Thank you so much for your reviews! I'm really glad to know that you guys enjoy the interactions between Tsuna and mini Reborn.

Okay, so, guys, to understand some parts of this chapter you may need to read chapter 7 again to jog your memory. Mostly read the part where Tsuna met that man in that alley. Remember the one where this guy cut the other guy's throat? That part. :)

Enjoy! :D

As soon as the feeling came, it went away like smoke dissuaded away by a soft breeze. Timoteo tried to hold onto it, but it was frustratingly fugacious. He persevered, though, shut his eyes and concentrated on the fleeting sense of familiarity, but it remained evanescent, right at the edge of his subconscious, out of reach like a vapid dream. Something was blocking him, blocking his senses, preventing him from thinking.

What was I about to...?

He could feel irritation bubble in his chest.

He knew he was desperate. He couldn't lie and feign calm even if he wanted to. But that didn't mean his mind had to imaginesuch things and mock him like a spineless child.

Timoteo sighed, cradling his head in his hands. He felt so tired.

"Natsu," Tsuna gasped out, clenching his fists and speaking through gritted teeth, "Natsu, Natsu, Natsu..."

His throat burned, his was voice hoarse and raw, as if he'd been screaming. Vaguely, Tsuna wondered if this was how the people he burned to death felt- this helplessness, this scalding, terrifying heat. Tsuna shut his eyes, forcing such acrimonious thoughts out of his head. He was a man prone to self-pity, but now was hardly the time to think such horrid thoughts.

Tsuna, from the corner of his eyes, noticed Reborn shift a little at the whispered screams, but he remained in slumber. Good. Tsuna didn't want to wake Reborn. He hadn't slept much the past few days; the teenager deserved his rest.

"Natsu!" He said this time, a little louder, a tad too desperate.

He felt rather than saw Natsu's presence near his head, on the bed. The lion was mewling in distress, scared but knowing what he had to do. Tsuna quickly covered up the Sky Lion with his blanket lest the cameras in the room caught Natsu's presence. He relaxed as he let his companion absorb the excess Sky Flames, begging whatever deity up there to get rid of the mind numbing pain. Tsuna dug his nails into the flesh of his upper arm, hard enough to break skin for blood to ooze out. He kept his eyes shut through the pain, reminding himself to breathe. Patience was the key.

He didn't know how long it took for the pain to recede and for his Flames to, finally, come under decent control, but by the time Natsu went back to his Vongola Gear, dawn was already breaking. He could feel Natsu squirming inside his Ring in discomfort, too filled with his Flames. It wasn't healthy for the Sky Lion. Tsuna determined to set Natsu free for a few hours in the evening, away from vigilant and intrusive eyes.

Tsuna blinked wearily at the ceiling, scrubbing his face. He frowned at the sweat, messily brushing aside the hair that stuck to his forehead.

Gosh, he needed a bath.

Tsuna got down from the bed shakily, grimacing at how jittery he felt. He trudged to the bathroom, put on the shower and drenched himself, stripping only when the need to lather his body with soap arose.

With another grimace, Tsuna looked at his arm. It was bruised; crescent wounds scattered unceremoniously all over his flesh, blood still oozing out and cascading down with the cold water and suds. They seemed painful, but in reality they really weren't.

Tsuna allowed Sun Flames to dance across his skin, stopping only when the pierced flesh healed. No scars were left behind, which was a plus. He wasn't fond of scars.

He spent around two hours allowing the water to slide smoothly over his skin with a dazed sort of clarity. He didn't know why his body and Flames had reacted the way they had but he hoped it wouldn't happen again. He knew he couldn't talk to anyone about it or ask anyone about it; at least, not if he wanted people to get suspicious of him. Timoteo was under the impression that he was a shady character and Tsuna didn't want to increase his list of reasons of why he should be deemed as such because of tumultuous Flames.

Maybe he could visit the library and see if he could find anything from the huge array of books? Time travel was something akin to a well researched and nearly proven theory in this Time, if the words of his grandfather from his Time were anything to go by, so maybe the library was the perfect place? More importantly, was the time travel thing responsible in the first place?

Tsuna rubbed his forehead. His ring dug into his skin, reminding him that he needed to hide its presence.

