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Sass and Win

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Well.... we lived.

 

Somehow?

 

When I actually take the time to mull it all over all I can think is: ‘we should be dead.’

 

There is no way that a handful of idiot teenagers with no formal combat training should have been able to survive against a siege of professional killers. Somehow we had though. I’m going to chalk it up to Reborn,and his bizarre talent for warping the rules of reality, coming to our rescue. Because, really, we should all be dead.

 

Or, at the very least, I should be.

 

If Reborn hadn’t shown up when he had there is now way that I would have survived that first encounter. And then I would be a ghost and not just suffering the aftermath of strangulation, concussion, electrocution, and absolute god damn exhaustion.

 

Yeah, I fucked myself up real bad. But plus side; not a ghost. And Tsuna isn’t a ghost, and none of our dumb friends are ghosts either. I am seriously questioning their self preservation instincts, but at least they aren’t dead.

 

After Shamal, and the reinforcements that Vongola managed to round up on short notice turned up, things had moved very quickly. I don’t remember much of what happened, what with the unconsciousness and all, however I do remember being tossed in the back of a van and the look of panic on Reborn’s face as he tried to snap me back to reality with sunshine magic.

 

And then nothing.

 

It had been nothing for a good long while.

 

There were flashes though. Takeshi’s voice. Tsuna and Lambo snuggling up next to me me. Mom singing as she pet my hair.

 

Reborn hushing me back to sleep when I woke screaming from a nightmare.

 

There had been so many nightmares. The ones that stuck out most though were the ones where a heavy body presses me now against a desk and big meaty hands clamp around my throat cutting off my airway. And no matter how much I would trash I couldn’t get them off. And this time Reborn doesn’t show up to save me, so I die and I die and I die and die.

 

And I am left staring into the dissolving face of a monster that had once been a child screaming desperately for its mother.

 

Interspersed in all of that are memories. Memories that smoulder with orange fire at the edges and them burn away with painful flashes. I don’t manage to hold onto much. Two things.

 

A word and a boy.

 

Arcobaleno.

 

And Rokudo Mukuro.

 

Neither of which I have the energy to deal with right now.

 

It’s been four days since all of that happened, apparently. I have slept through most of it. I scared the shit out of Tsuna and Lambo when I bolted up, flipped myself out of bed landed on my face and started cursing up a storm.

 

I have never been fussed over so much in my entire life than I have been in the past hour. This is including the five days I spent in the hospital... which was just a couple days ago.

 

Now that I think about it that’s probably why there is all the fuss.

 

Oh well, we get pancakes and espresso out of it. Made with love from Mama despite the fact that she was awoken at three in the morning by the sound of her children screaming.

 

Now, I am attempting to mimic Tsuna’s fork holding technique in order to consume said glorious pancakes. We seem to have both come down with s terrible case of mummy hands (and arms in my case). He is decidedly better at this than I am. At the very least he is able to grip the fork and pilot pancake into his mouth.

 

I have dropped this fork like six times. I can’t even manage to grasp it. If this goes on any longer I am going to forgo table manners completely and just mash my entire face into those pancakes.

 

I carefully press the fork between both my hands and move carefully toward the stack of pancakes. Just as I am about to pierce down into the sugary breakfast treat the offending utensil slips from my grasp and clatters against the coffee table.

 

“Wahhh~” I whine and press my forehead against the tabletop. “Pancakes~”

 

“Bwahaha, silly Fratello. That’s not how you hold a fork,” Lambo laughs at me.

 

I’m glad that my emotional turmoil and lack of manual dexterity is a source of amusement to him at the very least.

 

A small hand prods my head, and I look up to see Reborn holding out a bite sized pancake slice on the end of a fork in front of my face. I snap onto it like a god damn alligator before he has a chance to change his mind or yank it back (like the sadist he most certainly is).

 

“Thank you,” I tell him reverently through a mouthful of sugar and syrup.

 

“Don’t get used to it brat,” he says before cutting another piece and holding it out to me. “You look too pathetic for even me to tolerate right now.”

 

I consider arguing that ‘pathetic’ comment. However, my desire for breakfast wins over my pride and I bite down on the offering. Just as a flash goes off next to my head.

 

When the spots clear from my vision mom is sitting there with a goofy smile on her face and a camera raised. Tsuna had burrowed his head into his arms and he’s giggling like a lunatic.

 

I don’t know why. It’s not that funny.

 

“I’m sorry Inari-chan,” Mom giggles. “You and Reborn-chan looked so cute I couldn’t resist.”

 

I stare at her wide eyed for a moment while I chew slowly. She had looked so worried and worn out when she had run into our room. No one has really said anything about what happened yet, but I can only imagine how terrified she had been when we had been hauled into the house by a strange man, beat to shit, and then had a strange five year old thrown at her.

 

If it takes my immortalized humiliation to make her smile today so be it.

 

I turn back to Reborn to find him staring back at me with a quirked eyebrow and a fresh forkful of pancakes. Apparently he has reached the same conclusion.

 

Fuck it.

 

I bite at the pancakes with a wide grin. Mom squeals happily and snaps an other picture. Tsuna just breaks down into full blown howling laughter. He has gotten pretty ballsy if he is willing to laugh at Reborn to his face. That or he sustained some serious head trauma when we were being attacked by assassins.

