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Unbound by Sky

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When Tsuna was young, despite any objections he might've outright said, he was always forced to go through rather odd, or downright dangerous, situations. Take being a mob boss for example. If ten years ago you had come to his house and said he would lead one of the most influential famiglias in the world, he would’ve laughed and said you had the wrong person before dialling the police. But if that person happened to be Reborn, well, things were going to go his way no matter what.

Don’t want to be Vongola Decimo? Fine then, you’ll be Neo Vongola Primo!

Hell, even now with his experience and power, Tsuna wouldn’t dare cross Reborn. But if he was going to get shot at anyways for his guardian’s rapidly accumulating property damage, might as well tease him about his height. Not that he was much of an exception; he was the shortest out of all his guardians.

Where was he going with this?

Oh yes. Tsuna’s inability to reject his fate.

To be fair, perhaps this time, it wasn’t completely the weapons development unit at fault. More like ninety percent. He really should’ve listened to Shoichi when he warned him about going into his and Spanner’s personal workshops. They were apparently working on the Bovino famiglia’s ten-year bazooka and its space-time capabilities (that really should’ve been the first red flag). But he was looking for Lambo and for some reason, the teen always sought shelter in an extremely dangerous, highly unstable, experimental, and possibly explosive weapons laboratory by the two most impulsive engineers who were each other’s impulse control.

The last thing he saw before Lambo accidentally tripped on a bundle of cables, which short-circuited the giant machine— thanks a lot hyper intuition you piece of— was a bright flash of light and Spanner erasing the twenty-five into a zero on a “days since an accident” sign.

When he opened his eyes, Tsuna saw not the duo’s laboratory but a country road in Japan. If that was it, he would’ve congratulated Shoichi and Spanner for creating a transporter that didn’t make the user nauseous or lose consciousness. But that situation didn’t fit the maelstrom of chaos that fate gave to Tsuna, no, not only did he travel back to his “home” country, but a few people who drove past him were beings who he could loosely call “humans”. Some looked normal, some like very intense cosplayers, but others looked very alien with severe mutations—almost as if the Millefiore took their Flame-hybrid experiments and cranked it up to Frankenstein.

And Tsuna… and Tsuna could only mentally sigh at his situation. If he were ten years younger maybe he would’ve freaked out and panicked. But now? 

 

“Can’t believe I got used to being thrown through time and space. Why is this normal for me? How did I get here? Oh yeah, Reborn ,” he sighed, twidling with a special ring on his finger.

He fiddled with the metal dials on the ring until he heard a buzz and people screaming through his earpiece.

“The ring’s response time was faster by point eight seconds, nice. Hey, Tsuna are you okay?” Shoichi asked.

He dusted his mantel with his other hand, sending a location ping with the transmission ring. “I’m fine.”

“Tenth where are you? Are you okay?” his trusty right-hand asked. “On a scale of 1 to 10 how badly can I punish these idiots?”

God, we are all way too used to this.

“I’m not sure, I’m fine, and I’d rather them fix this problem than waste time repenting for actions they’ll definitely do again,” Tsuna replied calmly as he explained his surroundings. “So either I entered some secret human experimental zone or I’ve been sent to a parallel universe.”

“The latter.”

He sighed. “Please say it’s a universe we travelled through before.”

“Luckily for you Vongola, it is. I think it was about three years ago with Basil.” Spanner said before explaining the world he found himself in. “Oh yeah, there should be a Vongola Headquarters in... Musutafu City set up by Basil so go hang there for a while. The Vindice have no authority over there as far as we’re concerned so you don’t need to handicap yourself in a fight. Got all that?”

“There aren’t Dying Will Flames but Quirks and about eighty percent of the world populace has a weird roulette of powers ranging from simple animal mutations to possibly reality-warping laser death cannons. Because of this, Heroes are an actual profession and there are laws forbidding the use of Quirks in public due to safety concerns.”

He repeated it as if saying it would make it any less ridiculous.

“Yeah, pretty much. Sorry Vongola, but it might take a few weeks to fix the machine. Maybe a little more if your Storm doesn’t revoke our thumb privileges.”

Tsuna so badly wanted to scream, “why me?” and “I don’t want to do this!” but buried those complaints deep within himself along where all his hopes and dreams of having a normal, peaceful life stayed.

“I’ll figure something out. Besides, a few weeks without dealing with the mafia sounds great to me.”

Spanner chuckled. “Just remember your little vacation when you come back. I hate fighting with the guys at finance. They already tried to cut our budget in—”

Tsuna hissed at the piercing squeal of the mic screaming directly in his ear. “Are you guys al—?”

He felt a sudden chill down his spine, knowing exactly who took over the intercom.

“So you think you can just get out of your responsibilities, do you?”

“H—Hello Reborn.” Damn it he tried not to stutter. “How are you doing?” Oh, he could just feel the glare through time and space.

“Just fine," he replied in an upbeat sarcastic drawl, "but I wonder how your kneecaps will be in three weeks.”

“How is everything my fault?” he mumbled as he observed his surroundings.

“A good boss should be able to avoid such problems." He chuckled deviously before his tone lowered. "Now, shut up and listen. You’re a mafia boss, Tsuna. Do you understand? You are not a hero.”

Tsuna weakly covered his smile with his hand. Despite what Reborn said, he could hear the underlying worry and trust in his voice. It reminded him of his youth when the weight of everyone's lives clutched his shoulders; when he feared the tears of his loved ones would drown him. When things turned complex and he thought he had to be a hero to save others—noble and righteous. Someone he wasn't.

But he was only human. He didn't need intricate goals and motivations, he only needed to see what was around him. Some may call him selfish but even the sky had its limits. When one took in too many elements without gaining anything in return, even the sky would break. Any more and he'll crack, as fragile as glass, pieces shattering, the rifts webbing what was left. Coddling him would only sand down the edges but the gaping wound will still be there, hollow and empty.

But Reborn? He was none of that. He didn't take shit from anyone and that included his student's detrimental selflessness. He was the one to shoot at the hole in the sky, tell you to take a hard look at yourself, and then collect the pieces you thought you lost to help you rebuild yourself. It was incredibly tough but he didn't do it out of selfishness but because he knew he could do better.

“I’m not going to jump in at first sign of danger,” he said light-heartedly, “I’d like to remind you that I’m the most pacifistic one out of all of us.”

He clicked his tongue. “That’s not what I’m talking about and you know it.”

He did. In the past, Tsuna was a coward, a person who ran away at the first sign of trouble. But now with everything he went through, he couldn’t help but become more assertive and to face the danger with pride; he couldn’t help but aid people who were in front of him. Not from heroism, but because he could. Not that he would rush into a fight, he wasn’t suicidal, Ryohei, or some hero.

“It’s so nice to hear you care about me, Reborn,” Tsuna teased, “but I’m doing amazing right now. I got fresh air, vitamin D, a change of scenery and I finally got to stretch my legs and I feel great!

He heard Reborn sigh through his headset, picking up on some chuckling in the background that sounded suspiciously like Takeshi.

Picking up his tone, he said in a sinister tone lacing his voice, “Well then, if you have so much energy—” Why did he think teasing him would be a good idea? "—I expect you to spread the Vongola name, recruit at least one hundred people into our ranks, and when you come back...”

Tsuna coughed, briefly weighing his options to either apologize or starting a new life here.

“A—Are you seriously giving me homework ?”

“It’s summer vacation for students in Japan right now, isn’t it? You should be used to this. Or did you suddenly regress back into your pathetic middle school self?”

“Sadist. You are nothing but a sadist.”

“Apparently not enough of one if you have the gall to talk about to me." Tsuna imagined Reborn smugly twiddling the curly cord on a nineteen-seventies rotary phone as he said this. "Maybe I’ll talk to Byakuran and have him send me there.”

The probability of that was less than point one percent but if being with Reborn for over ten years had taught him anything it was that when Reborn wants something, he’ll get it.

Tsuna turned the dial on the ring by a centimetre, slowly making his way back into its original position.

“Oh… Oh no … you’re breaking up...”

“Tsuna, don’t you dare—”

“Sorry, bye!” He quickly turned the dial, breaking the connection. He impressed himself on how stupidly brave and suicidal his actions had become.

“He’ll kill me for sure that but that’s future me’s problem,” he reassured his current self.

 

With that Tsuna travelled along the road to the nearest town, trying to run from his problem like any responsible adult. Of course, that wasn’t necessary when trouble stuck to him like a leech—

“Villian!”

“Please help!”

“The building’s crumbling!”

“Children! My children are in there!”

—and he ran towards the screaming without hesitation.

 


 

 

Somewhere else, a young boy clutched onto his mother, the latter of whom was robotically patting his hair, all sense of warmth and comfort that once there lost to time.

"Mom?" he said, voice wavering.

She hummed noncommittally.

"I heard him saying that he might replace you." His little fingers squeezed her harder as if just the thought could make her disappear. "On the phone. He was talking to someone."

 

Although it happened hours ago, he could still hear the cold, authoritative voice of his father controlling him, his life. It was after their training, or "father-son bonding time" as he heard one of his father's associates called it. He was walking over to where his mom was, nursing an injury, holding back his tears. Tears didn't help anyone, certainly not himself or his mom.

It was only by chance that he overheard his conversation. Usually, if his father wasn't training him, he isolated himself in this office or had work far away from the house. But today it seemed he was unlucky enough to see him outside of his mandatory training lessons.

"—the boy needs more than what she could offer him," he said rubbing his temples, "go search for someone with high proficiency in ice Quirks then refer them to me. I can't have him tainted and spoiled by some amateur."

As a seven-year-old boy, his mind couldn't connect what he was hearing. He knew that his father was looking for someone to train his right side, his mom's side. The side that eased the pain. But then what about his mom? What would happen to his mom? Would she stop nurturing his left side?

He knew his father was utilitarian, selfish. He immediately discarded anything that was a hindrance and cut ties with anyone that would drag him down. Blood included. He already knew that his family wasn't like what he saw on TV. A happy mom and dad who loved each other, siblings who would pull pranks and laugh about it. Even the simplest things fascinated him: eating homecooked meals together during "family time", play multiplayer games and acting silly, and sleep together under one roof. He was envious of those fictional characters. Even those crafted stories had better chemistry than his family. While they had "family reunions" and reminisced about the moments they shared, he could barely remember the face of his eldest brother.

So would this mean that he would get someone like his father to train his left side as well? Did that mean his left side would be moulded into something that causes pain like his right? Did that mean he would be forced to spend even less time with his mom?

 

"But that's not going to happen, right?"

He looked at her, not understanding the pain and suffering behind those eyes. He hoped that she would call his name with her comforting voice like back then. For her to embrace him, kiss his cheeks and say that she'll protect him. To say that everything would be alright. He knew it wasn't true but it made him feel better.

"You won't leave me alone, right? Mom?"

 

She hummed once more.

Chapter Text

“It’s okay, it’s going to be all okay,” she whispered.

Fuyumi held her little brother in her arms, her clothes wrinkled and soaked by his tears. She shivered, holding him closer, hoping to give him any warmth she still had left. Natsuo bit his lips, burying his head into her shoulders, hiccuping, trying to hold back his cries. They huddled together in silence, the only sound being the muffled hiccups and breathing of the two children. 

Villains attacks were not uncommon. Villains targetting specific people were not uncommon. Villains targetting specific people related to their targets were not too uncommon. Because of the numerous heroes in towns and cities, however, it was uncommon for them to succeed. But of course, the one day Fuyumi got a day out with her younger brother was when the villain attacked. It's been ten minutes? No, maybe more or less she couldn't tell. She didn't have the time or energy tracking it. She didn't know anything about the villain, all she knew is that the moment she saw his hateful glare she took Natsuo by the arms and ran.

Now, they were stuck underneath collapsed buildings with the deafening crush of stone and metal creeping closer and closer to their burrow. Weak sheets of ice covered them, chipping away at each vibration from the impact above, holding back the broken house from caving in on them. Fuyumi, despite having a much higher constitution to the cold than her brothers, came to a point now where she started to shiver and wince at the pain nipping at her burning fingers. She made sure Natsuo's head was against her; knowing that if he noticed her hands he would recklessly try and do the same.

He let out a whimper as she gently shushed him. Being the offspring of a hero meant that they were taught what to do in these types of situations. And the first thing was not to draw any attention towards themselves (though that wasn’t just a lesson on avoiding villains).

She could still hear the shrill laughter of the maniac, trying to search for them. For “justice” he said. What a load of crap. If they had a problem with their father, they should take it up with him instead of taking it out on innocent children whose only crime was sharing his blood.

Crash! They both jumped as a large piece of the ceiling came crumbling down in front of them, Fuyumi quickly covering Natsuo with her body. It wasn’t much but she would do anything to protect her remaining brother.

“I’m s—scared,” he whispered, voice muffled, “I—I want to go back to auntie’s.”

She shushed him gently, creating another wall of ice, making sure the frost didn’t touch Natsuo. “I know, I know. A h—hero will be here to rescue us soon.”

She combed through his hair trying not to only reassure him but also herself. If she didn’t do something to hide her trembling, she feared the worst. She had no other option but to bite back her fear. But as their small sanctuary was becoming smaller and smaller with each piece of falling rubble, a cold sense of dread crawled through her spine, her body becoming numb not only from her Quirk but also at the cold blade of death running down her back.

Crash!

Natsuo hiccuped and whimpered, “Fuyu—Fuyumi I don’t want to die.”

“You won’t.” She took deep breaths, refusing to succumb to her fear. “We’re going to be rescued, we’ll get an autograph from the hero for your secret collection, and after we get to auntie’s, I promise to make you some ice cream.”

He let out a shaky breath. “W—With sea salt caramel?”

She nodded, careful not to let her raw, chaffing flesh touch his. “With sea salt caramel.”

Crash! Their talk was cut short as the walls started to shake again as they both braced for impact. She shut her eyes, hoping that her body would at least keep Natsuo alive.

 

 

“Fuyumi, look!”

She opened her eyes as hope blossomed on her face. Following Natsuo’s finger, she saw light beaming through the walls, little by little the rubble was being cleared off. It was bright — light filtering through the gaps and crevasses of splintered wood and dented metal — she could see the ocean where her siblings often played together in the far back. Back before Toya left, back before Shoto left, back before mom left. Perhaps it was because she had never been saved so close to death before but the shimmering light dancing on the water seemed to wave at her, becoming bright and beautiful.

Natsuo tugged on her sleeve, a relieved smile stretching his face. She felt tears of relief as she saw the face of her rescuer.

Her hopes were immediately shot down, her heart plummeting to her stomach when she saw not the face of a hero, but the villain.

“Didn’t your daddy ever tell you that you shouldn’t talk while you’re hiding?” he said with a grin splitting his face.

Beg. She had to beg for their— no, her brother’s life.

“P—P—Plea—” Her throat caught her raspy voice, breath trembling, unable to push out a plea of mercy.

Unfortunately for them, the villain didn’t see their mouths move in the dark.

“Not even a ‘please spare us?’” He scoffed, a disgusted scowl on his face. “Wow, you really are Endeavor’s kids.”

She was screaming, yelling, screeching; but nothing came out. Words were coughed up as choked whimpers, her diaphragm jolted the more she tried to force air through her lungs. The white noise, the continuous high pitched ring gradually getting louder, circling her ears, painting her senses in black.

Why couldn’t she say anything? Just say something, anything!

She felt the energy draining from her body, hopelessness coupled with hypothermia didn’t help her consciousness. She could just barely feel Natsuo shaking in her arms. Why did it feel so warm all of a sudden?

Heroes, Toya, anyone! Please, anyone!

“If you want to blame someone, blame your dad for ruining people’s lives.” His arms morphed into something monstrous, the details blurry, death’s scythe silhouetted against the bright sea, taunting her of better days. “I’m not a monster like Endeavor. I’ll at least give you kids a quick—”

“Fuck off!”

 

Fuyumi stared at Natsuo holding out an arm out in front of her, his small body trying to shield her from the villain. She tried to pull him back but only succeeded in weakly twitching her arm in front of her before the limb plummeted to the ground.

“N—Nat…!”

Despite the tears and snot running down his face, he didn’t relent, a thin layer of frost covering his legs.

“If you want Endeavor so bad then go and get him!” He screamed, fear replaced with pent-up frustration. “You’re a stupid f—fucking idiot! You can’t even face him so you take it out on us, y—you C-list villain!”

Fuyumi sucked in a breath. Natsuo was a sweet child, albeit mischievous. He was an out-going boy but he never swore or became defiant like his older brother. Perhaps that was her influence on him but now it seemed like Natsuo was channelling some of Toya’s language.

“You think he cares if something happens to us!?”

She was sure that Natsuo didn’t even register what he‘d said. Hell, if she had the energy and consciousness for it, she would’ve been panicking instead.

“You don’t know anything! Fuck all of you! Why can’t you just leave us alone!”

She desperately wanted to yell, “stop it! Stop provoking him, you idiot!” But she could only watch as the villain’s arm reared back, blocking the sunlight, blocking the ocean. She could barely move her lips, black blots of static obscuring her vision, her last thoughts being a prayer for Natsuo to live.

In the end, she really couldn’t protect anyone. Not Toya, not Shoto, not her mom, not Natsuo, not even herself.

 

Natsuo braced himself. Even he knew that without a miracle, there was no hope in getting out alive. His sister had protected him and all for nothing. It’s not fair! —he thought— why us!? We aren’t bad!

Maybe being a Todoroki just came with a curse.

“This is justice for everyone he hurt.” He heard little remorse in his voice. “I’ll send your parents to you soon.”

If there was one last wish he had, it was that he could see his—

 

 

“I think not.”

Both Natsuo and the villain turned their heads towards the new voice. Although he couldn’t see who it was, his heart thumped loudly. It was a miracle; a hero? Please be a hero!

 

“A h—hero?” He heard the villain stutter. “There wasn’t supposed to be anyone patrolling here to—!”

