Actions

Work Header

some things last beyond a lifetime

Work Text:

Mukuro first meets Sawada Tsunayoshi during the Varia battles. Well, that's not entirely accurate - when he first arrived in Namimori, he'd gathered information on everyone with a connection to the Vongola heir, and you couldn't get much more connected than blood. Or maybe you could, because from what Mukuro had put together, the Sawada twins weren't very close. Ieyasu took to his new career path with clumsy if earnest aplomb, while Tsunayoshi didn't seem interested at all and wasn't much involved besides. As blood kin, he would most likely be allotted his own small cadre of discreet bodyguards in the future, but that would probably be the extent of his association with the mafia. This, in addition to the fact that they weren't particularly attached to one another - which made the self-proclaimed right-hand's territorial yapping doubly amusing - resulted in a lack of antagonism that one doesn't often see between siblings in mafia families, and that was only helped along partly by the Arcobaleno tutor seemingly having orders to keep the younger brother out of mafia business as much as possible, and partly by the fact that they were simply too different.

 

Ieyasu is everything Mukuro suspects the Vongola wants in a last-ditch backup successor - young, civilian born and bred, largely ignorant of the world he'd been dropped into, and highly susceptible to the suggestions and guidance of those around him, not exactly stupid but naïve enough to be manipulated and never realize it. It certainly doesn't hurt that he's also almost the spitting image of Vongola Primo, with Sky Flames to match, and all the charisma and charm of someone capable of making others follow him. So long as Vongola can instill enough of their ideals in him and keep him receptive to their orders under the guise of advice, they'll be set for another generation.

 

Tsunayoshi on the other hand doesn't stand out. With how bright his older twin shines, it's easy for him to fade into the background, especially with how average he is - average grades, average hobbies, even average looks, for all that he also has the shape of his ancestor's face in him. On paper and in public, Ieyasu is better in every way, and Vongola must've breathed a sigh of relief over the thirteen minutes that made him the elder sibling. For all that they need a figurehead on the throne, they do also need him to be a competent one. Tsunayoshi isn't terrible, but he's quiet, has no friends, introverted at best and actively antisocial at worst, boring in every sense of the word with not a hint of Flames to be sensed inside him, and someone like that would require far more work to polish up into a proper mafia boss.

 

Tsunayoshi is forgettable and even seems content to be forgotten, and Vongola is happy to forget him.

 

And Mukuro bought into that too, at first. He'd considered taking Tsunayoshi hostage, and Ieyasu was exactly the sort to rush to the rescue, but he'd discarded that plan in the end. It was a needless complication when he could just grab the ranking boy - a far more useful pawn - and lure the Vongola heir in by taking down the strongest students at the boy's school, which had the bonus of doubling as both threat and taunt, and that was a far more effective strategy than abducting the brother, who - as far as Mukuro could tell - couldn't even fight and was an easy mark besides, what with all the time he spent on his own and unguarded.

 

The plan had worked too, right up until it hadn't, and Mukuro ended up in the deepest dungeon the Vindice had available. He'd gotten Chikusa and Ken out though, and he'd found Chrome, a mind that matched his well enough to form a singularly unique Mist bond between them, strong enough for possession to work without any lasting harm. And then the CEDEF leader - the heir's own father - had offered him a deal, and as much as it had chafed, Mukuro had accepted it in the end, if only to guarantee his people's continued wellbeing. He could survive without them of course, but it would be a waste to have to train up new minions to act as his eyes and ears and hands.

 

It was the best he could do, and he'd hated that he had to be dependent on the generosity of Vongola's golden boy, but he'd had no other recourse. No other, until Chrome had come to him in their shared mindscape and told him of Ieyasu's sudden insistence over freeing Mukuro. His father had apparently finally told him of the bargain, but Ieyasu had wanted more, wanted Mukuro out of Vendicare, and he'd kicked up such a fuss over it that the higher-ups in Vongola had finally capitulated and gone to the Vindice to negotiate.

