This is the longest one shot I've ever written. It just wouldn't END.

Got the idea about a year ago, and I've been playing with it on and off. Finally got round to completing it at the cost of a good nights sleep. Essentially, how Tsuna might end up becoming a mafia boss despite making it really clear he doesn't want to be one.

I should also probably warn people that I haven't actually finished reading/watching Reborn. I'm still midway through the Future plot. However, thanks to wikipedia and several very good fanfics, I've got a general idea of what happens. That said, please forgive me if things I reference aren't entirely accurate.

Hitman Reborn doesn't belong to me - I'm just playing with it.

It was hardly a gradual event, but it never really hits Tsuna until one afternoon at Takesushi.

Everyone was celebrating the end of their exams, and taken up what had become known as 'their' table in the restaurant. By now the regulars were used to the boisterous group that Tsuyoshi's son had become intertwined in, and as such there was very little Vongola could do to make any of them bat an eye (though admittedly not for lack of trying on their part).

This occasion, Tsuna found himself seated between Gokudera and Yamamoto as per usual, with Ryohei on his far right and the girls on the other side. Reborn, currently looking about 14 and far too amused sat at the table end like the diva-king he was. Tsuna, for once, was actually pretty relaxed after his exams (between Reborn and Gokudera, his grades had slowly, but steadily raised. His previous year's results had been nothing short of miraculous (and had apparently caused several of his previous teachers to pass out when they heard), and he was confident he'd achieved the same this year when the topic of what next came up.

Ryohei was the first to announce (to nearly everyone's astonishment) that he was going to university. He'd been working part time at a local boxing ring and Tsuna had assumed he would go full time.

"Nii-san's been offered places at several universities" Kyoko had explained, pride beaming from her face. "All of them boxing scholarships. He's been going to college for the last month to get his grades up so he can apply."

"And learn extreme Italian" Ryohei had jumped in, and Tsuna frowned.

"Italian Nii-san?" he repeated, and Ryohei nodded.

"There's a boxing university in Italy that's extreme! Colonello recommended it" he explained, chomping through sushi. "I've been offered an extreme place if I can pass basic Italian to the extreme!"

Yamamoto laughed. "I might have to join you Sasagawa. My Italian is still pretty poor."

"That's because you don't pay any attention baseball-freak" Gokudera muttered into his plate. Reborn had corralled him into Italian tutoring for Tsuna, Yamamoto and Ryohei – a role that had, if nothing else, given him some much needed experience in patience and anger management.

(As for Hibari, Reborn had called in Dino – promising that for every test Hibari passed, he got to fight Tsuna or Reborn. The Cloud was learning at an extraordinary pace)

"Mah mah Gokudera, I'm just better at learning from experience" Yamamoto explained. "I got an offer for an Italian university too, so I'll learn in Italy!"

Everyone's eyes widened.

"Weren't you going to a Japanese university" Tsuna asked. "I thought you were offered scholarships."

"Oh I did" Yamamoto replied. "But this one's for a baseball scholarship too, so I thought it would be more fun to be with everyone else."

"I've applied to a few places, but still haven't heard back yet" Kyoko added.

"I got into my fashion school in Tokyo!" Haru exclaimed, before turning to wide eyed brunette. "What about you Tsuna?"

In honesty, Tsuna hadn't even considered university. He'd struggled enough through mandatory education, that continuing it seemed rather foolish. In what little free time he'd had, he'd been looking up travel websites. Most of his friends were well travelled (if admittedly for business purposes), he kind of liked the idea of seeing the world.

But before he could answer, Reborn spoke from the other end of the table.

"Dame-Tsuna will be going to the same university in Italy as the previous Vongola bosses" he said. "He received the letter this morning."

Which was the first Tsuna had even heard of applying for university. Frankly most of his teachers thought him passing his exams had been stress enough for him.


"That's amazing Judaime!" Gokudera cheered. "I got my acceptance too."

"Wow" Kyoko mused. "Maybe I should have applied for Italian schools too."

"You never know what might show up in the post" Reborn replied, smirking all the while as he ate…

Tsuna looked down. Yup, his sushi. He wasn't even going to guess how Reborn had pulled off stealing food from the other end of the table.

"This will be extremely awesome!" Ryohei exclaimed.

"Yeah…" Tsuna replied. "Awesome…"

That night, when he was certain Reborn was asleep, Tsuna went to the bathroom and stared at himself in the mirror.