 

Of course he immediately starts chocking on one of the strawberries, because that is how karma works. And Reborn claims immediate vengeance for his dignity by smacking Tsuna across the back with way more force than necessary until he spits up the offending fruit.

 

“Tsu-kun, honey, I’ll go get you a glass of water,” Mom says as she gets up and leaves the room.

 

“Thanks Mom,” Tsuna rasps after her.

 

“Dame-Tsuna, Don’t laugh with your mouth full.”

 

Lambo blatantly ignores this sound piece of advice that he is overhearing and continues to laugh uproariously at our antics.

 

Apparently Lambo is just ours now. He’s been calling Mom ‘Mama’ all morning and she is just rolling with it without question. I don’t know if I missed an intense conversation about custody or adoption while I was unconscious. Or if we just skipped to the part where he is just part of the family now.

 

I’m not sure if the Mafia has different rules when it comes to this kind of stuff.

 

Whatever, either way I’m ruling that he is ours now and the Bovino can go fuck themselves for letting such a tiny kid wander the world on his own.

 

“So, uh...” I start my thought by reaching out and prodding one of Tsuna’s heavily bandaged hands with my own. “I know its not the most important question right now, but, uh, what’s with the mummy hands that we’re rocking?”

 

“Um.”

 

Tsuna stutters around an actual answer and starts flexing his hands within their confines. He seems to have a much better range of motion than I do. I don’t know if that is because he has had a couple extra days to practice, or if he just fucked himself up less than I did.

 

“Burns...from the magic fire.”

 

He sounds so very pained to be speaking the words ‘magic fire’ aloud. Like he cannot believe that this is the most logical explanation that he can give me for our current predicament. I guess it makes just as much sense as anything else would.

 

Meaning none at all.

 

I can’t help the giggle fit that I fall into. We must be the only idiots who have been stupid enough to burn themselves with their own Dying Will Flames. I can’t remember anything from that story about Dying Will Flame backlash. But then again that story is proving to be more of a loose guideline than a tried and true road map.

 

“Don’t laugh, I’m being serious,” he whines.

 

“I know, I know,” I continue to giggle. “That’s why it’s so funny.”

 

“You two are hardly the first to feel the backlash of Dying Will Flames,” Reborn says, apparently reading my mind again. “Though I will admit that both of you injuring yourselves in the same way at the same time is a little bit ridiculous.”

 

“Yup, that’s us,” I agree, “absolutely ridiculous.”

 

“Any chance that you can teach us how not to horrifically injure ourselves with our mafia magic powers next time?”

 

“It’s on the addenda,” Reborn answers wryly.

 

He missed my stunning wit and sardonic soliloquies. I can tell. He would have smacked me by now for saying ‘mafia magic’ if he hadn’t.

 

A small tug comes at the bottom of my shirt and I look down to find a bleary eyed and droopy Lambo staring back at me.

 

“Fratello,” he yawns. “I’m sleepy again.”

 

A quick glance at the clock tells me that it is four thirty in the fucking morning. It is way to early for him to be awake.

 

“Yeah, it’s still really early buddy the sun isn’t even up yet. Do you want to go back to sleep?”

 

He nods, and I make a few valient attempts to pick him up and put him into bed. It’s a lot harder with my hands and arms wrapped up the way they are. Lucky for me Mom walks back into the room with a fresh glass of water for Tsuna and notices my struggle. She swoops in and scoops Lambo into her arms and cradles him against her chest with a gentle smile.

 

“I’ll get Lambo tucked back in in my room so you boys don’t have to worry about waking him.”

 

She stops briefly before she leaves again to run her free hand through Tsuna’s hair, and then through my own.

 

“My brave boys, Mama is very glad that you are both safe.”

 

And then she steps out again. We wait for her footsteps to fade and the sound of her bedroom door opening and closing before picking up the conversation again.

 

“Out of curiosity, what does Mom think happened?” I ask. “Because it is obviously not ‘besieged by mafia hitman.’”

 

Unless it is and Mom knows wayyy more about this situation than we give her credit for.

 

“The official police report says that a structural defect in the school building gave way casing the structural damage, and that a gas leak resulted in mass hallucinations amongst the student body. Which is a convenient excuse for explaining away the assassins.”

 

“Mom thinks that we stayed behind to help other students get out safely,” Tsuna adds on awkwardly.

 

“Not a total lie.”

 

There are a million other questions that I should be asking now: what’s the situation with the hit on Vongola Decimo? What about Della Rosa? Estraeno? And the monster? And Verde? And, and and...

 

“How are the rest of out party members?” I ask instead.

 

“Kyoko and the boys are fine,” Reborn reassures me. “We made sure that they all made it home safely.”

 

I let out a small sigh of relief. Well, that’s something.

 

“Kyoko-chan punched a man through a wall,” Tsuna says vacantly.

 

“Yeah, I saw that.”

 

Kyoko was all sorts of badass throughout that entire ‘event.’

 

“No, I mean, yes that too. But after you passed out one of the guys that Vongola sent over to help us tried to grab her and get her into the van and she Punched. Him. Through. A. Wall.”

 

Tsuna gets this glazed over look and I make an attempt to way a hand in front of his face to snap him out of it.