 

It had been a relatively small request in the greater scheme of things, and easy enough to grant to keep the future Decimo happy, or so Mukuro presumes. A week later, he was removed from the water tank and handed over to Vongola, and a week after that, he was back in Namimori, just in time to partake in the Varia's little coup attempt.

 

He'd had a moment though, before everything went to hell, to approach Ieyasu at school (while the yapping mutt was in the bathroom and Yamamoto was occupied with a teacher) and ask why. The boy fancied himself something of a hero, eager to defeat the bad guys, which went hand-in-hand with the "return Vongola to its vigilante roots" line that the tutor had fed him, but he'd never struck Mukuro as the sort who'd stick his neck out for those same bad guys once they were out of his life again. Out of sight, out of mind, seemed more the heir's style.

 

What Ieyasu had said had surprised him.

 

"Tsuna said it would be better," Ieyasu had told him, largely distracted by the math homework he was rushing to finish before next period. "Well, not exactly said. He kind of heard what happened after all the stuff at Kokuyo, and then Chrome-chan showed up with your lackeys and the whole possession thing, and he wondered why our old man got to decide what happened to you since I was the one who defeated you, and Reborn even said early on when Gokudera first came - to the victor goes the spoils - well not exactly that, but unless Vongola thought I couldn't handle you, they should've let me decide." Ieyasu had paused long enough to huff a bit indignantly. "And Tsuna's right! I'm stronger than you, and CEDEF's not supposed to interfere anyway, and poor Chrome-chan shouldn't have to put up with you constantly taking over her body, that's just creepy. And this way, I get two Mists on my side!"

 

Gokudera had interrupted then, bursting back onto the scene like a possessive chihuahua, but Mukuro had gotten what he wanted, more or less, so he'd smirked and backed off, and he's played the good little Mist Guardian ever since.

 

He's also started watching Tsunayoshi whenever the opportunity comes up, and it comes up a lot since they all go to the same school and Mukuro's been shanghaied into the Arcobaleno's tutoring sessions too.

 

Family bonding time apparently. Quaint, and if not for the fact that the body-doubles he almost always swaps in are good enough to trick even Reborn, there probably would've been blood spilled within his first week back in Namimori. As it is, at least he gets to spend his time far more productively.

 

He doesn't actually see much, at first. There was a reason he'd taken one look at the younger Sawada and written him off. Tsunayoshi was just so… normal, and that hasn't changed in the least. For all that Ieyasu was raised a civilian as well, the fledgling Sky Flames inside him feels like a miniature supernova to Mukuro's senses, even more so now than ever before, and his very personality draws attention in a way Tsunayoshi doesn't.

 

In a way Tsunayoshi never does, and maybe that should've been enough of a red flag for Mukuro to take a second look. The younger twin has just as much Vongola blood in him as the rest of his line, just as much a descendent of the Primo as his brother - what are the odds that he was born with zero Flame potential? So either Tsunayoshi really was just that unlucky, or he's been playing everyone from the start.

 

Considering he'd manipulated his own brother into freeing Mukuro for whatever unfathomable reason, all while still remaining under the guise of a largely untrained and uninformed civilian, clearly a good enough pretense to evade even the Sun Arcobaleno's attention, Mukuro's inclined to believe the latter, and that… that is fascinating.

 

Mukuro has no idea why, doesn't even have any concrete proof of it, and he still can't sense any Flames from the boy, but he's convinced anyway, can feel it down to his bones, and his instincts have rarely led him wrong. Tsunayoshi is a lot more than he appears to be, and anyone that wily should be vying for the position that his older brother had been gifted on a silver platter, should've convinced Vongola to give it to him easily, and yet, Tsunayoshi hasn't. it could simply be because he has no desire to sink into the abyss of the mafia, but if that were true, why would he care what happens to Mukuro at all?

