed out in a slightly louder voice.

“What a good idea, Oniisan!” Kyoko cheered happily.

“Those who agree, raise your hands! We will decide by majority!” Ryouhei said.

“Are you crazy?!”

“Sawada’s an Omega!"

“Are Omegas even allowed to compete?!”

Inoue-sensei, who had gone deathly-white, seemed to rouse at the outcries from the other students. “S-Sasagawa-kun, nominating an Omega is inappropriate-”

“Sawada is an extreme warrior!” Ryouhei countered vehemently. “Just yesterday, he extremely knocked out a rival with one hit!!”

Another silence fell on the room, and as one, everyone turned to stare disbelievingly at Tsuna.

Tsuna shook his head in denial. This situation was rapidly spinning out of control, and he didn’t know how to get a handle on it. “That’s-That’s not true! I didn’t knock her out-"

“She was extremely on the ground!”

Tsuna wanted to cry, he really did. “Yeah but she was still conscious!” he said defensively. Gokudera and Yamamoto noticeably tensed.

Kakei-san, their classmate, started whimpering.

“Oh, that Alpha girl?” Kyoko chirped, hammering the last nail in the coffin of Tsuna’s defense.

Kurokawa’s silent scream of frustration into her palms was drowned out by Gokudera’s harried “You were attacked yesterday, Tenth?!”

“It wasn’t an attack, she just, uh…” Got too much into his personal space and Tsuna had reflexively made her stop. “Uh…”

“Sawada is a true warrior!” Ryouhei claimed. “He should also extremely join the Boxing Club!!”

Is that your true motive?! Tsuna wondered.

“Sasagawa-kun, for the last time, Omegas cannot join the Boxing Club!” Inoue-sensei screeched. “And they certainly cannot participate in the pole knocking-”

“That is incorrect.”

Tsuna’s eyes bugged out of his head when he saw Reborn casually strolling along the tabletop, wearing the traditional uniform and red armband of a Disciplinary Committee member. His trademark fedora was gone, his jet-black hair styled into the pompadour hairstyle Hibari’s men so favored.

“The school rules don’t forbid Omegas from participating in the pole knocking event,” Reborn explained, and if Tsuna’s ears weren’t deceiving him, the baby-shaped hitman was trying to emulate the no-nonsense tones of Kusakabe Tetsuya. “All students are encouraged to participate, in fact.”

“As support! To cheer on their classmates!” Inoue-sensei blew up in exasperation. “Not as active participants, and definitely not as team leaders!”

“Are you saying the Tenth isn’t a suitable leader, you bastard?!” Gokudera yelled, jumping from his seat and pulling out a few sticks of dynamite.

Yamamoto was doing his smile-that’s-not-a-smile thing, which had some of their classmates trying to edge away. “I think Tsuna is a great choice of leader,” he said pleasantly. Iwasaki, a row down, shuddered.

“So there’s no rule against it!” Ryouhei’s attention span was clearly very limited, allowing him to focus only on what he believed to be important.

Tsuna was glaring at Reborn, who was nonchalantly watching the proceedings with his beady black eyes. “Reborn, what are you doing! They’ll rip me to shreds!” he hissed quietly to his home tutor.

“If they’re talking about leaders, it’s obvious it should be the boss,” Reborn replied. “Besides, it seems fun.”

“You’re just doing this for your own entertainment, aren’t you!”

Tsuna’s intuition was spot-on: Yes.

“Alright, let’s vote! Raise your hands if you agree with Sawada as extreme leader!” Ryouhei said. Inoue-sensei was flailing now, but the meeting had clearly spiraled out of his control as well, and he was left gaping and forgotten in the corner once more.

The students of the other classes clearly didn’t think this was actually happening, but it was obvious Tsuna’s class not only realized yes, this was happening – they were also staring at Tsuna as if trying to gauge whether it was even safe to give their personal vote.

Ryouhei slammed a fist down atop the heavy wooden speaker’s podium, splitting it in half like a cheap cardboard imitation even though it really, really wasn’t. “RAISE YOUR HANDS!!”

He’s just giving an order! Tsuna realized in horror.

Gokudera turned on their classmates with a glower. “No one in our class is gonna refuse, right?” he growled.

Immediately, every single one of their classmates raised their hand. Kurokawa, the only exception, was glaring in Tsuna’s direction with a curious lack of true heat to her gaze. “This is all your fault,” she stated in a low hiss. Tsuna could not shake the feeling that the Alpha girl was not as burdened by this as she was pretending to be, but that did not make him feel even one bit better.

“It’s decided then!” Ryouhei proclaimed. “The leader of Team A for the Pole Knocking event is Sawada Tsuna!”

Don’t I get a say in this?! Tsuna thought, frozen stiff in his seat.

“But-” Inoue-sensei began, before being abruptly stopped when Reborn – now donned in the substitute-Maths-teacher disguise of Reboyama-sensei – used his gut as a landing pad, effectively knocking the actual teacher into unconsciousness.

“Excellent choice,” Reborn piped up, to the wide-eyed horror of Tsuna. “The change has been made official.”

Both Tsuna and Kurokawa dropped their faces into their hands and groaned in despair.

“I’m sure this Athletics Festival is going to be fun!” Kyoko was saying, cheerful and oblivious to the atmosphere around her. “I’ll definitely cheer you on!”

“Thanks,” Hana managed out, a sense of impending doom having long settled into her gut. She was keeping her eyes forward as they made their way home, but no matter how she wished to reject reality, it was impossible to ignore the sweet scent that lingered lightly in the air with every step.

“You’ll definitely be a great team leader, Tsuna!” Yamamoto said, one arm thrown over Sawada’s shoulders in a friendly manner.

Hana’s eye twitched.

Somehow, Hana had missed Kyoko’s developing relationship with Sawada. This newfound companionship had apparently reached the walking-home-together stage, as made clear when Kyoko fell into step with the Omega boy as they reached the school gates. Because Kyoko had been quick to join him, this meant Hana had to join as well because there was no way she was letting her friend walk into the lion’s den alone.

The news about Sawada’s newfound title of power had spread around the school like a wildfire, and by the time the automated messaging system notified students to leave school premises, everyone knew Team A’s chosen leader was an Omega first year. That would have been cause for concern by itself, except Sawada was already infamous for his relationship with the volatile Gokudera and popular Yamamoto; he couldn’t have been a more obvious target even if he had one painted on his back.

Hana didn’t have a lot of one-on-one conversation experience with Sawada. Before he’d inadvertently given her the Creepy Glare, he’d kept to himself except for basic greetings; afterwards, he’d always been filtered through either Gokudera or Yamamoto, so it was mostly indirect. They hardly ever had casual conversations, especially with Gokudera always so willing to start a fight if anyone so much as looked at Sawada wrong (as Hana often did).

Which is why she’s a little taken-aback by Sawada’s despondent “I can’t even climb a tree…”

“No time like the present to learn!” Kyoko’s smile did not lose a single watt of brightness. Yamamoto agreed with a good-humored laugh.

The look of long-suffering on Sawada’s face was so familiar that Hana had to remind herself that this was Sawada, who regularly and willingly interacted with the most psychotic members of their class. She should not be able to empathize with him.

“Sawada Tsuna!!”

Hana and Kyoko jumped in surprise, but both Yamamoto and Sawada only turned at the declaration, the former smiling in curiosity and the latter resigned. The source of the loud exclamation was from up a telephone pole, and Hana stared in bewilderment at the girl clinging to the top like a monkey on a tree trunk.

“I am here for our duel!!” the girl announced, still clinging to the pole.

The smile on Yamamoto’s face dropped. Hana didn’t need to be an Alpha to sense that a line had been crossed with the ever-affable Yamamoto.

“Duel?” Sawada echoed in confusion.

“For Reborn-chan’s honor!”

Yamamoto relaxed, scary expression fading into pleasant confusion. Hana resolutely turned her eyes away from her terrifying classmate and fixed on the Alpha girl ranting about… something or another, it was hard to understand because the diatribe mostly consisted of “children are angels of pure hearts” and Hana felt like she was having a stroke because nothing made sense.

Why was this girl talking about children? (The horrible, smelly little devils!) Why was an Alpha challenging an Omega to a duel? Why was Sawada the source of her ire? Why was she on a telephone pole?!

“Oh, it’s the girl that Tsuna-kun knocked out,” Kyoko stated, eyes lit in understanding.

Yamamoto’s smile dropped again.

Someone’s going to die, Hana thought in a moment of absolute clarity.

Sawada seemed to come to this conclusion too, his tired expression morphing into a small frown, amber eyes flicking to Yamamoto in concern before turning back to the strange girl. “Uh, you’re Miura Haru, right? I…don’t really think a duel is necessary,” he tried diplomatically. “But can you at least come down here?”

The girl’s bold expression abruptly changed into defeat. “………Yes, I think that’d be better too,” she agreed, voice weakening. “But…now I can’t get down.”

Hana and Sawada snapped at the same time. “Are you an idiot?!”

Yamamoto laughed lightly. The sound of it chilled Hana to the very marrow of her bones. “No time like the present to learn,” he said cheerfully, an eerie and much less kind echo to Kyoko’s words from before. Hana automatically translated it to: let her fall.

“I can do it!” Miura said, a mix of determination and desperation in her tone of voice. “If I can’t do something as small as this, then I have no business getting involved with Reborn-chan!”

“You already have no business getting involved with Reborn!” Sawada snapped.

Miura’s head whipped around to give the Omega boy a baleful glare, one arm lashing out to point accusingly in his direction. “You’re the one-”

For all her fire, it was clear that she was not physically capable of such multitasking, as she abruptly lost balance – flailing mid-air with both arms, legs managing to hold her weight for all of a few seconds before she fell back and into the air.

Hana was too slow to react, some innate instinct recognizing an Alpha and immediately identifying the other as an unknown competitor; Yamamoto had hesitated, his natural urge of wanting to help someone in need battling with his instinct to covet Sawada and eliminate a potential rival for the Omega’s attention.

It seemed Kyoko and Sawada had no such reservations.

They rushed forward, the Beta girl a step behind Sawada, but this allowed Sawada to cushion the majority of Miura’s fall and Kyoko caught Sawada’s own recoil, and the three fell to the ground in a jumbled heap.

“Kyoko!” Hana screamed, at the same time as Yamamoto’s worried “Tsuna!”

Miura rolled off first, dazed but unharmed. Hana practically pushed the other Alpha girl aside, reaching towards the tangled limbs of Sawada and Kyoko, but was beat to the punch when Sawada flinched back, eyes blazing as he turned golden irises to the Beta girl he’d inadvertently landed on.

Kyoko sat up, wincing. Her elbows, from where they’d collided and scraped against the asphalt as she bore the weight of the others, were bleeding sluggishly, and she halted moving when she’d attempted to move her right leg, darting a glance to her foot with a pained whimper.

“Kyoko-san, what hurts?” Sawada was asking. There was nothing hesitant in his posture now, certainty and concern in his voice as he glanced over her.

Kyoko was clearly in pain, but she had stopped whimpering and was starting to gain the stubborn edge of resilience she always did when she didn’t want people to get worried for her. “I may have sprained my ankle,” she said, testing it again before halting abruptly as another pained whimper forced itself out of her lips.

Hana knelt down, motioning for Kyoko to climb onto her back. The Beta girl stammered out some hesitations before giving in to her friend, and only when Kyoko’s arms were wrapped securely around her neck did Hana stand to her full height. She turned and shot the Alpha girl, this Miura Haru, a withering glare – but it went unnoticed, Miura’s large brown eyes instead locked on to Kyoko’s bloodied elbows.

“I’m taking Kyoko home,” Hana stated, then blinked a bit, taken-aback by her own action – why had she said that? It wasn’t like she had to report to Sawada or anything.

Sawada nodded in understanding, his own expression reminiscent of that time in the stairwell, and Hana found her eyes looking anywhere but directly at him. “Yamamoto, can you go with them?” he asked softly.

“I don’t need an escort,” Hana huffed out, still not making eye contact. She was certain that’s how you caught their crazy.

Sawada’s tone never changed from that low, gentle tone that shredded to bits that Alpha voice in her mind screaming at her to subdue him. “I know,” he said, amber eyes turning away from Kyoko and to Miura. “But I’d like to speak with Miura-san alone.”

An Omega left alone with an Alpha? Even though they had not yet Presented, to leave an Omega alone in the mercies of an Alpha that had shown such a trend of impulsive behavior was sure to draw negative attention. The street itself was hardly populated, out of the way of major walkways and away from passers-by that could keep an eye on the Alpha so that the Omega could be protected by the invisible bubble of society.

It was telling, then, that not one person tried to dissuade him.

After all, it wasn’t Tsuna that needed to be protected.

“I would have preferred to drink with a beautiful woman.”

Hibari Reo smiled into his glass of hard liquor, eyes dancing in amusem*nt. The sun had set some time ago, and the night air was cool on his skin. He’d opened the tatami doors to the back courtyard, alight with the sounds of nocturnal insects. It was a pleasant and quiet evening – as he’d expected, with the absence of the sweet and easily-flustered I-Pin.

“You’ll be staying in Namimori for a bit longer this time, ne?” Reo retorted. “You can spare one evening for an old friend.”

Dr. Shamal levelled him with an unimpressed look, but his expression quickly shifted into matching good humor. “To old friends,” he agreed, tipping his glass in Reo’s direction.

Reo returned the gesture with a wider smile.

“To old friends.”

A/N: SHAMAL!! He's heeeeere!!

Edit Note: I changed some minor information in previous chapters because I somehow screwed up my own timeline. Anyway, Tsuna and co. are first years for now, although they’re close to moving into their 2nd year.

Please be kind and drop a comment. ;)

Chapter 12: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 12

Summary:

It's still too early for them to properly understand teamwork, but by god, Tsuna will make sure they understand something.

Chapter Text

A/N: Guess who has more time now to update fics 😬 Anyway, hope everyone is doing well! Times are tough, let’s just hang in there as best we can.

Everyone: Where’s Gokudera????

Me: Conspiring. ...and getting hassled, it's honestly a mixed bag when it comes to his co-conspirator.

Chapter 12

“It’s definitely from the Bovino famiglia.”

There’s a low thud sound as Hayato tossed the vibrant orange glock back into the crate. The insignia of the Bovino family was scratched into the handle, as it usually was when they’ve personally altered their own manufactured weapons. He’d only ever heard about this being done for prized members of the family, which meant the intended destination of the weapons load was someone the Bovino family held in high regard.

“Why on earth is a mafia family giving weapons to a middle-income manager?” Kusakabe mused, looking over the multicolored weapons stash set before Hibari’s desk.

The Disciplinary Committee office was empty aside from them and Hibari himself, as Hibari’s underlings were too well-trained to risk crowding their leader. The boy himself was leaned by the open window, arms crossed and gazing back at Hayato with a threatening glint to his eyes. Hayato, now becoming more familiar with Hibari’s poisonous moods courtesy of having to work together to strip the Namimori Middle School faculty of “inappropriate” members, thought the palpable hostility was because even three people was a crowd to the irritable Alpha.

Hayato did not answer Kusakabe’s query. Experience kept his mouth shut, not that he’d answer the other male even if Kusakabe was in the know about mafia happenings.

After all, Lambo Bovino was under the care of Hayato’s chosen boss.

That damn cow, Hayato thought with a flash of annoyance. He knew why the Bovino had sent their arms to a civilian – it was likely to save money on postage. They already had to send a clean-up crew to the Watanabe residence because of Lambo, so they thought to save money and have some random civilian finish the delivery.

Hayato knew this was because the Bovino, as a whole, were absolutely terrified of Reborn. The fact that they sent some idiotic kid to mock an assassination on the world’s most famous hitman was testament to the fact that the Bovino didn’t have a single shred of common sense.

Hibari’s eyes cut back to Kusakabe. “Check the patrol routes and increase surveillance of both the Watanabe’s and the Irie’s,” he ordered his right-hand man curtly. “And have the police look into Watanabe Satoru’s workplace.”

Kusakabe understood the dismissal for what it was, nodding in assent before leaving the room. Hayato wanted to follow him out, but Hibari’s eyes were back on him and he wasn’t going to bother fighting the crazed Alpha for some imagined slight. It was bad enough he couldn’t walk the Tenth home, and this was only further delaying him.

“Who are the Bovino?” Hibari asked.

It was the question Hayato had been dreading. “All I know is that they’re a mafia family—"

Instinct had him barely ducking the tonfa that whizzed past his cheek and was embedded into the wall behind him. Hibari had stood now, and though his expression had not changed, he held his remaining tonfa at the ready.

“Herbivore, do not lie to me.”

“Do you want to fight, you bastard?!” Hayato snapped back, pulling out his dynamite.

Hibari’s eyes narrowed in consideration, clearly finding the idea of a fight interesting. He jumped his desk, stalking towards Hayato and launching another tonfa strike once he was within distance. Hayato jumped out of the way this time, reflexively throwing a couple sticks of dynamite in the prefect’s direction.

Hibari struck the dynamite out the open window with another swipe of the tonfa, pulling his second tonfa out of the wall as Hayato’s weapons exploded harmlessly in the open air. Instead of advancing again, however, he shook the plaster from his weapon and then glared at Hayato, who was stood ready on the other side of the office.

“I understand Omertà, herbivore,” Hibari stated coolly. “Now tell me the Bovino’s connection to Namimori.”

Hayato froze, eyes widening at the admission. Omertà – the unsaid agreement between mafia famiglias to keep their world separate from those of civilians. Those who did not participate in the sphere of the mafia world were to be kept ignorant of its happenings, and every mafia member kept their participation and connections secret.

“How the f*ck do you know—"

That’s not an answer to my question, herbivore.”

The killing intent spiked, causing Hayato to tense in response. There was a moment spent just glaring at each other – Hayato poised ready for either flight or fight, Hibari definitely for fight. The scent of green tea and iron was strong enough even for Hayato to gauge, sticking unpleasantly in his throat as he worked it to spit out a reply.

“I don’t know,” he managed to grind out.

Hayato realized – belatedly – that his answer was enough of one for Hibari.

They both knew that Hayato would only lie for one person.

Hibari’s killing intent did not lessen, but the look into those grey eyes became more calculating in response. Gradually, the prefect relaxed from his attack stance, tucking his tonfas back into their harnesses as the seconds elapsed between them. He turned abruptly, gakuran fluttering as he went to resume his stand by the open window.

“You don’t have an afterschool job yet,” Hibari started, voice almost a purr. “Do you?”

Hayato felt a cold shiver pass down his spine at the strong sense of foreboding in the words.

Miura Haru is six years old when she learns what it means to be an Alpha.

Her parents are watching television in the living room and she’s sitting nearby but out of the way. She’s got her fair share of toys but she’s decided she wants to draw this time, so she puts crayon to paper and draws herself. She’s a princess in her picture, with a dazzling ballgown on and a smiling Prince Charming set to rescue her from an unidentifiable monster made of brown and green scribbles.

Her mother looks over, brows furrowed, and asks her about the drawing.

“I’m a Princess,” Haru tells her happily. “And this is my Prince, he’s gonna save me from the monster!”

Her father chuckles, the kind of dismissive sound she doesn’t understand at that age. “Shouldn’t you be doing the rescuing?” he asks her. “You save the Omega, not the other way around.”

Haru does not want to fight the monster in her drawing, but her parents have already turned their attention back to the TV and off her. She frowns, looks back at her drawing, and then puts a fresh piece atop and starts anew – this time on a picture with no princesses, or princes, or monsters.

Alphas aren’t pretty princesses, they’re fighters.

It’s better this way.

Haru is eight years old when she learns what it means to be an Alpha.

She’d run too fast while playing on the playground, tripping over her own two feet and skinning her knees bloody. She rests back on her rear and wails on the playground floor, too shocked by the pain and all the red smeared across her legs.

A few of her friends, Beta girls and boys, are circled around her and staring with wide eyes. Satonaka-sensei finally appears, making her way towards a sobbing Haru.

“Miura-kun, that’s enough,” the teacher chides gently. “Alphas don’t cry. Don’t be an Omega.”

Haru chokes down her next sob, despite the stinging of her knees, despite the insistent hand trying to tug her back into standing.

Alphas don’t cry.

It’s better this way.

Haru is eleven years old when she learns what it means to be an Alpha.

Yashiro-kun is about her size at this age, but unlike Haru, he prefers to play outdoors and rough-house with anyone willing to entertain him. He smells like dirt and sunshine, but not in the same way Haru does – his is from all the time he spends idling outside with his friends, a temporary scent that says more about his lifestyle than his dynamic.

He doesn’t like Haru, because Haru stays inside and does her math homework, and still smells like sunshine. He does, however, like their classmate Tamayo-chan; an Omega girl who sits in the front row and glances at Haru whenever she refuses to go out and play with the other Alphas.

Yashiro-kun lashes out at Haru during PE, kicking a ball into her face hard enough to crack her nose. Blood gushes out and pain sparks behind her eyes, and it’s lost on no one that he did it on purpose. There’s a moment where their classmates stop and stare, the air thick with anticipation, and through the taste of iron in her throat – Haru realizes they’re expecting her to do something.

So she does.

Yashiro buckles under her weight when she tackles him to the ground and his words turn muddled as her nails rip through the skin on his face. He’s crying out for help seconds later, and their teacher pulls her off of him with a holler. There’s blood on both their clothes, mingled together from both their injuries.

Their parents are called to the teacher’s office and they’re officially chastised. Her homeroom teacher sends her home with a sigh of “Alphas are Alphas.”

And Alphas are dominating.

It’s better this way?

Haru is 13 years old when she learns she has no idea what it means to be an Alpha.

The Omega boy, Sawada Tsuna, is staring her down. She initially thought him cute; not as cute as Reborn-chan, obviously, but cute in the way all Omegas could be cute. Small and frail, with large eyes and a delicate countenance that only Omegas could get away with.

The cuteness had been completely overtaken by the idea that he had twisted the sweet, innocent perceptions of the baby he kept in his company. Haru, as the Alpha, had taken it upon herself to save Reborn-chan – because that’s what Alphas do. They save the vulnerable, they swallowed their tears, and they dominated their competitors.

Sawada Tsuna’s eyes were frightening.

Haru had never seen them like this before. They practically burned gold, and the pressure he exuded despite his scent never changing was intense. It was as if he was looking through her rather than at her, picking at her core with nothing more than a glance.

“We should settle this now,” Sawada began, his voice almost lulling. “Before anyone else gets hurt.”

Haru’s eyes widened, a flush overtaking her. “I-I didn’t mean to—” she choked out, the vivid reminder of the Beta girl’s bloodied elbows coming to mind.

“And what did you mean to do?” Sawada cut in.

Haru didn’t know. As an Alpha, she had been following her instinct, had been following what she’s been implicitly and explicitly expected of her – namely, making Sawada Tsuna recognize her as an Alpha and submitting accordingly. When he hadn’t, when he’d dismissed her concerns about the rearing of the young Reborn, when he’d actually retaliated against her dominance display with violence – all Haru knew was that she had to escalate it and respond in kind.

She hadn’t thought that meant hurting the Beta girl. She hadn’t wanted to hurt anyone.

“If you’d- If you’d just acted like an Omega, that wouldn’t have happened!” Haru declared, defensive and unreasonable. She didn’t want to examine her own actions so closely – she’d never been taught how.

Sawada scoffed, “Like what? Letting you lecture me on Reborn, someone you don’t even know?”

“Reborn-chan is a baby! His heart is pure—”

“Pure sadism maybe,” Sawada muttered.

Haru stomped her foot. “This is exactly what I was talking about! Omegas don’t act like this!” she exclaimed. The unimpressed look this earned her only increased her ire, but Haru didn’t lash out physically like she had before – for one, she was pretty sure Sawada would give as good as he got.

“And how do Omegas act?” he asked after a moment, expression chilly but vaguely curious.

Haru already knew the answer to that: “They listen to Alphas!”

She’d seen enough to support this. Her Omega classmates were demure and obedient, never raising a hand or eye to the Alphas and Betas around them. They were soft and delicate, needing to be watched so that they weren’t taken advantage of or unduly harassed. They listened to what they were told to do, never contradicting the instructions (coercions) of their peers or teachers.

“Yet here I am, not listening,” Sawada retorted. “If it makes you feel better, I don’t listen to my Alpha classmates either.”

Haru remembered the two Alphas he’d been walking with earlier and could believe it. The Alpha girl had seemed focused entirely on the Beta girl, and that Alpha boy had been – well, fawning was the best word Haru could think of to describe the creepy smiling male.

“Well, you should!” she asserted.

Sawada’s look was bored. “Why?”

Haru blinked, never having been asked that before. “Well, uh… Because they’re Alphas,” she said. And Alphas lead, Alphas dominate, Alphas don’t need support like Omegas do. Alphas were strong.

She remembered the pain of being kneed by the slight boy before her.

“I don’t want to,” Sawada said.

Haru stared at him in bafflement.

He shrugged, uncaring. “I don’t want to listen to Alphas. Listening to them never did me any good, so I don’t want to anymore.”

That’s—You can’t just stop listening because you want to!”

“Why? They’re not my teacher or my boss. I don’t have to listen to them if I don’t want to,” Sawada dismissed.

“They’re Alphas!” Haru cried in frustration. Why was he being so difficult?

“I don’t care.”

The finality in those words was frightening. Everything about Sawada Tsuna backed up his claim; he’d knocked her away when she’d gotten too close, he was lecturing her now, he had absolutely no qualms looking an Alpha in the eye or arguing with them – he seemed to honestly not care who was on the other end of his burning gaze as he tore them apart.

“Why? Why don’t you care?” Haru ground out.

Sawada’s expression – simmering gold eyes set in a face of stone – never changed. “Why do you care so much?”

Haru didn’t know how to respond. Not because she didn’t know the answer – but because the answer was so bitter that she didn’t want to swallow it and admit it aloud.

She cared because if she didn’t, and Sawada was right – that it didn’t matter that she was an Alpha and he was an Omega, that this didn’t automatically give her the right to push him the way she wanted to – then didn’t that mean she was in the wrong? That all those years she was taught to behave and act a certain way, all those years she was forced to give up, piece by piece, who she wanted to be in order to become who everyone else thought she was – didn’t that make it all meaningless?

And that was terrifying. That she could mean anything, that she could become anything, that she didn’t have to be strong if she didn’t want to be, that she didn’t have to be violent if she was scared to be, that she could rely on others if she chose to do so – then what did it mean to be an Alpha?

Did being an Alpha even have to mean anything?

Sawada suddenly tensed before her, eyes darting to behind her and locking onto something else. She didn’t understand why until a moment later when the mingled smell of Alphas invaded her nose, and she was already turning, half-blocking the Omega boy from view despite her thin frame to face the three boys coming closer.

“Lover’s spat?” one of the boys, tall with a shaved head, leered in amusem*nt. His two friends chortled at his sides, steps slowing to a stop a scant distance from Haru. They were far more fit than Haru, clearly at least involved in athletics of some kind, their forms lined with muscles.

The one that spoke, likely the leader, had already Presented; his smell was the strongest, a disgusting combination of fresh turned earth and acorn. He was also the largest, eyes looking past Haru to Sawada behind her in overt interest. Haru almost wanted to laugh manically; the Alpha was in for a surprise if they let Sawada speak at all.

“It’s none of your business,” Haru snapped back, never having learned how to do anything but escalate.

One hand closed around her elbow closest to Sawada, the smell of burnt sugar starting to overtake the Alphas’ scents due to proximity. “We should go,” he whispered into her ear.

Of course – he was an Omega, of course he wouldn’t want to fight. It didn’t occur to Haru that maybe it was better to choose the fight rather than have it chosen for you, that maybe disliking violence was enough to stay her hands. This didn’t occur to her because no one had ever expected it of her, and Haru was only ever used to rising to expectations.

“Cute little thing, aren’t you?” the Alpha leader said, directing the words to Sawada now. “Why is a little Omega like you with a bitch like this?”

Haru bared her teeth. It was obvious to her that these Alphas weren’t interested in a little light ribbing, and with the way their eyes were focused on Sawada, she knew that meant danger. Her pheromones flared a bit in response, but this earned nothing more than a few mocking snickers from the boys before her.

Haru wasn’t strong – she knew that. She’d been taken down by an Omega, for god’s sakes; physical strength was not her forte. But that didn’t mean she’d just leave Sawada to their mercy, because above all – Haru was not cruel.

“Run, Sawada!” she yelled, rushing forward and launching herself at the leader. She hoped Sawada was fast enough to reach the main road and be back in the public eye so that he was safe. Even if she wouldn’t be able to hold her own long, she hoped she could do so long enough for Sawada.

Pain flared across her face as a fist bashed her aside, lights and dark spots dancing in her vision as she crashed to the ground with a yelp. It hurt—she absolutely hated pain, hated fighting and getting dirty and bruised—

But she hated people who hurt the weak and innocent more, so she crawled back up to her hands and knees.

A kick landed squarely against her side, knocking her back down to the ground. She rolled over on to her uninjured side, clutching her torso as tears welled in her eyes, but even then, she caught sight of Sawada’s face.

He was furious.

There was a sudden pop and then blood momentarily gushed from his left temple, just as quickly disappearing into nothing as an orange fire blazed to life on his forehead. His clothes seemed to explode off of him, tatters landing at his feet and revealing a pair of dark orange boxers.

If blood hadn’t already been running from her nose, Haru was sure it would have started right then.

“Protect Miura with my dying will!!”

Sawada’s words were delivered in a roar, and what had started as surprised, derisive laughter from the Alphas abruptly ended as Sawada dashed towards them, launching into a spin kick that sent the Alpha leader flying headfirst into the telephone pole Haru had been perched on just under an hour ago. He did not get back up.

Before the Alpha’s two friends could do much more than gape at him, Sawada pivoted, outright punching the closest one straight into unconsciousness. The remaining Alpha fell on his butt with wide eyes, pheromones changed into something much more tempered as fear forced him into compliance.

And Sawada stopped.

The flame on his head flickered and diminished into nothing, an echo of that blaze shimmering in his amber eyes as he regarded the trembling Alpha on the ground in consideration. Then, with a sigh – as if something entirely shocking that rocked the foundations of Haru’s world forever hadn’t happened – Sawada waved a dismissive hand at the boy.

“Take your friends and go,” he said, turning away and back to Haru. He grimaced as his eyes took in her injuries; she’d managed to get into a sitting position, legs tucked underneath her, one hand hovering over her sore ribcage as she gazed up at him.

Sawada had rescued her.

“Miura-san—”

“Tsuna-kun,” she cut him off, the words stinging due to her cut lip. But she had to say them, couldn’t just bottle them up because Tsuna deserved to know. The dusk-heavy sky backlit him in glowing orange, and the way the growing shadows played across his face only made the hue of his irises stand out all the more.

He was beautiful.

“You’re amazing! Please marry me!”

His mouth fell open in a surprised gape, and he seemingly choked on his words for a moment. He was still incredibly cute.

“How hard were you hit?!”

“Go, Team A!”

“Team A, fighting~!”

Tsuna dodged Ikezawa’s flailing pom-pom without looking, shaking his own with less enthusiasm. The Beta girls around him gave an ecstatic shriek as Yamamoto reached the finish line first, beating the track team’s star members by several seconds. His cheering team members crowded the baseball player to slap against his back heartily, prompting a bashful grin from the humble Alpha, but they were quick to disperse when Yamamoto headed in Tsuna’s direction with shining eyes.

“Great job, Yamamoto,” Tsuna said, honestly impressed.

Yamamoto’s smile brightened into something real. “It was a hard win,” he said, even though he clearly wasn’t even winded. “But don’t worry, Tsuna, I’ll have your back in the Pole Knocking competition!”

Tsuna’s stomach clenched in stress. “Y-Yeah, thanks—"

“THAT’S RIGHT, SAWADA!”

Tsuna winced, reflexively clamping one hand over his abused ear. He was quick to learn that Ryouhei just completely lacked an inside voice. “Sasagawa-senpai,” he squeaked out.

“WE WILL USE OUR FULL POWER FOR TEAM A!!” Ryouhei hollered, practically appearing beside Yamamoto. “VICTORY IS EVERYTHING!! FIGHT WITH YOUR ALL, EVEN IF YOU DIE!!”

“Even if I die?!” Tsuna echoed in horror.

There was a tired sigh behind them – Kurokawa had finished her obstacle course, Kyoko at her elbow. The cheerful Beta girl was smiling at her brother, innocence shining in her eyes, even as she moved forward with a calming “Oniisan, you shouldn’t put pressure on your teammates…”

“I refuse to die in a school activity surrounded by you monkeys,” Kurokawa added in a derisive tone, showing she had some shred of sanity if she knew about the inherent threat of Namichuu’s Sports Festival.

An unpleasant smell of orange rinds caused Tsuna to glance back, catching sight of the lean and muscled figure of Oshikiri – the third-year captain of the soccer club and leader of Team C. The Alpha male could only be described as swaggering forward, a smirk on his face as he watched Tsuna’s groupmates bicker.

“Fighting amongst team members?” he sneered as he approached, eyes glancing over those assorted before landing on Tsuna. “As expected of a team that chose an Omega as a leader.”

The arguing immediately stopped, and very suddenly everyone’s eyes were on the tall youth. Tsuna could see the hesitation flash behind those eyes, knew the older Alpha was rethinking himself when he had the combined attention of Gokudera, Yamamoto, Kurokawa, and Sasagawa Ryouhei on him.

“Not a bad sight though,” he added with a leer in Tsuna’s direction, clearly choosing bravado over intelligence.

It was the last conscious choice he could make, Tsuna tensing at the remark subconsciously. This was enough for Gokudera, who noticed Tsuna’s movements and was closest to Oshikiri – prompting him to immediately lash out with a kick directly to the soccer captain’s gut, knocking him unconscious with a loud “Back off!”

“Haha,” Yamamoto smiled. “I guess he needs to do more crunches?”

Kurokawa looked completely unperturbed, only scowling at Yamamoto. “Shut up, don’t add to it,” she muttered. “Sawada’s already made it worse.”

“What did I do?” Tsuna griped. “…Gokudera-kun, please don’t kick him again, he’s already out cold.”

“Yes, Tenth!”

Kurokawa stared back at Tsuna evenly, clearly thinking the answer was obvious enough.

A loud outcry brought Tsuna’s attention away from Kurokawa and to a small gaggle of members from Team C, who were ogling Oshikiri’s unconscious form on the ground. “What did you do to our leader?!” one demanded, a third year Alpha who clearly had never interacted with Gokudera before because he stormed right up to the volatile mafioso.

Tsuna couldn’t even open his mouth in warning before Gokudera sucker punched the other male, adding to the number of unconscious bodies at his feet.

“How weak,” Gokudera sneered, toeing the fallen Alpha.

“TEAM A IS FIGHTING DIRTY!!” a student from Team C yelled out.

“EXTREMELY GOOD JOB, OCTOPUS-HEAD!” Ryouhei hollered, drowning out Team C’s cries. “YOUR THIRST FOR VICTORY IS EXACTLY WHAT WE NEED!”

Octopus- I’M GONNA f*ckING KILL YOU, TURF-TOP!”

The amount of spectators was increasing, to Tsuna’s horror. More members of Team C were fast approaching, and now students from Team B were running forward, eyes wide and faces flushed.

“Okomoto-senpai was just found beaten and unconscious in the bathroom!” one Team B member stated breathlessly. “We found a note pinned to him, saying Team A would be victorious!”

They brandished said note, which looked ridiculously decadent given the scroll it was splayed across, painted boldly in black ink in a handwriting style Tsuna was very familiar with, given that he stared at it every night in the margins of his notebooks, the corrections made in red ink and with a gun barrel pointed at his temple.

Tsuna turned and sought out Reborn’s tiny form, napping contentedly atop a picnic blanket Tsuna’s mother had brought in order to watch the Sports Festival.

What is he planning?!

“THAT’S CHEAP, TEAM A!!”

“THIS IS UNFAIR!!”

“YOU BASTARDS CHOSE AN OMEGA AS A LEADER, NO ONE FORCED YOU!!”

That last holler was the breaking point apparently, Gokudera and Ryouhei squaring up. Yamamoto, who had started gearing up to mediate, heard that last statement and instead stepped up beside Ryouhei, making his intent to brawl known. Kyoko looked very concerned, but in contrast to her expression, she was holding a baton more like a weapon than an accessory. Tsuna knew without a doubt that if Kyoko was getting ready to fight, Kurokawa would not be far behind, which left him as the sole voice of reason here.

Which was wildly unfair, because Tsuna just wanted to crawl under a rock.

“May I have your attention please—”

The school-wide intercom flared to life, cutting through the brewing atmosphere. “In light of recent events, we’d like to discuss the Pole Knocking event with each team’s representative. Representatives, please come to the main office now. …Failure to comply will result in you being bitten to death.”

With the message ended on that threatening note, Tsuna glanced back at the glowering mass of Team B and C members before turning and heading in the direction of the main office. There was no point dawdling, as Hibari obviously had a hand in this if the school counselor was using his catchphrase.

Even with that knowledge though, Tsuna hadn’t expected Hibari to actually be in the office.

“HIIIIIIEEE—"

Tsuna dodged a tonfa to the face a split-second before it would have hit, to the shock of the Beta school counselor sitting trembling in the corner.

“Shut up,” Hibari hissed, keeping his tonfas ready if it looked like Tsuna was going to start screaming again. Tsuna wisely kept his mouth shut, side-shuffling into the office and keeping wide eyes locked onto Hibari, just in case the prefect lashed out again just because he could.

Hibari watched him move, and only after Tsuna hit the edge of the nearest piece of furniture did he put his tonfas away.

“Y-You’re T-T-Team A’s l-leader?” the counselor managed out in a terrified whisper.

Tsuna nodded. “The other representatives might not come,” he felt compelled to explain. “They’re…indisposed.”

Hibari snorted.

“W-We heard T-Team A h-has been k-k-knocking out the other t-team leaders,” the counselor continued, glancing at Hibari in terror. “I-In light of th-these c-c-circ*mstances, we—"

“Will continue with the Pole Knocking event,” Hibari interrupted.

It was obvious this was not what the school counselor had been working up to, but she stopped speaking immediately anyway. Hibari went straight to her desk, pulling up one sheet of paper and skimming it until he found what he was looking for, a small smirk curling his lips in response.

He looked back up at Tsuna, then back at the list, before shoving the paper into the counselor’s face without looking at her. “Mochida Kensuke will be the leader of Team B,” he told the woman shortly. “And I will be the leader of Team C.”

Tsuna blanched. “Then I want to resign as team leade—”

A tonfa impaled the wall next to his head, cutting off his words. Hibari glared at him, killing intent suffocating the room. “There will be no other changes,” he growled out. “Get ready for the next event, little animal.”

The dismissal was clear. Tsuna wanted to fight it, but he knew that his protestations would only fall on deaf ears. Well, not deaf – they would just be outright ignored, because it was obvious Hibari was hungry for his blood.

Tsuna threw his hands up in a frustrated gesture, storming from the office. (He completely missed the horrified look from the school counselor at his reaction to the violent prefect.) Maybe he would have a better chance of working something out with his teammates.

“KILL THEM ALL! VICTORY AT ALL COSTS!”

Oh right, sanity was the realm upon which none of Tsuna’s friends dwelled.

“Do you guys even remember this is Pole Knocking?!” he shouted down from his perch at the top, eyeing his teammates. Gokudera and Yamamoto beamed back at him in support, Kurokawa – towards the back of the group huddled around the pole – waved back at a cheering Kyoko, and Ryouhei was near the front continually making victory chants. The rest of Team A’s Alphas and Beta males were studiously gathered around the base of the pole, eyes locked nervously on the domineering form of Hibari atop Team C’s pole.

Mochida, pale and sat atop Team B’s pole, was refusing to look in either Hibari’s direction or Tsuna’s. “Can I resign?” he asked the air.

“Resignation means being bitten to death,” said Hibari, at the same time as Tsuna’s sullen, “I wish I could resign from life.”

“YOU CAN DO IT, TSUNA-KUN!”

Tsuna adamantly refused to look in Haru’s direction. Ever since the incident the other day, Miura Haru had done a complete 180 on her view of him; she’d completely thrown away the idea of dominating him, but had now taken to randomly proposing to him. Tsuna didn’t even want to know how her mind worked.

“Who is that?” Gokudera muttered from below, squinting in Haru’s direction.

Yamamoto laughed, and it was chilling.

“WE SHALL NOW BEGIN THE POLE KNOCKING EVENT! PLEASE GET IN POSITION!”

Tsuna tried to think about this strategically. Hibari was obviously the biggest threat, and Tsuna definitely didn’t believe the other boy would adhere to the traditional rules of the event and wait to get knocked off the pole, which meant he should expect to at some point trade blows with the deranged Alpha.

Tsuna looked to Mochida. The idea turned his stomach, but Mochida hadn’t acted too bad recently; he’d boasted about taking on five Alphas after Tsuna had beaten him down, but he’d mostly kept to himself nowadays and didn’t bother Kyoko anymore, so maybe he could listen to reason?

If we work together with Team B, we may have a chance, Tsuna thought. He finally caught Mochida’s eyes and began to gesture, he hoped in a succinct manner: Point to him. (“You.”) Point to self. (“Me.”) Clasp hands together emulating a handshake. (“Work together.”) Point to Hibari, then draw a thumb across his throat. (“Take down Hibari.”)

“READY – GOOOOOO!”

Mochida stared at him. Then looked to Hibari, back to Tsuna, then back to Hibari. “Oi, Hibari,” Mochida called out, gesturing to his teammates to move closer to Team C. “Why don’t we get this Omega off the field, then we can settle this, Alpha to Alpha—”

A tonfa launched at an inhuman speed knocked Mochida off the pole and several feet through the air, and he landed on the ground unceremoniously. A hush fell over the courtyard, the entire crowd of people taken aback by the annihilation of an entire team in under 30 seconds.

“Team A’s leader, Sawada Tsunayoshi, started off strong with an amazing mind game – pitting Team B’s leader against Team C’s!” the announcer – which Tsuna did not remember ever having for this event – stated excitedly. He looked down to the audience area where a podium now stood, Reborn’s small form visible behind the mic. “Team B is now out for the count – all without Team A having to lift a finger!”

A murmur rippled throughout the crowd. Haru was cheering loudly from her place beside Tsuna’s mother, who was clapping with an airily cheerful expression on her face.

“You’re brilliant, Tenth!” Gokudera called from below, sparkling with the sheer force of his awe.

Tsuna shook his head vehemently, “But I didn’t do anything!”

“It’s starting!” Yamamoto said brightly, hawkish gaze latched onto Team C as they began to move forward.

Ryouhei let out a war cry and charged forward to meet the first wave. Tsuna watched in horror as bodies started flying from the boxer’s rampage. A few managed to make it past Ryouhei and into the first wall of bodies Gokudera had put between their pole where Tsuna perched and Ryouhei’s assault, which included Yamamoto – who was cheerfully snagging people by their jerseys and throwing them to the ground.

“Shouldn’t one of us be trying to knock Hibari-senpai down?” one of the Beta males holding up Tsuna’s pole asked worriedly.

Kurokawa, on his other side, snorted. “Do you want to try?”

Predictably, that shut him up, but he sent a worried look up at Tsuna as if seeking his guidance.

“Turf-top and Baseball-idiot will reach Team C’s pole in no time,” Gokudera dismissed. “The pole and Hibari will both come down when they take out their support unit.”

Is this a sports competition or war? Tsuna thought in distress.

Kurokawa looked pleased. “So we just have to hang tight until then, right?”

Gokudera nodded, casually delivering a kick to the midsection of a Team C Alpha that had managed to draw close enough. “We can move closer once they’ve mowed down the ranks,” he advised before looking up to Tsuna. “Don’t worry, Tenth – this win is as good as ours!”