 

“Tsuna?”

 

“It was awesome,” he whispers reverently.

 

Ah.

 

All right then.

 

Reborn gets a sly look on his face, “Kyoko-chan would make a good wife for Vongola Decimo.”

 

“Yeah~” is Tsuna’s dreamy reply. Apparently not noticing what he is agreeing to.

 

“I think you mean that she would make a good queen for Vongola,” is my snarky addendum to that. “Girl is a badass.”

 

“I cannot argue with that,” Reborn chuckles. “She has quite a bit of natural talent that I wasn’t anticipating.”

 

I look to Tsuna to see if he has anything else to add, but we have well and truly lost him off in the land of daydreams. He is mumbling something about wedding cake now.

 

He’s such an adorable goofus.

 

And he’ll be offline for a while while he finishes acting out his imaginary wedding.

 

“So I guess Lambo is just ours now?” I ask Reborn. Latching on to my next not too intense line of questions.

 

“Hn?” He makes a questioning noise as he digs into his own neglected plate of breakfast.

 

“Do we have to fill out paperwork or something? Or are a legion of crazy cow people going to show up on our doorstep demanding ransom money for him?”

 

His expression darkens dramatically as he finishes gulping down his coffee.

 

“They better not,” he mutters into the now empty cup.

 

He is legitimately perturbed by the thought of the Bovino coming her to cause a ruckus.

 

“Are they dangerous?”

 

“I... no...”

 

That was a weird pause.

 

“What’s with the long pause?” I prod when it becomes apparent that he isn’t going to continue on.

 

I don’t particularly like long pauses. Long pauses have a tendency to turn into problems that will come and punch me in the face.

 

“The Bovino are a profoundly irritating low level Familia who’s members have no sense of professionalism or personal boundaries.”

 

Wow.

 

“That was a much more scathing commentary than I was expecting. What the heck man? Did a Bovino steal your girlfriend or something?”

 

Reborn gives me a withering glare and flicks a strawberry at my face. I am still a little to groggy for my usual level of acrobatic evasion right now, so I take it.

 

Also, it seems to make him feel a little better.

 

“Hardly, but they have interrupted more than one delicate operation with their ridiculous antics.”

 

A raise a very judgemental eyebrow at him.

 

“This coming from the man who once dressed in a fairy princess outfit, dangled himself over Tsuna’s bed and rained extremely realistic rubber snakes down upon him to teach him a lesson about punctuality.”

 

He ignores my rebuttal completely and continues to munch on his breakfast. Meanwhile, mention of the rubber snake thing has finally snapped Tsuna out of his daze. He shudders and looks between the two of us with a look of confusion.

 

“What?”

 

“What, what?”

 

A projectile strawberry flies into his face and he shrieks and falls over.

 

“Hieeee!”

 

“Dame-Tsuna, pay better attention to your surroundings.”

 

I laugh. It serves him right for laughing at us earlier.

 

“So, moving on to something a little more important? Life threatening? Whatever - “ I wave away my own indecisive wording. “The assassin thing, is that still a thing? Is that still happening? I mean, what is our current assassin situation?”

 

They both stare at me blankly for a long moment as I slowly work my way to a halfway coherent question. Assassins make me nervous, go figure.

 

“Nothing since we left the school,” Tsuna says. “But we haven’t really left the house since then so I don’t really know.”

 

He gives Reborn a somewhat concerned look. I get the feeling that he had been trying to forget our multiple near death experiences as best as he could. The whole price on the head of Vongola Decimo thing was probably also pretty upsetting for him. He is just radiating anxiety now.

 

Reborn shrugs.

 

“There have been no further incidents in Namimori since what happened at the school. Vongola managed to rally their allies in the region rather quickly and the city is now on an ‘underworld lockdown’ as it were.”

 

He makes a grab for my coffee, and I let him have at it without any fuss. There is an air of exhaustion around Reborn. I assume that he hasn’t actually gotten much sleep since this whole thing started.

 

“The assassins that had been in the city have all been dealt with for the most part. Shamal and our other allies managed to root out a few more that hadn’t been at the school. If there are any others lurking about they will be dealt with eventually.”

 

Tsuna makes a face at the mention of Shamal’s name. I give him a questioning look and he tilts his head in a way that I interpret to mean ‘I’ll tell you later.’

 

“As for the situation back in Italy,” Reborn continues, ignoring our little exchange. “Della Rosa have retreated to their compound in Milan. The bounty on Vongola Decimo has been retracted. Headquarters is still in the midst of implementing a more permanent solution for Cassandra herself, however, they seem to be having some trouble with the...execution.”

 

I swear, I hear him mutter the word ‘armatures’ as he drains down the second cup of coffee, and starts eyeing Tsuna’s.

 

Oh boy is he wound up.

 

“Regardless, that situation will be dealt with soon enough. Even if I have to go over there and shoot them all myself.”

 

“Sounds therapeutic.”

 

“In the meantime, we are going to get the two of you healed up, and then I am increasing your training.”

 

Tsuna lets out a long whine at this. “Increasing!? It was already crazy!”

 

Reborn stares between the two of us for a good long while without saying anything. Tsuna’s outrage winds down quickly under scrutiny and we both start to fidget.

