Grazhir :: Crossover :: Hisui :: 08

08: 2014

“You want to do what?” she asked.

“I have been paying attention to all the things you say in your letters, you know,” he said with a faint hint of exasperation. “It’s time someone lent a firm hand. And, since Ren-kun and I are back from that job—which was tutoring, remember?—maybe it’s time we helped out a bit closer to home.”

“Really? Wait—this isn’t just a visit? You’re back?”

He nodded. “I’ll still probably have to go off now and again, but yes, we’re back. You can resume trying to trick me into eating here so you can show off how good of a cook you are.”

She giggled. “Did you teach your student many languages?”

“Well, he was already conversant in a few, but I made certain he became fluent, and understood many of the cultural aspects. I don’t think you’re going to let me haul Tsuna-kun off for months at a time, though. Ren-kun handled a number of normal academic subjects, and I helped the kid with some physical training, to keep him in shape. He’s managing his own foundation now.”

“Oh my,” she said, her eyes drifting off to the side in thought. “But don’t you get paid a lot of money to do things like that?”

‘Huh. I admit, I did not expect her to point that out.’ “To borrow one of your sayings, ‘You’re so silly.’ That’s why I said I’d have to go off every now and again, to do jobs of the normal sort. The same is true for Ren-kun. But you’re my best friend, Nana-chan, and it upsets me to hear that you’re a bit unhappy with Tsuna-kun’s lack of … attention when it comes to his schooling. He’s becoming a young man. He should be more serious in his pursuit of the future.”

She looked at him, her expression oddly sober. Then she smiled and nodded. “But not too serious! Boys should have fun, too. And I’ll just have to cook for you more often, to say thanks for your help.”

He smiled back, which never failed to make her eyes widen slightly in surprise. “Here’s the real question,” he said, leaning in a bit. “Can you cook Italian?”

She gasped. “That’s not fair!”

He propped his head on his fist and smiled again. “We’ll be by a bit later, to see Tsuna-kun and let him know we’ll be taking an active interest in his welfare. And if you want, I can lend you some cookbooks. Though…” He let his gaze roam around the kitchen for a few seconds. “Something tells me you don’t have Western utensils here. Eating lasagne with hashi would be hilarious.”

“I accept your challenge!” she cried, looking determined.

*

“You came home in the middle of classes again,” Nana said unhappily. “What do you plan to do in the future?”

They shifted a little in their positions in the tree out back, earpieces in place, so they could listen in to what was being said in the kitten’s room, though considering the window was open they could almost hear everything clearly anyway.

“I don’t know…” came the apathetic response.

“I’m not saying you have to attend a good high school or university, you know,” she continued.

“Don’t barge into my room!”

“Save me from angsty boys,” he muttered, getting a commiserating look from his lover.

“You can live your entire life bored like you are right now,” Nana said, coming into view, a vague frown on her face, which quickly turned to a happy smile, “or live it happily. I want you to live feeling, ‘It’s great to be alive!’ ”

“It’s embarrassing when you say things like that,” Tsuna muttered.

“Oh my. Tsu-kun … a home tutor is coming today! Your Hisui~oji and Ren~oji are back in Japan.”

“Home tutor!?” Tsuna jumped up from his sprawl and faced his mother, panic on his face. “Hisui-san!?”

“Kitten looks like he’s gonna lose control of his bladder,” Renato murmured.

“He’s going to lose more than that once we start shooting him,” he murmured back, smiling slightly.

“That’s right!” Nana said cheerfully. “I’m so happy. Not only is my best friend back in town, but he and his partner will be teaching you!”

The panic on Tsuna’s face notched up. “I refuse to have a tutor! I’m not good at anything I do, anyway!”

“Sounds like our cue,” Renato murmured.

He nodded, and launched himself, landing just inside the window, and quickly side-stepped. Renato landed in the place he had just occupied.

“Hisui-kun! Ren-kun!” Nana beamed at them, then paused. “That’s an odd way to come visit.”

“It was faster that way,” Renato said smoothly, then eyed Tsuna.

“I’m s-sorry, but … there’s nothing I can learn from you,” the boy said.

Renato moved closer, laying a hand across the back of the boy’s neck, and squeezed until the kid squeaked. “Nana-chan, how about we take the kitten for a walk, hm? He’s ditched school for the day, after all.”

“I am not a pet!” Tsuna protested.

Renato squeezed again, warningly.

“Oh, that would be lovely,” Nana replied. “I’m sure you have lots to talk about. But be here for dinner, all right?” She beamed at them and retreated out the door and downstairs.

“Time for that walk, kitten,” Renato said and started urging Tsuna toward the door.

“Stop manhandling me!” Tsuna said, flailing his hands around.

Renato leaned in and said close to the boy’s ear, “Unless you want a collar and a leash, kitten, I suggest you come along.”

“Hiiiiie,” Tsuna squeaked quietly, and allowed himself to be prodded down the stairs and into the entryway, where he quickly slipped on his shoes.

Hisui detached his from his belt and put them on, as did his lover, and the three of them emerged back into the sunlight. In no time flat they had the kid at their house and shoved into a chair. Renato reached in under his jacket and pulled out a gun, then pointed it at Tsuna’s head.

Tsuna’s eyes went so wide it was a wonder they did not lose cohesion and dribble out of his head.

“Our true line of work is assassination,” Renato said. “Our real job is to make you a mafia boss.”

“What!? A mafia boss!?” Tsuna paled and started shaking, too frightened to even think of trying to run, but calmed slightly when Yori pranced in and jumped up onto his lap. One hand went out to cradle the kneazel and the other started petting him, almost absently.

“We were … asked … by a certain man, to train you to become an excellent mafia boss,” he said, “and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

“Helloooo? This is all some horrible joke, right? That gun is just a toy, right?” Tsuna calmed down a little further, until Renato pressed the barrel of the gun against his forehead.

“The methods employed are up to us. Should I shoot you, then?”

“Hiiiiie!”

Yori yowled when the boy’s hand tightened uncomfortably in his fur and snaked out a paw to slap Tsuna on the cheek, then jumped down and took position on the sofa, where Leon was lazing.

Hisui conjured a target off to the side, out of Tsuna’s immediate line of vision.

Renato re-aimed his gun. “Watch, kitten, and you tell me.” When Tsuna turned his head Renato fired, putting a hole dead center. “Still think it’s a toy?”