In a flash, a blinding flurry of orange light filled his vision, a loud crash! reverbing through the hole. But before he could even open his eyes, he was enveloped in a warmth he’d never felt before. It wasn’t warmth in the physical sense, not entirely, it was more of a feeling. Like unwavering love, a promise of protection. It felt like when his mom used to hug him and kiss him to bed at night.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the streets, the ocean, the sky. His body was caressed by the hero’s cape, something familiar and pleasant washing away his fears. Next to him was his sister, worse for wear but still breathing. Alive.

Across from the hero was the villain, half-buried into the rubble, his clothes singed at the edges, beads of crystal-like ice embedded into his skin.

He turned towards the hero, clinging to his pants, awe and admiration evident on his face.

 

“Nope,” Tsuna said as the dust settled,  “I’m just a decent human being.”

Chapter Text

Tsuna massaged his wrists, chastising himself in Reborn’s stead. Stinging pain poked and prodded at his muscles, punishing him for using his Flames so suddenly without a proper conduit. It was never good to underestimate any opponent but the amount of power he put into that punch was completely unnecessary—not to mention the shards of deathperation ice clinging to his skin. It didn’t hurt him, they were his Flames after all, but the fact he lost control reminded him of how rusty his discipline was.

Admittedly, this wasn't his smartest move; if he was back in his own world, he might’ve had alerted the Vindice, or worse Reborn, for that flashy move—especially out in public like this. He did at least melt the ice with his flames as soon as his impulsiveness subsided. If he didn’t… well, even in a world like this one, he'd imagine trying to explain a glacier of everlasting ice trapping a half-dead singed man in a scorched field of a destroyed residential area would be quite difficult to explain. Or maybe based off Basil's report it wouldn't have been but that was a chance he wasn't willing to take.

In his defence, when he saw a large man with bulging, mutating arms about to kill screaming children trapped beneath the remnants of a house, his instincts took over his rationality. He surprised even himself on how quickly he melted the ice mid-impact. The downside to that was the sudden burst of Sky flames he unleashed, the force rippling through his arm like tectonic plates, giving him a temporary but still quite painful recoil.

“I don’t regret it though,” he said to himself staring far off towards the unconscious man partially buried in the rubble.

He had made sure to keep him alive. He hated to get blood on his hands, much less a life, and as he learned throughout the years, sometimes living was crueller than death. Not that he relished in another's misery—that was favoured more between his Mists. But having seen the cruelty of the mafia, his sympathy for those undeserving waned day by day.

"No, no, no." He chased those thoughts away with a shake of his head. No need for such dark thoughts in a new world.

 

Tsuna blew away the dust and debris on his shoulders, knowing that his time in the shower today wouldn’t be short. That is if he could find wherever this "hero agency" Basil set up was located.

"But more importantly..."

He glanced over at the children, expecting to see either fear or shock on their faces. He blinked widely when, the little boy, instead, looked up at him with such adoration he swore he could see stars sparkling in his eyes. Despite his torn clothes revealing the nasty cuts and bruises on his skin, it seemed that the boy couldn't feel it through the... admiration?

Tsuna furrowed his brows, a wave of anxiety and worry hitting him. He hadn’t had people, much less children, look at him like that in a long while. Not that it was unwelcomed but... Did the children of this world see fights so often that they became desensitized to violence? Or was it because the attempted murderer's body was not within their sight? Wouldn't children normally be frightened? Though he shouldn't be the one talking about "normality".

 

“T—Thank you!” Natsuo said, pulling Tsuna's mantle closer to him. “What hero are you?” Before Tsuna could even answer, he gasped, his goggling face souring. “My sister! We need to get her to auntie’s!”

Tsuna kneeled down, getting a closer look at the teen lying unconscious on the ground. Her fingers were a blazing red with pale discolouration at the tips, breathing heavily and twitching erratically. He clicked his tongue, covering her body with his mantle. Thankfully her skin didn’t reach deep frostbite, but a stage somewhere between frostnip and superficial frostbite. Not ideal but reversible without permanently damaging her body.

“How did this happen?” he asked as he sent a jet of flames into his Sun ring. “Is this from her pow—Quirk?”

Natsuo nodded solemnly, biting his lips and balling his shirt as if to contain his guilt. “She protected us from being crushed.”

“You have an amazing sister.” He gave a gentle, reassuring pat on his shoulder. “Don't worry, everything will be fine. She's just unconscious. I promise she’ll be okay…?”

“N—Natsuo!” he said after a slight pause. “And my sister’s name is Fuyumi. Who are you?”

Odd. Given names only?

“You can call me Cielo,” he replied as he took a look at the boy’s wounds. Dark bruises and congealed blood; nothing that couldn’t be naturally healed within a week or two. “I can heal her but make sure to have your aunt get your sister checked out by a doctor later, okay?”

As Tsuna felt his Sky Flames harmonizing with the Sun Flames through the conduit, he gently pressed his hands over her cloaked body, insuring her skin didn’t get into direct contact with his Flames. The harmonization factor of his Sky Flames made him able to wield his Sun with greater accuracy but he lacked the skill and control Ryohei had. According to Basil’s report, it seemed that the people of this world lacked Flames. Meaning, he didn’t know what direct contact between Flames and the residents of this universe would do outside of combat. And both men weren’t one to experiment on the innocent, much less children. It was for that reason Tsuna didn’t heal Natsuo immediately (besides the greater urgency of Fuyumi's injuries). His mantle acted as the buffer that would help regulate his output and keep her warm.

 

Natsuo gathered a fistful of Tsuna’s shirt, looking anxiously at his flames. He squirmed at the weird coloured fire going anywhere near his sister but this hero had helped them. So he must know what he was doing, right? Besides, something inside him compelled him to put his trust in this adult. But the fire...

Sensing his unease, Tsuna crouched, angling his body slightly towards the boy, making him seem smaller and more open.

“Don’t worry, these flames don’t hurt people. It’s not like normal fire.”

Tsuna placed a hand on his chest, Flames flickering with specks of blinking, starry light. He kept his hand on his shirt for a while with a disarming smile, letting the anxious boy see that he wasn’t bluffing.

“See?" With a theatrical flick of his wrist, he waved the Flames away. "Can’t feel a thing!” he said cheerfully.

Natsuo still looked at him apprehensively, his eyes jumping between the mysterious yellow fire seemingly evaporating into the mantle and the tension slowly loosening on Fuyumi’s face. After a few tense seconds, his shoulders lowered a bit and nodded, balling his hands so he wouldn’t be tempted to stick his finger into the flames. Even if it was safe, it was rude to just… stick your hand into someone’s Quirk like that.

 

“You both are so incredibly brave,” Tsuna said, trying to ease his mind. “You both did so well protecting each other.”

Natsuo whimpered—Fuck, Tsuna thought—lips quivering as he inhaled sharply through his nose.

“M—My sister’s the one who protected us,” he lamented as he rubbed his wet eyes, trying desperately to act tough, “I didn’t do a—anything! I led the villain to us because I kept talking! It’s my fault she—!”

Tsuna gently took his hand into his, the latter of whom gripped his hand like a lifeline, his tears cascading down his cheeks. His hand felt so small in his. He waited patiently until Natsuo got it all out of his system, only interrupting when he got too self-deprecating, countering his guilt with disapproval and encouragement. Though he didn’t realize it, for Natsuo, he couldn’t help but appreciate an adult who didn’t shush him at the first sign of a tear.

Tsuna stopped his Flames after his intuition sensed he’d done enough, scooting closer to Natsuo and slowly coaxing him into a hug as not to frighten him. Natsuo immediately clung onto his suit, the trembling boy desperately seeking a stable source of comfort.

“It’s also because of you that I knew where to look,” he reassured him, “your sister was saved because of you.”

That wasn’t a complete lie. He could’ve found them through his hyper intuition but the screaming was definitely faster. Not to mention that it was good to remind children that they should alert others when in danger.

“If it weren’t for you, I may have still been searching. In dire situations, every second counts. You saved your family and yourself. Don’t forget that.”

“...I still should’ve stayed quiet,” he said into his shoulder, voice muffled. “'Keep quiet. Don’t attract attention. Never let him know your location,' my big brother told me that once. I—I got Fuyumi hurt because of me.”

That… that advice was very specific, Tsuna noticed. Perhaps sharing such safety precautions were normal in this world?

“Sometimes we make mistakes, some more serious than others. The line between bravery and foolishness is very thin,” Tsuna assented, “but who I saw wasn’t a fool who gave up; the person I saw was brave, fighting past their fears against someone more than twice their size. You were backed up against the wall but you still kept your pride.”

Natsuo tilted his head, his puffy face peeking out, rubbing his swollen eyes on the pad of his suit. “Pride…?”

“Pride"—he smiled when Natsuo titled his head—"isn’t about being the strongest or smartest,” he clarified.

“It’s not?” he questioned, perplexed as if the very idea was a myth.

 

It was easy to say that pride wasn't solely based on strength or status but it was hard to demonstrate it; mostly because people based their worth on outdated standards of society instead of themselves. Takeshi was that way when they first met. His pride hung solely on a frayed piece rope dangling on the whim of others. Tsuna wasn't sure exactly when but somewhere down the line, Takeshi said 'fuck you,' climbed the rope, and abandoned the idea of being the best for others. Ryohei and Hayato helped for sure. The former was straightforward to a fault, sometimes literally, always giving reminders and pep talks about self-improvement. In Tsuna's case, he lectured him about how he should not drink the equivalent of sixteen espresso shots before noon (Tsuna blames the Acrobaleno). The former was who he can affectionately call a cat to Takeshi's dog. Although they bickered constantly, they complimented the each other's faults well.

Speaking of, Hayato had a tougher look on self-improvement but his pride also centred around himself. Others may look at their relationship and say it was solely based on subservience and that assumption was correct—at first. As the Vongola's right hand, he didn't take pride in solely following his boss but in his loyalty to his role. It was a thin line, but a distinction nevertheless. What made his pride different from dependancy was that he recognized his own autonomy and chose to protect his Family. There was a difference between living for others and with others.

Luckily, most of his friends had strong personalities, although it's because of said personalities that gave Tsuna his daily migraines. Regardless, their pride didn't stem from pleasing people but improving themselves—again, that was a double-edged sword considering the more... prideful members of his Family.

 

“Your pride is what makes you, you. It's what’s most important to you," Tsuna finally said. "It’s not something arbitrary set up by others, but the standard you set for yourself to become better. There's no shame in having your pride be with your loved ones.”

Natsuo blinked owlishly in response.

Tsuna let out a chuckle, ruffling the boy’s head. “Sorry, that was a bit complicated, right? Well, what or who is important in your life? For me, it’s my family and my promise to protect them. Because they've been with me, I've gotten better as a person.”

Natsuo went quiet with drying cheeks, his brows furrowed and lips pursed. Tsuna mentally patted himself on the back for successfully distracting the child. 

“My siblings and mom and auntie,” he replied after a long pause, “they don’t hurt me. Some heroes too. The nice ones.”

“Such a low standard,” Tsuna quietly contemplated.

“Then?” He nodded his head towards Fuyumi sleeping soundly next to them. “You protected your pride.”

“But—”

“You didn’t give up on those you care about and sometimes that’s enough. Let’s think about it this way: if you gave up on your pride, your sister and yourself, what would’ve happened? Were you just going to shut your eyes and hope for the best? Allow him to do whatever he wanted? Were you going to accept that man and why he chased after you both?”

“No!” Natsuo snapped, furious at the mere insinuation that he would think such a thing. “Of course not! He came to us and for stupid reasons and—!” 

“See?” Tsuna stopped him with a proud grin, coaxing the boy to calm down before he felt the wrath of an eleven-year-old. “Just by standing up for yourself you defied him. You didn’t roll over and take it, you took the situation into your own hands. You took away what people like them want: control and power. Just by defending your pride, you defeated that man.” Tsuna gave him a look of admiration and respect, staring directly into his eyes. “Look, who’s the person standing in front of me, the person who can say they stood up for others like a true hero: that man or you?”

"I—Um..." Natsuo opened and closed his mouth like a fish, suddenly finding the ground very interesting.

"Hmmm?" Tsuna angled his head, catching Natsuo's line of sight. "Well?" he asked coyly.

He squeaked, burying himself back into his shoulder blade, his ears glowing a soft red as Tsuna chuckled airily at his sudden timidity. 

“Well?” He nudged the boy, teasing yet completely serious. “Who?”

“M—Me...” he stammered.

Tsuna hummed, giving his best ‘old man’ impression. “I couldn’t quite hear that with these ageing ears. Who? Who was this brave, young hero who saved his—”

“Me!” he blurted out if only to escape this embarrassing situation.

Tsuna laughed mirthfully, patting his back as an apology. “That’s right. You.”

 

Natsuo’s squeals came out muffled but once he calmed down, his mind finally registering his words, he pressed his little fingers onto his lip, a shy smile unknowingly meeting his blushing cheeks and red eyes.

“Me...” he whispered disbelievingly as if his tongue was disconnected from his body.

 

Once Tsuna saw Fuyumi’s complexion had returned (and Natsuo released his grip), he wrapped her in his mantle and gingerly lifted her up with one arm, making sure her neck and head was properly supported. Natsuo, on the other hand, goggled at Fuyumi’s non-blistered, healthy skin peeking through the fabric. It was like she never overused her Quirk in the first place!

He leaned towards her, Tsuna kneeling on one leg so he could see her better. Natsuo ran his finger from her forehead to her cheek, skin free of cuts and warm to the touch. He pulled the cloak lower in disbelief to see her unblemished skin as if the piece of fabric was hiding all her wounds. Besides some dried blood and grime, all her injuries were gone! Twitches and erratic breathing were replaced by soft snores, the only evidence left of the ordeal being the damp and tattered clothes she wore.

If he weren’t so emotionally spent, he would’ve cried again.

“You really did heal her… you really did heal her!” he repeated just to convince himself. A huge grin couldn’t help but stretch his lips as he hugged her, his small body unable to contain the joy and excitement welling within him.

Tsuna turned his head away from the bouncing boy and let out an amused snort, finding the excited boy adorable. It reminded him of Lambo when he was a toddler. Taking on a more serious face, he was just happy that he was able to help them. He gave a reassuring glance, nodding his head towards the crowd of people in the distance standing far away from the rather large destruction site.

“Let’s go find your aunt, okay?” he said as he offered his free hand.

Natsuo nodded eagerly, taking his hand as Tsuna carefully guided him through the uneven terrain.

 

 

 

“You really healed her with fire! Is that your Quirk? Healing fire?” Natsuo rattled off, fumbling over his words. “That’s so cool! I’ve never seen that before! What’s your hero name? Are you an underground hero? I saw orange fire before. Is that also your Quirk? Do you have two Quirks? My little brother also has two Quirks. But he has ice and fire instead of healing fire and normal fire. How does your yellow fire heal people? How come it doesn’t burn?”

“My flames aren’t like normal fire. And yes, both flames are part of my Quirk.” He felt a bit odd talking so freely like this without the Vindice’s chilling presence lingering behind him. “You mentioned that your brother can use ice and fire? That's cool. I can too.”

He gasped. “So you have three Quirks!? I didn’t know that could even happen. Does it hurt you? Does it hurt?” he asked, pulling on his hand with a troubled face.

“No, not if I don’t misuse it." His first meeting with Natsu was not exactly his proudest moment. "Though to be fair, anything can be lethal in the wrong circumstances—especially in Reborn's hands, cazzo." He whispered that last part. "Just think of my power as energies that only look like fire and ice.”

He bit back a grin at Natsuo’s innocent confusion.

 

 

 

 

"Natsuo! Fuyumi!”

“Auntie!”

Natsuo nearly tripped on a piece of rubble running towards his guardian, hugging her tightly as Tsuna made his way down, careful not to jostle the sleeping girl.

“Oh, oh! Thank God you’re alright!” she cried, gripping him as if he might disappear at any second. “If something happened to you, I—Fuyumi!” She swerved her head around frantically. “Where’s your sister?”

Natsuo pointed to Tsuna who was carefully making his way down, giving a reassuring smile towards the distressed woman.

“I apologize, Miss. I didn’t want to wake her,” he informed her as she ran up to him. “She’ll be fine, but please take her to your family doctor just in case.”

“Fuyumi... Thank goodness,” she muttered, shoulders dropping as she exhaled. She ran her hand through Fuyumi’s hair, the latter sleeping soundly. “Oh… Thank you so much…?”

“His name is Chee-l-lo!” Natsuo piped in.

“Cheello...?”

Cielo,” Tsuna corrected in a more Japanese accent, “It’s Italian. Anyways, may I help escort you all somewhere safer? I wouldn’t want to wake Miss Fuyumi and if bast—villains like him specifically targeted these children…” They were either from an important family, pissed off the wrong people, or both.

Tsuna’s eyes burned a fierce orange. Mercy would only be given to those who at least had a concept of basic human compassion. Still, Tsuna was a relatively peaceful person whose conscious tugged at his heart every time he had to do something unsavoury. So he showed that man a bit of mercy if only to give a chance at redemption. If he were anyone else, that man wouldn't have gotten off with the same generosities he gave—of broken bones and third-degree burns, also maybe some mild to severe traumatic brain injury. Again, mercy.

Quickly he hid his anger behind his smiling mask. “I would like to guide you all to a safer place if you’ll allow me.”

“You’ve already done so much...” She bit her lips, her gaze bouncing from him to the children.

Sensing her reluctance Natsuo piped in again, defending the "hero".

"He can do it! Auntie! You should’ve seen him! He had this cool fire Quirk! He beat up the villain and swoosh"he swung his fist in an arc—“we were out of the hole! And this yellow one where he healed Fuyumi with these sparkling lights and it was so awesome!” he rambled incoherently with short breaths.

Meanwhile, she looked at him as if he was replaced by some lookalike. Natsuo was an excitable boy, especially when comparing him to his siblings, but he was never this animated. And most importantly, he would never talk about a fire Quirk this passionately.

She turned to look at the man in front of her. He was meticulously dressed in an expensive-looking suit and tie. Although he just came out a destroyed site, his clothes were clean and didn’t have a single scratch on him. Despite looking like one of Enji’s business associates, he had an air around him that felt… approachable, vulnerable even.