Yamamoto was going to an Italian university. Ryohei was taking Italian courses at a local college to prepare for an Italian university. And apparently, he'd applied for an Italian university with Gokudera.

Come next year, they would all be in Italy.

Come next year, they'd all be in the land of Vongola.

It was funny, for all of the battles, the lessons, and general chaos that was his life, Tsuna had never actually realised people were expecting him to become Vongola Decimo, or Vongola Neo Primo or whatever. Actually making long term plans along that assumption – as if his words, unchanged in four years, hadn't been heard.

He'd honestly expected that at some point, before it became final, that Nono would have a change of heart, they'd find another heir, that Xanxus would have a personality transplant, something!

He took a deep breath, and closed his eyes. When they reopened, they shone orange.

Tsuna stared into the face of the 18 year old reflection. This was what people saw when they saw Vongola heir. Tsuna concentrate – free of all the flaws and weaknesses that made him Dame-Tsuna.

And he could see why they followed this man.

But even with the flame on his head and gloves on his hand, the resolve in dying will was the same of that pathetic 14 year old running around in boxer shorts.

'I do not want to be a mafia boss…

I will not become a mafia boss.'

It was ironic that the skills he'd learned from Reborn were now the only thing keeping the Hitman in the dark. It had taken some calls and more manipulation that he liked to admit he was capable of, but his tutor was heading for Italy, and wouldn't be back for several days. An opportunity like this wouldn't come again.

Inviting his storm, rain and sun over wasn't surprising, but orchestrating Hibari, Mukuro and Chrome's arrival without tipping off the former Arcobaleno would probably go down in history as his greatest strategic triumph. The downside to this success of course, was the fact that he had all of his Guardians in the living room – including the 2 that did not play well with others, least of all each other.

As it was he'd had to go straight to dying will mode just to save the sofa. The coffee table frankly, was a lost cause - and he made a mental note to place a rush order at the furniture store downtown – but now he had his Cloud and Mist's in opposite corners of the room, 9 year old Lambo hadn't shot the bazooka and he could say what needed to be said. Flames slipped back, and he faced his guests.

"I have an announcement to make" he began. "One that I probably should have made a lot sooner, which affects all of you."

Shoulders tensed and eyes narrowed.

"I am refusing the position of Vongola Decimo and Neo Primo."

The reaction wasn't quite what he was expecting.

Hibari snorted, while Mukuro chuckled and the remaining guardians gave an indulgent laugh.

"I had to skip ice cream with Futa and I-pin for this baka-Tsuna" Lambo moaned, flopping on the sofa with dramatic flair. Gokudera was immediately upon him, yanking him into a sitting position with his hair.

"Stupid cow! You don't deserve ice cream if all you do insult Judaime!"

"Ah Tsuna, you needed to bring us here to say that?" Takeshi laughed, eyes glancing round. "Where's Reborn, it's not so much fun when he's not-"


Yamamoto froze, and the smile slipped away as he spotted orange glinting in his friend's eyes. Humour fled from everyone's face as they felt Tsuna's flames on the edge, focused in resolve they'd never quite seen outside of a fight.

"I do not want to be a mafia boss" Tsuna continued. "I've never wanted to be one. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone in this room, and yet somehow, without me even realising it, I've been manipulated into accepting it as inevitable."

Hands clenched into fists, and the glint became a pure sheen.

"I'm sorry if any of you ever understood that, but if I don't make a stand now, then it's going to be too late. You're all starting to make plans based on the assumption that I will inherit Vongola."

He took a deep breath, and faced down his Guardians with orange eyes.

"I will say this one more time. I will not inherit Vongola. I will not become the Decimo, the Neo-Primo, or any other title they come up with. As of now I am walking away from the mafia. If you still intend on remaining Guardians, it will be to someone other than me."

He slowly held out one hand to the frozen group. A hand bare of the Sky ring. "Take time to think about it if you must, but if you decide you're happy to remain my friend, please give me back your ring."

Yamamoto was the first, unsurprisingly.

There was silence in the room, while everyone stared at his hand for an awkward amount of time. Finally, with the subtlety of a vase crashing to the ground, Yamamoto laughed, scratchy and faltering.

"Well, guess it's a good thing I haven't declined any universities yet" he chuckled, twisting the ring off his finger and walking towards Tsuna. His thumb flicked it into the air, and Tsuna had to catch it with both hands, relieved it didn't slip through his fingers. Yamamoto's hand clasped his shoulder, and he looked up to see his friend grinning, respect glimmering in his face.

"Time for a new game I guess."

