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my soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

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How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

-Sonnet 43, Elizabeth Barrett Browning


1. Storm

The thing about Hayato — the thing that he never tells anyone, the thing that he knows but never even thinks too loud — is that he just wants a family. He wants someone who believes in him, who won’t drop him once he’s outlived his usefulness. He wants a way to prove his worth. He’s more than the bastard of his father, he’s more than the boy his sister poisons so he can play beautifully.

He’s Gokudera Hayato. He’s his own goddamn person, and he’ll prove it to you.

That’s why he’s so proud of the name that he’s made of himself in the underworld. Smokin’ Bomb Hayato, they say, and if they need an explosions expert — they come to him because they know that he’s good. His past doesn’t matter.

Maybe at the beginning some of reputation was built on the fact that they knew Shamal used to teach him (used to, before Shamal left him, just like everyone else) but now he’s making it all on his own abilities.

Then, one day, his phone rings. An unlisted number.

“Yeah?” he says when he picks up.

“Ciaossu,” a high pitched voice greets him. “I have a job for you, Gokudera Hayato.”

Hayato jumps on the chance. Of course he does.

(He’s smart, he is, but he doesn’t think this through. He doesn’t think it through before he leaves for Japan, and he jumps to conclusions once he gets there. That’s one of his failings.)

Hayato is angry at this civilian child. He’s angry that this is going to be the Vongola Decimo. Hayato is angry.

When Hayato is angry, he makes mistakes.

“Are you all right?” Sawada Tsunayoshi asks in a tiny voice, when all is said and done. He’s sitting in front of Hayato. Explosives surround them on all sides, their wicks carefully pinched before they could harm Hayato. It would be so easy to have let him die instead.

Except Sawada saved him.

“I’m sorry!” Hayato says. He bows before this boy — this civilian boy, who saved his life, who has no idea what he’s getting himself into, who needs someone like Hayato at his side to keep harm away from him. And maybe, just maybe, Sawada needs someone too.

(He does, of course he does. This first bond is the fastest one — on both Hayato’s and on Tsuna’s. Hayato has been desperate for so long, but so has Tsuna. Tsuna recognizes that desperation, that longing, and he opens himself up and welcomes Hayato in.

The compassionate, kind Sky. The one who welcomes everyone into himself.)

So Hayato is the first of Decimo’s Guardians, and that means something in the mafia. He’s Decimo’s right-hand man — honestly, that’s almost as good as being Vongola Decimo — and he’s one of Tsuna’s best friends.

Because they are friends. Hayato loves Tsuna. Maybe it’s not as true at the beginning, when it’s simply that Hayato has decided he’ll belong to this person, because he owes a debt for his life and for letting him stay. But then it becomes something better, something purer. It is friendship, truly, as they both get to know each other, as they keep facing school and mafia problems and Reborn’s crazy training together.

The moment that cements everything for Hayato, though, the moment there is no going back, is this:

“GET OUT OF THERE,” Tsuna screams.

Hayato sways. He could reach the other half of the Storm ring; he’s so close.

But Tsuna is terrified.

“Get out of there, Gokudera-kun,” Tsuna says. “It doesn’t matter if we win this if it means that I lose you.”

Hayato stares at Belphegor’s ugly smile. The ring that’s so close.

He has to make it out of this alive. If he doesn’t — if he doesn’t, he’s going to break something in his Sky. He’s going to ruin Tsuna when what he’s trying to do, above all, is show how much he loves Tsuna. If he doesn’t make it out of here, if he doesn’t follow his Sky’s orders, then he’ll only accomplish the opposite.

Hayato gives up his half of the Storm ring. He makes it out of the battleground the school has become.

Tsuna smiles at him, and Hayato — Hayato will remember this moment until the day he dies.


2. Rain

Takeshi smiles and laughs and even when he’s inducted into the mafia, he pretends he doesn’t understand that it’s anything more than a game. But the reason he’s so good at pressing Gokudera’s buttons is that it’s so, so easy to recognize your buttons on someone else.

