AN: So I started another fic. It was supposed to be a oneshot but became a twoshot because I'm incapable of doing oneshots for this fandom. KHR has eaten my life. Help.
Warnings: OOC everyone probably (cries)
Disclaimer: I don't own KHR. The fabulous Akira Amano does
Sincerely, Scattered Shards
Part 1 - Pendants
When Reborn first meets Tsuna, he expects the usual (boring) response of bewilderment for having an infant for a tutor. Freaking out. Normal, civilian behavior. Nana Sawada's easy acceptance of Reborn's form is… strange but considering she hasn't seen that something's off about Iemitsu's so-called construction job, her obliviousness is to be expected. But Tsuna's reaction is not.
Before Reborn says anything about the mafia or tutoring, Tsuna looks at him with horror. People have been terrified of Reborn before, when he was in his adult form and a predatory part of Reborn revels in someone still fearing him now without his reputation. Except Tsuna doesn't know Reborn's a hitman (does he?) unless his hyper intuition is going off…
But to say that Tsuna looks terrified of Reborn wouldn't be quite right either. No, this brat looks afraid for Reborn, on behalf of him and a chill runs down Reborn's spine as he realizes that Tsuna won't stop staring at the yellow-sun pacifier… almost as if he knows…
No, no, that's not possible, it shouldn't be. This child has barely experienced life let alone the mafia and its flames and curses.
Yet, just in case—
"Thinking of getting one of your own, Dame-Tsuna? You're over ten years too late to own one," Reborn indicates to the cursed thing around his neck.
"Ah, no! No, no, no, absolutely not," Tsuna shakes his head so incessantly that Reborn has to laugh. Teasing this young lion will be entertaining for a while until Reborn decides to move on. (He always does. This world is so boring without amusing prey but nothing holds his attention for long.) "It's just… it looks… um… uncomfortable… I… areyouokay?"
The predator within Reborn wants to pin this child down and demand answers. But Reborn just smiles in an innocent way that always makes Dino tremble from terror. "Idiot," he shoots a hole above the child's fluffy hair as a warning. "I'm the world's greatest Hitman. I'm always okay. Why do you ask? Seen one of these before?"
"No!" Tsuna's jaw drops. "I've never seen anything like that in my life!" His exclamation is accompanied by such shivers that Reborn believes him. This child wouldn't be able to give a good lie to save his own skin. It's rather pathetic but he definitely knows nothing about the curse.
"Tch. Then stop looking at it. Unless you really do want a pacifier for yourself, baby-Tsuna? I know a guy…"
"Hieee?! I said 'no' the first time, Reborn!"
Tsuna turns pink as he grabs his bag and rushes out to school. But instead of rushing out in embarrassment as Reborn's research suggests he will, Tsuna pauses and looks carefully at him.
"Are you… are you sure you're okay…?"
His question is so meek, so tentative and weak that it pisses Reborn off because he can definitely spot the pity there in Dame-Tsuna's eyes and no one pities the greatest Hitman in the world. Not even this soft little brat.
He shoots a hole through Tsuna's hair, watching in satisfaction as the kid ducks into the hallway. "I don't like to repeat myself, stupid Tsuna. I'm always okay."
Since the damn kid has the audacity to keep sending such pitiful gazes in Reborn's direction, Reborn kicks him in the head and decides he'll just have to use the Dying Will bullet on Tsuna right away instead of easing him into things.
The sight of the Decimo candidate running around in his boxers and necklace feeds the vindictive part of Reborn that still distrusts the kid (of course he does though, he'd be a fool to completely trust anyone. There's no one worthy. Not anymore.) And he smirks at Tsuna's complaints later in the day. The kid should know who's running the show.
Reborn is someone to be feared and he will remind the young lion that at every opportunity to squash any ideas the kid might get about a friendly teacher/student rapport. He's going to mold Iemitsu's son into the perfect boss and then his debt to Nono will be paid. No more associations with the Vongola after that. Only his damned curse will be left to tie him down… Of course, there's no reason he can't enjoy himself by messing with the kid and building up his paranoia.
By the evening he's ready to dismiss Tsuna's strange reaction to Reborn's presence as rare Primo hyper-intuition nonsense. The kid probably recognizes Reborn as a threat. Good for a future mafia boss. Good for Reborn's pride. The kid is smart, he'll need to distance himself from dangerous people—
"Um, Reborn?" said kid's voice interrupts his calculations.
He contemplates faking slumber but decides he's curious to what the Decimo candidate has to say.
"Spit it out or I shoot you. Unless you want to borrow my pacifier for when you sleep, gasp, how scandalous of you. Very bold."
"I… you know what, I'm not even going to say anything about that," Tsuna scowls, his face as pink as before. And still as entertaining. "Look, I just wanted to give you something and then I'll leave you alone."
That surprises Reborn. Dino never gave him anything when they first became teacher and student. Sure, he got the standard Mafia gifts required from debts of honour but nothing freely given. A trap, his predatory side scoffs. A way to lure your trust. But looking at Tsuna, Reborn finds it laughable that this pathetic kid could manipulate anyone and he's curious…
"Well?" Reborn gives out his hand.
Tsuna fidgets for a moment and seems to hesitate before he drops the ugliest glass pendant that Reborn's ever seen into his palm. The colours within the glass are murky brown, like mud and darkness swirled into a tiny container. But Reborn catches sight of the little swirly sun carved into the glass and the shape is interesting, like a tear drop. The chain is rather thin and fine, clumsily linked together in haste.
"It's, um, a good luck charm!" Tsuna blurts out when Reborn says nothing. "I just thought, um, that you should have it. Ah, sorry it doesn't look nice. But I felt like it should belong to you. So, um. Yeah… and thankyou!" he adds quickly, "I mean, you're really scary and I don't like this Dying Will or Mafia thing but you came all this way to teach me even though I'm no good… so thank you. I'm really grateful."
He looks away and Reborn feels his throat dry in the absence of the resolve in Tsuna's eyes. This kid… he…
The glass pendant is ugly as hell and he wouldn't be caught dead wearing it. But Reborn pockets it.
"No good, huh…" his fedora hides his smirk.
Could be interesting.
Nana's heart has a hole in it. Many holes. When Tsuna is seven, he can see the tiny cracks that have given way to a tiny dot, barely bigger than the site of a needle injection, in the colour of Nana's otherwise clear, calm sea-blue heart. Normally, he wouldn't notice. It's so small and Tsuna knows that if you leave some cracks alone, they heal on their own. Some hearts fill in the cracks with another colour, like green or gold, adding new coloured veins to the glass complexion of their shape. Some hearts appear good as new, only a slight indent tracing the pattern of old cracks.
But Nana's heart has many holes now. Little things. All bunched together, creating a mosaic of a bigger hole, none of them crossing into each other yet. When the wind passes by, sometimes Tsuna thinks he can hear the low twisted moans that each hole makes. Sometimes he hears absolutely nothing and somehow that's more frightening.
Except when Tsuna tugs on her sleeve and asks her if she needs a hug, Nana will smile but the cracks in her heart will say otherwise. She'll indulge in a snuggle and for a moment, Tsuna thinks he hears some of the cracks sigh in relief.
At breakfast, Reborn notices two glass pendants hanging around Nana's neck. One is a faded blue colour, worn away like old paint in a wasted house. The other is eerily similar to the pendant the kid gave Reborn the other night. It's the same murky mud colour but the carving has two hearts intertwined instead of a sun and the shape of the glass droplet is a pure circle. Reborn narrows his eyes and decides he'll wake the kid up later (he wonders what expressions Iemitsu's child will make when he realizes he has only five minutes to get to class and cackles inwardly.)
"…That is an interesting pendant you have there, Mama," he says. "Did Tsuna give you that brown one as well?"
"Ara," Nana blinks up from her cooking in pleasant surprise. "Did Tsu-kun give you one of the Sawada family charms then? How lucky!"
That… wasn't in the files on Nana or Tsuna Sawada. Fucking Iemitsu.