“Then if it’s not much trouble...”

“Please, it’s no trouble at all. I can’t turn a blind eye on a situation I can clearly aid in.”

She wondered if this was how real heroes acted.

Chapter Text

“Please make yourself at home. I’ll bring you some tea,” Yuki, the children’s aunt, said giving a courtesy bow.

Tsuna nodded his head in thanks, sitting down near the corner of the patio.

As he heard the doors slide close, he took a deep breath, a sense of nostalgia hitting him. He hadn’t been outside of Italy, much less Japan, for leisure in a long time. It wasn’t voluntary, yes, but years of living as a Vongla taught him to take things into stride. It was slightly different, but the air was familiar nevertheless. He was offered a traditional Japanese room facing the sea, well-maintained and clearly owned by a wealthy family. It reminded him of Kyoya’s Foundation.

“Hmm… I wonder if the mafia would be prevalent in this world as well. Probably not considering heroism is an actual profession. A world where heroes and villains are real, huh?” he sighed, leaning his back against the wall. 

He could see so much going wrong with a society primarily based on the blind trust of heroism—whatever that meant. Either the mentality of this world worked in ways Tsuna was unfamiliar with or the faults in the system were hidden under all that bravado.

“Isn’t just basically renaming? What’s the difference between a mafia boss and a villain?” Tsuna mumbled to himself. “At least Basil would’ve been able to forge the necessary documents for me. I’ll just have to survive until I get briefed at Musustafu, was it? I should ask Yuki for a map.”

He stroked Natsuo’s head, the latter of which was sleeping soundly on the former’s lap. Halfway through the trip, Tsuna carried him in his other arm (much to the amazement and embarrassment of Yuki) as the adrenaline wore off. Since then, Fuyumi had been moved to another room with the family doctor while Natsuo clung to his shirt like a baby sloth. He didn’t mind it. It reminded him of the past; when Lambo or I-pin used to sleep on him after they moved to Italy. Though Natsuo was noticeably calmer than the two.

Tsuna lifted his hand as he felt Natsuo begin to stir.

“Mom…?” Natsuo groaned, wiping his tired eyes. He yawned, slowly taking a moment to adjust to his surroundings before his eye blew wide staring at Tsuna.

“Hey,” Tsuna said gently, “your sister is just in the other room. Still tired?”

He nodded, looking at Tsuna as if he was an alien (which wasn’t too far from the truth) in awe, slightly embarrassed, but mostly confused.

Tsuna tilted his head. “What’s wrong?” 

Natsuo fiddled with his fingers, unsure if he could say what he thought. The last time he said about a Quirk, he got those eyes. Cold, uncaring, annoyed. It wasn’t just him; he knew Toya and Fuyumi felt it too—that fear. It only took a side glance to paralyze them. It was a different sort of fear than a villain attack, it felt more haunting because it felt like it was their fault for asking something “stupid”. But it wasn’t! It wasn't their fault! All he wanted was to make his parents proud, to follow in his father’s footsteps.

He took a quick glance at Tsuna and bit his lips in an uncertain manner. Cielo isn’t like him at all —he thought— he’s like All Might. He’s super nice and kinda like mom.

“You don’t have to say it if you don’t want to,” Tsuna assured. The last thing he wanted to do was give the boy anxiety. “It’s okay to say no.”

Natsuo leaned into his shoulder, slowly reaching for his mantle. “I’ve never met a hero as cool and nice as you, Cielo.” Once he realized that Tsuna wasn’t stopping him, little by little, he started to gain a little more confidence, grabbing and prodding at the fabric. “I couldn’t see it really good but I saw that whoosh of fire and that villain was down. Then like it was warm like a winter blanket but like around the heart. Then, like the yellow— I know you said it was your Quirk but— How did you get us out of there?”

Thank goodness he had previously worked with children before. Their tongues could never quite catch up to their thoughts. Even so, he couldn’t exactly divulge all of the Vongola’s secrets even if this was a whole other universe.

“Well, I’m pretty fast and as I said before, my flames are a bit different than normal fire.”

“Yeah! Your fire was like sparkly and super bright like a highlighter and went fuuwahhh! ” He stretched out his arms widely with fistfuls of his cape still in hand as Tsuna chuckled at the adorable display. “I’ve only seen burning fire... Hot fire. Fire that’s so hot, you can’t get near it.”

Tsuna’s hyper intuition was ringing in the back of his head as he saw the boy swaddle himself in his cloak—almost as if he was using him as protection from his own memories.

“My Flames can hurt others but I know when and where to use my pow— Quirk. Fire isn’t scary but the person using it might be.”

Natsuo buried his nose into his mantle, nodding knowingly.

“Say,” he said, trying to change the topic, “you said that you wanted to know more about me, right?”

He peeked out, gazing at him with interest.

“Then let’s play a game!”

“A game?”

Tsuna teasingly poked Natsuo’s cheek through the heavy cloth, coaxing him to come out. “We’ll go back and forth asking one question. The only rule is that we can pass on a question we don’t want to answer. I’ll go first: what’s your Quirk? Is it something ice related?”

He blinked, head popping out of his mantle like a meerkat. “How did you know?” he whispered.

“I’m all-knowing,” he teased with a smile.

Okay, wow. He felt a shudder there. Reborn was definitely not a good influence on him.

“I guessed from seeing your sister. It's your turn now.”

Natsuo hummed, pursing his lips before looking back at him. “Why’s your hero name Cielo? Don't heroes have name with like, a bang?

He supposed he was right. If heroes were basically glorified celebrities with supernatural powers, then it was basically the "brightest star wins" situation, wasn't it?

“I don't like to stand out very much and it was a name given to me by a close friend— well, actually the second name." Because "Grande re del Cielo" sounded a bit too pretentious for his tastes.

"That's nice. It doesn't sound Japanese. Is it American?"

He shook his head. "It's Italian."

“Italian? What language is that?”

Oh boy. How to explain the different history, dialects, and intricacies of a country’s tongue to a child. “It’s the language of Italy, Europe”—such a simple explanation from a simple man— “it’s pretty far away from Japan.”

Natsuo raised his hand like he was in class. “I know Europe!”

“Really? You must know a lot, Natsuo.”

“Yeah! Me and Fuyumi and auntie went there once! But we didn’t go there. We went to uh… Sweden? It was really different but I liked it! I saw really cool heroes and they spoke with an accent. Oh! And we were near the ocean and I built a sandcastle!”

“Sounds fun!” Tsuna said equally as enthusiastic. “Do you like the sea?”

He nodded his head eagerly. “The ocean is so cool. There’s sharks and stuff. I know a lot about the sea.”

“Really? What do you know about the sea?”

“It’s super deep like you can sink a whole city in it and it’ll never fill up! Like Atlantis! And I know lots of animals! I know jellyfish, they’re squishy and are like ninety-five percent water. And there's more than a thousand types of fish! I know the yellow tang. I know—”

Natsuo listed off an extensive amount of aquatic animal names that Tsuna had never heard of before, nodding as if he knew what the fish with the “neon frisbee skirt fin” was. He even said some with their scientific names which made Tsuna wonder if he heard his words correctly through his slur of excited ramblings. It reminded him of how excitable Hayato could be with his research on UMAs or Takeshi with the results of the latest baseball game.

 

“Ah!” Natsuo placed a hand over his mouth and stared at Tsuna. “Tell me about Italy. What does your hero name mean? Does it mean fire?”

“Nope." Tsuna pointed at the window. "Cielo means sky.” 

“Sky? Why?”

Yay, another mafia-related question! “Well, where I’m from, I lead a hero agency…?”

“I knew it!”

Okay, so he did use that term correctly. “To me, this agency is more like a family.”

“A family? You work with your family?” Natsuo’s tone became more sombre, a slight sense of disbelief in his words. “Do… Do you ever fight?”

Tsuna exhaled, slumping his shoulders in defeat. “All the time. Sometimes I can’t get them to stop fighting—!”

Tsuna quickly shut his mouth. This was no time to complain to an eleven-year-old.

“But at the end of the day, we’re family. Sure, we get on each other’s nerves and we often disagree on how we should handle things"—sometimes a bit too much—"but it doesn’t come at the expense of our bonds.”

Natsuo twiddled his thumbs. “So…if they made you mad, you’d still like them?”

“Of course!” Tsuna replied instantly. “Everyone of my friends and family is worth more to me than anything in this world. We don’t have to be blood-related to care.” He saw conflicting emotions in the boy’s eyes. “Didn’t you say you loved your sister and aunt?”

“N—No!” Natsuo averted his gaze, slightly defensive. “I care about them but I’m too old to love! That’s for babies!”

He rose his brow. Did children think like this at this age? “Why do you think love has an age? You can be a hundred and still love your family and friends. How old do you think I am?”

“Uh…" He squinted his eyes. "Like eighteen?”

His stomach tensed, trying to contain his laughter. “I’m much older than that.”

“I— I meant forty!”

Oh, children and their sense of time. “I’m twenty-five.”

He gasped. “You’re twenty-five??”

Tsuna wasn’t sure if such a number actually registered in his mind or it was because he had never met someone his age before.

“Yep, twenty-five and still loving my family and friends.”

It actually made him a bit sad that the boy was ashamed to openly admit he loved his family. He couldn’t tell if it was a coping mechanism or something else. Briefly, he wondered what history this household held.

“You don’t need to be afraid to admit you care for others. After all, for me, my family and friends are the reason why I’m still here.”

Natsuo blushed. “Then um... my pride... mom… and my brothers.” Oof. There was a lot to unpack there.

“And I’m sure they love you too.”

He hummed doubtingly. “I don’t think my mom does. But I’d be nice if she did.”

Oh. There was a lot to unpack there.

He had his suspicions but Tsuna really hoped that this wasn't another case like Chrome's. At least his situation was than Chrome's considering that he had people who cared for him—now. Now that he thought about it, where were the parents? He's gathered that Natsuo wasn't close to his parents but was it another case of child neglect due to unfortunate circumstances, obligation, or...?

“Natsuo?”

“Ya?”

“I said this before but I think you’re really brave and strong. Giving others your kindness isn’t easy. Even for adults, sometimes especially for adults, that’s hard to do. You did something not even some adults can do—”

Tsuna nearly choked on his words as Natsuo slammed his head into his chest, making a sound between a squeal and whine.

 

Natsuo was practically vibrating at this point. He didn’t have a fire Quirk but he sure as hell could feel the heat radiating from his ears to his cheeks. He never had anyone so interested in what he was saying. He never had someone make him feel right for what he was saying. Sure he had people who loved him wholeheartedly like Fuyumi or his aunt, but even they shushed him at times, making him feel bad for asking.

Although it wouldn’t be until much, much later that he realized that they this out of concern for his safety just in case he said something to anger his father. However, to the eleven-year-old boy right now, he could only feel betrayed and hurt. He still loved them of course, but he just couldn’t get himself to trust them wholeheartedly no matter how hard he tried.

Cielo was different. No— that wasn't right. He wasn't different from everyone else. He was what everyone was like before. He just felt like warmth and comfort. Something inside him compelled him to trust this man and it felt natural too. He didn’t speak down to him. He didn’t coddle him. He just talked to him. He hadn’t felt like this since his father split his family.

 

Natsuo untangled himself from the mess of the cape, getting off his lap, and sitting in front of him. “I think you’re my favourite hero after All Might, Cielo.”

“Really? Even though you just met me?”

He wasn’t one to talk. He’s had people willingly join his family within twenty-four hours of knowing each other.

“You’re super cool. But All Might is the strongest hero and my dad hates him because he can’t beat him. So it just feels right.”

Ahh, preadolescent grudge to one’s own father. He could relate.

“Can you show me your Quirk again? The yellow sparkly one, the one you healed my sister with.”

Tsuna ran through a million scenarios in his head decided that it would be fine as long as he didn’t use his Flames on him.

“Okay, but don’t touch the flames, okay?”

“Why? I thought they weren’t the burn-y kind?”

“They aren’t”—technically—“but what my flames do is accelerate growth in cells.”

“Isn’t that good? Cells need to grow?”

“But too much and they die. I’m sure I won’t hurt you, but I want to make sure you stay safe.” That, and to avoid any misunderstandings if someone happens to walk in. “Promise me you’ll only look, okay?”

He grinned, bouncing on his legs.

Tsuna stretched his right arm in front of him, sending a small stream of flames into his ring. Within a second, the ring sparked, engulfed in bright yellow Sun flames with small stars peppering the fire. He controlled his output so the flames were no bigger than his hands. To be honest, Tsuna was fairly certain that he had enough control of his Sun flames (courtesy of Reborn) to heal Natsuo but he didn’t want to risk him by testing it out.

Natsuo, with the star mirroring in his eyes, took short, excited breaths. As he leaned his head in, Tsuna placed his arm as a guard so that he couldn’t accidentally faceplant directly into his flames. Entranced, Natsuo didn't even notice, his knees pressing into Tsuna's thighs.

“It’s so close but it doesn’t feel hot! What are those stars for? Do you feel hot? Because when I use my Quirk, I feel cold. It just doesn't hurt until I use A LOT.”

“That’s just how my flames look and no, I don’t feel hot. A little warm maybe?”

“But fire doesn’t work like that! You have magical fire,” he said resolutely.

Tsuna nodded wordlessly. It wasn’t too far off from the truth.

For the next few minutes, the two went from one to another, continuing their questions game—often indulging in harmless quips on Endeavor. He’d almost forgotten how savage kids can be. Though he wasn’t one to meddle in another family’s affairs, ha, his opinion on this man wasn’t very high—maybe on par with his own father.

 

Hearing footsteps, Tsuna waved his Flames away, the remaining embers dancing in the air before being blown out. The door slid open, Yuki entering the room with a few people trailing behind her.

“I’m so sorry it took so long but I’ve brought some snacks— Natsuo! Don’t be rude to our guest! Get down now.”

Tsuna waved his hand nonchalantly. “It’s fine, Miss Yuki.” He lifted Natsuo up, tucking his hands under his arms and placing him next to him.

The people who came in with Yuki, the house attendants, set up a nice table with tea and snacks, quickly bowing before they left.

“How’s Miss Fuyumi?” he asked, handing Natsuo the red bean mochi he was drooling at.

“She’s fine. The skin around her fingertips hardened but it isn’t irreversible with routinely care. Before she went back to sleep, she filled me in on what happened and I— I cannot thank you enough for what you’ve done.”

“Please, I’m just glad she’s okay.”

“Yes, speaking of…" She gave Natsuo a disapproving stare. "Natsuo, go get your wounds cleaned up and change out of those clothes.”

He looked at Tsuna then back at his aunt. “Now? Do I have to? I can do that later.”

“Natsuo...”

Tsuna took a sip of his tea, intervening before an argument broke out. “Listen to your aunt. I promise I’ll still be here by the time you’re back.”

He puffed out his cheeks but darted towards the door. “You promised!” he said as he left.

 

Yuki sighed into her cup. “I’m so sorry for all this inconvenience we’ve caused you.”

“There’s really no reason to apologize. He’s just an energetic boy.”

“You seem to be good with children Mister Cielo.”

A friendly comment or a prying question?

“Just Cielo is fine. And I’ve taken care of a few kids before. If I may change the topic, what happened to the... villain?”

Saying "the villain" felt weird. It made him sound cartoonish compared to what he actually was: an attempted first-degree murderer.

“He’s been detained by the police,” she said coldly.

“I imagine I have to be taken for questioning, correct?” She nodded.

Tsuna debated whether or not to ask but ultimately, if he was going to stay here he needed to know his surroundings. That, and even if he said he didn't like meddling in other's problems, he couldn't turn a blind eye to the people in front of him. Even if he did, his damn hyper intuition would just nag at him as if he was back in school with a paper he procrastinated on until the week of the deadline.

“Please feel free to pass this question but, are the kids targeted often?”

Children bounced back quickly but in situations like this, they usually didn't—at least not as fast as Natsuo did. He’s seen kids, and he’s seen what a traumatic event could do to someone so young and impressionable. Tsuna wondered if the issue lied in their upbringing or the very real possibility that they, like him, had targets on their backs growing up. If he connected his dots correctly, he deducted that these kids were either from an influential or powerful family—legal or underground he wasn’t sure of.

“It’s natural because of their father, Endeavor,” she spat out, emphasizing her distaste in the word, “father”.

“I assume he’s either a villain or a hero?”

“You… You don’t know Endeavor?”

“I should’ve probably asked for a copy of Basil’s report before teasing Reborn,” he thought.

Without missing a beat, he replied, “I’ve been out of the country for quite some time so I’m afraid I’m a little out of touch with society.”

“Ah, of course." She didn't sound too convinced but there, at least, wasn't suspicion in her voice. "Forgive me, I’m unfamiliar with how underground heroes operate.”

Yay, terms he doesn’t know the full definition and context of! This was just soon going to become a giant word game for Tsuna, wasn’t it?

“How did you know?”

“I did my research. Excuse me but I'd done some background checks done before you got here,” she stated without an ounce of remorse.

“Background checks?”—that was it? Also, hey Vongola? Basil? How the hell are we this prepared??—“I see, you’re very thorough,” he confirmed lightly, taking another sip.

Yuki stared back at him, surprise on her face for a brief moment. “Most people would be offended.”

“I’m not one to discourage others from looking out for their families. Besides I didn’t even expect to be invited in, much less given blind faith.”

Considering how dangerously oblivious Namimori was, and how crazy the mafia was, a healthy amount of suspicion was actually a breath of fresh air for him. And though this may have been normal, maybe even encouraged, for Tsuna, to Yuki this was surprising considering that he was a “hero”. Society had been built on the unwavering faith in them after all. Their culture, for better or for worse, was built on the image and marketability of heroes. She was no different when she was younger. But then her sister married that man and she saw the flaws of such a system. She wondered if this mentality was due to him being a genuinely good person, an underground hero who tended to avoid the spotlight, or both.

“Endeavor is the number two hero in Japan and the children’s father. Because of this, he has villains who try to kidnap or hurt them.”