Tsuna toppled off his chair in a dead faint.

He snorted and lifted the kid to lay him on the sofa as Yori and Leon scrambled out of the way. He cast a sleep spell on the kid for the time being and said, “She wasn’t kidding. He’s even worse than Dino, but then Dino knew what kind of family he belonged to.”

As Hisui vanished the target Renato said, “Something tells me the kid is going to be super stubborn, but maybe after he’s been shot the first time he’ll become a bit more malleable. There’s no telling what having his flames sealed might have done to him.”

He shrugged. “The kid was a squeak toy from early on. It may have just reinforced certain aspects of his personality. Or maybe he really is that lame. He seems to have a thing for Sasagawa Kyoko-chan, so…”

Renato nodded. “So we engineer an encounter and use that as an excuse. Leon will tell me when the situation is ripe, and I shoot the kid, he makes a fool of himself, and hopefully his flames get unlocked in the process.”

They talked for some time until Renato seemed to realize something. He glanced at the clock and nodded. “Right, almost time for dinner.”

Nana eyed her son every so often, no doubt wondering why he had that particular look on his face, but refrained from commenting. She trusted Hisui, after all, and was very charmed by Renato. “I’m so happy,” she burbled. “My little Tsu-kun will be learning all sorts of interesting things now.”

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Nana-chan,” Renato said smoothly. “This is very good, by the way. Are you certain Hisui hasn’t been teaching you on the sly?”

She giggled. “You’re so silly. My mother taught me! Maybe it was my mother who taught Hisui-kun on the sly.”

He snorted and almost smiled. “I don’t think so.” He was pleased—or perhaps relieved—that Nana had recovered from her mother’s passing enough to speak of her so openly. Her letters had been very stilted for a while. He had flown back the moment he’d heard to be there for her, when even Iemitsu had not, which had made him more than a little vexed with the man. It was bad enough the blond did not spend much time in Namimori and, in fact, had not been there for two years.

The next morning Renato got ready to leave, earpiece and connected listening charm in place, to ensure Tsuna got going in time to accidentally-on-purpose run into Kyoko-chan. Hisui was preparing to fly to Italy to go pick up Gokudera. He gave his lover a kiss and said, “All right, Ren-koi. I’ll see you in a couple of days.”

“Come back quickly, tesoro,” Renato purred. “While you’re gone I’ll steal copies of the kitten’s books so we know what we’re dealing with.”

“I’ll be back before you know it,” he promised. He was not looking forward to the long flight and planned to lean on Pepper-Up potions if necessary, but once he had the silveret in Namimori they could move on to the introduction and “evaluation”.

Gokudera was as good as his word and met him at the airport in Milan. Hisui had a two hour turn around time before they needed to get to the gate, so he treated the kid to a meal. Gokudera looked nervous and agitated, but held it together, and Hisui made sure no one asked any awkward questions with judicious use of magic.

Gokudera’s energy deserted him once they were in the air and he fell asleep. They would be arriving at around four o’clock, so if necessary he would hit the kid with a timed sleeping spell to ease him through jet lag.

After they landed he located their car and dumped the kid’s cases in the back, then installed him in the passenger seat. Renato had insisted he learn how to drive, so he had left one of the cars in airport parking for his return.

“How much longer?” Gokudera asked, a sullen look on his face.

‘Kami-sama, save me from teenagers.’ “About two hours, depending on traffic. Enjoy the scenery. And speaking of … which would you prefer? Gokudera-kun, or Hayato-kun?”

The kid aimed a suspicious look at him.

“If you don’t specify I’ll use your family name,” he said. “I’m not going to be condescending or assume something, and calling you ‘kid’ all the time is a bit rude. Well, unless you do something stupid enough to deserve it.”

Peripheral vision showed that the kid’s expression eased. “Hayato is fine.”

“All right. Ren-kun might not be so amiable that way, but who knows. He’s a bit outrageous, after all. You can call me Hisui.”

Hayato nodded and looked out the window. “You two are a thing?”

He smiled faintly. “Yes. Very perceptive of you.”

“How long?”

‘And very nosy.’ “Since I was twenty, so coming up on fourteen years,” he said, steering smoothly around a corner.

“And you were fourteen when you started. You were scouted, you said. How come you’ve never…”

“I was deeply suspicious of the man who recruited me, thought he might be a pedophile.”

Hayato was startled into a laugh.

“But he was an upright guy, and he continues to be one of my contacts and offers me jobs. Depending on how things go you may meet him at some point. As for why I never officially joined a famiglia, that’s because I like my freedom. I have ties to several famiglie. It all depends on what you want in life, Hayato-kun. You want a Sky, so we’ll see. Hopefully you’ll be compatible with the kitten and help get him to show his claws when he needs to. You killed anyone yet?”

Hayato’s head whipped around to stare at his profile. “No.”

“When you do, odds are you’re going to lose your stomach for a while. No matter how much the target deserves to die, it still leaves a mark.”

“Who—?”

“More accurately, what,” he replied. “I was offered a job to take out a pedophile, amusingly enough, which proved my contact had a sense of humor. He provided me with a bio, information about the man’s haunts, and proof of his transgressions. Proof is important, Hayato-kun. Always know why you’re doing something. A lot of what the mafia does is take care of those issues that the mundanes cannot.”

“You—mundanes?”

“Normal people,” he replied. “You know what you are, yes?”

“Uh, they said I was a Storm.”

He nodded. “You can be one of two things, Hayato-kun. You can be the fury of the storm, or you can be the eye of the storm. Both are good. It all depends on the situation. You’re a smart kid, so use those smarts. Be the eye of the storm and don’t rush into things blindly if you can avoid it. Be its fury when you must protect yourself, your Sky, your fellow guardians, or innocents, but do so from that calm center, where you can think, and plan, and adapt.”

When they arrived in Namimori he parked outside the building they had purchased and gave Hayato a hand in bringing in his cases, even going so far as to unlock and open the door for him. Inside he handed over the key and gave him a very brief tour, which consisted of pointing so he would not have to remove his shoes and leave the entryway, then woke up his phone and dialed. “Yes, I’m back… Sure, I’ll ask… See you soon.” After putting it back in his pocket he looked at the boy and said, “You want to have dinner with us tonight? The cupboards here are stocked, but I can’t imagine you’ll be wanting to cook just yet.”