"Something my mother used to do and that Tsu-kun's picked up. Isn't he talented? He makes the prettiest charms." Nana twirls the ugly brown pendant in her fingers as if it's precious gold before she frowns down at Reborn. "That's why you should hold on to the one he gave you. It's special."
Reborn feels mildly impressed and suspicious. "He made those then?" Glass blowing, hell, even glass shaping is a unique talent. Quite difficult. But he hasn't heard any reports of Tsuna going into a glassblower's workshop or even renting out a studio and the Sawada household certainly doesn't have a workshop area for Tsuna to work in…
Nana's smile becomes genuine (something that Reborn curses himself for not noticing before. The woman has more layers than he thought if her smile could trick him of all people…) "Yes. He did." But then her expression becomes sharper. "Listen, Reborn-chan. Every charm Tsuna makes is unique and special, intended for one person only. And the one he made for you is yours. Just for you. He gives them to people he wants to keep safe and he put a lot of work into making them. You should wear it."
His fingers twitch towards his pocket, where the pendant lies. His throat feels dry when he thinks of the work Tsuna must have put into the charms. They're not pretty but… they're unique. No student, and certainly none of his acquaintances, have ever made something like this for him before.
"…I will think about it," he says, to be polite.
But he doesn't put it on. To wear something that's clearly the future Decimo's signature work would scream Reborn declaring allegiance (hell, even affection) to a single mafia family and that will never happen. He works alone. Granting favours if he's bored or sees fit.
He ignores the disappointed but accepting gaze Tsuna gives him when the kid sees the absent pendant, even if Reborn feels a heavier weight in his pocket. He ignores how Nana stares at him, fake smiles and all, as if stares can convince a killer to humour a boy's heart with his protective charms.
It'd be better for Reborn to throw it away.
But it stays in his pocket. Such a heavy weight for a tiny thing. Then again, he stares at the yellow (damned) pacifier, Reborn knows the weight of small objects very well.
The first time Tsuna realizes that not everyone can see the floating hearts in front of people's chests, he is about six perhaps and the first few little holes have appeared in Nana's heart. The man she called his daddy left a few days ago and he thinks he sees glistening trails running down Nana's face but then Nana asks if he wants a snack and the trails are gone.
(Later, when Tsuna is a bit older, he learns to listen to the sad croons that drag from the cracks in Nana's heart and he learns not to be fooled by how she fixes her smile.)
Tsuna's not hungry at the moment but Nana's heart always gleams brighter when he says 'yes' so he nods. As Nana beams and goes to the fridge to get some onigiri, her heart follows, always hovering over her chest. Sometimes her arms pass through the floating sea-blue heart, as if the heart (for what else could it be? So shining and vibrant with the fluctuations of her emotions?) is nothing but a ghost. Unreal.
"Mama?" he asks when she hands him the onigiri, "How come your heart is see-through?"
Nana pauses. Her mouth falls open in a half-smile and half-shock before she leans down so that she is eye-level with him and whispers, "Tsu-kun… what colour is Mama's heart?"
He furrows his brow. Adults ask the simplest questions sometimes. He's not sure why they do that. "Blue. A really pretty light blue." Like the sea, he doesn't add. He's not sure if he's ever been to the sea before, but for some reason he can picture a large expanse of peaceful, not-quite-white blue and the smell of salt and sand.
Immediately, Nana laughs, wrapping her arms around him and shouting, "Oh, that's wonderful, Tsu-kun! You have Mama's family gift! Ah, I should take you to see your Grandma Minori, she can tell you all about it!"
"M-mama?!" his onigiri has fallen to the floor, forgotten.
"Tsu-kun," she says seriously, "not everyone can see the floating hearts that you do. Only a few people in Mama's family can; your Grandma is one of them. In the old days, Mama's family used to make so many beautiful charms to protect people…" she drifts off, her hand reaching up to fiddle with a shiny, dark-blue droplet of glass that she wears as a pendant, "ah, but if Grandma Minori is feeling well today, she'll teach you!"
Charms? Tsuna wants to ask. What do they have to do with the pretty hearts?
But Nana is rushing upstairs to grab her purse and before Tsuna knows it, she's put a light jacket on him and they're heading out the door while Nana puts a finger to her lips and adds, "Let's keep this a secret, between mother and son, Tsu-kun! This is a family secret, after all."
Tsuna doesn't know much about secrets but as he catches sight of the new glimmer around Nana's heart, he can't help but nod. He'll never tell another soul, another heart, what he can see and do. He'll keep that glimmer around his Mama's heart, no matter what he has to do.
Tsuna's first meeting with Smoking Bomb is almost as odd as his first meeting with Reborn. From what Reborn's observed, Tsuna's always glancing at people's chests, never looking them in the eye. If Reborn didn't know any better, he'd say that Tsuna was a pervert, staring at breasts (and then kicked him for it) but Tsuna stares at boys too. Always at a specific spot. As if something hovers over their ribs. Nothing sensual about it.
Suspicious. Or another weird quirk of Iemitsu's kid.
In any case, Tsuna is gaping at Smoking Bomb. Not at the gawky skull jewelry or improper uniform but the same spot he always glances at when he daydreams. Iemitsu's kid looks at Smoking Bomb with such despair that Reborn half expects to see a gaping wound bleeding out of Smoking Bomb or a beast ripping him apart.
So instead of shrieking back when Smoking Bomb kicks his desk, Tsuna actually nods like he understands and asks if Smoking Bomb is feeling alright. The question 'are you okay' asked with the same (dare he say it) sincere concern as when Tsuna first asked Reborn is… well... It doesn't matter because hitmen don't feel this—
Reborn orders Smoking Bomb to test Tsu—Iemitsu's kid, damn it—as soon as possible. He fully expects Iemitsu's kid to run away or protest about becoming the Vongola boss when Smoking Bomb confronts him. And as expected, Iemitsu's kid shrinks away at the sight of the dynamites but then Iemitsu's kid stands his ground. His fingers still shake but he looks directly at Smoking Bomb even when he flinches at Smoking Bomb's accusations.
"Is it true that if I kill this brat, I become the next Decimo candidate?" Smoking Bomb asks Reborn, without turning his gaze away from the enemy.
Reborn watches Tsuna's face fall at those words. But Tsuna doesn't ask 'Reborn, how could you?' as he expects. No, Tsuna just nods as if this happens all the time and says, "…Um, a-are y-you sure we c-can't work t-this out…?"
"What did you say?!" Smoking Bomb practically growls.
"J-just… G-Gokudera-s-san… I d-don't know you v-very well but w-will becoming D-decimo r-really make you h-happy?" he asks as if happiness is the most important thing in the world.
Not for the mafia.
But for barely a breath, Smoking Bomb stiffens. Then he throws his dynamites, thirty at a time instead of just ten. Anger drives his attacks, the urge to blot out anyone who dares to peek under Smoking Bomb's face. Reborn hears Tsuna screaming for Gokudera-san to stop while miraculously dodging the explosions without the Dying Will bullet to help. Interesting. This kid's Hyper-Intuition is at a greater level than the reports suggest.
"You don't need to do this!" Iemitsu's kid cries out. "Please stop," he continues, predictable really, "you might get hurt!"
Concern for his enemies. Reborn feels the weight in his pocket seem to sink even lower. Weakness. The mafia will eat him alive if that compassion stays so large. But, Reborn knows, the Vongola will continue down its bloody path is that compassion is too small.
Iemitsu's kid? No, Iemitsu is nowhere near this kid's level in stupid kindness. Tsuna, then. Reborn watches as Tsuna shrieks but seems to move towards Smoking Bomb instead of away. Stupid, stupid, kind Tsuna.
Smoking Bomb drops some dynamite too close to himself in his rage and Tsuna tackles the other kid to the ground, covering him with his body in the explosion.
No Dying Will bullet needed.
"Y-you…!" Smoking Bomb stutters as Tsuna groans over top of him.
"I… oh my god," Tsuna jolts up, "I'm so sorry for squishing you and," he hisses, rubbing at the back of his arms, "are you alright?! You don't have any burns do you?!"