Tsuna grinned back, only breaking eye contact when he heard the bellowing from the left.

"Extreme plot twist!" Ryohei hollered, storming towards them and grinning like a lunatic. "This will be Extremely interesting. A mans will is his own, and you're extremely showing that!"

The ring was off and slapped next to the rain with aplomb.

"What are you planning to do next?" Yamamoto asked.

"I'm not really sure" Tsuna admitted. "But I was thinking of travelling. I wasn't really ready for more studying – I thought it would be good to see the world before I made future plans."

"That would be amazing to the extreme!" Ryohei burst.

Lambo was quiet, something of a phenomenon, while he stared at his own ring. Still too large for him to wear on his fingers, he was twisting it on the chain around his neck. Gokudera seemed lost in space, frozen in his seat.

"Gokudera?" Tsuna asked, wondering if he should shake the other teen.

Gokudera didn't answer. As Tsuna took one step forward, the teen bolted from his seat, rushing past him and running out the door, head bowed. Tsuna called out and made to follow, only for Yamamoto to grab him back.

"This was always going to hit him hardest" Yamamoto warned. "Just…let him have time to think about it?"

Leaving Gokudera to stew in his abandonment issues…seemed like a catastrophically bad idea, but Yamamoto did have a point. Tsuna doubted there was anything he could actually say to help his rig-ex-right hand.

Unfortunately, distracted by the bomber, he hadn't realised that Hibari, Mukuro and Chrome had all vanished.

Lambo was next.

When he realised his other Guardians were gone (should he be relieved or nervous that Hibari and Mukuro hadn't returned them? His intuition really didn't know), he'd said goodbye to Yamamoto and Ryohei before sitting by the youngest, watching him spin the ring.

"You never wanted to give this to me"

It was quiet, little more than a mutter, but Tsuna heard it loud and clear.

"You were too young" Tsuna admitted. "I didn't think it was fair that Futa and I-Pin got to be kids while you had this weight."

"…Are you going to send me away?"

Tsuna froze. "What?"

Lambo looked up, suspicion and fear on his face. "You don't need a Lightning Guardian. Are you going to send me back to Italy?"

"…Do you want me to?" Tsuna asked, unsure of the right answer. Lambo just looked down again.

"You know, all the times I've gone to the future, I've never been the Bovino boss. I'm always a Guardian. Always."

His hands clung to the ring. "I'm not good enough to lead the Bovino. And now I'm not going to be a Guardian…I'm useless."

Tsuna's eyes widened, and he grabbed Lambo's shoulders.

"You're not useless!" he insisted. "Don't ever think that about yourself!"

Lambo jerked from the grip. "You don't want me!" he yelled. "If you're not mafia then you don't need familia! You didn't even want me, y-you wanted future m-me. I-I don't care, I'll, I don't…need anyone."

"Lambo…" Tsuna sighed.

"I'm not crying!" he insisted, twisting his head and not so subtly dragging a sleeve over his eyes. Tsuna moved forward and pulled the younger boy into a hug. He tried to release himself, but failed.

"Lambo" Tsuna insisted. "You're right, I don't need familia. But doesn't mean I don't want family. If you want to go back to the Bovino, we'll let you, but I'll miss my little brother."

The boy was stiff in his arms. "You have Futa and I-pin" he mutters against Tsuna's chest.

"So what?" Tsuna replies. "I can have more than one little brother. You really think we just kept you around for your future self?"

His shoulders sunk, and Tsuna felt like joining in. He actually had.

Lambo, Maman loves you. I-pin and Futa love you. I love you – even when you're an annoying, grenade throwing, hyperactive pain in the neck that doesn't listen. And that was true long before these stupid rings ever showed up. And it's never going to change, Guardian or no Guardians.

He hugged him tight, and smiled as he felt Lambo's arms wrap around him.

"…You owe me ice cream, Tsuna-nii."

Tsuna smiled. "You got it Lambo."

Gokudera wasn't in school the next day.

That was a lot more terrifying than Tsuna wanted to admit, and was ready to leave during lunch and track down the teen. However, he found himself with an appointment he couldn't avoid. One of the guidance counsellors for Namimori Middle had come to Namimori High and wanted to speak with him.

Which would be all well and good if said counsellor hadn't been Hibari.