Tsuna didn’t have the time to respond to those utterly foreboding words, looking up and across the field to catch Hibari’s eyes. Team C’s pole was starting to sway as Ryouhei started his way through the Betas holding it up, but Tsuna could only see the feral smile on Hibari’s face—

And then Hibari jumped.

Using members of both teams as stepping stones, Hibari leapt his way closer to Tsuna’s position. His tonfas were already out, knocking the occasional interloper out of the way. Iwasaki attempted to grab at Hibari’s fluttering gakuran and received a tonfa to the face for his efforts, sending his unconscious body flying and knocking away another handful of Team A members.

“That goddamn monster,” Kurokawa cried. “As long as the leader doesn’t touch the ground, it’s still on!”

Gokudera was suddenly holding eight sticks of dynamite. “Fine with me, let’s just kill them all!”

“Gokudera-kun, no!”

The dynamite was gone in the next blink. “Yes, Tenth! Sorry, Tenth!”

We need to end this, Tsuna thought, watching Ryouhei finally realize Hibari wasn’t where he was supposed to be and pivoting to bulldoze his way back. Yamamoto had eyes on Hibari as well but was still contending with some opposing Alphas, smile starting to edge closer to serial killer territory. Before it turns into a bloodbath.

There was no way anyone on their team had the strength to go head-to-head with Hibari. With his sights locked on Tsuna himself, everything else would be considered collateral to the bloodthirsty prefect. There were already enough piles of unconscious bodies littering Namimori’s sports grounds at this point, members of both teams groaning in pain.

Tsuna could just fall back and let this entire activity come to an end. He hadn’t even wanted to be team leader to begin with, Reborn had essentially forced the issue, and now Tsuna had to deal with all this? It would serve his tutor right to have his plans come to an unsatisfying end.

His ruminations were cut short as Team C’s surrendered pole suddenly came swinging forward – knocking a cavalcade of surviving Team C members to the ground and barely missing Hibari’s quick steps. The prefect paused atop a still pile of bodies, looking back with narrowed eyes.

Yamamoto grinned, holding up the pole along with a handful of Team A members.

“EXTREME TACTICS!!!” Ryouhei bellowed, blowing through a triad of Team C Alphas. “EXTREME WARRIORS FIGHT WITH EVERYTHING THEY HAVE!! VICTORY AT ALL COSTS!!”

“This is just turning into a brawl!” Tsuna cried out.

Of course he was ignored, Gokudera crowing out, “Guess you’re actually good for something, Baseball-idiot!”

“Yamamoto, sweep away all the piles of monkeys!” Kurokawa called out. It was easy to follow her line of reasoning: with no one left to stand on, Hibari would be stranded and would have to touch down on the ground, earning them the win.

Tsuna already knew it would do them no good. It was Hibari – the prefect had proved on more than one occasion that the laws of gravity did not apply to him. “Wait, guys—”

Yamamoto’s group swung the pole back around, knocking down more students who were not quick enough to duck below it. Hibari did not move away this time, and only once the pole was mere feet away from him, he swung his tonfa out – striking the pole with inhuman strength, sending the Team C members holding it to the ground.

This had a domino effect: the propulsion of the pole knocked away the remaining members of Team A, clearing the way for Ryouhei, who punched the pole with a swift right-hook. Tsuna could hear the crack of the wood as it made contact with the boxer’s fist but was not quick enough to call out a warning, the blow sending the pole airborne like a free-thrown stick – straight into Tsuna’s pole.

Gokudera, Kurokawa, and the few Betas holding it up let out surprised cries at the sheer force of the hit. Tsuna’s intuition screamed and forced his body into movement, backflipping off and using the mid-air pole as a rebound to give him that extra push, lending deftly on the ground just as both poles crashed to either side of him – one falling atop and collapsing a nearby relief tent sheltering some students not taking part in the activity.

Silence reigned across the grounds.

“You idiots!” Kurokawa hissed. “You knocked out your own team!”

Yamamoto laughed awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. “Oops?”

“Oops? Oops?!” Gokudera screeched, pulling out dynamite. “I’m going to blow your goddamn heads off!”

Taking stock of the sports grounds, Tsuna made a mental list of the total number of damages. For one, there were still several groaning students left in the wake of their destruction; this wasn’t quite as unusual for Namichuu, given their Disciplinary Committee, so the scattered bodies of Alphas and Betas weren’t much of a concern. The only ones who would need to be looked at by the school nurse would be the ones who fell in direct contact with Gokudera, Ryouhei, or Hibari, and that thankfully was less than three dozen.

However, the earth had been kicked up by a combination of stampeding and all-out brawling. There were blood and torn jerseys in the sea of destruction that would need to be fixed. Then there was the matter of the relief tent; most of those under it had fled to safety when the destruction got too close, but there was a handful of Betas and even an Omega second year collapsed nearby, having had to crawl out after the tent collapsed on top of them.

It was these individuals that accosted Tsuna’s attention. They were being helped by others nearby – led by a still-bandaged Kyoko – so Tsuna remained where he stood. The faint smell of the other Omega reached him, a lightly lilac-sweet scent with a strong undertone of acute distress.

“THERE WAS NOT ENOUGH EXTREME SUPPORT FOR THE POLE!”

“ARE YOU BLAMING THIS ON US, TURF-TOP?!”

“Maa, maa…”

Dynamite was thrown by the agitated Beta boy, Ryouhei uppercutting the explosives straight up to detonate with a harmless blast of heated air.

“Oh, wow – you have fireworks?” Yamamoto laughed in delight.

Kurokawa let out a growl of frustration, pheromones lightly flaring. Murota, semi-conscious on the ground, jerked up into a sitting position and immediately regretted it when Gokudera stomped over him to better confront the baseball player.

“I’ll shove these ‘fireworks’ down your f*cking throat—”

Yamamoto laughed again. “Is that a new kind of game?”

“EXTREME! I WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE AS WELL!”

“You idiots, we only lost because you monkeys—”

Kurokawa’s words cut off abruptly as unseen pressure washed over everyone present. As one, the surviving members that remained standing – Kurokawa, Gokudera, Ryouhei, and Yamamoto – looked over at Hibari. To their surprise, the prefect looked completely unbothered, tonfas still in hand but attention directed to the actual source of the intensity.

With increased trepidation, they followed his eyes – to Tsuna.

Tsuna couldn’t imagine what kind of expression he was wearing. Sheer irritation was pumping through his veins, and he felt slightly overheated, energy fairly thrumming throughout his body. Everything looked very clear to him at the moment, his unblinking gaze finally moved away from the frozen Omega second year to train back on his friends.

All of whom were staring back at him with wide eyes.

“Too bad we lost,” Tsuna began, voice sounding almost light. Gokudera swallowed reflexively, and both Yamamoto and Kurokawa froze like deer in the headlights. Even the irrepressible Ryouhei was having a hard time looking directly at him. “But we gave it a good try! I guess we should help clean up now, right?”

“But that’s what they’re for,” Murota half-slurred, gesturing in the vague direction of the Omega second year who was still sitting crouched on the ground meters away. Given that the pole-knocking competition often gave way to violence due to Alphas’ dominance displays, it was common practice to have the Omega students clean up the aftermath. Even the Beta girls would have been enlisted to help if there was more than the usual amount of destruction.

Tsuna could understand the logic. He found he felt very understanding at the moment. The competitors were tired at the very least, so expecting them to clean up would be ridiculous. Tsuna knew there were things they wouldn’t be expected to do so soon, such as putting away all the temporary seating or tents - but it wouldn’t hurt to just pick up their own things, along with whatever trash they saw on the way, as they took a short but well-deserved break.

Tsuna thought this was very fair (his flame agreed), and he thought about explaining this to poor Murota. He even took a step forward, thinking maybe a closer distance would help impress upon his classmate how even the smallest thing could help, but somehow his foot found the platform edge of the pole and came down on it hard enough to jerk up the other side – unwittingly striking Murota so hard under the chin that he went airborne. He landed a couple feet away from an absolutely terrified Team C Alpha.

No one moved, with the exception of Hibari, who was surveying the sports grounds with a dissatisfied look – no doubt annoyed that a school-sanctioned activity had levied so much destruction on his beloved school grounds.

Tsuna very calmly assessed Murota’s condition; he’d likely gained a concussion from the hard landing, and his chin would hurt like no tomorrow, but really, Tsuna had taken a stronger hit from Hibari in the chin. Murota should recover just fine.

“Oh no,” Tsuna said contritely, only his contrition sounded a lot more like vague annoyance. “Are you alright, Murota-kun?”

Murota, unconscious, did not answer him.

“Well, we should probably start getting things cleaned up,” Tsuna started brightly, turning a very calm and not at all threatening look on the scattered populace of Alphas and Betas on the field. If his eyes looked more like pools of molten amber, he didn’t know it. “Right?”

Hibari nonchalantly cleaned some blood off his tonfas. Everyone else – Alphas and Betas alike – hurriedly agreed.

Hahi! Did you see the way Tsuna-kun knocked that Alpha out?! Do you think he’s missing teeth?!” Haru gushed excitedly. “Tsuna-kun is the coolest!”

Bianchi smiled at the younger girl, then turned a smitten look on Reborn. “I still think you’re cooler, Reborn,” she said supportively. In the distance behind her, Tsuna looked very politely puzzled by a Beta’s look of horror as he trudged by, dragging an unconscious Alpha behind him like a trash bag.

Reborn tried to convince himself that cleaning up was a good endeavor for an Omega to seek.

A/N: Reborn is reluctantly having a good time.

-To all my readers who share my same dislike of Shamal’s original characterization: I feel you. I absolutely hate the “lovable lecher” character trope, and Shamal is such an egregious example of it. I like flirtatious characters tbh (they can play off really well with the right people), but Shamal hitting on underage and/or unwilling girls was so disgusting, so no, you won’t encounter that here. He’s more adjusted to this universe and the tone of it, and you can imagine just how well that would fly if he ever tried to hit on Tsuna (or Nana in Tsuna’s presence).

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks! 💖

Chapter 13: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 13

Summary:

Enter Shamal and Dino.

It goes both better and worse than you expect.

Chapter Text

A/N: There were some aesthetic changes made to previous chapters. Doesn't affect the fic at all, just...making some other choices here LOL

Chapter 13

His mother cited two reasons for leaving the house: running an errand and giving Tsuna the privacy he needs for his annual at-home doctor’s appointment. Tsuna knows Reborn did not like either of the reasons given, but he still dutifully followed the woman out of the Sawada home, Lambo in Nana’s arms and Bianchi at her side. Tsuna counted Reborn’s compliance in his favor and decided not to look a gift horse in the mouth.

To distract himself, he picked up some of the clutter around his room. Candy wrappers courtesy of Lambo, guns and ammo belonging to either the cow-print child assassin (usually neon green) or suited non-child(?) assassin (usually black). He even considered doing some of his homework but realized even he is not that desperate to distract himself, so instead he picked out a manga from his bookshelf to re-read.

Around 15 minutes later, Tsuna knows he’s there by the smell.

Not scent – the man is a Beta, after all. But the smell of liquor and tobacco hung off of the other male, draped almost like a veil to hide the lingering sense of death and the faint whizzing of his weaponry. He’s been like this ever since Tsuna first met him, lanky form slouched in one area of the house or another, unconcerned and unperturbed.

Dr. Shamal was a strange sort, made stranger by his unflappable air and knowing eyes. He’d made himself at home in the kitchen, a mug of half-drunk black coffee – from Reborn’s stash, Tsuna recognized with dread – in hand. He used his free hand to wave in greeting, as idle as ever.

“Shamal-sensei,” Tsuna greeted, stood in the doorway of the kitchen.

“Nice to see you again,” Shamal replied, smiling in a way that aged him. “Tsukkun~!”

“Stop calling me that already.”

Shamal snigg*red. Tsuna shuffled into the kitchen, moving gingerly towards the electric kettle to start making some tea for himself. His muscles ached from the Sports Fest brawl, and he had a few scratches from his impromptu landing after the Pole Knocking event.

Shamal made no move to help him.

“You were so cool yesterday, Tsukkun~!” Shamal crooned. “The way you knocked out that Alpha kid-”

“Please don’t,” Tsuna cut him off in a pleading tone.

Shamal set his cup down on the table, leaning his weight onto the arm propped up next to it as he surveyed Tsuna with a quiet look. “You’ve been busy lately,” he started, smile gone. Tsuna stopped messing with the tea kettle, matching Shamal’s gaze evenly. “And you sure have grown.”

“Kids do that after a year,” Tsuna returned, the bland tone he’d been going for somewhat ruined by how tense he’d become.

Shamal had been his doctor for years, but calling them close would be a lie. Shamal knew him well in the way he needed to, but much like Tsuna’s relationship with his father, Tsuna didn’t actually know where Shamal was and what he did when he was not in Tsuna’s vicinity.

When he’d been introduced to Shamal all those years ago, he’d been wary – but he’d been wary of everyone back then, some silent alarm in the back of his mind making him cautious of anyone that was not his age or his kin. Shamal had been just another adult – thankfully one that didn’t reek like the adult Alphas he knew – and Tsuna had been told to get along with him.

Shamal had cooed over how “cute” he was but was quick to cut the act short. Tsuna didn’t remember much of their earlier visits, the memories fading over time except for a lingering sound of the faint whizzing of insects and the heat from a flame Tsuna did not remember.

The years afterward, for their annual appointments, Shamal followed the same protocol: stop by the Sawada home, drink a cup of coffee, check on Tsuna’s health, and then leave. This was why Tsuna felt this time was different – not only from Shamal’s countenance, but from the very way Shamal regarded him.

Shamal stood, Tsuna tensing as the Beta male approached him. Hooking a hand underneath Tsuna’s chin, Shamal lifted the Omega boy’s face up to better look into his eyes. Rather than the laid-back demeanor Tsuna was used to seeing, Shamal’s gaze was very focused, seemingly scouring for something.

After another moment, Shamal finally released him and took a step back. He made a low hum of thought, turning back around and resuming his spot at the table as Tsuna tried to relax himself.

“You’ve been using Dying Will Flames.”

Tsuna’s eyes narrowed at his doctor. “Why do you know--”

“Because I can use them too,” Shamal waved him off, clearly not interested in going into the details.

Tsuna tried to wrack his mind for what little he knew about his own doctor. Was it his mother or father that had set him up with Dr. Shamal? Tsuna didn’t know, could barely recall those early visitations. He vaguely remembered seeing a different doctor all those years ago, but the memory was hazy in his mind.

“It’s dangerous,” Shamal continued. “You shouldn’t use them too much if you can help it.”

Tsuna frowned, having heard no such thing from Reborn. For all his sad*stic tendencies, Tsuna didn’t think his tutor was out to actually kill him; it would destroy his perfect track record and Tsuna knew Reborn couldn’t have that.“What do you mean? What happens if you use them too much?”

Shamal sipped languidly at his coffee, eyes moving with disinterest over the rest of the kitchen. A small smile hedged around his lips. “Well, for most people, nothing really - nothing that I can’t take care of in any case. But you’re not ‘most people’, Tsukkun~!”

Tsuna’s frown morphed into an outright scowl. “Is it because I’m an Omega?”

Shamal set his cup back down on the table, smile falling off his lips. “It’s not that simple,” he stated, voice so devoid of inflection that Tsuna flinched.

“I don’t understand,” Tsuna murmured, looking at the floor.

Shamal sighed, “Well, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. There’s no way you can’t not use your flames anyway, not with Reborn here.” The man motioned Tsuna closer. Tsuna obediently followed, allowing Shamal to inspect his neck, fingers rubbing into where his scent glands were slowly developing.

“You know Reborn?” Tsuna mumbled.

Shamal’s smile looked wry on his lips. “Anyone worth their salt in the mafia knows Reborn,” he dismissed. He retracted his fingers, rubbing thumb and forefinger together in thought for a moment. He turned to his medical bag, pulling out a stethoscope, clearly intent on starting the usual physical check-up Tsuna was much more used to. “I know Hayato too. That’s someone I’m glad you’ve met.”

Tsuna blinked, the idea of his erstwhile doctor being mafia only cementing itself further in his mind. “Gokudera-kun?”

“He’s a cute kid, Hayato,” Shamal chortled, waiting for Tsuna to pull off his shirt before placing the stethoscope head against his chest. “Very eager.”

Shamal said this in the same way someone might speak about a mischievous kid and not a known mafioso. Tsuna didn’t call him out on it, didn’t think Shamal would care even if he did; it was obvious the Beta had no intention of answering any personal questions.

Shamal continued with the physical, unperturbed by Tsuna’s stiff silence. As far back as Tsuna could remember, Shamal never wrote down any of the results; he muttered some of the numbers under his breath, as if committing them to memory, but Tsuna had never seen them copied down anywhere.

It stood out to Tsuna now, as Reborn was similar; he never seemed to write anything out but put Tsuna through lesson after meticulous lesson, tracking his progress verbally but never showing where he kept all his information recorded.

“Do you just...remember everything?” Tsuna dared to ask. “I don’t have a file?”

Shamal glanced at him, putting away the stethoscope and blood pressure monitor. He gave no physical sign of it, but Tsuna thought Shamal became uneasy at the question; his lackadaisical countenance never wavered, and yet it seemed Tsuna could almost hear an incessant, vague buzzing.

“You’re in tip-top shape, Tsukkun,” Shamal grinned. “Nothing to worry about.”

It was an obvious non-answer. Tsuna thought about confronting him over it, but the fact that Shamal had even admitted to having mafia connections was enough food for thought. From the way the Beta man had even given that information away, it was like he wasn’t trying to hide it; it was more like he had been waiting for Tsuna to know enough to question him.

This made Tsuna wonder - if Shamal had answers, what questions was he waiting for Tsuna to ask?

I-Pin sat politely on the little stool she’d been provided, keeping her hands still so that she didn’t accidentally knock into any of the countless little breakable items around her. The room was large only to her given her tiny frame, walls the color of deep, burnished orange and antiques filling every inch of free space on the shelves and countertops.

I-Pin didn’t want to be a bad girl, as any poor behavior would doubtlessly reflect back on her teacher. She already felt disheartened that she’d been stopped in the middle of a job by the strangely-exhausted man who was a friend of her teacher, and didn’t want to be any more of a nuisance in unfamiliar territory.

But oh, it was just such a curious place - this Namimori! There was the boy who bore such a striking resemblance to her teacher that she couldn’t help but feel shy, and now this strange store where she’d been told to wait. Her teacher had said she would need further training, thus she had been told to stay in Namimori and listen to the exhausted man, and then the man told her she would be staying with a friend of his and dropped her here to wait.

It was a pleasant store, but the man behind the counter was not the one she would be staying with. He was tall, with circular glasses, although I-Pin had been hard-pressed to figure out more details given her poor eyesight. The exhausted man had spoken to him only briefly, in Japanese too quick and low for I-Pin to understand, and then he was gone and I-Pin was given a small cup of tea to content herself.

She’d been through two cups of tea before the little bell above the door finally rang, signaling someone had arrived. The man behind the counter looked up, expression unchanged but nodding in greeting to a petite brunette.

“Welcome, Sawada-san.”

The woman flashed him a stiff smile, the expression turning much warmer when soft brown eyes alighted upon I-Pin. “Why hello there,” she greeted, coming up beside where I-Pin sat. “It’s nice to meet you, I-Pin-chan. I’m Sawada Nana, but you can call me Mama.”

I-Pin stared up at the Beta woman in wonder. “ K-Kon-ni-chi-wa , Mama,” she managed out stiffly, using what little Japanese she knew.

Mama’s smile only brightened at her words, and she reached one hand out for I-Pin to take. Warm hands clasped, the woman looked over at the storeowner, polite and attentive. “Thank you for watching her, Kawahira-san,” she said, glancing back down at I-Pin. “Say bye-bye to Kawahira-san, I-Pin-chan.”

“Xièxiè, Kawahira-sama.”

The man tilted his head ever so slightly. “It was a pleasure to meet you, I-Pin-chan,” he returned without looking at her. “And Sawada-san… Pass on my congratulations to Tsunayoshi-kun. I heard Namichuu’s Sports Festival was interesting.”

Mama did not reply, ushering I-Pin out of the store with harried steps.

It’s not a challenge to find him, Shamal knows - he never bothered with trying to hide, whether that be his location or his intentions. Once you got to a certain skill level, hiding became one of the last things you could do - especially if the one trying to find you was the No. 1 hitman in the world. That’s why he didn’t do much more than knock back another shot as the seat next to him was taken, fighting back a wry smile as the bartender falls for the garishly fake moustache Reborn has pulled on to his tiny face.

“Hope you weren’t expecting sober company,” Shamal sing-songed to the diminutive form.

Reborn didn’t react, just nodded in thanks as the bartender passed him his order. “We both know alcohol doesn’t affect you if you don’t let it.”

That was true, but the crux of that point was that Shamal had to not want it to affect him. In his line of work, there were a lot of things he wished he could bury his memory of under loads and loads of alcohol: attending to an 8-year-old sexual assault survivor was just one among many of the horrors that Shamal had been tasked with patching up. The fact that that child had grown into a distrustful 14-year-old boy with amber eyes, Sky Flames, and an infamous blood lineage running under his skin, was little comfort now as well.

The Vongola should have left well enough alone. If they had been born in a better timeline, if they had at least one competent individual from Timoteo’s direct line - then none of this would have been a cause for concern. Instead, Shamal had three different medical reports to give to three different people, all about the same boy.

“Doctor-patient confidentiality doesn’t extend to tutors,” Shamal said, sober and tired and bitter with it. “You know I won’t tell you anything, so please don’t ask.”

Reborn nodded in agreement that nevertheless still felt threatening. “You’ll report directly to the Ninth?”

“I’m independent,” Shamal reminded the tiny hitman.

He didn’t report to anyone - that was the standard of his role. Mafia families could ask, could make requests; it was up to Shamal whether he granted them. The ninth head of the Vongola family did indeed ask him to do a check-up on his prospective heir, but Shamal had never been in the Sawada home because of a request that came years too late.

“Tsuna doesn’t have an existing medical file with Namimori General,” Reborn began, tone dry and matter-of-fact. It’s at odds with his piping voice, but Shamal had long grown used to the idiosyncrasy. “The file is missing. Was that you?”

“I don’t trust other doctors,” Shamal snigg*red.

Reborn was clever enough to read between the lines: Shamal had never bothered with the hospital’s files. As soon as Sawada Tsunayoshi became his patient, Shamal had disregarded any prior diagnoses and dealt with Tsuna directly. Whoever did have Tsuna’s medical files was none of his concern, because he already knew everything about his patient.

Reborn was a tricky opponent, though, treacherous in a way that Shamal would never be paid enough to deal with. Shamal had no intention of purposely giving him the runaround, nor putting himself in the line of fire; he was Tsuna’s doctor, that was all.

“Namimori falls within the territory of the Hibari,” Shamal grunted out between shots of liquor. “If you want to know something, ask a Hibari.”

“Hibari Sasako is dead, and Hibari Kyouya is not the most forthcoming with information.”

Shamal nearly choked on his laughter. That was the understatement of the century; he’d known Hibari Kyouya as long as he’d known Sawada Tsunayoshi, and he definitely felt the worse off for it. If dealing with Tsunayoshi was like handling a ticking time-bomb, then Hibari Kyouya was a constant explosion. He could barely stand within the confines of the Hibari estate without having a tonfa flying towards his face every second.

His visit earlier last week had been pleasant, if short-lived; he’d managed to last just a little over an hour under the same roof as the volatile boy before he’d gotten enough of the “crowding”. Shamal had taken a tonfa to the gut for his trouble, but he’d manage to infect the boy with Sakura-Kura disease in response and was looking forward to catching the annoying berk under the cherry blossoms.

“That’s your problem right there, trying to go through little Mr. Carnivore,” Shamal shook his head. “Unfortunately, Kyouya inherited his mother’s social graces - you have to talk to the father, Reborn.”

If it had been anyone else, he would have received a raised eyebrow in disbelief. Reborn only paused a little in consideration. “...Hibari Reo is a Beta.”

Shamal grinned despite himself. “That Beta is the only reason Fon hesitates to step foot here.”

That was two pieces of information Shamal had kindly slipped, and more than enough to satisfy Reborn for now. Reborn nodded his thanks, finishing his drink and disappearing as quickly as he appeared. Shamal nursed his last glass a little longer after the hitman left, insects buzzing in his ear as he finally allowed himself to relax and catalog the results of his examination earlier in the day.

The Dying Will flames would be a complication, but one that was unavoidable. He wondered if Reborn was prepared for it, or if the hitman-turned-tutor had yet to figure out just what an exact clusterf*ck Sawada Tsunayoshi truly was. From an objective standpoint, it was almost funny that someone as sharply intelligent and observant as Reborn had yet to clue in when all of the pieces were so readily apparent on the board.

But that was the problem with Alphas, wasn’t it? Especially Alphas from the mafia, older generations even moreso; so stuck in their ways that they didn’t even consider just asking. Reborn would rather break into hospital files and shakedown possible connections than just ask the two people who had all the answers. Then again…

Hibari Reo would only answer if he saw a benefit in doing so; Sawada Nana would take every secret to her grave with a smile.

Reborn was starting to seriously reconsider his initial opinion of Namimori.

The number of oddities in this small Japanese town was starting to pile up higher than Reborn’s body count. Perhaps Vongola Primo had something to do with it; he’d washed up on the Japanese shoreline, laid his roots in Namimori, and irrevocably changed it from the foundation. It would be an almost welcome idea, because the only other option was that the Hibari bloodline had done something to the local water supply and now the result was a town of idiosyncrasies.

Reborn had given up on Namimori’s Alphas. Hibari was promising, but only as a last resort – because it was painfully obvious the prefect cared for little outside of Namimori and fighting, which didn’t exactly bode well for the running of a criminal empire based out of Italy. Yamamoto was… well, to put it mildly, if Tsuna told Yamamoto to jump, the baseball player would already be leaping up before even thinking to ask ‘how high?’ Kurokawa Hana, a peripheral consideration, was clearly terrified of Reborn’s student, which wasn’t exactly a star quality in a prospective mate. Any other Alphas in Namimori, young or old, were not even worth considering – and if considered, would only need to witness one (1) interaction between Tsuna and Hibari before presumably soiling themselves in fright and curling up in the fetal position.

Which Reborn could work with. Sure, it wasn’t what he would have preferred, but he was adaptable. Mates could be found from abroad. He was already starting to tutor Tsuna in Italian – it wasn’t going well, but Leon was getting a kick out of his machine gun form now – and English, so it wasn’t as if Tsuna’s mate had to be limited to Japan only. Reborn had not seriously considered pursuing that quite yet, more focused on kicking Tsuna into shape.

It seemed like an idea set to die quickly, though, if this was Tsuna’s reaction to foreign-born Alphas.

“I’m going to kill him,” Tsuna said very quietly; the words were spoken with the sort of serenity borne from a matter-of-fact statement, as if the impending murder was inevitable. In contrast, his eyes were looking a little shaky and he had a death grip on his chair, seemingly moments away from using it as a weapon - which Reborn would have approved of in any other situation.

Actually, he does sort of approve it now, though he could acknowledge it wouldn’t be the best course of action. It would definitely be the funniest though.

“Dino was my student before you, Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn said in reply, because okay - he was kind of hoping Tsuna would throw the chair at his wayward first student. Dino did deserve it for trying to greet the Omega boy with a bouquet of roses and kiss on the hand. Reborn very vividly remembered drilling him on cultural differences long ago, and if Dino had been paying attention, he wouldn't have upset Tsuna with just his very greeting.

Granted, Tsuna had shown some growth by not immediately shrieking at the contact, which meant at least one of Reborn’s students was listening to his multiculturalism lectures. He’d even gamely invited the older boy into his home and shrieked just a little at the number of Cavallone guards filling his yard, though Dino had wisely allowed only Romario (a Beta) to follow him inside - this way, Tsuna wouldn’t be outnumbered by Alphas inside his own home.

Their meeting had started off okay, but quickly derailed the longer Dino talked. Reborn was actually a bit surprised by this, because for all of his useless awkwardness, Dino was generally good in character and especially kind to those younger than him and of the fairer sex. Tsuna essentially hit all of the checkboxes that pulled out Dino’s big brother-instincts, and the blonde had eagerly offered himself up as such a figure.

Dino had then proceeded to kick off his first meeting with Vongola’s most volatile Omega by looking Tsuna up and down, then declaring his aura “no good” but his face “acceptable.” He’d then proceeded to talk about his own rough start, but by that point Tsuna had long stopped listening and was shooting mutinous looks Reborn’s way that were clearly nonverbal accusations. Reborn made a mental note to kick the expression off of Tsuna’s face the next time he saw it, but then the Omega boy’s attention had been arrested by Dino’s next spiel on Reborn’s torturous learning methods.

“Don’t let things get you down,” Dino continued virtuously. Reborn made a mental note to kick his face in too; how could a Cavallone boss not realize that his audience had tuned out for most of his yapping? “Reborn’s methods are tough, but now I’m the boss of 5,000 family members!”

“I got a 72% on my practice test last week so Reborn made me dodge grenades for each question I got wrong,” Tsuna stated coldly.

“Stop whining, you dodged most of them,” Reborn cut back without remorse. Tsuna’s Vongola blood was promisingly strong, his intuition one of the strongest he’d ever seen; not even the Ninth could compare to whatever Tsuna had pumping through his system. Reborn had to use 35% more explosives than planned just to singe the boy, and he hadn’t had so much fun in ages.

Dino was glancing between the two with wide eyes. “Er, well,” he floundered for a moment. “I do think… Um… Reborn, you’re really doing all that to an Omega?”

Reborn watched in amusem*nt as the final straw finally broke the camel’s back: Tsuna’s hand curled firmly around the back of his desk chair and yanked it forward, effectively launching it straight at Dino’s concerned face. The blonde was saved by Romario’s mere existence, as his lone subordinate’s presence gave him the necessary drive to skillfully dodge the sudden attack and pull out his whip. The tail end wrapped around the back of the chair, and with practiced ease, Dino flicked it straight out the window to crash harmlessly down into the empty street.

“Whoa, whoa, wait!” Dino flailed - finally catching on to Tsuna scanning his room for more objects to throw at him.

Reborn smiled. “Tsuna doesn’t like to be patronized.”

“If you keep this up, I’ll have no choice but to use my secret weapon!” Dino cried out.

Tsuna paused, warily eyeing the older male. Reborn didn’t roll his eyes, but it was a near thing.

Digging into the folds of his jacket - with a certain amount of exaggeration, because even Dino knew that at this stage, Tsuna couldn’t really hurt him - he triumphantly pulled out the small, green-and-brown form of a baby snapping turtle.

Tsuna stared at it.

“This is Enzio,” Dino proclaimed brightly. “I actually asked for Leon, but Reborn gave Enzio to me instead!”

Without looking away, Tsuna’s hand began to inch toward one of the heavier textbooks on his desk.

Blissfully oblivious, Dino continued on. “He’ll bite you if you’re mean to me!”

Before Tsuna could throw Mathematics I - Grade 7 at Dino’s idiotic head and get it bitten in half by an otherwise docile Enzio, Reborn drop-kicked the Omega boy clean out the window.

“Why doesn’t he like me?” Dino whimpered pitifully two hours later, curled up on the couch in the Sawada living room where he’d been banished.

All of Dino’s men had left after their boss declared he’d spend the night at the Sawada residence to get to know his “new little brother.” Nana was already hard at work on getting dinner ready in the kitchen, having returned home with Bianchi and the kids an hour ago to see their new guest. She’d responded much more positively to Dino’s flamboyant greetings and courteous chivalry, but when the blonde Alpha had looked beseechingly at Tsuna afterward as if to say ‘see? This is how it was supposed to go!’ , Tsuna had hurled Lambo at him in a one-armed pitch that would have made Yamamoto proud.

“Tsuna’s shy,” Reborn outright lied.

“I just wanted to get to know my cute little sworn brother,” Dino continued morosely. “It’s because I’m not cool enough, isn’t it? Have you already told him about all of my embarrassing moments when you were tutoring me?!”

Reborn kicked Dino in the face, then pirouetted off his nose to land unbothered on the arm of the couch. Dino yelped and slapped his hands over his now bloody nose, but wisely didn’t race away to take care of it; he knew Reborn would just actually break it if he dared.

“First, you already told him all about that yourself, even though he wasn’t listening to a single word since he was too busy thinking about how to beat your head in with his bedroom furniture,” Reborn said. Behind Dino’s blubbering head, the hitman saw Tsuna quietly descending the stairs with an irritated grimace on his face and stopping just short of the final step. “And second, if you want him to be nice to you, just Demand it of him. He’s just an Omega, after all - he will submit to it.”

Tsuna’s grimace morphed into outright hostility, but it was Dino’s incensed reply that soon wiped it off. “Reborn! You can’t mean that!” Dino scowled, jerking up to his feet in outrage. “You– There’s no way Vongola’s Ninth would have ever permitted that, and even then– to Demand Tsuna to do anything he doesn’t want to do? Anyone who tries should rot in hell!”

Dino descended into heated Italian that Reborn knew Tsuna had no way of understanding, but thankfully Dino had said enough in Japanese that he couldn’t be misunderstood. Tsuna was staring into the back of Dino’s head in consideration, though soon those amber eyes flickered to Reborn. Despite their rocky start (that Reborn denied any blame for), Tsuna knew him well enough now to know that Reborn’s words were not indicative of what he believed - but rather, something he said to prompt Dino to show his true colors.

The Cavallone famiglia was one of Vongola’s closest allies, and Reborn couldn’t have their future heads not getting along for such petty reasons. Sure, maybe Tsuna’s future mate would be fine with Dino, but Tsuna also had an annoying (and amusing) ability to convince others to follow him; so if Tsuna convinced his future mate to think little of Dino, then that may sour relations between the two allies. Also, Dino was a useful ally, and Tsuna could use all of the useful allies he could get. Even if– when, when Tsuna was mated to a more suitable family head, allies would be a necessity to keep Tsuna safe.

“Reborn Demanded me as soon as he got here,” Tsuna interrupted Dino’s tirade, now leaned against the banister of the stairwell with his arms crossed but eyes solely on Dino.

Dino didn’t seem to notice the challenging way he said it, at first startled by the Omega’s appearance and then horrified by the words themselves. He whipped his head back around to stare at Reborn. “You– You really did it? Reborn, that’s–!”

“He had to know what it felt like, if he ever wanted to be able to resist it,” Reborn dismissed imperially. He sent Tsuna a loaded glance. “And it worked, didn’t it?”

“Only the first time,” Tsuna snarled back.

Dino’s eyes were wide at the words. Reborn knew why: for however chivalrous the Cavallone boy was, that didn’t mean he would never see the necessity of using Demand on an Omega. He also trusted Reborn enough to know the hitman would never abuse it. However, Tsuna’s words and Reborn’s silent, implicit agreement meant that the Omega wasn’t lying - he really had thrown off Reborn’s Demand, and it had only taken one time under it to do so.

Alphas and Betas would never understand the true, terrifying power of a Demand. Only Omegas, subjected to its influence, could truly understand what it meant to be under it; Reborn had only heard snatches of tales about how it felt to be willed into compliance by something other than your own free will, a feeling likened only to the lustful drive of an Omega’s heat. They felt robbed, somehow, of their own bodies.

Tsuna likely couldn’t stand the sensation. He’d barely survived the first time someone had tried to take him for their own, after all.

“Dinner’s ready,” Tsuna stated abruptly. He switched his attention back to Dino. “You can tell me about your time under Reborn. If you say something stupid about Omegas again, though, I’m going to let Bianchi-san feed you her cooking.”

Dino blanched quicker than he ever had with Reborn pointing a gun at him.

If he ignored the whole Enzio debacle - which resulted in a very harried Dino trying to desperately explain why his pet couldn’t be watered and one destroyed bathtub - the night passed relatively quietly. Tsuna wasn’t sure if he could say he liked Dino, but the older male was nice in a way that none of Reborn’s other associates had been. He’d also curbed what seemed to be impulses to condescend to Tsuna, and even if he did try to act annoyingly chivalrous at times, he almost immediately followed that with an act of clumsiness that just made Tsuna feel kind of bad for him.

The morning was shaping up to be much more noisy.

“Who the hell are these people?” Gokudera demanded, glaring hotly at the Cavallone men that had once again descended on the Sawada homestead. There were less than yesterday but still more than enough to be a nuisance, and Tsuna would have shared Gokudera’s irritation if he wasn’t so busy trying to shove Lambo back into the house so he could go to school in peace.

“Oh, hey! It’s the Smoking-Bomb brat!” Dino greeted cheerfully, emerging from the doorway in rumpled casual clothes. “It’s our first time actually meeting in person, isn’t it?”

Gokudera scowled in confusion. “That tattoo… You’re Bucking-Horse Dino–?!”

Tsuna looked down at Reborn with a frown. “I don’t have to have a nickname too, do I?”

“You already have one: Dame-Tsuna.”

Yeah, okay, I walked right into that one, Tsuna thought.

Yamamoto arrived with a bright smile that only turned a little bit dangerous when he caught sight of Dino. Gokudera was obviously wary of the blonde for his mafia connections; Yamamoto, still convinced they were playing some sort of mafia game, was more concerned about Dino’s dynamic. Tsuna couldn’t help but watch his friend’s reaction in fascination, as he never really saw Yamamoto interact with an Alpha that had already Presented aside from his father.

Yamamoto slung a friendly arm around Tsuna’s shoulders, as his usual, and kept to Tsuna’s left side as Gokudera had stationed himself on Tsuna’s right. The baseball player’s eyes had flickered over the assorted Betas that made up Dino’s men, before briefly landing on Dino with the sort of look he affixed to a pitch he intended to hit into a home run. A blink later, he began to usher both Tsuna and Gokudera forward with a cheerful “Let’s hurry up, otherwise Hibari’ll be in a bad mood!”

(“Don’t touch me, idiot!” Gokudera screeched. )

That’s a tame way to describe Hibari’s penchant for murderous assault, Tsuna mused.

Only after they’d walked a few blocks and Dino’s straggling men were no longer in view did Gokudera finally add his two cents in; namely, the meteoric rise of the Cavallone family thanks to Dino’s financial management. “He rebuilt their entire financial structure that was ruined by the previous two generations,” the bomb-happy Beta explained. “The Cavallone family has the third most influential power within the alliance as a result.”

Tsuna could admit he was surprised; Dino hadn’t exactly struck him as someone capable.

“Either way, I still don’t like him,” Gokudera continued with a glower.

Tsuna blinked. “Really? Why?”

“Anyone older than me is an enemy.”

Gokudera-kun… How do you function in society…?

Before Tsuna could try to work out how to respond to his friend, a car came screeching past them with its back passenger side door wide open. A lasso shot out, looping around Tsuna with a speed he hadn’t been ready for, and he found himself jerked into the car with a loud yelp. Only the smell of tobacco hit his nostrils as he was gently caught by several hands, the car door slammed closed behind him and the car’s screeching tires as it tore away drowning out Gokudera’s and Yamamoto’s yells.

Tsuna barely had time to catch his breath as the car took several sharp turns, but by the feel of them– they were going in a circle? After another moment, he realized the Beta men who were carefully unwinding the rope from around him were familiar, their chagrined smiles as they assured him “not to worry, this is just a little prank!” sparking his memory.

Sure enough, the car came to a much gentler stop and the doors were thrown open to reveal Dino and Reborn, casually talking as they watched what appeared to be Yamamoto and Gokudera running off into the distance.

“What the hell was that!” Tsuna screeched, jumping out of the car and shaking off the conciliatory hands of Dino’s men.

Dino just laughed. “Sorry, sorry!” he waved his men off with a smile, and they were quick to disperse. “I just had to test your family. They’re still just kids and everything, but they seem trustworthy. They’re very thoughtful - they ran right off to save you, even though Reborn told them it was the Momokyoukai that took you and that they’d be no match. You’re a lucky guy, Tsuna!”

Why did Alphas never make any goddamn sense? “Test–?! They’re my friends, not my underlings!”

“Hey, don’t worry,” Dino said. “It’s just an imaginary yakuza group. They’ll probably give up soon and ask Reborn for help–”

“Oh, I forgot to tell you,” Reborn interrupted, unbothered. “Momokyoukai is a real existing yakuza in this town. I heard they’re very strong in martial arts.”

“Reborn! Why didn’t you say so earlier?!” Dino exclaimed in horror.

Tsuna was concerned for a different reason. I thought Hibari-san already got rid of all the yakuza?

Most of the yakuza had been weeded out of Namimori by either the prefect’s mother or himself; if there were a few groups left, they tried to stay under the radar as much as possible. Ever since Hibari effectively claimed Namimori Middle as his territory, it was easier to avoid getting caught by the terrifying Alpha, though ducking out of the way of his town-wide patrols would be a little trickier. If the Momokyoukai really were still around, they hadn’t bothered any middle schoolers - otherwise Hibari would have beat them into the ground.

“Hey, Reborn! Are you listening?!” Dino demanded. “There’s no way those kids can win against the yakuza!”

Reborn, predictably, had fallen asleep.

Dino groaned a bit to himself. “Alright, I guess this is my fault anyway,” he muttered. “Don’t worry, Tsuna - you just stay home, I’ll go get them!”

Tsuna definitely had no inclination to go toe-to-toe with the yakuza - but just the same, he couldn’t just leave Gokudera and Yamamoto to fend for themselves. “Let’s at least try to get the authorities involved,” he told the older male, pulling out his phone. After a moment’s indecision, he decided on calling the police instead of the Disciplinary Committee - but only because the D.C. would “bite to death” everyone involved, not just the offenders. At least the police would ask questions first.

“Gokudera’s visa likely has expired by now,” Reborn observed drolly, then went right back to sleep - snot bubble and all.

Tsuna ended the call before it could even connect. “Fine, no police! But I’m coming with you, Dino-san.”

“What, no! Tsuna, you need to stay back here where it’s safe–”

Tsuna chucked his backpack at him without hesitation; Dino, without his men around, took it straight to the face and was knocked right back onto the ground with another undignified yelp. “You don’t even know where to find them,” Tsuna told the Alpha. “I said I’m going with you, so I’m going with you.”

Dino stared up at him with wide eyes. “...Okay.”

“I can’t believe you were bullied by an Omega,” Reborn observed, comfortable in his perch atop Dino’s head.

Dino shrugged, “Tsuna’s very convincing.”

Tsuna was saved from their unfortunate running commentary by their timely arrival at the yakuza hideout. As he’d suspected, it was much more underground than it had been just a few years ago; it took asking furtive questions around the shopping district downtown to point them in the right direction, but what would have taken someone like Hibari only minutes had taken them hours, since few people were willing to expound secret yakuza dens to an Omega or a foreigner.

The Momokyoukai, it turned out, were housed at the far end of a strip of shops; they imitated the appearance of a gambling parlor, touting mahjong games and pachinko machines at the front. This area was deserted, only the sound of the machines and background radio filling the space. The actual members seemed to be housed in the back, a more expansive area where they’d proudly posted up their clan sign. It was between these two areas that Tsuna found Gokudera’s backpack, and his blood turned cold.

“Of course, they came,” Dino nodded proudly, like Tsuna’s friends putting themselves in danger for him was somehow a good thing. “Let’s hurry!”

Dino threw open the door, his whip in hand - then stopped dead. It was easy to see why: the room was filled with the bloodied, groaning bodies of various adult yakuza members. Bruises and bloody smears were the most prevalent feature among the Alpha and Beta men inside, some already outright unconscious and more than a few smoking like ashen coal.

“Spill it, where is the Tenth?!” Gokudera was roaring into the face of an unfortunate Alpha man, who could not answer even if he wanted to through the five sticks of dynamite shoved into his mouth.

Yamamoto wasn’t much better, smiling in a way that would have been comforting if he wasn’t holding up the full weight of one burly Alpha with one hand by the collar of his shirt. “Can you tell me where Tsuna is?”