Smoking Bomb stares at Tsuna the way one might look at an undiscovered alien or maybe even an angel from space.
"W-why… why did you…?"
"You were throwing dynamite around!" a hysterical edge finally enters Tsuna's voice, "I couldn't just leave you! Besides, you… you seem like you're a good person. Um. I think."
Smoking Bomb's lips tremble while Reborn has the urge to slap Tsuna for his naivety and to wonder what Tsuna will see in people when he falls into the criminal underworld. Is it really possible to change this stupidly naïve creature into the world's most powerful mafia boss?
Of course it is. He's the world's greatest hitman. He can do anything.
"That… that's stupid… how can you even…? I'm a hitman!"
Reborn watches as Tsuna flinches back and nods self-deprecatingly. "Yeah. I know… but…" he looks back up at Smoking Bomb with a tentative smile, "you… you're not just a hitman. You're a kid too. And you… you get hurt… so, please take more care of yourself. You're… well, you're better than you think. Better than me, anyways. I'm no good at this whole thing."
Smoking bomb says nothing, his mouth slightly open. The fumes from the cigarette at his feet has long gone out, barely a wisp left.
Tsuna ducks his head and turns away, "Uh, bye, I guess—"
Desperation and awe awaken in Smoking Bomb's face and it's only because Reborn predicted this outcome (though under different circumstances like the Dying Will Bullet) that he doesn't shoot Smoking Bomb's fingers off for grabbing Tsuna's sleeve.
"I'm not worthy to be in your presence, Tenth!" Smoking Bomb bows suddenly, taking Tsuna down with him because he still hasn't let go of Tsuna's sleeve.
"Um, I, what are you doing," Tsuna stumbles back shrilly. He can't move, of course. Smoking Bomb's grip is tighter than a dead man's noose.
Unfortunately for Tsuna, Smoking Bomb is still bowing but Reborn watches as a disturbing, dazzling hero-worship colours the boy's eyes when he looks at Tsuna. "You're amazing! Saving someone as lowly as me! Showing concern! I am not worthy to call you by your name but I will follow you forever!"
The utter shock and horror on Tsuna's face is so amusing that Reborn snaps a picture. For blackmail, obviously.
"The truth is," Smoking Bomb continues, uncharacteristically shy that if Reborn didn't know he was related to the Poison Scorpion Bianchi, he'd wonder if Smoking Bomb was possessed, "I don't want to be the Boss. It's not my thing. But when I heard some Japanese brat with no experience was going to be Decimo, I got pissed off. Especially when I saw your grades. But you… you're so much better than that! You're kind and perfect and I promise to become worthy of you!"
"Um…" Tsuna glances down at Smoking Bomb's chest, a complicated expression on his face. "Can't we just be friends…?"
"NO!" Smoking Bomb declares fiercely, "Absolutely not!"
"In the mafia, the loser has to become the winner's subordinate. Congratulations, Tsuna, on gaining your first family member," Reborn decides to speak up and watch Tsuna's reaction. To his delight and disappointment, Tsuna shakes his head furiously.
"No, no, no, absolutely not, I can't just have a subordinate! We're friends, friends, Gokudera-kun, please!"
Too soft, this one. How did Iemitsu get a kid like this? He'll never survive the mafia, Reborn's hand tightens into a fist as he watches Smoking Bomb chase Tsuna around with praise and affection like a puppy. Not with that kindness. Can he even beat that kindness out of him? Does he even want to?
Kindness is a weakness. It will get Tsuna killed.
Well, not if Reborn can help it.
The hospital is a huge building filled with the saddest collisions of heart-music that Tsuna has ever heard. There are a few hopeful trills from people who are going home with relieved smiles on their faces, their hearts regaining a light shimmer over otherwise dulled, faded colours. But mostly, Tsuna sees hearts that look chipped and mangled like old tree bark, hearts that look scared and burned with terrible black soot, hearts that are shriveled up, void of any colour at all (white is the worst colour.)
He clings to Nana's hand and wishes he had earmuffs on to block out the cries of these damaged hearts. He wishes he could take each heart in his arms and hug them until their colour comes back. But the only time he ever tried to touch another person's heart, it was a classmate who was upset about their grade. Their little heart was quivering as much as they were and Tsuna just wanted to help but instead, the classmate just shouted, as if Tsuna had stabbed them and Tsuna never tried again.
He just closes his eyes now and pretends he can't see, can't hear.
Eventually, Nana pulls him into a white room and there is an old lady lying in white sheets, hooked up to machines. He almost expects the lady to have as damaged a heart as the other patients in the hospital but the old lady… doesn't seem to have a heart at all. Not that Tsuna can notice…
The lady is scowling at the television set, arms crossed, before she spots Nana and Tsuna. Her scowl suddenly switches off into a warm smile as she beckons Nana towards her.
"Now if it isn't my air-headed daughter come to visit! Where have you been, dear? I've been going crazy staring at the paint on the walls! You didn't say you'd be coming in today!" she pinches Nana's cheek.
Tsuna hides behind Nana's leg, unsure what to think of the energetic old lady who called Nana 'air-headed.' That's not very nice.
But somehow, the old lady, must sense his presence because she peeks up from her bed and grins down at him. "Ah, and who's this little fellow? You've never brought him before, Nana."
As she looks sternly at Nana, Tsuna spots a sparkling shard of deep-blue glass, hovering where the old lady's heart should be and he gasps, "So you do have a heart!"
The old lady's jaw drops as she turns to Nana. "Is he…?"
"Then he can really…?"
Nana just giggles and nods again.
The old lady's face darkens. "No. If that's what you brought him in here for, then he doesn't need to know—"
"I said no, Nana. I refuse to pass on this ability. It's best if it dies with your son, my grandson. It's best if he doesn't know. Now, please leave. Come back another time without him."
"I said leave." Her eyes flash and Tsuna sees the little tiny shard that is the old lady's heart almost crackle, as if surrounded by lightning and in that moment, the old lady doesn't look so frail. No, she looks like an ancient being from the tales Nana tells him at bedtime, ready to strike at those who disobey.
Nana's lips form a tight line but she nods. "Fine. But I won't give up. This is a gift, mother. Tsu-kun needs to know eventually."
Then she turns and takes Tsuna with her but not before Tsuna hears the sad whistle of a flute from the old lady's tiny shard.
"…You are the only one would think that, foolish girl…" comes the whisper.
The door shuts.
Reborn's not sure what to think the next day, when Tsuna has yet another ugly pendant and he gives it to Smoking Bomb. The pendant is in a gothic cross shape and the chains, while clumsily made, are thick and fit Smoking Bomb's punk style. There are several swirls carved into the cross, like storm clouds, but the colour of the glass itself is still as murky mud-brown as ever.
Again, Tsuna doesn't seem to freak out when Smoking Bomb appears at five o'clock in the morning at his doorstep. Tsuna just glances at that spot over Smoking Bomb's chest again before he smiles and lets him in.
"It's great that you're here, Gokudera-kun," he says, making Smoking Bomb beam, though he doesn't mention the inconvenient time. "I have something for you."
Smoking Bomb's eyes look ready to pop out of his head. "I—but, no, I don't have anything for you! You don't need to get me a gift, I'm not important—"
"Gokudera-kun, don't say that!" Tsuna says, distressed once more.
"And it's 'Sawada' or 'Tsuna'! I'm not your boss, I'd like to be your friend."
Predictably, Smoking Bomb's eyes tear up. "Tenth, you are amazing!"
To Reborn's amusement, Tsuna only sighs in acceptance. "I guess we'll work on that… um, here," he drops one of the pendants into Smoking Bomb's hands. "It's a good luck charm! You don't have to wear it or anything… I just wanted you to have it..."
Smoking Bomb is so quiet, his expression hidden by his bangs and shadow that Reborn thinks that he's going to reject Tsuna's gift (which will earn the stupid hitman a bullet in his head. A true hitman is a gentleman, at all times) so Reborn says, "Dame-Tsuna made it himself" just as Smoking Bomb blurts out, "I love it, Tenth! It's beautiful!" with dazzled eyes.