He hummed. He doubted that the murderer would go so far just for notoriety. “Though I didn’t hear the full story, it seemed like the villain held a personal grudge against this man.”

She took the teapot, pouring another cup for both of them. “Sad to say, I wouldn’t even blame him. Endeavor isn’t exactly known for his sociability. Of course, that’s no excuse to go after innocent children. But I’m sure this whole issue would’ve been resolved by a simpler solution or never happened in the first place if not for his choice words and actions.” She took a sip. “Sometimes I wonder if all that muscle left no room for his brains.”

Oh, he liked her. Calm, and tactful in their insults. If Reborn saw how physically and vocally composed she was while hiding her contempt, he would’ve demanded her to join the Vongola on the spot.

“Anyways, I’d like to thank you again for taking care of the children. It’s been so long since I’ve seen Natsuo this happy. He wasn’t feeling like his usual self lately." She turned towards the door, the coldness of her face melting away, smiling fondly. "If you need anything at all, please don't hesitate to ask.”

“Actually, if it’s not too much trouble, can you tell me where Musutafu City is located? I’ve been away for so long that Japan looks like a whole new world to me.”

Her eyelids fluttered in surprise. “Who doesn't? It's the beacon of heroes in Japan after all. Actually, Fuyumi is heading back to Musustafu in about two weeks. I can have you arranged to go then. If not, I’ll have a paid cab ready for you. But I suspect Natsuo would like the former better.”

Sly. His intuition was telling him that Natsuo wasn't the only reason why she wanted him to stay for a while. “I don't like asking for favours but for as long as you’ll be willing to host me, I'll stay. Thank you.”

The only reason why he headed there was because he didn’t have a place to stay before Shoichi and Spanner fixed the machine. He wasn’t in a rush or anything. Besides, the further he was from Vongola territory the more distance he had from his impending doom and responsibilities. Not to mention, he could just fabricate an excuse if he needed to get out of here for whatever reason.

“We’ll have guest amenities ready for you within the hour. The east wing is private but otherwise please enjoy your stay here. If you have any questions you can ask the staff.”

Tsuna nodded. “If it’s not rude to ask, this house seems to be very accustomed to visitors.”

“Well, this is one of Endeavor’s summer homes. So the occupants are usually the children, staff, or his guests. Suffice it to say, we’re used to sharing a roof, especially with other heroes. Though this will be the first time we’ve consented to it,” she said exasperatedly. “Ah! I apologize, I’m not usually this oversharing...”

No, he’s sorry for his Sky’s harmony factor. “I feel like this comprises most of our conversation, but really there’s no need for you to apologize to me. I’m happy to lend an ear.”

The two came to a comfortable silence, enjoying their refreshments until Natsuo came barging in with fresh bandages and one slipper missing asking him to show off his Quirk again.

Chapter Text

When Fuyumi woke up, she half expected to see the face of God smiling down at her. But instead, she saw the face of her younger brother and a charming stranger.

Eh… close second.

“You’re awake!” Natsuo leapt into her arms, nearing squeezing the life out of her. “How are you feeling?”

She blinked. And blinked again. Gradually, as her drowsiness faded away, she slowly lifted her hands to her face as if she had woken up in a stranger's body.

“I feel...fine?” she questioned with furrowed brows.

Her eyes trailed over her skin, from her fingertips to her legs. She poked her arm, gasping at how her skin wasn’t two different shades of blue and well… there—still connected to her body. She was exactly the same as before, the only difference being her flakey cuticles and the small bit of skin hardened on her fingertips. She slapped her hands all over herself, making sure she wasn’t hallucinating. She may not have been given any hero training but even she knew that with how far she pushed her Quirk, she shouldn’t be able to freely move, much less come out without any scars or amputations.

Her gaze fell over to her snuggling brother. Gently cupping Natsuo’s face in her hands, she was half relieved that her brother made it out with a few bruises at most. The other half was even more confused as to how he could possibly sustain more injuries than she did.

She gaped, tracing the rim of his healed cuts. “How…?”

Natsuo squealed—Fuyumi flinching at his sudden movement—as if he could finally tell her the secret he’s been desperately hiding for years.

“Cielo did it!” He pointed towards the well-dressed man leaning against the wall, the latter of whom waved at her. “He healed you!”

Natsuo jumped off her, racing towards the man. This must’ve been a regular thing because even before Fuyumi could warn the man, he anticipated Natsuo’s excitement, catching him smoothly before he ran into him. Natsuo pouted as the man placed him down with a teasing smile. He grabbed him by his sleeve and tugged him closer to her bedside.

“He’s the hero who rescued us from that villain!” he said with a sense of pride. Even before she could get a word in Natsuo continued.

“He’s Cielo the Sky Hero! I made that second part up myself! Cielo let me title him because he didn’t have one. Weird, right?”

A hero without a title? “Oh. I guess—?”

“But he’s really cool!” he quickly added as if he dared to hurt his hero’s feelings. “He’s been staying with us since they arrested that villain! His Quirk is super awesome! It’s— It’s like really nice feeling fire with little sparkles in the middle! But then he has this even stronger fire, right? It's so cool!”

He turned towards his hero and nudged him closer to Fuyumi so that he was standing right next to her as if to say, “don’t be shy!” He merely chuckled at Natsuo’s pushiness, still keeping a respectable distance from her.

“I’m glad you’re okay. You must be feeling a little groggy, right?” he asked as he sat down next to her futon with Natsuo climbing on his back. “Sorry about that. My Quirk can take a lot out of a person.”

It usually wasn't for this long. But he attributed that to his inexperience and the people of this universe having a different physiology than his. 

“Now that you mention it...” Her body, although painless, was stiff and mildly aching from bed rest. “How long was I asleep?”

“About three days"—Natsuo climbed higher and sat down on Tsuna so that his legs were draped over his shoulders—"and according to Yuki, you did wake up from time to time but I don’t think you were completely lucid.”

Fuyumi traced her memories. Yes, although the scene was very foggy, she remembered that her aunt took care of her. Pursing her lips, she tried to recollect anything else but the only things she remembered were vague feelings and vivid sensations; like a nostalgic sense of warmth.

Realizing that she had yet to introduce herself, she gave a small bow to Tsuna. “Sorry um— Forgive my manners. Thank you for saving us.”

He gave her a one-shouldered shrug. “I’ve heard enough thanks and apologies from Yuki to last a lifetime. I’m just glad you’re better now.”

“Thank— Oh.” She fiddled with her hands awkwardly, unsure of how to continue the conversation. “Um...”

Natsuo, uneased by the sudden tension, jumped to his feet, running towards the door and slamming it open. She jerked her head towards him with the loud slam of the door, one part curious and the other dreading at the thought of being alone with a stranger.

“N—Natsuo?”

“I know what’ll make you feel better!”

“Wait—!”

Before Fuyumi could utter another word, his footsteps echoed in the distance. She sighed, muttering something about how silly he was before flushing red at the realization that she had a guest in front of her. She turned away, cool hands on her heated cheeks.

“...ice cream.”

Tsuna rose a brow. “Ice cream?”

“I like ice cream,” she said fiddling with her blanket, “it’s my um… comfort food.”

“Ah… I see it runs in the family,” he said, amused. “I like them too, especially the ones filled with sweet red bean. Good thing too because I’m sure Natsuo would fight me for the caramel sea salt.”

He refrained from teasing the girl like he would with I-pin. One of the many things he remembered with being with Haru during his teens was that guilty pleasures were embarrassing to say out loud, even if it was something harmless. Understandable considering that Tsuna wasn’t exactly that loose-lipped himself. This, especially towards strangers who are several years older than you—much less an adult.

She chuckled, a motherly fondness in her voice. “I’ve never seen him so animated.”

“I’ve heard that from Yuki too.” He waved his hands in a nonchalant manner as he saw her shoulders tense. “Hey, don’t have that look, I’m not going to pry in your family matters. It’s none of my business.”

Seeing her surprise, Tsuna confirmed the odd signs he’d been seeing around the house over the past few days. Japanese people held cultural conservatism in high regard, but this wasn’t a showcase of culture, it was years of repressed emotions manifested into red flags. He knew that being an adult male wasn’t exactly the stereotypical picture of kindness and empathy but the way they reacted with awe or surprise when he acted upon the simplest gestures couldn’t help but worry him. It wasn’t even once or twice, but for everything. Helping around the house, cleaning, cooking, taking care of Natsuo, talking respectfully?? If it was just Natsuo maybe he would’ve thought he was just a timid kid in general. But Yuki, Fuyumi, and the staff here also acted in a similar manner. Quiet and subdued; trying their hardest not to be noticed.

“It doesn’t seem like physical abuse, more so neglect and psychological. If the youngest and their mother are in the main house like Natsuo said, then it could mean that their father clearly picks favourites."

He could already feel the anger bubbling beneath his skin.

“To neglect your own children, three of them no less! If Quirks are hereditary, it can be like flame purity marriages. Fire for the father and ice for the mother. Considering that only the youngest seem to possess two Quirks...They’re basically used as breeding projects. Disgusting. You’d think such practices would be outlawed.”

His own father may have been neglectful but at least he tried not to use his own blood for the mafia. He, at least, had the mental capacity to keep them away from his underground dealings (until the inevitable of course).

If there was one good thing that came out of being an overpowered mafia boss, with the Vindice themselves owing him favours, it was that he could enforce some damn morals into that trauma-inducing hellscape. The first thing was enforcing a better system for consequences. Having the Acrobaleno and Millefiore on his side definitely made it so that justice could be served no matter where one ran off to. Many feared his power, he did at times as well. But he’s who the mafia forced into this role and hell if he’s going turn a blind eye just to keep up “traditions”.

Did it always work out? No. Did corrupt governments make the job any easier? Also no. But did he manage to save some innocent people from the mafia? Well, if the lowered percentage of coerced child soldiers were any indication, he’s damn sure he’s made some changes for the better.

 

 

“I am here!” Natsuo announced, holding out a bag as he hopped over the door’s threshold. “—with ice cream!”

He took two big leaps towards the two, handing them their favourite flavours. Tsuna thanked the boy as he unwrapped the treat, patting him on the head. Fuyumi looked apprehensive, unsure if being so informal in front of a guest was okay. Gaining a little confidence as the other two showed no hesitation in enjoying themselves, she joined them.

“So Cielo showed me his Quirk, right?” Natsuo said already halfway finished his ice cream. “He’s like Shoto; he can use fire and ice but, like, way cooler. He defeated villains with so many Quirks. Did you know a lot of people in Italy have multiple Quirks?”

“Having multiple Quirks is rare,” she told him slightly confused, side glancing Tsuna.

“I know! But he told me and he’s from Italy!”

“No I didn’t!” Tsuna screamed in his head behind a calm facade.

Natsuo had asked for some hero stories and he told some vague renditions of his previous fights. If he’d known that meant Natsuo misunderstanding his words to place assumptions as facts for an entire race, he would’ve shut his mouth! God, everything thing came down to the extremes with Heroes and Quirks, didn’t it?

Tsuna coughed, grabbing their attention.

“I’ve only been with my close associates and due to my line of work, having multiple Quirks is somewhat natural,” he swiftly explained, “I haven’t been to all of Italy so it was a mistake on my part for the misunderstanding.”

“Ahh… okay. That makes more sense.”

Good. It looks like he avoided suspicion.

 

Natsuo, with puffed cheeks, stared incredulously at him. He didn’t know why the hero was suddenly so shy but he wouldn’t allow his awesomeness to be left unheard!

“I didn’t even mention the best part!” he proudly exclaimed, missing Tsuna’s widening eyes. “He told me that he made friends with super high ranking villains and turned them into heroes!”

“You… reform high profile villains?” she said disbelievingly, wondering how the hero-villain system worked in Italy. “Into heroes? Do heroes really have that responsibility? Is that even legal?”

Oh, God, smite me now. “I didn’t reform them, exactly. It was more so that the circumstances that led to our battle and subsequent aftermath allowed us to be… working acquaintances. Some of them aren’t even villains but were manipulated into crime or vigilantes.”

“Are vigilantes not illegal in Italy?”

Tsuna hummed, quietly processing the information. “Are vigilantes classified into villains by default? Wait, degrees of vigilantism is illegal almost everywhere.” He really became comfortable in his role, didn’t he? “I guess this means that “villain” is an umbrella term; not a specific criminal classification.”

“Of course vigilantism is dangerous but most do it out of goodwill, no?” He shrugged. “If not then, of course, as an underground hero, I deal with them accordingly.” Yes, swerve around that conversation topic!

Natsuo squinted his eyes, scrutinizing Tsuna, chewing on his icecream stick in frustration. He didn’t understand why the man didn’t flaunt his abilities! All pro heroes were flashy, right? With his Quirk, he could easily be within the top ten ranking heroes in Japan!

Wait… of course! He was an underground hero! To be honest, he didn’t know much about them but from what he’s heard, they were highly secretive. They couldn’t share information with people freely! He was so stupid!

He gasped, hands flying to his mouth. “I told the others about Cielo’s Quirk!” he thought, his guilty conscious chiding him for potentially placing his hero in danger. “B—But it should be okay, right? He didn’t look mad when I asked about his Quirk or told Fuyumi about it...”

He gave quick side glances at Tsuna, unable to meet his eyes with the guilt heavy in his gut.

It really was a shame someone like Cielo was an underground hero. In his eyes, Tsuna’s flashy Quirk was much better suited for the spotlight. He didn’t see the limits of his power but from spending a few days with him, Tsuna instantly became his number one hero. All Might not included, of course.

 

He observed Tsuna as if in a trance, their conversation becoming nothing but white noise as he recollected the memory of their first meeting. His cool cape, amazing Quirk, incredible speed and power...

“If I had that kind of Quirk maybe I could even beat—"

He stopped that train of thinking right there. He’s seen his father’s fire firsthand. The only person strong enough to beat him was All Might. Cielo may have been kind and powerful but only someone as strong and heroic as All Might could beat him.

For Natsuo, being a Todoroki, being a child of Endeavor was like being stuck at the bottom of a deep hole with raging waterfalls crashing around him. It never touched him, the water circling around him, imprisoning him on the makeshift island. Loud and imposing, he tried to cover his ears and close his eyes to pretend that it wasn’t there but ultimately nothing he did could beat the deafening roar of the water. He tried to scream for help but his voice was drowned out by the waves. He had tried time and time again to climb up, thinking that perhaps it was his fault for being stuck in there. But seeing the top was impossible, let alone trying to escape.

Occasionally, in his little dark hole, he could see glimpses of the radiant sun. Something the water couldn’t hope to touch. When he realized that, staying in here felt a little better. But the sun couldn’t stay forever. And like a one-way mirror, he didn’t dare to cling onto the hope that the sun could see him. No. Now, he could only be content with where he was. It was the best he could hope for. At least the ground was dry and the waves avoided him. It was there, looming over him, but at least it didn’t sweep him up and drown him as it had done with Toya.

 

But in his hopeless efforts to see the sun, perhaps he forgot to see what always watched over him. Perhaps this time, he could look up at the sky.

Chapter Text

“Excuse me?”

Yuki heard the man on the other side of the line try to hold back a sigh. “Please understand that he's not a patient man. Endeavor has requested to meet the Sky Hero: Cielo for business. Please notify him and send him to our office as soon as possible—within the end of the week would be ideal.”

Would be ideal, he says. Like he even gave her—or him for that matter—a choice.

“I’ll… send a car his way. But whether he agrees to this or not is his choice.”

“Yes but Endeavor himself has requested this.” A threat and a plea. “We’ve already notified his hero agency and it'd be most logical if you send him our way.”

 

Yuki was not a combative woman—compared to Rei maybe—and her entire family preferred to be passive observers. Though that was a double-edged sword. On one hand, because of her sister’s, what she'd call, sacrifice, their family was well off and living in the most affluent neighbourhoods without any financial troubles. But on the other hand, their passivity allowed for the rift in their family.

But it was too late to go back. Things got too complex now. Words couldn't express the years of subtle and slow suffering. How could one just simply escape an estranged, abusive marriage with the number two hero and four children tying them together? Not that she blamed the children or her sister! This was just a fucked-up situation that was out of her hands now. Perhaps if she was more assertive back then, Rei would be home and happy with a caring husband and children who were—and felt—loved.

Now she had another choice to make. It wasn't as big but it still involved Enji. And hell if she would allow someone uninvolved to be used again. Cielo brought something into this household only an outsider could bring: hope. As cliche and childish it sounded, the man helped Natsuo, and to a lesser extent, Fuyumi. Their household always had a dark cloud hanging over them, like fog, all-encompassing and ever-present. It didn’t suffocate you instantly, it was slow and meticulous, claustrophobic and stifling. Cielo, in that sense, was like a ball of light in an endless stream of fog, a reminder that their situation wasn’t endless; that there were people existing in a place without this fog.

But even a traveller with a flashlight could get lost in the woods. He just a reminder of what was beyond the family, not a solution. And Yuki highly doubted one person could just appear and make years of trauma and neglect disappear.

But he was still there, he was guiding them—especially Natsuo. Fuyumi, by a miracle, had her own guiding lights; her strong ambitions and good friends. Natsuo didn’t. He was much too young to see over the wall of heroes and he lacked a strong support system outside the family. Still, the children would need time and care to completely escape this place but even the flickering embers of the lantern's light was welcomed.

So, for Enji to take away this beacon for the children? To only care when it benefits him? How dare he.

 

“Considering that Cielo is an underground hero, I fail to see why my brother-in-law”—she hated using that formality but pressing status was a good way to gain superiority—“would want to see him. If he needs him for a mission he can contact him through the proper way, the hero association.”

She smirked at the long pause over the phone. This secretary probably never dealt with someone who defied The Endeavor before. She only felt a little sympathy for the man, he was just doing his job. But so was she. She didn’t raise the children by just obediently rolling over whenever he ordered her around.

“Ma’am you need to understand,” he pressed, “Endeavor has a right to his privacy even from his own family.”

Hah! Probably not to garner attention from the media if something went wrong, more like.