…I don’t know why I thought they’d need help, Tsuna realized. Gokudera was already a goddamn mafia member, explosives and all, and Yamamoto could do incredible acts of force if convinced it was a game. Taking down an already-fallen yakuza group was probably a warm-up for both boys.

“Gokudera-kun, Yamamoto,” Tsuna called out, suddenly tired. “You guys can stop. I’m fine.”

“Tenth!” “Tsuna!”

Yamamoto dropped the man he was holding immediately, though Gokudera distractedly tossed his out the window with a beaming smile in Tsuna’s direction. Tsuna decided not to reprimand the silver-haired Beta, because there were honestly more important things to discuss. Besides, the drop wasn’t so bad - what was a few broken bones for an adult Alpha? It was kinder than what Hibari would have done.

“You two can’t just go breaking into yakuza hideouts,” Tsuna started in on them. “Just because you can beat them up doesn’t mean you should.”

This was the closest to restraint that Tsuna thought either of his friends would be able to grasp. He wasn’t entirely sure it would work - in fact, Yamamoto was just smiling brightly at him with obvious confusion in his eyes, while Gokudera was nodding obediently while Tsuna was positive his words were going in one ear and out the other - but he may as well try. At least later, he could try to defend himself to Reborn when the hitman inevitably started to lecture him about his inability to control family members or something.

“What the hell? You brats!”

Tsuna winced as the door on the other side of the room slammed open - another stairwell? - and fifteen or so men of mixed dynamics burst inside. They were noticeably more well-muscled and armed than their fallen counterparts, the air souring with their pheromones.

Tsuna flinched.

Just then, a broad back stepped in front of him: Dino, whip in hand, his scent overpowering the others but instead of the sourness of hostility and aggression - it was soothing, like early morning air over a seaside town. It didn’t relax Tsuna, but it did distract him, and he found himself staring at his trembling hands with gritted teeth.

Alpha pheromones. Disgusting, Tsuna thought.

“Wait, this is my fault,” Dino interjected, voice even. “I’m the 10th boss of the Cavallone family, Dino Cavallone. I apologize for getting your group mixed up in this. I’ll pay for everyone’s medical fees and all of the broken equipment, so please let the kids go.”

The ringleader of the group, an Alpha with slicked-back hair and a scar across the corner of his mouth, sneered at the words. “Family? What are you talking about - this is Japan!” he spit out condescendingly. “We’ll take the money and the Omega, but you guys aren’t going anywhere–”

Before either Gokudera’s dynamite or Yamamoto’s backpack could nail the man in the head, Tsuna’s knee bashed straight into the man’s nose and the sound of it breaking could be heard clear across the room. He went down with an aborted yelp and a generous gush of blood, Tsuna’s hands around his throat cutting off the rest of his howl.

“Tsuna!” Dino cried out shrilly.

Reborn, apparently now awake, just sighed from the corner. “This temper of yours, Dame-Tsuna…”

“Don’t just sigh, Reborn! Do something before he gets hurt–”

Tsuna was yanked off the Alpha he’d been attempting to strangle - how dare he how dare he how dare he - by one of the other yakuza members, but then with the pull of a trigger, a Dying Will bullet hit him straight between the eyes and the inferno he’d felt on the inside burst out of him. He swung around and socked the Beta man holding him square in the jaw, with the same form he’d seen Ryouhei use to knock out classmates during the Sports Festival. The man went down out cold, and Tsuna kicked the next man - Alpha, larger in frame with the scent of tart lemons - straight in the groin.

“Die, you f*ckers!!!” Gokudera roared, taking out another two with a flash of dynamite.

Yamamoto wasn’t smiling anymore, but his eyes were sharp and he’d somehow procured a crowbar. “We’ll watch your back, Tsuna!”

The door behind Dino was suddenly filled as well - not with Momokyoukai members, but men from Dino’s own guard. They looked much more relaxed than their own boss, but Tsuna was having a hard time concentrating on them from where he was freely pummeling into one of the Alpha yakuza members in his arm’s reach.

And then Dino’s whip lashed out.

“I’m impressed!”

Dino was grinning, now lounging on one of the few surviving sofas. His jacket was stained with intermittent spots of blood, the only evidence of the violence wrought with the whip he now had tucked away. His men were already setting about in reorganizing the decimated yakuza den, sorting the bodies between ‘hospital’ and ‘removal’.

Tsuna was trying not to look, to be honest.

The Dying Will flame had receded back into him, leaving him only slightly hollowed out. He was perched on an armchair, Yamamoto and Gokudera flanking him with decidedly less-than-pleased looks. Tsuna was trying really hard to soften his own scent, but his was the strongest in the room now and it was humiliating.

“Tsuna, you and your family were really cool just now! I’m glad you’re my little brother!”

Who is your brother?! “Dino-san…”

“Don’t worry, Tsuna - my men will get this all cleaned up. This was my fault, anyway… Sorry about that,” Dino concluded morosely. “I just really wanted to meet you and make sure you were okay. No one else has ever had Reborn as a tutor, and when I learned he went to teach someone else and that it was the new heir of the Vongola… But I really didn’t mean for things to get out of hand!”

…Why is he starting to look like a kicked puppy? Tsuna inwardly despaired. Dino was vexing, but in retrospect, he hadn’t really ever been cruel or dismissive to Tsuna. He had some ideas that still made Tsuna kind of want to throttle him, but that was hardly unique to Dino either.

And Dino’s motivation did make sense. Tsuna was curious about him too, after all; here was a surviving student of Reborn’s, essentially a successful case as he now ran one of the strongest allied families within Vongola’s alliances. Dino couldn’t really function without one of his men present, but if anything, that actually made him a little more endearing because Tsuna didn’t have to worry about the blonde Italian trying any dominance displays, since he could hardly walk without tripping. Not that the Alpha seemed intent on trying, given his repeated assertions that they were brothers-in-arms now or something.

“It’s…fine,” Tsuna said haltingly. It wasn’t, but at this point, Tsuna would say anything so long as Dino stopped looking like he was going to cry. “And it’d be nice to get to know you too… As a fellow student of Reborn…”

Dino’s expression quickly flipped back into jubilance. “As brothers!”

”...Sure.” There were some fights just not worth having.

A/N: Life is kicking my ass right now but at least I managed to write something. 😭

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks!

Chapter 14: Daily Life Arc, Chapter 14

Summary:

Tsuna forcibly acquires another child, and Mochida has a bad day.

Chapter Text

A/N: This chapter was already partially-written when chapter 13 came out, and then your comments helped give me that boost to finish it! Thank you, everyone, for being so understanding. ❤️

Chapter14

Tsuna could accept a lot of things.

A baby-shaped hitman would be his new tutor? Fine.

He’s heir to an Italian mafia family? Whatever you say, Reborn.

Hitmen failed a hit, and instead of leaving, they decided to stick around? Fine so long as Bianchi stays out of the kitchen.

Child assassins were something so common that his mother decided to adopt not one, but two of them? Lambo’s a pain but I-Pin is very cute, when she’s not exploding.

Clumsy teens from an allied family one-sidedly declaring you their brother? At least Dino knew not to overstay his welcome.

The Vongola family has a weapons tuner who essentially lives in a miniature spaceship? Giannini, please fix the weapons you ruined or Reborn is going to kill you.

But he was drawing the line at a mafia island resort.

“This shouldn’t exist,” Tsuna said, for about the hundredth time since he had the invitations to Mafia Land shoved into his hands by a terrified Giannini. It was supposed to serve as compensation for all the trouble he’d caused when he’d “upgraded” (ruined) Reborn’s in-home arsenal, and he’d given them just enough to include the entire Sawada household, an extra ticket being used for Gokudera given Sawada Iemitsu’s absence.

“Mafia Land is great, Tenth!” Gokudera cheered. “You can just kick back and relax, and--”

“The Great Lambo--”

Gokudera zipped the luggage closed, ignoring the pitiful whining of the Bovino inside. “There’s a beach, a theme park, shopping, five-star dining - everything you could want!”

Tsuna eyed the squirming duffel bag in his friend’s hands. “I guess relaxing on the beach could be nice…”

They’re eventually ushered off the cruise ship that had served as their transportation, following the rest of the passengers to the docking area. Bianchi led his mom and the two actual kids towards the beach, leaving Tsuna and Gokudera before the Information office, Reborn perched on the Omega’s shoulder.

“You have to check in with the Front Desk,” Reborn instructed, slipping on a pair of dark sunglasses, somehow already wearing a striped, full-body bathing suit. “So that they know the Vongola have arrived.”

“Right,” Tsuna sighed. Gokudera gave him a bright grin and double thumbs up, excited for no reason Tsuna could discern.

Reborn left just before Tsuna turned to go inside the Information office, Gokudera happily on his heels. The inside was spacious, a floor-length counter marked off as the Reception desk where a handful of Beta men and women waited patiently.

Tsuna found himself in front of a smiling Beta woman, her hair pulled up into a professional bun, fingers resting on a keyboard. “Famiglia name, please,” she requested.

“V-Vongola family…”

“Are you the representative?” she asked Tsuna, glancing back at Gokudera briefly.

“Yes.”

“Do you have any invitations or letters of recommendation?”

Tsuna reached into his pocket where he’d stashed the invitations - but came up empty. With a flash of unease, he abruptly realized Reborn had taken them. Why?! Tsuna internally bemoaned, wondering if Reborn would always do things the hard way.

“It seems they’re...lost,” Tsuna choked out reluctantly.

The woman’s smile never wavered. “No invitation, hm? Then we’ll have to check your qualifications as mafia.”

“Qualifications?”

“Bring it on! Tenth will crush your test!” Gokudera cheered from behind him,

Tsuna was ushered into a different room, Gokudera shooting him quick dual thumbs up again before Tsuna was pushed through solid oak doors, blocking his over-eager friend from view. A tall, imposing man - Alpha, the scent of cedar and dying coals - was sat in a grandiose chair of cushioned red, idly lighting a cigar he’d pulled out from nowhere. He was dressed in a crisp black suit, back lit by a window that looked out onto the mingling crowds of Mafia Land.

“The honeypot scenario,” the Beta woman chirped in a perfect customer service voice from beside him. “He has information you want about a rival famiglia. You have 30 minutes to do everything in your power to get him to tell you that information.”

She closed the door behind herself as she left. Tsuna was left staring at the man, who was staring back at him coolly. It was casual disregard lined in the man’s eyes, and though his dark eyes swept Tsuna’s form in brief consideration, he didn’t say anything.

Tsuna didn’t want to move. He wasn’t sure where to go from here; Reborn’s lessons had never covered these kinds of scenarios, and Tsuna had no idea what a “honeypot scenario” even was. There wasn’t any honey in the room as far as he could tell, and aside from the chair the man was in, the room was bare - so if Tsuna was supposed to trade something for the information, it would have to be something on him.

“Um…” Tsuna croaked out unsurely. The man lifted one eyebrow at him in response. Digging nervously through his pockets revealed only a crumpled receipt from a crepe he’d bought for the kids, a few sticks of gum, and a small ball of lint. “Did you...want some gum…?”

The man snorted, waving him closer. Tsuna approached cautiously, completely discomforted by the response, a feeling of having missed something making him more wary. It was almost like he was being expected to act in a play but he’d never been given the script, so he had no idea what he was expected to do and could only respond to what was given.

Once he was close enough - closer than he needed to be, Tsuna thought, eyeing the scant foot between them - the man held out his hand expectantly. Tsuna pulled out a stick of gum, placing it in the man’s large palm, wondering if this was really enough to get the information he apparently needed.

The Alpha man opened the silver gum wrapper, throwing it to the side as he held the pale mint gum between his fingertips. He looked back at Tsuna, smile wide on his face, holding the gum back up and in front of Tsuna’s lips.

Tsuna stared at him in incomprehension.

“You want it, don’t you?” the man purred. He took the opportunity to use his other hand to cup Tsuna’s chin, pulling him one more unsteady step forward. “Come on, pretty bird - open your mouth.”

Tsuna went very still.

“Open your mouth,” the Alpha repeated, this time in a Demand.

Tsuna’s scalp felt itchy and gross, hair entangled with twigs and dead leaves. There’s a faint smell of something burnt in his nostrils, unpleasant like overdone meat, and every part of him hurt.

The Alpha’s eyebrows furrowed, smile dropping. “Open your mouth.”

Tsuna’s head throbbed.

“I said, open your-”

The Alpha’s words were cut off by the hand now wrapped around his throat. There’s a roar in Tsuna’s ears that would have made the words indecipherable to him anyway, so he’s not troubled by it. He’s very sure of himself in this moment, the feeling of hands all over his body dropped away to some dark, faraway place as he focused his attention on keeping himself steady despite the Alpha’s thrashing.

“I’m sorry,” Tsuna murmured, words seemingly detached from any semblance of emotion. “I don’t want any gum.”

Tsuna recalled Sasagawa Ryouhei’s posture for a fleeting moment, releasing the Alpha to rock back on his feet and assume it. The Alpha choked fresh oxygen back into his abused throat, but Tsuna ignored this - launching forward with a right-hook to the man’s face, orange flames sparking along his knuckles as his fist met the solid flesh of the man’s cheekbone.

The Alpha’s body hit the floor just as the door to the room blew open into splinters, Gokudera stepping through the doorway with a look of imminent fury. Tsuna, knuckles stinging, blinked at his friend – was Gokudera really that hotwired to notice Tsuna’s discomfort, even from another room?

“Gokudera-kun?”

Grim satisfaction flashed across Gokudera’s face as he took in the scene, and he shot Tsuna a dazzling look of awe. “Tenth! Sorry to burst in,” he said, and Tsuna had to mentally wave away the mental image of a wagging tail behind him. “That bitch at the front said she gave you a honeypot scenario. I thought you’d want me in here so you wouldn't have to get your hands dirty dealing with this filth.”

Well that explained why the silver-haired male had burst in here; god forbid Gokudera ever walk through a doorway like a normal person. Tsuna waited a moment to see if anybody followed the other boy in, but it was completely quiet outside, so maybe they’d fled the scene when they realized how crazy Gokudera was. Or maybe Gokudera took them out; it wouldn’t be the first time he attacked someone for some imagined slight against Tsuna.

“I don’t know what a honeypot scenario is,” Tsuna admitted.

Gokudera stilled. “…I’ll explain it later, Tenth,” he said through suddenly gritted teeth. “Anyway, let me shove dynamite down this asshole’s throat and then we can go!”

Tsuna frowned. “The lady said we have to get information from him first,” he explained. And we can’t do that if he’s swallowing dynamite, went unsaid.

“No worries, Tenth! He’ll tell us everything we need to know,” Gokudera beamed at him. “I’ll just stick dynamite in the other hole.”

“He’s still not saying anything, Boss.”

Skull frowned, though no one could see it from under his helmet. It wasn’t a pressing issue, but it was still an issue - and one that he’d hoped to have already fixed by this time. From the bridge of the massive sailing vessel he now operated, he could see the shape of Mafia Land slowly grow larger and larger as the distance closed.

Hopping off the captain’s chair, Skull just nodded at his subordinate and headed out. He didn’t have to go far; he would never keep his prized treasure too far from him, lest one of the other members of Carcassa get greedy and try to take it for themselves. That’s what had happened to the Todd family, after all; they’d been tearing themselves apart in order to possess what now belonged to Skull, and it had been child’s play to intervene and win.

Not that the ownership helped - but Skull had only realized this after the fact.

Pushing open the door to the small cabin, Skull stepped inside. It was more a glorified storage closet than a proper cabin, but the sole occupant was so small - though not as small as Skull, now - that it hardly mattered. The cot was generously plump, the softest blankets they’d been able to find layered on top, a small desk the only other furniture in the room. There was no en-suite, no windows or balcony; those were privileges to be awarded, once he started doing what he was told. A lunch tray had been left atop the desk, still fresh and steaming with the best morsels the chefs on board could provide, but it was untouched.

It was hard to smell it anyway - the entire room was plunged into stubborn sweetness.

“Fuuta de la Stella,” Skull started. “You need to eat. Do you not like the food we made you?”

They hardly skimped on the meal. It was part of the training process, after all; fed the best food and pampered with the softest things, surely Fuuta would finally comply and give them rankings on request. There had been suggestions to start forcing the young Omega to do it, but Skull had seen how well that had gone down in the Todd family.

If they’d meant to scare the Omega, it had worked - but not in their favor. The Ranking Prince was essentially catatonic, moving only when dragged and refusing to speak a word. His eyes never seemed in focus, and Skull had thought that maybe the ‘ranking planet’ connection was working but Fuuta never once spoke, listless as a ragdoll and just as empty.

The only time Skull had ever heard him speak was when he’d first pulled him from the Todd residence’s smoldering remains, Fuuta’s eyes as dead as his previous owners: “The rankings won’t work if you rape me.”

That had been enough to apparently save the young Omega from that specific brand of torture, as Carcassa’s doctors had discovered. Fuuta even had little pin-prick scars lined around his lips from when they would sew his mouth shut in punishment, too old and too repetitive that no medicine could heal them. It had left some psychological trauma as well, since now the Omega boy refused to speak at all, let alone rank.

The Todd family had been cruel, but worse - they had been ineffective. Skull had thought it would be an easy claim, because Fuuta was frail and damaged enough that just saving him from his circ*mstances should have earned Carcassa his gratitude and willingness to submit. Instead, Skull now had to deal with a highly-sought-after treasure that wasn’t worth the price to keep as is.

“We’re almost to Mafia Land. Once we’re there, you’re free to rank whatever you want,” Skull offered. “If you rank anything, I’ll even let you go to the amusem*nt park. Have you ever been on a ferris wheel?”

Fuuta didn’t reply, just continued to stare into empty space.

Skull continued with feigned lightness, “It’s one of the amusem*nt park rides. You sit in a little carriage, and it takes you up and up and up! You’ll be as high as a bird!”

Skull never saw the flicker of emotion that passed over the young Omega’s face, too fast to gauge.

Tsuna once again reflected on the injustice in this world.

He tried not to ask for too much - just a little peace, maybe some time alone so that he didn’t have to curb some of his more violent impulses. He was even already grateful for the changes in his life, namely his friends, but also the improvement in his grades (though he abhorred the reason why) and the fact that the worst of the faculty in school had been kicked out. That’s why Tsuna tried to just be content with what he had, and hoarded every little piece of normality he could find.

So why was he constantly subjected to psychotic babies?

“Is this a friend of yours, Reborn?” Tsuna didn’t really want to ask, but he figured he may as well get the conversation started since the moment Reborn had dragged him down into a nondescript subway and then kicked him out onto an empty beach, he and the interloper had been locked in trading gunfire. Naturally, Reborn had won, but the little blonde baby dressed in camo had just popped right back up and coolly waved off his gunshot wounds with a terse “this is nothing, I’ve gone through training!” Which didn't even make sense, but that was just par for the course with Reborn and his associates.

“This is the person in charge of the backstage of Mafia Land, Colonnello,” Reborn introduced, casually dodging more gunfire. “We were born and raised in the same place.”

“KORA! We’re not friends, I just happen to know him!” Colonnello interjected. He then paused in his one-sided assault, switching his attention to Tsuna. Aside from the obvious uptick in energy, Colonnello was hard to read; Tsuna wondered if it was a shared trait among the non-babies, because his blank face was similar to Reborn’s in some way. “Why are you two here, anyway? I didn’t get word that anyone had failed the entrance test, kora.”

“That’s because Tsuna blew up the testing facility.”

Tsuna opened his mouth to defend himself - that had been Gokudera’s dynamite, after all - but then stopped, because… Well, it’s not like he’d tried to stop Gokudera. He may have even encouraged him, however implicitly, but what did Reborn expect? He’d practically tricked Tsuna into taking part, so this was just the natural consequence.

That did remind him though: “Oh, what’s a honeypot, by the way? They tried to make me do that for the test but I wasn’t…sure…”

Both babies were Alphas, weird forms aside, but it wasn’t their pheromones that made him trail off - it was the sudden pressure of killing intent. Neither baby moved or spoke, just staring at Tsuna with their similarly-blank eyes, but his intuition was clamoring that what he’d said had upset them. He could tell that they weren't upset with him, but the pressure was still destabilizing.

“Interesting,” Reborn mused aloud, except Tsuna had never heard him use that tone before.

Colonnello, similarly still, grunted out an agreeing “kora!”

Should have just waited for Gokudera-kun to explain, Tsuna thought with immediate regret.

Before Tsuna could fully work out a plan to flee, an explosion boomed across the beach from one of the nearby cliffsides. Rubble rained down as more and more explosions went off, and Tsuna peered up into the smoking craters left behind anxiously - it wasn’t Gokudera again, was it?

The sound of the intercom burst to life: “WE’RE UNDER ATTACK. GUESTS, PLEASE PROCEED TO THE NEAREST SHELTER.”

“I thought this place was neutral territory?!” Tsuna yelped, dodging some flying rubble.

“Not all families agree,” Reborn countered. “Mafia Land was made by friendly mafia who don’t deal drugs, but there are some families like the Carcassa famiglia who dislike the idea.”

What the hell is a ‘friendly mafia’?! “So they’re attacking now?!”

Almost as if the words were a sign of foreboding, both Reborn’s orange pacifier and Colonnello’s blue pacifier began to glow.

“So it’s someone we know,” Colonnello observed.

“Yeah,” Reborn agreed. “And the only one stupid enough to do something like this…”

In unison, with the same derisive tone: “Skull.”

Colonnello shook his head, beady gaze back on Reborn. “Take your Omega to a shelter,” he said. “I’ll take care of that idiot Skull.”

“Tsuna’s my student,” Reborn corrected idly.

Colonnello stared at Reborn. Tsuna stared at Colonnello, amber eyes burning.

“...Alright, but he still needs to go to the shelter, kora. Unless he wants to fight Skull?”

Now both babies were staring at Tsuna. Tsuna blinked, taken off-guard by Colonnello’s quick acceptance and lack of reaction. “...What the hell is a Skull?”

For the first time, Colonnello grinned.

I had to ask! Tsuna groaned inwardly, trudging through island brush. He wasn’t entirely sure where he was headed, Reborn having chased him away with machine gun fire. Colonnello had been picked up by a passing eagle that sure didn’t look native to the island, and the subsequent large explosions heralded the destruction of an entire off-shore fleet, courtesy of the little blonde maniac. Tsuna had been too busy running for his life from Reborn’s gun-inspired directions to care.

Now thirty minutes later, the trail he’d been chased onto led directly to a broken piece of Mafia Land’s outer wall - now reduced to smoking rubble. The area was deserted, most of the patrons presumably in the shelters Tsuna had so cruelly been denied by his hell-born tutor, but he could hear the occasional sound of gunfire and intermittent explosions across the island. It looked like Carcassa’s assault was still ongoing, but they’d already largely passed the part Tsuna now tread.

Stepping past the rubble, it looked like he’d ended up in the amusem*nt park side of Mafia Land. The park music was missing, casting an eerie silence over the empty rides at this time of day. Some rides had been destroyed in the initial bout of explosions, debris littering the ground. He supposed he was just glad to not see any dead bodies.

Picking his way through the rubble, Tsuna’s eyes caught on a tiny figure just meters ahead of him. The person was small - not as tiny as Reborn and Colonnello, otherwise Tsuna would have just taken off in the other direction - but closer to Tsuna’s shoulder-height. The thin frame was dressed in a black sweatshirt and plain, dark blue pants, a long black-and-white scarf wrapped around the neck and shoulders. As Tsuna drew closer, he could make out the light brown hair and wide, dark eyes that watched him from a placid face.

He could also make out the sweet scent. Omega.

Tsuna stopped just a few paces away. The other Omega was definitely younger than him and had yet to Present, caught somewhere between Tsuna’s age and Lambo’s. He was watching Tsuna, but not out of curiosity or fear; rather, his eyes were pointed in Tsuna’s direction but hardly seemed to register his presence. In a way, it reminded Tsuna of Reborn and Colonnello, the lack of emotion a result of something much more ominous.

But a child was a child, so Tsuna asked: “Are you alright?”

The boy blinked. Not rapidly, but still in reaction; the words registered but the child’s mind went somewhere else. Tsuna took one step closer, halting again at the lack of reply. “Do you need help?” Tsuna tried again.

The other boy didn’t look injured. His scent was strong - stronger than it should be, really, with an undercurrent of distress - but it did not waver in intensity, which was odd. Tsuna got the sense that it was prolonged, almost as if the child was in constant distress but only his scent could show it and not his face.

“Pitiful thing,” Tsuna remembered hearing his neighbors say. He’d heard that a lot about himself when he was younger, clinging to his mother’s skirt and aching constantly. His mother never seemed to run out of excuses for why his scent bombarded every space they went, airy smile in place as she apologized for her Omega child’s existence to every criticizing stranger.

Looking at the Omega child in front of him, Tsuna didn’t think the same. There was nothing pitiful about the boy - but there was something terrifying about him. As if he were a statement of the aftermath, a horror unto himself. The closer Tsuna drew, the more apparent the scars became: long swipes from a blade, hidden under his scarf and long sleeves; a bite mark on his wrist, not a claiming bite but a scar just the same.

When the child smiled, it stretched the scars along his lips into thin ovals. “Tsuna-nii,” he croaked out. His tiny voice was dry with disuse, flagging in tone. “Would you take me on a ferris wheel?”

That…was not what Tsuna expected to come out of his mouth. “Huh?”

“The ferris wheel,” the child repeated patiently. “I want to be as high as a bird, Tsuna-nii.”

Tsuna’s eyes flicked from the boy to the ferris wheel behind him. It was half-destroyed, likely by the initial assault, and definitely inoperable. When he looked back to the other, the boy’s scarf had lifted up, hovering in place as if carried by an invisible hand before falling back down. Those wide, dark brown eyes glazed over for a moment, pupils contracting in and out; the smile dipped back into placidity, then resumed as if someone had changed the channel. The sweet scent never intensified nor calmed, consistently brazen.

“It’s broken. I don’t think we can ride it today,” Tsuna said. “How about we just head to a shelter for now?”

The child tilted his head just slightly but didn’t reply. His scarf was once again lifted back up by an invisible current, but so too were the smaller debris at their feet. Pebbles and small chunks of sidewalk floated midair, hovering around the unconcerned boy.

“Tsuna-nii, I really want to go on a ferris wheel,” the boy said. “Out of 86,202 people, you are ranked first in most likely to grant my request.”

What is he talking about?!

“The Ranking Price, Fuuta de la Stella.”

Reborn’s voice jolted Tsuna out of his flabbergasted gape. The tiny hitman popped out from a nearby ride - had he been watching Tsuna this whole time? - but didn’t draw too close, once again mindful of an Omega that wasn’t Tsuna himself.

“He’s an informant, though he went missing after the Todd family was annihilated,” Reborn explained. The boy - Fuuta - had stopped smiling, still as a prey warily watching a predator. Tsuna stepped just a bit more to the right, partially blocking the strange boy from Reborn’s view; surprisingly, Fuuta moved closer, expression still closed off and eyes glazed, but one small hand fisted the bottom of Tsuna’s shirt.

“Fuuta can make incredibly accurate rankings,” Reborn continued. “His ranking book ability holds momentous amounts of information. Information on the mafia is extremely valuable, so he’s a highly-desired asset.”

Asset? The boy couldn’t be older than ten, with the doe eyes to match.

“Tsuna-nii isn’t interested in my book or my ranking ability. He’s ranked second in lack of ambition among all mafia bosses,” Fuuta muttered. “First is Kozato En–”

Tsuna yanked the boy into his side abruptly, rapidly side-stepping out of the way as a massive tentacle slammed down next to them and attempted to wrap them up. With a burst of adrenaline, he pulled Fuuta into his arms - he was so light, too light - and ducked behind Reborn.

“The Todd family was routed by the Carcassa,” Reborn mused, unbothered by the sudden attack. “I assume Fuuta turned up at Mafia Land because of the Carcassa attack. You captured the Ranking Prince and then lost him on land, Skull?”

The tentacle pulled back, and the large form of an armored octopus emerged from over the remains of one of the amusem*nt park booths. The octopus itself was surreal, but what really caught Tsuna’s eyes was the tiny figure riding atop the bulbous head: a little baby wearing a motorcycle helmet, a violet pacifier hung around its neck.

The burn in Tsuna’s heart flared, threatening to engulf him.

“Reborn-senpai, why are you here?” the other baby - Skull - demanded shrilly. “I received orders from the Carcassa boss to take over Mafia Land, but then Fuuta snuck out of the ship– I don’t even know how, he can hardly breathe by himself! But I didn’t lose him!”

Reborn’s eyes and tone were disdainful. “Why do you always end up as someone’s errand boy?”

“I’m not an errand boy!” Skull shrieked. “I’m–”

The words sputtered to a stop. Tsuna watched, transfixed, only distantly aware of the small hand fisted in the front of his shirt, the other clutching his sleeve as Fuuta buried his small face into his shoulder. The child was muttering inaudibly, pointless and meandering rankings pouring from his scarred lips as if the floodgates had been opened - but Tsuna couldn’t hear a damn thing past the blood pounding in his ears.

Skull–

Skull–

Skull–

“You,” Skull choked out. His helmet blocked the sight of his eyes, but Tsuna knew them to be violet. “Why– Why is an Omega here?!”

There was a familiarity in the shrill sharpness of his tone, in the dramatic flair of his voice. Every movement, every word– it was almost cartoonishly exaggerated, at odds with the destruction and terror of its surroundings. There is a heavy sense of déjà vu lodged in the back of Tsuna’s throat, tight with stifling fire and desperate, heaving horror.

Skull reared back, and the octopus moved with him. “I– I’m not so petty as to involve an Omega in our battle!” the baby declared, voice shaking. “I’ll l-leave for now! Fuuta, you–”

Tsuna took a step back, cradling Fuuta in his arms with a snarl.

“–y-you can stay with them!” Skull finished hurriedly, practically falling back in his haste to get away.

The giant octopus was quick to retreat with its small owner in tow, but Tsuna didn’t relax until they’d disappeared over the last hill and from view. Even then, it took a longer moment to settle the burn in his heart and the way his hands trembled.

When he regained his bearings and his hands shook only a little, he gently uncurled Fuuta from his arms. The smaller Omega went obediently, his continuous stream of words too quiet to fully grasp, and he only came to a stop when Tsuna set about loosening the tight fit of his scarf.

“I need a new ranking book,” Fuuta suddenly stated, voice momentarily louder than his previous breathy string. “I destroyed the last one before the Todd family caught me.”

Tsuna knew, without Fuuta having to say, exactly why: they would have just settled for what they could get from the book, rather than deal with the Omega himself. By destroying the book, Fuuta had been able to at least safeguard his own life.

“A notebook, and a ride on a ferris wheel,” Tsuna noted aloud. “We can manage that.”

Fuuta smiled, curling one hand into Tsuna’s sleeve. His sweet scent still lingered strong in the air, but the sour note of distress had lessened just slightly. Tsuna subconsciously flared his own scent, satisfied somewhat when Fuuta’s scent continued to weaken in response, instead growing warmer as he clung to Tsuna’s arm.

Reborn watched them, silent and uncompromising. When he spoke, it was with the same lack of tone he always used when something did not sit right with his view of the world. “Do you know Skull, Dame-Tsuna?”

Tsuna shook his head. “I’ve never seen him before,” he admitted truthfully.

He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s lying.

Skull often has nightmares. The color of them is always amber.

Things had changed at Namichuu.

The routine of the school day remained the same: classes went on, clubs continued to meet, test preparations were underway. However, just under half of the faculty had changed; Disciplinary Committee membership continued to rise; more and more people either looked away or fell in line with Sawada Tsunayoshi as the year continued.

Mochida wanted to rage about the unfairness of it all.

Sawada was a freak. No Omega should act like that, but Hibari continued to let the boy get away with it: whether it be flaunting his new fawning underling Gokudera, or breaking school rules during the Sports Festival, or even just continuing to get away with being a disingenuous little whor* for Yamamoto and Kurokawa. Even now, he got to miss classes for a few days because his Beta mother had won a trip to an island resort!

If Mochida thought Sawada’s absence would help return the school to normal, he’d been sadly mistaken. He’d heard Yamamoto was a fright in class, sulking through every lesson and taking it out on his teammates during club practice. The teachers - those that had survived the purge that had started with Nezu-sensei - had been louder in their arguments over the Omega, but that was quickly put to a stop with one passing glare courtesy of their school’s vicious presiding power.

The Disciplinary Committee itself seemed more up in arms, although Mochida guessed that was more because of the increasing amount of random attacks on random Namichuu students rather than Sawada’s fault. Then again, Sawada was a vicious little freak, so maybe he’d gone feral and was randomly attacking people now. If that was the case, Mochida hoped the D.C. would be quick to put him down.

With the increasing amount of muggings, though, Namichuu students had been warned not to linger. The kendo club had been let out a little later than usual (but still before last dismissal, otherwise Hibari really would slaughter them), so Mochida found himself walking back home alone for the first time in a long while. Earlier in the year, he’d been looking forward to getting Sasagawa as his girlfriend and having some company after school, but after that dream had died, he’d just decided to focus on kendo for the rest of the year. He’d be in high school soon enough, and there’d be enough normal Betas and Omegas there for him to date that he didn’t need to waste time or energy on his freak underclassmen.

“Namimori Junior High, Class 3-A, seat number 18… Mochida Kensuke.”

Mochida stopped in his tracks.

Two Beta males stood a few feet away, blocking the otherwise empty path. They complemented each other in their discordance: one blonde with a long horizontal scar over the bridge of his nose, the other in a crisp white beanie with a barcode tattooed onto his left cheek. They were wearing the same style of uniform, one Mochida did not recognize.

“Looks f*ckin’ weak,” came the blonde’s cackling observation. When he spoke, Mochida caught the gleam of fanged teeth.

“He’s president of the kendo club,” was the dry retort from the other.

The blonde gave a contemptuous snort. “Don’t they just give titles like that to any Alpha? Probably means jack-sh*t!”

Mochida’s hackles rose, his scent flaring. “Who the hell are–”

“Oya, oya.

Mochida felt his entire body seize, frozen by something he could not see or sense. A hand curled around the back of his neck, fingernails digging bloodied gouges into the sides that had him choking out a pained whimper. He dropped to his knees, though the hand remained on his bowed neck.

“There’s no need to be so aggressive.”

The hand peeled away from his neck, scratching against his scent glands with casual cruelty and leaving bloodied smears in their wake. It hooked under Mochida’s chin and pulled his head up, forcing his eyes to meet the ones of the person above him: one blue, one red. Pain ricocheted from the soles of his feet and the ache of his knees, and his thoughts were submerged in leaden fear.

Worst of all, though, was the scent now choking the air.

Kufufufu… What’s wrong, Alpha?”

It was strong - and it was sweet.

A/N: FINALLY, the end of the Daily Life arc - and now onto the Kokuyou arc! 😈

And since I think someone mentioned this in the comments at some point: yes, Naito Longchamp (now) exists in this story, just not in these first two arcs LOL

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks!

Chapter 15: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 1

Summary:

Tsuna is not paid enough to deal with all this sh*t.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thanks for reading and commenting! Y'all are hilarious in those comments 😂

Chapter 15

Kokuyou Land was a decrepit eyesore within Kokuyou, though plans to level the condemned amusem*nt park had never been implemented. The mudslide from a few years ago had destroyed most of the infrastructure, including all of the exterior rides, but the main center that housed the bowling alley and the cinema remained standing.

Kokuyou Land nowadays was most known for housing the rowdy base of delinquents that called it home base. These errant youths fell out of Namimori’s range - and thus Hibari’s territory - but given the close proximity of their town, it was not unusual to find the beaten, unconscious bodies of Kokuyou students among the Disciplinary Committee’s numerous victims.

That’s what made it so easy to find the cause of the recent rash of attacks on Namichuu students. The moment Kokuyou Junior High’s uniform had been seen being worn by the assailants, the next best place to look was Kokuyou Land.

Hibari Kyouya had gone alone, because no amount of herbivores could possibly be a threat to him. He’d also already beaten into submission the strongest that Kokuyou had to offer previously; as herbivores, though, they’d probably forgotten and he would have to remind them. This was just maintenance, as far as he was concerned.

He hadn’t thought much about the first couple dozen herbivores he’d demolished upon entering Kokuyou Land’s gates. As he drew closer and closer to the main building, however, he started to notice that the herbivores were quieter than usual. Even when he bit them into compliance, they hardly made a sound as they went down bloody and broken.

Occasionally, one of the stronger ones would get back up and try again - despite the obviously broken bones - and then Hibari would just hit them again until they stopped moving. The quietness, the clear disregard for their own personal well-being - these cowardly herbivores were acting odd. It didn’t stop Hibari from moving forward, but it made him think.

The sweet scent he’d begun to smell in the air made him think harder.

The next herbivore that attacked him - this one with an axe - was sent sailing away with one tonfa strike, right through an interior window and shattering the glass. The herbivore’s body hit the ground and laid there, limp, as Hibari stepped through with his tonfas at the ready. The sweet smell that coiled throughout the entire building was even stronger in this room, but the reason was obvious enough.

Within the room filled with debris and shadows, a lone boy sat on a sunken red couch.

Tall and slender, he had the physical build typical of his dynamic; the scent he exuded was reminiscent of lotus flowers over still water - fragrant, with a little bit of rot. It was too strong to be the smell of a prepubescent Omega, but too weak to be considered Presented. His hair color was darker but hard to discern within the shadows of the room, but his hairline had a distinctive zig-zag pattern that was ruffled in the back. Perhaps the most distinctive quality, aside from the smell, was his eyes: one piercing blue, the other virulent red.

“Oh, so you’ve actually come?” The voice was silken and dark, but much like lakewater, it was placid. The other boy seemed pleasantly surprised by Hibari's untimely arrival, leaning forward to prop his chin up with interlocked fingers. The sweet scent intensified to an almost nauseating degree. “Hibari Kyouya… Little Alpha, I heard Namimori is your claimed territory. So you’d know what happens inside of it, wouldn’t you?”

“Enough talk. I’ll bite you to death.”

“Oya, oya,” the other male drawled, lips curling up into a smile that made Hibari’s brows furrow in annoyance. The scent continued to grow stronger in the air, and no matter how he flared his own, it overcame it. “You’re as impatient as they say. I just wanted a conversation… Are all Namimori Alphas this grumpy?”

Hibari made to advance forward, but it suddenly became hard to breathe. It felt like his body had been robbed of energy; even just putting one foot in front of the other became an insurmountable task, and he stumbled slightly before he managed to get a hold of himself.

“Kufufufu… You seem a little out of it, are you okay?”

“Shut up,” Hibari growled out.

“I was just worried about you, no need to bite my head off,” the other said. “Really now, pull yourself together; you’re practically breaking into a sweat.”

The more the other spoke, the more unstable Hibari felt; the ground was seemingly shaking underneath him, and it was taking all he had to remain upright. A light sheen of sweat had indeed broken out across his skin, and the air in the room felt so very thin. The feeling itself was alien, but in a way, familiar.

But it couldn’t be, because he was indoors and–

“How interesting. You really are weak to them, aren’t you?”

Something small and pink fluttered past Hibari’s face. Then, more and more began to fall and litter the ground, the scent of the Omega vanishing as if it had never been there at all. It was replaced by something much stronger and much more familiar, something that he’d previously enjoyed before that damned herbivore doctor ruined it, made him weak to–

“To sakura.”

The return to Namimori was a return to absolute chaos.

First and foremost, Tsuna had to get Fuuta acclimated to the Namimori household. His mother had looked simultaneously frazzled by the new addition and absolutely enamored with the young Omega; she’d pulled out some of Tsuna’s old clothes for Fuuta to wear and good-naturedly clucked over the small boy’s obviously ill health. Fuuta had seemed dazzled by the treatment, still not speaking very much but occasionally spitting out a harmless ranking that invariably gave the woman a bit of an ego boost.

The morning after, Yamamoto turned up at Tsuna’s house bright and early. He’s as affable as ever, bright smile on his face and backpack slung over one shoulder, but there’s a jitteriness to him that Tsuna registered on sight. He’s not exactly clinging to Tsuna, or even more in his space than usual, but he maintained a consistent (close) distance to Tsuna’s side as they made their way to school. After the third time Yamamoto’s knuckles brushed across the back of Tsuna’s hand due to their close proximity, Gokudera had enough and shook the answer out of the baseball player.

The clinginess, it turned out, was because there had been an increasing number of attacks on Namichuu students for the short time they’d been away. It had started with Oshikiri, captain of the soccer club; he’d been found beaten within an inch of his life in a back alley several blocks from school. He had still been unconscious in the hospital when Takada, captain of the sumo club, had also been similarly decimated. By the time the Disciplinary Committee had gotten involved, three more victims had been found over the course of three days - five in total, one each day. All five had identified their assailants as Kokuyou students, though descriptions varied and grew more ludicrous with each new victim.

All of the victims had several things in common: each was the captain of a sports club at Namichuu. Although all of the victims were found in similarly beaten conditions, they had not all been treated the same; four of the captains were Alphas, and each had their canines bloodily pried from their jaws. The single Beta, Isegawa of the tennis club, had been found with all his teeth.

“What about Sasagawa-senpai?” Tsuna asked, remembering the older boy. He was technically the president of the Boxing club, by virtue of being its sole member.

Yamamoto shrugged, “He’s still fine, last I heard. Everyone’s walking home in groups now, and I know he’s walking Kyoko-san and Kurokawa home. Hibari was supposed to have gone to Kokuyou to…” Here, Yamamoto made a vague gesture that probably translated to ‘clean up the mess.’

Tsuna felt a little bit of relief. One of the bright sides of sharing a community with a vicious, raging psychopath like Hibari Kyouya was that it made it very difficult for other vicious, raging psychopaths to get a foot in.

The school day passed in an atmosphere of tense expectation. The teachers were stressed as usual, but it was the ongoing patrol rounds and increased number of D.C. members that really set everyone on edge. As the hours passed and Hibari had yet to make a triumphant return, more and more whispers spread around the school. It got to the point where students were finally let out early, the faculty having an emergency meeting as D.C. members shooed away students en masse.

Baseball practice had also been canceled, so Yamamoto ended up walking home with Tsuna and Gokudera. Usually Tsuna would invite them over since they now had some time to kill, but with Fuuta back at the house and still wary of anyone who wasn’t a Sawada or younger than him, introducing Yamamoto might still be too much for the young boy. Yamamoto just waiting at the door in the morning had made the Omega child run back into the kitchen to peer out suspiciously from around the corner, but Yamamoto had been surprisingly perceptive of the reaction and kept by the door with a friendly smile.

Just as Tsuna was about to suggest getting a snack together first before heading home, a couple of pedestrians sped around the corner with terrified expressions. “I can’t believe they’re fighting in broad daylight!” one Beta woman grimaced, pulling along her friend. “I’d heard those Namimori Junior High kids were getting beaten up, but isn’t this more like a gang fight?!”

That doesn’t sound good, Tsuna thought, coming to a stop. He almost didn’t want to turn the corner, but Gokudera was already advancing out of curiosity and it wasn’t like Tsuna was going to just leave him to it, even though the bomber had proved himself more than capable of taking care of himself. With a sigh, Tsuna shakily decided that no matter what waited around that corner - it could never be worse than Reborn.

Tsuna turned the corner, and immediately caught the entire weight of Sasagawa Ryouhei’s bleeding body full in the face.

They went down with a started yelp from Tsuna, though he landed on something considerably softer than pavement; the quiet groan in a familiar voice clued him in that Yamamoto had tried to catch him, though now they were a tangle of three bodies, and the two taller boys were made of considerably sharper angles and heavier muscle than Tsuna’s slight form.

“Tenth! Are you okay?!” Gokudera cried out, quickly tossing Ryouhei off of him.