 

Tsunayoshi makes no sense, and for the first time in his life, Mukuro looks at another human being and can't see what's staring back. That alone is worth going through the motions as one of Ieyasu's pet dogs. For now.

 

So he watches, and he waits, and in-between, the Varia barrel into town with subtlety more befitting of an elephant stampede than an assassination squad. He sits through the rowdy squabbling of Ieyasu's makeshift war council in the aftermath, and he smirks at the prospect of facing off against the strongest Mist in the world.

 

"I'll take the Mist battle," Mukuro agrees, ignoring the suspicious scowls from the yapping puppy and the skylark. "Chrome is still learning so I'd rather have her observe."

 

Ieyasu visibly brightens, taking him at his word, and Mukuro tunes out the rest of the meeting in favour of glancing out the window. Ten minutes later, when they still aren't done, he swaps himself out with a Mist double and appears on the Sawada rooftop, not at all surprised to find the younger twin lounging at the ledge with his nose in a book.

 

Mukuro observes him for a long moment. He's not so arrogant as to think he hasn't been noticed, and yet Tsunayoshi doesn't even glance up, doesn't even tense. He looks for all the world like he doesn't consider Mukuro a threat at all, not to him, and that makes him either very stupid or…

 

When it becomes clear that Tsunayoshi has no intention of making the first move, Mukuro mentally shrugs and wanders over to the roof's edge as well, taking a seat and raising a barrier of Mist Flames while still maintaining careful control over them so the party below won't notice. Like this, their voices are muffled but still perfectly audible, and the flimsy security makes Mukuro wonder if the Sun Arcobaleno has grown too confident in his own abilities and too dismissive of everyone else's.

 

How foolish. But then, Mukuro had made a similar mistake when it came to Tsunayoshi.

 

His gaze slides over to the boy in question. "Good evening."

 

At last, brown eyes flick up, calm and unconcerned and just the slightest bit amused. "Good evening, Mukuro-san."

 

Mukuro smiles as pleasantly as he knows how. The straightforward route isn't usually one he would take, but he finds himself wanting to… poke at this puzzle a little. "I heard I have you to thank for my newfound freedom."

 

Tsunayoshi's eyebrows go up, and his eyes are large and harmless when they blink at him. Rather than average, Mukuro thinks, it's more that this boy has a face that just naturally exudes innocence. And he's that much more dangerous because of it. "What do you mean? That was all Yasu. And Vongola helped, of course. But Yasu thought it would be a waste to leave you in that prison, and he didn't feel it was right anyway. He told all of us about it once the deal was made."

 

Mukuro studies him for another few seconds before smirking. "You're a very good liar, Tsunayoshi-kun."

 

Tsunayoshi's head tips to one side, his whole being radiating bambi-eyed puzzlement, but for the briefest of moments, a shadow of a smile flickers at one corner of his mouth, there and gone in the space of a breath. "That's a bit rude, Mukuro-san."

 

"Then don't lie," Mukuro advises, blithely ignoring the sheer hypocrisy of that statement in favour of pushing on. "I confess though - I'm not quite sure why you would." He lets his smirk widen. "Should I take this as a declaration of intent to seize the throne from your brother?"

 

After all, between him and Chrome, there is no doubt who the stronger Mist is. If Tsunayoshi thinks this is enough to bind Mukuro to him, and he can gather other elements stronger than the misfits that Reborn has approved for Ieyasu, then Xanxus might not be the only opposing contender for the seat one day.

 

But Tsunayoshi's look of genuine horror banishes that idea.

 

"Me? Decimo?" Tsunayoshi shudders. "Ugh, no way! Do you have any idea how much work that would be? The politics, the battles, the paperwork. No thanks. Yasu can do all that; I'd rather stay out of it." He waves a hand in the air and tacks on cryptically, "Luck is finally going my way. I can do whatever I want, just because I was born thirteen minutes younger. I'm not wasting a chance like that."

 

Mukuro mulls over that for a minute. What a strange way of putting it. "…Have you wasted other chances?"