Tsuna turns completely red though his gestures remain cautious, not daring to hope. "R-r-really?!"
"Yes, it's wonderful! And you made it?!" Smoking Bomb spins it around in the light, taking awe in how the glass's muddy colour seems to lighten to an almost-orange in the right angle. "I'm not worthy but I will treasure it forever!"
Immediately he throws it over his neck so that it hangs next to the gaudy skull jewelry and Tsuna's jaw drops.
"Y-you… don't think it's u-ugly or…?"
"No!" Smoking Bomb sounds like a scandalized Christian who's heard of pre-marital sex for the first time. "It's the most wonderful thing that anyone's ever given me," he nearly bows but catches himself and just stands as close as possible to his beloved Tenth without being inappropriate, "thank you. Truly. I swear I will make you something just as incredible as soon as I can and, oh my god, Tenth, are you crying?! What's wrong? Who do I need to blow up?!"
"N-no, it's nothing, I just," Tsuna laughs a little and tentatively touches Smoking Bomb's hand in such a fragile way that Reborn has the urge to shoot someone. Probably Iemitsu. "Seeing you wear it is enough of a gift for me. Thank you."
"Of course, I'd wear it! Who would reject a gift from you, they must be a demon from hell! Tell me their names…!" Smoking Bomb goes on and Reborn just shakes his head.
For the first time, Reborn reaches into his own pocket and grips the pendant there tight. It feels warm. He wonder if it glints, slightly brighter, in the light like Smoking Bomb's pendant does around his neck.
Ah well, it's only a pendant.
He leaves it in his pocket.
As they walk home, Nana's posture rigid like a mannequin's, Tsuna flinches with each step. The holes in Nana's heart seemed to have increased, their chorus is doubly sad in conflicting minor keys.
"Mama…" he says quietly, "…was that my Granny?"
She hesitates but tightens her grip around his hand. "Yes, Tsu-kun."
"…Why was she in that place? She must hate it there." Tsuna would hate to be cooped up in a building where every room had a different chorus of paint, different hearts all crying out for someone to save them.
"She's been very sick, Tsu-kun, since before you were born. She doesn't like your Daddy very much so usually Mama visits her alone when Daddy is there to watch you, Tsu-kun. But maybe I'll come back with you… try to convince her…"
Tsuna thinks back to how Granny spoke to Nana. Each bitter word was echoed by the crackle of lighting around the deep-blue shard of Granny's heart. The same deep-blue as the pendant around Nana's neck. Except angrier. Darker. Maybe even duller in colour.
He shivers. "I don't think she wants to see me again…"
Maybe she was upset about Tsuna's appearance. No one would want a weak little grandson like him. He trips all the time and the kids at school laugh at him for always staring into space (at other people's pretty hearts) instead of paying attention to the lesson. Maybe he's a failure at this seeing-hearts-thing too and Granny doesn't want to talk to him about it.
But Nana scoops him up in her arms again and shakes her head, "No, no, of course not! She loves you very much. She's wanted to see you for a long time but she didn't want—well, she'll tell you one day. She's just shocked, that's all. She was the only one in our family to see hearts and now there's you, Tsu-kun. She just doesn't know how to react."
The holes in her heart lilt in encouraging croons, despite the sadness there, so Tsuna just nods into her shoulder. But then he stops.
"Wait, Mama, you… you can't see them…?"
Nana's face looks wistful as she shakes her head again. "No. Just you and Granny, Tsu-kun. You're the only ones in the family left who can."
Tsuna doesn't know how to react. He can't imagine not seeing the hearts. Sure, bullies push him around because he's the weird kid who's always talking about floating hearts and he can't help anyone who has a damaged one but… they're so beautiful.
Yamamoto, a boy who sits in the back row of the class has the most interesting heart of different shades of blue, like a blue sunset. So calming. Sometimes when Tsuna stares at Yamamoto's heart, he thinks he can see tear stains rushing down the glass but the blue sunset remains constant. Lately though, since his mother's death, the tear stains are more present, covering up the blue sunset and the hues don't look as warm anymore. They feel cold. Especially with the large crack scratched in with his mother's name. But they still glisten when Yamamoto plays baseball and Tsuna can't look away.
Even scary Hibari has an exquisite looking heart. It looks encased in jagged ice but Tsuna loves looking at the pretty violet hues. Like brush strokes of cloud floating wherever they please. When Hibari is in a good mood, they look like amethysts or bits of lavender looking for more flowers. Not that Tsuna would ever tell Hibari that (he'd probably get beaten up with tonfas.)
Ryohei and Kyoko have some of the brightest hearts Tsuna has ever seen. Sometimes he has to look away because they seem brighter than the sun in their cheerfulness, hearts sequined in bits of gold like armour.
And if there's anything that Tsuna has ever liked about himself… it's the colour of his own heart. Sure, his heart looks a bit worn sometimes and he has his own cracks (who doesn't?) but he likes the warm hues of orange he sees in his heart. They're not as special as Yamamoto's or as pretty as Hibari's or as bright as Ryohei and Kyoko's or nearly as calming as Nana's but they give him hope. If his heart gives off such a colour maybe… maybe there's something useful about him after all.
So he can't imagine Nana not being able to see them. His heart. Her heart. Unable to see how beautiful her heart is and how it inspires him every day.
He looks at it now, fingers hovering just above it but not touching. "I'm so sorry, Mama," he says though he's not sure why he's apologizing.
Nana's eyes are wet but she squeezes him tighter. "You have nothing to apologize for, Tsu-kun. Nothing at all. I'm just so glad to have a talented son like you."
He can't help it. He cries then. Nana probably doesn't realize it, but Tsuna knows that this is the first time she's said that she's proud of him and he'll remember this forever.
Yamamoto seems the perfect candidate for a Rain Guardian. He has some natural hitman tendencies. The mask of caring for others but a heart bored with the world, unable to connect well with his emotions unless he imitates others. The only issue, Reborn thinks, is whether Tsuna can gain Yamamoto's loyalty. Tsuna will need the most bloodthirsty guardians on his side to temper his compassion, but these guardians have to need Tsuna in some way or they'll never help him.
The blessing of the mafia world are the rules of subordination and loyalty and omerta. But this Yamamoto doesn't live by mafia rules. Only baseball. Time will tell if he'll be loyal. If not, well, Reborn will have to pull some strings and make him disappear. Same for Smoking Bomb if he ever betrays Tsuna or proves too volatile.
He listens and watches through the cameras he's planted all over the school when Tsuna and Yamamoto do clean-up after their PE class.
"…What do you think I should do, Tsuna?" he hears Yamamoto ask casually. Clever, asking a recently charismatic-appearing student their secrets.
"W-well… um… usually when I'm feeling d-down… I l-look at my g-grandma's o-old good luck c-charm," Tsuna unbuttons his shirt and shows Yamamoto his dulled, dark-blue pendant.
It looks like a jagged shard of mirror that's been smudged in dust and decay, sharp enough to cut at Tsuna's collar bone if he's not careful and Reborn has an urge to rip it off because it looks… dangerous. He's seen it before, when Tsuna goes into Dying Will mode with just his boxers and pendant. That thing makes Reborn weary in a way that the pendants Tsuna gives out do not.
"Huh, it looks really old. But I like it!" Yamamoto says in a convincingly genuine way.
"Yeah… I just h-hold it s-sometimes and p-pretend I'm t-talking to her… and u-usually I feel a bit b-better. I'm still u-useless at doing t-things but I don't feel as h-hopeless."
"Huh. Where do you think I could get one of those?"
Tsuna blinks in surprise. "Y-you w-want one?"
Yamamoto's eyes darken but his smile stays. "Sure! Why not? Looks neat!"
"Ah," Tsuna's face breaks into a smile that makes Reborn's throat dry. How often has he seen this kid smile genuinely, ever? He's more like his mother than Reborn ever thought. "I could make one for you!"