 

“Tsunayoshi,” He looks to Tsuna and then to me. “Inari. You boys did amazingly well considering the circumstances. I am proud of how you handled yourselves. But that, as stressful and dangerous as it might have seemed, is just the tip of the iceberg. Things are only going to get more dangerous for you from here on out.”

 

Tsuna makes a sound like he wants to protest again, but Reborn simply raises a hand and cuts him off.

 

“Despite your reservations about becoming Vongola Decimo, the fact remains that you are the heir. The blood of Vongola Primo runs in your veins and there is nothing that you or I can do to change that.”

 

He abruptly hops down from the coffee table and makes to leave our bedroom. Pausing briefly to say:

 

“Shamal will be by later to give you boys a check-up. I should be finished by then.”

 

“Doing?” I ask curiously.

 

“I have a call to make.”

 

And then he leaves.


Tsuna somehow manages to fall back asleep after all of that. Not that I can really blame him. It was still absurdly early when Reborn left us to our own devices. I can only assume that the school will be closed for awhile too which mean that we have no schedule to keep for today.

 

We are just waiting around for Shamal to get here and give us a clean bill of health.

 

Just waiting here.

 

In the quiet.

 

I’m wide awake.

 

I slept for three god damned days and the chances that I will be able to fall asleep again any time this week are slim to none. So I sit awake, and I pace the room, and I try desperately not to get sucked down into spiralling (and depressing) thought vortexes with limited success.

 

Fuck that old man.

 

Whatever, I’m over it.

 

Well, I’m not, but...

 

Fuck it.

 

I managed to fish out my phone from a pile of clothes at the foot of my bed. I’m happy to see that my new ray guns somehow escaped confiscation and I quickly shove them under my bed.

 

I call Takeshi.

 

Well, I try to call Takeshi. The whole mummy hand situation somewhat impedes my ability to dial, and unfortunately voice recognition in cell phones has yet to be invented in this universe. My attempts at calling him lead to a weird conversation with someone who sounds vaguely like Arnold Schwarzenegger, and a sleepy kid who is at least somewhere in Japan.

 

I give up.

 

I’ll talk to him later. When there is a better chance of him actually being awake.

 

...

 

Oh god, I am going to go crazy laying around here staring at the walls. I am not made for sitting in quiet contemplation. I am all about running and jumping and doing random stupid things like scaling buildings and picking fights with delinquents.

 

I pull myself up and quietly start pacing the room again.

 

Back and forth.

 

Back and forth.

 

Back and forth.

 

My hands don’t feel right.

 

Back and forth.

 

They itch.

 

Back and forth.

 

The bandages don’t feel right. They feel too tight. They shouldn’t be this tight right? They are going to cut of my circulation. They’re cutting off my circulation. I need to take them off now. Right now.

 

I need to take these things off.

 

Off, off, off.

 

There’s someone in the window.

 

There is nothing in the window there is a tree in the window you idiot, calm down.

 

Assassin.

 

Tree.

 

Assassin.

 

Tree!

 

FUCK!

 

...

 

I should take these bandages off right?

 

Yes, yes, yes.

 

They wont come off.

 

Why wont they come off!

 

Of course they wont. They are hiding something from you.

 

Why are they bandaged?

 

I don’t remember bleeding.

 

Are you sure?

 

No?

 

Did they tear something out again?

 

There’s nothing there! Nothing under my skin!

 

There are maggots under your skin. Can’t you feel them wriggling.

 

GET THEM OFF!

 

...

 

Your father tried to kill you.

 

...

 

He must know that you don’t belong here.

 

...

 

Or maybe you do. And this is the only reason you do.

 

Shut up.

 

Shut up.

 

Shut up.

 

Please.

 

...

 

I should take these off right?

 

“Inari?!”

 

Coward.

 

“Inari, s-stop it, I know they’re uncomfortable, I-I know it, but you have to leave them on or you’ll h-hurt yourself even worse.”

 

Tsuna?

 

“Inari please!” The crack of desperation in my brothers voice snaps me back into myself.

 

We’re in our bedroom.

 

On the floor?

 

Tsuna has wrapped himself around me like an octopus. Pinning my arms to my sides. His face is pressed into my shoulder.

 

It feels damp.

 

I made him cry.

 

“Tsuna,” I rasp. “Tsuna it’s okay, I’m okay.”

 

“No you’re not,” he sobs. “You hurt. You were hurting yourself more. I hate it when you hurt.”

 

“Tsu-“

 

“You got hurt so badly!” He continues. “And I know you don’t want to talk about it, because you never want to talk about it but -“

 

His voice breaks and he tightens his hold around me. And I am helpless to stop my own tears. That’s the thing about us. Pain and sadness always has a way of being shared an amplified between the two of us until we are both blubbering messes.

 

I force myself to relax in his hold. Listening closely to catch the scattered melody of our duet. A drum beat and a trumpet.

 

After a few moments the harmony kicks in full force and the last of my panic attack begins to really and truly drain away.

 

“Tsu, I’m fine.” I try to reassure him again.

 

“You’re really not,” he sniffles. “You were okay when we were all awake and talking and then suddenly you weren’t and I was so scared.”

 

“And I’m not stupid!” He continues fiercely. “I know what they did and I hate it. Because you’re more important than a scapegoat or a decoy. You’re my brother, my best friend. I hate it.”