Tsuna winced as Ryouhei’s probably-concussed head met the sidewalk. “Gokudera-kun, be careful, Sasagawa-senpai is already injured–”

“...Tenth?”

The voice was not familiar, and neither was the person who it originated from: a boy in a Kokuyou Junior High uniform, eyes blank behind the lenses of his glasses and a barcode tattooed on his left cheek. He looked completely unruffled, likely because he was not the one who had Sasagawa Ryouhei’s blood all over him; that was the blonde boy with the horizontal scar over the bridge of his nose, dressed in the same uniform but speckled with red from the fight.

“That’s an interesting nickname. Why call him that?” the beanie-wearing boy asked. In contrast to the question, his tone was utterly void of interest - but he didn’t move, clearly expecting an answer.

Gokudera hated answering questions if Tsuna wasn’t the one asking, though. “Who the f*ck are you?!”

Tsuna picked himself off the ground, quickly moving over to check Ryouhei. The older boy was definitely bruised and his eyes were unfocused, but more alarming was his left arm, left garishly bent at the wrong angle. “He needs to go to the hospital,” Tsuna said, already pulling out his phone.

“Kakipii~~ These three ain’t club captains, but do you want to fight them anyway? The silver-haired one is loud as f*ck!” the blonde boy laughed, more expressive than his friend by a mile but just as frightening. When he spoke, his abnormally long canine teeth protruded menacingly into clear view. “He smells funny too - like gunpowder. I thought they didn’t have guns in Japan?”

Which was, predictably, when Gokudera pulled out his dynamite.

“Silver-hair, dynamite, and roughly 14 years old… And the other boy called you Gokudera, didn’t he? You are Smokin’ Bomb Hayato, aren’t you?” the bespectacled boy identified in a mulish tone.

“Who the hell is asking? What family are you from?” Gokudera snarled back.

The beanie-wearing boy smiled. “Finally. We found the right one.”

“f*ck, seriously? He’s not even a f*cking club captain!”

Tsuna was quick to end the call with emergency services after giving them the location; best not risk getting recorded, in case Gokudera started blowing things - and people - up. Yamamoto was frowning, stationed between where Tsuna was kneeling by Ryouhei and facing Gokudera’s back. He’d also somehow procured a baseball bat, but Tsuna had no idea from where.

“You called one of the others ‘Tenth’... Which one is your boss?” the beanie-wearing boy muttered, dead fish-eyes moving first to Yamamoto, then to Tsuna before dismissing him, and then back to Yamamoto and staying there. “So you are the Vongola Tenth?”

Yamamoto blinked. “Oh… Is this that mafia roleplay game again?”

Tsuna wanted to groan aloud, but was leery about drawing attention to himself. He still thinks it’s a game?!

“As if I’d ever serve that baseball idiot!” Gokudera roared.

The beanie-wearing boy’s attention switched back to Tsuna. After a moment, he took a step closer; his expression remained deadpan, but his companion more than made up for it by conspicuously sniffing the air, eyes widening.

“Hey, are you f*cking for real? The Vongola heir is an Omega?” the blonde asked, shock making him gape unseemly.

The other boy’s eyebrows drew together. “...That’s impossible. The Vongola Ninth is an Alpha, as all the previous Vongola bosses have been. Nothing he’s done has indicated he’s such a progressive thinker.”

Now it was Tsuna’s turn to frown. What was that supposed to mean?

A moment passed where both Kokuyou and Namimori middle school students just stared at each other. As complete unknowns and mindful of Tsuna’s presence behind him, Gokudera would not make the first move; similarly, both Kokuyou students just seemed unmoored, staring at Tsuna as if trying to divine some answer from him.

“...We should go back, Ken,” the beanie-wearing boy finally decided. “We need to report this to Mukuro-sama.”

Tsuna’s attention perked at the name, but he didn’t recognize it.

“Aw man, I can’t even nibble on the Alpha one?” the blonde scowled.

His companion shook his head, still blank-faced. “We did what we came to do, and got what we’ve been looking for.” His eyes darted back to Tsuna. “Let’s go.”

“Hold on, assholes, answer my question! Who the hell are you!” Gokudera growled out.

“Gokudera-kun, let them go,” Tsuna pleaded with his friend quietly. “We can’t move Sasagawa-senpai in this condition if you guys start fighting.”

Gokudera immediately stood down, but this only seemed to fascinate the Kokuyou boys more. The fact that Yamamoto remained stock still and unspeaking was just another tally mark in favor of whatever mental image the two strange boys had going on.

Surprisingly, though, they answered. “Kokuyou High, 2nd year - Kakimoto Chikusa,” the beanie-wearing boy stated. It took a moment for Tsuna to catch on that he was introducing himself. “And he is Joushima Ken.”

“Wow, Kakipii… You really introduced us…”

Kakimoto shrugged. “They asked,” he replied listlessly. “You’ll introduce yourselves?”

“f*ck off!” Gokudera retorted.

Yamamoto, “Haha, no!”

“I’d rather not,” Tsuna said plaintively.

Kakimoto shrugged again, as if to say ‘what can you do?’

The sirens could be heard in the distance now. The Kokuyou boys gave Tsuna one last look before leaving, and Tsuna realized abruptly why the whole situation had felt so odd to him. It wasn’t that both boys were Betas, or even that they had been beating up someone he knew since that was just Tsuna’s daily life at this point; rather, it was that in all of their assumptions and dismissals and heavy looks–

Tsuna had never once felt the burn in his chest react.

One of the first things Reborn did upon his return to Namimori from Mafia Land was seek out the person Shamal had recommended. He’d safely delivered Tsuna and his friends to school, and though Yamamoto’s updates on the situation with Namichuu club presidents had been interesting and rang some warning bells, Reborn was more concerned with what he’d seen while observing Tsuna’s interactions with the two other members of the Arcobaleno.

Colonnello’s introduction to Reborn’s student had pretty much been as expected; the sniper may have been surprised by Tsuna’s dynamic, but he was hardly stupid and could adapt quickly. He may not have been quite as eager to ‘train’ Tsuna as he was with his actual recruits, but Reborn figured that was because he hadn’t been around Tsuna long enough to realize the Omega boy could take it.

No, what had the gears in Reborn’s mind turning was Tsuna’s interaction with Skull.

Skull was the holder of a pacifier, that was true, but it was also true to label him as the weakest of the Arcobaleno; even the physically weak Verde and Viper could hold their own far better than the Immortal Stuntman. Skull was a good cook and a decent errand boy, but on the scale of threats Tsuna had faced and will face, he was on the lower end of the spectrum.

And yet, Reborn had never seen that look on Tsuna’s face before.

As far as Reborn was aware, Skull had never been to Namimori. Likewise, Tsuna had never left his hometown - so there was little chance for the two to meet. Tsuna had even confirmed he’d never seen the Cloud Arcobaleno before, and Reborn had sensed his student - for all his many secrets - wasn’t lying.

Then there was the Skull side of things. While Tsuna may not have recognized him, it was clear to Reborn that Skull recognized Tsuna. Of course, that wasn’t completely unexpected; Skull was still an Arcobaleno, after all, and Tsuna was the goddamn heir to one of the most powerful mafia families in existence. The boy’s exact identity may be unknown to most for now, but for someone with connections as deep as Skull’s, it wasn’t exactly outside of the realm of possibility to know the true identity of Reborn’s student.

If it was just that, then Reborn could write it off as strange. The problem was, there was a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that this was not that simple.

That feeling seemingly tripled the moment he sat across from Hibari Reo.

The Beta male looked exhausted, but that was just par for the course with a child like Hibari Kyouya for a son. His features were much gentler, almost surprisingly so; he was rather pretty, even with the eyebags, to the point where he could have blended in as an Omega if not for the lack of scent. The ash-gray yukata he wore was plain, but the thigh-length hanten robe he’d pulled over it was decorated with indigo-and-orange koi fish.

“I hope the tea is alright?” Reo asked pleasantly. “I understand you Italians prefer coffee, but Kyouya throws all of the coffee beans away whenever I buy them. I think he hopes that it will keep away guests.”

“Thank you, the tea is wonderful,” Reborn said courteously. He wasn’t even saying it to be facetious; Reo was clearly learned in the art of tea ceremony. Mates of Alpha females tended to be either Omegas or Betas, though Beta males were a little more rare as mates compared to Beta females. Beta males tended to be socialized more along the lines of Alphas, after all, so being the submissive partner could be rather divisive.

Reo seemed to be the type that had no qualms with that role, however. His mannerisms were similar to the Yamato Nadeshiko archetype, more demure but competent in keeping a clean homestead. It made sense for Hibari Sasako to have chosen this kind of mate, and for Hibari Kyouya to continue safeguarding him.

What didn’t make sense was why Fon was wary of him.

“Coffee isn’t usually good for babies,” Reborn pointed out.

Reo’s smile was unwavering. “Ah - that also applies to babies of the Arcobaleno? In that case, I don’t think tea is good for you either,” he said with a light laugh. “Though I won’t tell Fon if you won’t.”

Good to know the Triads were incapable of Omerta, even if it was breathing down their neck.

This did, however, let Reborn know he wasn’t dealing with someone entirely ignorant. Reo hadn’t dropped Fon’s name for a laugh; he’d said it to let Reborn know he knew exactly who was sitting across from him, Arcobaleno curse and all. While the Beta male wouldn’t know the intricacies of the curse that had befallen Reborn, he apparently knew enough to tell that they weren’t actually infants.

“I don’t mean to take up so much of your time, but I want to discuss your son,” Reborn said outright. Hibari Kyouya was hardly the real reason he was here, but he was a good starting point. He’d probably need to take a few more sips of tea before he started prying about the man’s dead wife.

“Oh, my Kyouya? He’s adorable, isn’t he?”

Reborn hardly blinked. “Yes, it’s especially adorable when he beats yakuza’s heads in with his steel tonfa.”

Reo laughed. Reborn re-evaluated; maybe the Hibari did put something in the water of Namimori. Civilians shouldn’t be this deranged.

“He seems interested in my student, Sawada Tsunayoshi,” Reborn continued. Granted, Hibari’s interest was more along the lines of ‘resilient spar partners’ rather than anything intimate, but that was possibly interchangeable for the Alpha boy. “He gives him more than his fair share of attention.”

Reo hummed nonchalantly, “Tsunayoshi-kun is an interesting boy.”

Reborn already knew that, he just wasn’t sure he liked the way Reo said it. “That doesn’t concern you?”

“The Sawada family have been in Namimori for several generations,” Reo replied candidly. “Interestingly, they can be traced back to when Namimori was just a small fishing village. A foreign family arrived here from overseas and managed to make Namimori their home, despite the policy of sakoku during the Edo period.”

Reborn took a meditative sip of tea. The Vongola could trace their roots back all the way to the Primo’s generation; the Ninth’s line and all preceding bosses were derived from the Second Boss (who was a cousin to Primo), but Sawada Iemitsu and Tsunayoshi were direct descendants of Primo himself. Even though Japan had closed itself off to foreign parties during the Edo period when Primo and his Guardians would have stepped ashore, it seemed the policy was ineffective in keeping them out. That could be because Primo’s Rain Guardian hailed from the island nation himself, leading his family back to his native land once Secondo’s coup succeeded.

It wasn’t strange for Hibari Reo to know some of the town’s history. Reborn had done his own cursory investigation on the Beta, after all, and his family had similar lengthy roots. He could also guess where the man was heading with this history lesson. “You’re not concerned because Tsuna is from Namimori?”

Since the Hibari considered the entirety of Namimori their territory, and its inhabitants part of their ‘herd’ - but not pack, Reborn assumed, since that was something much more intense and required a level of investment reserved for family - then anyone in their domain was already assumed safely possessed. Hibari Kyouya’s interest in Tsuna would not be a concern despite each of their oddities, seeing as the Hibari already considered Tsuna as belonging to them simply by being a Namimori citizen.

“Tsunayoshi-kun is a perfectly lovely boy, but I’m not concerned because I trust my Kyouya,” Reo corrected gently. “He takes after Sasako, really, and they have such a fascination for little animals.”

Reborn recognized the term Hibari often used for his student. That was a rather alarming observation; on one hand, perhaps he was right about Hibari’s courtship methods. On the other, he wasn’t as confident in choosing Hibari as Tsuna’s mate because his handling of the Omega was a powder keg waiting to be lit.

Reo’s questionable parenting aside, at least he finally gave Reborn the in he was looking for. “Your wife knew Tsuna?”

Reo’s lips twitched up into a smile. “Oh, I’m sure as Tsunayoshi-kun’s esteemed home tutor, you’re well aware of how they met,” he returned with a light chuckle. “Given the circ*mstances, their acquaintance was short-lived and not altogether positive. She was fond of him, though.”

Tsuna did have a way about him that made even the most bloodthirsty give him the time of day. It would have been the perfect trait for a Mafia Don, had the Ninth wanted more from him than just as a breeder. Reborn’s job was primarily making sure Tsuna was able to birth the next generation of Vongola strong, which meant he had to be stronger and more resilient than the average Omega. The fact that he could survive an assault as young as he’d had was a tally mark in his favor.

“Did your wife ever mention anything about Tsuna’s case?” Reborn asked. “I noticed he was the only unresolved case she ever had.” Hibari Sasako appeared to be an Alpha who liked control, as was their nature; an unresolved case like Tsuna’s would have driven her mad, had it been left like that.

“Sasako was very skilled at her job,” Reo acknowledged demurely. “But in the end, we hardly ever talked about her work. She didn’t like discussing it with me… Seemed to think it would upset me.”

Reborn stared at him. “Did it?”

“Sometimes,” Reo agreed lightly. “But not as much as her death. It was quite upsetting, you know– she’d been burnt right up.”

“Fon,” Reborn spoke in a cold, even tone into the phone after leaving the Hibari residence. “What the hell is wrong with your family?”

“Ah, so you’ve met my cousin-in-law?” Fon gauged. A natural assumption, especially after Reborn had finally spoken with Hibari Reo; Hibari Kyouya at least made more sense. Fon paused for a moment, and even over the tinny receiver, Reborn thought he could sense the unease in his Storm counterpart. “I am not the closest to my family in Namimori, but biǎo dì has always been polite when we’ve spoken.”

“I am not concerned about his manners.” And Fon knew that, because he was hedging around what he didn’t want to say. However, that hesitation came from something, and that was what Reborn was really after.

If there was something wrong with Hibari Reo, then it likely stemmed from either his late wife or his son - both of whom had some kind of connection to Reborn’s student. Whether this came from the assault on Tsuna when he was little or something else entirely, Reborn would need to know so that he could plan ahead.

“...He is not someone I speak to often, and never alone while in person,” Fon said evenly. “Reborn, you have met my cousin’s son, and doubtlessly heard how he resembles her. She was a formidable woman, and she would never just settle for a mate.”

Reborn had thought the marriage to be pre-arranged, but perhaps he’d been wrong. All he’d been able to gather on the Hibari family was that both Hibari Sasako and her mate, Reo, were borne from long lines that had been settled in Namimori for ages. He’d obviously pursued more information on the Hibari line, given their strong resemblance to the Primo’s Cloud Guardian and Fon, but Reo’s family seemed to have been in Namimori since the founding.

“There is no one thing he has said or done, but still… He unsettles me, as few ever have,” Fon admitted quietly. “Other family members have gone to visit before, after Sasako’s death, and though the immediate aftermath of meeting Kyouya is hardly ever pretty, it’s not the most concerning part.”

The Triad group Fon was part of was expansive, twisting together numerous family lines of different levels of pedigree. The line that connected Namimori’s Hibari and Fon had more than enough members, and after Hibari Sasako had passed, many of them would have been interested in claiming the territory Sasako had held. They had just been unlucky that the Alpha woman had spawned the terror that was Hibari Kyouya, who probably put an end to those wishes with the business end of his tonfas.

“They don’t come back wholly intact, and I’m not referring to broken bones or skulls courtesy of my cousin’s son. Whether they stay for a day or a month doesn’t matter, because they will always meet with Reo, and afterward– they don’t remember, Reborn. The time they spent in Namimori is completely gone, and if they are fortunate enough to return to China, the only thing they remember is the pain Kyouya caused them.”

Reo had no surviving immediate family members, as far as Reborn could tell. The surname itself wasn’t unusual and a few Namimori citizens bore the same name, no doubt distant relations that came from the same ancestor. For all intents and purposes, Reo’s family and clout were centralized to the Hibari line, held solely between himself and his son.

“My cousin-in-law is too frail to fight, but I don’t think physical strength is what he uses,” Fon advised. “Be careful, Reborn - Namimori may have been claimed by my cousin, but I don’t believe it had ever been truly her’s.”

If there was something wrong with Namimori - and there was, deeply and intimately - then Kawahira Reo was definitely one part of it.

Only one day had passed after Tsuna’s encounter with the strange Kokuyou students, another quiet half-day of classes before the weekend started. Hibari had yet to turn up and the Disciplinary Committee was up in arms without their leader; patrols had increased in their numbers and frequency, and he couldn’t go a couple blocks without running into the pompadour-adorned members.

More surprising, however, was the lack of attacks. It may have been due to the increased patrols, or even the idea that Hibari had found the origin and effectively put a stop to it - but Tsuna's mind kept returning to the two Kokuyou Betas and their odd remarks. It had seemed like they had been looking for Tsuna, their demeanors and words reminiscent of the mafia rather than a gang turf war.

When he’d brought it up to Reborn, his tutor had looked concerned for the first time. Well, maybe not concerned - it was hard to discern anything from Reborn’s blank baby face - but he had seemed wary, muttering about looking into things himself. That had been just last night, and Reborn had been gone for the majority of yesterday and now today.

Tsuna hadn’t really gone out of his way to figure it out though. He had his hands full juggling the kids living in his house: Lambo and I-Pin had gotten into another screaming fight, whereas Fuuta had holed up in Tsuna’s room, curled into the corner with Tsuna’s blanket and assorted clothes wrapped around him. The young Omega had a tendency to run and hide when things got explosive between the younger kids, which Tsuna quietly approved of because that meant Fuuta wasn’t inadvertently adding to the chaos - unlike Bianchi, who kept offering poison cooking to anyone under the sun and had poisoned half of the street before Tsuna could find her.

Gokudera had swung by earlier, taken one look at his sister and then promptly passed out. Tsuna left him to recover in Tsuna’s bed, since Bianchi was back terrorizing the downstairs. Fuuta had looked unsurely at the Beta male and ended up following Tsuna around the house, occasionally levitating random objects as he spit out one pointless ranking after another, scribbling it into the notebook he'd been provided. The young Omega still wasn’t speaking much, outside of rankings and the passing request to go somewhere or eat something, but at least he was growing more comfortable with the household. The only person he actively avoided was Reborn, hiding behind Tsuna or just outright leaving the room when Reborn was nearby.

Sort of like now, as Reborn returned and settled himself on the arm of the couch that Tsuna had been resting on, Fuuta attached to his side. The young Omega stiffened, staring past Tsuna to Reborn’s tiny form, before getting up and shuffling towards the courtyard. Both Tsuna and Reborn pretended not to notice.

Lambo was not so tactful, “Eh, where are you going, Fuuta? Let’s play, let’s play!”

“Lambo!” I-Pin admonished loudly, chattering in incomprehensible Mandarin as she followed the cow-print child trailing Fuuta’s steps.

Tsuna inwardly mourned that Fuuta was being subjected to the annoying Lambo’s presence constantly now, but at least I-Pin was there to sort of balance it out with good behavior. When she wasn’t exploding.

The kids’ escape to the backyard gave them the required privacy, however, especially as Bianchi left to join his mother in the kitchen to help with dinner. Tsuna looked to his tutor, turning down the volume of the TV show just enough to be able to talk without interruption. As much as he would like to not think about recent events, Sasagawa Ryouhei was still in the hospital and Tsuna had not particularly liked having to call Kyoko and tell her the news.

“Were you able to find out anything?” Tsuna asked.

Reborn, for all his eccentricities, didn’t beat around the bush this time; this was the first clue that these incidents were of a more serious nature than the usual insanity that followed him. “I was investigating a jailbreak that happened in Italy,” Reborn said. “Two weeks ago, there was a jailbreak from a high-security prison for mafia criminals. The escaped convicts killed several of the wardens and other prisoners.”

Tsuna didn’t like where this was going.

“After that, information brokers were able to track down the ringleaders behind the jailbreak. There were eight escapees in total, but they were all subordinate to a young man named Rokudou,” Reborn continued. “Latest info gleaned that they were headed for Japan, and following that, three students from abroad transferred into Kokuyou Junior High. That was ten days ago, and recently Kokuyou’s gang leader was defeated and the title taken over by someone named Rokudou Mukuro.”

Tsuna felt a headache coming on. “So you’re telling me an escaped mafia convict ran all the way to Japan to become the leader of a gang of junior high students?” Don’t mafia members have other things to do, like run criminal empires in Italy?!

“Technically, Mukuro and his followers have been exiled from the mafia. They’d routed several smaller mafia families in Northern Italy before they were imprisoned,” Reborn explained casually. “And there’s more, Dame-Tsuna…”

Here, Reborn pulled out a sheaf of papers from seemingly nowhere. “You’ve received orders from the Ninth Boss,” he said, handing the letter over along with a few attached sheets.

“Dear Vongola 10th boss,

I have heard of your development from your home tutor. The time has come for you to take the next step. As the highest-ranking member of the Vongola family, I am giving you this order:

Within the next 12 hours, you are to capture Rokudou Mukuro and his gang of escaped convicts.

Best of luck,

Ninth Boss

PS,

If you succeed, I will send you 100 years worth of tomatoes.

By the way, if you refuse your mission, you’ll be considered a traitor and will have to die.”

Tsuna stared down at the letter. “...What am I going to do with all those tomatoes? Does the Vongola use tomatoes as currency?"

Reborn kicked the back of his head. “Dame-Tsuna, pay attention to the orders. Since they came directly from the Ninth, I can’t get involved in the fight aside from shooting you with Dying Will bullets,” the tiny hitman stated. “There’s a problem, though - Leon is currently in his cocoon state, and we only have one Dying Will bullet left.”

“Lead with that!” Tsuna cried out.

Truthfully, Tsuna had tried to distract himself from the contents of the letter with the inconsequential detail, because– just why did the Ninth boss think he could order Tsuna around? As far as Tsuna was concerned, he’d never agreed to be the Vongola Tenth or part of the family, despite Reborn’s presence and strong-armed tutoring. Just because Tsuna complied with Reborn’s torturous methods and now hosted small and large mafioso in his house didn’t mean he was now under the Ninth’s control.

Plucking through the other documents just revealed more details about the jailbreak and list of crimes committed by Rokudou and his gang of thugs. There was only one attached picture: a mugshot of Rokudou himself. Calling him young was generous; he seemed aged by experience rather than years, with slick black hair and dark circles under his eyes. Two dark lines, similar to claw marks, were tattooed on the left side of his face. He was a well-built Alpha with a rather mean look about him, all things considered.

Reading something into Tsuna’s mood, Reborn continued. “You don’t have a choice. It’s clear that Rokudou and his gang are after you, Tsuna; they knew enough to pin down your location in Namimori and your school. They must have started going after club captains believing that the Vongola Heir would have some leadership capabilities.”

It was good to know that at least some part of Tsuna’s identity was still hidden. Ever since Reborn had arrived, more and more people had started targeting Tsuna, and he had been worried that he was now easy to find for the world’s mafia. There’d been a couple of failed assassination attempts (aside from Bianchi and Lambo) already, though they’d been effectively dealt with by either Gokudera (out of protection) or Hibari (out of territoriality).

“The number of victims will only increase if you leave it be,” Reborn pointed out.

Tsuna frowned. “Hibari-san went after them, though, didn’t he? Maybe he’s already taken care of it…” Though something in Tsuna sensed that wasn’t true. It seemed to defy common sense and rationality, though, because if nothing else - Hibari was ridiculously strong. Even if his opponents were mafia, Tsuna just couldn’t fathom Hibari actually losing.

Before Reborn could retort - or hit him again, which seemed to be his usual response to Tsuna talking back - his mother poked her head out of the kitchen door. “Tsu-kun, it’s time to eat! Where are the kids?”

“Backyard, I’ll get them,” Tsuna said, standing up. Plans to capture Rokudou Mukuro could wait until at least after dinner; by then, Gokudera should be awake as well and able to give his perspective.

Lambo and I-Pin were running around in circles in the yard, as was their usual. Tsuna internally marveled at their seemingly boundless energy; they ran themselves ragged until their mid-day nap, then again until bedtime. It was a wonder his mother was able to handle them all day, because even a few hours made Tsuna want to tear his hair out.

“Lambo, I-pin - dinner time,” Tsuna said, looking around the otherwise empty yard. “Where’s Fuuta?”

Lambo’s cackle drowned out I-Pin’s moderate voice, “Dunno! Fuuta wouldn’t play, so Lambo just made I-Pin his servant!”

“No, Lambo!” I-Pin denied vehemently. She’s at least learned ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in Japanese, and seemed to use the latter exclusively when dealing with Lambo.

“What’s for dinner, Tsuna? The Great Lambo wants grape candy!”

Tsuna rolled his eyes, “We don’t eat candy for dinner. Just go inside already, Mama’s waiting.”

The two kids bolted by, exuberant as always. After one more cursory look around the yard, Tsuna headed inside and up the stairs. If Fuuta wanted peace and quiet, he’d probably go upstairs to get away from the other kids.

Tsuna’s bedroom only held Gokudera, who was now sitting up and looking only slightly queasy. Tsuna made the Beta boy drink a few sips of water before asking if he’d seen Fuuta, but Gokudera shook his head in reply. Tsuna pushed him back down to rest when the silver-haired boy tried to get up to help him look; he was still looking rather pale and shaky, and Tsuna preferred not having to lug his unconscious body back once he caught sight of Bianchi again.

The guest room - now used by Bianchi, I-Pin, and Lambo - was also devoid of Fuuta. The upstairs bathroom and his mother’s room were similarly empty. With a sinking sort of feeling in his gut, Tsuna looked around downstairs again, including both the front and backyard, but once again came up empty.

“Has anyone seen Fuuta?” he finally relented, asking the gathered members of his house seated at the dining table. His mother looked up at him with wide eyes immediately, pausing in spooning out servings to the smaller kids. Everyone shook their heads, Reborn and Bianchi noticeably frowning.

“Oh, I know! I know!” Lambo hollered excitably. “The Great Lambo was going through photos with Mama and Fuuta earlier, and we saw Tsuna at the park with the ferris wheel! Fuuta said he wanted to go!”

Tsuna barely remembered going to an amusem*nt park when he was little. His father had been visiting for a short time when Tsuna was around 10 years old, and he’d taken them to Kokuyou Land - the closest amusem*nt park to Namimori. It was defunct now, but Tsuna knew Fuuta’s preoccupation with ferris wheel rides and had planned to take the young boy to one around the holidays.

I-Pin finally spoke up as well, shaking her little head. Her words were lost on Tsuna, but Reborn’s frown ticked up a notch. “She said he left the yard when she’d been distracted trying to corral Lambo,” Reborn translated. “He mentioned going to the nearby park.”

That was more feasible, and Tsuna was relieved that Fuuta’s obsession with ferris wheels didn’t have him wandering across town. The park wasn’t too far from the house, and though Tsuna hardly ever went there anymore - even with Lambo and I-Pin - it was close enough that it shouldn’t have been a hassle for Fuuta.

“The park?”

Tsuna stilled. The tone of voice was strange because— he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard his mother speak like that. Her eyes were wide on her pale face, frozen next to Lambo and half-bent over like she couldn’t quite keep herself upright. She dropped the serving spoon from her shaking hands but didn’t even seem to notice; her gaze was locked on Tsuna but her attention was somewhere far, far away.

“Mom?” Tsuna asked gently, confused.

She didn’t answer. Instead, she straightened, now in a full-body tremor as everyone watched her with disbelieving eyes. “The park,” she repeated in that same tone, and Tsuna finally clocked what it sounded like: the beginnings of hysteria. “No, he can’t be at the park… Not the park, it’s not safe—”

Before Tsuna realized it, his mother was moving. She was running for the door, and without thinking, he caught her as she dashed by him. She had always been a petite woman, and after months of Reborn’s tutelage, her weight was not enough to even budge him anymore - but even still, it was difficult to hold on to her due to the sheer strangeness.

“Mom?!” Tsuna tried to call out to her, but it seemed like she couldn’t even hear him. “Mom, stop! What’s— What’s going on, are you okay?!”

“The park isn’t safe, Omega can’t be there alone,” his mother was saying feverishly. “It’s not safe– not again, not again! I have to go, Mama’s coming, Mama’s coming, Tsu-kun, it will be okay–”

Tsuna held on, the words registering somewhere distantly in the back of his mind. There were dead leaves and sticks in his hair, something painful and sluggishly oozing from the juncture between his neck and shoulder.

“Mama!”

Lambo’s distressed voice broke Tsuna out of the dark turn of his thoughts. He blinked awareness back into his eyes; he was still holding on to his mother, who was scrabbling at his arms to free herself and still muttering nonsensical things. Bianchi gently pulled her out of Tsuna’s hands, talking soothingly into the older Beta’s ear and guiding her out of the room. Reborn was watching Tsuna, stiff in an expectation that the Omega could not understand.

“I’ll check the park,” Tsuna finally croaked out, turning and bolting from the room.

The phantom feeling of dirt and ash on his hands stuck with him, long after he’d left the house for an empty park. The feeling of filth was stuck under his fingernails, in his hair; it lingered somewhere in him as he took in the dusk-lit sky and empty playground. He stood frozen there, staring at the sandbox devoid of any familiar person, an unsettling feeling buzzing around the vicinity of his heart.

There, laid bare atop the sand, was a single notebook with Tsuna’s name printed on the cover.

Tsuna had given it to Fuuta as soon as they’d returned to Namimori. It was nothing ornate, one of the extra notebooks he had stocked for school, but Fuuta had seemed pleased nonetheless. He’d tucked it away into the folds of the coat he’d borrowed from Tsuna’s closet and kept it with him at all times, pulling it out whenever a ranking fell from his mouth. The rankings themselves were innocuous and irrelevant, moreso about mundane things like Tsuna’s favorite food or times of day he’d like to take naps.

Maybe that’s why they’d left it behind. None of the pages had been taken, the first few pages filled with Fuuta’s familiar scrawl. Within that notebook crammed with Fuuta's fevered rankings, Tsuna found a glossy leaflet tucked between the pages. The brochure was colorful and old, the name bright across the top: Kokuyou Land.

The words on the page under it were unfamiliar.

Tag, You’re It.

A/N: Mukuro is actually one of my favorite characters from KHR, which bodes well for absolutely no one.

Also, as funny as it would be to make Kawahira Hibari's dad, Reo is an entirely separate person. 😂

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks!

Chapter 16: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 2

Summary:

Mukuro has no idea how to make friends and Fuuta is about to be grounded for 'til college.

Chapter Text

A/N: As an absolutely ominous reminder, this fic has a M (Mature) rating!

WARNING TAG for this chapter specifically: Birds as a character exists, and thus - there are descriptive threats of explicit sexual violence.

Chapter 16

The air was dank and damp, an uncomfortable familiarity that sunk the cold right into the bones. There was a reason Kokuyou Land had become a hideout for the delinquent populace of the small town, and also a place where few lingered longer than a decent smoke break allowed. It fell apart right at the seams, even the shadow of what once was no longer visible under the mold and debris. Hidden under layers of rubble and decrepit fixtures lived the vermin that had made it home, feeding off of crumbs and each other.

It was, in fact, the perfect home for them.

Mukuro bit into the granola bar that Chikusa had lifted from one of the corner shops in town. It was a simple matter to keep them fed; illusions worked on everyone, and his compatriots had no qualms about looting their conquered foes. Chikusa was just better about planning and budgeting than the others, so Mukuro had delegated control of their resources to him; he kept their food and necessities stocked.

They’d learned to cook, a little, from their time in Northern Italy; but Japan had plenty of instant food and packed lunches available at convenience stores, so they hardly bothered. There was no need for electricity or lights, given what Mukuro could do with the blink of an eye, and water was hoarded in one of the backrooms for both drinking and hygiene. M.M. complained something terrible about the lack of showers, so Mukuro had Lancia build a makeshift one that worked well enough.

Furniture was limited. Ken and Chikusa had gathered the usable chairs and tables for their impromptu living quarters, and Mukuro was in possession of the sole luxury couch. Birds hadn’t been pleased by the lack of comfort, but Mukuro was already counting his days since the older male was already making too many moves not to his liking.

If he looked at the Ranking Prince any more speculatively, Mukuro was going to tear out his eyes.

“Eat,” Mukuro ordered, dropping a couple of wrapped onigiri into the lap of the small Omega child.

Fuuta de la Stella was every bit the prize he’d been rumored to be; his ranking ability was practically tangible in the air, electrifying his skin and making his face unreadable. Unfortunately, he’d also developed the poor habit of trying to bite his own tongue off whenever Mukuro asked for a ranking, but thankfully lacked the conviction to actually do so. He did manage to spit enough blood bubbles to make any further demands useless, though, so Mukuro had just stopped asking.

Mukuro didn’t require rankings, though the skill would be useful later on when dealing with the mafia families abroad if he could get Fuuta to act right. What he needed immediately was information on the Vongola Tenth, which Fuuta had provided with a quiet sort of gleefulness that spoke of something not quite right in the head.

The Vongola Ninth, Timoteo, was an Alpha known for clever ruthlessness and a calm demeanor; he successfully led one of the strongest mafia families in the world, though his children hadn’t managed that same level of success (or survival). His Guardians were all Beta males; any Alpha contenders had been disregarded due to territorial conflicts, which is not altogether odd for older generations. His late wife - mother to 3 of his 4 children - had been a Beta woman, a rather brilliant fighter who passed in childbirth.

Vongola Ninth was not particularly known for progressive thinking.

But Chikusa and Ken had run into the alleged heir of the Vongola famiglia, and he hadn’t been what any one of them had been expecting.

“Tuna mayo is ranked number 1 as Tsuna-nii’s favorite type of onigiri,” Fuuta chirped excitedly, pulling open the wrapper incorrectly and accidentally tearing the seaweed to shreds. He stopped and looked at it sadly, cupping the rice ball awkwardly. “Oh…”

Mukuro only snorted, swatting Fuuta’s hands away when the boy meant to scoop up the fallen seaweed scraps from the dirty floor to plaster back onto his rice ball. They’d already learned the hard way that Fuuta had no issue eating off the ground, and that wasn’t a lecture that Mukuro was keen on hearing Chikusa repeat in his droll tones.

Not that Chikusa could get close enough to properly reprimand the child. If anyone but Mukuro got too close, Fuuta tended to clam up - so the others avoided drawing too close, at Mukuro’s order. They hardly needed his micromanagement anymore, aside from the Twins who couldn’t formulate a single independent thought between them aside from ‘kill’; Mukuro had left them to Birds and planned out the extermination of all three before they left Japan.

Mukuro retook his seat on the couch. “Did the Vongola heir ask you to keep track of his personal likes?” It was an odd request, but it wasn’t such a stretch that perhaps the conceited young heir would make the Ranking Prince keep such records. It was a grand waste of Fuuta’s skills, but altogether harmless.

“Tsuna-nii is ranked number 1 in least interested in my ranking ability, and in less likely to request I use it for his personal benefit,” Fuuta chirped in reply. He gave Mukuro a brief glance, eyes just a tad too reflective to be properly criticizing. “Mukuro-san is ranked 6th out of 82,606 people least interested in my ranking ability.”

That made sense to Mukuro; Fuuta’s skill was a boon, but it was hardly a necessity. He would never be as desperate nor as wasteful as the disgusting mafioso who held the Omega boy previously. Information on the mafia was valuable, but rankings were still under a certain level of subjectivity; the crucial info that Mukuro needed to rid the world of the virus known as mafia wasn’t given through rankings.

That’s why he didn’t mind Fuuta spitting out useless ranking after useless ranking, most concerned with this ‘Tsuna-nii’. The information Mukuro wanted to know wasn’t how ‘Tsuna-nii’ ranked among random samples of the populace in irrelevant categories; he wanted to know how the Vongola Heir thought, how he behaved. Mukuro wanted to know what value he placed on his ‘family’, wanted to know if Fuuta was considered a member or just a tool as he’d been to so many others.

“Your Tsuna-nii was ranked first to come save you too, wasn’t he?” Mukuro mused, leaning thoughtfully against the armrest. Tracking down the Vongola Heir hadn’t been difficult once they’d finally narrowed down the area; all they had to do was listen for sound of explosions and gunfire, and sure enough, a mafioso would appear. There’d been a Bovino child in the same vicinity, and once they’d spotted Fuuta de la Stella at a nearby park - it wasn’t a far leap to expect he fell under the ownership of the Vongola.

“Tsuna-nii can’t help it,” Fuuta replied, the answer almost nonsensical to those who could think clearly. “He’s too nice.”

Mukuro, who had lived and died through six different lifetimes and listened to the last words of dying Estraneo children, understood well enough.

They had expected an Alpha.

That was what made Mukuro hesitate - but only very briefly. Everything about the Vongola indicated they had no plans to break from their traditions, and an Alpha leader was the standard set for all Vongola bosses since the first. The Vongola Ninth may look like a genial older gentleman, but no one with a kind heart could lead the merciless Vongola family. Yet– a 14-year-old Omega boy was going to take over as head of the family?

It didn’t take a genius to figure out the Ninth head’s schemes.

“An Omega…” Mukuro smiled to himself. How funny.

Tsuna was pissed.

That was actually an understatement; Tsuna’s schoolmates routinely pissed him off, as if it was their given duty to ensure he was as annoyed with them as possible before the week was up. Nezu-sensei’s condescension had pissed him off more times than he cared to count. Lambo even pissed him off at least once a day, throwing a tantrum for candy or blowing up his room when he got too rowdy.

No, Tsuna wasn’t pissed - he was infuriated.

He hadn’t known Fuuta for very long, but when he’d agreed to take the boy home with him - he was aware that it was a commitment. Fuuta was scared, and hurt, and severely traumatized; he was relying on Tsuna, to some degree, for support. So Tsuna took him home and decided that he’d never really been against becoming a big brother (though Lambo and I-Pin often made him second-guess that). Fuuta was now his responsibility.

And they’d kidnapped him.

Joushima Ken was a weird guy, but pretty much everyone Tsuna now knew on a personal basis fell under that same category. A Beta who switched out animal teeth like he was changing TV channels wasn’t the strangest thing he’d seen - Reborn still held the crown on that count - but it at least gave Tsuna pause. When the animalistic Beta had jumped Yamamoto and dragged the athlete down into the pit to fight, Yamamoto had just laughed it off, only looking mildly put-out when his wooden bat had been bitten clean in half.

He’d looked decidedly less amiable after Reborn had pushed Tsuna into the pit with him though.

Joushima had only looked just a little too long in Tsuna’s direction when Yamamoto started throwing rocks at breakneck speeds in the Beta boy’s direction. One had been quick and sharp enough to draw blood over the blonde’s brow, and the smile on Yamamoto’s face had been less than kind at Joushima’s returned attention. Joushima had launched forward and bitten down on the baseball player’s left arm, but Yamamoto then just rammed the butt of his wooden training sword down on Joushima’s temple and knocked him unconscious.

This led to the current situation: “Guys, stop throwing things at him. If we can’t find Fuuta later, he’ll need to be able to talk.”

Tsuna was starting to feel like his life was slowly becoming a repeating mantra of “don’t maim so-and-so” to any one of his friends. It didn’t help that Gokudera had looked so displeased that Yamamoto had been the one pulled into the pit of shadows and animal remains, as if he was disappointed he hadn’t been able to showcase his dynamite-wielding skills in a cage fight. Come to think of it, he probably was just sad he didn’t set to explode anything for a whole hour, which didn’t really bode well for Tsuna’s mental state.

“We should bury him up to his neck,” Bianchi advised casually, carrying a modestly sized chunk of stone. “The insects won’t eat him too fast, but at least he’ll still hurt.”

Tsuna stared down into the pit with glassy eyes. “...I’ll take that into consideration for later.”

The girl was scary - and he could definitely see her resemblance to Gokudera more and more lately - but she was also the one to bandage Yamamoto’s injury, so Tsuna was glad she was here. He would be more glad if she stopped trying to feed him poison cooking, but he supposed he couldn’t ask for it all.

Joushima’s bluster was pretty short-lived, made even shorter when Bianchi dropped the heavy rock down on him– effectively knocking him unconscious for the second time. Tsuna winced, but it looked like the Beta was still breathing, so he allowed himself to be ushered away and further into the ruins of Kokuyou Land.

The former amusem*nt park was expansive and winding; Tsuna recalled very little from his time here when he was younger, though the brochure that had been left with Fuuta’s notebook had a map of the once-vibrant park. Given the design of the place, it seemed reasonable to conclude that Mukuro’s gang was housed closer to the entertainment center, where the cinema and bowling alley were located, as it was one of the few buildings still standing. They’d made it past the gates and onto the sprawling grounds, though Joushima had waylaid them at the former petting zoo.

“Should we take a break for lunch?” Yamamoto asked pleasantly.

Gokudera responded to that with typical ire. “This isn’t a field trip, baseball-idiot!”

Before Yamamoto could laugh off Gokudera’s comment and get the silver-haired boy’s histrionics started, Tsuna pulled them over to the nearby picnic area. While he knew time was of the essence, he couldn’t exactly just keep pushing; Yamamoto was injured now, after all, and they’d been hiking Kokuyou Land’s trails for a while now.

He reconsidered calling this a break, though, when both Yamamoto and Bianchi simultaneously pulled out food to offer him and then glared at each other. Is there some genetic component that makes them not get along? Tsuna wondered in bewilderment. Not that he’d ever thought that Gokudera or Bianchi was calm or level-headed, but just because they were the exact opposite of Yamamoto's disposition in terms of personality didn’t mean they had to automatically dislike the athlete.

He also didn’t know why Bianchi thought he would accept the poisonous-looking drink with dead bugs floating in it for his lunch. He knew she was delusional, but surely there had to be limits…

Naturally, Tsuna accepted Yamamoto’s proffered food and thanked the other boy for sharing. Yamamoto beamed brightly at him, eyes locked onto the piece of tuna sushi that Tsuna had picked up - clearly eager to see Tsuna’s reaction to his first bite of Takeshi-made sushi - when both boxes of food abruptly exploded in front of them.

Natural reflexes had both Tsuna and Yamamoto leaping back before the flaming bits of food could hit them; Bianchi had years of fighting experience behind her so that she made a quick jump back as well, hands still holding her poisoned drink and eyeing the area. Gokudera, who had been loitering nearby smoking a cig, had pulled out his dynamite with a zealous look on his face.

If not for Bianchi’s narrow-eyed scrutinization of their surroundings, Tsuna would have thought she had exploded Yamamoto’s carefully made lunchbox out of jealousy. As it was, he refocused his attention on the utterly eradicated food; whatever wasn’t scattered into little smoking bits was charred black against the stone picnic table.

“It’s an attack! But where is it coming from?” Bianchi called out.

Both Tsuna and Gokudera looked up, gazes focusing on a nearby collapsed building where the sound of a wind instrument could be barely heard. Without needing to be told, Gokudera hurled a couple dynamite in the direction of the sound and exploded the entire exterior wall; the smoke and debris settled after a few minutes, the sound no longer discernible.

Unfortunately, this was not because the source of it had been eliminated - but instead, because the person had decided to sit themselves upon one of the blown-out chunks of wall in a relaxed pose, clarinet resting against one thin shoulder. The girl was wearing a Kokuyou junior high uniform, orange hair cut into a straight bob with her bangs clipped to the side. Between the smoking debris and the distance, it was hard to detect her dynamic.