Yamamoto looks taken back before he grins. "Really? You're really something, Sawada! How much does one cost—"
"Oh no, no, no! It's free! I couldn't charge you! I'll have it to you tomorrow morning! Don't work too hard tonight, Yamamoto. Try it again when you have the charm!" Tsuna quickly sweeps up and rushes away. "Don't worry, I won't forget it!"
He rushes away so quickly in excitement that he doesn't notice Yamamoto's thoughtful frown following him. But Reborn does.
And Reborn is curious about how Tsuna makes these pendants. He follows after his wayward student but finds that the bathroom is locked so he assumes that he'll catch Tsuna making these pendants later in the night. Maybe Tsuna sneaks off somehow (though that offends Reborn's sensibilities as the world's greatest hitman. He'd notice. But he's not foolish enough to underestimate the target.)
He waits in the hallway, reviewing possible scenarios for luring Yamamoto to the Vongola family when he hears a muffled yelp of pain. A few sniffles through the wall. His killing intent rises and Reborn kicks the door down only to find Tsuna with red-rimmed eyes, hastily throwing some toilet paper into the toilet to flush.
"Reborn, you should knock!" he says quickly.
"You were crying. What did Yamamoto do?" Reborn replies in a perfectly civil tone but from the way Tsuna shivers, he doubts he's hiding his killing intent well. He had cameras and microphones set up all over the school and he followed Tsuna home so that Yamamoto must have done something that Reborn missed to make Tsuna upset and he's never wanted to kill someone over red eyes before but Tsuna is soft—
"N-nothing! And how did y-you know I was t-talking to him anyways?!" Tsuna scowls. "Y-you shouldn't s-spy on people, R-Reborn, it's r-rude!"
"Red. Eyes. Explain."
"Allergies!" Tsuna blurts out, "Ask mum about them. My eyes get itchy if I'm outside too much. Sometimes I have to stay home because the pollen outside is too much."
Reborn frowns but recalls the reports saying something about sensitive pollen allergies.
"Hm. Fine," he makes a note to call Shamal and see if there's something he can do about curing allergies. Yet another weakness for enemies to exploit.
Tsuna rushes out of the bathroom and gives Reborn cautious glances for the rest of the night. Reborn waits and waits but Tsuna never sneaks off to go make his special pendants.
Still, the next morning, Tsuna hands Yamamoto a muddy coloured glass pendant in the carefully carved shape of a katana with a bird carved along the hilt. Yamamoto looks surprised but grins on cue before he puts it on.
The grin is real. But so is Tsuna's.
Reborn narrows his eyes and wonders what he missed.
They go back together to see Granny from time to time. Granny still refuses to talk to Tsuna but she does give him grudgingly kind smiles every now and then. Her tiny shard of a heart glitters less but remains stubborn and crackling with bits of dark blue lightning.
Nana's necklace too, seems to crackle a little. The colour has been duller lately, as dull as Granny's shard of a heart and it scares him because when the colour dulls, Nana's heart seems strained too. The sad crooning of little holes grows louder.
Tsuna can't help but stare at Nana's necklace and Granny's shard of a heart and wonder if they are the same thing.
Reborn considers the idea that Tsuna simply buys the pendants from a local store. But the pendants are so unique in design that Reborn can't find any matches. Only people who have had contact with Tsuna seem to have them. How does Tsuna find time to make the pendants? Where do they come from?
Only his pride prevents him from asking and the look on Tsuna's face, perhaps, if Tsuna asks where Reborn's pendant is. He's a blunt man by nature but admitting that he doesn't wear it because it would be a gesture of allegiance isn't something he's keen to reveal.
Yamamoto seems like a different person around Tsuna. His smiles are all genuine when he speaks with Tsuna and he continuously seeks Tsuna out for conversation, to pat Tsuna on the back or ruffle his hair, to thank him for the charm. But Yamamoto still stays close to his teammates and joins in their laughter, even when it's directed to Tsuna. His behavior baffles Reborn and puts him on edge. Reborn doesn't know if Yamamoto is loyal yet but he is certainly intrigued by Tsuna so that will have to be good enough for now.
Smoking Bomb, on the other hand, practically seethes when Yamamoto is near. "I don't trust him," Smoking Bomb confides to Reborn, who silently agrees. Then again, Reborn doesn't trust anyone but Leon, who is his bonded chameleon and who he has to trust. So never mind. "He could be toying with Tenth."
"Just watch him," Reborn says. Thankfully, Smoking Bomb respects his opinions enough not to cause trouble. Yet, anyways.
Yamamoto's pitches seem to be better. More confident and self-assured, if possible. The pendant around his neck doesn't sparkle as bright as the one around Smoking Bomb's neck does but it does have a certain glint of slight colour to it.
He waves lazily to Tsuna after every game and thanks him again but doesn't seek him out too much.
"I thought these were for people close to you," Reborn gestures to the pendant around Tsuna's neck. The one that reminds him of a guillotine's blade.
"Huh?" Tsuna jumps. "I… well, I guess so. That's what Granny always did… but I… well I don't like to hear people so sad so I give them out to people who might need them. If they want to, they can take them."
"I mean, 'see'," Tsuna blushes.
"Hmm," Reborn wonders about his student's Hyper-intuition. The way he notices people's vulnerabilities.
"A-anyways… I d-don't like seeing Y-Yamamoto so d-down… he's… I really a-admire him so…"
"You should make him your subordinate," Reborn smirks though internally he's still evaluating Yamamoto's reliability.
"NO way, Reborn! He's a normal guy, he shouldn't get involved in all this!"
"Then don't give away your pendants so easily. People will get the wrong idea."
"Reborn! I'll give them to who I want!"
Isn't that the problem?
Tsuna asks Nana about it later. "Ah, this necklace?" Nana lifts it up and fiddles with it as she always does when she seems nervous. When she's trying to find an answer. "It's a charm. Your granny gave it to me when I was small. She said to keep it with me always because it would protect me. It's Mama's treasure."
He stares at it and wonders.
Some kids arrive. Lambo. I-Pin. Bianchi arrives too along with Shamal. And then the boxer Ryohei crashes into Tsuna's life along with Haru, Kyoko and Hana. Tsuna gives them all his pendants, as freely as one would offer water to the thirsty.
For Lambo, Tsuna gives a bull-shaped pendant with a lightning mark carved on it. I-Pin receives a flower shaped pendant with a star in the engraved on it. For Bianchi, a scorpion with hearts in the middle and Shamal gets a beetle shaped one with the universal symbol for health care engraved on it's shell… a snake wrapped around a cross with wings.
Lambo claims his subordinate's gift with glee, saying he loves cows and enjoys showing it off to whoever will listen. Sometimes Reborn swears that he sees orange fire within the glass but knows it's probably a glint of light. A flash. Lambo grabs onto the pendant a lot when he's scared and says it reminds him of Tsuna-nii… nice and warm.
Even Future-Lambo still wears the pendant, giving Tsuna a soft but sad smile whenever he appears. He never fails to embrace Tsuna and thank him for everything. The way he acts puts Reborn on edge because it's a sign that he's right, the mafia will eat Tsuna up alive because he's too kind and if Reborn doesn't beat out that kindness now then—
No. No, he's the greatest tutor the mafia has. Tsuna will become a boss that survives and Reborn doubles his training, doubles his harsh words.
I-pin likes to look at her pendant within the light and says it's as pretty as a diamond but she's practically blind without glasses so Reborn shrugs off her taste. Bianchi is always moved by anything that's 'made with love' and accepts Tsuna as Reborn's student as soon as she gets the pendant while Shamal shrugs the pendant off but keeps it on. The man never gets gifts so Reborn can tell he's touched by this personal gift from his future boss.
Ryohei receives a pendant after Tsuna rejects the boxing club offer and he screams that he'll extremely wear it to every match from now on. His pendant is shaped like the sun with a raised fist engraved in it. He tells Tsuna that the pendant makes him feel more extreme and pumped than ever and that he feels like he can get punched without getting bruises when he tackles thugs in the neighbourhood.