Once he was done taking a bath and casting a thick Illusion over his Vongola Gear, Tsuna exited the bathroom with freshly donned clothes and still feeling like shit. His body refused to go to sleep, so Tsuna decided to venture into the kitchens of the Mansion. He needed to eat and get Reborn's breakfast; it was already eight in the morning.

Tsuna exited the room as quietly as he could, gently shutting it behind him. The Vongola mansion had many kitchens, but Tsuna decided to go to the one he was more familiar with: the one on the second floor, a little away from the Mansion's one of many guest rooms.

"Good morning, Ciel," Edward, one of the chefs, greeted him once he entered cautiously.

The greeting was not with fake enthusiasm, which Tsuna appreciated. The man wasn't hostile, no matter how great he was with handling knives. At least, not openly.

"Good morning, Edward," Tsuna greeted with a wave, feeling a little awkward.

"Same thing as yesterday?"

Tsuna nodded. Edward didn't take more than ten seconds to whip out a few heated sausages and bread, handing the plate over to Tsuna before busying himself by making something for Reborn. Tsuna sat on the chair by the kitchen island, slowly chewing the bread. He was in no hurry: Reborn wouldn't wake up any time soon. Tsuna knew his Sky Flames were soothing and satisfyingly soporific; Reborn would be knocked out for three more hours at least.

"So then," Edward began conversationally, "how's you're stay with the Vongola?"

'Stifling,' Tsuna thought but opted to say, "Good, I guess. Nobody's tried to kill me, which is nice."

"Unlike the first day?"

"Unlike the first day," Tsuna confirmed.

Edward hummed in return, flipped something in his pan and conversationally mentioned, "You shot my fiancee in the knee."

Tsuna froze, staring at the man wide eyed and then glanced at his food in horror. Fuck, Edward hadn't poisoned his food or anything, had he? He could have. Vengeance was certainly a good reason to do so. Granted, Tsuna's body could withstand certain (very potent) poisons what with having Bianchi as his elder sister, but-

Edward chuckled, amused at Tsuna's expense. He waved his hand in a dismissive gesture.

"I don't hold it against you. Not a nice thing to do, of course, but it was self defense so I understand."

Tsuna nodded uncomfortably. Edward wasn't lying, he realised. Well, even if the man did have a grudge against Tsuna for planting a bullet in his future wife's body, orders were orders. Timoteo wanted Tsuna alive and Edward would simply have to comply with it, lest the chef wanted a golden ticket to Hell some time soon. Disobeying a direct order wasn't taken very well by Mafia Bosses, at least from Tsuna's experience.

"I-um. I'm sorry."

Edward nodded and smiled somewhat inappropriately. In response, Tsuna hurriedly shoved down his breakfast down his throat, grabbed the plate with Reborn's breakfast and made a hasty escape. There were many heart hammering situations Tsuna could handle; awkwardness was not one of them.

Tsuna hoped Edward hadn't labeled him as his enemy. Here, in this Time, he had too many enemies and practically no friends. It was scary, to suddenly realise that. It hadn't been a gradual process, either.

He wandered about a bit, unenthusiastic to go back to his room. He wasn't fond of confined spaces, especially in the mornings. Staying cooped up in the four walls of his room was agitating. He liked being lazy, undoubtedly, but he needed his space to think and relax. Usually, he'd go out and soar in the sky, feel the breeze against his skin, allowing his domain to cradle and calm him, but, given the circumstances, he knew that flying into the open was a stupid thing to do. The Vongola was keeping a firm watch on him, after all.

The Mansion was a bit different from the one Tsuna had spent the later years of his teenage life in. The carpets, drapery, walls, paintings- all foreign and smelling, vaguely, of blood. There were no stains, which was a nice thing, Tsuna supposed. Blood was particularly difficult to get rid of.

The Mansion had clearly been reconstructed many times, if the swapping of the rooms was anything to go by. The room assigned to Tsuna and Reborn, for example, didn't exist in his Time. The kitchen with Edward as one of the chefs was (would be) Takeshi's room. Chrome's room was occupied by a balcony, while Lambo's, in this Time, was the third guestroom.