Tsuna was still reeling from that turn of events. Namimori Middle's teachers, after Kyoya had refused to graduate twice and leave for High School, had eventually come up with a compromise. Kyoya could attend Namimori High part time, and spend to the rest of his school day 'volunteering' with troubled youths at the Middle School. It was a mutually beneficial system, Kyoya had a valid excuse for being at the school he was no longer young enough for, got to deal with anyone breaking rules and 'crowding,' and teachers didn't have to interact with him at all! Plus, for all of Hibari's many, many flaws, nobody could deny he had a real way with taking troubled youths and turning them into pillars of society.

Or, you know, part of his own Prefect army militia. But they could live with that so long as they didn't have to deal with the General himself. Although they were a little bit dismayed that he hadn't stopped when he'd actually graduated.

Hibari had taken over the Disciplinary Committee's room, and had cleared it of all members when Tsuna walked in.

"You have always been weak" Kyoya began.

"I know" Tsuna admitted.

"You have fangs, but you only bare them for others, not your own benefit."

Tsuna wondered where this was going.

"Yesterday was the first time I saw the carnivore you could be."

Hibari stood up, and Tsuna tensed as he spotted tonfa's in the ex-prefects hands.

"I have never offered loyalty to the Vongola" he states. "This ring means nothing to me. Show me your resolve, take it back with this strength of will."

Tsuna smiles. Hibari never really changes.

"The roof then?"

He misses the rest of his classes, but he leaves with a Cloud ring and a beaten, bloody and satisfied ex-guardian on the school roof.

Gokudera however, isn't at home, and his feeling of dread regarding the storm grows even stronger.

He hasn't seen Gokudera in nearly 48 hours, and he's about ready to turn round and call Reborn for help, subterfuge be damned.

As it turned out, he didn't have to. The next morning, Gokudera was at his door.

"Judai-…Tsuna-sama" he stuttered. "Can we talk?"

Tsuna nodded and closed the door, following the bomber into the garden. Gokudera was restless, pacing over a few steps and running a hand through his hair as if trying to compress himself.

The hand in question was suspicious absent of a ring…

Finally, he seemed to collect himself, and dropped down to his knees. Tsuna was barely able to contain the wince.

"Gokudera, please do-"

"Judaime!" he interrupted, head bowed. "Please let me say this!"

Tsuna stopped, and nodded, ready to hear what his former right hand had to say.

"I grew up in the mafia" he began. "It's all I've ever known. When I left my home and went freelance, I didn't have anything. No family was even willing to consider a half breed brat who ran out on his duties. I was just an explosive ball lashing out at anything in my way. Then I met you."

He looked up, eyes brimming with respect and unbearable sadness. Tsuna was barely able to keep himself looking away before Gokudera continued.

"You saved my life. And you just kept on doing it. I'd probably be dead, or jail or wishing I was the first if Reborn hadn't asked me to come to Japan. Everything I'd ever wanted you gave me…and all you wanted in return was my friendship. I didn't know what I'd done to get so lucky. With all that…I guess I started to ignore what was right in front of my face."

His hands dropped to the ground and ducked his head in a full bow. "I've been your friend longer than all those idiots, I called myself your right hand man, I didn't everything I thought that would be required of me…except listen."

His forehead thudded against the ground, while one hand slipped into his pocket and was raised towards Tsuna, storm ring clenched in the fingers.

"I'm so sorry it took you doing this to make me hear you."

Tsuna couldn't take it anymore, and dropped to his knees, pushing back on Gokudera's shoulders to force his head up. When the teen was mostly upright, he squeaked as Tsuna clamped his arms around and hugged.

"You don't have to apologise Gokudera-kun" he urged. "The only good thing ever being considered for Decimo was the people it brought to me. You're my best friend, and not having you around has been hell. I was terrified I might not see you again.

Gokudera swallowed, looking slightly nervous. "That said…I have a condition."

Tsuna paused, and Gokudera braced himself.

"I'll give up the storm ring" he started. "If you promise to let me come travelling with you."

Tsuna's eye's widened. "Gokudera-kun! I thought you were going to university."

Gokudera shook his head. "I can go to university anytime Juda- Tsuna-sama. Even if I'm not your right hand, I want to be with you. By your side, no matter what."

Tsuna's shoulders dropped. "Gokudera-kun…I want my friends to live their lives, find out who they are without the mafia."

Hands grabbed his shoulders, with a grasp that was almost painful, and he jerked to see Gokudera frightfully close.

"Don't you see Tsuna-sama? That's why I want to come with you!" Gokudera replied, eyes wild. Most of your Guardians were civilians to begin with, and the ones that aren't? Lambo and I-Pin are young, they grew up in Namimori, they'll be fine, but I guarantee Mukuro's already vetting prospective bodies because he doesn't know what else to do now you're gone. I don't know how not to be mafia."