“Uh…” The suspicion was back, but only faintly. “Fine.”

He nodded. “Drop your things off and we’ll go. I’ll bring you back after, and then tomorrow we’ll get things started.”

Hayato dragged his cases into the bedroom and was back in a flash, so they returned to the car and got in. The drive was short, but then Namimori was hardly a bustling city. Hayato seemed surprised at the size of the house as Hisui pulled the car into its spot and turned off the engine.

The kid started slightly when Hisui paused to remove his shoes before stepping up, and did likewise. Hisui led him to the kitchen and grabbed a cigarette from the waiting pack, and lit up, inhaling greedily. So many damn hours on planes and never being allowed to smoke was a level of hell. Hayato blinked and pulled a pack from his pocket. Hisui nodded and gestured at the ashtray as Renato came into the room and deftly inserted himself close while still avoiding the cigarette, and gave him a welcoming kiss.

“Finally! I had to subsist on delivery while you were gone,” Renato complained as he moved away, then looked at Hayato. “Prepare for a gastronomical delight.”

“And what exactly were you planning to convince me to cook?” he asked, eyeing his lover with amusement.

“…Oyakodon?” Renato said hopefully. “With miso soup?”

He glanced at Hayato, who shrugged. “You like chicken?” When the boy nodded he waved at one of the chairs. “All right. You have fun while I was gone?”

Hayato sat down and lit up, but followed Hisui’s movements around the kitchen as he gathered ingredients and started to work, cigarette often angled off to the side.

“You could say that,” Renato replied with a chuckle. “The kitten is now both mortified and confused. On the one hand, people think he’s a pervert. On the other hand, he won an alleged kendo fight against some kid named Mochida.”

He glanced back over his shoulder skeptically. “Won? At kendo?”

“Yes,” Renato said, chuckling again. “His idea of winning was to pull out all the kid’s hair, though. Poor guy’s gonna be bald for a while.”

He snorted and paused long enough to take a drag and exhale before getting back to work.

“So, Gokudera, you willing to help teach the kitten Italian?”

“Assuming he’s worth it,” Hayato said a bit doubtfully.

“We’ll see. There’s a volleyball game coming up. You can lurk in the background for that. I’ll make sure the kitten plays.”

“Let me know when,” he said. “I had planned to get Hayato-kun enrolled, so it may as well be the same day.”

“Tuesday. That gives Gokudera here a little time to adjust. Also, I got those books, so we can go over them. I’ve no idea what they’re like in comparison to what you used when you were in school.”

He shrugged. “I can’t imagine they’d be too terribly different. I’ll do the enrollment on Tuesday, then. Hayato-kun, you know how to use hashi?”

“Yeah.”

“Good.” A few minutes later he was sliding food on the table along with drinks. He sat down as Renato said, “Itadakimasu.”

Hayato copied him after a slight pause, then started eating, though his expression was wary.

Hisui just ignored the behavior, knowing from Shamal what Bianchi was like. “It’s immodest of me to say this, but … how wonderful it is to eat real food again, and not something on a plane. How they get away with claiming that slop is food…”

“It’s not like either of us will be taking jobs out of the country any time soon,” Renato said.

Hayato looked up from his meal. “You still do jobs, even if you’re tutoring this kid?”

“Of course,” he said. “Assholes don’t stop being assholes, and we’re far from being ready to retire. And if you fit as the kitten’s Storm, don’t think you won’t be seeing some tutoring yourself.”

“I do really well in school,” Hayato protested.

Renato rolled his eyes. “Kid, you ever manifested your flames? Didn’t think so. There’s plenty for you to learn. Don’t get cocky until you can back it up.”

Hayato got a look on his face that was pure rebellion and threatened imminent explosion, so Hisui manifested six senbon and sent them to hover right in front of the kid’s face. “Don’t be doing something stupid in my house.”

All the colour drained from the kid’s face as he went cross-eyed staring at the gleaming glass. “You’re Phantom?”

“Some idiot out there came up with that name, yes.”

The kid switched gears again, that time into puppy mode. “Really? Wow! I’ve heard so much about you!”

He released the senbon and said, “Then do me a favor and keep the dramatics elsewhere.”

“I am feeling left out, here,” Renato muttered.

Hayato switched focus. “But you’re really cool, too! It’s just—”

“—so few people know who Phantom is, I get it,” Renato said. “Seriously, kid, there’s always something to learn. Don’t think you’ve reached the heights at a mere thirteen years of age. Not every adult you meet is an enemy, capisci?”

Hayato started eating again rather than answer, but the fact that he looked away fairly quickly said so much.

He walked the kid back to his new apartment, planning to return a little later to ensure the boy slept. “If you want breakfast just come by the house. Otherwise, I’ll be here at ten to show you around town.”

Hayato nodded and flicked the ashes off his cigarette.

“All right. Have a good night,” he said once they reached the place, then left after Hayato was inside and he heard the lock click.

“So…”

He acquired a cat on his way to the sofa and spent a minute scratching Yori before he said anything. “Well, the kid’s perceptive. He pegged us as a couple in no time flat, and he even waited until we were in the car on the way from the airport to say anything.”

“Discretion, huh? I expect further incidents of that will be few and far between. As you two were walking out I had a good look at the kid with Leon. He’s got to have five different flames, though Storm is predominant. If he decides to have kids with a Mist he might end up producing a Sky in his line.”

“That’s kind of stunning, actually.”

Renato indicated a stack of books on the table. “Well, regarding the kitten. I arranged for him to run into that girl he’s mooning over, which triggered the expected regret. I got him all worked up after she continued on and then shot him. He keeled over, went flame-active, and raced off like the devil was on his heels.”

“So, the same as Dino.”

“Yes.”

“Did the listening charm stick through it?”

“It did, which was good. Allowed me to hear all sorts of hilarious things, like Tsuna being hit by a delivery man on a bike. Anyway, he found her, asked her to go out with him, and she ran off. Then Mochida nailed him in the face and called him a pervert. I explained a few things about the bullets, what we were training him for, showed him those ‘photographs’ of Nono’s sons, that sort of thing.”

“And he freaked out and squeaked like a newborn kitten,” he said, nodding. “And the kendo match?”