Haru gets a pendant in the shape of a diamond with a wand etched into it while Kyoko receives a sun shaped pendant like her brother's except with an etching of ballet shoes. Both girls wear the pendant along with other cute accessories, making a fashion statement out of otherwise unappealing looking jewelry.
Every time, Tsuna gives away his pendants, Reborn can't figure out when or where or how Tsuna makes them. He hears a lot of crying in the bathroom. A lot of flushing. Tsuna gets sick more often as the year passes. Colds. Flus. Fevers.
Smoking Bomb and the kids always bury Tsuna in blankets and try to feed him inedible soup they made themselves or that Bianchi brought up while Reborn stays by Tsuna's window sill, watching his student toss and turn in bad dreams. Vulnerable. Trusting. Reborn reaches in his pocket and pulls out his pendant.
"Get better soon, idiot-Tsuna," he says to the pendant. "I don't know how, but you keep getting subordinates with your kindness. At this rate, you'll give a pendant to a serial killer and get yourself stabbed. Stupid."
The pendant is warm in his hand but he thinks he sees Tsuna smile so that will have to be good enough.
"So you kept it after all," a voice says from the door and Reborn nearly shoots at the target before he realizes its Nana. That woman is sneakier than reports suggest. He scowls internally, making a note to recheck Nana's background search again.
"I'm a gentleman," he says instead, "I don't throw away a gift."
"Good," she smile sternly, the first time they've had an actual conversation since that tense morning. "Tsu-kun… he… he puts a lot of himself in those pendants and when people just use him or throw them away… well…" she frowns, "I can't forgive that."
Reborn frowns. He can imagine it now. Little Tsuna hurting himself as he makes glass pendants, offering them to other children he talks to. Getting rejected. Glass pendants falling to the ground, broken. Children are cruel. He tilts his fedora up at Nana, sees her calculating gaze.
"…I'm his tutor," he says carefully, not wanting to reveal any emotional attachment but not wanting to be rude either.
She looks at him for a long time before her shoulders relax and she smiles sadly at him. "And I'm his mother."
They say no more and she doesn't look as disapproving anymore when he puts the pendant back in his pocket.
That night, he tries to make his first charm. His first heart shard.
Things don't go well.
He's curious. He's almost certain that Nana's necklace is a piece of Granny's heart and that it must have powers if it protects her! He wants to make one too, a necklace to make Nana happy and maybe stop the little holes from appearing in her heart. Lately the cracks in Nana's heart have been chanting a name, one that Nana whispers when she's cooking in the kitchen alone and she's caught up in her hearts. Iemitsu, they seem to call, Iemitsu, Iemitsu.
Surely there must be a charm (because that's what the necklace is, isn't it? A charm?) to make Nana smile again, feel less lonely. Even if he has to pull it out of his own heart too, he wants to make a charm that will make her feel warm when she's lonely. A charm she can whisper her burdens to. A charm that might whisper back that it's okay to her.
He glares down at the floating orange heart that accompanies him everywhere and claps his hands together. He's not sure how this works but maybe if he prays, if he thinks hard enough than he can pull out a shard from his heart and—
"Ouch!" Tsuna's head hits the wall as he feels the first crack form. It hurts. Everywhere. More than when he fell down the stairs. More than when Mochida-sempai pushed him into a tree. Like he's trying to take one of those hospital scalpels and dig into chest except the pain has spread to every inch of his skin, underneath his skin, every little part like wildfire.
He hisses and pulls his hands back, not willing to try that again. When his vision steadies enough for Tsuna to peek down at his heart, he sees the heart burning within the most vivid orange flames and if he could back away from his own heart… he would.
Tsu-kun… he… he puts a lot of himself in those pendants and when people just use him or throw them away… well… I can't forgive that.
Reborn finds that he can't forgive that either. He watches Yamamoto make another successful pitch and makes a plan to test Yamamoto's eligibility to be the Rain Guardian.
He steals Yamamoto's pendant and then he waits.
The pain eventually numbs away but his heart, it won't stop burning and Tsuna feels afraid to try making a pendant again. Is he going to die? He's never seen anyone's heart burn before! Sure, Granny's heart is always surrounded by lightning lately but that never seems to harm her. The shard of a heart that she has hasn't degraded and keeps its shape but Tsuna's heart, well, Tsuna can hardly see its shape anymore. Just fire.
He wants to ask Nana to take him to see Granny but he doesn't want Nana to worry. More holes might appear. Holes because of him. How often has Tsuna heard the croons in Nana's heart drop down to diminished sevenths because of his grade? How often has he heard their strangled sad melody?
No, he has to go alone. Even if it's scary. This is for Mama. She has to smile again. And if he's really dying than it's better for her to think that he's missing than to see him burn up because he accidentally set his own heart on fire.
He tells her that he's going to a friend's house and Nana looks so happy about Tsuna getting a friend that Tsuna practically zooms outside in shame. What a liar he is.
The flames seem to cackle above his chest, mocking him.
When Yamamoto wakes and notices that the pendant is gone, he turns his room upside down just to find it. Reborn watches carefully as Yamamoto nearly misses class because the pendant is missing but the potential Guardian does rush to school eventually (likely from fear of the Hibari brat, another potential Guardian but one step at a time.)
In homeroom, Yamamoto acts as if nothing is wrong. Greeting Tsuna as usual (thus inciting rage from Smoking Bomb) and then moving to join his teammates in conversation. Only the emptiness in his eyes gives away his worry.
He loses the baseball match that evening. And the next. And the next. His pitches lull. Yamamoto continues smiling but he doesn't ask Tsuna for another pendant. Not yet.
Instead Yamamoto practices more, into the night, relying on his own strength which is admirable in a way. But foolish because of how Yamamoto carelessly treats his own arms. Too much drive. Too much bending to other students' expectations. Not ideal for a Guardian but… there's something else pushing Yamamoto to act this recklessly.
Reborn frowns and decides to wait and see which moves Yamamoto plays next.
The next day, Yamamoto comes to school with a broken arm. He doesn't bother greeting his friends or attending home room. He goes to the rooftop and stares down at the world below and that's when Reborn realizes that he's made a tactical mistake and that he didn't even recognize the signs but it's too late as another student spots Yamamoto climbing over the fence and begins hollering the news to the rest of the school.
Students crowd in by the waves, shouting at Yamamoto to stop joking, to get away from the fence but none of them come near. "Who will win our matches?" one of them demands and Reborn wants to shoot that fool as Yamamoto's smile becomes colder. They treat the fence and Yamamoto as if he has a disease and they'll be infected to if they dare step any closer.
Yamamoto, like Reborn, notices and his laughs towards them are dry and bitter. "It's too late," he says, "if I can't play baseball," if I can't pretend to be one of you, he means, "then I have no reason to keep going."
He turns back to the edge and everyone yells at him to stop the joke. Stop the game. Silly fools. It's always a game for people like Reborn or Yamamoto. A game to find the next reason to keep playing.
But then Tsuna falls through the wall of people, out of breath, knees shaking. Smoking Bomb is nowhere to be seen (honestly, he needs to be more vigilant when watching his future boss or someone will kidnap Tsuna. If Smoking Bomb needs to restock dynamite so badly, he should have bullied someone to buy them for him.) People begin whispering that Dame-Tsuna has come and will probably make things worse and if Reborn happens to make a few students stumble because of some pellet-bullets from his pellet-gun then it's nothing but a coincidence.
Yamamoto, though, he almost steps back as if repelled by Tsuna and Reborn narrows his eyes.
"Tsu—Sawada, what are you…?"
"Y-Yamamoto, p-please step away f-from there!" Tsuna inches closer, hands close enough to reach but Yamamoto slaps them away, making the fence rattle.
"No! Don't come near!"
"Have you come to pity me too? Loser Yamamoto. You'd understand what it's like. I thought I found a way to be good at baseball again with your little pendant but then I lost it. I don't even have that anymore. Even though you made it for me. I lost it. I'm lower than even you now. Can't even use your magic properly."