His head dropped onto Tsuna's shoulder. "I know it's selfish of me to ask, but please. Please let…please let your best friend come with you."

Slowly, Tsuna's own arms lifted, plucking the clenched hands off his shoulders and smiling.

"Okay Gokudera" he agreed. "But only if you drop the sama."

Reborn was due to return that night, and he couldn't help but think about Chrome and Mukuro. Chrome wasn't in his class at school, and she'd been avoiding him. Kyoko had told him she needed some time to think, and with his thoughts on Gokudera, he hadn't seen the harm.

Thankfully, that afternoon had her meeting him on the school roof, both pieces of the Mist ring in her hand.

"I promised to join Vongola to keep boss safe" Chrome said. "If boss isn't going to be boss, then I have no reason to stay."

"And Mukuro?" Tsuna asked.

"He doesn't believe the next boss will want to keep him on as the Mist Guardian" Chrome says. "And he doesn't want the hassle of having to fight him over something simple."

That…really doesn't add up to the Mukuro Tsuna knows, and it must show on his face, because Chrome gives a sad smile.

"To be honest…I don't think Mukuro believes you'll succeed" she says. "He said you don't understand the mafia if you think you can walk away. He isn't keeping the ring because he believes you will end up giving it back to him."

She drops the ring into his hand.

"I don't say this often" she says. "But I hope Mukuro-sama is wrong."

With all seven rings in his possession, Tsuna collects them in their box and mails it express post to Vongola's headquarters. He's well aware that this is kind of stupid considering the last time these rings had to be delivered, but Reborn is back tonight and he really doesn't have time to organise a courier. He pays for the fastest and safest shipping he can, and then posts a rejection letter to the university that had apparently given him an unconditional acceptance despite not seeing his exam results. Finally, he stops by a local travel agent and picks up several brochures.

Now all he needs it Reborn, and prepare for what will no doubt be a painful evening.

Reborn is barely in the door (and grown a few centimetres in the last few days, lucky him) before he notices Tsuna sitting at his desk, looking at glossy photos of South America. A few seconds later, his eyes spot the missing ring box, and the absent jewellery on Tsuna's finger.

The hitman is many things. Unobservant is not one of them.

"…What have you done Dame-Tsuna" he growls, well aware there's a punchline that he won't enjoy.

Tsuna glances over and smiles. "Welcome back Reborn. I'm just looking up locations for backpacking. Gokudera and I are going to go travelling after graduation – what do you think of Peru? I get the feeling Gokudera would get a kick out of Aztec ruins."

The hitman narrows his eyes, and Leon is moving towards his hand. Tsuna drops the ignorant act and stares back at Reborn, willing his resolve to show in his eyes. It must have the desired effect, because the hitman's hand stops in mid-air.

"I've gotten tired of people telling me who I am" Tsuna states, and stands up. "So I'm making my stand. I've sent a letter to the university rejecting the place they've offered, and returned the rings to the Vongola Headquarters."

Tsuna doesn't think he's ever seen Reborn so shocked. His pupils shrink to an almost frightening size, as if he doesn't comprehend what Tsuna is saying.

"Tsuna…" he says, as if speaking to a very slow child. "You don't get to do that."

"I'm eighteen years old" Tsuna replies. "I'm a little old to be told what I can and can't do. I've told you from the start that I won't be a mafia boss, and well…nobody's paid attention. So now I'm making them. All of my ex-Guardians have accepted my decision – the Vongola will have to find a new heir.

Oh, and since I'm no longer going to be a boss, I no longer need a tutor" he continues. "The contract did say you would stay until my grades were up, and I think we can both agree you succeeded. So you can consider this job a succ-"

"Tsuna!" Reborn snaps, with an expression he hasn't seen since before the ring trials. It's a mix of incredulity that someone can be this dumb and exasperation that he has to interact with said stupidity. It's rather nostalgic all things considered. "You are the Vongola heir."

Leon jumps into his hand, and Tsuna coaxes himself into a fighting stance as Reborn takes aim.

"Now, tell me what courier you used for the rings and I will go retrieve them before this stupidity reaches the Ninth."

Orange bleeds into brown.


Reborn fires.

Tsuna's room ends up being little more than a write off, but Tsuna himself comes out with surprisingly few injuries. He's rather pleased – Reborn has become easier to fight over the years, but he still remains a devastatingly difficult opponent. Reborn knows this just as well, if his confused and nervous expression at the breakfast table is anything to go by.