“Mochida is captain of the kendo team and was apparently seeing Sasagawa, and before you ask, not anymore. Tsuna tried to duck out of the challenge Mochida presented, but, well, I made sure he participated. As I said, the school thinks he’s a pervert now for running around in his underwear, but they also know he can be a badass at times, so opinions are divided. I do think they’re a bit mystified at his choice of how to win the match, though.”

He thought back to what Renato had said and snickered. “I assume you went through his work?”

“Yes,” Renato said with a heavy sigh. “To use your favorite word, it was pathetic. The kid fails hard, and I can’t tell yet if it’s because he’s lazy, has trouble with comprehension, or because he doesn’t see the point.”

“Eh?”

Renato shrugged. “If it’s comprehension we can work with that. If he doesn’t see the point, we can find one, even if it involves explosions. If he’s lazy?”

He huffed. “We’ll run him into the ground. I told Hayato-kun I’d show him around town tomorrow. I’ll make sure he knows he can get a part-time job at that one convenience store. Even if the kid doesn’t click I don’t doubt he’d want to stay here, if only to be away from his family. And I can shadow him on a job if it comes to that.”

“Doable. Now, I know how much you want to dive into those books, but…”

Hayato showed up at eight o’clock. Renato had long since disappeared to torture Tsuna, so Hisui was the one to let the kid in by the expedient of checking the monitor for the camera hidden out there and then reaching out to open the door from the kitchen. Hayato seemed startled by the door just opening by itself and then closing behind him, but appeared in the kitchen a minute later.

“Have a seat,” he said. “Traditional Japanese breakfast, or perhaps something a little closer to home?”

Hayato gave him a blank look; he probably had no idea what Hisui meant.

He nodded and started cooking. Two traditional breakfasts coming up, with a side of “closer to home” in case the kid hated the stuff. He also prepared a fish for Yori as a treat, though Hayato gave him a weird look for it.

He spent the better part of the day showing the kid around town, making sure to cruise through the convenience store at one point to pick up cigarettes he did not yet actually need, all so Hayato could coincidentally notice the place was looking for a worker. Of course, that made him wonder how the kid was going to manage to buy cigarettes at his age in a strange country. He shrugged slightly; if the kid needed help he would just have to say so. On the other hand, Suda was pretty laid back in some respects, so if Hayato got a job there he might well be able to convince the old man to look the other way.

On Monday he went over the books, sharing them with Hayato, so the boy would have some idea of what to expect from his new school. There was nothing much of interest in them aside from changes to the history texts and a firm emphasis on students learning at least English in addition to their native one.

On Tuesday he hauled Hayato over to Namimori Middle and worked his magic to not only get the boy enrolled as a first year, but placed in the same class as Tsuna. He arranged things so they would have some time to get Hayato a working idea of the school’s layout before heading to the gym where the game would take place.

“The game will start shortly,” he heard in his earpiece.

“We’re on our way,” he replied, refreshing the spell over the two of them to keep them less noticeable. Hibari was wandering around somewhere, no doubt, and it was best not to push his buttons.

Along the way he heard, “Chaos.”

“Shoot me with the Dying Will Bullet! There’s no time!”

“…I can shoot you, but you’ll die,” Renato said seriously. “If you don’t regret anything when you’re shot with a Dying Will Bullet, you won’t revive. And will you, all cocky from the compliments after that kendo challenge, have any regrets?”

“S-so… it’s unusable!?”

“Want to try it out anyway?” Renato asked dangerously.

“No, it’s okay! It’s really okay!”

“Well, good luck, hero.”

Renato had to have used Leon’s abilities to disappear, for the next thing he heard Kyoko was there to haul Tsuna off to the gym. “All right, I’m heading to my next position,” he heard Renato say.

He and Hayato entered the gym to find it was packed; there was even a set of students with a banner bearing “Tsuna” on it. Tsuna, when he arrived, being more or less dragged by Kyoko, paled at the sight of all the people, but held it together enough to take his place for the game.

“Tch,” Hayato said after Tsuna took a volleyball to the groin. “This is…”

He didn’t bother to comment, just kept watching Nana’s little Tsu-kun get wailed on by an inanimate object repeatedly. The kid was dying of humiliation, but he didn’t flee, which was interesting. The crowd, which had previously welcomed Tsuna, was slowly moving through disappointment to disgust, and his teammates were getting angry if their expressions meant anything.

At the end of the first set Tsuna tried to duck out; his sheepish expression and body language said what their hearing could not pick up. But as the boy turned to go, he paused, eyeing his teammates one by one. Then he took off for the doors.

“Now we wait,” he murmured to Hayato. “See how this plays out.”

“Not going home?” he heard Renato ask.

“Yeah. I’m going.”

“Later.” A minute later he heard, “He’s heading back in. Looks like he plans to finish the game.”

“I think he finally realized that all his teammates were in various states of injury and thought about someone other than himself,” he replied.

“Heading to a sniper position.”

Tsuna came back in and walked up to his teammates, a look of resigned determination on his face.

“Since you seem to get it, take this,” Renato muttered.

Tsuna jerked back and landed on his ass, then sat up and examined his legs.

“What just happened?” Hayato muttered, lighting a cigarette.

“Just a little help is all,” he replied. The second half of the game was markedly different. Having been shot in the legs resulted in a different effect from Leon’s altered bullets. Tsuna was jumping around like Dino had that first time, and was easily able to get into position to hit the ball back instead of being hit by it.

The second the game ended he touched Hayato’s arm and left. Renato would take care of the aftermath. “So what do you think so far?” he asked Hayato once they were halfway to the shop that supplied school uniforms.

“I’m not sure yet. But—he did go back. Even if he thought he was going to let them down again, he still went back to finish it.”

At the house, during dinner, Hayato rolled his eyes slightly and sighed. He sounded like one of them already. “After I’m introduced to the class I need to intimidate him, and spend some time giving him a look,” he said, repeating back the plan. “At break he’ll probably take off, possibly intending to ditch school early again, and I need to catch up with him outside and confront him.”

“You’ll have five minutes, kid, once I trigger his flames. Say what you want about why you’re attacking, so long as he thinks you’re serious. If you can knock him out within those five minutes…”

“Then we’ll talk about my Plan B, I got it. You two will be nearby.”