“Dynamite? What a lame weapon!” the girl crowed out, lips quirked up in a mocking smirk. “I can’t believe these guys managed to defeat Ken, huh, Kakipii?”

A tired sigh announced the presence of Kakimoto Chikusa, who emerged from behind a still-standing wall. He inexplicably had a yo-yo in one hand and was shooting the girl a dead-eyed stare that somehow still felt more than a little judgmental. “Both you and Ken don’t seem to understand the value of a sneak attack, M.M.,” he observed drily, tone more than loudly implying that he thought he was surrounded by idiots.

“Who cares about that? Why waste the energy?” the girl - M.M. - waved off dismissively. “Mukuro-chan just said to grab the Omega, right? I can take care of these lame guys easy!”

The girl punctuated this statement by bringing the clarinet up to her lips, releasing a sound coupled with a blast of heated air that caused Bianchi’s cup of poison lemonade to explode in her hands. The older girl hardly seemed bothered by the bubbling drops of poison now decorating her hand, instead choosing to glare in the direction of the clarinet-wielding girl. Tsuna and the others jumped behind the upturned stone tables, wary of the next hit.

“Come out, losers! Maybe being irradiated into little pieces will teach you guys the value of money!”

Tsuna, crouched behind a fallen stone table beside Yamamoto, couldn’t help but furrow his brows. What does money have to do–

“What does money have to do with this, you crazy bitch?!” Gokudera hollered from behind another table. Tsuna appreciated his friend just a little bit more right then.

“Money is the most important thing! What use is a man with no money?!”

Tsuna felt a headache coming on. First the whole being paid in tomatoes thing from the Ninth, and now this girl was implying that the felon who ran his pack of delinquent junior high school thugs out of an abandoned amusem*nt park was rich?

“These people are insane,” Tsuna grumbled.

Yamamoto laughed in delight, though Tsuna doubted his friend understood the reason for Tsuna’s complaint. Yamamoto was also kind of insane, but Tsuna was very patiently ignoring that fact for now.

Bianchi took this moment to make her stand, announcing that love was actually the most important thing and making this entire exchange of ideologies as nonsensical as pretty much everything else Tsuna was involuntarily involved in. Tsuna buried his face in his hands and willed someone sane to finally make an appearance, but was only rewarded with Yamamoto yanking him out of the way as a flurry of needles embedded the stone where they’d once crouched.

Kakimoto, yo-yo extended and needles flying out of it with improbable accuracy, tsk’d under his breath. “Just stay still. The poison on these needles will just put you to sleep for a bit, not kill you,” he stated in that same droll tone, offering absolutely zero comfort.

Yamamoto was smiling in a way that often made their classmates wince. “Haha, we’re a little too old for afternoon naps now!”

Tsuna wished he was taking a nap right now but just kept quiet.

It was the right choice, because Gokudera took this moment to release all of the pent-up aggression he had from not being the first involved in a fight for the day by throwing dynamite in Kakimoto’s direction with a scathing “f*ck you, sh*tty-yoyo!”

Tsuna took a few steps back, pulling Yamamoto with him and out of dynamite-range. On one side, Bianchi and M.M. were locked in a duel screaming about their individual priorities and releasing plumes of toxic gas; on the other equally explosive side, Gokudera and Kakimoto were trading needles and dynamite from a distance and dodging at astonishing speeds. Reborn was fully ignoring both battles, seemingly fast asleep perched high up in the tree above them.

After watching for a few minutes, Tsuna frowned. “I don’t think we really need to step in, but if we do… I know Kakimoto is a Beta, but I can’t tell with that M.M. girl. Could you hit her, if you had to?”

“Yep!” Yamamoto replied brightly.

Tsuna glanced at him. “Even if she’s an Omega?”

“That’s fine,” Yamamoto shrugged. “It’s not like she’s you.”

Right. Tsuna wasn’t sure it was a good sign that Yamamoto admitted that quite so readily, but at least he didn’t have to worry about someone taking advantage of the athlete’s chivalry to get the better of him in a fight.

Besides, rather than helping Gokudera or Bianchi with their fights, they’d need to focus on their own first.

Tsuna’s eyes were already on the nearby shrubs before a figure fully emerged from them. The Beta male wasn’t very tall, reaching maybe Yamamoto’s chin, with a black bucket hat capping a middle-aged face wearing bottlecap glasses. He looked ridiculous dressed in a loose version of the Kokuyou junior high uniform being that he was so much older, a sight made all the stranger by the bright yellow puffball of a canary perched on his shoulder.

“My, my… To bring an Omega out all this way…” the man tittered, cradling a laptop and smiling. His eyes were locked on Tsuna, the gaze resting like a heavy weight that sent the flame in his heart spiraling into a simmering fury. “Truly poor decision-making, but I suppose it couldn’t be helped… Oh, I should introduce myself!”

The man tapped a few keys on his laptop, and the crumbled wall behind him lit up with the projection of his screen: Tsuna’s mother crouched by the door to their backyard, one of the blankets Fuuta had favored clenched in her hands. Her expression was distressingly blank, eyes locked unseeingly in the far distance, but occasionally her lips would move in a silent mouthing of words.

“My name is Birds, and one of my many hobbies is keeping birds,” the man said calmly, smile curling upwards. “In fact, some of my cute feathered friends have miniature cameras attached to them - and they’re transmitting this very scene of your mother live! Seems she’s in a pretty sorry state though?”

Tsuna’s eyes weren’t focused on his mother - some part of him couldn’t bear to look. Instead, he had his gaze locked on the man’s sneering grin and felt rage climb into his throat.

“Now now, let’s let’s keep calm!” the man said in a chiding tone, the one people used on very young children. “As you can see on the screen - I have a pair of cute twins who are very loyal to me. They can look a little scary, and well, that’s because they truly are - they were locked up in Vindice for over ten long years because they’re brutal serial killers, you see, and they have a taste for pretty women…”

Tsuna couldn’t look, but Yamamoto’s quick intake of breath let him know that the man’s threat was no bluff. The heat at the center of Tsuna’s chest curled into a leaden ball, straightening his spine but seemingly strengthening his distressed scent in the air.

Birds was still smiling, eyes flicking up and down Tsuna’s form with a disproportionate level of glee and conspicuously sniffing the air. “It’s alright, nothing will happen to your dear mommy,” he began faux-consolingly, licking his lips. “Just do as I say and the twins will leave her alone.”

He looked at Yamamoto next. “Of course, you better behave and do exactly as I say too. I don’t need to speak to the twins to give them my orders, so if you kill me, if you even touch me– well, they’ll start with Mommy dearest… And you have kids living there too, don’t you?” he chortled.

“You sick f*ck,” Yamamoto growled out.

Birds’s grin only widened at the uncharacteristic profanity. “Funny you should mention that, Alpha boy! You see, one of my other hobbies is watching people ruin each other,” he laughed outright, a maniacal edge to it as his eyes flicked between them. “I love the look on the faces of innocent, defenseless people as they’re destroyed– something about that fear, that devastation… It turns me on so much that I can’t help but drool a little!”

He broke out into more laughter, practically delirious with it. “For example– what if we set Mommy on fire? Her hair, her clothes, even her skin– what faces will she make? How will she scream? Oh~h, I really want to see it…”

There was a hint of a lighter's flame being lit on the screen, visible in Tsuna’s periphery. He glanced up into the twisting limbs of tree branches above him and caught Reborn’s beady-black gaze from beneath the shadow of leaves. His tutor merely stared back; a silent indication that he would not– could not? - intervene.

The Ninth’s orders.

The injustice of it all fanned the flames in his chest higher, but Tsuna was no stranger to powerlessness in the face of cruelty. He curled his fists so tight that he could feel his nails draw blood from his palms, returning his gaze back to Birds and willing the heat in his heart to eat away the fear clawing at his thoughts.

Mom– Tsuna thought, but what he said was: “What do you want?”

Birds wiped away a trace of drool from the corner of his mouth, face flushed. As a Beta, he let off no distinct scent - but the scent of arousal was sharp and stung at Tsuna’s nose. Disgusting, so disgusting, Tsuna thought, a chant ready to overwhelm him. Disgusting, so disgusting, disgusting–

“Alright, let’s begin,” Birds crooned. “The best way to start– oh yes, how about with a kiss? Alpha-boy, I want you to give the Vongola Tenth a kiss.”

Both boys froze.

Birds’s smile was particularly slimy, and he sent off his canary with a wave of his hand. Leaning against the slab of wall he was using as the projector screen, he licked his lips again. “I’ve been locked up in Vindice for a long time myself, you see,” he said. “They put me in such tight restraints that I couldn’t even relieve myself, and after Mukuro-sama broke us out– well, he’s not the most understanding, so I couldn’t even find someone to blow off some steam on… He wouldn’t even let me play with the adorable little Ranking Prince…”

Tsuna choked on something completely guttural.

“Mukuro-sama wants to see you, of course, but what’s the harm in having a little fun first?” Birds snigg*red. “I won’t have your Alpha friend break you… But an Omega’s body can endure quite a lot. Let’s start with a kiss and work our way to more fun things… Have you ever been kissed before, Vongola Tenth?”

The words rang from a distance in Tsuna’s mind.

Birds continued, uncaring for his silence; after all, Tsuna and what he wanted did not matter. “No? That’s even better– should I have you narrate all your firsts today? It will be a little hard to hear you with the Alpha-boy’s tongue or co*ck in your mouth, but once he rams it in down there, you’ll have to describe it for us… I want to know the difference between when he f*cks you with his co*ck and when he does it with his broken baseball bat.”

Drool was now freely flowing from the man’s mouth with every horrible word he spoke; his arousal was visible even in his loose clothing, the air filthy with the smell of it. The only scent sharper was Yamamoto’s, steeped heavily in distress so that it broke Tsuna away from the downward spiral of his thoughts.

With shaking hands, Tsuna swallowed. When his throat remained dry, he reached for the fire sitting in his core and let it corral his thoughts back into working order. Almost painfully, he turned his eyes up to the screen: his mother had resumed hanging up the laundry, eyes still distant, and otherwise unaware of the two horrifying figures perched inhumanely in unseen corners of their home.

Tsuna breathed in, then out. He felt the heat in his throat, in his eyes - but he reached out and tugged at the cuff of Yamamoto’s sleeve.

“Yamamoto,” he began haltingly; even now, he could not force himself to say it.

Yamamoto recoiled.

Tsuna didn’t want to beg for something he so clearly didn’t want. It was obvious Yamamoto did not want it either, and the knowledge that they were both being forced to essentially violate each other made nausea rise in his gut.

“Tut tut, let’s start making an effort now,” Birds mock-admonished. “The Alpha has to kiss you, Vongola Tenth - don’t think you get to initiate it! Omegas enjoy a bit of force, Alpha-boy, so make sure to hold his arms down… And it better be a real kiss, you’re no longer in kindergarten, after all!”

The baseball player was utterly silent, pale as paper. His scent was thick in distress and turmoil, wide eyes on Tsuna. He said nothing in reply, neither moving closer to follow Birds’s orders nor moving away to escape from Tsuna. He remained still, eyes shaking.

Tsuna darted another glance back at the projection. The sliding screen door to the yard opened, but when neither Lambo nor I-Pin emerged into view, he watched for the tell-tale sign of smoke. A drifting cloud of it slipped past the awning, one of the twins curling forward trying to catch sight of the source.

That, however, was all the confirmation Tsuna needed.

Before Yamamoto could make a choice that would break him, Tsuna grabbed his friend by the back of his neck and yanked him down to speak into his ear. Yamamoto’s knees hit the ground in an impromptu kneel, hands scrabbling at Tsuna’s front - too scared to really touch him but not knowing what to do with the sudden action.

“It’s alright,” Tsuna breathed into his ear. “You don’t need to worry, Yamamoto - we don’t need to do anything. You did well.”

Yamamoto let out a whimper, but by then, Tsuna had turned his attention to Birds. The man’s eyebrows were furrowed, a displeased frown on his face but otherwise unconcerned. “I don’t mind skipping ahead,” he said. “But the one on your knees should be you, Vongola Tenth–”

“GHIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!”

Birds’s head jerked up to the screen. “What? What happened, Gigi?!”

The origin of the sound was readily apparent: one of the twins was curled in the fetal position, having fallen from his perch on the rooftop to behind some bushes in the yard. His body was jerking and seizing in silent agony, blood and snot oozing from every orifice on his face. After a moment, he stopped twitching and lay in a puddle of spent fluids, the very breath taken from his lungs.

The reason why was also clear: Dr. Shamal lounged on the back patio, the smoke from his cigarette curling in the air as he chatted pleasantly with Tsuna’s mom. His words lacked any real depth, more to fill in the empty space as Tsuna’s mom mechanically hung laundry, neither registering his words nor the body barely visible behind the bushes.

“Is that– Trident Shamal?!” Birds wheezed out in shock.

The other twin made a sound close to a hiss, left alone clinging to the eaves of the house. There was a muffled double boom! from behind the open window of Tsuna’s bedroom, pink smoke billowing out and into the demented killer’s face. Before he even had time to react, a black-sleeved arm with cow-print cuffs shot out and grabbed the twin by the front of his shirt, yanking him into the smoke-filled room.

Green lightning crackled from inside and there was another horrendous shriek, but the twin did not emerge even after the smoke had cleared. The sinewy form of teenage I-Pin could be seen framed in the window, but she only shut it and drew the curtains closed.

“Impossible, that’s impossible!” Birds shrieked.

Tsuna didn’t wait for him to recollect himself; he launched forward, finally letting the fire that had seemingly melted into his very veins gain free reign. His fist met the soft flesh of Birds’s face, bone cracking under his knuckles and blood gushing against his skin. One punch was not enough, not for Tsuna– not when he thought of his mother, catatonic with worry; or Fuuta, shaking under that sad*stic perverse gaze; or Yamamoto, frozen in horror. So Tsuna kept punching until he felt the breath rattle in his chest, blood all over his fists and scattered across his shirt and face.

“Tenth!”

Gokudera’s voice cut through the haze of fury. It was funny - in a terrible way - that no one tried to pull Tsuna back; instead, Gokudera and Bianchi - both looking worse for wear - were standing paces away. The older girl was beside Yamamoto, the Alpha boy still on his knees where Tsuna had left him and eyes riveted to Tsuna like he was seeing something divine instead of horrific. Gokudera was closer, dynamite in hand and viridian eyes scouring over the picture Tsuna now made.

The good thing about Gokudera was that he was wickedly smart, so Tsuna didn’t have to explain how important it was that Birds had to die, here and now. “I can do it,” Gokudera said in a rush, taking a small step closer. “You don’t need to waste your energy on this trash, Tenth, I’ll kill him for you. We left that Yoyo-bastard and clarinet-bitch alive, so we don’t need this sh*thead.”

That was another good thing about Gokudera - he knew what Tsuna’s end goal was and worked for it, getting rid of the unnecessary without too much input from Tsuna himself. Tsuna wanted to save Fuuta, and that meant leaving some of their adversaries alive for questioning; the man groaning pitifully through blood and crushed bone beneath him wasn’t necessary as long as they had the others.

Tsuna pulled back, standing up on shaking legs from where he’d been crouched over trying to beat the man into the dirt. He looked down at his stinging, blood-soaked hands and grit his teeth; though the man was Beta, Tsuna almost felt like he could smell Birds on him. He turned away to retch, one arm clutching onto a fragment of wall to balance as he heaved out acid and saliva.

Gokudera was beside him in an instant, pulling off his outer shirt for Tsuna to use as a rag. “The blood–” Tsuna began, then retched again. Why could he still smell that disgusting scent of arousal?

“Water– f*ck, we don’t have water, that bitch exploded it– oi, baseball idiot! Go find some f*cking water, why are you just f*cking sitting there?!”

Tsuna almost wanted to tell Gokudera to go easy on Yamamoto, but he couldn’t manage to lift his head away from where he’d buried it into Gokudera’s given shirt. As scentless as any Beta, there was nothing distinct - but Tsuna could pick up traces of smells unique to his friend, like gunpowder and singed fibers. It relaxed him minutely the longer he smelled it, tangling his fingers into the cloth and rubbing off some of the blood in the process.

Tsuna managed to pull himself away from Gokudera’s castoff shirt once Yamamoto drew closer, one hand holding out a water bottle though the boy remained distressingly quiet. The water itself had come from Reborn, unsurprisingly; supplying them with medical kits and water likely fell under the tenets of him acting as a support, so it didn’t contradict the Ninth’s orders. Tsuna was too bitter to be grateful about it.

Tsuna downed a quarter of the bottle, then forced Yamamoto to take a few sips himself before dumping the rest over his hands to wash away the blood. His skin was still somewhat dyed red but most of it had been wiped away, and the smells that had previously been choking him were no longer in the air.

“Guh– heeuk!”

Tsuna didn’t move, but the others jerked into action - Bianchi and Gokudera pulling out weapons, whereas Yamamoto reached for a long piece of metal piping from the debris. It was an unnecessary endeavor, in the end, all eyes on Birds’s writhing form on the ground. The man was clawing at his neck, seemingly trying to pull his throat free from some invisible danger, fingers scraping at his blood-specked flesh and scratching long, bleeding gashes into his skin. Despite this, his mouth opened and closed as if he was struggling to breathe, eyes bulging and bloodshot.

“Pl…ease…. Mu…kuro…sa….” Birds was attempting to choke out, but soon wasn’t able to make anything but miserable hitched breaths as his body kicked and thrashed.

In between blinks, Tsuna almost thought he could see blooming lotus flowers wrapped around the Beta man’s body, curled tightly around his neck so that his skin pinched beneath winding green stems. The sight of it flickered in and out like a mirage, and by the time Birds stopped breathing, it was only his prone form lying visible on the ground.

“He was killed by someone else,” Reborn piped in, jumping down from the tree branches. He examined Birds’s corpse thoughtfully, kicking him over once so that he laid face-down; the man had soiled himself. Tsuna turned away, the smell of urine overwhelming, instead focusing his eyes on the nearby bushes and trees.

Gokudera and Yamamoto both took a step closer to Tsuna, though didn’t breach his personal space. “...You think one of these freaks took out their own guy?” Gokudera asked after a moment. It was a reasonable question; if they were allies of Vongola, after all, there would be no need to kill Birds in secret.

“He was begging Rokudou Mukuro for his life there at the end,” Reborn shrugged. “I suppose Birds outlived his usefulness.”

Yamamoto’s eyes were a bit glassy as he spoke up, “Maybe Rokudou didn’t like his method of doing things?”

“Maybe.” Reborn’s tone was devoid of inflection.

Tsuna wasn’t paying the conversation attention anymore though, the means he was using to distract himself now fully arresting his attention as the barely-audible crunch of leaves underfoot could be heard. Bianchi had been similarly distracted, both of their gazes on the tall bushes, leaves brushing against something unseen.

“Come out,” Bianchi finally called out, getting the others’ attention as well. “We know you’re there, so show yourselves. Did you kill him?”

There was silence for a moment, but then small, white fingers curled around the edge of a tree trunk. Light brown hair fell into one wide, dark eye, the look in it more aware than any other time Tsuna had seen them. Hidden behind the trunk of a tree, he looked almost like a forest spirit rather than a little boy, the shadows playing across what little of his face he showed.

“Fuuta?” Tsuna murmured, taking a couple of steps closer on autopilot; the urge to close the distance between them was breathtaking, but even still - he held himself back at the sheer sense of wrongness of the situation. “Fuuta, are you… Come here, are you okay? We were looking for you!”

Fuuta blinked, a smile breaking out on his lips at the words - but eyes glazing over at the same time. “Tsuna-nii,” he said sweetly, like there wasn’t a kidnapping and three dead bodies between them now. “Have you come to take me on the ferris wheel?”

Tsuna almost lost his footing. Please don’t tell me he got himself kidnapped for the ferris wheel!

“I promised I would, just not here, Fuuta,” Tsuna said instead, swiftly moving closer to the boy. The others didn’t follow, not wanting to scare the Omega child more by crowding him; Fuuta had always only allowed Tsuna so close. “Come on, let’s go home for today. Mom’s worried about you.”

Discontent settled itself onto Fuuta’s features, and the child took a few hasty steps back. “But the ferris wheel works here, I saw it,” he returned petulantly, tone still at odds with the otherwise vacant look in his eyes.

“Fuuta–"

Tsuna couldn’t say much more before Fuuta turned tail and bolted back into the trees. Without much thought, Tsuna took off after him, focus tunneled down to such an extreme that all he could see was Fuuta’s small back and all he could hear was the crunch of leaves and sticks underfoot. The others may have shouted his name or Fuuta’s, but Tsuna was alone as he chased the child through the brush.

Whether it was because Fuuta was smaller and was able to scurry through the underbrush quicker, or because Tsuna felt the adrenaline from decimating Birds fade away with every step - he soon lost sight of the boy. “Fuuta!” Tsuna called out, turning himself around; there really was no one around, not even Reborn. “Fuuta, where are you?”

There was no response, nor even a glimpse of the child. Tsuna hesitantly wandered a bit further in, but stopped abruptly at the distant sound of an explosion. He turned back around, but it was hard to see anything past the trees; only the sight of a large plume of smoke rising above the canopy let him assess the general direction of where he'd been.

Gokudera? Tsuna wondered. It was odd that his friends hadn’t followed him– but if they’d been stopped, then of course they wouldn’t have. He hadn’t been able to see past Fuuta’s fleeing form, but perhaps the others had been caught in another fight as he went after the child.

Before Tsuna could start heading in the direction of the explosion, a sweet scent hit his nostrils. There was the loud crunching of twigs underfoot and the rustle of leaves before another figure finally emerged in his sightline, pausing at the sight of him. The smell of sweet lotus flowers in full bloom became more distinct in the air, a slight curl of sour distress underneath it; the scent was stronger than his own, but somehow also weaker than the Omega youth that had brought Lambo home once - almost as if it was caught between adolescence and maturity.

The boy it originated from was taller than Tsuna, closer to Yamamoto in height, but his form was rather lean. The Kokuyou junior high uniform was opened over a camo shirt, and his hair was so dark that it shined blue in the sunlight filtered through the leaves. It had a distinctive zig-zag pattern that was ruffled in the back, longer side bangs sweeping into heterochromatic eyes: the left a piercing blue, the right a dull brown the same color as dried blood.

Tsuna tensed, falling back into a stance that made it easier to fight or flee. The scent of the boy indicated he was no threat, but there was something in the air about him that unsettled Tsuna; the heat coiled in his chest had yet to react, but even so, Tsuna could not trust the sight of such an unguarded face.

“Oh?” the boy blinked at the sight of him, seemingly shocked. “Who are you? Could it be… Are you Fuuta-kun’s big brother?”

Now Tsuna was the one blinking in surprise. “You know Fuuta? Did you see him run past just now?!”

At that, the taller Omega moved closer, a smile of relief turning his lips. “Yes, he and I were being held hostage by that Rokudou guy! We managed to escape but got split up when his thugs came after us. I don’t know where Fuuta-kun is, I’ve been trying to find him–!”

The scent of distress had increased as the boy explained, drawing ever closer to Tsuna with every step. The boy’s expression perfectly matched his concerned tone and worried scent, but even still– something about him set Tsuna on edge, even as he allowed the other to stand a mere foot away.

“Fuuta-kun was saying his older brother would definitely come save him, so I just assumed, when I saw you… But I didn’t expect…” the other boy trailed off, smile turning a tad wry. The unsaid finish to that sentence was clear: he hadn’t expected another Omega.

Tsuna could understand that sentiment; what he couldn’t understand was why the boy seemed surprised but still relieved. For anybody else, seeing an Omega like Tsuna out in the woods would have them assuming he was just another hostage - but this boy had assumed he was here to rescue them. Although that was true, that wouldn’t have been the first assumption made by anyone normally.

“Did you bring friends?” the boy inquired, head slightly tilted to the side in question.

Tsuna looked into his eyes; the right looked slightly redder now, instead of the muddied brown color of before. “Yes, they’re taking care of Mukuro’s men right now,” he replied, heart beating rapidly in his chest. One part of him wanted to hook a hand around the taller Omega’s wrist and pull him along; the other part wanted to put more distance between them. “Once we find Fuuta, we’ll get out of here - all of us. Are you hurt?”

The other boy’s smile curled up just a bit more, now looking just a touch too sharp to be considered kind. “No, I’m okay,” he shook his head demurely. “But your friends– will they be alright? Are they Omegas too?”

“Ah, no,” Tsuna replied. “I’m… I’m the only Omega that came.”

The other moved a step closer; the smell of lotus flowers sat heavy and rotting in the back of Tsuna’s throat. “Oh… Are they Alphas?” the boy asked, tone dropping into something more wary. It didn’t match the look in his eyes, which became exceptionally more predatory. “Can we trust them, those Alphas? Rokudou is an Alpha as well, you know, and Alphas… They all want the same thing… Betas can be just as bad, too.”

And then, because it was true and Tsuna knew it was true the moment after it left his lips, he asked: “Is that why you killed Birds?”

The boy stopped, frozen in the moment for only a breath - but then he smiled.

“Well, and here I thought I was the one asking questions,” the taller Omega chuckled. His right eye visibly brightened to the color of freshly spilled blood, but more startling was the kanjicharacter for ‘six’ formed from solidified smoke across the expanse of crimson red. “Then again, I’m not the only one here with interesting eyes, am I, Vongola Tenth?”

Tsuna stepped back hurriedly, moving himself out of reach before the other could even lift his hand. This didn’t seem to surprise the other Omega, his smile wide on his face, eyes locked on Tsuna’s as if he were seeing something truly fascinating.

“I wonder if your Arcobaleno tutor knows just how interesting you are?” the other boy murmured. “Or the Vongola Ninth? Has he never seen that look in your eyes? It’s almost a shame, they’re very pretty.”

The false scent of distress was long gone now, but the scent of lotus remained the same - neither stronger nor weaker. It was odd that the other could be so close but his scent never intensified - and yet, Tsuna could not recognize any sense of deceit in it. This had to be the other Omega’s scent, but still, it just wasn’t quite right.

“Who are you?” Tsuna demanded tersely.

It was obvious he was no hostage; perhaps he was another of Rokudou Mukuro’s men sent to undermine them. Unlike Joushima, Kakimoto, and the others, though - Tsuna felt that the other was stronger, more imposing. He didn’t have the same creeping perverseness as Birds and the twin killers, but there was something to this Omega that made Tsuna’s hair stand on end.

“Deal with that Rokudou Mukuro first,” the other laughed, head tilted in consideration– and hunger. Another distant boom! went off, sending smoke up into the air, as the Omega nodded in that direction with a smile. “And I’ll tell you.”

Tsuna warred with himself internally. On one hand, he thought about taking this strange Omega down; he was surely an enemy of some sort, despite the only thing the flame in his chest seemed to feel in his vicinity was want. On the other hand, Gokudera, Yamamoto, and Bianchi were caught up in some sort of ongoing attack, and Tsuna wanted to make sure they were okay. Fuuta was no longer nearby, as far as Tsuna could tell, so the mission had resumed as well.

“We’re going to save Fuuta,” Tsuna swore.

Decision made, he turned in the direction of where he’d left his friends behind. He didn’t look behind him, not even as soft laughter echoed in his steps. “Kufufufu… I’m looking forward to it,” the other said, voice so close it was almost like he was whispering directly into Tsuna’s ear. There was a phantom caress against the shell of Tsuna's ear, more a feeling than an actual physical sensation; it was as if the other was leaning close to him, soft puffs of air brushing against his skin.

“Maybe then, you can tell me who you are, Sawada Tsunayoshi?”

A/N: I was almost gonna put the Lancia fight in here too but decided to spread out the Kokuyou horror show a bit more.

Tsuna: this guy is a weirdo

Tsuna's Flame: ✨i like him

Also, I didn't mean to make M.M. a mystery, she really was just too far away from Tsuna to tell - the girl is a Beta.

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks!

Chapter 17: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 3

Summary:

Mukuro, breaking out of the Estraneo labs: what the f*ck is gender norm????

Chapter Text

A/N: Thanks for commenting! This is a shorter chapter than usual but we're almost done~

Chapter 17

Gokudera knew things could not possibly be worse.

With a wince, he tried to straighten himself up from where he’d begun to slouch; the pain along his right side had started as a slight burning sensation before turning numb, and that numbness was slowly spreading to the rest of his body. He’d fortunately managed to dodge most of Kakimoto’s needles, which he was sure was the cause of this, but the few that had stabbed into his skin were acting like slow-poisoning agents.

When he thought about what Kakimoto and the clarinet player had been discussing prior to the assault, he felt his blood boil: namely, the capture of the Vongola Tenth. He was further incensed that this is probably what saved him in the end, since a practiced hitman like Kakimoto would have been using lethal poison instead had their intent been to ‘kill’ instead of ‘capture’. Nevertheless, the poison was spreading - and spreading fast, given how much he had to move around.

And he needed to move around, because goddamn Rokudou Mukuro had finally shown up.

Gokudera thought it ridiculous that Kakimoto had made such a fuss about capturing and bringing the Tenth to Rokudou before, and now the man had descended himself - after the Tenth went to go catch Fuuta. It was almost as if he was waiting for the Tenth to leave to attack, but Gokudera figured that was because Rokudou finally realized how impressive the Tenth really was.

This left Gokudera in the position, though, of making sure he wasn’t a liability.

The poison was frustratingly debilitating, and something he could not afford against an opponent like Rokudou. Yamamoto was holding his own well enough, but the injury to his arm from Joushima combined with whatever had happened with the old man that the Tenth had practically beaten to death had done a number on the baseball player as well. Yamamoto managed to avoid severe injury from two of Rokudou’s lethal attacks, but just surviving them wasn’t going to get them a victory over the man.

“BOUJA-REPPA!!!”

The giant iron ball hurtled toward Yamamoto once again. The torrent of wind spiraling off of the ball sent Yamamoto skidding back on the heels of his feet, but it was followed by the ball striking straight against the Alpha boy’s abdomen with a crunching thud. Yamamoto was not someone who went down with one hit– so when his back hit the tree and he landed like a crumpled marionette on the grass, unmoving, Gokudera knew he was not getting back up anytime soon.

“As I already said,” Rokudou intoned evenly. “Abandon all hope. This is the end for you.”

“You f*cking bastard!” Gokudera roared out, dynamite in hand. He didn’t give a damn what happened to Yamamoto, but he knew the Tenth did - so he wasn’t going to let Rokudou get away with injuring someone that belonged to his boss.

Of course, this was the exact moment the poison decided to get the better of him; the dynamite slid uselessly from his numb fingers, and he hit the ground right after they did. He grit his teeth at the combination of burning pain and frightening numbness that ran through his body, and he willed himself to get back up and finish this before his boss returned and saw his failure.

“Hayato!” he heard his sister cry out nearby.

Last he’d glimpsed her, she was checking on Yamamoto; if Gokudera went down, she would try her hand at protecting them next. That was somehow more humiliating than all of this combined. His older sister had to step in to help, even though he - as the Vongola Tenth’s right hand - should have been able to handle Rokudou alone from the start.

Gokudera could not afford the luxury of getting stronger slowly. Sometimes that annoying Doctor Shamal would chide him for being reckless, for not caring enough about his own health when he trained his body to its limits– but what did that old man know? Gokudera had a boss now, had someone he’d sworn his life and loyalty to, and now understood what it meant to be relied upon as a faithful subordinate.

It was everyone else’s fault that they got so stuck on his boss’s dynamic that they couldn’t see past it.

Gokudera bit the inside of his mouth; the taste of iron in his throat helped to sharpen his focus, and he pulled out a mini stick of dynamite and lit it with shaking fingers. It exploded beside him with enough force to roll him over and singe his arm, adrenaline rushing through his system at the pain.

Heaving himself up into a crouched position, he spit out the blood cloyed in his tongue and glowered up at the tall figure still standing paces away. Bianchi had already pulled out two plates of poison cooking, placing herself between Yamamoto’s prone form and Rokudou; her eyes darted to Gokudera as he moved, Rokudou’s own gaze following, though the man remained nonplussed.

An expression soon wiped clean off his face when a chunk of concrete hit him square in the head.

True to his sheer brute strength, it didn’t even make him stumble; a little blood oozed from the point of contact, but Rokudou only turned his head to glare in the direction it had come from. Gokudera turned to look as well, heart swelling in a confusing mix of relief and anxiety.

“What,” the Tenth fairly growled out, eyes the color of molten amber. “Are you doing to my friends?”

Rokudou’s features shifted from a glower to a series of flickering expressions too quick to name. “The Vongola Tenth,” he gruffly identified. “Content to hide behind your Alpha and Beta family members? Come down here and fight–”

If asked, Gokudera would say he suffered from another onslaught of effects from the poison– not that he collapsed again due to bursting into laughter.

Still, there was something uniquely wonderful and hilarious about Rokudou’s condescending comments about his boss being interrupted by the Tenth’s knee slamming straight into his disrespectful mouth.

“Serves you right, you co*cky prick,” came Gokudera’s slurred mumble from afar. Tsuna risked a glance in the bomber’s direction; he was attempting to rise back up on shaky knees, but there was blood all over his mouth and it looked like he’d attempted to blow off his own right arm. Bianchi slid to her knees down next to him, medical kit in hand, and pulled out a vial with a singular mosquito in it.

Uncapping it, Bianchi aimed it in her brother’s direction. “Shamal packed it for us, just in case,” she explained hurriedly, watching with anxious eyes as it flew to Gokudera’s exposed arm and stabbed into his skin.

Gokudera let out a quiet groan, but when his viridian eyes refocused back on Tsuna, the Omega allowed himself a sense of relief. Shamal’s crude antivenom could work quick, but it was guaranteed to have side effects that could be just as painful - so Tsuna needed to deal with the Alpha across from him as quickly as possible.

Not to mention Yamamoto. Rage coursed through Tsuna’s blood at the sight of his friend slumped over in the grass, beaten and bloody; Tsuna was going to crush this Rokudou Mukuro for that alone.

This was much easier said than done. Rokudou Mukuro had rightfully earned his title, and his long list of crimes seemed understandable given the level of strength he displayed. The giant iron ball he had been using to decimate Tsuna’s friends was a powerful weapon in his hands, hurtling at intimidating speeds with pinpoint precision. Without a Dying Will bullet to help send surging power throughout his body, though, Tsuna knew he would not be able to withstand a hit. Dodging the iron ball was going to get old fast, not to mention draw out a battle that was quickly going out of Tsuna’s favor.

Tsuna was almost grateful when he felt the familiar shooting pain of a bullet bursting through his forehead, and then the only thing he could really process was unmitigated power. Dying Will had a peculiar reaction to the fire that sat ever-coiled in his chest, somehow both fanning the flames into an inferno– while simultaneously funneling it into a sputtering torch. In the moment where his dying will fortified his strength to several times that than what he was used to, he felt strangely stripped of something else; his scent grew stronger, almost more distinct, and the fire that waited under his fingertips at all other times faded to accommodate the brute strength that the Dying Will bullet preferred.

This animalistic strength was all he needed to send Rokudou’s iron ball back in his direction, and Tsuna watched with a sort of detached cognizance that could never be seen under the Dying Will’s violent force as Rokudou took it to the gut and crashed back into the wall of nearby structure, sending out plumes of dust and dirt with a heavy thud. It was a move that would have put anyone normal out of commission, but Bianchi’s cry of joy at the sight was premature - because once the dust cleared, Rokudou stood there clear as day.

“Fine then,” Rokudou muttered. “Let’s go all out.”

With that being said, Rokudou sent the massive iron ball straight up into the air with a single hand. He then darted forward, faster even than his throw, and then he was in front of Tsuna. His fists shot out in a flurry of punches, too fast for the eye to catch, but Tsuna could feel the impact of each punch against his skin. (And yet…)

Head bowed momentarily when one socked him straight in the gut, Rokudou’s fingers grabbed him by the hair and yanked his head down to ram a knee straight into his face. (And yet…)

The kick sent Tsuna practically airborne, but the reprieve was only temporary; Rokudou’s fingers wrapped around his throat and jerked him back into his clutches, slamming him back down into the ground. (And yet…)

“Time to finish this,” Rokudou stated.

Tsuna’s eyes locked onto to the man’s face: expression dead, lips twisted down into a frown– but his eyes–

The iron ball came crashing down right on top of Tsuna. It hurt, it hurt everywhere– but it was almost negligible. The bruises along his body from the punches, the scrapes and cuts from the iron ball, the dull pain that thrummed from where he’d taken both iron and fist; all of it was there, yes, but it wasn’t enough to keep him from opening his eyes again, from sitting back up and spitting out blood.

Dying Will was interesting in what it did to Tsuna. It gave him power, strong but temporary, stripped away inhibitions that would have otherwise made him hesitate. Fighting was scary, spilling blood was scary - but Yamamoto and Gokudera were hurt, and that was far scarier.

Tsuna pushed the iron ball off of him, the flame of Dying Will on his forehead diminishing into nothing. Although the uninhibited rage was gone, pulled back behind reason and logic and expectation, the heat of that power lingered in his body. It coiled strongest around his heat, at his fingertips, and in his eyes; his thoughts dripped clear and precise, intuition connecting threads of actions and inactions together too fast to be reasonably explained.

“You…” Rokudou growled out; his pheromones flashed in the air, thick with an emotion Tsuna recognized without a doubt. “How are you still standing? Just stay down!”

The Demand washed over Tsuna, unheeded.

“Even my tutor would tell you I don’t listen to Demands very well,” Tsuna returned with a co*ck of his head. “Not that you’re really trying.”

Rokudou Mukuro was convicted of a lot of crimes, but funny how smacking around a little Omega like Tsuna was enough to get him to close his eyes out of guilt.

This time, Tsuna went on the offense. The lingering effects of Dying Will should have already faded by now, but Tsuna felt it under his skin, in his hands; he surged forward, Sasagawa Ryouhei’s and Rokudou’s assault forms in his mind’s eye as he fell into his stance, rocketing one fist straight into Rokudou’s gut with all the fire he could concentrate into his hand.

Blood sprayed from Rokudou’s mouth, eyes bulging and bloodshot; he fell to one knee, coughing on blood and saliva. Head bowed, he didn’t try to rise again - they both knew he didn’t have it in him.

Tsuna took in the Alpha’s defeated form: lips tinged red with spittle and blood, one arm curled defensively over his bruised chest and posture slumped as he wavered on one knee. The injuries coupled with the dark look in his eyes cut an intimidating figure despite his loss, and his pheromones - the bitterness of red wine and dark chocolate - hung strong in the air. He was lean with muscle, a seemingly perfect match to his list of crimes.

But.

“You…” Tsuna began, nose wrinkling at the stagnant smell the man exuded. “You’re not Rokudou Mukuro, are you?”

The man blinked up at him, dumbfounded.

It was clear to Tsuna now, so clear it could have made him laugh had he not met that strange boy in the woods. The person before him had all the trappings of someone guilty of that long list of crimes, but when he’d attacked Tsuna - he hadn’t meant a single one of his threats.

“You closed your eyes every time you attacked me,” Tsuna observed, voice even in his speculation. “You didn’t even put your full power behind that finishing move of yours– you couldn’t, not when you feel this guilty.”

The man practically reeked of it. It was in his every hesitation, every avoidant glare; with every bruise he made on Tsuna’s skin, the guilt ate him alive. Tsuna hadn’t felt imminent danger the same way he had from the other Kokuyou students, and that imposing power could not even compare to the boy in the woods that Tsuna was quickly starting to comprehend wasn’t just another person under Mukuro’s thumb.

“Rokudou Mukuro,” Tsuna realized. “Is an Omega.”

The man practically shot to his feet, a mix of terror and agony tearing across his face before he collapsed back onto the ground. Despite the aborted action, he could not keep himself from speaking out. “He lies!” the man snarled. “I don’t know how, but Mukuro– he’s an Alpha! He was an Alpha when we first met, but then…”

Tsuna stared at him, baffled. “What does that mean?”

“Mukuro, he… He’s the one that took everything from me,” the man choked out. “I was part of the Ferro famiglia, from Northern Italy - my name is Lancia. The Ferro took me in as an orphan from the streets, gave me a home and a family… So to repay their kindness, I became a bodyguard and worked to become the strongest fighter in our area.”

Lancia’s hands flexed, gaze distant as he recalled something long past. “One day, the boss brought in another orphan - an Alpha kid with different colored eyes. He said he was the cleverest of the bunch, and that he’d shape up to be just as good for the family as me,” the man continued wanly. “I took him under my wing, treated him just like a little brother - like they’d always done for me. He… He was good back then, obedient and eager, but then…”

Lancia swallowed reflexively. Something in Tsuna clocked that hesitation, recognized it for what it was– something left unsaid, a part of the picture that Lancia didn’t want to admit out loud.

“One day, I came back home after playing cards, and everyone… Everyone was dead."

“That was a famous incident,” Reborn finally spoke up. “The Ferro massacre… It happened overnight.”

Lancia let out a deranged half-laugh. “I wonder about that to this day! The entire family - wiped out overnight? It doesn’t make sense, but that’s what that guy does– makes the world bend to what he wants!” he shook his head in misery. “I didn’t know it at the time, but the one who killed them– it was me! With my own hands, I killed my family!”

Tsuna could almost see it now, a picture painted with Lancia’s horror: the blood-soaked tiles of a family home, decadent furniture and fixtures saturated in red. The bodies scattered across the grounds, smears of broken limbs and gory insides painting the landscape.

“He wasn’t content with using me just to kill the Ferro! No, he wanted to make sure I understood his message loud and clear,” Lancia hysterically recalled. “How many times have I woken up, blood on my hands, surrounded by the dead?”

Lancia dug his hands into his hair. “He had me under his full control, and every time after I laid waste to those he targeted, he’d patch me back up and ask–” Here, Lancia let out an animalistic keen, a pain straight from the soul. “He’d ask, 'how was it, finally getting your hands dirty?’”

Tsuna stilled. Like before, something in him recognized the unspoken; there was something to that question, the intent behind it as important as it was cruel.

Tsuna crouched down, making sure he could lock eyes with Lanchia’s distressed pair. The man froze under his gaze, stiff like cornered prey, but no matter Tsuna’s bleeding heart - it was not moved by a man so hesitant to give the full picture.

“Lancia-san,” Tsuna started softly. “Why are you still alive?”

That was the crux of it - for what reason did Rokudou Mukuro keep Lancia alive?

He was a powerful fighter, and apparently Mukuro was able to exert enough control over the man to not consider him a threat. However, given the person he’d met in the woods, given the treatment of temporary allies such as Birds… It was strange to keep Lancia not only alive, but by his side the entire time. If it was just strength that Mukuro was after, then what was the point of running all the way to Namimori?

Lancia’s survival was incomprehensible because no matter how useful, someone with this much resentment would never make a good ally or tool. Temporary alliances had their advantages, and in the case of Birds, could be disposed of just as quickly; Lancia, however, had been carted around long before imprisonment in Vindice had entered the picture. But Mukuro hadn’t left the man to wallow in prison for the crimes he’d forced him to commit; no, much like the more loyal Kakimoto and Joushima, Lancia had been freed and seemingly dragged back into servitude.

It wasn’t loyalty, it wasn’t kindness - it was revenge.

Lancia withered under eyes the color of smoldering amber. He tucked his head into his arms and he crumbled, because as he’d long learned - he was just a shell of the person he had been. The Strongest Man in Italy had lost that strength, that willpower, the moment Mukuro had slipped into the cracks between his thoughts and his memories. When he’d spilled the blood of the family that had raised him, when he’d been unable to speak a word in their defense as Mukuro rained hell back on them– he’d lost himself and he’d never gotten that person back.

“I didn’t know,” Lancia whimpered, curling into himself. “I didn’t know…”

Tsuna watched as the man collapsed, the words a constant refrain that drifted in and out of audibility. It unsettled him to see how quickly Lancia fell apart– was this the result of being under Mukuro’s possession?