“I’m wondering how you even managed to locate him. He is an underground hero after all. He isn’t one to notify the presses. And certainly, we know that there's currently no one in this household that'd spread the location of an underground hero.”

“Then I’d like to refer you to an article in Quirks on Location,"  he said in a smug tone, "they happened to capture the very moment of his fight. And although the shot isn’t quite ideal, you’d be surprised at technology these days.”

She did. She did see it. It was one of the contributing factors as to why she allowed Cielo to stay here. But she didn’t think Endeavor would’ve bothered to see some local news site.

The photo, taken at a zoomed-in low angle, was indeed blurry from the sheer speed his actions had—his face just barely being visible. In fact, hidden under his cloak, Natsuo’s face was somehow clearer than his. Fuyumi, thankfully, wasn’t it the shot. From what she’s heard from Cielo, she didn’t want to see what happened—much less seeing her injured niece exploited for the consumption of the mass media.

And his Quirk… His Quirk was massive. Bursts of dark orange fire roared out from his hands, the photo perfectly timed to capture the pillars of ice sprouting from the flames. Yuki didn’t know how quick the man was to have melted such an enormous amount of ice as it was gone in the next frame.

“One of our business associates informed us of Endeavor’s son singing his praises throughout his stay. Including the fact that he’s been there for about a week now. Is it so hard to believe that Endeavor would want to thank the hero who saved his children personally?” Yes.

She didn’t believe him for a moment that Enji of all people wanted to meet Cielo just to "thank" him. No, this was a cover for something. But what?

“I’ll inform him but as I said before, the choice is his. I’m merely his host during his stay, not his secretary. If you’d like a definitive answer, please go through the proper channels. Good day, sir.”

“Wait—”

Click. Click.

She placed the phone back into its holder, making sure the recorded conversation was saved in a safe place. She couldn’t see the entire picture but this was all she could do for now. At least if something went wrong there would be evidence.

She may have feared directly defying Enji for her sister’s and the children’s sake but he was a fool to think if he thought she cared so little for others that she’d sacrifice their hero.

 

Yuki made her way to Tsuna’s room, repeating apologies in her head about involving him in their family drama. She was sure that even a man, no, especially a man like Enji would not bring overt harm to another hero unless he had a legitimate reason. But she’d seen the men that surrounded that man. Slimy investors of the hero association, backdoor politicians, and violent fanatics. He didn’t reciprocate their attention (though his agency might’ve with the first) or even with good, whole-hearted people like Cielo. Bottom line, he never called for another hero. He never had a need to.

So if not for himself then...

“...Shoto?”



 

“He asked for me?” Tsuna said, taking a sip of his tea.

When he was asked to come to Yuki’s meeting room, he half-expected to get scolded for indulging in Natsuo’s sugar addiction; not to be given a business invitation by a high-ranking hero.

Yuki nodded. “Please feel free to decline.”

That was quick. “I don’t mind, but may ask why?”

A brief flash of disgust flew by her face. “He said it was for business, I’m sorry but you’ll have to get in contact with them due to privacy issues.”

He raised his brow at her odd tone. “I see.”

 

For “business”? Can you get any more vague than that? Jeez, from the way this household was acting over the past week, he wondered if in this universe the hero world was basically the mafia equivalent to his. Or maybe all systems of power were corrupt and had backdoor dealings, who knows?

Still, to accept or not? The latter was looking more favourable especially since Yuki hinted at him to decline. He just wanted a vacation without someone trying to bother him, dammit! Was that too much to ask? But his hyper intuition was urging him to agree. Something about this situation was too… wrong? Suspicious? Not in a way that would kill him—for once—but almost as if everything that happened was coded for some other hidden objective.

He’d be lying if he'd said he wasn’t curious. He knew his Flames were powerful but this was a national hero, right? So it definitely wasn’t because he was interested in his power. He probably had plenty of powerful people hounding him for notoriety. It couldn’t be to thank him judging from the children’s reactions from the mere mention of their parents. And Tsuna doubted that this was just some miscommunication between generations. Kids processed information differently but misunderstanding their parents' actions definitely wasn’t the issue here. And he always tried to reserve judgement upon others when he hadn’t met them yet but…

Tsuna sighed. It be so easy to ignore this. Just stay here and play with the kids until his famiglia managed to fix the machine. But his life was never easy, was it? No, his life was a clusterfuck speeding down a hill with supernatural powers and murderous people wanting to kill him for his mere existence. This may have been the first time in a long while since he could actually choose what to do and what happens? His damn hyper intuition betrays him! That bastard, he was supposed to be on his side!

Ugh, groaned clicking his tongue. But it'd be good to make a few powerful connections just in case anything happened while he was here. It was one of the first things Reborn taught him: either make good alliances or shut them up for good.

Damn it, he really couldn’t escape his duties, could he?

 

“I’m... interested,” he said, swirling his cup, “I’ll be at his office two days after my leave. I need to visit my agency first.”

“Of course.”

His eyes flashed a deep orange for a second. “Is there something wrong?”

Her eyes widened a fraction before returning to her normal, calm facade. “No.”

She took a sip of her tea, staring at it contemplatively. She really didn’t want him to accept, did she? She took another sip before looking up at him.

“One thing you should know about Endeavor is that he’s a man known for his power first and foremost.” Her tone took on a sense of urgency that contrasted heavily to her calm voice.

And Tsuna had to bite back a laugh.

“Or so you’ve mentioned before,” he said amused, “thank you for worrying but those types of people don’t scare me anymore. I’ve met people who’d shoot me on sight.”

Xanxus was one such person. Though he’s mellowed out considerably throughout the years—in Varia standards—the man seemed to get a kick out of flexing on him every chance he got. Like when he shot him during the annual Vongola Christmas Gala. Or like when he shot him during their monthly meeting. Or like when he accidentally passed him in the hallway. Or when he decided to take Natsu around the Varia headquarters for the first time and Bester intimidated his poor companion by chasing him down until their Flames burned out. To this day, Tsuna wondered if it was because he formed the bond back when he was still his pathetic middle school self, but Natsu somehow retained his wimpy demeanour outside of combat. Hell, he still couldn’t take out Natsu around Xanxus or Bester unless it was in a fight!

Yuki, seeing the various troubled faces of Tsuna recollecting his memories, poured him another cup. “Life as an underground hero must be quite difficult.”

“It is,” he sighed, downing the entire cup.

Well, just take out the “hero” part and replace it with “mafia don”. At least with this status, no one would question him about the odd things he said when he "accidentally" complained about his life.

Yuki took a look at the clock mounted onto the wall, seeing that it was already far into the night.

“I won’t keep you any longer.” She placed her cup down, bowing a little. “Please have a good night.”

Tsuna bowed his head, getting up. “You too,” he said as he left.

 

 

“I’ve never seen you so involved with someone outside the family.”

Yuki opened her eyes to meet Fuyumi’s smile. “Really? I wouldn’t call myself extroverted but I’m not that cold.”

She closed the door behind her, sitting across from her aunt. “I’ve seen you verbally destroy one of dad’s business partners before he could even step a foot into the house.”

“Only to those who deserve it. Even I have my limits.”

She let out a small chuckle. “Anyways, is that really a good idea? I mean, he’s not family so he doesn’t have to go." She looked back at the door as if he was still standing there. "I’m worried for him. I’ve never heard of dad asking for someone before. Does Natsuo know this?”

“Eavesdropping, were you?” She shook her head. “I’m trying to keep everything related to that man away from him. I don’t want to cause him unnecessary feelings. He doesn’t need that. All he needs to do is be a child.”

Fuyumi placed her chin into her palm with her other hand holding her elbow, in thought. She’s kept many secrets about their family away from her little brother to preserve his childlike naivety. She didn’t like it but what was the point in telling such things to a child? Besides, her aunt was right. She didn't need her younger brother to be burdened with their family business like she was—like Toya was.

Yuki gave her a knowing look. “It’s just a suspicion of mine but I think it’s because of Shoto.”

“Shoto?” Fuyumi said unconvinced. “I doubt it. You know how much he shelters him.”

“You’re not wrong but from what I’ve heard”—from your mother—“is that he’s looking for someone to train his Ice Quirk.” Apparently Rei wasn’t enough. Was he going to break him too?

“I thought mom was teaching him? She was hellbent on that,” she said mumbled bitterly. “Remember when dad tried to get him a tutor and she was so adamant on teaching him herself ? I’ve never seen her more passionate about anyone else.”

 

As the words left her mouth, Fuyumi bit her lips and glanced down, feeling ashamed at her own tone. They didn’t deserve that, this bitterness. She loved her baby brother but it was no secret that she felt a bit envious of him. It was the same dark feelings she harboured before Natsuo’s fourth birthday. Don’t get her wrong, she knew that it wasn’t even his fault! And she tried to suppress it too! She knew it was selfish and childish of her to think this way.

But with that said, she, being the second eldest and a failed Todoroki, her mother rarely had time for her anymore. She saw her maybe once a week? Maybe less? The last time she saw her all they did was look at each other in passing. They may have been living in the same house but ever since Shoto’s fourth birthday, her mother had been shutting herself in more and more with each passing day.

 

Was,” Yuki emphasized, “you have to remember that. Things change. Your mother...changed.”

She placed her hand over Fuyumi’s and squeezed it, giving her a sympathetic look. It begged her not to resent her sister, but also knew that if she did, she understood why.

“I can’t say for certain why, but all we know is that he always sought to make Shoto surpass him.” —regardless of anyone or anything—was left unsaid but understood.

Fuyumi took a deep breath. “Okay… Okay,” Fuyumi repeated more resolutely. “If dad is really calling for him because of Shoto, I’ll be in the house. He can’t cut off a grown independent adult from the rest of the world. And if anything happens to mom or Shoto I'll know.”

She didn’t know what she could possibly do as damage control when it involved her father and her youngest brother, but it wasn’t as if she’s never covered for her family before.

“I wish he would’ve just rejected,” Fuyumi sighed, “for himself at least.”

Yuki agreed, “I still do wonder why he’s interested since he told me himself that he didn’t know of Endeavor. And he doesn’t seem like a person to vie for status.”

“W— Wait.” Fuyumi blinked owlishly. “He didn’t know dad was the number two hero in Japan? Is that even possible?”

“I didn’t know it was a possibility either.” She shook her head. “Anyways, enough of that. Did you need anything? I doubt you were here just to spy on us.”

“Oh..." It was clear that she wanted to say more. Instead, she controlled herself and buried it. "I just came by to tell you about that school trip I’m going in a few weeks. Planning and all that,” she replied, explaining the details of the trip.

 

 

As Fuyumi started to talk about her excursion, Natsuo slowly pulled his ear away from the door and headed towards his room in silence. He stayed close to the wall as not to alert anyone of his presence, thinking about his father’s invitation to his hero.

When he first overheard his aunt talking about it, he didn’t give it much thought. He tried to purge all connections with Endeavor after all. His father never cared for him and in the first four years where he showed mild interest, he couldn’t recall if he’d ever even shown up to his room. Both his aunt and sister were quite protective of him, not that he needed that, really. Perhaps if he had good memories of the man, he would’ve appreciated their concern. You couldn't miss what you never had after all. He was intimidated by him, feeling that it was his fault for not meeting up to his father’s expectations. Sometimes. He had those thoughts on occasion when he couldn’t do anything but stare at the ceiling from his bed. But usually, they were buried between his contempt and apathy for the man. He didn’t care about him to share anything except blood and financial aid—both of which were mandatory. 

That was the issue. At first, he felt that it was odd, but nothing he should involve himself in. Everyone came and went. Nothing special. There was one time, in the past, he got involved and let's just say, it didn’t end well. He was just glad that his older brother and sister were there for him. But the more he heard, and the more he thought about it, the colder his sweat became.

His father wasn’t the sharing type. Whatever he wanted, he got whether that meant through status or brute force, it didn’t matter. He was like a dragon hoarding everything—his mom, his younger brother, his family. So if he took away Cielo too, would he never see him again? They said something about how outsiders to the family always had a choice.

But Cielo had accepted. They always do.

A small part of him felt that it was unfair for someone, not even blood related, was allowed to meet his father,when he, his biological son, hadn’t talked to him in years. The bigger and stronger part of him was scared for Cielo. He wasn’t the first hero he’s met that was nice to him and worried about him—plenty of heroes did that. He didn’t have the strongest Quirk either—that was All Might. He wasn’t even the first person he had to part with—that was his family.

But he was the first one to stay.

Auntie had her own life as an adult, Fuyumi had her friends and was on the crisp of adulthood, and Toya had already grown up and left. Everyone had a sense of "another home". Somewhere else they belonged; somewhere else they would return to. To him, Cielo was an adult but still felt like someone who, if asked, would stay with him. At least until he became an adult as well. Someone who he didn’t feel guilty about asking to stay, someone who didn’t have secrets to “protect” him, someone who was genuinely happy and content to be with him.

An adult, yet so unlike one.

 

Still lost in thought, he stood in front of his room, and slid the door open not realizing that his feet had led him to another’s. He snapped out of his thoughts as he saw the flickering of orange light—no—lion?

 

 

As the lion ceased its purring, a startled Tsuna stared widely at his unexpected guest.

“N—Natsuo?”

Chapter Text

Natsu purred, melting at his partner’s warm fingers combing through his soft orange mane, eliciting a chuckle from the man. He was draped over Tsuna's lap like an oversized cat, tail sweeping back and forth on the floor. His paws circled Tsuna’s idle arm, rubbing his face in bliss and playfully biting on it.

It’d been too long since he had this much attention from him. Back home, it was always one thing or the other: the mafia, hitmen, raids, fights, their scary mentor, their crazy guardians, Uri being mean, the Varia, Bester… But! After arriving in this strange new world, it had been nearly a week of nothing but relaxed grooming—or heaven in his opinion. Granted it was only during the late hours in brief increments but at least it was consistent.

“Enjoy this while it lasts,” Tsuna chuckled, getting under his chin. “We only have a few more days until work catches up to us again.”

“Gao...” he grumbled, flicking his tail in annoyance. Don’t remind me—he seemed to say.

“Don’t get sassy with me, mister!” he teased, squishing his toe beans. “You’re always so bratty when no one else is around.”

He gave him a quick glance as if to say, “but you’re here aren’t you?”

Tsuna sighed affectionately. “You’re so spoiled.”

Natsu stuck his tongue out at him before nibbling on his fingers.

Suddenly he stopped, his ears flickering. Soft footsteps. No malicious intent. Not mafia?

Tsuna rose a brow, wondering why Natsu stopped purring until—

 

“N—Natsuo?” Tsuna stared wide-eyed at the sudden appearance of said boy, his hand gripping the frame of the door as if to ground himself in reality."I've got way too relaxed..." Tsuna chastised himself. "But usually I would've heard footsteps..."

The boy in question froze, mouth agape, owlish eyes locking onto Natsu. In which the latter jumped a foot into the air and quickly scrambled to hide behind Tsuna.

“Gao!”

Ack! Natsu, you—” Tsuna yelled, fumbling to catch him.

“I—Is that a lion,” Natsuo stuttered as he pointed to the animal hiding behind his hero, “on FIRE!?

“Natsuo!” Tsuna cried, failing to address him welcomingly as a panicked Natsu used his back as a springboard, clawing his way under the safe haven of his partner's mantle nestled in the corner of the room. “Cazzo! For the love of—!”

Tsuna lifted his mantle off the floor, exposing him. Natsu hunched in surprise, shooting him one of the dirtiest looks a lion could muster. Tsuna, in return, merely stared back like a disappointed mother looking at her son trip over himself in front of a guest for the third time.

“You’re not a cub anymore," he mumbled, "Aren’t you embarrassed?”

“I— I’m sorry,” Natsuo stuttered, “should I— should I leave?” He bit his lips as he took a slow step back, mortified gaze landing on the floor.

“No, no. It’s fine,” Tsuna sighed as he rubbed his temples, unaware of Natsuo's movements. “Natsu isn't good with new people...or most people, actually.”

Natsu swiftly snagged his mantle right out of his hands and dove into his futon, sliding under the covers. Curled up in his little den, he observed the two humans, gnawing on his mantle. Seeing his partner slap his hand on his forehead brought him sadistic glee, fully aware that his Flame filled fangs could easily destroy the kevlar woven cloth. His tail waved smugly as if he dared his partner to make him interact with someone outside the immediate family.

Tsuna groaned as Natsu hooked one of his claws into the fabric. Looks like he was going to need a new mantle. Great! Can’t wait to tell Reborn and Leon that!

“You’re a piece of work.” Tsuna walked over to Natsu, petting him comfortingly over the blanket, respecting his desire to stay hidden. “We really have to work on this, you skittish kitty.”

Natsu purred, the outline of the blanket becoming more relaxed.

Seeing him calm, Tsuna stopped petting him and walked towards Natsuo, not missing the way he quickly back-stepped outside the boundaries of his room.

“Sorry about that.” He slid the door completely open and moved out of the way. “Come in.”

Natsuo swallowed, looking up at him with his chin to his chest, weaving his hands. “S— So you’re not mad?”

Tsuna smiled reassuringly, crouching down so he was at eye level with the him.

It wasn’t like he was angry at Natsu, it was just how they both spoke to one another—affectionate exasperation, he called it. His tone didn’t hold any maliciousness, nor did he think he spoke that loudly. But clearly that didn’t matter when the boy looked up at him as if he was going to redirect his “anger” on him.

“I wasn’t mad, not at him or you. I just didn’t expect Natsu to be startled this badly. Promise.”

Tsuna rubbed his head awkwardly. He wasn’t as good as comforting others as his Rain was but even he knew his little outburst triggered something in Natsuo. He took a step back as not to suffocate him, eyes still on par with his.

Natsuo peeked over his shoulder, catching the lion’s glowing orange eyes. He flinched, quickly looking away.

“He’s not mad either, just shy," Tsuna reassured again, keeping a gentle smile on his face. "A silly little lion, isn't he? He’s like that with everyone. Do you want to meet him?”

“Um...”