“Yes. Either way, you’ll probably be coming back here afterward.” He hoped that they would not need to go to Plan B, because that meant teaching the kid how to be an assassin instead of a guardian, and for a kid who attacked using dynamite, that meant coming up with some very creative lesson ideas. Realistically, it meant teaching the kid to use a gun in addition to other tactics with dynamite. “Just remember to make your first attack simple so we can get the introductions done with.”

He went to the school with Renato the next morning to plant listening charms on the two and tie them to their earpieces, as well as place trackers, then headed off to where Tsuna usually spent his breaks when trying to get away from people. If Tsuna chose to go elsewhere he would find him and speed himself and his lover there to be in place.

When the time came they watched as Tsuna barreled around the corner and flattened himself against the wall, breathing heavily. “That was close. I could have been beaten up,” he said to himself.

“You’re something else, aren’t you.”

Tsuna’s gaze jerked over to see Gokudera lighting up. “You—you’re the transfer student! I—I’ll just be leaving now.” He got two steps away before Hayato spoke again.

“If a squeaky little thing like you becomes Jūdaime, the Vongola Famiglia is finished.”

Tsuna froze, then twisted back around. “Huh? How do you know about that?”

Hayato turned to face Tsuna with a menacing expression darkly painting his face. “I refuse to accept it. I’m the one who’s fit to be Jūdaime!”

“What are you saying all of a sudden? Wha—how am I supposed to react to that!?”

Hayato shoved his hands in his pockets and angled the cigarette to the side of his mouth. “I’ve been watching you since the volleyball tournament, but it’s a waste of time to further evaluate a weakling like you,” he said harshly.

“You were … watching?” Tsuna’s eyes went wide.

In a flash, Hayato’s hands were out of his pockets, each one holding a stick of dynamite. “You’re just a nuisance. You’ll die right here,” he promised. As Tsuna began to freak out Hayato lit the two sticks with his cigarette and prepared to fling them forward, saying, “Later.”

Hisui stripped away the charms keeping them from being noticed and lifted his gun. He shot as the sticks were halfway between the two boys, cutting right through the fuses. They were rendered quiescent, but Tsuna still fell on his ass in abject fear.

“Chaos,” Renato greeted.

“Hiiiiiiie!”

“You came earlier than we expected, Gokudera Hayato,” Renato smilingly lied.

“You know each other!?” Tsuna squeaked.

“Yes. He’s a member of a famiglia we invited over from Italy,” he said.

“So this guy is in the mafia!?”

‘Kami-sama, does the kid ever lay off on the freaking out bit?’

“It’s our first time meeting him, as well, though,” Renato lied.

Hayato rolled with it. “So you’re the Kyudaime’s highly trusted assassins.”

Tsuna’s expression went from “about to piss my pants” to bemused.

“You weren’t kidding about me becoming a candidate as the successor if I kill Sawada, right?”

“That’s right,” he said over the sound of Tsuna having a panic attack.

“Well,” Renato said, “let’s get on with the killing. Haven’t got all day.”

“Hey! Wait!” Tsuna jumped up and darted forward a few steps. “Killing me…? What are you talking about? You’re joking, right!?”

“We’re serious,” he said flatly.

“You—you’re—this is betrayal!” Tsuna cried. “You mean everything until now was a lie!?”

‘It’s been a couple of days,’ he thought disbelievingly. ‘What “everything” is there yet?’

“That’s incorrect,” Renato said, lifting his gun and aiming. “I’m telling you to fight.”

Tsuna froze in place for a few seconds while he had a fresh freak-out, then bolted. Hayato blinked out of his menacing look for a second, then snarled and produced more dynamite. He cast a quick look at the two of them, then attacked, purposely missing the first time, despite having tossed a good dozen or so sticks.

Then the sound died down Renato said conversationally, “It’s said that Gokudera is a human explosive device who conceals dynamite all over his body. His other name is Smokin’ Bomb Hayato.”

“What!? That’s even worse! You’ve got to be kidding!”

“Die!” Hayato drove Tsuna into a dead end, then brought out yet more dynamite. “This is it,” he promised. In a flash of movement the sticks were lit and thrown.

“Fight with your Dying Will,” Renato practically sang, then shot Tsuna in the head.

Tsuna popped back up remarkably fast with a cry of, “Reborn!” He darted forward with amazing speed, putting out fuses before the sticks could detonate. “I’ll put out the fuses with my Dying Will!”

Hayato’s expression went weird for a moment, then he lit and threw more dynamite, then prepared twice as much and tried again, and again. Tsuna kept up, kept defusing everything Hayato threw at him. “Triple bomb!” Hayato muttered and went to throw again, but one single stick slipped away and landed at his feet as he started to fling his burden forward. It surprised him so badly all of them tumbled from his hands. “Shit.”

“I did tell him to fight from the eye,” he muttered. “Going to have to work on that.”

Renato nodded, but kept his eyes on Tsuna, who was defusing everything that fell.

Hayato’s cigarette fell from his mouth, but he caught it before it could re-ignite any of the scattered sticks that Tsuna had already taken care of.

The brilliant flames that bathed Tsuna’s face in flickering orange sputtered and died. The kid heaved a sigh of relief. “Somehow I made it.”

Hayato cast a look their way, nodded slightly, and went into puppy mode, dropping to his knees. “I was mistaken!” he cried. “You’re the one who’s fit to be the boss! I’ll follow you, Jūdaime! Command me!”

Tsuna twisted around mid-motion while standing up and almost fell over. “Wha—?”

“Having the loser serve under the winner is a famiglia rule,” Renato said matter-of-factly.

“Actually,” Hayato said, getting up, “I didn’t have any ambitions to become Jūdaime. It’s just that when I heard the new boss was a Japanese guy the same age as me, I felt I had to test his strength. But you’re much more than I expected! For putting yourself on the line to save me, I’ll place my life in your hands!”

Tsuna squeaked and flailed his hands around. “That’s troubling… Like lives and such… Normal classmates will be enough, right?”

Hayato’s puppy look morphed to menacing. “Absolutely not.”

Tsuna’s hands dropped like they were weighted with lead.

“Gokudera became your subordinate because of your actions,” Renato said. “Good job, Tsuna.”

He wondered just how exhausting it must be to freak out so much of the time as he watched Tsuna have another meltdown. As the kitten was babbling and stuttering out nonsense he felt three people approach from the school.