 

Tsunayoshi meets his gaze, smiles, and explains nothing.

 

He meets his gaze, and Mukuro wonders if he knows what he's revealed with that alone. Ieyasu couldn't look him in the eye without fidgeting nervously behind all his bluster. Tsunayoshi looks at him like there's nothing Mukuro could do to him that he wouldn't be able to stop if he chooses to.

 

"So you want to lead a normal life," Mukuro surmises. "While manoeuvring your brother into carrying out whatever actions will benefit you."

 

Tsunayoshi chuckles and finally returns to his book, clearly no longer interested in entertaining Mukuro's questions. "Nothing as troublesome as that. But, hypothetically, if I did nudge Yasu in a certain direction now and then," He shrugs lightly. "It's only because I feel like it." The expression that crosses his face this time is as indecipherable as it is complicated. "Yasu suits this life a lot more than I would."

 

Mukuro hums, storing that away for future consideration, and then - between one heartbeat and the next, without giving any warning - he materializes his trident and strikes.

 

A hand - limned in orange - closes around one of the trident's three prongs, halting it in its tracks a mere few inches from Tsunayoshi's throat, and for a long simmering moment after that, they stare at each other, neither of them giving an inch.

 

"Now that was rude," Tsunayoshi says, breaking the silence. His words come out mild and almost friendly. In contrast, the ice that slowly begins creeping down the length of Mukuro's trident is anything but.

 

In the end, Mukuro concedes first, doesn't really have a choice without drawing unwanted attention, and he can admit that he'd probably lose anyway. He dismisses his trident with half a thought, and then goes still when Tsunayoshi reaches for him, too quickly for him to dodge, and fingers curl around his neck, not even tight enough to bruise but firm in a way that is very clearly a command to remain unmoving.

 

Mukuro breathes in, breathes out, braces a smile over his teeth and meets the Flame-bright eyes of the Sky in front of him. "You show this to Vongola and they'd be tripping over themselves to make you heir."

 

Tsunayoshi snorts. His hand is distractingly warm against Mukuro's skin. One thumb rests over his pulse, almost as if by accident, and Mukuro hates how the too-rapid thud of it is giving him away. There isn't a prickle of ice to be felt, but the knowledge of it - the threat of it - is there all the same.

 

He'd miscalculated, even when he'd known not to underestimate this boy. He'd expected Flames, most likely Sky, possibly Cloud, but he hadn't expected the ice, hadn't even realized Sky Flames could do that.

 

"Like I said, not my thing," Tsunayoshi assures. He watches Mukuro for a moment longer, and then he huffs a laugh and lets go, suddenly enough that Mukuro sways forward without intending to before jerking back in the next second and then finally wrangling his own body back under control.

 

His own Flames whisper under his skin though, reaching for the Sky Flames that had - for a moment - felt like they had swallowed him whole, like plunging into a hot bath after a long day. He stomps that urge down and sets his jaw. Tsunayoshi couldn't have been touching him for more than thirty seconds at most. He's never heard of a Sky that could attract an element that quickly, and Mukuro hadn't even been looking for it, hadn't even wanted it.

 

"…Sorry," Tsunayoshi finally offers, not quite apologetic but something rueful entering his expression now. "Couldn't resist."

 

Mukuro arches an eyebrow. "Seemed rather fair to me."

 

Tsunayoshi rolls his eyes. "You weren't even going to stab me, you drama queen." Mukuro twitches. Tsunayoshi shakes his head, and something oddly wistful flits across his face. "You're the strongest Mist in town, and I'm the strongest Sky." His tone is matter-of-fact, certain in a way that can't be mistaken for hubris. "It's… tempting, to keep you for myself."

 

His eyes burn extra bright for a few seconds longer before finally fading back to their usual brown. Mukuro can sense it now though, the core of Sky hidden inside the younger Sawada twin, an all-encompassing inferno buried deep within an unassuming host, and something in him hungers.