It's rather understandable. Overnight his student's personality has done a complete 180 and performed acts that Reborn cannot smooth over or fix. And more importantly, can't convince (or beat) said pupil otherwise. Tsuna doubts Reborn has ever been in a situation (outside of the whole arcobaleno thing) where he wasn't in complete control. Especially when it came to teaching.

The teen's actually rather smug about that.

When he leaves for school, Reborn is on the phone. Judging from the voices, the rings have arrived safe and sound, and Reborn is in the hot seat.

He considers the tutor a friend, but considering the daily hell Reborn has put him through over the years, he's not the least bit sorry.

When he returns home, Reborn is missing. His mother claims that he had to go back for an emergency in Italy. Tsuna just heads up to his room and prepares for the next stage.

Dino is the first. Not unexpected - Reborn had a tendency to contact his former success for any Tsuna-related problem he needed support for. It's not a bad opening move – Tsuna actually likes Dino (for years he idolised the man for just giving him hope that one could actually survive Reborn), and knows the man had no desire to be a boss too. Which is going to make this even harder.

The ring box is on the table in the living room (his own room is still undergoing repairs from Reborn's reaction), and Dino is smiling at him indulgently.

"I rather impressed little bro" he admits. "I don't I've ever seen Reborn this frazzled. You've really caused some commotion."

"I'm told I have a tendency to do that" Tsuna replies, sitting down and pushing the box closer to Dino.

"I really like you Dino-san" he says. "But if you're here to get me to accept the rings I'm going to have to ask you to leave."

Dino frowned. "Tsuna…"

"I'm pretty sure rules of the mafia mean that you can't interact with those that back out of becoming family" Tsuna buts in, memories of old and painful lessons with Reborn coming to mind. "I wasn't joining your family, but I think it counts."

Dino sighs. "Tsuna, this was funny to start with, but I think you're taking it a bit too far. Rumours already hit the underworld – Vongola's lost their last heir. If this doesn't get straightened out, there could be all out war."

"I'm sorry to hear that" Tsuna replies, and he genuinely is. "But it's not. My. Problem. It's Vongola's."

"But you're Vongola!" Dino replies almost desperately, and Tsuna shakes his head.

"Only by blood" he replies. "Which up until four years ago, everyone was willing to ignore and forget. I don't want that life, and I'm going to fight for the one I do."

Dino made to argue, but paused, taking in the teen's set shoulders and calm eyes. He sighed, almost wistfully.

"I'd forgotten that. What it's like to want something else. To think you actually have a chance at getting it."

"I'm sorry you couldn't break free" Tsuna says. "But that doesn't mean I won't try."

The older man shakes his head. "By the time I had the strength to break free, I didn't want to anymore" he says. "I guess Reborn thought you would be the same, we were so similar. But I don't see it anymore."

He makes to stand, but doesn't take the ring box.

"I can tell I'm not going to convince you" he admits, heading for the door. "But I should warn you, you need to reconsider. If you come back willingly, they won't be as hard on you. And they will bring you back, one way or another."

Tsuna's hand's clench into fists.

"Let them try."

The ring box is still on his table, and to make a point, Tsuna waits until Dino leaves before taking it out and leaving it in the middle of the street.

He knows full well that the rings are too dangerous to be left alone. He also knows the Vongola will have some form of surveillance on the house.

If Vongola want to protect the rings, they can do it themselves. They're no longer Tsuna's concern.

They're gone within the hour.

Dino had been expected. The next protestors were completely out of left field.

Frankly, Tsuna thought that had anyone told Xanxus that he would one day be yelling at the teen to 'suck it up and take the shitty sky ring,' the man would have shot them on the spot on grounds of stupidity.

He'd smashed through Tsuna's bedroom door (only just repaired!) and fired at the teen before punching him to the floor. The Varia boss currently had Tsuna flat on his back while he tried to slam the ring onto his finger. He was having some trouble as the fingers in question were currently on fire.

"Will you just fucking grow a pair and wear the shitty piece of jewellery you ungrateful little shit!" he yelled, his other hand slamming Tsuna's head to the floor in an attempt to knock him out. Tsuna reacted on instinct, increasing the flames and forcing Xanxus to let go. The ring itself falls to the floor.

Xanxus has his guns out again, and Tsuna silently thanks Bianchi for having taking his mother out for the day. He really doesn't know how he's going to explain more repairs to his room, never mind another fight. He's already switching to the zero point breakthrough, and the grimace on Xanxus suggests he's well aware of it.