In his Time, Tsuna's own office had been on the fourth floor. He wondered what his office had replaced, so many years into the past and figured that it was okay to find out. There was nothing restricting him anyway.

"-you have asked someone else?"

Tsuna paused, hit with a sudden sense of familiarity. It was a familiar voice. A bit more younger and much more enthusiastic, and slightly less jaded, but still familiar. Nostalgically so. The words were muffled, the door playing a large role in that, but he could make out the words. Somewhat.

Tsuna looked behind him and bit his lower lip. He'd already climbed up to the fourth floor and judging by the paintings of the Vongola Bosses and their Guardians that hung from the walls of the hallway, leading to one solitary door and Timoteo's young voice, Tsuna concluded that the location of his office hadn't changed. It was nice to know that but-

"He's the best."

Tsuna hesitated, caught between satiating his curiosity and being intelligent enough to not eavesdrop and, possibly, get into a lot of trouble in the near future.

"That he is. What are the chances that this Ciel guy-"

Tsuna jerked at the mention of his pseudonym.

"-will be of any help? With the Rings?"

"I'd say none. But Bouche insists-"

'Curiosity it is,' Tsuna thought and inched closer.

"Anthony Barsetti arrived yesterday."

Timoteo looked up at Ganauche with a frown, tapping the butt of his pen against the paper on his desk twice. His Lightning Guardian was leaning against the doorframe, a little tattered from his recent mission, but otherwise unharmed.

"Really?" Timoteo asked, dropping the pen in the table and leaning to rest his back against the chair's back rest.

Ganauche nodded, walking in, "And I heard you picked up a stray. Attached to a possible benefit."


"No, Coyote. Bouche, however, told me about your little freak out and suspicion."

"You believe it's absurd?"

"I'd rather not be hasty," Ganauche replied lightly, "Killing him is an option I'm not particularly averse to, just for the record. Though I must admit, the stray's presence with the Sinclair boy is too coincidental. Unless he had predicted Bouche's arrival and the Sinclair lady's death, of course."

"Bouche doesn't think so. He tells me that Ciel was surprised to see him, and that the hostility was genuine. It wasn't pretense."

Ganauche's eyes narrowed, "'Ciel'? Think he might be mocking you?"

"I doubt he's foolish enough to do something like that."

"That his real name?"

"No. The Sinclair boy called him Tsuna."

Ganauche raised an eyebrow, "Doesn't sound Italian."

"He doesn't look purely Italian."

"His age?"

"Looks nineteen, perhaps a little older."

Ganauche whistled, impressed, "And he can already use the Zero Point Breakthrough?"

"Evidently. I sent my cane to R&D. They confirmed it."

"Is that why you think the Ring has chosen him as...?"

Timoteo's eyes sharpened. He wasn't fond of being reminded of that. Ganauche noted the expression with a little nod.

"But he doesn't have Sky Flames," Ganauche mentioned.

"That's what he tells me."

"Think he might be lying?"

"I don't think so. My Intuition didn't say anything."

Ganauche hummed, but didn't seem too satisfied with the conversation. He asked, "Do we have anything else on Ciel?"

"I asked Visconti to research on him. He's busy doing that."

"Couldn't you have asked someone else?"

"He's the best."

"That he is," Ganauche agreed, "What are the chances that this Ciel guy will be of any help? With the Rings?"

"I'd say none," Timoteo said without a beat, "But Bouche insists. With good reasons, too, I suppose. Risks must be taken, if we want to get anywhere near to capturing Ivan Sinclair."

"And the guy is a psycho, too. Killed his wife for, what? For the hell of it?"


"That was a question, by the way."

"Didn't Nie already explain it to you?" Timoteo asked.

"Yep, but he was being a sarcastic little shit while doing so. Had to tune him out after a while. For my sanity, y'know. That, and I had a hangover. Couldn't get myself to deal with his grating, holier-than-thou voice."

Timoteo's lips tilted upwards in barely concealed amusement as he leaned back against the chair, tapping his finger against the desk once.

He leaned forward as he readied himself to explain, "You know about the body we found? In the alley? Throat cut open?"

Ganauche shook his head, "Sorry, I skipped that part too. Terrible headache, I told you."