That desperation, that thirst to be acknowledged, that hope that someone will finally see through to who you really are — Takeshi feels that, too. He just hides it a little better than Gokudera does. It doesn’t stop him from recognizing it in someone else. It doesn’t stop him from wanting when he sees how that desperation eases in the presence of Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Takeshi hides it a little better than Gokudera. He hides it and keeps hiding it, standing on the outskirts, until he finally acts on his courage and asks Tsuna — Tsuna, who has changed recently — for advice.

“What do you think I should do?” Takeshi asks.

Tsuna stares at him with wide eyes and says, “W-well, maybe…just keep working at it? Try your best, Yamamoto.”

Takeshi does. And that advice fails him.

But Tsuna doesn’t fail him.

Tsuna saves his life.

So Takeshi falls in with Tsuna and Gokudera and Tsuna’s weird tutor. He follows along with them and treats everything like it’s a game — because everything is to him. Takeshi doesn’t know how to operate without pretending that nothing is as real as it is. It’s how he coped with the aftermath of his mother’s death. It’s how he’s managed to keep going for so long, when everything within him simply wants to give up. The game — and the devastation he knew would hit his father — is the only reason he managed to keep going for so long.

Until Tsuna.

The turning point for Takeshi is when he meets Squalo for the first time. It’s the Ring Battles that make everything real for him. Some small part of him still treats this like it’s the game — he’s been using the game to hold himself together for so long that he can’t let it go without fully destroying himself — but the rules of it have changed. Things are much more serious in this version of the game, and they have to win at it now. Takeshi absolutely can’t afford to lose.

So he goes to his father and he says, “I need you to teach me.” He says, “I need to learn Shigure Soen Ryu. Please, will you teach me?”

And Tsuyoshi does. And Takeshi fights. And Takeshi goddamn well wins, and he saves Squalo at the same time, because what good is a game if you don’t have someone to keep playing it with? Oh, he has Tsuna and everyone else, but Squalo — Squalo is the first person that made Takeshi step up. He’s the first person that made Takeshi have to take the game seriously, because the consequences otherwise would be death.

The Ring Battles don’t make Takeshi take everything seriously, but they make him take enough things. They don’t drastically change his relationship with Tsuna, because the foundation of that has been set since the day Tsuna kept him from diving off the school’s roof. Still, they’re something that keeps adding to his relationship with Tsuna. How Takeshi relates to Tsuna — it’s a slow thing. It starts after Gokudera’s relationship, building steadily like water behind a dam, like the Rain Takeshi is, pouring down itno a stream and gradually swelling over the banks, until no matter where you look, it’s water everywhere, reflecting the sky on its rippling surface.


3. Sun

Everyone always finds it easy to love Ryohei. Even when people are annoyed with him and his boundless enthusiasm, off put by the way he’s so loud and cheerful and always full of energy — even then, it’s easy to love him, because this is a boy who fights because he loves it, but promised his sister he wouldn’t because he loves her more. This is a boy who tries to make friends with anyone who crosses his path. This is  aboy who meets someone and shortly after tellls them that they should call him “onii-san.” He’ll be anyone’s brother if they ask it of him. He’ll protect anyone if they ask it of him — and if they ask it of him, he’ll try not to fight, too. He’s a protector.

He just wants to help.

He’s too goddamn full of love.

Ryohei doesn’t really know Tsuna at first. He’s vaguely familiar with him, the way you are with anyone who’s an underclassman in your school, and Tsuna’s in the same class as Kyoko. He’s heard of Tsuna before, or at least he’s heard his name.

Like Yamamoto, though, Ryohei doesn’t really notice Tsuna until Reborn arrives. Tsuna always does his absolute best to fade into the background. There’s a pull about him, something that makes people almost want to get close to him —

(It’s the seal, of course, the seal that buries him but can’t keep tendrils from reaching out for what he’s missing)

— but Ryohei is an incredibly oblivious teenager. He can be excused for missing it, just like everyone else does. Just like Tsuna does.