Looking up, he met Reborn’s beady gaze. There were times that Tsuna almost thought he and his unwanted tutor had a clear understanding, such as now: Lancia was a lost cause, at least in this stage. Tsuna wanted answers that Lancia was in no mental state to give, and Reborn - the world’s number one hitman - was in agreement.

There were also times when Tsuna knew Reborn was considering his words very, very carefully before saying something to Tsuna– also just like now. “The Ferro family,” Reborn began with a conspicuously bland tone. “Was one of the richest families in Northern Italy. They made their money in sales: weapons, ammunition, and…”

Here, his dark gaze flicked to Lancia in thinly veiled disgust. “Human trafficking.”

The pieces were slowly being clicked together: the reason for Lancia’s silence, for his overwhelming guilt. The man hadn’t been lying, but he hadn’t been wholly honest either; the Ferro family probably raised Lancia with utmost care, with freely given love and loyalty. Lancia was strong, Lancia was an Alpha– whatever they invested in him had been returned tenfold. How they made their money was a different matter for the same family; guns, ammo, people - all things to be sold to fill their pockets.

Maybe Lancia didn’t have anything to do directly with the horrors the Ferro family had dealt in, the people whose lives they’d destroyed for a pretty penny - but did that really make him innocent? Hadn’t he just turned a willful blind eye to the reprehensible acts of the people he loved, simply because he loved them?

“How was it, finally getting your hands dirty?”

It seems Mukuro had grown tired of such willful blindness.

“This doesn’t change your mission, Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn said.

Tsuna straightened back up, knuckles still stinging from where he’d split the skin beating in the faces of those who had crossed him: one a Beta that had been strangled to death by a hallucination, the other an Alpha who crumbled to pieces from a horror much more real.

Doesn’t it? Tsuna thought. The Ferro were annihilated because of their part in human trafficking; Birds was killed for crimes similar to what he’d tried on Tsuna and Yamamoto. Mukuro’s breakout had resulted in the death of wardens and prisoners alike, but Tsuna was having a hard time caring about that. Reborn had said it himself, hadn’t he– that Vendicare held the mafia’s most morally bankrupt criminals? People like Birds, like the Twins?

“Are you thinking they deserved it?” Reborn asked, tone largely thoughtful - but there was a thread of disappointment too.

Tsuna scowled. “I didn’t say that,” he retorted. “But is it any wonder that Mukuro did what he did, Reborn? He probably thought he was next, if they were going around selling people. And who knows what the wardens were doing to them?”

Tsuna didn’t really know about any cases that had ended with an Omega in jail, but he was sure that it had happened before; they had prisons specifically for Omegas, after all. It sounded like Vendicare was unlike their civilian counterparts though, if they housed an Omega like Mukuro with Alphas and Betas, indiscriminate in their incarceration. Not to mention the odd news story that cycled in from other countries about how corrupt prisons could be, wardens abusing their power over inmates - resulting in dog fights or sexual assaults.

“Lancia said Mukuro is an Alpha,” Reborn stated. “Our intel may have been incorrect, but I’m starting to suspect that Mukuro is an illusionist; it would explain why he was able to possess Lancia to murder the Ferro family, and how he was able to kill Birds– illusions so powerful that they’re convinced it’s reality.”

Tsuna was still trying to process the whole ‘illusions are real and active threats’ angle, but he could see where Reborn was coming from with this; he had seen flickers of what seemed to be lotus flowers strangling Birds after all. “So you think he, what, faked his Omega scent when I met him earlier to hide that he’s an Alpha?”

“Or the other way around,” Reborn allowed evenly. “If I’m right, then Mukuro must be a very strong illusionist. You shouldn’t trust anything about him at face value.”

“Of course not, he kidnapped Fuuta,” Tsuna said. Come to think of it, the young Omega must be under some sort of illusion as well; Kokuyou Land had a ferris wheel, but it had been defunct for a long time now and shouldn’t work at all.

If Reborn didn’t believe him, he didn’t say it. Instead, Tsuna pulled on the spare set of clothes the baby hitman pulled out from his supply kit. They carried Yamamoto to a spot behind some trees and shrubs; he wasn’t waking up any time soon, though Reborn had said he’d already called Vongola medical personnel and they were on their way. Tsuna almost mandated that Gokudera or Bianchi stay with him, leery of leaving his friend’s unconscious body alone in the wilds of Kokuyou Land, but the reality of it was– they couldn’t afford it. Fuuta was still out there and under the sway of an illusion, and Kakimoto was not where Gokudera had left him out cold after their own battle, meaning he’d either been spirited away while they were distracted by Lancia or he’d woken up and walked away on his own.

Although they’d already been heading in the direction of the entertainment center, Tsuna felt a newfound sense of certainty as they drew closer to the building. They’d theorized that this was where Rokudou and his men had secluded themselves, but there was something in Tsuna now that made him absolutely certain that they were heading into the right place– a feeling quickly cemented when their first few steps in the building made the scent of lotus flowers in the air clear.

Reborn’s facial features twitched but he otherwise did not react. If this scent was an illusion - as Tsuna truly believed it wasn’t - then it was a damn good one. It grew stronger the further they went in, and Tsuna couldn’t help but take in the decrepit surroundings with a critical eye. This is where they’re living…?

“God, why’s this scent so f*cking strong?” Gokudera scowled in complaint.

He pulled out a cigarette to light, the smell of the smoke somewhat covering the sweet scent lingering in the air. The casualness of the action belied the tense set of his shoulders and the shrewd look in his eyes; he caught Tsuna’s look and gave a wide smile in response, waving away the concern with a shrug. The bomber looked rather wan, no doubt inwardly fighting the effects of Shamal’s antidote, but Tsuna could tell he was trying very hard not to show it and worry Tsuna further.

The sight of Kakimoto around the corner, the lone guard to a rusty ladder as the only way up, was not as much of a surprise as it should be. He was flicking his yo-yo up and down, blank eyes watching them draw near; he somehow seemed both ready to fight and to flee, and Tsuna could pick up neither scent nor killing intent from the other boy.

This was what made Mukuro and his men so very strange to Tsuna - they never seemed intent on actually killing them. Whether it was Joushima in the pit or Kakimoto and his needles, they seemed to want to incapacitate rather than outright murder. Yamamoto had been knocked out by Lancia, a man puppeted by someone much stronger, but not actually killed even when they had the advantage.

Either Mukuro didn’t want to kill them - or he had something else in mind. Tsuna was reminded of cats that liked to play with their caught prey, practically felt the sharp point of the claw against his throat with every step taken in Mukuro’s territory.

Kakimoto didn’t react as they filed into the same room as him, still flicking his yo-yo up and down. He only jumped back once Gokudera threw down a handful of mini smoke bombs, filling the room with an obscuring cloud.

Tsuna felt Gokudera’s arm brush against his own, the Beta’s voice low and urgent. “I’ll take care of him, Tenth! Please go ahead!”

Everything in Tsuna absolutely did not want to go and leave Gokudera down here to face Kakimoto alone. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe his friend couldn’t handle the needle-bearing assassin, but rather that Tsuna just didn’t want to leave another friend behind after he’d already been forced to leave Yamamoto.

“It’s alright, I can handle him,” Gokudera swore with another wide smile; Tsuna couldn’t decide if he hated the look of it or not. “You still need to rescue Fuuta.”

“Okay, but take care of yourself,” Tsuna forced himself to say.

There were times that Tsuna thought Gokudera needed the reminder; his friend could crunch numbers and mix chemicals like nothing, but he did this at the expense of his own health and well-being. It was concerning, but Tsuna thought he may be overstepping boundaries if he tried to control when Gokudera ate, or slept, or just generally allowed himself downtime. In fights, Gokudera prioritized defeating the enemy over his own welfare, and Tsuna was getting tired of seeing his friend blow himself to pieces just for the chance of victory.

“Tsuna, let’s go!” Bianchi called out, already heading up the ladder.

Tsuna shot one last fleeting look at Gokudera before hurrying after her.

The smoke trailed them as they crested the second floor; aside from rubble and the telltale scurry of rodents, it was completely empty. The gutted-out bowling alley and flickering lights that had no visible source cast an eerie atmosphere, and entering the third floor caused a cold flush to run down his skin. The scent of lotus was stronger, sickeningly sweet with an undercurrent of decay; if the scent was Mukuro’s, it was defiantly unique for an Omega.

The cinema had been used to display 2-D and 3-D movies for a once joyous audience, though in its ruined state, it only boasted a nearly empty seating area with a stage at the front. The cracked, broken screen was hidden behind tattered burgundy curtains, a match in color to the worn lounger centered like a throne before it.

The mound of moldy pillows and scraps of cloth gathered atop the sofa was a facsimile of an Omega nest, down to the one seated in the center of it with his hands curled into a familiar blanket - one of Tsuna’s, its checkered orange design handmade by his mother for his tenth birthday. He’d given it to Fuuta for comfort since he’d seemed to like it so much.

“You’ve finally made it,” Rokudou Mukuro greeted with a smile. “How was Lancia?”

“...He dirtied his hands,” Tsuna replied.

Mukuro tipped back his head and laughed.

There was no killing intent - but even still, Tsuna knew he was dangerous. Perhaps Mukuro was dangerous because there was no killing intent.

There were, after all, much worse things than death.

A/N: Sometimes you just gotta harmonize with a crazy Mist ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

As always, please drop a comment/kudos. Thanks!

Chapter 18: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 4

Summary:

Mukuro: Come with me🎵 And you'll be🎵 In a world of your own hellish imagination🎵

Chapter Text

A/N: I underestimated the length of the Mukuro confrontation, so the chapter count has been updated 😅

Chapter 18

Rokudou Mukuro looked different in the shadows of the cinema. Paler, somehow, as if the ruins of some bygone entertainment hub had leached away what little color he had left in his skin. Under the open sky and canopy of trees, he’d cut a lean figure; in the darkness of the faded architecture, he looked more sallow. He had an attractive face, with high cheekbones and heterochromatic eyes framed by long lashes. The scent of lotus flowers over still waters pervaded the entire room, still at the strange state of in-between that made it both distinct and generically sweet. It was pleasant, but odd– which seemed a fitting descriptor for just about everything Mukuro displayed outright. The boy himself was lounging on the sofa, hands still curled into Tsuna’s childhood blanket.

“I should introduce myself properly, as promised, shouldn’t I?” he mused, still with that self-satisfied smile. Danger lurked in that expression; not the same overt bloodlust that haunted Hibari’s every glance, but rather something more insidious and creeping. “I am the real Rokudou Mukuro. I look forward to getting to know you, Tenth Boss of the Vongola - Sawada Tsunayoshi.”

Tsuna set his shoulders, eyes flicking about the room. It was empty aside from them, as far as he could tell; the audience seating for the theater had been removed long ago, leaving the room otherwise barren. Debris and the shambled remains of furniture littered the perimeter, likely pushed to the side by Mukuro and his men once they took up occupancy. It was hardly the most comfortable of places, and the paltry nest Mukuro had set up on what seemed to be the only piece of luxury furniture housed only enough room for himself.

It was hardly the diggings of a criminal mastermind - but rather, the setting of a desperate man’s last stand.

“Where is Fuuta?” Tsuna asked.

Mukuro co*cked his head slightly, smile widening, but didn’t respond; he didn’t have to, because a small head poked out from behind Mukuro’s throne, wide brown eyes peering out at Tsuna with all the hesitant wariness of a child awaiting punishment. Fuuta’s fingers clutched at the top of the sofa, his scent smothered by Mukuro’s own and overshadowing any sort of emotional tell as to his current mental state.

“Tsuna-nii, are you mad?” Fuuta asked, gaze not quite in Tsuna’s direction and half his face still obscured by the couch. “Because I ran away from you earlier?”

Well, I’m not happy aboutit, Tsuna thought but decided not to say aloud. Fuuta probably wouldn’t respond well to such a blatant truth, and the heart of it was more about how worried Tsuna was about Fuuta’s current state rather than what happened earlier. Besides, Tsuna had long given up on anyone in his life acting rationally; that notion had died an early death, long before Fuuta had ever entered his life.

“A little,” Tsuna admitted. “But mostly I’m worried, Fuuta. You disappeared without saying anything, and the only thing we found was a suspicious note in the notebook you left behind at the park.”

The last part was said with a particularly dark look sent Mukuro’s way, but he just looked entertained by the conversation. Fuuta came out more from behind the couch, stepping out to the side and into full view; he still seemed rather hesitant, but he was looking at Tsuna now with beseeching eyes.

“That was Mukuro-san’s fault,” Fuuta said, either ignoring or just not noticing the quiet huff of amusem*nt from the person he laid blame on. “He promised he’d take me on the ferris wheel with you but that I have to leave a note so you know where to find us… And I don’t know how to write in Japanese.”

That…had not occurred to Tsuna. Fuuta spoke with an accent, but Tsuna had just assumed he always preferred to write in Italian because it was his native tongue - not because he didn’t know how to write in any other language. It wasn’t like Fuuta or Reborn had bothered to explain how the Omega child’s power even worked, aside from some crackpot explanation involving a Ranking Planet that Tsuna refused to believe on the principle that he could not readjust his worldview to include aliens quite yet.

“Fuuta, you can’t go with everyone promising to take you on a ferris wheel,” Tsuna stressed out with waning patience.

“...But that’s what you promised me, Tsuna-nii?”

Tsuna froze. sh*t– he’s right! But I was only saying that to get him away from that crazy octopus baby!!

“Tsuna, maybe we should save this lecture for later?” Bianchi interrupted in irritation. “Or did you forget the escaped convict capable of illusions in the room? Or our mission from the Ninth?”

In Tsuna’s opinion, Mukuro was very hard to forget; he lounged like a queen and practically oozed imminent danger. He just wasn’t really doing anything aside from listening to Tsuna and Fuuta’s back-and-forth, as if he were the step-parent waiting for cues on how to step in.

“I’m not here because of the mission,” Tsuna corrected her, ignoring Reborn’s unfailing stare on the side of his head. “I’m here for Fuuta.”

A one-sidedly given mission from a man Tsuna has no recollection of would have no sway over him in normal circ*mstances, let alone in times when someone he cares about goes missing. Between the death threat and the promise of endless tomatoes, Tsuna was having a hard time taking the order seriously in any case; if the Ninth wanted to be taken seriously, he should have either offered something more in compensation or sent someone else other than a junior high kid to deal with the problem. If this was how the Ninth dealt with incidents like this, it was no wonder all his sons ended up dead.

“They’re not necessarily different things, Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn finally intoned. “Mukuro stole Fuuta, and he’s the reason why Yamamoto is lying unconscious on the lawn– don’t forget that just because you agree with his approach to certain situations.”

Mukuro leaned forward in fascination, eyes glancing between Reborn’s severe expression and Tsuna’s conflicted look. “Technically, I kidnapped Fuuta-kun; you don’t ‘steal’ people, you steal objects, Arcobaleno,” he pointed out, languid in tone but acidic underneath. “Then again, I suppose to a disgusting mafioso like yourself, Omegas and objects are the same thing.”

His tone never wavered from that same easy confidence, as if his point didn’t even need to be argued– perhaps that’s why it struck Tsuna so much more. The casual correction, the bored expectation; Mukuro implied so many horrible things, from how he viewed the world in general to Reborn specifically, in that simple statement.

Then the older Omega turned to Tsuna. “...So you admire my approach?” he asked, his amused facade returning. “With Birds or with Lancia? You didn’t seem to be a fan of either one.”

With Birds, Mukuro had only finished what Tsuna had started, and with Lancia, Tsuna couldn’t have cared less whether the man lived or died. Anyone who could look away from the victims of human trafficking simply because they liked the traffickers more than deserved whatever they got coming to them in terms of karma. The fact that Mukuro had destroyed the entire family using Lancia as the weapon was its own just sentencing.

It was the afterward, and possibly the before, that eluded Tsuna. There was more to Mukuro’s tale, he was sure of it– but it wasn’t Tsuna’s role to pass judgment. Whether the other mafia families deserved the same death sentences as the Ferro famiglia, whether the wardens and inmates slaughtered during Mukuro’s escape deserved their execution– all of it was a complicated entanglement of ethics and justice, and Tsuna knew he was no judge.

Tsuna also knew that Reborn was right, to a degree. Tsuna may not care for Birds or for Lancia, may have been briefly amused when he’d learned the Kokuyou gang had pried the canine teeth from the Alpha students’ mouths - but Mukuro was also the reason why Sasagawa Ryouhei had been attacked, was the reason why Yamamoto was hurt and unconscious, why Gokudera was hurt and still fighting.

“I don’t want to capture you because the Ninth ordered me to,” Tsuna said, ignoring the other’s question entirely because his truthful answer could only complicate things more. “But I meant what I said about coming to save Fuuta - so if you get in between that, then I will stop you.”

Mukuro’s expressions were inappropriate for how amusem*nt colored them, but had otherwise been rather placid; they were disingenuous, a mask as effective as his illusions. However, at Tsuna’s words, he thought he finally saw a sliver of truth slip between the cracks: unmitigated insanity. It was a dark and foreboding glimpse, enough to send a rush of ice down Tsuna’s spine for the heartbeat it appeared.

“Then it seems like we have no choice but to come to a disagreement, Vongola Tenth,” Mukuro said. “You may not have any interest in stopping me, but unfortunately I do require your assistance - whether you want to give it or not.”

With this, Mukuro stood from his seat. Seemingly from nowhere, a trident materialized into his hand, held aloft as he surveyed Tsuna - and the room by extension. His right eye glowed red briefly within the shadows of the cavernous hall, no kanji character visible but an unsettling black haze drifted over the iris, ready to form.

“Even still, I think I’d like to get to know you further,” Mukuro murmured. “It’s just a little crowded here.”

He took one step forward, red eye brightening - and then all Tsuna could catch was the black smoke solidifying into the shape of the kanji character for ‘four’ before Mukuro reappeared behind Bianchi, back to the Beta woman. She let out a choked gasp as a small spray of blood burst from a newly-appeared slice across her cheek, then collapsed with a yelp as more and more cuts appeared along her arms, legs, and torso with thin sprays of blood.

“Bianchi!” Tsuna cried out.

Right eye alight with a small flame, Mukuro smiled. “Are you worried about her? She’s one of the Ninth’s people, isn’t she? I can’t imagine she cares too much about you,” he said. “I’d heard Poison Scorpion Bianchi was still an independent assassin, but these mafia types will do just about anything for money.”

In a puddle of her own blood, Bianchi huffed out an indignant, “I’m here… out of… love!”

Mukuro stared down at her for a second, honestly baffled. His heterochromatic gaze flickered between Tsuna and Bianchi in bewilderment.

Tsuna blanched, “She’s in love with Reborn!”

“...Alright, that makes slightly more sense,” Mukuro agreed, momentarily knocked off-kilter. He looked to Reborn, now standing next to Bianchi with a medical kit in hand. “And you, Arcobaleno? You now serve the Vongola as mentors, or in a different capacity?”

There seemed to be heavy implication in that, Mukuro’s smile twisting to the point of outright contempt. Tsuna had no idea what he was insinuating, but Reborn’s countenance darkened to something much more somber. Given that Bianchi was at risk of bleeding out at his feet, Tsuna could guess why.

“That’s alright, you don’t need to answer,” Mukuro said. “I already know.”

Mukuro walked around the edge of the room, idle in movement but his gaze never quite turned away from either Tsuna or Reborn. He seemed particularly interested in Tsuna, noticing the gaze he kept locked on Mukuro’s burning right eye with heightened fascination.

“You can see it, can you?” Mukuro asked, tapping at the corner of his eye in wonder. “It’s the aura emitted by using my skill. Have you heard of the Six Paths of Reincarnation?”

Tsuna hadn’t, but Mukuro seemed to have no trouble in telling him: the cycle of death and rebirth, a horrible tale about living and dying and living again. Mukuro, if he was to be believed, lived through six different lifetimes - and through each journey, earned a skill to be used in this one. He spoke with a cadence of calm and melancholy, as if those lifetimes were survived by someone or something else.

Tsuna couldn’t quite wrap his head around it. The six paths didn’t mean Mukuro had been a human in every lifetime; in fact, it seemed to guarantee he was human in very few. However, in order to cycle through these different lives, he would have had to die in every single one. To live, and die, and then live again… Mukuro had survived hell six times, and had been reborn into a life somehow more monstrous than the last.

Mukuro bore the memories of six lives lived - and six deaths passed. What does that do to a person?

“If that’s really true, then you are a monster,” Reborn said.

Mukuro laughed with the sound of scorched earth. “You’re one to talk, cursed baby of the Arcobaleno!”

When Mukuro matched Tsuna’s gaze once again, the kanji in his eye flickered into the character for ‘one ’. “Now then, shall we see what else I can do?”

Stabbing the dull end of the trident into the ground, Mukuro never turned his eyes - one vicious red, the other vivid blue - away from Tsuna. The floor underneath his trident rippled outwards, a stone thrown into a stillwater pond; that ripple cascaded outward, and chasing after it were the colors of autumn: the mottled brown and faded green of the grass, the blend of reds and oranges of dying leaves, and the latent chill of an encroaching sunset. The room warped and reshaped itself, no longer confined to the gutted-out remains of Kokuyou Land, but to the fresh air of an autumn evening. A small playground was positioned where Mukuro’s nest once presided, an empty walkway laid out where Reborn and Biance once were.

Tsuna could feel the crunch of the leaves underfoot, the chill of the air on his skin. The climbing gym and slide were made from brightly-colored plastic, slightly faded with extensive use from the children that would climb its nooks and crannies. It’s deserted of any of its usual interlopers, even the faint trilling of bugs sparse due to the season.

The park was familiar because it was the one down the street from Tsuna’s house.

It is the one Fuuta was at when he’d been taken by Mukuro. Fuuta was in Tsuna’s sight now, standing beside the empty sandbox and staring at Tsuna with small hands fisted into his scarf like he was seconds away from screaming. Mukuro was in Tsuna’s line of sight as well, an unmoving figure standing in the center of the park as if he were guarding it. The lines of his body were tense, no longer in the languid saunter of before.

For a moment, Tsuna thought they had their eyes trained on him - but then he realized with a shuddering breath that neither was looking directly at him. Instead, their gazes were fastened on something just past his shoulder.

The park was eerily silent, neither the movements of passers-by nor long-dormant bugs audible in the air. The cold prickled along Tsuna’s skin, but quietly surging underneath was a heat full of terrifying familiarity. If he moved, he knew he would hear the sounds of his steps - but everything in him was frozen in place.

Choked, frantic breathing and rustling came from behind him. It tapered into a quiet whimper that was almost familiar, delivered in a voice he knows too well because–

Mukuro had long stopped smiling.

A child’s wail came from behind him, but Tsuna did not turn to look.

Gokudera was no stranger to how unfair the mafia world truly was.

His boss was kind– there was no denying that. Gokudera knew that kindness was considered a weakness by most mafioso, that it was something that many would seek to exploit the more Tsuna gathered his power. There was a reason Reborn, even with his and the Ninth’s own goals in mind, did not fully support Tsuna showing empathy for Rokudou Mukuro’s origins; someone willing to sympathize with those who were active threats to omertà was a dangerous gamble. Worse still was that Mukuro and his ilk seemed aware of Tsuna’s sympathies, though Gokudera had no idea what their end goal was– he just understood they had no problem exploiting it.

That was why Gokudera, unlike his boss, had absolutely no qualms with blowing them into little pieces. “Double bomb!”

Kakimoto, despite his otherwise studious appearance, wasn’t actually that cunning in attack strategy. Much like his more feral counterpart Joushima, he seemed to take a more bludgeoning-like approach: a seemingly endless supply of needles rained out from his multiple yo-yos, and Shamal’s vaccines and antidotes were working overtime to ensure that the poisons steeped on those pinpoints did not take Gokudera out for the count.

In the cluttered, shabby corridors of the entertainment center, however, Gokudera had the upper hand. Every explosion, large or small, rained down not only fiery gusts - but also debris as pieces of walls and ceiling came down on the Kokuyou Beta. Kakimoto’s first defeat back outside had already tipped the scale in the bomber’s favor, but these subsequent attacks left Kakimoto bleeding and singed.

For a moment, Gokudera took in a rattling breath. The poison was being cleared out of his system by Shamal’s hard-working mosquitoes, but the cure hurt just as much - if not more - than the reason it was needed; it felt like his blood was on fire, his bones aching down to the marrow. It was dizzying; he knew that if his adrenaline waned even a little, he’d likely be left toppled over.

It was this momentary pause that left him vulnerable: a clawed hand came from behind him, wrapping around his face and then smashing him back against the wall.

“Ken,” Kakimoto identified, his droll tone underlined with something like relief. “Are you alright?”

Joushima stepped up into the space where Gokudera had been standing, grinning widely with sharp teeth visible between his lips. “Yeah, somehow,” he replied. There was an obvious bruise against the side of his face where Yamamoto had slammed the hilt of his training sword, the edge of his eye swollen with the damage. “Where’s the crazy Alpha with the sword?”

“The crybaby took him out.”

It took a moment, through the sudden disorientation, for Gokudera to realize they were talking about Lancia. Crybaby? Gokudera would have laughed at the immature nickname and at the idea that these two just bullied Northern Italy’s Strongest Fighter in their off time, if it wasn’t for the fact that with Joushima now present - he was outnumbered.

“We can kill them? I wasn’t sure, since Mukuro-sama got all weird about the Vongola Heir’s stuff,” Joushima remarked. “First the little Ranking brat, then the blanket… Can I kill this guy then?”

Gokudera let lit dynamite fall from his hands and at their feet, but before they could explode, Joushima threw him into another wall and jumped out of the way. He laughed wildly as dynamite exploded along the corridor, more excited than wary, and then launched forward again to rip sharp claws through Gokudera’s aching side. The gouges left in his wake bled freely, shirt and skin torn with jagged marks that made Gokudera wonder - briefly and hysterically - if he should have gotten that rabies vaccination after all.

“I’m not sure we can kill him though,” Kakimoto muttered, eyeing Gokudera’s bleeding side wound and half-bent form dispassionately. “And the Alpha boy isn’t dead, I think. They probably wouldn’t have let the crybaby live if he’d actually managed to kill him.”

“Kakipii, couldn’t you have said that sooner? I almost gutted him!”

“f*ck you, this barely hurts,” Gokudera wheezed out.

Joushima threw up his hands with a growl. “So can I or can’t I kill him?! Mukuro-sama said he just wanted the Vongola Heir alive, right? Does he need the Smoking Bomb too, byon?!”

“...Maybe?” Kakimoto pushed up his glasses, but this only got a smudge of ash and blood stained against the corner of his lenses. “Mukuro-sama didn’t really seem to care, but I think he’s treating them like a set…?”

Gokudera felt a little thrilled at being considered a package deal with the Tenth, even though most of him was irate that Rokudou and his gang were treating his boss like an item. This did make him wonder, however, what exactly Mukuro had in plan; if he didn’t want them dead, or at least not Tsuna, then why go after them in the first place?

Edging further down the corridor and using the curtained wall for support, Gokudera found himself leaning against empty air as he fell backward and toppled down a crumbled set of stairs. Air knocked out of his lungs, Gokudera could only stare up at the cracked ceiling as his entire body screamed in protest at the rough landing.

The argument between the Kokuyou boys stopped as they peered down at him. “...Still breathing,” Kakimoto declared, unconcerned.

“Lame,” Joushima added in. “You rolled all the way down there and couldn’t even manage to break your neck?”

If the last thing Gokudera ever had to hear was these two idiots antagonizing him, he was going to die pissed.

“The green trail~ of Namimori~ Neither big nor small~ Nami is great~”

On second thought, there were worse things to hear in his dying moments - and the school song definitely made the Top 3.

A yellow canary sat perched on the tiny glassless windowpane of the wall behind him. It was singing the familiar tune of Namimori Junior High’s school song, something Gokudera had heard ad nauseam ever since he was enrolled - and even moreso after his unwilling participation in a side job that had been foisted upon him once Lambo had made himself a nuisance.

Only the idea of letting down the Tenth had Gokudera pulling out a single stick of dynamite, flinging it over his head and against the wall only a meter behind him. Joushima laughed outright, mistaking it for an attack, and neither Kokuyou boy moved to intercept it. The explosion destroyed the damaged wall and it crumbled away to reveal the once-darkened chamber, illuminating the curled figure waiting inside. Bloodied and battered, he uncurled and stood up at a faltering pace.

The scent of iron and tea flooded the stairwell.

“Namimori Junior High’s Head Prefect, Hibari Kyouya,” Kakimoto muttered.

Gokudera looked up into the face of the one he had sworn no loyalty to but listened to regardless. “You look like sh*t,” he observed. “And that school anthem is still corny as hell.”

“I didn’t need your help getting out,” Hibari said, apropos of nothing. “But nevermind. I’ll take care of these herbivores.”

“This half-dead bastard! I know for a fact that Mukuro-sama doesn’t care if you’re dead! Lion channel!” Joushima cackled, launching forward with teeth bared and claws outstretched.

Even half-dead and beaten to hell, Hibari looked thrilled with the idea of a fight. His tonfas, likely kept at the bottom of the staircase and out of reach while he was locked up, were now easily accessible; Hibari stomped on the ends of both, kicking them up into the air to grab mid-swing.

The first swing cracked against Joushima’s shoulder, sending him to his knees with a muffled howl. Hibari continued his spin undaunted, the second tonfa connecting with Joushima’s face and sending the Beta boy flying - right back up the stairs and out the window.

“Ken!” Kakimoto yelped.

Hibari hardly spared him a glance. “You’re next, herbivore.”

Gokudera knew for a fact that Joushima would not be making a dramatic return any time soon. He’d been on the receiving end of Hibari’s tonfa strikes as well, and only the Tenth had been able to walk away from that sort of attack somewhat intact. If nothing else, Gokudera at least understood Hibari and how he operated better than any of their Kokuyou counterparts did.

Collecting information to incriminate the faculty of Namichuu and the leading community figures biased against Omegas, then passing it to the Disciplinary Committee to let Hibari rampage through them– their’s was an alliance based on simple needs. Hibari needed Gokudera’s intelligence and skillset to clean up his prized territory; Gokudera needed Hibari’s power and authority to create a safe homebase for his boss to build power.

As long as Hibari could be used for the Tenth’s benefit - then Gokudera had no problem using him.

The air should be chilly, the knowledge of the season and time of day sitting at the back of Tsuna’s mind. Maybe not cold enough to puff out clouds of breath, but the chill should seep into his extremities; he could, after all, almost feel the dirt under his fingernails, the cold wrapped around his body. The worst part was not the lingering phantom of pain in his neck, nor the way Mukuro and Fuuta seemed incapable of tearing their eyes away from the sight behind his back - no, the worst part was that Tsuna couldn’t look.

His body was frozen still, eyes locked on Mukuro’s face as if he could see something reflected in that pinched expression. The sounds from behind him were obscene, were agonizing; two patterns of breathing, both fast but for different reasons. The crunch of dead leaves underfoot was particularly loud, the whimpers moreso.

Tsuna can’t look. Tsuna won’t look.

Like a puppet with invisible strings, Tsuna felt his body heave. There was a chill that licked across his skin, a horror set deep in his bones; the fire in his chest swirled harder and faster as the sounds seemingly echoed in his ears. Unbidden, unwanted, Tsuna began to turn– his eyes caught the way Fuuta's hands fisted into his scarf, how the illusion of the memory shifted from where he once was to where he is now, and how Mukuro lurched a step forward as if to physically stop him.

Mukuro’s eyes were on Tsuna properly now, expression too blank to be anything but real.

The illusion stilled, refracted in on itself like a mirror turned inwards - then dissipated, a whirlwind of autumn-colored leaves spiraling into nothingness. The park disintegrated under his feet, replaced one step at a time by the empty theater room; granules of sand from the false sandbox seeped back into the dark, every last fallen leaf absorbed into cracked flooring and long-gone memories.

Reborn and Bianchi were once more visible, the former with lines of tension taut in his shoulders. He was looking at Tsuna– no, not at Tsuna, but behind him. The sight from before was no longer there, faded just like the rest of the illusion back into nothingness in the face of reality, but the impression of it lingered still in Reborn’s flat stare.

“The first state, the State of Hell.”

Tsuna flinched at Mukuro’s voice, unprepared for him to start speaking. Tsuna didn’t know why, but his attention had been so focused on Reborn rather than on the one overtly attacking him.

“It’s a skill to break one’s mind through an endless nightmare based on the target’s own memories and ideas,” Mukuro continued softly. “...Hell looks different for everyone. Interesting, the shape yours took.”

Then why did you get rid of it? Tsuna could not muster up the courage to ask.

Mukuro’s eyes slid from Tsuna to Reborn. “I expected no less from the mafia, but it’s pitiful that you’d use him like this.”

“...Tsuna is my student, and he will become the Vongola Tenth,” Reborn replied.

The smile that rose on Mukuro’s lips was fractured and sick. “A hell of his own creation - is that how you’ll rationalize this? Spoken just like a true mafioso, Arcobaleno.”

Mukuro did not wait for a reply, didn’t seem to think he needed one. The character in his eye reshaped itself into the kanji for ‘three’, and with a wave of his hand, snakes fell from the air with low hisses of discontent. Tsuna shrieked, abruptly brought out of his ruminations by the sight, taking a step back and narrowly avoiding stepping on even more snakes.

“This is my skill from the third state, the State of Animals,” Mukuro introduced.

If Tsuna wasn’t freaking out about the sheer number of snakes, he might have even been grateful for Mukuro kindly explaining every skill he employed.

“They’re real poisonous snakes, Tsunayoshi, watch where you step,” Mukuro added.

Tsuna wished Mukuro would stop explaining.

“S-Stop bullying Tsuna-nii!”

Mukuro’s eyebrows rose slightly as Fuuta’s small form collided with his midsection. Given the child’s petite frame, Mukuro was hardly moved; instead, Fuuta’s failed tackle ended with the young Omega pushing futilely at the taller male, wide brown eyes wet with unshed tears and his whole body trembling.

“Oya oya,” Mukuro chided, grabbing the boy by the back of his shirt and lifting him away like a badly behaved puppy. “Aren’t I the one helping him?’

Tsuna, surrounded by venomous snakes, begged to differ.

“You’re hurting him!” Fuuta cried.

Mukuro’s reply was nonplussed. “Just a little. I’d prefer to leave him unharmed, but he can get knocked around a bit. Once I have the young mafia boss in my hands, my vengeance can begin.”

The answer itself was very unsettling, but Tsuna couldn’t even hope to argue his defense since the snakes were now lunging for him. Blessed be his intuition that he could even dodge, hopping from spot to spot in an attempt to escape the small horde.

“So that’s your plan,” Reborn observed.

“Kufufufu… I’m sure Sawada Tsunayoshi would agree with me, once he sees what the mafia are capable of,” Mukuro pointed out. “The Ferro were only a small fraction of a greater disease.”

The implications were heavy in his words. Tsuna could only imagine what Mukuro himself had seen, especially after Lancia’s story: the crimes committed by organized crime syndicates were dark tales for civilians like Tsuna, but to people like Mukuro and Gokudera, they were lived experiences. Even then, their reactions to their ties to these criminal families seemed vastly different: Gokudera took the tenets of the life and ran with them, Mukuro abhorred it to the point of vengeance.

The Ninth said to capture Mukuro; strange how the order wasn’t to kill him instead.

To the Ninth, and possibly to all other mafia families if Lancia was to be believed, Mukuro was thought to be an Alpha. A strong weapon for any power-hungry family to add to their side; after all, if this was a simple matter of returning a convict to their prison cell, then it would be the responsibility of his jailors. If the mafia world had its own prison system, then they had to have somebody to enforce it - so it made no sense to leave that up to outside authorities like the Vongola.

Unless, of course, the Vongola themselves wanted to add Mukuro to their ranks. They had powerhouses like Reborn and Bianchi, after all, and when had the mafia ever thought there should be limits to power?

Tsuna could only imagine how much worse it would be if they ever discovered Mukuro was an Omega. Maybe they would treat him as they treat Tsuna - the first of his kind, made to start the pathway for more like them to follow; or maybe it would be along the lines of how others had treated Fuuta, a tool to be used and exploited for their own greedy ends; or perhaps, worst of all, treat him as all other Omegas are treated, such as the redhead that smelled of strawberries and cream: forcibly mated and made to follow at their beck and call.

There was no mate for Tsuna because he was meant to lead the Vongola, according to Reborn. There would be no mate for Fuuta, so long as he was under Tsuna’s protection.

If Tsuna took in Mukuro himself… Could he do the same for him?

Not that Mukuro seemed like someone who could be reasoned with. In fact, in some ways, he reminded Tsuna of Hibari: a force of nature outside of actual control. Tsuna just couldn’t help but empathize with him, because at his core, he understood to some degree why Mukuro had done what he’d done to the Ferro. He knew Reborn disliked that Tsuna seemed to side more with Mukuro in this case, seeing as it directly contradicted the orders of the Ninth, but Tsuna couldn’t really help it.

Tsuna just wished this altercation involved less snakes.

Seemingly in answer to his silent prayers, a chunk of wall exploded into the interior of the room, plumes of smoke and dust framing the arrival of two haggard-looking bodies. Tsuna knew who it was before the smoke even cleared: Gokudera and - inexplicably - Hibari Kyouya, though he supposed the appearance of the latter shouldn’t be surprising since he’d gone missing in Kokuyou before they’d arrived.

“Tenth! Please watch out - I’ll get rid of these snake bastards for you!”

Miniature sticks of dynamite were flung from Gokudera’s outstretched hand, each meeting the head of a snake and exploding it with a small boom. It was a testament to Gokudera’s accuracy with his chosen weapon that each stick of dynamite met its target, and soon enough, Tsuna was surrounded by charred pieces of snake courtesy of his friend.

Hibari had hardly looked in his direction, vaulting forward to meet Mukuro head-on. Dual tonfas met trident in loud clanging hits, the two males’ movements almost too fast to catch. What was easily visible was the trail of blood Hibari left in his wake from free-flowing wounds, his Namimori uniform stained with both grit and blood. Despite the state of him, his every hit thundered with an echoing strength, the smell of blood and tea meeting Mukuro’s lotus scent in a nauseating combination.

“How frightening,” Mukuro observed, smiling in spite of his words. “You shouldn’t even be standing, Hibari Kyouya - didn’t I break most of the bones in your body? Or is this Alpha territorialism at play?”

“Are those your last words?” Hibari returned with a snarl.

Sakura trees materialized along the perimeter, a rush of fragrance as flower petals scattered about the room in an invisible breeze. Tsuna didn’t understand the point unless Mukuro was trying to distract Hibari from his onslaught; he could have told the other Omega that it was a futile tactic, because Hibari latched onto his targets with the tenacity of a persistence predator.

Nevertheless, Hibari hurled himself forward - completely disregarding the torrents of pink petals in favor of slamming a tonfa against Mukuro’s arm. It dislodged the Omega’s hold on his trident, sending the weapon spinning away across the room and frightening Fuuta back to an uninhabited corner.

“He had Sakura-kura disease,” Gokudera rushed to inform Tsuna, reading his confused expression correctly. “I got the prescription for it from Shamal before we came here though.”

Tsuna smiled, “Gokudera-kun, you’re so reliable.”

Gokudera beamed.

Their attention was drawn back to the fight as Mukuro laughed outright, the sound colored with the insanity that lurked just under the surface. Abruptly, the scents in the room changed: gone was the overwhelming smell of cherry blossoms, Tsuna’s sweetness, Hibari’s understated iron and earth - but Mukuro’s lotus flower scent remained yet lost their sweet edge, shifted more into the mild, subtly bitter taste of lotus seeds and murky waters of a dark lake. Similar to Mukuro’s Omega scent, this was caught somewhere between pre- and post-Presentation.

However, Mukuro’s scent was that of an Alpha.

“Is this better?” Mukuro asked in curiosity. He wobbled lightly in place, arm fractured and hanging loosely at his side in a nauseating sight. Creepier still was that he seemed unbothered by it, lips still pulled into a wide smile. “Alpha or Omega, which do you prefer?”

“You’ll be bitten to death either way.”

The next strike of Hibari’s tonfa was right into Mukuro’s midsection, sending the taller male flying back with a mouthful of blood. He hit the ground laid out on his back, eyes closed and body still; the sakura trees around the room disappeared abruptly, nothing but the lingering scent of Hibari intermingled with the oddly lacking scent of Mukuro. It was still Alpha, not disappearing with the other illusions - but it was layered on top of the sweeter version of the scent, much lighter in comparison to the Alpha version.

“It’s over,” Reborn called out. “He really was a strong illusionist, that Rokudou Mukuro. He must have kept up the pretense of being an Omega, seeing as how you like them better; it’d be easier to manipulate you to his side in that case.”

Tsuna swiveled a dark look at his tutor. “Just because he’s an Alpha doesn’t mean that what he did to the Ferro family was necessarily wrong.”

“Just because he may be an Omega doesn’t mean that everything else he did was right either,” Reborn returned coolly.

Which was…fair. Tsuna didn’t have a retort to that, because he didn’t have the story - and even if he did, he didn’t have the authority to make a judgment on it. But just because he didn’t have the authority didn’t mean that the Ninth and everyone else who had locked Mukuro away did; if anything, Tsuna doubted Mukuro had even had a fair trial.

Hibari tottered in place for a moment, gaze unseeing, before finally collapsing to the ground. Tsuna winced but didn’t move; Gokudera stumbled over to check the prefect instead, announcing that he was still alive but seriously injured - as expected. He then headed over to where his sister was lying, checking her vitals as well.

“We need to get everyone to the hospital,” Tsuna said, looking over the room: Bianchi had passed out by this point, Fuuta was still trembling in the corner looking worse for wear, and Yamamoto was passed out somewhere outside - presumably alongside Kakimoto, if Gokudera was here.

“The Vongola medical team is already on the way,” Reborn dismissed.

Tsuna frowned, eyes flicking to Mukuro. “What happens to him? And the others?”

The medical team could help Bianchi, Hibari, and Yamamoto without issue - but there’s no telling what they’d do with Mukuro. Even if they did help him and his men, it could come with strings attached; either they’d be thrown back into prison or pulled along by the Ninth’s whims.

“Too much kindness can be a weakness, Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn stated reprovingly.

Gokudera looked uncertainly between them, his obvious respect for Reborn warring with his intense devotion to Tsuna. With another quick glance at Reborn, the bomber turned to Tsuna. “It’s likely they’ll be returned to prison, Tenth,” he replied. “With additional punishments, given their jailbreak and attacks on both the prison guards and civilians.”

Tsuna was sure he didn't like that answer. “Do they even get a fair trial? How did Mukuro get arrested in the first place, if they thought it was Lancia the whole time?”

In the folder given to Tsuna alongside the Ninth’s orders, there had only been a picture of Lancia; the other escaped convicts had been listed in name, but the focus was clearly on the supposed ‘Rokudou Mukuro’ rather than any of them. Tsuna couldn’t even remember what fake name the real Mukuro had been masquerading under, nor what crimes he was supposedly guilty of committing on paper aside from supporting the fake Mukuro.

If the investigation had done its job, if a trial had really been commenced - then wouldn’t someone have caught on that things weren’t right with Mukuro’s group? Nevermind temporary accomplices like Birds and the Twins– wouldn’t Lancia have finally said something? Even if he had been the one to do the actual crimes once possessed by Mukuro, there were obviously times when he was lucid enough to be himself. Mukuro himself could have easily escaped notice even if he was present when the crimes were committed, simply through illusions or by donning his Omega persona.

If anything, this was more proof that whatever internal enforcement the mafia had - it was substandard at best.