 

“Okay, yeah, fine. You’re right. It’s terrible and shit but I still don’t-“

 

“Then talk about something else!” He jumps in again. “Talk about literally anything else. And it doesn’t have to be with me. Talk to mom about weird recipes that she wants to try. Talk to Reborn about that mafia trivia stuff that you like. Talk to Takeshi-kun-“

 

He freezes and pulls back to give me a somewhat alarming manic look.

 

“You have to call Takeshi-kun,” he tells me seriously. “He was really freaked out when you wouldn’t wake up. He keeps calling to check in on you and I promised him that I would make sure to let him know as soon as you woke up.”

 

I stare at him wide eyed and stunned at the sudden impassioned onslaught of information. And then I slowly raise up one of my heavily bandaged hands that gives me the precision dialling ability of an oven mitt.

 

“Tried that, I think I called the terminator.”

 

The look he gives me in response to this is uncharacteristically wild. He moves to grab at the phone before realizing that he would have the same trouble dialling as I did due to the whole, mummy hand epidemic.

 

“We’ll get Mom to dial.”

 

“What?! No!”

 

“Why not?” He demands.

 

“I’m not waking her up so she can make a phone call for me , it’s embarrassing.”

 

“She wont mind.”

 

“I mind!” My voice cracks, humiliatingly, on a high note making this whole exchange even more awkward than it already was.

 

“Why?” He sounds genuinely perplexed by this. Honestly I don’t even know why I suddenly feel so weird about all of it. I mean it’s not like I wasn’t about to call Takeshi on my own.

 

“You’ll feel better. I felt better once I called everyone to make sure they were all okay.”

 

“Yeah but not at like four in the morning!” I protest.

 

“It’s eight!” He counters.

 

I look to the alarm clock that sits on our shared desk. Sure enough its quarter after eight. When did that happen? I could have sworn Tsuna had only fell asleep like a minute ago.

 

“Whatever its still to early for emotional breakdowns. Case and point this.”

 

And then I take a moment to back track.

 

Everyone?

 

He called everyone?

 

“Bro-bro, did you get Kyoko’s phone number?” I ask teasingly.

 

Tsuna blushes so hard it looks like his face is glowing, and he starts sputtering.

 

“So!? Don’t change the subject.”

 

“Please let me,” I beg him with a grin crawling across my face. “Your relationship drama is always so much fun.”

 

“And yours isn’t?” Ha, now it’s Tsuna’s turn to have his voice crack on a high note.

 

“Not for me,” I say cheerfully ignoring his jab. “Common bro, your the one who wanted to talk.”

 

I flutter my eyelashes at him all innocent like. Suddenly I’m feeling much better about everything.

 

“Yes, fine, I got Kyoko-chan’s number,” he snaps begrudgingly.

 

“Way to go Tsuna!” I cheer, ruffling his hair. “I never thought you would work up the guts to ask.”

 

If possible Tsuna goes even redder than before and mumbles something under his breath.

 

“Huh?”

 

“I said I didn’t ask.”

 

It takes me a moment to work out what he means and once I do I am grinning even harder than before.

 

“Tsuna, you are so lucky that girl likes you.”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Kyoko is sweeping you off your feet bro. She is the sweeper, you are the sweepy. She is boldly taking the initiative asking you out, giving you her number. Which is awesome because I’m pretty sure if left up to you you’d just be giving her the puppy dog eyes until we were forty.”

 

“That’s not... okay fine, that’s probably true.” He groans and flops back across the floor, narrowly missing the corner of the table with his head.

 

“This doesn’t change the fact that you should call Takeshi-kun though.”

 

I sigh and stretch out next to him.

 

“I know, and I will. Preferably after I have medical verification that my arms aren’t full of maggots or in danger of falling off so I don’t have an upsetting panic attack all over him.”

 

He rolls over and gives me a loose one armed hug.

 

“I don’t think he would mind.”

 

I don’t really think he would either. But things have been super stressful lately. I mean, it wasn’t too long ago that he was teetering on the roof of the school. And I don’t want to be the reason that he’s sad. That the only thing that’s going to come from him having to listen to me have a panic attack right now anyway.

 

I start fishing around on the coffee table blindly grabbing for the remote. I think we have had just about enough dramatic heart to heart time at this point. Its time for some mindless television. I make it a little more difficult for myself than it needs to be since I don’t have the energy to actually sit up and grab the remote like a normal person.

 

I eventually get it.


Me and Tsuna spend the next few hours getting wayyy to invested in the adventures of an anthropomorphic cartoon cat. Lambo wanders back into our room around ten thirty and joins us in the impromptu marathon. He takes a seat on Tsuna’s bed behind our heads and will yank on our hair every once in a while when things take a particularly dramatic turn in the show.

 

About an hour later Reborn returns and spends a long moment standing in the doorway staring at us as we cheer for the victory of Sir Moonclaw against the dastardly rat wizard. It almost seems like he’s about to interrupt us and tell us to go do something useful with ourselves. Instead he comes into the room, hops onto the bed behind me and starts asking questions about our dopey tv show.

 

Its hilarious because in no time he is just as invested as the rest of us, but at the same time he just cannot seem to wrap his head around the whole anthropomorphism thing.