Timoteo gave an unamused frown, but he didn't feel particularly angry. "Well, we found a body in the outskirts of the city Fulvia Sinclair lived with her son, Renato Sinclair."


Timoteo shrugged, "Turned out, he killed his wife because he was angry. Fulvia must have known where Ivan was, and she must've told someone about it. We asked people, they said that they had seen a man with Ivan's description, covered in blood and furiously muttering something about 'that bitch' tattling on him. They were to scared to approach him, but they heard him say that he would kill her. And he did, a few days after that."

Ganauche winced, "Not that I don't empathise with the 'wanting to kill people because I'm angry' thing, but I'd hardly do that to my wife. If I had one, at any rate. And? How's this related to the dead guy? Who was he?"

"He went be the name Yanis Simon."

"One of ours?"

"No. We can't find anything on him, except for his name. That too only from his license. He's with the Mafia, which explains the lack of information. His Famiglia must have destroyed any and all intel on him when they heard of his death and realised that we would be involved somehow. I'm sure Fulvia tattled to Yanis about Ivan, which is why Ivan killed him. Perhaps when Yanis went to confront him."

"Why do you think Fulvia would tell Yanis, of all people? Isn't she a civilian?"

Timoteo shrugged, "She could have been forced. Threatened. She had a child to protect, so she told him. It isn't unlikely."

Ganauche looked contemplative, before saying slowly, "So you're saying that Yanis knows about the Rings? Which is why he confronted Ivan. Which means..."

Timoteo nodded, "The Famiglia Yanis belonged to stole the Rings or is, at least, aware that the Rings are with Ivan. Ivan's probably working for that Famiglia. Or was working for them."

Ganauche frowned, "What makes you think that Yanis was from any Famiglia in the first place? He could've been just a civilian."

"Ah," Timoteo said, "do you know of S-23.5?"

"Isn't that the gun Vongola made?" Ganauche asked, "Eases the flow of Dying Will Flames? It doesn't work that well, but it's something."

"Correct," Timoteo said with a nod.

"What's that got to do with anything?"

"We found a melted version of it near Yanis' body," Timoteo explained, "And the S-23.5 has only been sold and distributed within the Mafia. It was melted with Dying Will Flames. Yanis, it seems, didn't posses Dying Will Flames so there's no chance that he was the one who melted it. Ivan, however, does. Lightning and Mist. Yanis confronts Ivan, Ivan gets into a fight with the man, Yanis pulls out a gun but Ivan melts it. Some time later, Ivan cuts open Yanis' throat and kills him."

"Why are you so sure that Ivan was the one who killed Yanis in the first place? It could've been anybody with Dying Will Flames."

"We found a knife beside the body," Timoteo said, "The one he used to cut Yanis' throat with. Ivan must've left it behind in his haste to leave. It had Ivan's fingerprints on it. It fits."

"It does," Ganauche agreed, but he sounded a little sceptical.

"Of course, these are mere speculations, but things fall rather neatly like this," Timoteo mentioned, "My Intuition says it isn't entirely invalid."

Ganauche gave a contemplative hum, before changing the subject abruptly, "What do you plan to do about Anthony?"

Ah, Anthony. Anthony was, if anything, a very avaricious man. He loved power, loved money, loved women and he'd do anything for the Vongola. He was loyal, exceedingly so. Timoteo could empathise with this particular sentiment. It was one of the reasons why he liked the guy; their ambitions matched up to a startling degree.

Anthony was the leader of the opium business in Indonesia and Philippines and was, consequently, easily one of the most powerful men in the Vongola. He was dangerous; though Timoteo had never seen the man fight, he was aware that Anthony was a well seasoned fighter. The first time he'd met Anthony was nearly thirteen years ago, when his mother had taken him to Indonesia to teach him the ABCs of opium trade. His first impression of the man when he'd seen him as a teenager had been 'dangerous' followed by a laconic and precise 'useful'. His mother had agreed, so Timoteo, teenager or not, knew that his judgement had been, and still was, correct.

"Meet him," Timoteo replied easily.