“The Vindice - they’re the wardens of Vendicare - act as both judge and jury in cases involving the mafia,” Gokudera explained. He was dutifully ignoring the exasperated look Reborn was giving him; if Tsuna asked a question, then Gokudera was going to answer it. “I don’t know how Mukuro was caught, or even if the case was investigated; simply being even tangentially involved in the Ferro massacre would have been grounds for the Vindice to incarcerate him.”

Tsuna’s frown deepened. “And the Vindice was fine with the Ferro being involved in human trafficking?”

“The Vindice are more concerned with keeping the mafia world hidden from the civilian one. As long as the Ferro didn’t violate omertà, they would have left them alone.”

You know what, maybe Mukuro had a point, Tsuna thought bleakly.

“The Ninth will see to it that the matter is investigated,” Reborn interrupted with a sigh. “Don’t try to hide them– I can see you already thinking it, Tsuna. Let the Vongola medical team do their job.”

Tsuna was going to rebuff that - there wasn’t enough room in the house to hide Mukuro, Joushima, Kakimoto, and that MM girl - but halted, head swiveling to stare at Mukuro’s unconscious form. A breath later, Mukuro’s eyes fluttered open, the right once more a dull red; he sat up slowly, blood trickling from the corner of his smiling mouth.

“I won’t need a medical team,” Mukuro said - and just like with his trident, another weapon seemingly materialized into his hand.

This time, however, Tsuna was staring down the barrel of a gun.

Maybe because Tsuna had become so desensitized to such weaponry courtesy of Rebron’s tutoring, he didn’t feel anything like worry or adrenaline well up. Looking back, this lack of alarm should have been warning enough - because then Mukuro turned the point of the gun against his own right temple.

“Arrivedérci.”

Tsuna couldn’t recall if he’d ever seen anyone get shot before. Reborn shot at people all the time, but he was skilled enough to purposely miss and the Dying Will Bullet had only ever really been used on Tsuna himself - so he’d never seen the way blood matter splattered out the other side from the bullet’s trajectory. The heavy sound that Mukuro’s body made as it hit the floor, still and pouring red, echoed in his ears.

Reborn’s expression was shuttered. “...It seems he’d rather be dead than be caught.”

Mukuro’s scent was fading, an off-putting combination of Alpha-sour and Omega-sweet, layers upon layers of it, as indiscernible as the boy himself. Tsuna’s eyes drifted up from Mukuro’s stiff form laid upon the ground to the pitiful nest he’d made himself in this hollowed-out shell of Tsuna’s childhood memory. Drops of Mukuro’s blood had managed to reach even Tsuna’s old checkered blanket from where it was tucked in among the scraps, crimson soaked into the very fibers.

At the edge of his awareness, against the quietest corner of his mind where his worst memories sat out of reach - a mist began to build.

A/N: Is everyone ready for HDW-mode Tsuna?! Because Mukuro AND Reborn sure as hell won't be.😏

Please be kind and drop a comment~!

Chapter 19: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 5

Summary:

Tsuna plays favorites; results in seven injured, three dead.

Reborn's decisions or lack thereof come back to burn him.

Chapter Text

A/N: Thanks for your comments, everyone!

Chapter 19

This end, this result– Mukuro’s death–

Is this my fault?

Tsuna’s heart was beating hard and loud in his chest. If he’d been more aware of Fuuta, if he’d just been faster at catching him, could he have avoided getting tangled up with Mukuro at all? But Mukuro had been targeting him from the very beginning, so was this inevitable?

Tsuna didn’t know. He felt unsteady, his heart in his throat and the fire in his chest coiling like it didn’t know what to do with itself. Some part of him, buried under that unrelenting heat, wanted to reach out to Mukuro’s fallen form and gather him up. The rational part of him knew that doing so was pointless, because there was nothing Tsuna could do to help Mukuro now, but the emotional part of him was absolutely terrified of touching Mukuro’s pale skin and confirming that he was beyond help now.

“Is he…finally defeated?”

Bianchi’s wavering voice tore Tsuna out of his spiral, but inexplicably, it also caused a chill to run down his spine. Gokudera was standing beside his sister, a flicker of relief passing over his face; Bianchi was still littered with the sluggishly bleeding cuts Mukuro had dealt her, but she was able to sit up by herself with a wince.

“Take it easy, Bianchi,” Reborn said, almost gentle.

Tsuna had never gotten the impression that his tutor returned the Beta girl’s ardent devotion, but he was kinder to her - in comparison to how he treated Tsuna, Lambo, and even Gokudera. Sometimes Tsuna was reminded of Hana and Kyoko, the Alpha girl treating her Beta counterpart gently but with a degree of respect; Reborn may not care for Bianchi in the same way Bianchi clearly cared for him, but there was something almost familial in how he treated her.

“Hayato, lend me your shoulder,” Bianchi muttered. “I can’t get up on my own.”

Gokudera acquiesced with only a minimal complaint, reaching out one hand to his sister to help her up. It was at this moment that Tsuna felt the heat inside him rear up, alert and nearly choking– Bianchi lashed out, the head of the trident flashing into existence in her previously-empty hands. The pointed tip sliced into Gokudera’s cheek before the bomber could leap back to avoid further injury, though Bianchi did not lunge again.

“What are you doing?!” Gokudera shrieked; the cut on his face wasn’t deep, only a few drops leaking from the injury.

Tsuna wasn’t going to wait for an answer. He dashed forward, latching one hand onto the back of Gokudera’s shirt and physically jerking the Beta boy back and further away from his sister. For her part, Bianchi was staring at them with wide eyes and a familiar smile - and then the pieces fell into place.

The words came from Tsuna’s mouth, an uncertain truth: “Mukuro…?”

The smile on Bianchi’s face curled further upwards, her right eye bleeding into red as the kanji character for ‘six’ formed inside it. “Kufufufu,” emerged from Bianchi’s mouth; Mukuro’s words in Bianchi’s voice. “You realized it so quickly, Vongola Tenth. Are your reflexes just as quick though?”

Mukuro-as-Bianchi hadn’t even finished speaking before Tsuna was forced to lurch backward, narrowly dodging the trident’s blade now at home in Gokudera’s hand. The bomber had turned and attempted to slash downwards, but Tsuna backed up and put another couple of meters of distance between them. At the sight of Gokudera’s glowing red right eye, Tsuna couldn’t help but snarl.

Mukuro-as-Gokudera smiled in amusem*nt. “Oh, that’s right - this one is your favorite, isn’t he?”

“How are you doing this?” Tsuna demanded. The heat in him was raging at the sight of Gokudera’s body being forced to fight against him; it went against everything that Tsuna knew Gokudera cared about to even attempt harm on Tsuna himself. His self-proclaimed right hand was going to be inconsolable once he regained control over his own body, and Tsuna detested that Mukuro would use Gokudera like this.

It shouldn’t have been as surprising as Tsuna felt it was. Mukuro had been using Lancia the same way, after all, and in the end - Gokudera was still mafia. Of course, Gokudera was in no way guilty of the same crimes and moral turpitude as Lancia, but it wasn’t as if Mukuro was in any way rational in his hatred against the mafia– he’d made that abundantly clear as well.

“He pretended to commit suicide by shooting himself with the Possession Bullet,” Reborn observed, perched out of the way of Tsuna and the Mukuro-possessed siblings. “...The use of the Possession Bullet was considered so inhumane that it was declared forbidden, its manufacturing instructions destroyed and the Estraneo family outcasted by the mafia for even developing it. How did you get your hands on it, Rokudou Mukuro?”

Mukuro hummed noncommittally in both Bianchi’s and Gokudera’s voices, an off-putting sound similar to a false echo. “Of course you recognize it,” he said through Gokudera, throwing the trident head back to Bianchi. He puppeted her body to amble over to Hibari’s unconscious form, drawing the pointed tip across the prefect’s cheek with a deeply satisfied look. “Should I answer that question like your devoted little underling, Vongola Tenth?”

Mockingly, he widened Gokudera’s eyes in the same adoring way Gokudera often looked at him. “The possession bullet allows me to possess another’s body and control it like my own, Tenth!” he said, mocking lilt coloring Gokudera’s usual enthusiasm. “I just need to draw a little blood with my trident to connect us, and shoot myself with the possession bullet. It doesn’t matter if they’re strong or weak - in the end, they’re mine.”

As if to prove this point, Hibari’s body began to lurch up. Tsuna was forced back by a tonfa swing that cracked against his arm, but then Hibari’s body tumbled down to the floor with only a light chuckle.

“He was able to fight in this body? It can’t even move anymore,” Mukuro mused through Hibari’s mouth. “How frightening… And this…”

Mukuro’s one-sided thought process trailed off, eyes flicking between Hibari’s broken body and Tsuna. Finally, Hibari’s body collapsed back into stillness, eyes slipping closed.

“Well, this will do just fine,” Mukuro-as-Gokudera said, tucking silver strands of hair behind his ear.

Bianchi’s body was also able and moving, her cuts bleeding freely once again but Mukuro’s smile still on her lips. They were not alone either; the door to the theater slammed open, two more figures shambling in despite the grievous wounds so obviously littering their bodies: Kakimoto and Joushima, both with right eyes blazing red.

Mukuro’s simultaneous possession of all four had him dodging attacks he couldn’t even fully see, but he was able to dart away in the last second and narrowly miss getting cut with the trident head they were passing between them.

“The second state, the State of Hungry Ghosts.”

Dynamite exploded at Tsuna’s feet, knocking him to the ground. He rolled out of the way milliseconds before poison-dipped needles embedded where he’d landed, Kakimoto’s yo-yo spiraling out of his hand with another wave.

“It allows me to steal the abilities of others,” Mukuro-as-Bianchi explained.

The four-way assault was seemingly endless: Tsuna would barely dodge an attack from one before another came at him from a different direction. Given that all four were possessed by Mukuro, an essential hivemind, their teamwork was excellent; they never got in each other’s way, maneuvering around one another in an attempt to slice Tsuna’s skin with the trident head. They had yet to knick him given what he attributed to astounding luck on his side and the innate fizzle of heat whenever one got too close, but Gokudera’s dynamite and Joushima’s clawed hands had been able to clock him a few times.

The relentless attacks, however, were having a detrimental effect on the bodies Mukuro was puppeting. Both Kakimoto and Joushima looked battered and bleeding, their Kokuyou uniforms stained and burned; Tsuna could only imagine what hell they had gone through while facing Hibari’s unrelenting assault and Gokudera’s explosive aggression. It was unsurprising; Hibari and Gokudera were hardly known for holding back on people they deemed as their enemies. As someone who had been on the receiving end of attacks from both, Tsuna knew it was painful.

Despite this, Tsuna was forced into moving against them - not just Kakimoto and Joushima, but also Gokudera and Bianchi. Gokudera faltered every now and then, injuries from his previous fights and Shamal’s handiwork doing a number on his body, whereas Bianchi was freely spilling blood just about everywhere from Mukuro’s first assault.

Tsuna didn’t know what to do. He had to somehow stop this, but he didn’t want to hurt Gokudera and the others any more than he had to. Hibari’s body was only spared because he was too injured for Mukuro to control, but Tsuna had no intention of breaking every bone in his friend’s body to do the same.

Just like before, he looked to Reborn - and just the same, Reborn looked back without moving to help. Tsuna gritted his teeth, turning away and narrowly missing Joushima’s jab at his ribs. It’s only me, I have to do something, Tsuna knew. I’m supposed to be the boss, so I can’t expect any help– but how does that make any sense?!

Surely even bosses, mafia or otherwise, had teams they could rely on to help in times of crisis. Tsuna would go to bat for his friends, for the kids under his care– so why couldn’t Reborn do the same? It made no sense to him that orders from the Ninth would include a clause for Reborn only to observe and not help.

“So the baby won’t help you?” Mukuro observed through Bianchi. “You’re here on the Vongola Ninth’s orders, but you’re left with nothing but a few weak subordinates and a dream? Truly an interesting tactic.”

Tsuna couldn’t help but agree. “Must be the dementia,” he muttered mutinously, derisive thoughts directed solely at the Ninth.

Mukuro hummed in agreement; it was a jarring thing to hear from Gokudera’s mouth. It drew Tsuna’s attention to the bleeding wound in his friend’s side; the entire side of his body seemed drenched in red, and it trailed in his steps.

“Come, let’s end this,” he said through Chikusa, trident head in hand. “Your friends are going to bleed to death the longer you draw this out. I don’t mind you, Vongola Tenth, strange as you are– so give yourself up and I’ll let them go.”

Tsuna’s eyes never left Gokudera’s blood. “...Why go this far? I don’t have anything worth taking my body over for,” he pointed out. While it was true he had the Vongola inheritance now, if it couldn’t even extend to protect his friends - then it was worth nothing.

“You have more than you think, yet less than I need,” Mukuro-as-Gokudera disagreed amiably. “I’ll start with the Vongola first, you see, and then the rest of the mafia world - sowing discord to ensure their mutual destruction. Then I’ll possess leaders from all over the world, everyone with enough power to say the wrong thing, to press the wrong button– and change this world into a delightful and lovely sea of blood!”

Mukuro’s laughter in Gokudera’s voice was bloodcurdling. “Does it sound too unrealistic? A world war? No matter!” he shook his head with a grin. “I’ll start with the mafia - the full annihilation of the mafia.”

That just cemented the fact that Tsuna could not give up his body for this; Mukuro was truly too unstable if he could admit to that so forwardly. But what could he do then? Gokudera would either bleed to death because Mukuro was jerking his injured body around, or he’d end up slaughtered once Mukuro got control of Tsuna’s.

“Tsuna, you have to stop him,” Reborn stated from the side. “You, and nobody else, are the Vongola Tenth Boss.”

Tsuna snapped back heatedly, “I’m trying, unlike you!”

This was met with a strong slap to the face. Jerking Tsuna forward by the lapels of his shirt in his tiny hands, Reborn stared him down. “Enough pettiness, enough whining,” the hitman said. “Say what you want– what you really want, your true feelings. What do you want to do, Vongola Tenth?”

Tsuna wanted a lot of things.

Tsuna wanted to make sure Yamamoto got to play at his baseball game next week. He wanted Gokudera to still eat breakfast with him tomorrow. He wanted his mother to smile brightly again, wanted Fuuta to be safe at home in the nest he’d made of Tsuna’s things. He wanted to reject Bianchi’s nightly offer of poison cooking training, wanted to make sure Lambo wasn’t destroying more parts of the house and that I-Pin was enjoying being a child and not a weapon.

Tsuna wanted Sasagawa Ryouhei to leave the hospital and continue terrorizing others to join the Boxing Club. He wanted Hibari to wake up and bite to death every innocent bystander crowding his space. He wanted to hear Kurokawa vent her frustrations about the monkeys in class, wanted Kyoko to admire his failures in Home Ec, wanted Haru to show off another eye-bleeding costume.

Tsuna wanted all of these precious people safe.

“I want to stop Mukuro,” he started softly, voice growing louder as certainty lined his bones. “I want… I want to help my friends!”

Light burst, bright and blinding, from above; Leon’s eyes glowed and popped out, his amorphous body stretched over the ceiling beams and vibrating discordantly. They all looked up, drawn by that blinding light, Leon’s forms bubbling from inside.

Reborn smiled. “Finally. Leon has emerged with his wings,” he said. “He’s about to disgorge a new item.”

All four Mukuro-possessed bodies stared up at the odd Leon-cocoon, unimpressed. “I see. So this is how you’re able to help your precious Omega heir? Through the regurgitation of a lizard?”

Tsuna winced. Phrased like that, he mused. It does sound pretty gross.

Reborn fully ignored that. Rather than speak, he watched as Leon’s cocoon essentially burst; the shreds of matter cascaded down around them, light extinguishing, the small form of Leon leaping downwards and landing perfectly on the rim of Reborn’s hat.

Even so, it was not Leon that Reborn was looking at - but rather, the two items falling in Tsuna’s direction. Tsuna was quick to grab them before they could hit his face, fingers digging into the soft, plush material.

“...Woolen gloves?” All that for mittens?!

All four pseudo-Mukuros burst into laughter.

“Well, put them on,” Reborn urged.

Tsuna tugged them on. Just in time as well, Joushima having stabbed forward with the trident head; Tsuna raised his arm, the point of the trident meeting the back of his woolen mitt– bouncing back with a resounding clang, unable to penetrate it. The force pushed Tsuna back, bruised but uncut.

Fingers tingling, Tsuna glanced down at his mittened hands. There’s… “Something in here,” he muttered, pulling off his left mitt and grabbing the strange piece inside: in the palm of his hand laid a single bullet.

He’d barely gotten a good look at it before Reborn swiped it from his hand. “This is new,” Reborn said. “Dino got his whip and Enzio, but this is a bullet I’ve never seen before… Should we see what it does?”

Any reasonable person would have shot a bullet at the person trying to commit genocide, but there was simply no reasonable person present in Tsuna’s life anymore - so he didn’t even flinch when Reborn pointed the gun at him.

“I won’t let you!” Mukuro crowed through Gokudera, throwing dynamite in Tsuna’s direction.

Pain exploded between Tsuna’s eyes, and then the world erupted at his feet.

The dust clouds swallowed everything in his sight, not even his own body discernible through the fog. It was painful, but at the same time, distant; in a way, his body didn't even feel real for a moment. His mind twisted in on itself, faltering, falling–

Dusty gray swirled into something lighter, brighter to the point of pain. Suddenly, it was no longer dust and debris, no longer the moldy air of a ruined structure– instead, it was fiery heat, an unrelenting fury of orange and violet. Pain, dulled with the fog of a memory passed, lanced across his skin, the ghostly feeling of a hand wrapped around his throat too vague to be real.

Tsuna stared into dark eyes, framed by a familiar face that he couldn’t truly place in memory but knew in passing. Sharp, handsome features with dark brows, heavy lashes, and a mouth set in a grim line that had likely never known how to truly smile. Her face was an ivory pale, skin smooth despite her age and the blood she’d seen.

“Little animal,” Hibari Sasako murmured, hand tight around Tsuna’s frail throat. “You must do better than this.”

There is something, small and bulbous, held in the Alpha woman’s other hand; however, she was barely discernible through the torrent of orange-and-violet fire. The heat was in Tsuna’s throat, burning its way through his chest, across his skin– he felt like he was dying. His hands - tiny, child-soft and scrabbling against the pulsing tendons of her arm - were alight with orange flame, a strange stutter of it fluttering against his forehead like a candle in turbulent wind.

Just when it felt like that flame would go out, a translucent hand reached out from behind Tsuna to clasp onto the one holding his throat, donned in a black glove with a metallic backing molded into an intricate design, a large ‘I’ embedded over the top.

“I’m sorry,” was said beside Tsuna’s ear from an unseen source, a masculine voice that quelled the firestorm raging inside of him. “But this one is mine.”

The heat surged - then sunk back in, lining his bones and marrow. With it came strength undefined, the brief vision of both Hibari Sasako and the ghostly figure from behind his back disappearing into the maelstrom. Orange fire glowed so bright it turned amber, swirling back into Tsuna until he was left back where he’d started: the ruins of Kokuyou Land, both Mukuro and Reborn eyeing him with vastly different expectations.

There was a flame on his head, a fire in his heart, and a thousand different instances in his eyes. His hands were no longer encased in warm woolen mitts, but rather black leather gloves emblazoned with silver ‘X’s across the back, as impenetrable and invulnerable as before. Tsuna felt the adrenaline from before fade away into the unrelenting heat surging up within, concentrated at the top of his head in an orange-colored flame.

“The Rebuke Bullet,” Reborn spoke up, beady eyes on Tsuna in interest. “It differs from the Dying Will bullet, in that it brings out the calm fighting will in Tsuna and removes his body’s limiters from within.”

If Dying Will had the effect of limitless energy centered around one all-encompassing regret, if the heat kept smothered and ever-lit in his chest raged against everything the world put him under - then the flame now was a combination of both, swelling even further into a torrent so controlled that he could practically feel the fire in his fingertips.

The panic from before was gone. The uncertainty, the fear, the pain - all of it was washed away in the fire. There’s something familiar about that, a sense of deja vu so heavy that he hears the leaves crunch underfoot and the chill of autumn air against his skin, but soon even that is gone. Instead, Tsuna stopped Joushima’s attack with one hand, not even bothering to turn and look before jamming an elbow into the blonde Beta’s gut and knocking him out cold.

Kakimoto, in worse condition than his friend, was only slightly more difficult to incapacitate - not because he was stronger, but rather because Tsuna was clinically assessing how to knock him out with the least amount of damage. A single strike to the back of his neck was all it took, in the end, and Kakimoto’s body fell to the ground unmoving. Tsuna didn’t even wait for Mukuro to attack again using Gokudera and Bianchi, dashing over to them and ignoring their myriad of hits. The pain was nothing compared to the heat within his chest, and he knocked them both out with the same neck strikes he’d done on Kakimoto.

Tsuna spent a moment setting the bodies aside. He pulled Kakimoto and Joushima closer to where Mukuro’s nest stood, then pulled Gokudera and Bianchi closer to Reborn. Hibari’s unconscious form was still off to the side, but Tsuna wasn’t going to risk moving him and causing more damage. He waved Fuuta over to the corner closer to Reborn, though the Omega child did not draw any closer; he was silent and trembling, seemingly torn from wanting to throw himself into Tsuna’s arms and keep out of the way of the fight.

And there would be more of a fight.

Tsuna looked up from Gokudera’s slack face, amber eyes so light they glowed orange. His gaze focused on the still body in the middle of the room, blood pooled around the head of dark hair. “Mukuro,” he called out softly. “Enough games. You’re still alive, aren’t you?”

Tsuna can see the satisfaction in Reborn’s eyes. There was some expectation there that Tsuna had lived up to, but something inside Tsuna was holding him back from feeling gratified that he’d met that unknown standard for his tutor. A part of him was happy to have taken that step towards being the kind of leader Reborn was so clearly intent on wanting him to be, but another part was wary of that same idea.

There was no one dominating thought in his mind, but rather several ones– dozens– even hundreds, fed from the minutia of finer details, of the expressions and body language of those in the room, of the greater context, of something so innate that not even Tsuna could accurately describe it.

Intuition, if he had to put a word to it.

“In Tsuna’s case, it also awakens the Vongola bloodline’s Hyper Intuition,” Reborn further explained.

A light laugh comes from the corner of the stage, where a moth-eaten curtain casted a deep shadow from which Mukuro’s figure bled into existence. The prone form at the center of the room dissolved into twisting lotus vines, flowers blooming and dying within seconds, wilting away into the floorboards. The blood from before still stained the ground, but Tsuna recognized it for the illusion it was, and Mukuro only seemed more delighted by the fact that Tsuna could tell. The thick, sweet scent of Omega pheromones filled the air, diminishing the Alpha scent of before - but not completely erasing it.

This was no illusion.

“Even though your battle prowess has increased with the bullet, it seems you’re still you, Sawada Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro said with a wide smile. “You don’t want to hurt another Omega, do you?”

“Another illusion,” Reborn scoffed.

Mukuro’s smile was wide and unforgiving. He was right, in many respects - Tsuna did not want to hurt another Omega. Tsuna didn’t really want to hurt anyone at all, Omega or otherwise; he had never enjoyed pain. He sympathized with Mukuro, with what he’d gone through and what he’d done in response to it, but that did not mean Tsuna got enjoyment from all of the pain and suffering Mukuro had inflicted.

“Not an illusion,” Tsuna said, a quiet counter to Reborn. “But neither is his Alpha scent.”

Hidden under the false distress of their encounter, smothered by illusionary cherry trees, running under the tumultuous currents of the fight - the scent had always been there, right under the surface. Mukuro’s scent was possibly the only thing that was truly real; the sweet syrup of the lotus flower, the cool tang of the water it grew from - both of these scents were real.

Omega and Alpha - that was Rokudou Mukuro.

“So you realized that too? How fascinating,” Mukuro crooned. “You’re right, though - I suppose you could say I’m both. Or neither. I don’t think it really matters either way.”

That was a point Tsuna could agree on.

“If anything, I think this just makes me want you even more,” Mukuro continued, right eye glowing red, fascination and madness coloring his face. “I still have one more state left to show you– though honestly, I’d prefer not to use it. It’s the ugliest one, you see.”

Mukuro walked past his fallen subordinates and toward the center of the room. Reaching one hand up, Tsuna could only watch as he dug his nails into the socket of his right eye; blood gushed heavily down his face, dripping off his chin in thick rivulets onto the floor where his illusionary blood had once pooled. It was very real now, and though he did not gouge his eye out, once he lowered his hand, the kanji character for ‘five’ glowed from within the blood smeared over half his face.

“This is the fifth state, the State of Humans,” Mukuro said. Black smoke, similar to the smoke used in the formation of numbers in his right eye, alighted upon Mukuro’s body; the aura itself was sinister, black veins worming across Mukuro’s exposed skin, a netting of darkness that became a physical manifestation of the rot within. “I hate this one the most. Just like humanity itself, it is the ugliest and the most dangerous.”

When Mukuro next attacked, Tsuna could feel the difference: his strength had increased, possibly tenfold. The speed and strength of the blows he’d traded in his previous fight with Hibari paled in comparison to now, and Tsuna felt every hit like a sledgehammer directly to the bone. Even worse than the hits was the spillover from the skill itself; the black aura had no physical effect, but Tsuna felt it tingle across his skin with every glancing contact. It wasn’t directly attacking him, but rather - it was eating away at Mukuro himself.

The power itself was sizeable, but it was nowhere near as frightening as the realization that Mukuro was destroying himself.

“Stop this, Mukuro,” Tsuna said, eyes fastened on the way black veins oozed dark smoke. It was a vicious defilement of the other male’s very spirit, but Mukuro was simply not sane enough to realize it. “This state, this skill– it will kill you before any of your plans can be set in motion.”

Mukuro laughed outright, vibrant in his own carnage. “That is why I need you, Sawada Tsunayoshi! If I can get your body, I won’t even need to waste time gathering the resources needed to finally annihilate the mafia– then the world soon after.”

Tsuna understood why Mukuro hated this state the most. More than the self-harm, more than the physical disfigurations it caused– it was a perfect representation of the state of the world as Mukuro saw it. People hurting and killing each other, cannibalizing one another for mere momentary power; it didn’t matter that it would kill them in the long run, so long as they had the overwhelming strength for that one fleeting moment.

Mukuro’s viewpoint had been confirmed in numerous ways. First with the Ferro famiglia; Lancia could care about him to the point of love, but just the same, avert his eyes to the atrocities the family itself caused. Mukuro could slaughter his way across Italy, but so long as he had a power worth using, other mafia families would vie to control him first no matter the bloodshed he left in his wake.

The world was ugly to Mukuro, and that was why he wanted to destroy it. It did not matter how much he destroyed himself in the process, so long as the mafia went with him.

That was why Tsuna had to stop him.

The flame on his forehead burst larger, a blazing incendiary surging up from inside and settling the disquiet in his heart. For now, the only thing that mattered was stopping Mukuro; everything else fell away to be figured out later. Absolute certainty flooded Tsuna’s thoughts as he halted Mukuro’s next attack, catching Mukuro’s trident in one hand, his other hand wrapping around Mukuro’s thin wrist.

“I’ll stop you,” Tsuna said softly. “And then I’ll help you.”

Not to destroy the world, of course, and maybe not even to destroy the mafia; the world was where Tsuna’s loved ones lived, and putting them through the hellish vision Mukuro had in mind was the last thing Tsuna would do. He was more ambivalent on whether the mafia was destroyed or lived on, but Mukuro’s plan on how to deal with it would result in so much collateral catastrophe that it would arguably be worse.

The hand holding Mukuro’s trident was engulfed in flames, melting it away so that the metal dripped down to the floor and sizzled. Mukuro attempted to leap back but Tsuna kept hold of his arm, jerking him back into place and watching the staff of the trident fall from Mukuro’s hand.

“Dying Will is not like your aura,” Reborn explained candidly. Whatever he thought of Tsuna’s declaration, it did not show on his face. “It’s compressed energy with its own destructive power. It will burn you.”

Tsuna did not want to see Mukuro destroyed. There was something to the other boy that he could not let go of; the heat coiled in Tsuna’s chest had wanted him from that first moment, and the more Tsuna learned about Mukuro, the more possessive he became. Reborn had accused him of being biased in favor of Mukuro because of his status as an Omega, but this was more than that; Mukuro was an Omega, but he was also an Alpha– and Tsuna favored him either way.

The hand holding Mukuro’s wrist did not ignite in flame, but Tsuna felt the heat coil down to meet where skin met skin. It was more than pleasure, more than satisfaction; it pushed past the black aura wrapped over Mukuro’s form, pulled at something much more difficult to grasp but just as enticing. Tsuna didn’t recognize it, not really– but it felt right–

Mukuro was still trying to pull himself free from Tsuna’s hold, the fingers of his free hand singed red from where he’d held onto the melting trident too long before it fell from his grip. Despite this, a mad grin curled his lips and he soon broke out into wild laughter.

“Are you,” Mukuro gasped out between laughs, breathless with sheer deranged wonder. “Trying to harmonize with me?”

Reborn made an aborted move forward. For the first time since the orders had come down, he finally looked like he was going to intervene. “Tsuna,” he started, soft and so, so dangerous. “Do not.”

Tsuna had no idea what either was referring to, but that didn’t stop a noise close to a keen from emerging from his throat. This wasn’t something feral; his pheromones didn’t react either way, his scent still strong moreso because of the fight than Mukuro’s actual presence. However, there was something instinctual about it, something more along the lines of that unearthly sense that Reborn had so quickly labeled intuition.

Wasn’t his intuition to be trusted? It had wanted Mukuro since that moment they met on the forest grounds, and despite everything that had happened between then and now - it still wanted him. Tsuna still wanted him.

Tsuna had never been very good at doing what an Alpha told him.

Mukuro never stopped trying to physically break free, unhinged smile on his face as black smoke danced across his skin. It didn’t seem to matter; the point where they connected was warm, heated to the point of contentment - like a cat lapping at perfectly warmed milk. Tsuna was reminded of Lambo from the future, when the teen dropped to one knee and kissed his ring finger.

Just like then, Tsuna was struck by the vision of colored flames, though they lacked the crackling energy of Lambo’s bright green - instead, they were a soft indigo mist, the center growing more dense and more dark. Warmth flooded into Tsuna, his inner flame so perfectly content that he couldn’t help but gasp and finally release his hold on Mukuro’s arm.

Mukuro backpedaled rapidly, holding on to his arm like he couldn’t quite believe it. His scent was as strong as it could get, a beguiling mix of Alpha and Omega, overwhelming simply because it was all Mukuro. He wasn’t panicked despite the reaction, moreso bewildered– like he couldn’t understand just why Tsuna had done whatever he had done.

To be honest, Tsuna didn’t really understand it either. There had been some sort of exchange there: Tsuna had made the call, had offered the warmth he kept inside himself - and Mukuro had answered it with his own.

What did it mean to harmonize?

“This doesn’t mean you own me,” Mukuro stated, wild eyes locked on Tsuna. “All I need is your body… This will only make it easier.”

His tone was that of sinister promise, but Tsuna could hear the uncertainty underneath: whatever had happened, it had no bearing on Mukuro’s plan or ability to possess, whether to make it easier or harder.

Tsuna wasn’t entirely sure himself, but he at least knew this much: “I don’t own you,” he agreed quietly. That’s not whatever was now between them is; if it was, Tsuna was certain that Reborn would be much less troubled.

And his tutor was troubled, no matter the blank expression he wore. He had told Tsuna not to do it– but just the same, he hadn’t forced him to stop. If this was something that went against the Ninth’s orders, wouldn’t Reborn have intervened? But if it had been in the order’s interest, he wouldn’t have said anything to begin with.

“This changes nothing,” Mukuro snapped out.

Reborn’s counter was ominously bland, “This changes everything.”

That was about as much as Mukuro could seemingly take. He plucked up the trident head from where it had fallen to the ground, launching towards Tsuna with bloodshot eyes. Twisting lotus vines clawed upwards from the floor, wrapping around Tsuna’s legs to hold him in place. He stepped past them unhindered - mere illusions could no longer hold him while the flame roared atop his head.

Mukuro’s trident head never got near him. Tsuna grabbed the arm of the hand holding it, knocking it from Mukuro’s grip in one swift backhand. The touch of the flame was as hot as iron, no matter how quick, and Mukuro released it with a yelp. The smoke wafting off his skin highlighted the insanity in his blood-flecked eyes, and Tsuna was an observant student at his core–

So he punched Mukuro straight in the gut.

The hit sent the illusionist flying backward and up. Instinct had Tsuna moving, the knowledge of how to do so flowing into his mind from the same hyper intuitive source: moving his hands backwards, he pushed the flames out and propelled himself forward, feet leaving the ground. Mukuro had already been winded by his first punch, so Tsuna only spun himself around the same way he’d seen Hibari move before - sending Mukuro smashing back down to the ground with another punch.

Tsuna landed deftly a scant couple of meters from where Mukuro now laid, flames receding back to the simmering flame of before. They wouldn’t extinguish any time soon, not so long as Tsuna still felt that he was engaged in battle; based on his will alone, the flame would burn until he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do.

The black aura had faded from Mukuro’s body, but Tsuna could still discern its bare outline; it lingered across Mukuro’s skin, diminished but not entirely gone. Mukuro himself looked crumbled and defeated, head raised weakly to pin Tsuna with a one-eyed stare, black smoke flickering across the crimson iris, as unstable as its user.

“...Kill me. I would rather die than be caught by you mafia,” he managed out, staring at Tsuna with his red, red eye.

“I won’t,” Tsuna replied. His stare was heavy, discontent in his expression as he considered the black aura. There must be some way to clear it from him, Tsuna thought. It hadn’t stopped their connection from forming earlier, but it had impeded it - so Tsuna wanted it gone. “Reborn said the Ninth would investigate your case too. I’m going to help you, and then you can…go do whatever you want, I guess. Like Fuuta.”

Hopefully that wouldn’t end in more killing sprees, but Tsuna was reasonably certain that any possible human trafficking operations had been rooted out by the Hibari in Namimori. And surely Mukuro would be sent back to Namimori; it’s where he’d been picked up, and there was nothing in Italy for him. Mukuro and his gang could even room with him if they really had nowhere else to go, since it had to be better than Kokuyou Land’s gutted remains.

Mukuro stared at him a little longer, but then his body started to tremble. The tremble turned into tremulous chuckles, the chuckles into heaving laughter– it was not a nice sound, closer to the insanity of before that fed only more strength into that black aura across him. The smoke in his right eye swirled, condensed, and scattered on repeat; fresh blood dripped from the corner of his eye.

“You still think–! Kuha–! KuhahahaHAHAHA! That the Vongola Heir could be this naive– hyper intuition, what hyper intuition?!” Mukuro laughed, the sound cutting like razors in the air. Tsuna didn’t advance, not yet, despite the way the black aura intensified and wrapped like a cloak around Mukuro’s crumpled form. “I’ll tell you what, Vongola Tenth– no, Sawada Tsunayoshi! Let’s discuss this, let’s think about this together, a Sky and his Mist!”

Mukuro’s voice was rushed with excitement, exuberant in his destruction: “Let’s talk about why the Vongola named you their heir!”

Tsuna was already moving, arms wrapped around Mukuro and heaving him across the room - in the corner furthest from Reborn. There had been no conscious thought about it, just an intuitive and sudden revelation: he had to get Mukuro away from his tutor. Reborn hadn’t even really moved, only made a small movement like he intended to reach into his pockets, but he’d stilled the moment Tsuna moved. There was a taut moment where Tsuna eyed his tutor, unsure why he'd felt compelled to save Mukuro from someone ostensibly on Tsuna's side.

“Isn’t it interesting? The Vongola is one of the strongest and most influential mafia families in the world, whose leaders have been Alphas - from the deposed Primo to the current Nono, each one a proud Alpha of blood descent,” Mukuro recounted feverishly, slumped over Tsuna’s shoulders and blood soaking into his shirt. “With their bloodline whittled down to three dead disappointments and one child in Japan, it didn’t seem like such a far reach for them to settle with the Omega child, did it?”

Reborn had explained that it was his job to make Tsuna a mafia boss. He’d said that Tsuna was the only option left, said that an Omega could be the mafia boss; he’d admitted it hadn’t been done before and that Tsuna would be the first, but Reborn had stated that Tsuna could do it. Reborn had believed Tsuna could do it.

Tsuna felt that heavy gaze from across the room.

“But the mafia thinks of Omega like cattle, like things to own or tools to use. The Ferro trafficked Omegas the most, you know; rounded them up and shipped them out, and discarded every broken body that filled their bank accounts,” Mukuro continued. His grip was tight, his sweet scent heavy; subconsciously, Tsuna’s flames flicked at where their bodies met, Mukuro's black aura siphoning into orange flame and dissolving to nothing. “Are the Vongola really any different? More enlightened? They may not deal in Omega trafficking– but that does not make them decent."

It was something Tsuna had thought before as well. Not about the Vongola specifically, but about the world as a whole - how quickly that the bare minimum became something so glorified. Just because his classmates did not assault him didn't mean they were good; they had hurt him in other ways- through neglect, through condescension, through outright dismissal of everything from his opinion to his person.

"Everyone has their own goals in mind. You know mine; I have been so honest with you, unlike the family you think you stand to inherit," Mukuro said. "A family you don't even know very well, isn't that right? After all, I doubt anyone, even your tutor, told you that the Vongola Ninth has a bastard son– an Alpha declared unfit to rule due to his illegitimate blood. ”

Mukuro’s fingers bit into Tsuna’s arm, into his shoulder; dark hair tickled at the crook of his neck. “You are the direct descendent of the Vongola’s founder, the last of his line, inheritor of the purest form of their prized skill, ‘hyper intuition’,” he whispered into his ear. “And you can bear children.”

The black aura had fully receded, burnt away and cleansed by the flames on Tsuna’s hands. That same flame sputtered, flickering in and out like the last dregs of an emptying furnace. Tsuna hardly noticed, barely cognizant of the way he was clutching just as hard to Mukuro as Mukuro was to him.

The worst part wasn’t the truth in Mukuro’s words. No, the worst part was that Reborn wasn’t refuting him.

A bastard child from the Ninth's line, descended from the Second head of the family according to Reborn's lessons. The Primo and Secondo had been cousins, but after all of these generations, their genetics would be far removed from each other; by pairing Ninth's bastard child with the last of Primo's line, the bloodline would once more be secured.

Some part of Tsuna had known. It had always been too good to be true; no one had ever believed in him that much, not even his own parents who loved him with every scrap of their hearts. A mystical assassin decrying his legitimacy to inherit a seat of power was more than fantastical– it was a lie.

Tsuna was never meant to lead. He was never meant to be a mafia boss, never supposed to be the face of the Vongola. Just like before– before Mukuro, before Lambo and Bianchi and Dino, before Gokudera, before Reborn – Tsuna was only ever supposed to be an Omega. He was meant to be the breeder, the one who laid down and spread his legs for the Vongola.

“You can’t help anyone, Sawada Tsunayoshi,” Mukuro murmured. “Not me, not the Ranking Prince, not even yourself.”

The trident head crumbled away into dust. The dark aura from the State of Humans was fully cleansed, not even a wisp of smoke remaining. Mukuro’s weight was heavy in Tsuna’s arms, the taller male unable to hold himself up anymore; heterochromatic eyes were clear but slipping closed, blood oozing sluggishly from both.

Fingers, nails cracked and caked in blood and grime, trailed along the side of Tsuna’s neck, smearing crimson and Mukuro’s mixed scent of sweet-and-clean lotus directly into Tsuna's scent glands. “It’s alright, I already knew,” Mukuro continued softly, a poisonous lull only so effective because it was painfully honest. “My family, the Estraneo, used me too. Outcasted by the rest of the mafia world for crimes they were envious of Estraneo for committing first, they continued to experiment on their own children in pursuit of their former glory.”

Mukuro’s nails dug into the skin of his neck, a claiming in everything but a bite. “At the end, there was only Ken, Chikusa, and myself left. The adults– I killed them all, I enjoyed killing them all. Then the Ferro found me, and I killed them too,” he bit out the words, no longer with the same insanity that the black aura had perpetuated - but rather, with the grim certainty that implied so much worse.

“I didn’t understand it at first, why I could be treated so differently for something so pathetically insignificant. If I smelled like the clear lakes, I was held in high esteem - but if I smelled like the sweet lotus, I was meant to be violated,” he recounted dully. “Even the beasts were not so hypocritical.”

Mukuro pulled away, just enough to lock his heterochromatic gaze on Tsuna’s burning amber orange. “It’s an unkind world out there, Sawada Tsunayoshi,” he said, smile on his lips and damnation in his eyes. “Wanting to destroy this world before it destroys me - is that so bad?”

Eyes slipping closed, Mukuro collapsed forward. Tsuna caught him, the other male’s lotus scent thick and heavy against his glands and bleeding scratch marks at the base of neck. He gently lowered Mukuro to the floor, mindful of his wounds and beleaguered state. Only after making sure Mukuro was still breathing did Tsuna finally stand upright and turn to look across the room, flame on his head bright and churning.

Now there was just Tsuna, and Reborn, and the chasm of lies between them.

A/N: Mukuro just f*cking sh*t up and then passing out is Peak Drama Queen. Love him~

Mukuro did not actually 'claim' Tsuna; rather, it was more like he scented him, then just f*cking dug his nails into the skin because he's just real weird about everything, especially Tsuna.

  • Rebuke Bullet: I’m going to completely ignore the fact that it’s supposed to show Tsuna the rebukes ‘currently happening’, since it just makes more sense to me to for it to be rebukes he has heard previously. In this case, it's a specific rebuke he heard in the past but has no current recollection of because Tsuna's mind and memories are a hellscape. Giotto was not prepared for his descendant to be this much of a disaster.

Please be kind and drop a comment~!

Chapter 20: Kokuyou Arc, Chapter 6

Summary:

Tsuna: I've only had Mukuro for a day but if anything happened to him, I would burn everyone in the mafia to ash and then myself
Reborn: Alright, bet

Chapter Text

A/N: Added one more chapter to this since I have Chapter 20.5 coming up to end this specific arc (Daily Life + Kokuyou).

For those unaware, this does not mean the end of this story; this is just the first one! 😊 The second story, which will be the entirety of the Varia arc, will be published soon.

Chapter 20

When Reborn had first come into Tsuna’s life, he had not left a terribly good impression. Between his abrupt arrival and the merciless use of his Alpha ‘Demand’ as soon as he’d spoken, Tsuna had not trusted a word out of the pseudo-infant’s lips. Through his explanation of his true occupation, through his constant presence, through his myriad of schemes that caused chaos to descend on Tsuna’s previously peaceful (and dull) life, Tsuna had grown to know his self-appointed tutor more.

There had been trust there. Grown quietly, over time and experience and general mayhem; Reborn’s presence invited the addition of Tsuna’s most precious people, and he’d ensured every last one of them was tied so intimately into Tsuna’s life that he could never go back to the way he’d been before. Reborn hit him with Dying Will bullets, with regular rubber bullets, with Leon mallets, with his small fists; Reborn hurt him constantly, always with a goal in mind, always urging Tsuna in the direction he wanted him to go.

And Tsuna went. He kicked up a fuss, he complained, he made Reborn work for it– but he went, because he’d thought they had the same idea in mind. Tsuna may not have wanted to be a mafia boss, but he couldn’t deny that there was something validating in the idea that Rebron genuinely thought he could be– that he could carve out a place of power, of influence, in a world that had offered Tsuna nothing but complacency.

And yet…

“You’re not going to deny it?”

Tsuna’s voice didn’t shake, despite the tumultuous emotions built up in his chest; there was something about the fire produced by the Rebuke Bullet that quelled such fluctuations. He could still feel them, however, buried underneath that unrelenting heat; not unlike his heart being torn in two, a steadily built foundation crumbling into nothing the longer the silence stretched.

Reborn, to his credit, was not quiet for long. That was the thing with Reborn; he never saw the need to mince words. “There’s nothing I can say that would make the truth more palatable.”