 

Just how powerful are you? Mukuro wonders, staring, digging nails into palms out of sight. Ieyasu never felt like this.

 

"You should head back down," Tsunayoshi says abruptly, and a spark of orange whirls out around them, dispersing Mukuro's Mist barrier like sunlight through a storm. "They're about done." He quirks a smile, amused all over again. "I'd give you some tips about how to defeat the Varia Mist, but you don't need them, do you?"

 

Mukuro scoffs and rises to his feet. "Against that fraud? I can sense their location right now, though I suspect they're trying to hide their presence. Defeating them won't be a problem."

 

He pauses and looks down once more at fluffy hair and doe eyes and a face that many have found easy to overlook. "You have so much power at your disposal, and you would be content with a normal life? "

 

Tsunayoshi makes a noncommittal sound and looks out across the street, at the rest of this sprawling sleepy town. "Well, I didn't say that, did I?" He turns back, and his eyes flash with quicksilver flame. "But Vongola won't have a say in my future. That at least is something I guarantee."

 

Neither of them says anything else after that. The conviction in Tsunayoshi's eyes invites neither doubt nor mockery, unshakeable as mountains and unfathomable as the ocean's deep, and Mukuro is helpless to do anything but believe him.

 

He slips away without another word, back to the clueless gathering of simpletons downstairs, so completely unaware of the king above them.

 

When Mukuro leaves that night, he can still feel the echo of Tsunayoshi's Flames twining with his own.

 


 

On the night of the Mist battle, Mukuro doesn't even break a sweat as he shatters Mammon's illusions and watches the Arcobaleno flee out the far window. He's got the ring, and he doesn't care enough to give chase. Instead, he tosses the thing to Chrome, ignores the cheering and grumbling from the peanut gallery, and looks beyond them instead, out the door and into the night.

 

There's no mistaking the flame in the distance, perched on one of the rooftops, burning in the pitch of dark. It winks out a moment after he lays eyes on it, but it's enough.

 


 

Two nights later, as the Sky battle rages above them, Mukuro finds a packet of syringes in his jacket pocket, with enough of the antidote to nullify the poison running through all of them, and after it's all over, after Ieyasu just barely defeats Xanxus, and the whole sordid tale comes out, and they're finally allowed to go their separate ways, Mukuro sees Chrome back to their shared apartment before slipping away once more to track Tsunayoshi down.

 

He finds him at the bridge, legs dangling over the edge, looking for all intents and purposes like he's simply enjoying the night breeze. He seems to have a fondness for high places, which Mukuro supposes isn't so surprising for a Sky.

 

He doesn't beat around the bush. Despite the antidote, he still feels tired, and there's something about this game Tsunayoshi is playing that makes Mukuro… impatient.

 

"Why would you even need a Mist if you don't want anything to do with the Vongola?" He demands, coming to a halt several feet away.

 

Tsunayoshi doesn't look up. Instead, his focus remains on his hands, on the Flame between them, bouncing between his palms like he's playing with it.

 

Ieyasu still can't even summon his Flames without the aid of drugs.

 

"I don't need a Mist," Tsunayoshi replies blandly. "I can do just fine without one." He claps his hands together, and the Sky Flames extinguish themselves. "I didn't get you freed so you'd work for me, or whatever you're thinking. I just did it because I felt like it."

 

"Felt like it." Mukuro repeats with a sneer. "We never even met, the first time I was here."

 

Tsunayoshi does look up at that, something startlingly calculating in the shift of his features as he regards Mukuro with thoughtful eyes. When he rolls to his feet, Mukuro doesn't back away, but he does keep half an eye out for any ice that might appear.

 

Tsunayoshi smiles like he knows exactly what Mukuro is thinking, but he also sticks his hands into his pockets and rocks back on his heels, the perfect picture of harmless. "Well, who knows. Maybe we met in a past life."