“Oh no, no, these guys are cutting class,” came a mocking voice. “This requires some punishment.”

“You’re only allowed to cut starting third year,” said the second thug.

“How many teeth do you want broken?” said the third.

‘I would have to take so many naps,’ he thought as Renato leaned against the wall next to him. ‘I suppose in that sense, Tsuna does have a fair amount of stamina, but we can work on that. He’s only thirteen, after all.’

“Leave it to me,” Hayato growled, and produced yet more dynamite.

How he managed to pack so much into his pockets was something that mystified Hisui, but then he remembered just how many flames the kid had. He was probably unconsciously using his Cloud Flames to propagate copies of a base amount. There was no other explanation for it. But it did bode well for the kid in the future.

“Wait! Hold on! Gokudera-kun, don’t use dynamite!”

“I’ll get rid of them,” Hayato promised, then acted.

“Hiiiiiie!” As soon as the third years were down and unconscious, Tsuna bolted again.

Hayato stayed long enough to say, “I’ll make sure he gets home okay. See you this evening!” then dashed after his new boss.

He shook his head slowly and pushed away from the wall. He was preparing dinner when Renato eyed Hayato and said, “Well?”

Hayato nodded. “Yeah. He’ll be a good boss.”

“But not such a good student.”

“I can help with that!” Hayato said eagerly. “I’ll study with him after school when I can, help him out. I’ll even try to keep him from ditching so much.”

“All right,” he said. “We’ll give you two some time to mesh, so you won’t see much of us, but one of us will likely be around to keep an eye out.”

“People are gonna find out,” Hayato said seriously.

“Precisely,” Renato said. “So don’t expect help, but know that it’s there if it’s necessary. We can’t fight Tsuna’s battles for him. That’s not why we’re here. Once you two have settled in, maybe get a few more guardians in line, we can talk about serious training. For now, help him out, get to know him.”

“I will!”

“If he’s too resistant to getting his grades up, well, we have our ways,” Renato promised with a sharp smile.

“You have a standing dinner invitation, Hayato-kun,” he informed the kid. “If you don’t feel like cooking or aren’t having dinner at Tsuna-kun’s house, you can come here. But send me a text first, to make sure I’m actually here. Ren-kun can’t cook to save his life, after all.”

*

He was perched in a tree overlooking the field when he saw Hayato wave at Tsuna and head off. Hayato claimed it was so he could replenish his supply of dynamite, but for all he knew Hayato had a fear of baseball and slipped away so as to avoid being pressed into play. Or, perhaps, he was ducking out to a job.

The remaining students in the class milled around, but half of them started eyeing Tsuna. Yamamoto Takeshi strolled over to Tsuna and said, “Isn’t it all right? Just join our team.”

“Are you serious, Yamamoto-kun?” one of the boys complained. “You don’t have to let that loser in.”

Yamamoto slung an arm around the boy’s shoulders in a friendly way. “Don’t be so stingy. I just have to keep them from hitting, right?”

The other boys on the team slumped and agreed, and the game was on. Tsuna was miserable at it, naturally, and ended up with more than a few bumps from being wailed by a baseball. The team sent any number of glares and scowls at the kitten, and told him to sweep the field by himself after the game and the class was over.

“Yamamoto-kun seems like a potential candidate,” he said. “Very athletic, skilled, and popular. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s a Rain with the kind of tranquility he’s been displaying.”

“We’ll keep an eye on him, then,” Renato sent back.

Tsuna just stood there, push broom in hand, head lowered, but then Yamamoto arrived with a broom of his own. “Help has arrived.”

“Yamamoto-kun!?”

He only half listened until Yamamoto admitted to Tsuna that no matter how much he practiced lately, his average was dropping, and he was starting to mess up fielding. He had blown at least one catch during the game, in fact. “Tsuna-kun, what should I do?”

He sighed when Tsuna freaked out and said, “You’re asking me!?”

“Yamamoto-kun seems to think the kitten is a good person to ask for advice.”

“Really now,” Renato sent. “Maybe now that Tsuna’s flames are unlocked he’s starting to draw people in. We definitely need to keep an eye on this one. If Tsuna can nab him for a guardian his reputation in school will stay afloat, occasional perverted boxer runs aside, and it might draw more in because they’ll notice him as a person and not Dame-Tsuna.”

“Yes.”

That evening they went to visit Nana, though after a few minutes of conversation they headed upstairs to Tsuna’s room. The kitten was playing video games instead of doing his homework. Renato made himself comfortable on a chair and started cleaning one of his guns. Hisui perched on the window sill.

“Something good happen?” Renato asked casually.

“You can tell?” Tsuna replied, eyes glued to his game. “Today a popular kid came to me for advice. Man, what to do, what to do.”

“Yeah, about that. Yamamoto—”

The controller in Tsuna’s hands flipped free and hit the floor as he cried, “How did you know!?”

“You should make him your subordinate.”

Tsuna twisted around, hands on the floor to steady himself. “Wha—!? Absolutely not! Yamamoto-kun is hot on baseball. I only want to help him out as a friend!”

“We’ll see.”

Renato was on duty the next day when Hisui got an alert over the earpiece. “Yamamoto flipped out.”

“What happened?” he murmured.

“He took Tsuna’s advice about trying harder a little too seriously and ended up practicing so hard last night he messed up his arm. He’s up on the roof right now, looking to jump.”

“Eh…?”

“I’ll take care of it,” Renato promised. “Just wanted you to know.”

A few minutes later he heard, “You want to help Yamamoto as a friend, right? Then don’t run away.”

“Wait! Time out!” Tsuna was panicking again.

“Huh. He ran away.”

He snorted and tossed more stuff in his basket. He planned to bake up some sweets to take over to Nana. As he was heading to the checkout he heard, “Hm, Tsuna ran more or less blindly, and yet he still ended up on the roof. He’s talking with Yamamoto, apologizing … explaining … he’s apologizing again … preparing to leave… Yamamoto just whipped out a hand and grabbed the kitten by the back of the—shit, hang on.”

He had just made it to the checkout when he heard the gunshot. Then a second one. He knew Renato would tell him what had happened, but he had to admit he was insanely curious. It wasn’t until he was outside the store and walking home that his lover spoke again.