Tsuan eventually comes to Ryohei’s attention, though, and Ryohei extends the same offers that he extends to everyone he wants to make friends with: fight with me, please. Fight with me in the only way that I’m allowed, let me loose, let me be friends with you int he only way that I know how, and I’ll help build you up afterwards.

(Ryohei has always had a light touch when wrapping his sister’s skinned knees, when he wraps his hands for practice, when anyone asks him to help with healing instead of hurting. They’re two sides of the same coin, and Ryohei is good at both, even if it takes him a long time — and a lot of coaching — before he realizes it.)

Ryohei is pulled into the orbit of Tsuna’s friendship. He’s pulled into the strangeness and the adventures — but he’s like Yamamoto. He doesn’t quite see it as real. Not for a while. When does it become real for him? When does he decide that Tsuna is his, the same way that Kyoko is? Because he might invite Tsuna to call him onii-san the first day he meets him, but when is that something that Ryohei truly feels? What is the point that he can’t come back from?

It’s not when he first meets Tsuna. It’s not when he fights Chikusa and Ken. It’s probably not when he fights in the Ring Battles, either. He’s so much like Yamamoto, but he isn’t entirely the same. Things become more real as he fights in the Ring Battles, as he learns from Colonello, but it doesn’t truly hit home for Ryohei until they travel into the future.

It doesn’t become real to Ryohei until he’s facing a whole world that wants to kill them. It doesn’t become real until his sister is in danger.

Kyoko — oh, Kyoko. She shows up at the Ring Battles and Ryohei assures her that he’s only fighting in a tournament, and then he finishes the fight quickly. It’s true, for a given sense of the word. It’s just another fight for him, really. It’s fun, but it’s not dangerous. It doesn’t count.

It’s not real.

In the future, though, fighting against the Millefiore — his sister is there in the future with him, and she’s in danger every goddamn day.

He doesn’t even realize it, at first. He doesn’t realize that the day Ryohei will look back on as the day Tsuna truly became his Sky was a day Ryohei wasn’t even there for. It’s the day Tsuna and Kyoko and Haru first appear in the future, when Tsuna blocks an attack from hitting Kyoko with his own body.

Ryohei only hears about this much later, when Kyoko spills it out with her tears one night, after the dangers of the day have combined to simply be too much.

“I was so scared, nii-chan,” she sobs. She tells him all of it as Ryohei holds her to his chest and stares into the distance.

I was so scared, is something that will haunt him, because he wasn’t there to protect her, and he realizes then that this is something he can never repay. He wasn’t there for this, but Tsuna was. He protected Kyoko, just like Ryohei would have. No hesitation.

This is the moment Ryohei fully gives himself to Tsuna, and if he throws himself even harder into training the next day, his sister’s tears dried on his shirt — well, they’re all aware of how much is at stake here. If Ryohei has realized something that will help his training, so much the better.


4. Lightning

Lambo is an innocent.

That’s not true, of course — no child in the mafia is truly innocent. But he’s so young, so small, so prone to bursting into tears when something doesn’t go his way. And that’s because he’s a child. He’s just a child.

Despite that — or perhaps because of that — he shares a common thread with most of the other Guardians: he just wants someone to acknowledge him.

No. No, not that. He wants his family to acknowledge him. No, no, that’s still not right. He like, several of the other Guardians — he wants a family. He’s supposed to be going after Reborn, but he manages to stumble his way into a family of his own, somehow. An older brother, a mother, and then eventually a sister the same age as him and another brother just a few years older than him. Added to that is the extended family that is the Guardians. Lambo ends up with such a large family. He left his blood family behind and found a bigger, better one in the process.

Lambo runs and laughs and loves his life, even when Reborn or Ahodera pick on him.

Tolerate,” he tells himself, but his new family doesn’t mind as much as his old did when he can’t hold back his tears. Mama picks him up or Tsuna gives him grape candy and a kind smile or Fuuta and I-Pin try to distract him. It’s so much better than anything he’d had before.