"That's not true!" Tsuna shouts before he claps a hand over his mouth in shock. It's the first time Reborn's ever heard Tsuna shout and from the silence on the rooftop, it's the first time anyone's heard Tsuna raise his voice.
Yamamoto narrows his eyes. "Oh?" the amount of bitterness, of subtle killing intent, has Reborn on edge, ready to shoot and fuck it if Yamamoto is Rain Guardian material, "You think you're better than me?"
"NO!" Tsuna shouts again and then he says quickly, more gently, "you're the one who's better. You've always been better. You feel empty and sad and your eyes don't match your smile but you keep doing your best and you have something that you love. Baseball. I admire that about you. I always have. When I look at you, at your heart, I feel hopeful that maybe I'll find something that I can live for too!"
The faith in Tsuna's eyes, the conviction there, makes Yamamoto's fingers let go of the fence and even Reborn feels taken back by Tsuna's words. "You… admire…?"
"Yes, yes I do. I still do. I think you're really cool and I like your smile when you're doing a pitch and you look really alive. And I'm sorry," what, Reborn and Yamamoto think, "I'm so sorry that you've been suffering this whole time and I didn't notice. Or maybe I didn't want to notice. But you don't need a pendant to make you better. You're already good enough. So please, come over here. If you're sad or upset, you can come talk to me… um, or someone else, since I'm no good. But please. Please. Don't jump. Please don't jump."
A hush ghosts over the rooftop and rattles the fence. Yamamoto stares at Tsuna with strangled disbelief.
"I… I lost the pendant…"
Tsuna blinks at him, his eyes glistening. "…What?"
"The one you made just for me… I lost it and I…"
"It's just a stupid pendant!" Tsuna shouts again, tears forced out from frustration. They glisten like fire, "I can make another one but no one can make another you!"
That's the magic word of Tsuna Sawada. The words that flip a switch in Yamamoto as he pushes the fence away and stumbles towards Tsuna, all wide-eyed like a newborn chick when Tsuna grabs onto Yamamoto's shirt in sobs.
Reborn glares as Tsuna presses himself against Yamamoto's shirt, as if to memorize the heartbeat, while Yamamoto's arms cautiously fold over Tsuna's tiny form.
Another family member acquired. But today, Reborn doesn't feel any triumph in it.
He goes quickly into the elevator and rushes towards Granny's room before any adults can intercept him. Most adults are pretty unobservant, he finds, but he doesn't want to risk them asking where his parents are. If Tsuna stays quiet and walks silently enough, most grown-ups don't see him.
The flames crackle, as if to laugh, and Tsuna winces as some of the sparks make his chest hurt again but he pushes the door open anyways.
Granny lies in the same bed as before, absently toying with her shard of a heart and poking at the jolts of lightning that circle it. When she spots Tsuna, she frowns.
"Did my absent-minded daughter send you up on your own? She should be keeping a better eye on you, kid. You never know what creepers are hanging around hospitals," she laughs, the sound more like a bark or a strangled goose.
"Um," Tsuna darts towards her but doesn't touch the bed. "M-mum's not h-here… I… I came on my own…"
Granny's eyes widen and she almost falls off her bed, "You what?!"
"P-please don't be m-mad at h-her! I just, I just wanted t-to make her a n-necklace like y-yours but then my ch-chest hurt and now there's f-fire and I d-don't know what to d-do and M-mum said y-you're the only one who can s-see h-hearts like m-me and I just don't want to see the h-holes g-get w-worse and—"
"Alright, enough! You babble too much, child!" Granny gently hits his cheek, making Tsuna blink at her in bewilderment. She's never done that before. She has the most unnerving gaze, calm and yet Tsuna swears there's lightning storming in her brown irises too.
He ducks his head. "S-sorry…"
"Don't apologize if you don't need to. Now let me get a good look at you," she beckons him forward so she can lean her hands on his shoulders. Her eyes lands on Tsuna's heart with mild alarm, tracing the flickering embers with a shake of her head.
Her shoulders start shaking and Granny begins to laugh, as if not to laugh would cause an explosion.
"Um… Granny…?" he wonders if he's going to die after all and if Granny is going hysterical from that.
She shakes her head, a hand running through her long white hair in more chortles. The lightning around her shard of a heart thunders quietly, a small firecracker to accompany the disjointed laughs.
"I guess you can never get rid of our curse once you can see them…" she shrugs. "Well, child, don't be a stranger. Prop a chair up. Looks like I'll be teaching you the family trade after all." Her grip on his shoulders tighten. "May the hearts guide you…" she murmurs like a curse.
Yamamoto's pendant swings in front of Reborn as he glowers at it. All this trouble over this tiny thing. Something that saved Yamamoto's life and pushed him from suicide, at least for a while, before Reborn stole it to test him.
Is it a crutch or a strength?
He pockets it and trails behind Yamamoto and Tsuna, an unseen observer, listening in to their conversation. The rooftop emptied a long time ago, students losing interest as soon as their idol was saved and it was clear he didn't want to be separated from Tsuna. Reborn saw the dead glare Yamamoto gave to anyone who tried to pull Tsuna away before he switched back to his smile.
Prey always know when to back away from potential predators.
Tsuna won't let go of Yamamoto's sleeve and Yamamoto seems content to let their hands intertwine.
"You… you're going to be okay," Tsuna says, though he may be saying it more for Yamamoto than himself.
Still Yamamoto gets a soft look in his eyes as he nods. "Yeah. Hey, I'm really sorry, Tsuna, I was being stupid and…"
"No! Don't apologize for what you feel. Just promise that you'll talk to someone you care about before you do anything like that again. I don't think I could bear it if…"
"Hey," Yamamoto pulls him close, "I have you now, don't I? We're friends, right?"
Tsuna's eyes go wide. "I… yes. I mean if you want to! I mean, I consider you… but if you… yes!"
Yamamoto hugs him easily again, making Reborn twitch. "And one more thing," he adds, "about you being No Good, I don't like it when you say that about yourself. It makes me upset, you know? So don't say that again."
Tsuna's laughter is choked but when he laughs, the pendants in Reborn's pockets feel light. Warm.
"I'll make you another pendant!"
"What? Really? But I don't need it anymore…"
"Look what I found here," Reborn steps in, Yamamoto's pendant in hand. The relieved look on Yamamoto's face and awe on Tsuna's is almost worth the surprise entrance.
"Aw hey, thanks kid! I thought I lost it forever, ha ha!" Yamamoto steps over to take it.
"You're a life saver, Reborn," Tsuna agrees even though it's Yamamoto who lost the pendant in the first place.
Reborn frowns and steps out of Yamamoto's grasp. "Wait. Before you take this back, you should know that idiot-Tsuna put a lot of work into this. It's one of a kind and something only given to the closest family members," he ignores Tsuna's protests to the contrary, "it means he trusts you. Don't lose it again."
"I won't," Yamamoto replies and his gaze carries a resolve that Reborn's seen in himself before, the first time he ever swore loyalty to a Sky. To Luce. Before she betrayed them all. Before she died. A true Sky is a needle in a haystack, a true treasure that he thought he'd found in her. Tsuna… Tsuna is the real deal and Reborn won't let any hasty Guardians break him.
The other pendant, Reborn's pendant, burns in his pocket again and Reborn doesn't fight the urge to reach in and grab it anymore. He gives Yamamoto the sword pendant back and Yamamoto puts it on right away. Gives the pendant a short kiss.
"Thank you," Yamamoto says.
And Reborn has a feeling that Yamamoto knows exactly what happened with his pendant for the past few weeks. A natural hitman, alright. And now a loyal Rain Guardian who sees only his famiglia.
They're all flocking to Tsuna with hardly any pushing from Reborn. And they want to stay. No deals or manipulations required. Only words. That stupid compassion.
But as Tsuna stares at Reborn with such gratefulness, Reborn's not sure anymore if it's a weakness. It's terrifying.
"You must only give the pendants to people you care about it. People you truly want to protect. Make them sparingly," Granny warns.