 

Mukuro stares. Tsunayoshi's smile widens, and then he steps back, steps off the railing, and Mukuro lurches forward before he can stop himself, his own Flames rippling into existence as Tsunayoshi plunges towards the river below, only for a starburst of orange fire to cushion his fall, flaring out across the moving water right before his shoes touch the surface like the petals of a flower unfurling.

 

Tsunayoshi tips his head back, meets Mukuro's gaze, waves, and then turns and presumably heads home.

 

Mukuro watches him go.

 

"Maybe we met in a past life."

 

Anyone else would've taken it as a glib joke.

 

Mukuro - with six lives under his belt - does not.

 


 

When they're dragged ten years forward into an alternate future for a war that doesn't even have anything to do with them, their stay turns out to be a short one. Tsunayoshi, who - along with the civilian girls and children - were also swapped with their future selves as incentive (Mukuro knew Ieyasu would be the perfect Vongola puppet), sneaks out one night while the rest of the base is asleep, and Mukuro - so ridiculously attuned to that unique Sky signature that he could probably sense it from across the country these days - feels him leave, sighs and follows.

 

Five hours, one destroyed enemy base, and a new respect for just how strong the younger Sawada twin actually is later, Tsunayoshi slits Byakuran's throat in the man's own sitting room while Mukuro finishes off the last of Millefiore's Guardians.

 

"He went mad a long time ago," Tsunayoshi murmurs as if to himself, and when he turns and walks away from the fresh corpse at his feet, there is no regret in the slope of his shoulders or the length of his strides.

 

Mukuro falls into step beside him, idly rubbing at a few flecks of blood on his gloves. He'll have to wash them as soon as he gets back, or it might not come out.

 

"You didn't have to come," Tsunayoshi tells him as they make their way back to their safehouse in the early hours of dawn.

 

Mukuro smiles back thinly. "I haven't killed anything in a while. Consider it my good deed of the month."

 

Tsunayoshi raises an eyebrow. "Killing people is a good deed?"

 

Mukuro smirks. "Why, of course. Killing mafia scum is always a good deed, and this way, I don't have to take out my bloodlust on the citizens of Namimori."

 

Tsunayoshi rolls his eyes. "Whatever you say, Mukuro." But the quirk of his mouth is as much amusement as it is exasperation, and the Flames that brush against his own are comfortable and calm.

 

Mukuro sneaks them back into the base, and neither of them says anything when Irie bursts in, squawking about the sudden disarray amongst the ranks of the Millefiore Family. They watch instead, almost shoulder to shoulder in a corner of the room, and with the phantom touch of Tsunayoshi's hand still on his neck, Mukuro wonders how none of these people can sense the powerhouse in their midst.

 


 

Tsunayoshi is true to his word when he said he would stay out of Ieyasu's way. Over the next several months, various skeletons and sundry enemies with chips on their shoulders pop up to challenge the Vongola heir and his Guardians, and Mukuro finds himself stepping up Chrome's training.

 

"She's a decent Mist," Mukuro says when Ieyasu confronts him about it one day. "She'll suffice. Treat her well and she'll serve you well."

 

He doesn't say that Chrome will always answer to him first, and Ieyasu doesn't notice.

 

"But what about you?" Ieyasu asks insistently. "I kinda thought you would both be my Mist Guardians. I like Chrome-chan and all, but you're stronger."

 

Mukuro hides the sharpness of his next smirk and wonders when this boy decided Mukuro was his. "I don't wear the ring," He says instead. "I'll be around, but you'd best learn to work with what you have."

 

Ieyasu frowns, confused with a hint of growing displeasure, but the Bovino child proves to have excellent timing as he comes screaming around the corner, grenades in hand, and the house dissolves into chaos once more. Nobody notices Mukuro leaving in the ensuing pandemonium.

 

Two days later, he stabs a woman in a back alley two cities over while Tsunayoshi scrolls through her phone with a moue of distaste.