Ganauche frowned. His discomfort was obvious. Ganauche, despite his amicable self, didn't trust people easily. He perceived danger for what it was: danger. In his dictionary, nothing else had a place; it was one of the reasons why he wasn't fond of Anthony, despite the sheer number of times Anthony had proven his loyalty to the Vongola and, by extension, Timoteo. Ganauche had an oddly black and white perspective with regards to this.

"I'm coming with you," Ganauche insisted.

Paranoia was good for survival.

"Wouldn't have it any other way," Timoteo agreed without any complaints.

Ganauche seemed satisfied with the response. He gave a cordial, two fingered, salute and said, backing towards the door, "Well then, my job here's done. You'll be joining us for lunch, I hope?"

"Dinner," Timoteo replied, "I need to look into the matter with the Triads."

Ganauche nodded, turning on his heels to leave, when the door gave a sudden jerk and in stumbled Ciel, held roughly by the back of his collar, like a small kitten, by Coyote. Ciel squeaked, fumbled awkwardly with the plate held in his hands before making a desperate dive towards the floor to catch it as it fell. He failed and the fine, silver object clanged violently on the floor, spreading sausages and slices of bread on the carpet.

Ciel gave out a cry of dismay and fell on his knees almost dramatically.

"No!" He moaned with genuine distraught, "Why do these things keep on happening to me?!"

Ganauche turned to give Timoteo a deadpan look as if to say, 'Are you serious? This is the guy?'

Timoteo had nothing to say. So he said nothing. He hadn't expected something like this, either, especially not from someone who had created such a terrifying first impression.

Ciel was still groaning and literally crying over the spilled food, mumbling something about 'awkward' and 'kitchen' and 'don't want to go back'. Coyote cleared his throat in an attempt to get the intruder's attention. When he was thoroughly ignored, Ganauche sighed, pulled out a gun, took a few steps forward and pressed the mouth to Ciel's head.

"Stop whining," he snapped.

Without missing a beat, Ciel replied with, "Goddamnit oji-san, can you stop with the guns? Reborn's already done that with me; they just aren't scary anymore."

Ganauche gave a surprised blink in return.

Ciel paused. Looked up. Appeared to have realised something.

"Oh," he began, rising up awkwardly and wiping his eyes with his sleeves. He gave a sheepish smile. "Hi."

"Hi, indeed," Ganauche murmured and pulled the gun away. He offered his hand for a handshake and said, "You must be Ciel."

Ciel nodded, grasping the appendage awkwardly, and then giving an equally awkward shake of his hand. "Um, nice to meet you. And you must be..."

"Ganauche, Lightning Guardian of the Vongola," he replied, retracting his hand and looking at Coyote questioningly.

Timoteo gave his Storm Guardian a similar look, but one not as mild as Ganauche's.

Prompted, Coyote replied, "Found him snooping around, eavesdropping. He had his ear pressed against the door."

Ganauche's eyes met his silently: a clear indication of his surprise was reflected in them, mirroring his own. Timoteo couldn't blame him even if he wanted to. For Ciel to bypass their senses- that wasn't a joke. They were trained men. Vongola's strongest, Vongola's best. For them to not be able to sense Ciel meant that the man was more dangerous than he looked. More dangerous than what he'd shown to Timoteo in the basement.

On the other hand, for Ciel to bypass Vongla's Intuition despite the fact that he'd been hovering over the for just a few feet away from them, meant something even bigger. Something wholly of another level. Something that made Timoteo want to take a knife and slash Ciel's throat and watch him bleed on the Persian carpet just to do away with the imminent danger.

(Though, given past experience, that probably wouldn't work, would it?)

"I wasn't snooping around or anything! I just-"

"What do you want?" Timoteo interrupted, cutting down the defiant protest.

Ciel hesitated, looking almost reluctant, before saying, his words coming out slowly, "Renato's father. Can I at least get a file or something on him?"

Timoteo nodded, sliding open the drawer of his desk and rifling through it. He'd figured Ciel would want it some time soon, so he'd arranged for it last evening. He found the desired file and placed it on the desk with an audible thump. Just an inch high, the traitor's file was short and not particularly descriptive because it contained only what Ciel would need. If anything, Ivan hadn't been a particularly interesting fellow.

Unassuming. Serious. Strong, to an extent. But not really someone you'd expect to pull off something as monumental as this.