 

Mom comes in with a plate of snacks and sandwiches around noon and joins me a and Tsuna on the floor. And as ridiculous as the whole thing is it made me feel so much better about everything.

 

It’s nice, and warm, and safe. A protective cocoon of family to ward off all the terrible things that might be lurking outside our door.

 

Or in a tree...

 

After another hour the cartoon marathon comes to an end and we are brought back to the real world boy an incessant knocking on the front door.

 

Mom gets up with a stretch and a smile, “I’ll get that.”

 

“That will be Shamal,” Reborn announces with a quick glance at the clock. He grabs the remote to switch off our little television ignoring Lambo’s whine of protest. “Head downstairs.”

 

It takes a moment for me and Tsuna to pull ourselves up off the floor. Hours of lounging in once position had left us both a little cramped.

 

“Oh, Shamal-sensei how nice to see you again,” Mom greets cheerfully. “Thank you for coming to check on my boys.”

 

“Anything for a beautiful woman,” comes the reply.

 

And I suddenly remember something very important about Trident Shamal. He is a skirt chasing sleazebag and I don’t want him flirting with our Mom!

 

We share a horrified glance and I realize this is the reason Tsuna had pulled a face when Shamal’s name had come up earlier. He must have already witnessed the pervert flirting with Mom.

 

Let me just say now, for the record; I have nothing against Mom meeting new people, flirting, going on a date, and who knows, maybe one day leaving that sorry excuse of a man who has the gall to call himself her husband. However, if that ever happens the guy best be a fucking gentleman and not a skirt chasing sleaze.

 

Tsuna barrels on ahead of me and actually manages to make it down all the stairs without tripping himself up. His coordination has improved by leaps and bounds lately, I am really impressed.

 

And also a little suspicious.

 

He is about to insert himself between Mom and Shamal, when a body launches itself through the front door from behind the not-so-good doctor with a wail of “Tsuna-sammmmmaaaaaa!”

 

In an instant Hayato has himself wrapped around Tsuna’s legs babbling about how happy he is that the boss is okay and how worried he was and how he has failed in his duty as a subordinate.

 

Of course Tsuna isn’t able to keep his balance having a human person clamped around his legs and he falls over onto his ass.

 

“Hayato-kun!?”

 

He’s staring down at our friend with this perfect ‘what the fuck’ look on his face which perfectly encapsulates what I’m feeling in this moment as well.

 

“I hope you don’t mind I had to bring these idiots along with me or they would have tried to cross town on their own. One of them almost did,” Shamal drawls.

 

There was a plural ‘idiot’ in that statement.

 

I don’t actually have time to ponder it any further than that because just as the word leave his mouth another person pushes past him and I am being hoisted up into a monster hug.

 

“Hey Takeshi,” I greet him as best I can whilst being grappled. I graciously allow him to manhandle me until I am clinging to him like a mutant koala. I fell like I’m at a bit of a disadvantage being this far away from the floor.

 

“Well, this is a convenient solution to my whole ‘how do you dial a phone without fingers issue.’”

 

I’m going for humour here.

 

“Your awake,” he breathes in relief.

 

I don’t think the humour is going to fly right now. Drat.

 

“And as you can see totally fine. All systems are functional. Nothing to worry about here.”

 

He doesn’t answer this time, just squeezes me a little tighter.

 

Normally I would be squirming out of his hold by this point but this seems to be an important somewhat defining moment so I let it ride. I do wish it wasn’t taking place in our foyer in front of half a dozen people though. I’m really glad that Tsuna and Hayato are having their own, much louder, moment less than a foot away from us. It cuts down on the awkward.

 

For me at least.

 

“Your going to have to put me down eventually dude.”

 

“Yes now,” Shamal says pushing past us into the lounge where a table and chairs have been set up in a makeshift examination station. He opens his briefcase onto the table and starts pulling out some vaguely medically looking things that I couldn’t name if my life depended on it.

 

Tiny scissors.

 

Bandage things.

 

Sticky tape stuff.

 

Long needle looking gizmo.

 

A box thing...?

 

I give up.

 

“I’m going to need to examine them both, you can resume your weird little love fest after I leave.”

 

“Kay!” Takeshi chirps cheerfully.

 

At least it sounds cheerful. Judging by the ‘eep’ sound that Tsuna makes I’m going to assume that Takeshi is doing that thing where he is smiling but isn’t actually smiling.

 

The terrifying one.

 

He proceeds to walk over to the living room still carrying me like a small child and sets me down on the couch.

 

And, yup, that is a terrifying smile.

 

He is definitely pissed at me.

 

“Dude, I woke up at like three this morning you haven’t really missed any dramatic milestones,” I lie through my teeth.

 

He stares at me, still smiling, before flopping down next to me on the couch and slinging an arm around my shoulders.

 

“The Yankees were playing the Redsox at three in the morning.”

 

Ah.

 

He was awake at three in the morning then.

 

Upon closer inspection he has that same ‘I haven’t slept well in three days’ look that Reborn and Mom are rocking. That makes me feel even worse.

 

“Really?”

 

“Yup, Yankees won in overtime.”

 

“No shit? How many innings did it go?”

 

“Fourteen.”

 

“Holy... I’m sorry I missed it.” I really, really am sorry.

 

“Next time.”