 

"For a nationally renowned child trafficker," He mutters. "She sure leaves a lot of footprints." He pockets the phone and nods expectantly at Mukuro. "You done? We have school on Monday so let's wrap this up quick."

 

Mukuro hums his agreement, checks that his prey is dead, and then follows Tsunayoshi out to their next location, and their next, and their next.

 

He's been following Tsunayoshi for months now, and he thinks at least some part of him should hate it, should resist, should at least ask more questions. But Tsunayoshi offers him a freedom that Ieyasu never will, in his brother's shadow, he hunts the sort of human garbage that Mukuro despises most, and he isn't afraid to get his hands dirty.

 

He still doesn't quite understand what Tsunayoshi is after. He chooses his targets at random, goes after them some weekends and takes other weekends off, and a few times, he's mentioned to Mukuro that he wants to travel after high school.

 

"Vongola will never allow it," Mukuro informs him one time, more out of curiosity for his reaction than any sort of belief that that would be enough to change Tsunayoshi's mind.

 

And as expected, Tsunayoshi laughs and tells him, "I'd like to see them try and stop me."

 

If Mukuro is honest, he would too.

 

"You'll need bodyguards," He muses instead.

 

Tsunayoshi's gaze is an almost physical weight on him, and when Mukuro glances over, the Flame is back in his eyes, glinting like a blade in a forge fire. A smile curves his lips, a little sly, a lot amused, but all of it underscored by something darker, wilder, ravenous. "Are you offering?"

 

Mukuro scoffs under his breath because they both know the answer to that, they've known for months, from the first time they killed together, from the first time Tsunayoshi let himself be seen, from the first time Mukuro approached him, moth to a flame that didn't burn.

 

("Why me?" Mukuro sometimes asks, because he can't possibly be the only one Tsunayoshi knew in a past life, not with the way he occasionally looks at the others, at Ieyasu's Guardians, nostalgic and sad and tired.

 

"Why not?" Tsunayoshi replies each time, every time, and Mukuro wonders if he'll ever tell.)

 

"So long as we keep up our little treasure hunts, I suppose I wouldn't mind," He says, and it's the closest he'll ever admit to take me with you, to I want to come, to yes, my Sky, anything, anywhere, anytime, and it would be frightening if he was the sort for fear, and if the bond between them - newly forged and strangely familiar - didn't make him feel far more stable these days.

 

It doesn't matter anyway because Tsunayoshi smiles like he knows, looks at him like he sees right through him, and Mukuro has long since grown used to the possessive tug of Flame coiled beside his own, like a dragon around its hoard.

 

Mukuro sighs, rakes a discerning eye over his chosen Sky, and then asks, not for the first time, not for the last time, "What is it you want, Tsunayoshi?"

 

Tsunayoshi leans back, lays out on the roof, hands tucked behind his head as he stares up at the open sky, stupidly vulnerable. "Who knows." He reaches up with one hand, fingers splayed against the summer blue above. "I'm freer in this world than I've ever been before, so maybe I just want to know what I can really do when there isn't someone looking over my shoulder all the time." He flashes a grin at Mukuro. "Let's say, for now, I want to see the world and maybe clean it up a bit while I'm at it. What do you think?"

 

Mukuro arches an eyebrow, then leans back as well in far more graceful sprawl. The sky is almost blindingly bright. "I think the world isn't that interesting, but-" -you make it more so. "-if you're taking out the garbage too, then that at least will be worth my while."

 

Tsunayoshi laughs again, full of genuine delight, and Mukuro smirks in response. They say nothing else, the rest of that afternoon, but they don't need to. They make no promises, but those are hardly necessary either when Mukuro could probably find Tsunayoshi anywhere in the world blindfolded, and Tsunayoshi's Flames pulse steady and strong at the back of Mukuro's mind, behind his ribcage, in every breath he takes.

 

Tsunayoshi has never asked him to follow, has never asked him to kneel and bow and serve, and maybe - above all else - that's why Mukuro does.