Ciel strode towards the table, grabbed the file and gave Timoteo a questioning look, seeking approval. Timoteo nodded his assent and Ciel opened it, roving his eyes over the first few pages.

His expression changed, turning into something akin to horrified remorse. But it was gone immediately, replaced by a blank, almost carefully inquisitive, look. Timoteo glanced at Ganauche questioningly, but his Lightning Guardian didn't appear to have noticed the shift in Ciel's body language. Timoteo wondered whether he'd imagined the whole thing. It was unsettling how much he'd begin to doubt his observational skills in just a span of few days.

Ciel turned his gaze towards Timoteo and said, "He's a Lightning and a Mist user. Is that why you can't locate him?"

"One of the likely reasons," Timoteo agreed.

"Must be a strong Mist user, then, to be able to fool the Vongola's Intuition," Ciel murmured absently, turning the page over.

Timoteo wasn't surprised to hear that Ciel was aware of the Vongla's Intuition. It wasn't exactly a secret in the world of the Mafia. The Vongola's Intuition, if anything, was feared and revered greatly among the masses. It was largely responsible for digging up dirty secrets of Famiglias, after all, secrets perhaps even the most experienced of information brokers wouldn't be able to unearth.

And all it needed was a mere feeling from the Vongola's Don, and a Famiglia could very well come crumbling down to its knees.

"You think he might be affiliated with another Famiglia?" Ciel asked with a little frown, "What gave you that idea?"

"It's merely an assumption," Timoteo replied, "Certain things have indicated that; we don't have any sanguine proof, if that's what you're asking."

"You believe he might be with..." Ciel squinted at the paper, "...Gelvanos, Nostera, Gigue or...Estraneo."

There was an odd tilt to his voice as he said 'Estraneo'. Timoteo took half a second to glance at Ganauche and Coyote. They didn't seem to have noticed it. Timoteo turned his attention back to the brunette in front of him, feeling a little disturbed.

He nodded, "They are the Famiglias Vongola isn't allied to."

"Even the Gigue?"

Timoteo found that an odd question to ask, but replied anyway, "Even the Gigue."

"The Gigue is a strong Famiglia," Ciel mentioned.

"But not our ally."

"What about the rest?"

"The Nostera and the Gelvanos aren't openly hostile, but they are strong. Not as strong as the Vongola, nowhere near it, but they do have influence over Europe and some parts of Asia. The Estraneo are a bit more complicated."

Ciel gave him a questioning look.

"Not much is known about them. They are powerful, especially when weapons and technology is concerned. They are a rising Famiglia. Again, not really a threat to the Vongola but they are expanding their territory. They remain a mystery on most part, but we do know they dabble in human experiments time to time."

Not the complete truth, granted. Vongola had spies crawling in the Estraneo, just like it did with other Famiglias. He was aware of the Estraneo's workings, as a result. But Ciel had no reason to be informed of that.

Ciel winced, "And...and you're okay with it?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" Timoteo asked, "It's a common practice, in our world." That, and Vongola itself wasn't particularly averse to creating human weapons.

Ciel fidgeted, gripping the file with more force than necessary, "But it's wrong! These are living human beings-"

"We are the Mafia," Timoteo interrupted smoothly and didn't elaborate. Didn't think he had to. The rest was pretty self explanatory.

Ciel's eyes flashed dangerously but Timoteo remained calm, despite the sudden jolt that ran through his spine. His two Guardians' hands went to their respective guns in response, relaxing just a little only when Ciel sighed, closing his eyes, and rubbed the bridge of his nose with a light wrinkle between his brows. Highly virtuous, Timoteo guessed. Made him a good human being, but it was a pathetically useless trait in the Mafia.

'He can't be the person Primo was talking about,' Timoteo thought, hoping to convince himself, 'He doesn't have it in himself to be the Vongola leader. He wouldn't last a day.'

"There's another thing I want to ask you," Ciel began, glancing at the photos in the file, "Ivan- that's his name, right? How did he manage to steal the Rings? Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that Vongola isn't lackadaisical when security is concerned. Moreover, aren't the Rings always in your person? Vongola's security is impeccable, I agree, but rats can get in through the measliest of gaps. No doubt about that. I'm not surprised that someone was able to infiltrate, but I am surprised that the Rings were capable of being stolen in the first place."