“Right. Yamamoto managed to send them both over the edge of the roof, but it’s fine. Suicide attempt averted. Yamamoto has this dopey look on his face now. Looks like Tsuna snared another one. We’ll have to bring the kid into the fold soon.”

“We’re going to end up a halfway house for kids at this rate,” he muttered.

“Ah, tesoro, I already know you like Gokudera. You were half way to offering him a room already. It’s Tsuna who’s the pain in the ass.”

“Yeah, well, Hayato-kun needs to feel like he’s doing things on his own. I can’t mess with that too much.”

“You still planning to visit Nana today?”

“Tomorrow.”

“All right. I have a little meddling to do this evening, then.”

He furrowed his brow, trying to think what that could mean. He shrugged and continued on; Renato would tell him later.

“You did what?”

Renato smiled charmingly and sidled closer. “It was just a little fun,” he said. “Nana was being all humble like you Japanese tend to do and called her kitten no good. I’ve never understood taking humility quite that far, but whatever. The point is, after Nana set down the drinks tray and left, Leon let me know that Kyoko was feeling regret, so I suggested a little game of Russian Roulette.”

“I’m afraid to know what happened,” he said with a sigh.

“I might have accidentally-on-purpose loaded a Dying Will Bullet into the gun. Kyoko volunteered to go first, shot herself in the head, and popped back up all raring to go. Tsuna went down with a gushing nosebleed, naturally. It was strange, though. She was eerily calm as she stood up, walked out and downstairs—almost straight through a wall, even. You might want to go over there in a bit and check to see if any repairs need to be made, after Nana goes to sleep. Kyoko calmly terrorized Nana, trying to get an apology out of her. ”

“And you resolved this, how?” he asked, feeling twinges of anger.

“I went ahead and whacked her with Leon in mallet form. Jolted her back into a normal state of mind. The girl thinks it was all a dream thanks to Leon’s abilities with memories. So does Nana. I like your friend, tesoro, but even you have to admit she’s a bit … clueless.”

He sighed. “She is.”

“Of course, Tsuna got all confused, thinking the girl was mad about Nana referring to her as Tsuna’s girlfriend rather than the cultural insult. Hopeless, that one.”

“How did you even get the girl over there?”

“I spotted her in a shop and ordered some espresso, and then made like I forgot my wallet. She offered to pay for it, and I brought her back to the Sawada house so I could ‘find’ my money and repay her. That got her into the room with Tsuna.”

“You are so opportunistically devious at times it makes my head hurt,” he complained.

“That’s what makes us such a good team, tesoro,” Renato said gaily. “You’re straightforward and practical, and good with the little ones for some reason, and I’m devious as hell. We help cover each other’s blind spots.”

He sighed and leaned in for a kiss. “You owe me one for putting Nana-chan in danger. I’ll figure out what I want as a favor when the need arises.”

Renato laughed a little nervously and nodded.

The next day they went over to Nana’s after Tsuna got out of school. Hisui brought along a cloth-wrapped box of sweets as a gift, and because he knew how much Nana liked them. Renato went upstairs to torture the kitten over his maths homework while he visited for a little while first. He blithely ignored the sounds of explosions coming from the first floor (”It’s probably just one of Tsuna-kun’s video games,” he said.) and invited Nana to try a different sweet.

When the doorbell rang, however, he began to pay attention. Nana went off to answer the door, but she didn’t see the little fellow who scurried inside and made for the stairs. The intruder was dressed in a cow onesie, had afro-like hair, and was sporting a set of bull horns to either side of his head. ‘Bovino Famiglia?’ he wondered, then strolled out of the kitchen and upstairs, after letting Nana know it was time for him to help out Renato.

“Long time no see, Reborn!” he heard the little boy say—he could not have been more than five years old, if that. “Lambo-san is here!”

“Hiiiie! He came in! Do you know him!?”

“Remember this formula,” Renato said, utterly ignoring the child.

Lambo growled. “Hey, don’t ignore Lambo-san! Lambo-san will kill you, damn it!” He charged forward with a knife in his hand, only for Renato to lash out and deflect the kid into the wall.

Hisui slipped into the room and closed the door, just in case Nana should decide to come upstairs, and eyed the intruder curiously.

“Oh, that hurt,” Lambo whimpered, his face smushed against the wall. “Lambo-san must have tripped.” The child fell back onto his tush and scooted around, then yelled out, “Lambo-san, five years old, from Italy, a hitman from the Bovino Famiglia, tripped!! Favorite foods are grapes, takoyaki, and candy, and Lambo-san, who met Reborn at a bar, just tripped!!”

‘What is this strange feeling?’ he wondered. ‘Kid sure has an odd way of introducing himself.’

“So yeah, Lambo-san will try again. Yo, Reborn! Lambo-san is here!”

Renato continued to ignore the tyke and showed a paper to Tsuna, who was dividing his attention between his tutor and the child. “Solve this using that formula,” Renato said calmly.

“Ano… yeah,” Tsuna said, wrenching his full focus back to Renato.

Lambo went all teary-eyed at the lack of attention he was getting, then turned away and started rummaging in a bag he pulled out of nowhere, mumbling to himself.

‘What is it with these kids and defying the laws of physics?’

“F-four, I think,” Tsuna said.

Renato smiled faintly. “Yes, four is correct.”

Lambo let out a watery laugh and turned around. “Lambo-san borrowed a lot of weapons from the boss,” he said, “that are passed down in the Bovino Famiglia!”

Tsuna sent a quick, sidelong glance at the child, but quickly focused on Renato again, probably afraid of being blown up.

Lambo whipped a huge bazooka out of his hair. “Ta~da! The Ten Year Bazooka! Those who are shot with this can, for five minutes, switch with their self of ten years in the future! But this is only a sample presentation. It’ll be a waste, so Lambo-san will put it away.”

He exchanged a look with Renato. His lover quirked a brow in a way that said, “Fuck if I know.”

“Oh my!” Lambo said theatrically. “Lambo-san found something good. Oh no! What might this be?” he said, then pulled a bright pink grenade out of his hair.

“What?” Tsuna cried. “A hand grenade?”

“Correct!” Lambo said and flicked the pin free. “Die, Reborn!” The grenade went flying.

‘Decent aim,’ he thought. ‘Probably needs work from a greater distance.’