Natsuo wrung his hands, shoulders loosening up a bit. He was just glad that his hero wasn’t in a bad mood. He’s never heard the man yell before. He didn't think it was possible. Cielo always had this calming aura around him—as if he was in control of every situation. But unlike his father, it wasn’t one of authority—one that demanded respect and attention. His was like a guiding hand—knowing and dependable. So to see him fumble around and lose his composure for a second unnerved him.

“He’s a sweetheart once you get to know him.”

Nastuo observed his body movements. His shoulders weren't hunched. He wasn't tense. He smiled, a real one, not that angry smile hiding annoyance and frustration. He was a few paces away from him and didn't get closer, which he appreciated. His eyes were that beautiful orange colour he saw whenever Cielo seemed to talk to him. It felt comforting—like a sunset. The fire it held wasn't like his father's or older brother's. He wasn't looking down on him, both figuratively and literally.

And now that he thought about it, his voice wasn’t mean. Good heroes could never be mean. He was just surprised, not mad. Not mad at the lion or him.

"He's not like dad, he's not like dad, he's not like dad," Natsuo kept reminding himself.

 

“Say,” Tsuna distracted, “what do you notice about him?”

“Notice?” Natsuo stared at the animal blinking back at him from under the covers.

“His fire,” he prompted.

“His fire— Oh! It’s not burning the blanket!” He gasped. “Your lion is on fire and he’s not burning anything!” He looked at him with wonder in his eyes. “He’s not burning anything! Is he like you? With the non-burny kind of fire? It’s a different colour though.”

Tsuna nodded, offering his hand, cheering inwardly. Bless Kyoko and Haru for giving him those childcare lessons!

“Want to pet him? Don’t worry he doesn’t bite.”

Natsuo reached for his hand but hesitated at the last second. “But he’s scared right?” He paused before his fingers gripped his. “I don’t want to scare him.”

This precious child. Were all non-mafia affiliated children this sweet?

“I promise he’s just jumpy around strangers.” If Natsu truly felt distraught over Natsuo’s presence he would’ve returned to his box.

Tsuna led Natsuo to the side of his bed, sitting down on the floor and exposing his palm to his partner. Natsu, peeling his eyes away from the boy, noticed Tsuna’s open palm through the small gap in the blanket, slowly emerging from his little den.

“See?” Tsuna said as Natsu rubbed his face on his hand, huffing and chuffing. “Nothing but a big spoiled cat.”

Natsuo swallowed his nerves. The lion seemed to stare into his soul, almost as if he knew something he didn’t. His tail swished from side to side, interested, yet neither one willing to make the first move.

 

Natsu blinked, perking up, finally recognizing the boy as the one he saved a while ago. The one that gave them their vacation! The good boy! A friend!

Natsu chuffed, lowering his head towards him. Encouraged by Tsuna's nod, Natsuo held his breath and stuck his hand in its flowing mane, trusting his word. As the flames licked his skin, he felt a rush of warmth spread throughout his body, the fiery mane weaving through his fingers like water. He released the breath he was holding, the nervous frown on his face perking up. 

“I didn’t know animals could have Quirks!” he whispered in awe as if it was some big secret. “Wait. He is an animal, right? Not something with multiple Quirks? Or one of your Italian hero friends? You have similar Quirks so—”

He jerked his hand back as if he was scorched, Natsu whining at the loss of affection. “—have I been petting your brother!? Are you related? I’m so sorry! I didn’t mean to—”

“Woah, woah!” Tsuna interrupted before he saw the boy’s head explode. “Take a deep breath. Natsu is really a lion”—technically speaking, he was the physical embodiment of his Flames—“and well, he’s special. His Quirk allows him to... change forms. Yes, to shapeshift.”

 

That should be general enough, right? If he needed Natsu in battle, that should cover most questions considering that people with multiple Quirks were uncommon. But then again, if someone saw a lion on fire the first question wouldn't be "what Quirk(s) does it have?" but, "THAT LION IS ON FUCKING FIRE??"

Well, now that brought up a slew of other questions, didn't it? Were animals with Quirks rare or nonexistent? Or was Natsuo's reaction credited to the fact that he was still young?

Ugh. These questions weren't what he usually dealt with considering the underground was full of Flame users. It'd be much easier if he didn't have to use Natsu in battle in the first place since he didn't want to bring too much attention to himself. But Spanner said that this world was full of powerful people and he wasn't one to risk a person's life for his own comfort. And considering his luck, or lack thereof, there was a high possibility that Natsu would be seen again in the foreseeable future.

Besides, if he didn't let Natsu out for battle every once in a while, he'd get antsy. It was the animal equivalent to being cooped up in a gilded cage except Natsu held higher intellegence and would burn those bars and the keeper to hell for the insult. The last time he excluded Natsu in a fight the lion hissed and scratched at him for days. It wasn't like he meant to but the enemy famiglia was really weak so he didn't need to bring him out. He was trying to give his partner a break! But apparently he thought wrong and his bedsheets paid the price for that.

Reborn laughed at him and on that day, the "let's mess with Tsuna" club welcomed another member.

 

"Great," he thought, "another thing I have to worry about. Did the previous Vongola bosses also have these problems or is this just a 'me' thing?"

 

“He mimics anything?" Natsuo questioned. "Other Quirks too?”

Damn it. “Not everything?” he said unconvincingly.

Tsuna chose to ignore Natsu’s disappointed face scrutinizing him. Knowing him, he’ll spill the beans to Reborn and get him thrown back into Death Mountain for spouting lies. Not for the fact that he lied, no, that would be normal. It’d be for telling a flimsy lie in an unconvincing manner.

...scratch that, nothing about this was normal.

“There are some complex rules to Natsu’s Quirk," he said with elaborate hand gestures, "but basically we’re connected in a symbiotic relationship.”

Natsuo titled his head. “What does that mean?”

“It means that”—he looked at Natsu for help only for the lion to betray him by sticking his tongue out in response—“we help each other out."

Hey! That stupid yet truthful excuse was better than: “Yeah, that lion I said was a lion? He isn’t really a lion. He’s the mix of Flames and science and if I don’t give him a steady supply of my Flames, one of the core life essences in my world, he’ll basically do the box animal equivalent of dying.”

"We’re connected like family," Tsuna concluded.

“Oh...” Natsuo whispered, a shadow looming over his face.

Tsuna and Natsu looked at each other in confusion. The latter crawled up to the boy, nudging his hand with his muzzle, gently licking his palms. Natsuo let the lion guide his hand back towards his mane, absentmindedly running his hand down his back.

“Are you okay? If it’s something I said, I’m sorry,” Tsuna apologized, giving them space so Natsu could comfort him, “can you tell me what made you sad? I’ll do my best to avoid it next time.”

Natsuo didn't say anything, pensively thinking about something. Meanwhile, Tsuna racked his brain in a panic. People killing him? He could deal with that. Reborn? Slightly harder but he could handle that too. But a sad kid? A kid so obviously traumatized looking sullen because of something he did or said? That. That he couldn't handle. What if he made him cry? He didn't want to make things worse!

Natsuo didn’t look up and if Natsu was a real lion, he would’ve yelped at the tightening fist in his mane. “Can… Can I show you something?” Natsuo finally said, reaching for Tsuna's hand.

He nodded in response, sharing a concerned look with Natsu.

 

 

Natsuo led Tsuna to his room, the two wordlessly walking through the halls illuminated only by the moon. Natsu had already returned to his box and when Tsuna thought of a clever excuse, he paused. Natsuo still had his eyes set on the floor, deep in thought. He didn't see that. He didn't see any of that. The boy who loved his Flames more than anyone he's ever met didn't see that. Just what the hell did he say that upset him so much?

“Well, it can’t be too bad since he’s showing me something right?” Tsuna reassured himself.

Upon arriving, Natsuo let go of his hand, swerving his head left and right before closing the door. Walking towards a large blue backpack leaning against a corner of his wall, he shot a glance towards Tsuna almost to confirm he was still here. Tsuna watched as he unzipped his rather plain-looking bag to take out...another bag? This one with noticeably more embellishments suited for a child. It had a picture of a large blonde man flexing on the front and looked as if the colours of the American flag vomited on the bag. Large capitalized words of “ALL MIGHT” were stitched right below the man, and if Natsuo didn’t explain to him about the relevance of the number one hero, he would’ve had some questions on this universe’s youth fashion choices.

As Natsuo unzipped the bag and shuffled through some of its contents to make sure everything was still there. Meanwhile, Tsuna just stared at the pearly whites of the, supposedly, most important and powerful man in this universe.

Dear Lord, he didn’t think The All Might would look this… gaudy? I mean, he didn’t want to judge the man solely on appearances but having been around Reborn and his “if you wear an ugly baby blue shirt ever again I’ll fucking end you” speeches, All Might's style in attire was… a little too wild for him. Tsuna supposed it was normal in a world where heroes were a real thing—you know, typical American comic book attire. At least the man could pull it off. He couldn't even begin to imagine the mortification of wearing a bright tricoloured spandex suit in public (it might even be worse than the first time he met Reborn!).

Not that he showed any of this to Natsuo. If the boy liked this hero, he was all for it. I mean, if this man was a symbol for these kids, and the number one hero unanimously agreed upon by the entire world, he couldn’t be any worse than their neglectful parents.

 

Natsuo placed the bag in front of him, patting the ground, signalling him to sit beside him. He did.

“This is a secret from everyone, okay?” Natsuo whispered as he pulled out the contents of his bag.

First, he took out a few laminated cards signed by “nice and cool heroes,” as he told him. He nudged an empty card into his hands, handing him an orange, yellow, and black marker. Tsuna, slightly surprised, took the pen and signed his hero name, Cielo, in beautiful cursive. Seeing the boy perk up a bit, Tsuna winked at the boy, twirling the pen for finesse. Tsuna raised a finger which made Natsuo pause as he made grabby hands for the paper.

“Watch this,” Tsuna said as he turned the card towards him.

Reborn would probably kill him for this, but he wasn’t here right now. This would be future Tsuna’s problem.

He shot a small stream of Flames to his hand, the tip of his index finger lighting a small ball of Sky Flames. He placed his lit finger on his signature, the Flames crawling through the ink like a wick until orange Flames spelled his name. He blew on it, just to show that the Flames couldn't be extinguished. Handing the paper over to Natsuo, he chuckled at the boy's widening eyes and gaping mouth, tracing his fingers over the lit signature in disbelief. He held the paper in both hands, holding it up to the light before hugging the piece of paper like it was his most prized possession. He could see a slight red dust on his chubby cheeks, beaming, before tackling him in a hug.

“Thank you,” he whispered into his chest, hands grabbing a fistful of his shirt.

Tsuna patted his head, before asking about his little collection. Natsuo, who made himself comfortable in his lap, pulled the bag closer to him—considerably happier now—and explained his collection. There were some autographs from the nicer heroes he'd met, or lived with, in their summer home. He recognized a few of them from the news or when Natsuo gushed about them: All Might, Crimson Riot, Godzillo (did Godzilla exist in this world too? If so, he wondered if there were any intellectual property lawsuits), Ectoplasm, Snatch, and Edgeshot. There were also some collectables such as gachas or trading cards of various heroes which only solidified his assumptions on how heroes and celebrities were one and the same. Some wristbands, badges, pins, and—

Was that an embroidered autograph made of denim??

“This one’s from Best Jeanist,” Natsuo explained as if that cleared any of Tsuna’s confusion. “It was from when he won the ‘Best Jeanist’ Award”—What???—“I came really late so he didn't have enough material to use so he used a part of his costume! He used a part of his sleeve! Isn't that awesome?!”

Not a single part of his explanation cleared up any part of his confusion. In fact, he ended up with even more questions.

“It’s a really nice collection,” Tsuna said, moving on.

Natsuo nodded. “It’s my secret stash of hero stuff. It’s usually in my secret place at home but I always bring it with me on trips.”

“Can I ask why? It's completely fine if you don't want to answer,” he quickly added.

Natsuo opened his mouth and closed it, toes curling and uncurling. Tsuna patiently waited for him to give his answer as Nastuo battled two thoughts in his head.

Finally, after a long stretch of silence, Natsuo licked his lips nervously before answering, “Dad… Dad doesn’t like other heroes. Or he doesn't care about them. I think he’s okay with working with some of them since he runs a hero agency but I don't know if he likes them. Especially...”—he pointed towards the bag with All Might on it—“he doesn't like us keeping things like this around the house. He doesn't care about us but he cares about this. I don’t want him to find it. It’s mine. Toya told me to get rid of it before he left but I don't wanna. He said it was dangerous keeping ‘physical evidence’ but it’s mine! It’s not my fault I can keep things more secretive than him.”

He pouted, squeezing his fingers around Tsuna's hand. "He's always like that! Always keeping secrets but always telling me not to keep any. Just because he's an adult it doesn't mean he can boss me around. It's not fair. Just because he burned everything he had it doesn't mean I should too."

He let go with a sigh, that solemn look coming back to his face. “I just want things for me. I don’t want to rely on dad. I want to be like Toya and grow up and leave. Fuyumi is lucky. She’s almost a grown-up but she doesn’t want to leave,” he said with a slight bitterness in his tone.

“I’m sure things are more complicated than that,” Tsuna said trying to defend his sister. Most situations like these were.

 

Natsuo looked up at him in silence before playing with his loose cuff. He retreated further towards him, both hands grabbing his shirt in a vice as if his weight could anchor him here.

“Are you… Are you really going to the main house?" he mumbled. "To meet my dad?”

Tsuna raised a brow. “How did you know?”

“I overheard auntie and Fuyumi talking about it. So are you really going to see my dad?”

“...I am.”

“Why?” he asked with force behind his words.

Good question. “It’s for hero business. I’m not sure why your father wants to see me either but I’m curious, I guess. Why? Do you not want me to go?”

Natsuo sighed defeatedly, nodding. “I don’t want you to go— I don’t want you to leave. I want you to stay with us forever.”

“That’s a nice thought,” Tsuna said with a sad smile. “But I’ll have to leave eventually.”

He shook his head. Almost as if, if he denied it, his wish would come true. “I want to come with you.”

“Maybe when you’re older. I can’t just take you, you know?” That would be kidnapping.

“Then... can I come visit your hero agency? You have one here right? Not just in Italy?” he cried in more desperate tones.

“I do but I’m not sure how long I’ll stay here”—in this universe, was left unsaid—“but it’s not like I’ll be leaving right away. We still have a week. Why not ask your aunt if you can come—”

Natsuo whined, shaking his head and crossing his arms. “I don’t want to go back,” he whispered.

Tsuna winced. “Sorry, I didn't mean to sound insensitive.”

A thick air surrounded the room, Tsuna racking his brain for any way to make the boy feel better. What did he do when he fought with Lambo or I-pin? Well, usually kept his cool. This was different, he made him sad. What did he do when they were sad? Say he’s sorry? No, apologizing would be redundant. Give some treats? No, it wasn’t even his. His Flames? At this point, showing him his Flames to distract him seemed inconsiderate. Maybe he should bring out Natsu again? 

“If you’re going, can I do something for me?” Natsuo said, breaking the silence.

“Of course,” Tsuna replied immediately, thankful.

 

Natsuo got off his lap, packing his collection back into his All Might bag and hiding it in the plain blue backpack. Then, he walked over to his desk and took out a few blank pieces of paper and some pens. Tsuna got off the floor, peeking over the boy’s back to see what he was doing. Natsuo took two coloured pencils—blue and red—colouring the white paper in abstract scribbles only a child could decipher the meaning of. After he was finished, he placed the markers back into their original place, trading them for a plain blue mechanical pencil.

“I wanted to be a hero like dad too,” Natsuo said suddenly as he started to write, “once.”

His fingers strangled the neck of his pencil at the memory of him running up to his father, with hope and a need for approval dancing on his tongue. The memory was fresh in his mind: the thump of his feet as he saw his father, the anticipation building with each step he took. Gentling cradling the mishappen sculpture he poured his heart into, he came up to his stern father hoping to turn that frown into a smile.

Dad! —he cried—Dad, look what I made! It’s an ice copy of your fire!—stupidly he continued, ignorant of his father's growing irritation—I showed it Fuyumi and she said it looked really good! Toya laughed at me though… but then I... but… I...  

All he got were those eyes.

Loosening his grip, he tried to chase those clingy memories away and continued writing. “I asked him about his Quirk. I just thought if I could learn about it, I could also…” He took a deep breath and sighed, shaking his head. “I was idiotic for asking something like that. I was better than my older brother, at least, but I’m not even as resilient as my sister. I said that I could train with mom but then I would be bothering her.”

Tsuna narrowed his eyes. Those were not a child’s words. It sounded wrong coming out of Natsuo's mouth. Those words weren't his.

“He’s wrong," Tsuna said trying to sound gentle instead of angry (at his father). "You’re not an idiot for wanting to be loved. Him, placing his own sense of worth on you like that—”

“It doesn't matter,” Natsuo replied emptily, eyes betraying his tongue, “I was born with the wrong Quirk. Sho… Shoto wasn’t.”

Tsuna narrowed his brows in worry. Weren’t Quirks hereditary? How could one’s Quirk be wrong?

 

When Natsuo finished the note, he placed his pencil back into the cup. Tsuna watched as he folded the paper into triangles and then into diamonds until it became a perfectly folded origami crane. Natsuo cupped the little paper bird in his hands, staring at it contemplatively before unravelling it and folding it into a simple square.

“Dad doesn’t call anyone for anything unless it’s for Shoto.” Frustration. Worry. Envy. “Can you give this to them? To mom and Shoto? I don’t need it back, I just… want to see if you could reach them.”

Tsuna took the letter, staring at the ceases—the only evidence that remained of what it once used to look like—and carefully pocketed it.

“Does your dad restrict communication? Does he stop you from talking with them?”

Perhaps it was from the unpleasant memories resurfacing or because Cielo exuded an air of comfort but Natsuo couldn’t help but move his mouth faster past his apprehensiveness.