Timoteo allowed himself to acknowledge how perceptive Ciel was. Not a jaw dropping discovery, but still worrisome.

"We..." Timoteo began, hesitated, paused, before continuing, "We aren't really sure."

Ciel gave him an incredulous look in return. Timoteo glanced at Coyote, requesting his Storm to continue on with the rest.

Ciel waited patiently, but gave a mild flinch when Coyote began:

"As the Ninth said, we don't know. The Rings were with us one day, and the next day it wasn't."

Ciel didn't look convinced. "What do you mean?"

"Just what he said," Ganauche spoke up, "One day we had the Rings and the next day we didn't. None of us are sure how the Rings were taken from us."

Timoteo appreciated how nonchalantly Ganauche could explain something so frustrating.

"What about the cameras? They must have caught something, right?" Ciel asked.

Ganauche shook his head, "Nothing."

"Is it because he's a Mist user? Strong Mists are capable of fooling machines, even. Maybe it's that?"

"Probably," Timoteo agreed with a nod, "But he'd be incapable of fooling my Intuition. Bouche himself can't do so easily, and he's the strongest Mist user I know. So the question lies: how did he manage to take the Rings from all of us?"

"When was the last time you saw the Rings? Before he took them, I mean."

"Just before we went to sleep. We were wearing them. When we woke up the next morning, we didn't have the Rings."

Tsuna flailed a little, "You're not really leaving me with much."

Timoteo shrugged. As if he didn't know that.

Ciel glanced back at the file, biting his lower lip cautiously. His expression flickered yet again, turning into remorse or something similar, before settling back to inquisitive worry. He sighed.

"Why do you think this guy," Ciel said, shaking the file in front of him before placing it on the desk, "is the one who took the Rings?"

"Ivan disappeared along with them."

"So you're saying it's all circumstantial?"

"Initially it was. We tried to track him down, but we reached a dead end. Nothing. After that, I concentrated on contacting the Rings. It took some time, but finally I managed to. It was impossible to pinpoint the exact location, but I could get a general idea; he was in Florence. By the time we reached Florence, he had already left with the Rings. Just to be sure, we investigated further and asked the locals. They admitted that they had seen him. Weeks later, it was Naples. We didn't find him, but the locals agreed that they'd seen him. And so on."

"But what about now? Can't you contact the Rings again? It'd be easier to pinpoint that way..."

"Unfortunately, no," Timoteo replied, his voice tight.

Ciel opened his mouth to no doubt ask for an elaboration, but shut it a second later. Timoteo didn't think his own expression had given anything away, but he supposed Ciel must have sensed something in his voice.

Ciel remained quiet for a while, contemplating what he'd heard. Finally he said, with obvious strain:

"I wish to help, but I really don't know how. But I'll assist with the investigation, if that's okay with you?"

Timoteo nodded. It wasn't much- in fact, it was just a short breath away from nothing. But if Ciel could distinguish been a real Vongola Ring and a facsimile, then maybe it could make a difference. Maybe.

Ciel sighed. He looked a little troubled.

"When do I start with helping you with the Zero Point Breakthrough?" He asked, abruptly changing the subject.

From the corner of his eyes, Timoteo noticed both his Guardians raising their eyebrows. Bouche hadn't touched this subject in front of them, then.

"Today evening, at four," he replied, "One of our butlers will lead you to the training room."

Ciel nodded and then proceeded to stare at him, shifting his weight from one foot to the other as silence set in. It took Timoteo a few seconds to realise that the man was waiting to be dismissed. He waved his hand obligingly and Ciel's shoulders slumped with obvious relief, no doubt relieved at the prospect of leaving. He bolted out of the door half a second later, almost tripping in his haste.

"Well," Coyote said mildly, "he isn't really what I had expected."

Timoteo couldn't disagree.

He glanced at Ganauche, who was frowning to himself with the expression of one offended. His eyes were fixed on the door through which Ciel had made his exit.

"What's wrong?" Timoteo asked.

Ganauche sounded horrified, "...did he just call me 'uncle'? I don't look that old, do I? Do I?"

Reviews feed my starved soul.