 

I am going to interpret this as ‘I forgive you for not calling me, but next time you better fucking call me you jerk.’

 

Only without the swearing.

 

Hayato comes and joins us on the couch and glares daggers at Shamal as he starts unwrapping the bandages from Tsuna’s hands.

 

“You better not mistreat Tsuna-sama asshole,” he growls.

 

Shamal doesn’t even do him the courtesy of a glance over his shoulder at the over hostility.

 

“Which of us is the doctor here?” He says dismissively. “You just sit there and be quite. The sooner this is done the happier I’ll be.”

 

Ass.

 

“You should be glad I’m looking over your precious ‘boss’ at all, its against my policy to examine guys,” Shamal continues complaining.

 

This guy rubs me entirely the wrong way. I don’t care if he did perform an eleventh hour rescue, he’s a dick.

 

“Don’t worry boys,” Reborn say reappearing behind us. “Despite his attitude Shamal is a very competent doctor. He assisted with my ‘birth’ after all.”

 

“Wouldn’t that make him an obstetrician then?” Tsuna asks giving the doctor a suspicious look over.

 

No, I don’t think so.

 

And also, I wonder what exactly he did to help Reborn out. It obviously would have been something after the whole curse thing. Records maybe? But that wouldn’t really require a medical doctor.

 

Reborn must have something big on him to if he is able to force him to help us out considering treating men is against his ‘policy.’

 

“Well if the kid says we can trust him it should be fine,” Takeshi says relaxing into the couch.

 

Hayato glowers even more.

 

“You say that because you haven’t had to live with him for the past three days. Believe me, he needs to be watched closely.”

 

“That bad?”

 

“All he does all day is flirt with all the women in the complex, its irritating and disgusting.”

 

“Gross,” I agree with him.

 

“I can hear you,” Shamal intones without taking his eyes off his work. “You kids will understand in a few years, your still too young now.”

 

“Hayato-kun lives in the dorms,” Tsuna observes with a flat and judgemental stare. “The only girls that live near by him are teenagers.”

 

“Gross!” I say with more emphasis this time.

 

Shamal chooses to ignore our loud and ongoing scrutiny of his character and continues to examine Tsuna’s hands. From what I can see they seem fine. Everything moves in the right way, he can feel all the different pokes and prods, pick things up, squeeze, etcetera. The only thing that is different, and that stands out, are the scars.

 

A very familiar looking starburst of dark scar tissue that begins at the centre of his palms and wraps around his hands.

 

That is probably going to unlock an interesting dialogue tree at some point in the future.

 

“Alright Decimo, your good to go.” Shamal turns to look at me. “You’re up blondie.”

 

I begrudgingly trade seats with Tsuna. I don’t like this man. I don’t particularly want him touching me either. But for the time being I am going to trust that Reborn will shoot him if he tries any funny business.

 

The bandages are slowly unwound. A brief panic strikes me in the chest as I remember my earlier (irrational) panic about maggots crawling under my skin and I wait with bated breath to see what exactly I’m going to be working with here.

 

Dark branching fractals stretch down my arms. They almost look like trees reaching from the bend in my arms down and exploding in my palms. Its a very distinctive pattern that looks both creepy and cool at the same time.

 

Lichtenberg figures.

 

“The swelling seems to be gone now,” Shamal observes as he presses his thumbs up and down the marks. “Skin is healing up nicely too.”

 

He picks out a fresh needle gizmo, like the one he had been prodding Tsuna with and takes one of my hands in his free one. “I’m going to test for sensation now do don’t twitch too much.”

 

He presses it against my index finger.

 

“Can you feel this?”

 

“Ow!”

 

“How about that?”

 

“Fuck! Ow! Yes!”

 

“And that?”

 

“Stop stabbing me you fucking prick!” I finally snap and try to yank my arm out of Shamal’s vice like grip. “Where the hell did you get your medical licence from asshole? Your bedside manner sucks.”

 

Shamal gives me the flattest look and proceeds to jab the needle into my thumb without breaking eye contact.

 

“Ow!”

 

“You should be thankful that I’m doing this at all kid. I don’t generally treat men.”

 

“Fuck you.”

 

He rolls his eyes at me and finally drops his nefarious instrument of torture. He then proceeds to manhandle my arm into an even more uncomfortable position. Thumbs press firmly into the soft tissue of my forearm and continue down to my palm.

 

“Quit whining, you’re lucky that you didn’t give yourself permanent nerve damage with the voltage you were handling.”

 

“He’s going to be alright though?” Tsuna asks.

 

“He’ll be fine,” Shamal grouses. “He’s just being a baby.”

 

“You were jabbing me with a needle!”

 

“Hold this.” He says handing me the weird box thing.

 

I grumble and do as I’m told.

 

Nothing is happening.

 

“Is it supposed to do some- HOLY FUCK THATS COLD!!”

 

The peanut gallery sitting on the couch has apparently decided that its fine to laugh at my torment now. Which is fine, I guess.

 

“And now?”

 

“HOT!” I shout and throw the box back at him.

 

I don’t know what the heck that thing is but it is not natural.

 

“Sensitivity to temperature seems to be fine as well, though your reactions are a little extreme.”

 

“You are fucking with me aren’t you?” I whisper hiss at him.