That sounds easy enough. Tsuna doesn't have any friends. Only Nana. And maybe Papa if he comes back (but only after he apologizes a thousand times to Nana.) Granny too, now. That doesn't seem like too much.
"Do you understand, child?" Granny presses again. "Making heart shards into pendants can hurt you. Every time you make one, a little of your life force fades away. You become more prone to illness. And if people find your heart shards and break them, you could die."
Tsuna nods. Every super power has to have a price. This seems reasonable enough. Besides, he's only seven! He has a lot of years left!
Granny sighs when she sees him blink at her.
"This is wrong… you're so young, you think you know everything! Fine, why don't I tell you a story instead? About how our family started seeing hearts and making heart shards. Maybe then, you'll understand."
Smoking Bomb hates Yamamoto on sight, his position as Tsuna's Right Hand and Meaning threatened. Reborn can understand Smoking Bomb's view. Yamamoto is very tactile with Tsuna, always throwing an arm around him and reassuring him that he's alright. It's irritating. The devotion in Yamamoto's actions are enough to rival Smoking Bomb's, which is ideal for a Guardian, but Reborn still wants to test them both. They may be loyal to Tsuna but are they capable of protecting him?
For now, it seems they can set aside their differences to protect their boss and they respect each other but the rivalry is still there.
They'll need to be tested again. Against real opponents and then Reborn has to see just how loyal Smoking Bomb can be to Tsuna's wellbeing rather than the Vongola's. He'll need to call Dino.
To his irritation, Dino laughs when Reborn calls in the favour. "Wow, I don't remember you being so rigorous when testing my subordinates! You had me test them myself! Something different about the Decimo candidate?"
Reborn pauses. "Come see for yourself," he hangs up, leaving Dino spluttering.
In the meantime, it seems that Tsuna as attracted another potential Guardian without any pushing from Reborn. Hibari has been hanging around Tsuna's classroom before dismissal. Yamamoto and Smoking Bomb usually guard both sides of Tsuna, blocking him from view of any bullies but today, Hibari scowls at the two herbivores to back away from the Little Bird so they might speak alone.
Interesting. Reborn jumps onto Tsuna's shoulder just as Tsuna reassures Smoking Bomb that Hibari means no harm. Smoking Bomb grumbles but stands guard by the door while Yamamoto gives a cold smile to Hibari and puts a reassuring hand on Tsuna's arm before he joins Smoking Bomb.
Hibari glances at Reborn and shrugs. So the presence of 'infants' are acceptable to him then. Hm.
"Um… s-so you wanted t-to talk to me a-about something, H-Hibari-sempai?"
Tsuna's jaw drops. "You mean, you still have it?"
"Tch," Hibari digs a wing-shaped pendant with a feather etched on it from beneath the collar of his shirt.
"W-wow, I… I didn't think… t-thank—"
"Don't waste your time with tedious thanks, Little Bird. I hate idle chatter. I'm only here to inform you that your charm did its task admirably when I was biting some misbehaving herbivores to death earlier. You have my thanks. As repayment, I won't bite you to death next time you are tardy to class. Only once."
Tsuna blushes and starts to stutter.
"Quiet. Or I'll change my mind," Hibari grumbles as he turns away.
"I… I know you don't like it, but thank you anyways! Really, thank you! I'm… I'm so glad it helped!"
Hibari pauses at the end of the hallway but gives a small nod of acknowledgement. For a moment, Reborn thinks he sees a smile, however shallow, a rare sight on a creature like Kyouya Hibari. But then the prefect is gone.
"Well, well, well… you have some worthy connections after all, Dame-Tsuna…" Reborn murmurs, "and were you going to tell me that you gave Hibari a pendant, hm?"
"Ow, ow, ow! That's my hair!"
"Mou, Reborn, you're so mean," Tsuna grumbles. "You never asked. It happened a long time ago."
"Do tell," he jumps down and transforms Leon into a gun, making a show of clicking at the trigger.
By now, Tsuna only rolls his eyes instead of shrieking away. And yet somehow, it's just as amusing to Reborn.
Tsuna crouches down so that they're almost eye level.
"I was eight and being bullied when he saved me and I wanted to thank him so I gave him the pendant but I was too scared to give it to him directly so I mailed it and he never wore it so I thought he hated it." Tsuna breaks into a slow smile. "I can't believe he kept it all this time… usually people just…"
Reborn's eyes narrow and Leon practically itches for a person to shoot. "Usually…?"
"Ah, well, they usually just throw them away. Or break them. I'm not very good at making—"
"Then they were stupid. Be glad you're not associated with them anymore."
Tsuna freezes, his emotions exposed and vulnerable for Reborn to dissect. Reborn wishes he could hunt down every soul who damaged this boy so and shatter them in the same way they shattered Tsuna's pendants.
Quietly, Reborn reaches into his pocket and pulls out his own pendant. "Really." He puts the pendant back. It's not declaring allegiance. It's not. He's just comforting a barely put-together Sky, a true one. Anyone would. It's a Flame's basic instinct.
But then Tsuna reaches out, his fingers just ghosting over Reborn's small arm in a gentle touch before Tsuna snatches it away and murmurs a quiet thank you.
Reborn's arm feels cold as he hops back on Tsuna's shoulder. He does not let himself yearn. His pacifier is as heavy as the pendant in his pocket. He can't.
Once, there was a woman who could see people's hearts. If a soul was crying on the inside, she was cursed to hear it and do nothing. If a soul was bitter and angry but walking with a lying but smiling face, she was forced to hear it, see it, and do nothing.
Why do people hide what's in their hearts? she wondered. Why must they suffer and pretend to be happy?
I wish I could be happy for them. I wish I could take their holes and cracks and fill them up with my own shards.
But alas, humans cannot take on another soul's pain. They can only watch and try to help as much as they can.
And if you could take another human's burden? If you could ease the pain of those you loved? a voice asked from behind her, what would you pay?
The woman turned around and saw a man with a checkered mask arise from the shadows, his smile as chilling as snow. But she was too excited to be afraid.
Anything, she said. I want to help them all.
The checked-mask man only bowed and told her. Your price will last hundreds of generations. All your children will suffer to be kind. Or become cruel not to suffer. Is this what you want?
Yes, she nodded, mad from the symphonies and symphonies of agony she's heard for years on end, please, yes.
Every time you offer someone a heart shard of your own heart, you will lose your life span. You will be victim to illness. Your heart will shrink and fall apart.
I don't care, she replied. Anything to stop the agony symphonies.
So kind, the Checkered-Mask man waved his hand. But there's more! If they do not accept your shards, you will feel as if you've been stabbed. Scars will form on your chest for each rejecting, each time your shards are shattered into more shards. A scar for each one. They will never heal.
Of course, she agreed. Anything to stop seeing colours being ruined by other colours.
So noble, the Checked-Mask man tipped his mask. And yet, most terrible of all, you must mutilate yourself to tear each heart shard out. You must cry the same amount of tears the soul that the shard is created for will cry in their life time. You will bleed out the amount of blood they'll bleed in their lifetime. You'll experience their pain in your dreams and illness. You will suffer so they may suffer less.
If they feel less burdened then I will do it, she promised. Anything to stop herself from reaching out to touch people's hearts in order to heal them but instead, causing them more pain.
And if you do not meet this quota. Your descendant will keep seeing hearts. They will keep making shards. They will keep going until your strongest descendent has enough vitality to help me in return. They will return to me. Is this what you want?
Mad from all the pain she could hear in the world, she said yes.
They say that her tears became blood within a month of the curse because she made so many pendants and had no more of her heart to give. They say that she was so mad that the Checkered-mask man had to father a child with her to keep the promise and continue the line. They say that when she finally gave up her last heart shard, her body faded away into dust and flame and never returned.
That's why we don't give away all of heart, child. That's why we have to keep some shards for yourself.
Don't lose yourself, child. Don't love too much. You'll become dust and flame in the end, do you promise me?
But it's the kind of promise he can't keep.