"You know" Tsuna begins, trying to catch his breathe. "Of all the people I thought would be upset about this, you didn't even make the list."

"Upset!" Xanxus yells. "I'm not upset! I'm fucking furious!"

He shoves a finger in the direction of the ring. "Do you know what I'd do to wear that trash? Huh? Don't tell me you've forgotten. You fucking lived it. And you throw it away like, like-"

"Trash?" Tsuna offers, and has to duck and roll to avoid the flame. He really needs to stop channelling his inner Yamamoto.

"Like the last four years mean nothing you damn trash" Xanxus snaps. "Like Vongola can just go screw itself cause you're too fuckin' tired to keep fighting."

"I never wanted this" Tsuna argues. "I only fought you because you were going to kill my friends if I didn't! You could have had the rings – I would have handed them over with a smile if you'd just promised to leave us alone! Everything I've done in the last four years was to help my friends, not Vongola!"

Xanxus however, just smirked. "Same thing you trash. Just so you know, nobody's happy about this fucking tantrum. The shark trash is currently making a house call to your shitty baseball brat. Couldn't get the trash to stay home."

Tsuna tenses, but forces himself to relax. At the end of the day, Yamamoto can take Squalo. And he won't appreciate Tsuna barging in on a fight with his favourite sparring-although-Squalo's-genuinely-trying-to-remove-limbs partner.

"Well I don't fuckin care if nobody's happy" Tsuna chooses to snap back. "Nobody's cared about my happiness for the last four years. It's not like this came out of nowhere – I've been fighting tooth and nail, and suddenly I'm strong enough to finally force the no and now everyone's upset? That's their own, fucking FAULT!"

Tsuna has never been the type to swear. The one time he actually did, Reborn had made him eat soap – but this conver-argument clearly needed it.

Xanxus at least, is looking at him like he's never seen him before. Probably surprised Tsuna actually knew how to. To his credit, he shakes it off.

"I don't care trash" he growls, picking up the ring and advancing on Tsuna. "I am getting this fuckin ring on your finger even if I have to drag you to the shark trash and cut off your hand to do it!"

Tsuna jumps for the window, the Varia leader hot on his heels.

Half an hour later, Xanxus is limping for the gate, glaring at his hand. Tsuna had gotten a little bit frustrated with the entire event, and grabbed the ring. Before Xanxus could crow in triumph however, he'd iced it to one of the X-guns. He'd used the brief moment of shock to send Xanxus flying into the wall. Without any way to remove the ring without destroying his precious weapons, the Varia leader was choosing a tactical retreat while Tsuna dragged himself inside. However, he had to pause as someone else walked through the gate.

It was Yamamoto, carrying something on his shoulder. Or rather someone.

"Ah Xanxus" he greeted, smile firmly in place. "I think you left something at mine."

And with that, he dropped Squalo to the ground, leaning him against the wall. Xanxus took one look and froze, while Tsuna could only gape.

The man himself didn't look too badly off (admittedly the black uniform was a masterpiece at hiding blood), but it was the head that caught their attention.

And the short, choppy ear-length strands of silver hair that were all that remained of his once waist length locks. The man himself seemed to be in a state of shock.

"Yamamoto…" Tsuna began. "Did you…"

The smile was vicious. "I just wanted to make something clear."

None of the Varia appeared after that. Ryohei seemed rather disappointed that Lussuria hadn't visited, but Tsuna was grateful that Xanxus had apparently returned to Italy with his shell shocked second. He could guess the next attempt – and it was one he was going to enjoy.

As expected, three days later Iemitsu was at the door. After his initial swoon, lovey lovey, sunsets-in-the-distance reunion with Nana, he took his son out to the garden for some 'father-son bonding time.'

It was rather sad, Tsuna mused, when he realised that despite Iemitsu's clear disappointment and topic of conversation, this was still one of their more successful interactions.

"Tou-san" Tsuna snapped, butting into Iemitsu's rant about 'betraying the family.' "I was never inducted into the Vongola. If I'd actually gone through with the inheritance ceremony, maybe you'd have a leg to stand on, but I didn't. I only let that get as far as I did to find out who hurt Yamamoto – I have never said I'd be Vongola Decimo, OR Neo Primo."

"Tsuna" Iemitsu growls. "There is no one else. Do you understand that? Do you think I would have put you in this position if there was any other choice?"