His lover lashed out again as Tsuna’s eyes bugged out, knocking the grenade back into Lambo with such force the child and the grenade went flying out the window, to explode over the yard.

“Let’s move on to the next question,” Renato said coolly.

“Hiiiie,” Tsuna squeaked more quietly than usual. “You didn’t have to do that much. You know him, right?”

Renato shook his head.

“Eh?”

“Either way,” Renato expanded, “if it’s the Bovino Famiglia, they’re a rather small mafia group. I don’t associate with those who rank lower.”

Tsuna slumped, then sat up straight when they all heard Nana call his name. He got up and opened the door after Hisui slid to the side, and headed to the stairs as Nana said, “Come here!”

He followed quietly to see Nana standing there with a sobbing Lambo, who had one hand gripping Nana’s capris. “He knows Ren-kun, right? Did something happen? Well, I’ll leave it to you to sort out, Tsu-kun, while I make dinner.”

Lambo detached himself from Nana and latched onto Tsuna instead. Hisui couldn’t see the kid’s face, but he could tell from the body language that the kitten was freaking out again.

“I’ll call him for you, okay?”

Lambo went into full hysterics at that, and Tsuna rushed him out of the house, but not before Hisui got off a listening charm and tied it to the earpiece he always carried. He put that in place and went back into the bedroom.

“Seems like it’s time to go home,” he said.

They made it to the entryway and he almost had a hand on the doorknob when Nana poked her head out of the kitchen. “You’re staying, right?”

‘Damn, and I really wanted to hear the story on that cow kid.’ “Of course,” he said. “We were just coming down to see if you needed any help.”

Renato laughed.

He poked his lover in the side. “You may not be able to cook, but there’s nothing saying you can’t set a table.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” Nana said. “I don’t need any help. But come in and sit down!” She retreated back into the kitchen.

A half hour later Tsuna returned, just in time for dinner, with Lambo in tow. The little kid refused to let go of Tsuna’s leg—until he smelled the food. Then he hopped up onto a seat and beamed at Nana.

“It’s fine,” she said, setting servings of miso soup and chanpurū on the table. “The more the merrier.”

“Nana-chan,” he said, “where’s yours?”

“Oh, I’ll have mine shortly. I need to go deliver this circular bulletin next door.”

The second the front door closed Tsuna half rose out of his seat so he could lean across the table. “Do something! I can’t handle him!” he cried, gesturing toward Lambo.

‘Oh, so talking to a small child, or dealing with it snotting all over you is a burden too heavy to bear,’ he thought, noting that his lover had angled himself away slightly from the tyke.

“Oh, sure, ignore me now,” Tsuna grumbled.

Lambo grit his teeth, produced a knife, and threw it. “Take that!”

Renato lashed out a hand again. He caught the knife, reversed it, and threw it back, all in a split second. It landed dead center on Lambo’s forehead. More than just that snarl of hair was holding it in place, too, because a rivulet of blood trickled down to part and flow to either side of the child’s nose. “Learn already,” Renato hissed quietly, then went back to eating.

He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed as Lambo slid sideways off his chair, then went to huddle in the corner. A few seconds later that bazooka came out again, and the kid aimed it at himself. How he could hold up something that big was a mystery. He grabbed a little piece of string tied to the trigger and pulled.

Once the smoke cleared he could see a young man, perhaps a little older than Tsuna, wearing a dark jacket with a cow-print shirt underneath. His one visible eye was the same green as Lambo’s.

“My oh my, seems I was brought back ten years,” the boy said, then gave Tsuna a quick wave. “Long time no see, young Vongola Jūdaime. Thank you for taking care of me ten years ago. I’m the crybaby, Lambo.”

“Say what!?”

Hisui nabbed a peapod with his hashi and ate it, content to just watch. Renato continued to ignore everything on that side of the room.

“Hey, Reborn,” Lambo said. “I changed, didn’t I? Lambo, the one you kept ignoring?” After still not getting even a hint of attention, Lambo stiffened and reached into his pockets, pulling a set of bull horns out. “Looks like I have to use my skills, then. I’ll show you how much I’ve changed in ten years.” He attached them—somehow—to his head, and muttered, “Thunder set.”

Hisui quirked an eyebrow as an arc of lightning somehow made its way into the kitchen and hit Lambo, causing his horns to start crackling with electricity. “My horns are one million volts,” Lambo said. “Die, Reborn! Electric Horns!” And then he charged.

Renato lashed out with a fork he should not have had handy and pinned the kid on the crown of his head. Lambo stopped dead, his lips started trembling, and then he fled entirely. Renato finished up the last of his meal and looked unhappy.

Several minutes later Nana returned with a five year old Lambo in tow. “Tsu-kun,” she said sternly. “I asked you to sort this out. Lambo-kun says he just wants to be friends with Ren-kun.” She turned away to get herself food.

Lambo laughed creepily. “Lambo-san lied!” More pink grenades came out. “Die!” Lambo exploded out in the hallway after Renato deflected everything with his empty plate.

Nana gasped and turned around.

“Mama, I’d like more, please,” Renato said.

Her eyes went from the hallway to Renato. “Mama?”

“Oh,” Renato said smoothly, “I was just remembering that little story Hisui told me about when you were still carrying Tsuna.”

Nana giggled. “He did threaten that, didn’t he. And I threatened to use Midori as a name if I had a girl. You’re so silly,” she said, and took his plate. She handed it back a few moments later, a second helping heaped atop it, then finished getting her own meal ready.

“Thank you,” Renato said warmly.

When they finally got home he pinned his lover with a look. “Spill.”

“Oh all right,” Renato said, heaving a sigh. “I ‘met’ the little cow in a bar. Why his boss decided to bring the kid in there is beyond me, but I—you know I don’t like young kids. I ignored him and his endless chatter. The kid is obviously a Lightning. He couldn’t possibly be anything else with that personality.”

“Well, he told Tsuna that he wants to become boss of the Bovino Famiglia and make all humanity bow down to him. But his boss told him he had to defeat, and I quote, ‘the super first-class hitman’. Which reminds me. Why is he calling you Reborn?”

“He kept stuttering trying to say my name, so he started using the meaning in English instead.” Renato shrugged.

“He’s going to be Tsuna’s Lightning Guardian, isn’t he?”

“After what his older self said? Very probably. How troublesome.”