 

“Maybe a little bit.”

 

The next thing he pulls out is the electronic hand grip.

 

“Here squeeze on this thing now.”

 

I squeeze it without breaking eye contact with him.

 

It beeps.

 

“Yeesh, your pretty strong for such a tiny kid.”

 

“Are we done yet?”

 

I don’t remember him antagonizing Tsuna this much when it was his turn. This is his revenge for that ‘gross’ comment isn’t it? Well, fuck him, I’m not taking it back.

 

“Yes, your fine, go do whatever it is that you normally do,” he waves me off dismissively. “ Just don’t go jamming any more forks in light sockets.”

 

“I’m not an idiot!” I snap.

 

“Thank you for your assistance Shamal,” Reborn cuts in before I really loose my temper. “I’ll have the usual fee deposited into your account.”

 

Shamal grumbles and starts to pack up all of his equipment, ““I should charge you extra for the trouble.”

 

He pauses in his packing up to give a considering look to me and Tsuna.

 

“And extra for having me treat a couple of guys.”

 

He will just not let that go will he?

 

Reborn doesn’t say anything, he just gives Shamal this intense dead eyed stare that speaks in volumes exactly what he thinks of the dear doctors complaints. Shamal breaks first; turning away and starting to pack up all his medical supplies into his briefcase.

 

“Nice doing business with you, as always, I can’t wait until the next time you call me up with a new set of impossible demands.”

 

“Are you boys all finished up with your checkup?” Mom asks poking her head into the living room.

 

“Yes they are,” Shamal says slinking up to her with that sleazy smile on his face again. “I am happy to say they both have a clean bill of health although I can’t do much about the scar tissue. That will just have to fade over time.”

 

“That’s a relief to hear. Thank you so much for coming.”

 

“Anytime m’lady.”

 

He makes to grab her hand for a kiss but before he can get that far he is sprayed in the face with a stream of grape juice.

 

Lambo is standing by Mom’s leg with a box of grape juice in his hands. His eyes all watery as he sniffles up at her.

 

“Mama, I couldn’t get the straw to work.”

 

“Oh sweetie, lets go get you a new juice box.” She bends down to scoop Lambo up, apparently forgetting all about Shamal who is standing there dripping with grape juice with this shocked look on his face.

 

As mom turns back to the kitchen, Lambo gives us a thumbs up before breaking out the crocodile tears again.

 

Way to go little brother!

 

Shamal stands there for a moment longer before wiping his face with his sleeve and turning to the front door.

 

“I’m leaving now.” He announces. “I assume that you’ll be able to get the two of them back safely when they want to leave? Great. Goodbye.”

 

He’s gone without waiting for a response.

 

We all stare after him.

 

“Are you sure you trust that weirdo?” I ask Reborn.

 

“He is ,unfortunately, the best in the business.”

 

“Sure...”

 

I stare out the still opened doorway.

 

It’s a nice day out.

 

And Shamal had said that I could do whatever I normally do...

 

“I’ll be right back.”

 

I sprint out the door before any of them have a chance to react.

 

I’m not leaving our yard. I did hear the part where Reborn had mentioned that there might still be assassins lurking about. Though there is a part of me that wants to do a mad dash into town just to see if anyone tries to kill me again.

 

I desperately want to hit something. It’s so much easier than actually you know dealing with my issues.

 

But I’m not that stupid.

 

I am a little bit stupid though.

 

I also need to verify a weird conversation I had with myself about the tree in our back yard. Because something about that has been nagging at me.

 

I pivot quickly around the house. Ignoring the calls of “INARI!” “IDIOT!” And “RAGAZZO!” That follow me.

 

Once again, not going far, and this is probably just me being stupid and paranoid. Someone would have noticed an assassin in the tree next to our window.

 

It takes me less time than I thought it would to circle the house and scurry up the branches. I hear the front gate open and close a few times while I’m ascending.

 

Do they think that I hopped the fence? I’m not that fast.

 

I push through the leaves to reach the branches level with our bedroom in no time at all. Huffing from the exhilaration of activity. It’s nice to know that I can still climb as well as I used to. I would have been pissed if I had to relearn that skill again.

 

I look around in the branches of the tree.

 

Nothing.

 

Nothing, nothing, nothing.

 

Looks like it was just me being crazy after all.

 

It’s just me and an owl hanging out in a tree.

 

I hear the stomping of footsteps rounding the house. It sounds like there are way more people tromping around than there should be. Which I would be more concerned about if it wasn’t for this owl.

 

...

 

This owl with heterochromatic eyes.

 

...

 

Hello Mukuro. How nice to see you again so soon.

 

“I hate being right...”

 

The owl screeches and flys at my face with its talons out and I quickly let go of the branch that I’m balancing on to protect my eyes from the sharp pointy things.

 

It slams into me before bursting out of the tree and flying away.

 

And I tip.

 

I’m really am an idiot. I’m never going to hear the end of this.

 

I wobble.

 

“Fuckfuckfuckfuck!”

 

And I fall.

 

 

I fall right into the arms of the prettiest man that I have ever seen in my entire fucking life.

 

Blonde and tall and sparkly.

 

And surrounded by at least a dozen men in suits.

 

“Hey Reborn! I caught him!” Dino Cavallone calls out.