Lambo becomes the Lightning Guardian for Tsuna. It’s a strange process, because part of that bond doesn’t come from him. He loves Tsuna like a brother and as he grows, he eventually comes to recognize him as a boss — the boss of their family — but that takes maturity a five-year-old doesn’t quite have yet. The Guardian bond comes from Lambo, but it doesn’t come from the Lambo of this time.

What does time travel do to you?

Lambo doesn’t know. The Bovino family gave him a powerful weapon, but they didn’t bother explaining it to him, and Lambo didn’t ask. He was five, of course he didn’t ask. So none of them know — is it always their future, or is it an alternate one? Is this the Lambo that they will all know someday, or is this five exposure even enough to know? By seeing that future Lambo, is that enough to change the future that he represents?

Does it really matter?

Whenever Lambo comes back, whether it’s from ten years or twenty years, his Flames always automatically reach out toward Tsuna’s. They always reach out toward home. And every time, no matter what, Tsuna accepts him.

It takes a while for Lambo to truly connect to Tsuna, or at least to acknowledge what it is that he’s doing. Like Yamamoto, a part of Lambo simply views this as a game. Only growing up will take some of that naivety away from him. But Lambo has accepted the ring and the box weapon and his Flames, both past and future, connect to Tsuna.

Lambo always comes home to Tsuna.

That’s all that matters.


5. Cloud

Kyouya doesn’t care about Sawada Tsunayoshi, even if he knows about him. He doesn’t care about him; why would he? He doesn’t care about anyone other than Kusakabe and his parents, but he recognizes everyone. He has to be able to put a name to a face so that he can check grades, attendance, classroom behavior. He needs to know everything. So he knows about Sawada; he knows about “Dame-Tsuna,” who is bad at his classes and always has other herbivores crowding around him so that they can attack the smallest and frailest of the herbivores among themselves.

It’s annoying.

That’s what he thinks of Tsuna for the longest time: annoying. That’s all Tsuna is to him, and his simply doesn’t care. Not about anything to do with Tsuna.

But then — oh, then someone appears. A new animal has made its way onto his territory, and suddenly Sawada isn’t acting as much like a herbivore. He’s fighting back against he herbivores that attack him, he’s running around disturbing the peace, he’s crowding with herbivores like that new student (Gokudera Hayato: decent attendance, disobeys school dress code, carries explosives on campus [NOT ALLOWED], exemplary grades — not that that balances out his indiscretions) and Yamamoto Takeshi (better attendance than Gokudera, obeys dress code, disturbed the school by being on the school roof and almost caused further distraction by throwing himself off, slipping with some of his grades, his smile annoys Kyouya but something about his eyes almost pricks his interest).

And more than the sudden changes in Sawada are the interesting people that suddenly follow him around. Like the baby carnivore. The baby carnivore that is intruding on Kyouya’s territory, but that gives him a goddamn good fight. And strong people start trailing behind Sawada like they’re drawn to him — and they are. Bucking Horse, that bastard Rokudo that Kyouya is going to deal with permanently someday, the disappointing robot on school grounds, and then the fascinating trip to the future, where Kyouya can see everything that he’s made of his Disciplinary Committee. He can see everything that he has accomplished, and he can keep fighting against stronger and stronger opponents.

So Kyouya sticks around Tsuna because Tsuna can give him a good fight. Not Tsuna himself — not yet — but because there are so many strong people trailing behind him.

Someday, Kyouya realizes his mistake. His future self had long ago come to that realization, but Kyouya doesn’t have the full memory of his future self, only scattered memories. He has to reach that realization by himself. Eventually, he does. Sawada isn’t simply a means for him to find strong opponents. Sawada is a strong opponent himself. He’s not that little herbivore anymore.