“Shoto always has his lessons from dad and mom… I don’t know. She doesn’t come outside anymore… at least, not when I’m there—” he whispered the last part “—and she's sick. That's what Fuyumi told me. And their rooms are past dad’s. I can sneak around the house but I don’t want to risk going near there.”

“Can I ask why you’re giving this to me? Why not your sister?”

He fiddled with the hem of his shirt. “It’s not like she can see them either.”

Tsuna took a deep breath. “I’ll... make sure to deliver this, promise.” He did his absolute best not to show any emotions besides reassurance.

 

Quickly, to change the subject, he glanced at his watch. “It’s late. Do you want to do anything else before bed?”

Natsuo, torn between his bedtime and spending more time with his hero, fidgeted. “C— Can you show me Natsu again? Just a little bit?”

Tsuna released a sigh of relief and ruffled his hair. “Sure. I'll show some cool tricks he can do too.”

Chapter Text

A week went by quickly. After their initial meeting, Natsu became much closer to Natsuo—to the point where the lion would often sneak into his room and sit on him until he woke up. If Natsuo minded at all, he never showed it. Tsuna tried to stop his partner but arguing with a cat of any kind was useless. He even tried to restrict his Flame output but Natsu would screech from inside his box until he was let out. It wasn’t like Natsu didn’t know why Tsuna wanted to stop him. But secrecy and anonymity were human problems and he was a lion. Besides, if it seemed like he was losing an argument, Natsu would roll on his back and act cute to get out of his partner’s lectures. Although that might’ve worked on Hayato it certainly didn’t on him. Certainly.

If there was anything he and Natsu had in common was that they were stubborn to a fault; to Tsuna, it felt like a parent seeing their child picking up their bad habits. If they wanted something, nothing in this or any other universe was going to deter them from their goal. Tsuna absolutely loathed trying to get Natsu to do anything outside his comfort zone.

The only good thing that came out of this was Natsuo’s happiness which actually was a pretty big factor in Natsu’s favour. The two got along well—not that Tsuna was surprised. High purity Sky-Flames plus a cute little animal? Who could resist? 

Natsu, after attuning to a person, would become fiercely loyal and protective of them—a trait that he inherited from his partner. He stuck to Natsuo like glue whenever they were alone or with Tsuna; basking in attention from someone, especially a child, who didn’t try to fight, capture, or throw experimental explosives in a panic at him for once. Sometimes Tsuna would see the two chasing or playfully wrestling each other in the busier hours where the staff and the Todoroki household couldn’t see them. 

In the meantime, Tsuna was able to contact the Vongola often, updating them on his whereabouts and plans (or lack thereof). The Vongola, meanwhile, finally managed to get a hold of Byakuran.

“Tsukun!” he heard Byakuran shout energetically.

“Byakuran,” Tsuna replied neutrally.

How were his friends so hyper and animated all the time? He swore from the headaches and weird young adult muscle pains, they somehow sapped all his energy and made it their own.

Byakuran coyly chuckled as Tsuna imagined him sitting cross-legged on a swivel chair like a child. “ So… I heard from your little advisor that you went to another world. Did you find the Vongola of that world yet?”

Tsuna rose a brow. “Didn’t Shoichi brief you?”

Ehh... Shochan and Spanner aren’t allowed into their lab until they finish the ‘workplace safety’ training with your Storm.”

Tsuna spluttered, “H— Hayato is leading a safety workshop? How?”

Hayato definitely calmed down over the years but he never quite lost that hot-headed nature of his. This was like having one impulsive idiot teach other impulsive idiots how to meditate.

“Let's just say, your advisor has been very happy lately.”

Tsuna sighed, slapping his hand on his forehead. “Of course,” he mumbled, “of course, it’s because of Reborn! That sadistic—”

Oh. Please finish that sentence. We’re all interested.”

Tsuna’s heart jumped through his throat. “I— Is he…?”

He snorted. No matter how many years had passed, no matter how much his dear friend matured, he was still such a fun person to tease.

“Nope!” Byakuran chirped as Tsuna let out a breath of relief. “But these calls are recorded, you know?”

Tsuna took in a deep breath, his hands already in prayer position. “ I can sense my impending doom. This will probably be our last time talking. Tell my mom I love her. Tell my father to spend more time with her and if you want to punch him in the throat for last year’s Christmas incident for me that would be greatly appreciated. Tell the Vongola not to go full Secondo—we don’t need to add to our body count—and tell Enma I’m leaving all my earthly possessions to him.”

“Aww… Nothing for me?”

“You get to hear and deliver my will. Also to prevent Reborn from somehow chasing me into the afterlife.”

“I get responsibilities? You’re such a Seraph, ” he pouted.

“You can get the secret stash of sweets in the hidden compartment inside my desk. Second drawer on the left, press hard on the inner right corner and check the sides.”

Despite the fact that he and Byakuran often disagreed on the methodology of the mafia, he was one of the few people he could trust to joke around with. You know, to be a normal human with. 

“Will do!” he replied laughing. “Anyways. How’s the universe? Fitting in nicely?”

Well, as normal as two space-time manipulating mafia bosses could get.

“Kind of?" He scratched his cheeks. "I’m not sure about fitting in but I'm heading towards Vongola HQ soon. Can't escape duty forever. Oh! I’m also getting eight hours of sleep on average and I haven’t been attacked in two full weeks now so you tell me,” he said, grinning.

“What!? Lucky! That’s so not fair! Shochan!” His voice became more and more distant with each yell. “Shochan! I thought we were friends! Send me to the vacation universe! SHOCHAN!!!

With a useless, smug sense of pride, he turned the dial after hearing nothing but explosions and muffled laughter in the distance. 

 

“Two hours left,” Tsuna mumbled to himself.

He stretched and leaned back against the wall, staring amusedly through the window. Natsu had Natsuo standing on his back, his tattered cape haphazardly wrapped around his collar. Wherever Natsuo pointed towards, Natsu trotted to. Natsuo was definitely larger than Natsu but someone as small as him was practically weightless to an animal box creature. Frankly, Tsuna was more impressed at Natsuo’s balance. It wasn’t every day where someone could ride on the back of a lion like he was a skateboard.

Tsuna crossed his arms and smiled. He didn’t have any worries over being caught. Natsu was a creature made of pure Flames; his instincts and speed outmatched any normal human. If anyone came close, he would be able to hide without a hitch. But it was still a wonder how nobody heard their screaming and came out to check by now.

He twiddled his thumbs, satisfied but also a bit fidgety. Like he told Byakuran, he genuinely did enjoy being here. But having such a high-pressure life, this long break— peaceful break—left him without much to do. When he got debriefed by Spanner, he expected non-stop villain attacks. Not that he wanted that, of course! It's just that, from his track record, something was bound to go wrong or weird. Although because of Reborn the latter was becoming more and more normal to him.

Anyways, bottom line, he just wanted to let out some steam. 

“Huh… Maybe that’s why I kept showing my Flames to him.” Flames were an extension of the user; suppressing it was like pausing one of your bodily functions. And he knew from experience that suppressing Flames, especially high-purity Flames like his, had dire consequences. So perhaps that's why he was so eager to show off his Flames to Natsuo? Besides trying to cheer him up of course.

He briefly wondered if this was how Natsu felt back then when he inhibited his fighting.

 

Tsuna mentally listed off all the things he needed to when he arrived at the base—hero agency. First, he needed to find the damn place. Unfortunately, the coordinates he gave Fuyumi were quite far from the actual location. Most underground hero agencies were hidden from the public (though not nearly hidden enough in his opinion) and contact came mostly through the hero association. That, and whatever Basil set up—whatever anyone in the Vongola set up—was bound to turn some heads. Fortunately, Tsuna trained with Reborn and any person, or thing, that survived his training was already a step above the rest. The agency was located in a fairly inconspicuous place. Musutafu city was overrun with hero agencies which meant high competition between agencies to become noticed. That was perfect—"hiding in plain sight" as they would say. Who would notice another grain of sand in a desert?

Afterwards, he had to establish a working relationship with his employees. He highly doubted Basil told them about the real Vongola considering he claimed his alias as an underground hero. Tsuna pinched the bridge of his nose already preparing himself for the mental hoops he had to go through during their conversation as not to arouse suspicion. Spanner didn't tell him much about Basil's crafted persona or his.

Tsuna sighed. "Just think of this as another one of Reborn's tests."

He wasn't exactly sure the legal process was for running a hero agency considering underground heroism was probably morally grey in this world as well. But then again, considering this world's unhealthy obsession with the limelight perhaps underground heroes were no different but only differed in people who wished for attention versus those who didn't. Either way, he saw a lot of paperwork in his future.

Finally, after he worked out his stay, he had to deal with whatever Endeavor wanted with him.

"Please don't be another Xanxus. Please don't be another Xanxus," he muttered quietly.

 

Tsuna groaned. He wanted—needed something to do. He didn’t need to pack since, well, he literally came to this world with nothing but the clothes on his back. Usually, he would be chilling with Natsu but they both agreed that they'd rather see Natsuo happy for as long as possible. it was sad but he didn't have much of a relationship outside general pleasantries with the members of this household (and occasional visitors). Tsuna would've tried to find Yuki to ask if she needed any help but she was out on a business trip. She apologized that she couldn’t see him off but apparently there was an urgent matter she needed to tend to. He didn’t mind. Her hospitality for the last two weeks were more than enough.

Speaking of, the only thing he thought of as a bother was the line of questioning from the police and even then that was a minor nitpick. On the third day of his first week, he was taken in to give his statement on the attempted assassination (or "villainy" as they called it) and fill the dreaded paperwork that came with all those legal matters. It really seemed like he couldn’t escape responsibility no matter what world he went to. Thankfully the government of this world and his agency (has he thanked Basil yet?) were pretty good with restoration and compensation because damn. Even if he wasn’t the one to level the neighborhood, he certainly didn’t help rebuild it.

The two police officers asked him who he was, what he did, any background knowledge, background checks, witness accounts—the usual. Even if he didn’t know the exact laws of this world, with the training beaten into his head by Reborn, he was able to breeze through the questioning. The only minor hiccup was his lack of hero license—which he learned was crucial especially for underground heroes—but a call to his “agency” confirmed his identity (seriously he needed to thank Basil when he returned home). They let him off with a warning about Quirk usage without a license on hand since he "just arrived back to Japan". Fairly nice people all things considered.

What baffled him the most was the second question they asked him after his name and hero identification: his Quirk. In his mind, Quirks equated to Flames. Even in the mafia no one really asked what someone’s Flames were as a form of identification unless it was someone important such as the donna or don of a famiglia. In fact, one of the police officers not handling his case asked him what his Quirk was before his identity. Seeing Quirks as an identifier cemented in Tsuna’s mind just how dependant their society was on it. Not unfounded but still that posed several questions in his head. He briefly wondered if there was Quirk-based discrimination or reverence akin to his world’s Flame purity controversy.

 

I don’t mind. I was born with the wrong Quirk. Sho… Shoto wasn’t.

 

Tsuna placed a hand over his chest where the letter was carefully pocketed. He never did ask for clarification or details regarding the Todoroki family since his heart-to-heart with Natsuo. It wasn’t his business and he certainly didn’t want the boy to relive his painful memories. So out of respect, he tried to refrain from thinking about it. Unfortunately, he failed. His Sky attribute was a double-edged sword. On one hand, his Flames amplified his general friendliness; it allowed others to feel comfortable around him. On the other hand, that same compassion made it impossible for him to distance himself from those he cared about.

From Yuki’s reaction to Endeavor's proposal, she seemed to know what was going on in the main Todoroki household but the extent she knew was, from his observations, limited. Not to mention the complex situation he could only begin to imagine she was forced into. Fuyumi seemed to hold her parents in high regard, or at least try and justify her or Natsuo’s negative slip-ups about their family. She didn’t exactly compliment her parents but gave reasons as to why their family dynamics were a bit disjointed—as she described.

Their parents… God that was another whole conversation, wasn’t it? From the way Natsuo spoke about them he seemed to hold fear, spite, and indifference towards his neglectful father—the self-implication and dismissal being just two of the symptoms he noticed. He seemed to see his mother as a distant figure—like a mirage he couldn’t hope to touch. Growing up in a large household full of very... assertive people, he couldn't even begin to imagine being left to his own devices. To be honest, it felt a little suffocating at times but nevertheless he loved them. He could joke about spending some time away from the family—which, yes, the sentiment was partially true—but when it came down to it, he’d sooner face the entirety of the Vindice a thousand times over than be parted from them any longer. So the isolation the boy felt being in the house, unable to truly receive the love and affection a child deserves from their parents. He couldn’t even begin to imagine how lonely he must be.

Fuyumi shared Natsuo’s sentiments but in a more mature and forgiving manner. She described her father as “busy and ambitious” while her mother was “just a little tired”. She seemed to notice the look on his face because she immediately waved her hands and said she was fine.

Tsuna had to wonder if their mother was almost like a watered-down version of their father or something else. He’s seen enough families in his line of work that sometimes, even if a child defended their parents to the bitter end, the “love” they clung onto was nothing but manipulation of their naivety and innocence. Considering how their mother seemed to favour the youngest didn’t bode well for him either. It seemed that favouritism split the family apart—especially towards their eldest. He could only hope wherever this Toya was, he fared better than most of his friends—Hayato came immediately to mind. But then again, he’d seen situations where the parents were manipulated by either a third-party source or amongst themselves. He couldn’t make any clear or decisive judgements but Natsuo's letter sat heavily on his chest.

 

Tsuna hummed contemplatively, his hand covering his mouth with a drumming finger with his other arm crossed over his chest. A deep orange glint swirled around his eyes, blinking slowly like a lion awaiting its prey. If he was back in his own world, this would've already signalled his guardians into action.

When the real Vongola inheritance was officially announced, he received major backlash from the… more volatile and traditional allied famiglias. There were several reasons for this. Sometimes it was some physical features he lacked like height, overt “masculinity”, or an intimidating face like Xanxus’s. Mostly it was due to his background and lack of history with the mafia; they thought he was too naive and inexperienced to succeed in a near ten generation organization. Takeshi actually had to physically restrain Hayato when one of the allied dons called him a “petite kitten trying to roar like a lion”. He honestly wasn't offended—the insult wasn't even that good—but try telling a Vongola Storm that. To be fair, those who disapproved of him weren’t completely wrong. Growing up a civillian, his ideas on the future of the Vongola often clashed with other mafiosos. In the aforementioned situation, Tsuna was mostly distracted by the stupidity of the man. To insult the don of a higher-ranking famiglia directly to his face at his inheritance ceremony with other high ranking officials—most of whom were dons and donnas who favoured him—was simply, suicidal.

Well, not like it mattered. If years of low self-esteem followed by Reborn’s unconventional methods of self-empowerment prepared him for anything, it was to ignore petty insults. Tsuna didn’t become a don to inherit a bloody legacy, he seized its power to destroy it because he could . And if some crusty old man wanted to argue over “Vongola traditionalism”, he would gladly chuck Vongola Primo’s will into his face.

But over the years those whispers died out. Over the years, they learned to leave a sleeping cub lie. Because if anyone saw his expression right now, they would never be able to contest his position as the don of the world’s biggest, most influential, and bloodiest famiglia.

He let out a humourless laugh, a sinister gleam in his eye that would make Reborn proud. Many considered Tsuna as one of the most peaceful dons. But everyone knew that Vongola Decimo would decimate anyone who hurt the innocent—especially children. Even Murkuo, who was known as the most ruthless and sadistic person—monster—in the underground, didn't hold a candle to the absolute fear instilled in those who were at the receiving end of those darkened orange eyes.

And soon, if found this "Endeavor" to be... less than humane, well, it looked like he could finally let out some steam after all.

 

Tsuna slowly stood up as he saw Natsu flick his ears and quickly blink away, dropping a startled Natsuo on the floor, just before Fuyumi appeared to tell them that their ride had arrived. With the weight of the paper burning a hole into his chest, Tsuna took a deep breath to collect himself. No need for the children to see him like this.

 

This meeting was either going to be very insightful or end up in flames.

Chapter Text

“Do you really have to go? Can't you stay just for one more hour?” Natsuo pleaded, wringing his hands, eyes bouncing from his sister and his hero.

Tsuna, who was helping Fuyumi load her luggage into the car, paused and smiled apologetically at him. But before he could say something, Fuyumi interjected.

“Natsuo, we’ve already delayed our trip by two,” she chided softly, “I know it gets a little lonely but auntie will be back in a couple of hours.”

He pouted, crossing his arms. “I know,” he mumbled as he kicked some dirt.

She gave Tsuna an apologetic glance before going up to her little brother and softly pinching his cheeks.

“Ow,” he said reflexively.

“It’s not like we’re leaving forever, we should be used to this by now.” She crouched a little, looking at him in the eye. “Besides, when you come back home, we can go visit Cielo’s agency together. Right?”

Tsuna nodded at her prompt. “I don’t know how long it’ll be until my next case but you’re both welcomed to visit at any time.”

“See?” she said gently wiggling his pinched cheeks. “It’s not the end of the world. Come on, where’s that All Might smile?” 

Natsuo giggled before smiling mischievously, pressing his index finger on his lips. Sharing a look with each other, they both grinned before Fuyumi hugged him, telling him to stay out of trouble.

Tsuna looked at their interaction with fondness in his eyes, staying as silently as possible as not to interrupt them.

With one last squeeze, she ruffled his hair, the latter of whom cried out in annoyance and tried to ruffle hers in retaliation. She chuckled when his arms couldn’t quite reach her head.

“Don't cause trouble for auntie, okay?” With that said, Fuyumi entered the car making sure their designated driver, a close family friend of hers, knew where Cielo’s hero agency was. The coordinates Shoichi gave Tsuna was apparently located in a very obscure part of the city.

Tsuna nearly flinched when Natsuo suddenly tackled him into a hug. The boy had an uncanny ability to walk silently and sneak up on people. And his hyper intuition was, like always in these non-threatening situations, ineffective or an absolute sadistic bastard. Probably both.

Tsuna crouched as Natsuo clawed at his suit, burying himself into his shirt before letting go. He looked at him with lingering sadness but mostly with fierce determination.