Tsuna didn’t sneer, didn’t scoff. He didn’t cry, either, which he thought he may have ended up doing in any other state. Whatever reply he could make was stopped by the door to the theater being abruptly thrown open, three tall figures entering the room. They were barely distinguishable from each other, all dressed in subtly different black cloaks, top hats, and faces wrapped in gauze so that not even their eyes or mouths were visible.

No scent was discernible at their entrance, presumably making all three Betas - but Tsuna’s intuition tugged a bit in protest, his eyes briefly darting to the figure on the left - the one with a feathered hat and two lines of buttons down the coat’s front. To Tsuna, he couldn’t help but get the impression of the figure being an Alpha, though there was no evidence of scent to support it.

“Vindice, the mafia world’s enforcers of omerta,” Reborn identified drolly. “They’re here to collect Mukuro and his gang.”

Collars snaked out from the figure at the front of the formidable trio, each one attached to a chain held in the figure’s hands. The collars snapped around the throats of the unconscious Kakimoto and Joushima, the last propelled forward by some unseen force toward Mukuro. Without much thought, Tsuna kicked it away; it was surprisingly strong, causing pain to ricochet up his leg and only managing to halt the advance, the collar hovering above the ground a scant foot away from Mukuro’s vulnerable form.

“Interference with our operations is against the mafia world’s codes,” the figure in the center said. “Even you are not immune to omerta, Vongola Tenth.”

The collar attempted to make another grab for Mukuro’s pale throat, but before Tsuna could try to kick it away again, a shot rang out and pinged ineffectually off of the metal. Though the force of it was not meant to impede, it did grab the attention of the Vindice and Tsuna - all four turning in Reborn’s direction.

“Of course, the Vongola will not impede your arrest,” Reborn stated, nonplussed by the contradiction in his words and actions. “However, we will request an investigation and re-trial for the convicts Rokudou Mukuro, Joushima Ken, and Kakimoto Chikusa.”

“...on what grounds?”

“Rokudou serves as the Vongola Tenth’s Mist,” Reborn reported. “He confessed to his Sky that his actions were done in self-defense, further corroborated by the Ferro famiglia’s Lancia. In the interest of justice within the mafia and the preservation of our world’s commandments, the Vongola requests that the case be re-opened for investigation and re-trial.”

The Vindice were very still, no reaction visible; they were more similar to statues than people. Tsuna was stationed in between Mukuro’s prone form and the floating collar, eyes darting between Reborn and the Vindice; the help was unexpected, and Tsuna did not - could not - fully trust it.

“Very well,” the figure on the left said. “The matter will be investigated and the case’s sentencing will be under review. However, Rokudou Mukuro and the other escaped convicts will be held in Vindice for the interim.”

Reborn nodded in acquiescence, “We will not interfere.”

“Why do they have to be dragged back to Vindice?” Tsuna demanded, still standing between Mukuro and the rest of the room, though his tone was the same even calm that the Rebuke Bullet instilled. “The investigation should have been done prior to the arrest, not afterward. Why do they have to suffer more because you people couldn’t do your jobs?”

The Vindice didn’t reply, but this did earn a look from Reborn that would have been considered cutting had it been on an adult’s face. “Tsuna,” he spoke, voice dark and commanding. “They will be fair in their investigation. However, while Mukuro may be right about the Ferro - he has killed more than just them.”

The initial report did indicate that Mukuro had killed other inmates and wardens during his escape, alongside other mafia families in Northern Italy. Not that the Vindice seemed to care; as Gokudera had implied prior, the Vindice seemed more concerned with preserving some arbitrary rules about how the mafia interacted with non-mafia. This still made little sense to Tsuna, since it was clear that the mafia had no problems making victims of non-mafia citizens.

Tsuna wanted to argue more. There were alternatives to just hauling Mukuro and his men away; they could be kept within either Kokuyou or Namimori. He would have even recommended involving the D.C., except with the state Hibari was in, the prefect would surely murder Mukuro the minute he recovered enough to do so.

He never got to make that argument, because soon Tsuna was jolting back, a bullet whizzing by where his head had once been. His eyes darted back to the Vindice, even though that went against what his intuition clamoring about, because his mind could not quite process the idea of anything else.

The Vindice hadn’t moved. Of course they hadn’t, because they carried no guns and seemed to have no interest in anyone besides the ones they wanted to collar.

Tsuna’s eyes went to the true source: “Hm,” Reborn mused, gun still out and unperturbed by Tsuna’s dodge. “You really are quite fast in that state.”

He didn’t say anything else– he didn’t need to. He aimed the muzzle of his gun once more in Tsuna’s direction. The next shot passed by Tsuna’s cheek, but not because it missed– rather, it bounced off something behind him and struck Tsuna in the back, in the same spot he’d hit to knock out his friends.

“They’re rubber bullets,” Reborn said boredly, in those milliseconds before the dark descended. “It’ll still hurt - but how else will you learn, Tsuna?”

Tsuna was out before his body even hit the floor.

Reborn was there when Tsuna woke.

The young Omega was still not experienced enough to feign sleep, waking instead with a jerk, bedcovers pooling around his waist as he sat up quickly. The action dislodged Fuuta from where the child had curled himself around Tsuna’s form, though the boy only readjusted himself to wrap one small hand around Tsuna’s wrist and then burrowed back under the covers. Their mingled scents were overpowering in Tsuna’s small bedroom, enough to drown out Reborn’s own suppressed one.

It was no surprise when amber-colored eyes were on Reborn a second later. Tsuna subconsciously ran his fingers through Fuuta’s fine strands of hair, gaze never leaving Reborn from where he’d set himself across the room. The Omega’s pheromones flared, just slightly, an undercurrent of hostility to it that made the Alpha in Reborn pique in discontent - but the teacher in him smile.

Reborn thought fleetingly about apologizing for knocking the boy out, but it would be a wasted effort. After all, Tsuna could tell he would be lying.

“Nothing hurts?” Reborn asked instead, beady eyes curious. That seemed to be the running theme with Tsuna - curiosity built upon curiosity. As someone who had been working with a cracked seal for most of his life, Tsuna’s first run with something like hyper dying will should have put him out of commission for a lot sooner and a lot longer than this. At the very least, he should have woken up in pain, his body being unused to using such an extreme form of dying will.

Tsuna was hurt, in a lot of ways - but dying will flames were not the cause of it.

A cracked seal still half works, Reborn assessed clinically. Tsuna was able to use a spark of dying will even without bullets; Reborn had seen that in the boy’s fight against Mochida, along with his feats of incredible athleticism in the Sports Festival. Even then, the use of hyper dying will should have made his entire body ache, at least the first few times. Unless…

Unless Tsuna had been using dying will flames for a lot longer.

If that were true, then everything that had happened in the past day would make much more sense. While Tsuna had been considered Flame-active since he was a small child, the seal put on him by the Ninth would have rendered him back to an inactive state. However, as Reborn had suspected, that seal was likely damaged in the attack on Tsuna when he was seven; unlike his initial expectations, though, it wasn’t a one-time thing.

Flame suppression had never been an exact science. Verde had done studies on it, but it was difficult to do so with willing subjects - and given that dying will was based on willingness, it made it even more difficult to examine. With two of his sons still alive, the Vongola Ninth had thought he was doing right by sealing Sawada Iemitsu’s Omega child to keep him free of the mafia’s influence; however, it had come back to bite all of them not only after the deaths of Matsumo and Federico, but after Tsuna’s assault.

Tsuna had been Flame active for years, without ever realizing it.

The reason Tsuna was not aching from first-time use of hyper dying will, the reason he could harmonize with a Mist without conscious thought– it was because he’d been using flames for years. Not even just any flames either; Tsuna was a Sky, and Sky flames sang under his skin and burned in his eyes, every minute of every day.

Shamal had probably known. As Tsuna’s doctor, he would have given Tsuna the cure for Skull Disease long ago; it was the reason the infamous Skull infection had never shown on the Omega's skin, even after the tenth time Reborn had shot him with a dying will bullet. Trident Shamal never kept his notes in writing, another lifesaver when it came to a case like Sawada Tsunayoshi’s; documentation of a broken seal, of a young Sky with active flames– that would have had people looking, had them running.

Rokudou Mukuro had probably noticed as soon as he’d seen Tsuna. The Mist user had been too imbalanced due to the infection from his Six Paths technique, but he was skilled enough in his own flames to recognize a Sky when he saw one. Mukuro may not have been aiming to harmonize with Tsuna, but some part of him had answered the invitation that Tsuna had unwittingly been sending out.

It wasn’t as if Reborn had been ignorant of his student’s ability to enthrall others; civilians would have attributed it to an Omega’s natural seduction, but in actuality: Tsuna was a viciously strong Sky. Nevermind Alphas like Yamamoto, Lambo, and Hibari– even Betas like Gokudera and Sasagawa, immune to the pheromones of other dynamics, fell into Tsuna’s orbit.

Through the fight with Mukuro, Reborn had confirmed that Tsuna was able to harmonize. It was only fortunate that Gokudera, Yamamoto, and the others were too inexperienced with their own Flames to answer Tsuna’s call. Mukuro could, given his expert abilities; the older Lambo, glimpsed only in passing and never for long, had been able to as well. It was another complication in a long line of complications.

Reborn hadn’t had so much fun in a long, long time.

“...Where is everyone?” Tsuna asked.

For a passing moment, Reborn thought that Tsuna’s attempt to feign composure was cute; it made the glow in Tsuna’s amber eyes turn just one shade lighter, a sure sign the teen was activating his flames to keep himself calm.

“Gokudera, Bianchi, and Hibari are in the hospital,” Reborn answered. “Yamamoto was dropped off at his house, at his father’s request.”

Tsuna didn’t say anything, still waiting.

Reborn could have laughed but kept it to himself. “Mukuro and his gang are likely already back in Italy. The investigation has already started.”

Reborn’s initial report to Timoteo had been short, only summarily explaining that Mukuro and his gang had been stopped, but a reinvestigation had been requested into Mukuro’s crimes. ‘Oh, and also, the Vongola Tenth has claimed escaped convict Rokudou Mukuro as his Mist,’ Reborn had casually concluded his call with, then hung up before Coyote Nougat could blow a blood vessel.

Given that the only ones aware of Tsuna’s new alliance were the people in this room, the Ninth and his Guardians, Mukuro himself, and the Vindice - no one was talking about it. However, Reborn knew that it was this newfound connection between the Vongola Tenth and Mukuro that was having the most influence on the Vindice’s decisions; in the mafia, it was bad form to separate a guardian from their Sky. The Vongola also had enough sway to really cause alarm, even for the indifferent Vindice.

Mukuro’s crimes were numerous, but as Gokudera had said - the Vindice only really cared about the violation of omerta. For all of Mukuro’s transgressions, they had been able to suppress and cover up his assaults on civilians, and most of his crimes were internal to the mafia in any case. The Vindice wouldn’t care about how many mafioso Mukuro killed; they cared about how many civilian authorities would look into his murders.

Which, given that Lancia was the weapon in most of them, worked out in Mukuro’s favor. Mukuro’s gift with illusions was also indisputable, making him practically unculpable for the crimes the Vindice cared most about. The only reason they now had the correct face to the name was because Mukuro had truly been too unstable due to the State of Humans to function for much longer. His exposure to Tsuna’s Sky affinity had worsened that state before Tsuna could actually cleanse it, and he’d revealed himself likely due to some combination of innate insanity and Sky thrall.

Tsuna had simultaneously cleansed Mukuro and tied them irrevocably together. It was no wonder that Mukuro had been so unhinged in their last few moments together; having his worldview repeatedly smashed, reaffirmed, then smashed again would do damage even to the most mentally stable of individuals. Mists were hardly the most mentally sound of the elements to begin with, and Mukuro had already been dealt a heavy hand through his upbringing in the Estraneo.

“They’ll keep him for the meanwhile, but Lancia has already started testifying on his behalf,” Reborn said. It wasn’t even possession this time; apparently, Lancia had only needed confirmation from someone not complicit in Mukuro’s schemes that what the Ferro had done was unforgivable and mass murder was a reasonable response. Tsuna’s obvious disgust with the Ferro’s crimes had tipped Lancia over that edge.

It was looking surprisingly good for Mukuro, but Reborn wasn’t going to tell Tsuna that yet. They did have bigger things to discuss, after all.

Tsuna stopped running his hands through Fuuta’s hair. He never turned his eyes away from Reborn, but it was clear he was speaking to the Omega child with his next few words, “Go downstairs and sit with Mom, okay, Fuuta? You need to eat, and she needs to see you eating.”

Fuuta made a little noise of discontent, but obediently crawled out of bed and shuffled out the door. He didn’t look in Reborn’s direction as he left the room, preferring to ignore his entire existence - as he was now wont to do. The door clicked shut quietly on his heels, leaving Tsuna and Reborn to eye each other for another excruciating moment.

Tsuna pulled back his bedcovers, moving to sit at the edge. Reborn could tell from his actions and body language that Tsuna didn’t like the perceived vulnerability of being holed up in his nest, back straight as he looked at Reborn with flickering amber eyes. Idly, Reborn wondered if Tsuna would be able to enter hyper dying will without the need of a bullet, but at his current strength, that was a distant dream for now.

“When you said that you would train me to become a mafia boss,” Tsuna started slowly, mechanically; he was clinical in his contempt. “Did you really mean that you’d train me to spread my legs for the real mafia boss?”

Distaste flickered over Reborn’s face. “...The Ninth boss made no mention of intending to mate you to his bastard son, nor anyone else specifically.”

“But you thought about it,” Tsuna returned swiftly, accusatory. This was the curse of an awakened hyper intuition; even now, he could tell when Reborn was hedging the truth. “Who were you imagining? Yamamoto, Hibari-san–?”

Reborn internally scoffed. Considering Yamamoto and Hibari as prospective mates felt like such a distant notion now; whatever positive characteristics they possessed were weighed out by their actual interactions with Tsuna. Reborn may as well just buy a doormat and propose that as Tsuna’s mate, for all the effect it would have on Vongola’s leadership.

“Don’t be so emotional,” Reborn said in that same inflectionless tone. “It’s hardly the end of the world, even if you do end up with a mate.”

“I’d either kill myself before they’d get the chance,” Tsuna replied without blinking. “Or I’d rip off their goddamn dicks and shove them down the Ninth’s throat.”

Reborn smiled. “Is that your will as the Vongola Tenth?”

Tsuna’s hands fisted at his sides. Anger was clearly beginning to build in his surly student; his eyes bled closer to orange than amber now, a slight tremble to the thin frame betraying his exhaustion.

Reborn watched - something he was enjoying more and more as Tsuna’s tutor. His perceived betrayal definitely hurt Tsuna, and the fact that he appeared not to be taking this discussion seriously would rankle the Omega even further.

Funnily enough, though, Reborn was taking this seriously. Worse, Tsuna knew that.

“Reborn, you–”

“The Ninth’s exact words were that you were a sweet boy, and that you would make a stronger Vongola,” Reborn interrupted blithely, as calm as if he were explaining a particularly easy math problem that Tsuna was struggling to solve. “Of course, I think his impression about you being ‘sweet’ is based on you when you were five, because the only thing sweet about you is your scent.”

This conversation was derailing in a way that Tsuna was having a hard time predicting, hyper intuition or not. Reborn could tell because the boy was just staring at him, none of his usual interruptions being choked out. He looked a little like a stunned lemming, which was hilarious.

Reborn was not lying about the Ninth’s orders. Agreements between formal entities like the Vongola famiglia and independent contractors like Reborn could have clearly-defined terms or could be left deliberately vague; Reborn’s orders just happened to be the latter. This was not through doubt or hesitation on Timoteo’s part, but rather a combination of security and (amusingly, in retrospect) etiquette; Timoteo did not want to admit explicitly that he was using his subordinate’s son like a breeding sow, and even then, he didn’t want to put a target on Tsuna’s back since such expectations inherently meant he was considered weak despite being the nominal heir.

Tutoring heirs to criminal organizations was not a foreign concept to independent assassins like Reborn; some were mentored by those in their organization, others by experts outside of it, but it was a common enough practice. How such requests were given and followed was up to the tutor, and so Timoteo had made his intentions known that day in his office when Reborn had picked up his mission parameters.

Reborn respected the Vongola Ninth. It was regretful that the man’s progeny were so disappointing, but no one could say that Timoteo was weak or a fool. Better yet, no one could say he was thoughtlessly cruel; the Vongola were guilty of their fair share of crimes, but they were in no way on the same level as the Estraneo or the Ferro, and this is partially a result of their leadership. Timoteo ruled with an iron fist cloaked in silk, and thought of the Vongola family first and foremost.

It made him a good leader; it did not necessarily make him a good person, nor a good father.

Which is how they’d ended up here, with Reborn’s student currently looking at him like he was an enemy. It was only a natural result, and one Reborn had anticipated far before; Tsuna, after all, had made no secret what he thought about being mated off like cattle.

Reborn could not place the blame at Timoteo’s feet alone for this situation. Reborn was the one who agreed to the job, and who initially planned to carry it out in line with the Ninth’s intentions. After all, Tsuna was an Omega, and Omegas were meant to have children. Tsuna was young, hadn’t even gone through his first Heat and lived his entire life in tiny Namimori; it was foolish to think that he could take up the mantle of something as convoluted and bloodsoaked as the Vongola famiglia. Timoteo wanted Sawada Tsunayoshi for his bloodline, but wasn’t cruel enough to force him to inherit its sins. Reborn had been given just enough information to make the same assumptions as Vongola’s head; the assumption that all Tsuna could do was birth the child who would lead the Vongola as its true heir was the safest for both the family and for Tsuna himself.

Looking back on it now, Reborn wondered what had been going through Sawada Iemitsu’s mind. He was there even before Reborn, and likely had discussed the possibility of his own child being used like this with Nono extensively. Iemitsu had visited his family occasionally over the years, likely even more than Nono liked after Tsuna’s assault; he carved out some time every year to see his family, even if the visits never lasted longer than a week.

Iemitsu must have had a better idea of exactly what type of person Tsuna was, and yet he’d said nothing to alert either Timoteo or Reborn, aside from a throwaway remark about his sensitivity. This was one of the more irritating - and admittedly, intriguing - parts of dealing with the Young Lion of Vongola; his usually dynamic disposition hid his innately calculative heart. For all his misleading blustering, Iemitsu was Head of CEDEF because he was scarily competent compared to the others that had vied for the position; he’d eventually earned that spot through blood - not what was running through his veins, but instead what he had spilled in defense of it.

Perhaps some part of Iemitsu had resigned itself to the idea that his son would have to do the same thing.

“Mukuro wasn’t wrong about the Ninth’s original plans for you,” Reborn allowed. “Realistically, it was the most he could expect from someone raised as a civilian.”

Tsuna’s cheek ticked. “You mean, it’s the most he could expect from an Omega.”

Reborn wasn’t going to bother arguing that point; Tsuna was correct, after all. Had he been born as a Beta - or better yet, an Alpha - then they likely wouldn’t even be having this conversation. Reborn’s orders would have been more clear-cut as well, as they’d been with Dino. It was only because Tsuna was an Omega that they even bothered treading these fine lines and grayscales.

“Do you think you can prove him wrong?” Reborn asked in curiosity.

Tsuna’s reply was quick and sharp: “Why should I? I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.”

Petty and sulking, acerbic and bitter– Nono and his ilk would have dismissed Tsuna then and there for his tone alone. Reborn didn’t, mostly because he knew his student– but also partly because it was Tsuna. The age-old adage of familiarity breeding contempt was simply untrue in this circ*mstance; rather, Reborn had long resigned himself to his growing fondness.

And Reborn enjoyed pushing buttons, especially of the people he liked. “The Ninth–”

“I don’t care about the Ninth, Reborn!” Tsuna roared, jumping to his feet, lips twisted into a snarl. “Whether he sees me as just another means to an end or a f*cking vending machine to spit out Vongola babies– I don’t care! But you–!”

An Alpha would have raged, would have thrown their things around their room or punched holes in the walls. Betas may have as well, or maybe they would have taken the more Omega approach - and just started crying, almost unintelligible in the emotional upheaval. That’s what Reborn had learned to expect, in any case.

Tsuna didn’t do any of that. Tsuna was an Omega, but he didn’t sit there and cry about the abject misery of the situation. Tsuna was an Omega, but he also didn’t punch holes in the wall, or storm out of the room. Tsuna was an Omega, and what an Omega like Tsuna did was grow quieter, his spine straightening like steel, his eyes glowing like embers.

“I care what you think because I thought you believed in me. I cared about you because I thought you cared about me, and I wanted to try– I wanted to try being something, I don’t know what, but something more than what I was because you thought I could.”

Tsuna was an Omega, and Reborn finally realized– it didn’t really matter.

It wasn’t inconsequential, not by a long shot - but it was hardly what defined him. Tsuna was an Omega, and he was horrible at his studies. Tsuna was an Omega, and he could go toe-to-toe with his peers when he cared enough to bother. Tsuna was an Omega, and he hated violence but would use it if it meant protecting what was important to him. Tsuna was an Omega, and he had the most potential out of anyone Reborn had ever met.

Reborn knew, to a degree, what the Ninth wanted in the next head of the Vongola. Not only someone strong, not only someone who cared for the Family, that was family– but someone who could reverse the legacy of bloodshed that had haunted Timoteo and all his predecessors, someone who could lead the Family he’d helped survive another generation into something better.

Perhaps it was the greatest irony of all that the person best suited for that was someone they had immediately dismissed for something as insignificant as daring to have a womb.

Perhaps a better word for that was a blessing, because Reborn had borne witness to the atrocities committed when one loved so blindly that they were willing to forgive the unforgivable.

Tsuna didn’t hate the Vongola, not in the way his chosen Mist hated the mafia. He wasn’t indoctrinated in the lifestyle the same way Gokudera or Lambo were either. He did not hate the family that had made him its heir, that had intended to use him for their own ends; but just the same, he didn’t love it either.

In its current state, it was simply not worthy of Tsuna’s love.

Tsuna would have to make it worthy of that.

Reborn had accepted the job of tutoring Sawada Tsunayoshi to become the Vongola Tenth. That was indisputable - and was something he had no intention of backing down from nor violating. What was up for interpretation, however, was the intent behind that stated goal.

Reborn would train Tsuna to become the Vongola Tenth.

Vongola Tenth - the true head, the true leader of the Vongola family. One who could lead them to something better, to be something better; the type of leader who rejected their bloodied history, a Sky who truly accepted all and detested the violence they were lost in.

For anyone other than Reborn, they would have dismissed it as impossible. For anyone other than Sawada Tsunayoshi, it would have been insurmountable.

“Do you still care what I think?” Reborn asked.

“No,” Tsuna lied, whip-quick in his anger and his distrust.

All of this would hurt so much less if Tsuna didn’t care about what Reborn thought. It would be so easy to slip back into his old worldview, a well-worn cloak to veil his eyes from the harsh reality. A weaker person would have, but as Tsuna proved again and again– he wasn’t someone who went the easiest path simply to spare himself the pain.

“Then what do you want to do, Tsuna?” Reborn asked, eyes fastened on his student. “You wanted to be something more because I thought you could be, but if you don’t care what I think– then what do you want to be?”

Tsuna matched his gaze, unwavering and mutinously silent. Reborn knew this was only partly because he didn’t want to give Reborn the satisfaction of an answer, but also partly because even Tsuna himself was unsure.

“You’ve never been allowed choice,” Reborn recounted, words plain and all the more hurtful for their honesty. “Not before, when it came to which school activities you could partake in or what expectations you were to meet.”

If Tsuna had remained a civilian, it’s entirely likely he would have never finished high school, maybe not even junior high depending on when he Presented. Hibari’s reign at Namimori Junior High didn’t necessarily translate to a progressive society past its walls, and just like the rest of Japan, Omegas lived under certain expectations. Tsuna’s mate would have been chosen by his parents; his daily routines and even the number of children he’d birth would be decided by his mate.

“Perhaps not even now, if the Ninth truly does want to choose your mate. You are heir in name only, but even then– the heirship will not change, because you really are the Vongola’s last resort.”

Theoretically, Timoteo has no power over the choice of Tsuna’s mate; realistically, he can impose his own recommendations on Tsuna’s father until his will won out. Iemitsu was stubborn and his position as outside advisor gave him a certain amount of bargaining power, but in the end, even he would have to acquiesce at some point to the Ninth’s demands.

Tsuna’s position was not like that.

This was possibly what Iemitsu had gauged, when it was made apparent that Tsuna would have to be pulled into the Vongola’s web. Another member of the Family would have to yield, an outside advisor would eventually have to acquiesce–

But an heir could fight.

Tsuna was in the unique position of being made heir, a claim made indisputable by two simple facts: he was the last of Primo’s bloodline and everyone else was dead.

The bastard child that Timoteo had raised was not recognized by the rest of the Family outside of the organization he ran, as it was believed his blood was too diluted to even activate the Hyper Intuition inherent in the line. Tsuna was an active Sky flame user, and his intuition had always been incredibly good. After his fight with Mukuro, it had truly come into its own and essentially marked him as the true heir.

The Vongola had no other choice but Tsuna, and now it was time for Tsuna to choose.

“Tsuna - there is no one else. The Vongola will choose no one else. They will choose you, over and over again, and eventually they will make sure that they are the only choice you have left as well.”

They had already started, from the very first moment Gokudera Hayato had set foot in Namimori. Gokudera may have had no formal ties to any organization, but his interest in joining the Vongola had always been clear; the minute Tsuna had decided on Gokudera, the first tie had been set. Every person afterward, whether Tsuna liked them or not, were more threads binding him to Vongola’s ends: Lambo, Bianchi, I-Pin and Gianinni, Dino, even Fuuta.

Tsuna must have realized it too, the anger not quite fading from his face - but paling, somewhat, as agitation rose in its place. Yamamoto, Sasagawa, Hibari– they may have started out as Namimori’s, but they’d been tangled up in a Vongola mission as well, acting as knots in Vongola’s web as readily as the others.

And Mukuro– Mukuro was the final knot in the noose.

“Your choice is simple then, isn’t it? Lay down and spread your legs as needed, or prove yourself to the Ninth,” Reborn said dispassionately. “Which one will you choose?”

Tsuna did not answer. He stared, amber eyes unseeing; he swallowed the horror, the helplessness; he choked down the tears, the rage. It was simple injustice, a harsh reality; Tsuna’s Mist was right, this was an unkind world. It would ask too much of Tsuna, far more than it had any right to, and it would still work to tear him to pieces no matter the answer.

“...I,” Tsuna tried, throat and eyes too dry. It reminded Reborn of Luce, in those moments after the curse descended, when she saw the breadth of her lifespan shorten in an instant and tried not to cry out because of it.

Tsuna was long past tears as well. “...Neither,” he said, a word spoken so quietly it was hardly more than a murmur. “I choose neither. I choose me.”

It was exactly what Reborn wanted to hear.

Tsuna would never be able to submit to the life the Ninth had planned for him. It would wither him faster than anything else, and take the Vongola down with it. But just the same, Tsuna would not seek out the Ninth’s approval - because what use was the approval of a person who you yourself did not respect?

Reborn could have laughed aloud. For the first time in a long while, he felt that familiar thrill– of the first kill, of the first success. Once he reached his current caliber of skill, it felt as if nothing could ever match up; it was one of the reasons he took up teaching in the first place, to counteract the pointless tedium of being the world’s greatest hitman.

Dino had been an excellent first student: just enough of a challenge to get Reborn acquainted with various teaching methods and with enough potential to make the entire venture worthwhile. The jobs he took in between that on behalf of the Vongola showed him a side of Timoteo that he could respect, allowed him to get involved with Lal Mirch’s newfound position and the associates that entailed, such as Iemitsu. Reborn was not dissatisfied with his life, cursed or otherwise, but he wasn’t excited about it either.

Not until Tsuna.

An Omega - which both mattered and didn’t, an intriguing contradiction that made him shine just a little bit more. A child raging against the more experienced, against those wiser to the ways of the world– and challenging it, challenging them, because this world should be challenged, should be questioned. A Sky with limitless potential, a victim to machinations far beyond himself, a fool who ruled by his heart and a leader who was followed because of it.

Reborn remembered the moment the curse came down, in that kaleidoscope of light, in that empty patch of dirt where his power bled out of him and formed the pacifier– the chain – around his neck. He had never felt more alive than when he was sure he was going to die, not even when Luce’s Sky touched his Sun for that brief moment before Reborn turned away from that promise, turned away from the inevitable tragedy.

Reborn could never fully trust anyone, possibly could never fully love anyone either because that would require a vulnerability that Reborn didn’t trust himself enough to even show. He respected most of the other Arcobaleno, respected the Ninth Vongola and the Head of CEDEF; he was fond of Dino as his student, fond of Bianchi for her ability to wear her heart on her sleeve; he hated Checkerface.

When he looked at Tsuna, he didn’t respect him. He was certainly fond of him, and he could never imagine hating him. But there was so much more than just that when Reborn thought of Tsuna and everything he meant, everything he had the potential to be.

Maybe it was hope, fluttering and feathered in his chest. Maybe it was simple amusem*nt, the closest to joy he could ever come. Maybe it was love, so foreign and unfamiliar that Reborn could not even be sure.

Reborn had woken in the dirt, had held the heavy weight of the yellow pacifier and everything it meant in his monstrously small hands, and he’d thought he’d seen exactly how the rest of his life would play out. He’d tried to go beyond the limits of man, and so he’d been cursed; he’d killed, and so he would be killed. Simple, straightforward, and so very boring.

But now the future could be anything. It could be worse than what the Ninth had planned out, could be the sea of blood Mukuro had so ardently yearned for. It could amount to nothing, could leave the mafia world unchanged and the injustices perpetuated one generation more. It could be better, better than anything Reborn could have even believed.

“How funny,” Reborn said, and really meant it– because this was as hilarious as it was insane. “Because I choose you too.”

Tsuna would do extraordinary things. He would do foolish things, hurtful things; he would make mistakes, he would win when it mattered and lose when it mattered more. Tsuna would make choices, hundreds upon thousands upon millions of them, and he would regret some and be grateful for more.

In Tsuna, there was a future Reborn couldn’t fully predict - a future shaped by the child’s unsteady hands.

Reborn looked forward to what that future held. “Make the most of your time, Tsuna.”

Because from this point on, you’ll have to fight for every moment of it.

A/N: Tsuna is stronger than he was in canon at this point, but he is nowhere close to taking down either Reborn or the Vindice. He's just a baby 🥺 At least for now, until sh*t starts really hitting the fan.

  • In regards to pairings, I feel like I should state this now since it has come up in comments before and I know it's a popular ship - but this story will not be featuring any variation of R27 or Arcobaleno27. I like the pairing myself, but given the themes of the story, everyone's roles in it, and the timeline - it doesn't fit. Reborn is a full adult trapped in a baby's body, and that's going to be treated as more of a horror than as a gag here. 😅 The 'Everyone/Tsuna' pairing is limited to those within Tsuna's immediate age range.

Also, I know a lot of you wanted Mukuro walking free but I need him in the jar for a bit. It won't be as long as it was in canon but my man needs to be ✨pickled✨ for a little while.

Edit 5/8/24: Changed all the "Aria" mentions to "Luce" since I got them confused for a bit lol

Please be kind and drop a comment~!

Chapter 21: Epilogue: End of Part 1

Chapter Text

A/N: If you somehow missed it, please be sure to go back and read Ch. 20! It was published the day before this chapter. :)

Thanks for staying with me and reading through Part 1, everyone!!

Chapter 20.5

Cursing under his breath, Gokudera rewrapped the bandage around his arm once more. He’d left the hospital - against medical advice - the moment he was physically able to drag himself out of bed, and he’d been less-than-pleased to step through the front door and be immediately accosted by an unimpressed Shamal. The doctor had let his mosquitoes administer their antitoxins with a snide roll of the eyes, then unceremoniously dumped Gokudera’s convulsing body into his room without so much as a backwards glance.

Gokudera knew the doctor was just irritated by his supposed “lack of care” for his own health, but the only thing Trident Shamal cared about was getting laid. Now that they were forced to share the same accommodations, he probably just didn’t want Gokudera bleeding out on the floor and scaring away women.

“Should have just stayed in the apartment,” Gokudera grumbled to himself. He couldn’t have, of course - Hibari had made that abundantly clear when he had Gokudera’s previous landlord evict him. The fund the prefect had somehow set up for “international exchange students” (which was only Gokudera, at least in Namichuu) provided food and board, under the provision that these students stay with a local family.

Shamal happened to be that local family. Gokudera hadn’t looked into how, exactly, Shamal happened to get naturalized, or how Hibari and Shamal seemed to know each other. It was better for his mental health that he didn’t question their one-sidedly hostile relationship.

A knock on the door pulled his attention away from the bandage he was once again bleeding through. Gokudera didn’t bother to respond, and after the second and third round of knocking went ignored, he didn’t react aside for with a scowl when his door creaked open.

“What,” he bit out, nose twitching as the subtle scent hit his nose. The Tenth smells better.

“...I came to help with your bandages,” was the response, quiet and wavering.

Gokudera finally looked up, eyes alighting on Irie Shouichi’s downcast face.

“I don’t need help,” the bomber replied.

He wasn’t as snappish as he was with Shamal or that idiot Yamamoto, but he was hardly going to be kind. Irie wasn’t annoying like their Namimori-sanctioned guardian, and at least he could hold an intelligent conversation on any number of engineering-related topics, but still– he wasn’t Tsuna, which made him less important in the grand scheme of things.

Still holding the medkit, Irie flinched back; his scent sharpened, a light undercurrent of distress along its edges. It wasn’t as strong as it had been when he was first introduced to this dysfunctional household, but Irie always looked like he was one more explosive argument away from keeling over. If they hadn’t supplied the trembling Omega with all manner of gadgets and tools to experiment with, he probably would have just holed up in his bedroom the entire time.

It was pathetic, really, but Gokudera knew well enough that even that vulnerability hid the core of steel within.

Not just anyone could shoot their mate dead point-blank.

Sweat dripped into his eyes and onto the tatami floors, his grip slick with it from where his hands wrapped around the hilt of the sword in his hand. It would have been wooden, once upon a time– in a kinder world, in a better time. It wasn’t now, at Takeshi’s request; he’d woken up with an aching pain in his arm and scratches along his body, ribs bruised from an attack by a man that had hardly made Tsuna break a sweat.

Obviously Tsuna would triumph, because Tsuna was awesome– he was stronger than Takeshi, stronger than pretty much anyone Takeshi knew. Tsuna had made Birds eat his words before Takeshi could even blink, had broken down that fake-Mukuro and then the real one all alone. Takeshi knew he would never measure up to his friend.

That didn’t mean he could just coast along behind him though.

Initially, he’d thought he’d have to beg; his father had never offered to teach him the sword, had never seemed inclined and was never disappointed that Takeshi had picked up baseball rather than kendo. Secretly, Takeshi had thought his father was relieved; he’d only ever seen his father hold a sword one time in his life, and that was when he’d used to it slaughter his mother’s killers. It was a memory both men in the Yamamoto line preferred not to discuss.

However, all Takeshi had to do was look his father in the eyes and say, “I want to be stronger.”

Then his father put a sword in his hands, and began to teach him how to kill.

The corridors of Namimori General Hospital had always been clean, the staff running a tight ship to keep things organized and ready - able to meet any of the absurdity and violent upticks that befell the small town. Hardly anyone paid Nana any heed as she walked down the hall; her lack of scent, generally gentle disposition, and cheerful smile a potent combination in terms of disarming even the most suspicious. The small bouquet of flowers, woven into the wicker of the basket of fresh apples, denoted her intention well enough: a harmless visitor, making her well-wishes to someone dear.

It was only within the last few days that this specific corridor was seeing a dwindling population, the rooms having been occupied by a rash of Namichuu students who had met bloody, mystifying beatdowns by some unknown attacker. The situation, as eventually reported through the local police force and the DC, had finally ended; the rash of attacks were well and truly over, and this latest batch of hospital visitors were meant to be the last.

Nana’s son wasn’t in here. Tsuna was safe at home, eyes haunted and scent overpowering. Fuuta was with him, safe in their shared nest and nibbling at the sweets Nana had left on the kitchen counter before departing. Lambo and I-Pin had taken on the mission of getting into Fuuta’s good graces once more, competing for his attention despite his inability to truly give it. Her son’s tutor had elected to stay, though his dark eyes had trailed her when she left.

Nana didn’t like visiting the hospital. There were too many bad memories here, and if Fuuta hadn’t come home– if he hadn’t been the same– she would have never been able to step foot here. This wasn’t the Omega wing, so she was spared from that special sort of hell, but the smell of antiseptic and familiar colors of the halls was enough to make her agitated.

To distract herself, she couldn’t help but glance inside every hospital room as she passed. Most were empty at this point, but there was one where a pretty girl who she vaguely recognized as one of her son’s classmates was standing inside, quietly and patiently arguing with an expressive boy attempting to rise from his hospital bed - her brother, from what Nana fleetingly caught in the girl’s admonishments.

There was another room, this one belonging to a young Alpha boy, though he laid asleep in his cot - face mottled with bruises, hooked up to an IV and bandages wrapped around both arms. He looked better than he did when Nana visited yesterday, and she had overheard at that time that both his canine teeth had been forcibly pried out in the assault against him.

Nana moved past his room. She moved past the next two empty rooms, past the room where Bianchi was currently sleeping - her wounds thankfully superficial, and nothing a couple days in the hospital couldn’t take care of - and she moved past the next three empty ones, and around the corner. There were less harried staff in this corridor, most scurrying here and there as quiet as possible - too scared of the consequences should they make a ruckus in this particular stretch of corridor.

Nana stopped at the door of her destination, rapping her knuckles against the door twice perfunctorily, then sliding open it open to step inside. Pleasant afternoon air met her face, the window to the room open to allow fresh air, the figure on the lone bed lounging against the headboard with a book propped open, every exposed limb wrapped in gauze. The room was mostly empty, aside from a simple but tasteful vase full of flowers left atop the side table.

“Hibari-kun,” Nana greeted sweetly. “I’ve brought you a gift!”

Hibari Kyouya watched her approach with liquid silver eyes, expression as indifferent as ever. Nana’s expression was unwavering, her steps light but sure, and she crossed the distance to set her gift atop the same side table.

“I heard from Reborn-chan that you got caught up in all this scary stuff,” Nana demurred. “It’s awful that you got hurt, but I’m glad it’s over! I also wanted to thank you for making sure my Tsu-kun got home safe.”

People often remarked how similar Hibari looked to his mother, but Nana had always privately thought he looked more like his father. Sasako could be domineering, could be dismissive - but only his father could be as frightening. The subtle sneer to his lips was all Hibari Reo.

“The little animal is acting bigger than he is,” he said coolly, one pale hand snaking out to pull an apple from the basket. They were plump, red, and fresh; Nana had made sure of it, because no one would ever accuse her of being a poor gift-giver. “Collecting herbivores that have no business being in my territory.”

“Tsu-kun just likes to make friends!” Nana waved off with a tinkling laugh.

People often said that the friends you made were a reflection of who you are - so Nana could admit to be being pleased with what this said about Tsuna.

She also couldn’t help but wonder if Hibari could see his father in her face. The icy silence paired with his inaction would indicate yes, and it made Nana’s stomach twist just a bit.

Smile wide on her lips, her eyes glanced between the vase of flowers and Hibari’s uncaring face. “Your father doesn’t really care for flowers, and your friend would never give you something so generic and sentimental,” she mused aloud. “These must be from your grandfather?”

He didn’t respond, merely bit into his apple and turned his gaze away from her.

Nana was fine with that. Looking away and pretending that the monster wasn’t real was half of her life these days anyway.

The house was a sanctuary at this time of night, steeped in tranquil peace under the cloak of evening stars. Not that it was ever loud and boisterous in the day, but a special sort of silence came at night, heightened even more by his son’s absence. Reo had never been as ardent a fan of quiet, peaceful places as his son was, but he could still appreciate it in moments.

The back garden was a work of art, put together under generations of meticulous hands. Reo had thought about uprooting it all one day, tearing apart those decades of hard work and turning it into something as ugly as the lineage that had borne it. He’d stopped himself, because Kyouya loved the garden and Reo loved his son.

So instead, Reo took two bottles of sake out to the back porch. The small table set up outside was just for those special nights where he wanted to relax in the fresh air and drink, and he set the two bottles down, then went back in and returned with two small glasses.

Kyouya was still recuperating in the hospital, so Reo was technically alone in the residence this night. He’d thought of contacting Shamal, but he’d heard that the doctor’s favorite tagalong non-apprentice was involved in the same incident that had landed Reo’s son in the hospital, so he doubted his friend would bother entertaining him when he was too busy pretending not to care about his pseudo-charge. He’d idly played with the idea of inviting Reborn, if only because the hitman was as entertaining as Fon and about a thousand times more paranoid. He’d decided not to, for much the same reason as Shamal.

Besides, he’d need not bother when he had his own pint-sized uninvited guest to entertain.

“You can come sit for a drink, you know,” Reo offered to the night air, pouring sake into both glasses before taking up his own to sip. “Kyouya isn’t here to antagonize you tonight, and I wouldn’t mind the company.”

There’s nothing for a long moment. This is unsurprising, because bravery was not the other’s forte and he had spent so many years running from this moment. It was almost a shame to come back now, but Reo suspected he already knew the reason.

“You saw him, didn’t you?” Reo continued, voice light and airy. He poured himself a second glass, savored the taste against his tongue. He thought back to his son in the hospital, thought back to the last time he’d ever seen Kyouya so wild-eyed and feral. “Hasn’t he grown up beautifully?”

Reo wasn’t talking about his son.

“You said he wouldn’t remember,” came the plaintive whine. It was desolate and miserable; it was well-deserved. “You said he wouldn’t hurt anymore.”

Reo clicked his tongue, and the other’s words came to a stifling stop. “I can take away the memories,” he corrected gently. “But I can’t take away the pain. And Sawada Tsunayoshi had been in a lot of pain.”

As expected. You didn’t get tangled up in something as horrendous as the Arcobaleno and come out unscathed. Tsunayoshi had walked away with a trauma that would never heal, Kyouya with a scathing vengeance that traced his mother’s footsteps; Sasako hadn’t been able to walk away at all, reduced to crumbling ash before she could even scream.

Given enough time and a thorough explanation, Reborn would probably finish what had been started all those years ago if he ever learned about what had happened to his chosen student.

The small figure emerged from the blanket of shadows across the garden, drawing up the steps and taking the seat on the other side of the small table. He fully ignored the cup of sake, and Reo was delighted to see that he’d foregone his usual attire so that his face was clearly visible in the dim porch lighting. It had been several years since Reo had been able to see that face, though for the other, that distance was preferred.

“Everyone’s returned, and all the pieces are slowly falling into position,” Reo co*cked his head, peering into the dark and meeting violet eyes. “Don’t you want to see how this ends, Skull?”

It was only fair - Skull had been there when it began, after all.

On an immaculate sheet of paper, in neat but flowing script, it read:

Nono,

This will serve as my final update on Tsuna's progress, at least until the matter of heirship is resolved.

As it currently stands:

Tsuna is an idiot with poor test scores. He seems as interested in the mafia as he is in cooking, which bodes well for neither his family or the Family. He's as weak and fragile as we expected, and he screams at the drop of a hat.

I can't wait to see what he does next.

Rest assured - I remain committed to my job in educating the Vongola Tenth, and the Vongola Tenth will be Tsuna.

I have always been fond of betting on losing dogs.

Reborn

END PART 1: REVEL IN YOUR TIME

A/N: Stay tuned for the next story - because here comes Xanxus~

Please be kind and drop a kudos/comment! ❤️

Revel In Your Time - Thai_Tea_Addict (2024)
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