“What?” Tsuna asks him, flicking blood off his gloves, Flames still bright over his burning eyes. Some of that fire carries over to Tsuna’s everyday self now, like he’s finally managed to force some of that unbending steel into his own spine, even when he’s not actively using his Flames.

“Nothing,” Kyouya says, turning away to hide his slight smile. All there enemies here are dealt with. They won’t act against Vongola again.

Kyouya wonders how he missed this for so long. It must have been building for years, but it’s only now that he fully understands, and realizes that his territory doesn’t simply include Namimori now. It’s included Tsuna now, possibly for years.

(Kyouya wonders exactly how long it’s been.

He thinks of Byakuran screaming as he’s burned to death. He thinks of the tracks of tears trailing down Tsuna’ s face in that Sky-bubble none of them could breach. He thinks of Tsuna, standing back to back with his ancestor, accepting the true power of the Vongola rings as they’re fully unsealed for the first time in centuries.

He thinks of the faint memories he still carries, the ones he received from his future self. He thinks of the way he had trapped Tsuna in an airtight ball, refusing to let him out until he either died or the Vongola ring accepted him, and he thinks of the unshakable belief his future self had held in Tsuna. There was a reason, after all, that Decimo and the Foundation’s leader had plotted together. They had that intrinsic trust between each other — and they shared a ruthlessness to get the job done, no matter the cost.

Kyouya realizes that Tsuna has never been as weak as he thought the Sky was, and that’s the day that the last thread keeping them apart connects, and Kyouya is fully Tsuna’s, until death do they part.)


6. Mist

All the people that Tsuna takes on as his Guardians are damaged in some way, but Mukuro — Mukuro is the worst. Experimented on by his family, died six times, and finally was forced to save himself. That’s the thing — no one else ever came to save Mukuro. Mukuro was betrayed by those he trusted and no one rescued him. He took care of himself, he saved some of the others who were being tortured with him, and then he swore he would burn it all to the ground.

No one was ever going to do this to him again. No one was ever getting close enough to him to be able to try. He’d goddamn well make sure of it, even if he had to burn down the whole world with him.

When they escape the Vindice the first time, Mukuro realizes that the best chance they have is the Vongola heir. Much as CEDEF, Vongola Nono, and Reborn may try to keep it quiet, rumors have spread through the underworld. It’s certainly well known that most of the other heirs are dead. Mukuro has more ways of digging his way to the truth than most people do, so it’s all too easy for him and his to find out this information.

They head toward Namimori.

Mukuro hides his face. He kidnaps the Ranking Prince. He slowly attacks the strongest in Namimori, hoping to draw out the would-be Vongola Decimo.

It works eventually. Here’s what doesn’t work: the rest of Mukuro’s plan. His dream —his goal — of taking down the mafia. And his freedom, too, is taken away from him again. He wants to rage at Decimo for this. He wants to hate this boy, who stares at him with burning orange eyes and listens, blank face shading towards horrified as Mukuro explains his history. As Mukuro explains what his own family did to him.

(Mukuro doesn’t know it then, but Tsuna can relate. Not in the severity, but the betrayal by family? Tsuna is familiar with this.

A blond foreigner brought into Tsuna’s home a man he named his boss, and the next day everything changed for Tsuna. Something inside him had shifted, and it wasn’t until eight years later, when Reborn fired that first Dying Will Bullet at him and then explained, that Tsuna realized something had been missing for all those years. That he, like Mukuro, had been betrayed, had been violated, and something was taken from him that never should have been.

After Reborn arrived, it took a while for Tsuna’s equilibrium to settle, for enough of his Flames to seep out from behind the seal even while he wasn’t in Dying Will Mode — but eventually it does. Eventually, Tsuna feels whole again. Whole, for the first time since he was five years old and a dog scared him into a prodigal use of his Flames that they would never allow him to use.

Not until they needed him.)