“I’m going to miss you,” he said resolutely, “but I’m going to visit you, okay? So you can’t leave before that! You can’t forget me!”

How sweet could he get? “Don’t worry. I promise we’ll meet again before I leave— on another mission,” he added quickly, “and the next time we meet, I promise I’ll show you some more cool tricks I can do with my Flames and Natsu.”

Natsuo gasped, stars shining in his eyes. “You’re going to show me your ultimate moves!? Really? Really, really ?”

He nodded.

“Promise?” he asked, lifting his pinky finger. 

“Promise,” Tsuna confirmed locking their fingers together.

A dead serious look shadowed Natsuo’s face as if they signed an oath with the Vindice. “You promised, okay? You can’t break it! Toya said that people who break their promises have to eat a thousand needles and I don't want you to be all poke-y and dead.”

Tsuna poked his cheek playfully. “I won’t. Stay safe, okay?”

Before he could leave, Natsuo pulled on his sleeve. “W—Wait!” He looked left and right before cupping his hands around his mouth. “You have it right?” he whispered loudly.

Tsuna blinked before winking at him, patting his chest where the letter was safely tucked away. “Your words are safe with me.”

Natsuo opened his mouth but hesitated. Instead, he hugged the man one last time before seeing the two off.



 

Tsuna watched as the Japanese countryside scrolled passed him, distracting himself by observing his surroundings. The sun was setting, a warm orange hue bathing the fields, a soft glow bouncing off each lamp post they passed.

“Just a little while longer,” he thought as he stared longingly at the open skies.

He leaned against his seat, taking a deep breath, forcing himself to relax. He was grateful that Fuyumi decided to sit in front instead of the back with him. She had looked at him oddly when he asked but respected his privacy and just nodded. Still, out of concern, she sat in the middle row as the front seats were separated by a privacy barrier.

If there was one thing that never changed since the beginning of his reign as Vongola boss it was his anxiety sitting in moving vehicles. He didn’t have amaxophobia nor was he claustrophobic in them. It had just been too long since he could comfortably sit in a car without worrying about hitmen or acting on a moment’s notice just in case the car was tampered with or his location was compromised. Hyper intuition only went so far and in such a narrow space, he was out of his element. He had plenty of close calls—towards him and his family. Although nothing major has yet to happen, Tsuna’s anxiety over “what-ifs?” made his leg bounce a mile a minute and fingers nearly tearing the buttons off his cuffs. In any other situation he would’ve been able to fake composure but this? This fear of waiting coupled with the feeling of insecurity from being away from his guardians only served to amplify his paranoia.

This was one of those rare things that even Reborn didn’t tease him about (up to a certain extent, of course). He would give warnings and looks to fix his posture but unlike his usual sadistic self, in these situations, he took a more serious yet understanding approach. In fact, this was a well-kept secret within the inner Vongola circle not to provoke the young boss in any way during transfers.

 

“Cielo, are you okay?” Fuyumi asked politely, turning her head back to see Tsuna’s stiff form squirming in the backseat.

“Just fine”—he dug his head into the headrest— “no need to worry,” he grunted.

She hummed like a mother catching her child in a lie. “Are you car sick? I have some medication that can help.” She shuffled around her bag, looking for the small pink tablet. “Natsuo gets motion sickness if he rides for too long so I always have some on hand.”

He tapped her seat to get her attention. “I’m fine, really.”

Fuyumi opened her mouth to argue but shut it with a small sigh. She had to remember that he wasn’t her friend or family member—he may see her as invasive if she asked too many questions. She couldn’t just banter with him like she did with Natsuo but she couldn’t help but notice he seemed… troubled. Maybe he had a fear of cars? Did something happen?

Worried, but respectful of his boundaries, she chose to instead periodically glance at him from the rearview mirror just to make sure his condition didn’t worsen.

“I know I said this before, but really, thank you for keeping him company,” she said trying to fill the silence. “I know taking care of Natsuo isn’t easy.”

Tsuna chuckled, his voice a little rougher than usual. “He’s not a difficult kid. I’ve dealt with so much worse— Ah, not in a bad way. Just… in terms of energy.”

He sighed, I-pin although her eccentricities at times made him panic, was a respectful and good child. Yuni and Futa were just sweethearts, if not an unintentional magnet for trouble. Lambo on the other hand…

Fuyumi blinked, turning to look at him. “Do you have siblings too? That explains why you’re so used to Natsuo’s antics.”

“Not blood related but I have younger brothers and sisters. He reminds me of them. Although one of my younger brothers can get”—trigger-happy—“hyperactive at times but he's a good kid— Oh? Did I say something funny?”

Tsuna raised an amused brow at the girl looking at him with an awed twinkle in her eye.

She shook her head, staring off with a forlorn smile on her face. “No, sorry, it’s just that— You must love your family a lot,” she said, her words heavy on her tongue.

It was a sentiment she didn’t see all that often. No, that was wrong. She’s seen it before, several times actually in movies and shows with “normal” families with “normal” people with “normal” interactions. The way he talked about his family made her feel like she was lacking something; the fact that he held such pure and simple devotion for somebody sprouted feelings she'd thought were gone.

In her childhood, before she made an effort to make connections outside her family, she’d always thought such interactions were solely the result of media dramatization. To her younger self, even something as simple as eating and sharing personal anecdotes together on one table seemed idealistic and odd. In her house, sharing anything at all was oversharing. When you eat, why would you talk? When you talk, why should it be about some inconsequential story about yourself?

It wasn’t until she started to interact with other children her age—other normal children her age—that she realized staying silent was considered weird. Children her age yelled and cried and spoke about the silliest things yet nobody reprimanded them for wasting time. Nobody said that their words were meaningless. Nobody was treated like they were worthless and ignored.

She could still vividly remember the time when the class got too rowdy and the supervising teacher told them to be quiet. Her heart had jumped to her throat, biting her lips together to suppress her fear. She wasn’t like Toya where she could detach herself from the situation. She wasn’t as "brave" as him. She had yet to develop techniques to contain her tears from dotting her eyes, to refrain from trembling and making a mess, to rather gag herself before a squeak could possibly leak out.

Meanwhile, the other students merely nodded, others just lowered their volume.

She was terrified.

She was terrified for them. Their teacher—an adult—told them to be silent yet the most they did was talk quieter. It didn’t matter if that teacher was known to be the kindest towards her students. Such "rebellious" behaviour was unheard of to her. What would happen? She didn’t have a frame of reference for what happened when you didn’t listen to an adult. Would she get angry? Would she hate them? She, and even Toya, never dared to go against their parents directly.

As she flushed from embarrassment and shame, the heat on her cheeks only making the white-hot fire rolling through her body from the pits of her stomach to the ends of her toes colder, teeth digging into her lips to keep them bound, nails burning red on her knees, waiting for the silence to choke her—

The teacher went back to work.

The class continued to talk.

Her friends asked her what was wrong.

And she just stared.

One thought truly sank in for the first time: this was what “normal” was. The movies and shows she’d watched and fantasize about didn’t dramatize normality—it underplayed it in her opinion. The “truths” and techniques she and Toya developed to live were different from the world outside the Todoroki name.

That was when she finally noticed it: the fondness people held for another. A type of fondness that triumphed over any conflicts. The same sort of exasperated fondness she’d seen from her friends and the students she tutored. The one that said, "okay, I disagree with you but I still love you". That was a type of connection she craved. A connection that wouldn’t sever from a few misplaced words and actions. 

The affection the hero in front of her held when talking about his family was more than anything she’d felt before. It was like pure gratitude and love came so simple to him. It felt as if she had tried opening a safe for hours on end with complex strategies and guesswork but then he came along with the answer as easy as “1234”.



 

Tsuna nodded, it wasn’t difficult to tell he loved his family. He also observed her reactions carefully, noting her expression.

“It’s weird seeing someone so happy talking about their family like that. I don’t see it often— Ah!” Fuyumi jumped, turning her body towards him. “Not that I’m calling you weird! I meant that it was strange— no, not strange! I don’t mean that heroes are weird either or aren’t happy. I wouldn’t know, it’s probably because I’m not that into heroes like Natsuo is. Not that I don’t respect the profession—”

“I’m not offended,” he added quickly.

“Yeah! Okay, okay… It’s just like— It’s not like I’ve never seen it or anything,” she defended.

“But some people are more private than others,” he clarified, to help calm her. “I get that.” His aloof Cloud came immediately to mind.

“Not exactly,” she muttered under her breath before shaking her head. “Sorry, I’m not usually like this, I swear.”

“I understand.” Either his Sky’s harmonizing factor was somehow unknowingly amplified in this universe or the pair of siblings were so pent up emotionally that it made their tongues loose. Perhaps it was a mutual influence of both factors since Sky Flames were not truth serums. Tsuna shivered at the thought of Reborn’s spartan lessons if that were true.

“Hah… I can already feel the pre-meeting migraine coming up,” he thought.

 

Fuyumi clenched her hands on her lap, knees pressed together, a red welt burning on her skin. She slowly looked away, chiding herself for being overly sensitive. She should’ve been used to such topics by now! And what was with that stutter? Those incoherent answers!? Why did she do that!? Did the villain attack rewire her brain or something? Why did she fumble over her words like that?

She felt a hot wash of shame cascading down her back. She cupped her cheeks with her hands, heat radiating off her skin, pretending to warm her hands instead of cooling them down with her Quirk.

Cielo was an observant person. Too observant. Idiot, idiot, idiot . Look what she did. Now he had that worried look on his face!

“Ugh… Why am I always like this?” she thought. “Why didn’t I just nod? I just made things awkward!”

A million scenarios ran through her head, showing all the actions she could’ve—should’ve—taken. Most of which were her staying silent and texting her friends or something. But she didn’t. He was just too close to the family that she couldn’t just be respectfully distant with him like her father’s other business associates. But still, he was too much of a stranger to just pour her feelings out like that! She barely knew the man!

“Oh my God…” She peeked a glance at him before quickly looking away. “His first impressions of me are being half-dead and stuttering like an insane person! He probably thinks I can’t even hold a simple conversation!”

 

Thankfully for both of them, each lost in their own thoughts, they failed to notice the other’s odd behaviour. Beyond the privacy glass, however, the driver pretended not to notice any of it.

 

Fuyumi cleared her throat, calming her nerves. She was already fifteen for goodness sake, not a child!

“A—Anyways Cielo, it must’ve been a long time since you visited your agency here right? I’ve heard from Natsuo that you usually spend your time in Italy.”

“Our Japanese branch started about three years ago by a close friend of mine. I haven’t been here in years actually.”

“Are they an underground hero as well?”

...Was he? Spanner didn’t mention anything specific. “He’s been in and out of the limelight but in general, we like to keep our work private.”

“But hero work is mostly funded on billboard ratings and media revenue, right? I’d understand contract work being paid higher than the average hero considering most underground heroes are given more dangerous jobs but is that enough to fund two agencies? The Italian HPSC and the Hero Association work similarly to the Japanese one, right?”

Great, time for the word game again!

“I’m unfortunately not entirely familiar with the economic and political side of the Japanese HPSC and the Hero Association but they should work similarly. Rest assured, the work our agency does is more than enough to keep things running smoothly.” Basil made sure of that.

“Your work? Is it dangerous? I heard underground work is morally grey. Do you do spy work like espionage as well? Do you work with INTERPOL? Because there was a documentary film made years ago detailing the life of a late underground hero—I can’t recall her name at the moment—she worked with an American billboard hero—I think she was in the top 10?—to hide her movements from a notorious villain group importing illicit drugs to impoverished countries. It made people’s Quirks go wild before dying from exhaustion. She had a hunch that the group was commissioned by a neighbouring country to disrupt the government to generate mass panic and weaken their border defences. In fact...”

Fuyumi went on about the obscure film, detailing each scene with such passion he’s only seen in Hayato when he found a particularly good conspiracy theory on UMAs. His lips quirked up, amused at how similar she and Natsuo looked when they were excited; their eyes wide and ears perked, fidgeting like they physically couldn’t hold back their excitement. The two were very expressive in their actions when they didn’t need to watch their words or actions—when they shared their interests and stories. He swore he could see sparkles dancing around her face as well.

And he had to admit when the topic wasn’t about her family, she knew how to carry a conversation well especially for someone so young.

 

Fuyumi flushed, seeing his expression. “I’m sorry for asking childish and invasive questions...and going on a tangent. I just”—she frantically combed through her hair, eyes suddenly finding the dirty mats interesting—“I’ve never met an underground hero before so...”

“It’s completely fine. I’m just surprised you’re so well informed. My impression of”—this universe—“most people were that they focus mostly on the prestigious part of heroics. Not many are interested in socioeconomic and geopolitical disparities behind the scenes, you know?”

“W—Well, I want to become a teacher and it’s good to be well-informed of these things. Besides, when your dad is the number two hero, you get to learn some things outside the public image. Dad doesn’t like the media all that much so we never grew up caring about all that.”

“Finally I can relate to one thing with that man,” he sighed before clearing his throat. “Sorry, that was rude.”

She shrugged. “I’ve heard worse comments and I can’t fault you for not liking him. Dad isn’t known for his sociability.”

“Miss Yuki said the same thing.”

She paused for a moment. “You've really never heard of Endeavor,” she slowly confirmed.

“I’m afraid not. I don’t—more so couldn’t—pay attention to the billboard. Where I was, such a thing was practically non-existent.”

Fuyumi made a noise not entirely believing his story. Not that she was suspecting him of lying! But to her, a world without the hero popularity board seemed “lacking” in a sense. It was like reading about the world before the digital revolution. She knew about it, believed it, but it seemed so outside her time that the eras before felt ancient and foreign.

“Then I hope you won’t be too surprised by his… assertiveness. It’s not exactly a secret dad is more work-oriented—he’s there to be a strong hero. You’ll hear a lot of things about him—I’m sure Natsuo said his fair share of things. I mean, just look at anything the media has written about him you’ll know that he’s very... forward.”

“I know better than to trust rumours and stories.” At least at face value. “I always try to withhold final judgement until I’ve met the person… even if they were shown in a negative light,” he added carefully, sensing her need to defend her family.

Fuyumi so desperately wanted to refute those statements; to say that the media was wrong and misunderstanding her father’s actions. She dreamed and fantasized about a universe where her father was a good man, someone like Gang Orca, who, despite his “villain” like appearance, was a kind albeit strict man. But all she could say was:

“He’s very passionate.”

“So I’ve heard.”

She bit her lower lip, squirming. “You don’t understand. He’s really, really passionate about his work.”

Tsuna placed his hand on her seat, giving her a reassuring look. It was obvious that she was split between defending the man or him.

“Trust me, in my line of work, I’ve met people who would shoot me on sight as a friendly greeting.”

He laughed but she couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. He continued.

“When you have experience in keeping two beasts from wrangling the other’s throat and subsequently all those who try to interfere every Christmas, big men in suits stop being intimidating.”

What happened at last year's Christmas Gala would haunt him for life.

“Oh… Did your reformed villain… companions? Have wild animal Quirks?”

“Honestly, they might as well have.” Even that would've been preferable to Flames, realistic illusions, and tonfas.

“Okay?” she replied confused but supportive to his exasperation. “Well, if you need anything, I’ll be at the main house. Please don’t hesitate to drop by, it’s the least I can do. You’re going to visit your agency first, right?”

He nodded. “I’ll be heading towards Endeavor’s agency afterwards.” Tsuna glanced outside, the sunset looking back at him as they approached the city. “Maybe tomorrow instead. From what Miss Yuki said, as long as I attend by the end of this week, I’ll be fine provided I give them a heads up.”

Well, more precisely, she said, “drop by at your convenience. If Endeavor is so desperate, he can get off his silver throne and beg.” 

“Although so far as what I’ve heard, Endeavor didn’t tell me the reason as to why he arranged this meeting.”

Fuyumi ran her fingers through her hair. “Well, this is just our theory and I’m not a hundred percent sure but you can use both ice and fire, right?”

He hummed affirmatively. “Natsuo mentioned that your youngest brother has something similar as well?”

“Ah, so you’ve already heard of Shoto.” She shuffled her feet, continuing with mixed emotion. “Dad likes to dote on him and although having multiple Quirks of similar qualities are uncommon, the combination like those of Shoto’s Quirks are practically one-of-a-kind. So I guess it’s natural that he wanted you to tutor him or something.”

He sure hopes not. He wouldn’t hear the end of it from Reborn if his students came out as anything less than perfect.

Tsuna crossed his arms, giving her an apologetic look. “I’m honestly not sure I could help if that's the case. My flames don’t react as regular fire would. Besides, I’m no teacher.”

“Then, at least it’ll be a short meeting?” she tried to... console?

“Hopefully.” I intend to. “What about your brother?”

“He’s stuck with dad… and mom,” she added quietly. “Anyways, if you end up teaching Shoto, you’ll probably be invited into the main house anyways. Mom doesn’t like Shoto going to the agency after all.”

She could still remember the argument her parents had that one night. She only picked up a few keywords but the intensity of their voices echoing through the halls imprinted itself in her memory.

“But don’t worry! I’ll be there too," she encouraged. "So if anything comes up you can come talk to me.”

He didn't know if her statement said more about her parents or him if he actually said yes. A grown man going to a teenager for aid in this scenario? Not that he thought of her as incapable, of course. But hiding behind a child left a bad taste in his mouth. He would die from embarrassment faster than Reborn could get to him.

“Thank you, but I’m sure I can handle whatever comes my way.”

She gasped. “Oh no, I didn’t mean to insinuate that you’re weak or anything!”

Tsuna held back a frown. He needed to clarify things, the anxiety rolling off of her reminded him of Chrome in their younger days.

“I didn’t take it that way. Don’t worry about it. Thank you, Fuyumi.”

 

Knock. Knock. Knock. 

 

Tsuna and Fuyumi turned to look at the driver who had lowered the privacy guard. He gestured towards the fairly plain-looking building nestled in between similar ones like it.

“Sorry, don’t mean to interrupt you both but we’ve arrived.”