This is something Mukuro and Tsuna will talk about much later. For now, it’s enough that Tsuna understands why Mukuro is who he is, why he has done what he has. Tsuna doesn’t condone it, but he understands it, and he stands in the way of the Vindice when they come for Mukuro. The Sun Arcobaleno pulls Tsuna out of the way, allowing Mukuro, Ken, and Chikusa to be dragged away.

Mukuro laughs and laughs and laughs.

He hadn’t expected anything from Vongola Decimo. He had expected — well, maybe he hadn’t expected an easy fight, but he was confident in his chances. It’s so hard to defend against the faces of people you care about, isn’t it? But Sawada Tsunayoshi surprised him. Impressed him. He didn’t do what Mukuro expected, he was stronger than Mukuro expected, and he won.

Mukuro doesn’t fully understand his Flames at that time, but they reach out anyway, grasping for the Sky right in front of him. A Sky that understands him. A Sky that would accept him, but wouldn’t use him, wouldn’t ruin him, the way that some other Sky might. Even then, Mukuro understands this at an instinctual level.

Later, Mukuro makes a deal with Vongola. He gives them Nagi and he stays behind, leaving himself to the tender mercies of the Vindice and their water prison. The only window to the world that he has it through his Chrome, and the occasions that he takes over her body and can almost — but never quite — feel the wind and the sun against his skin.

This is Mukuro’s life.

And then — it isn’t. Because Tsuna has done what no one else h as ever done in Mukuro’s life: he rescues Mukuro. He barters with the Vindice for Mukuro’s freedom. For the first time in his life, someone has saved Mukuro.

“Sawada Tsunayoshi,” are the first words that Mukuro rasps out when they’ve pulled him from the tank.

“Hi, Mukuro,” Tsuna says, smile almost soft enough to hide the rage sparking Flames on his brow. Chrome is half a step behind him, guarding her Sky’s back, trident clutched in one hand. “You ready to go home?”

Someone has finally saved Mukuro.

This, more than anything, is what seals Mukuro to Tsuna’s side. He never expected Tsuna to give him anything other than brief moments through Chrome. He had thought Tsuna trusted them as his Mist(s) because it was Chrome who was there the most often, and that Tsuna simply hid his discomfort when Mukuro was present. Mukuro was used to that; it was what he kept expecting, even as the months and the battles and the politics passed. But no.

No. Vongola Decimo trusts Mukuro, and he wants both his Mist Guardians by his side.


7. Mist (redux)

Her parents named her Nagi, but they hardly ever called her that. They don’t talk to her, and when they talk about her with each other – what few times they do – they just call her “the girl,” “the child,” “that burden,” “you ruined my goddamn life with her.” She can hear them arguing outside her hospital room as she fades in and out. She can hear them decide not to save her.

(She would never have expected them to do that in the first place.)

Nagi closes her eyes – her eye – and sinks down, down, down.

“My oh my. What are you doing here?”

Nagi opens her eye. She stands in a meadow, wind softly ruffling the grass and the flowers and the long bangs of the boy standing in front of her, staring at her with mismatched eyes and a lazy smile.

She doesn’t realize it in that first moment, but this is the turning point of her life. This is the best thing that will ever happen to her.

Later, she wakes up in the hospital room. She sits up, one hand going to her stomach, checking the illusory organs, and then she swings her legs over the side of the bed. She doesn’t disconnect anything that involves a needle inside her, because she doesn’t know how, but Mukuro takes her hands and does it for her. He fashions clothes around her, warning her he can only hold them for so long, so she needs to find real ones of her own.

“Thank you, Mukuro-sama,” Dokuro Chrome says.

She stands, and she walks out of the hospital. She doesn’t look back.

She makes her way to Namimori. she meets up with Ken and Chikusa. She meets the boss for the first time, when she walks into the ring battles, clutching the trident that belongs to her-and-Mukuro close to her chest. She fights.

She doesn’t win.

I’m sorry, Mukuro-sama, she says after. I’m sorry, I failed you.

Hush, my dear, Mukuro says inside her. You did well. You’re still learning, but you’re my disciple. I chose you. You will only get better from here, my Chrome.

Chrome holds his certainty close to her chest to comfort herself when nothing else will.

Chrome gave herself to Mukuro immediately, because he helps her when no one else does, and if he has an ulterior motive — well, he states it outright. He’s using her, and letting her use him to stay alive, and they both know it. They’re the only options either of them have. Despite this, Mukuro doesn’t hate her. He’s kind to her, so Chrome gives him her loyalty back tenfold.

Chrome could use some kindness in her life.

That’s the way that Tsuna gets to her, then. It’s a slow process, achingly slow. Chrome isn’t like the other Guardians. If there’s any of them that she could be compared to, it would be Hibari. They’re both wild animals. It takes time to bring them in to the fold.

With Chrome, though, it’s not because she doesn’t want to be there. It’s not because she looks down on them and their power. It’s because she’s a feral street cat, kicked at and chased away too often to trust that there is anyone (other than Mukuro) who could ever want her around.

But Tsuna is so kind.

It’s not an act with him; he genuinely cares about people. Sometimes it takes a bit for him to be prompted to fight, but if he’s fighting, it’s because he doesn’t want to see people hurt. He wants to protect people. If he doesn’t have a choice in what his life is going to be, then he’s going to protect the people that are being dragged down with him. That’s what fuels his Flames. That’s what makes him strong.

That’s what draws Chrome to him, ever so slowly.

The other Guardians try to include her, but she shies away. She sticks with Ken and Chikusa and Mukuro-sama, only occasionally and hesitantly ever approaching the Guardians or Tsuna.

It changes after their trip to the future.

Haru and Kyoko start hanging around her, and through Kyoko, Hana. They gift Chrome with bentos and visit cake shops with her and a few times Kyoko even convinces Chrome to go shopping. The girl keeps her arm looped through Chrome’s the whole way to the shopping center. It should feel constraining, like Kyoko is making sure she won’t back out on her promise, but instead it’s simply comforting. Nice.

Tsuna can be a little oblivious, but he, too, manages to pick up on things. Like Kyoko and Haru, he gifts her with bento boxes. He helps his mother make some from Ken and Chikusa, too, or he buys them at the convenience store and presses them into Chrome’s hands, cheeks faintly pink. At some point, awkwardly, he asks about their accommodations at Kokuyo Land. Chrome shrugs and says that it’s fine.

(Reborn pulls down the brim of his hat so Chrome won’t see him smile.)

The next thing Chrome knows, she and Ken and Chikusa are sitting down eating dinner with the whole of Tsuna’s Family, Nana presiding at the head of the table. The woman is smiling so wide her cheeks must ache, looking out over the chaos of a good half dozen teenagers and several children in her home. At the end of the night, Tsuna says loudly — even if he stutters — that the Kokuyo trio should spend the night, because they live the next town over, and doesn’t Mama think—

“Oh, yes!” Nana says, clapping her hands together. “It’s too late! Sleep here tonight, we have plenty of room.”

Chrome, Ken, and Chikusa look at each other. None of them know how to refuse.

Somehow, they end up never leaving. Chrome rooms with Bianchi and I-Pin. Ken and Chikusa sleep in the same room as Lambo and Fuuta, and they threaten every day that they’re really going to murder Lambo at some point, but Fuuta ranks the likelihood of that and Chikusa nearly punts him through a wall when it’s a percentage much lower than Chikusa’s shouting would make it seem.

So Chrome has a home and food and friends. Family. She visits Mukuro in her dreams, runs her fingers through his hair as he lays his head in her lap, and she hopes for a day when all her family will be with her. She hopes for a day when Mukuro is free.

The kindness helps draw Chrome into the Family, but in the end, Chrome and Mukuro are two sides of the same coin. What settles it for Chrome is the same that settles it for Mukuro:

Tsuna frees Mukuro.

Finally, they’re all together.

Chrome helps Mukuro make his wavering way out of the Vendicare Prison. She looks up at the sky, and she smiles.