"I'm looking at one right now" Tsuna snaps back, because that's always been the rub. Sure, they cite that CEDEF members remove themselves from succession, but if desperate times can allow them to train up a civilian child, they could have amended the rules for his dad.

"You claim you stayed away from me and Kaa-san to protect us" he continues. "That you didn't want us getting wrapped up in the mafia life. How can you say that and then throw me in the deep end like that?"

Iemitsu at least, doesn't even try to hide the wince. "Tsuna, I have made mistakes. I know that. But that doesn't change the fact that Vongola would never consider the outside advisor for the role, no matter what their blood. It sets a precedent that's far too dangerous."

"Dangerous" Tsuna yelps. "Vongola has to keep leadership in the family lines. It didn't occur to you when you joined CEDEF?"

"When I joined there were four heirs!" Iemitsu snapped back. "Forgive me for not realising one wasn't eligible and the other three wouldn't make to a coronation. And don't stand there as if you've been nothing but wronged by Vongola. Look me in the eye and tell me you want to go back to the person you were before Reborn showed up."

That's a low blow, and Tsuna looks away. Iemitsu, encouraged by the act marches on.

"I love you Tsuna, but even you know what kind of life you had lined up before Reborn" he says. "No friends, bad grades, no confidence – you want to go travelling? The little boy I left would have been terrified to get a train on his own. Vongola has helped you in so many ways, how can you betray them like this?"

He hates that he can't do this on his own. Hates that he can't say the words as himself, but they have to be said.

If Iemitsu is surprised to see orange eyes when his son looks back, he hides it well.

"You say that as if Vongola did it out of the goodness of their hearts" he states, calm and focused. "Vongola 'helped' me because I was useless to them as I was. I am grateful – I have become someone who can look themselves in the mirror and be happy."

His eyes look up to the sky.

"And that's exactly why I won't become Vongola Neo Primo. I will not go back to the days when I couldn't."

He turns and walks away. Iemitsu doesn't follow.

It's been nearly a month since Reborn vanished from the house, and over a week since Iemitsu's impromptu visit. Tsuna dares to think that he's actually gotten through to them.

Doubtful admittedly. In actuality they're probably planning one hell of a counterattack. Possibly involving kidnapping him and dragging him through the inheritance ceremony by force. As such he's scored Europe off his travel map entirely. Maybe in a few years, or after he gets confirmation that there's a Vongola Decimo in place. Reborn drilled several European languages into him over the years – it would be nice to actually use them.

For the longest time, he'd considered America. Such a big country, and so many different places to see. But, America had the mob, and expecting Reborn not to tip off every single boss in the 50 states if he heard so much of an inkling of Tsuna landing in the home of the free was enough to make him think twice.

Finally, he picked Australia, a land completely unlike his own, and yet full of terrifying creatures that could kill him in ridiculously stupid ways – it almost sounded like home. Gokudera had taken the idea with his usual amount of Tsuna-worship, and arrived the next day with no less than 3 linguistic texts and speaking with an accent that Tsuna – even after four years of Reborn tutelage – refused to believe was English.

Regardless, visa applications were sent, and Tsuna booked flights for a week after graduation. Yamamoto had already offered to host a leaving party at Takesushi. Everything was finally coming together.

So naturally, that was when it all fell apart.

That evening, Tsuna had paused in washing dishes as his intuition began ringing in his head.

Something was wrong. His intuition was going crazy, and for the first time in a long time, he honestly didn't know why.

The answer however, came from his pocket, the ringtone unrecognisable, but the voice on the other end not.

"Gokudera? Where are you?"

"I'm at Namimori Police Station Tsuna-Sama"

Tsuna's eyes widened. "Hiei? What happened? Are you okay?"

"No, I've been arrested."

It takes a frightfully long time for Tsuna to make it to the station, but the story doesn't get any better once he meets Gokudera face to face.

"They were waiting for me at my apartment" Gokudera admits, head down.

"Italy's own police contacted them. Someone connected some property damage case or some crap to a few jobs I did and Namimori got a warrant."

"I don't understand" Tsuna replied, resisting the urge to pull his hair in frustration. "Why did they figure it out now? You haven't DONE anything in months."

Gokudera shook his head, though his hands were fisted tight. "Someone had to have broken omerta" he hisses. "There are procedures to stop this kind of thing, no way it happened randomly. I just don't know who."

Tsuna wants to continue, to try and brainstorm a way out of this, but there's a detective at the door and he finds himself being pulled out of the room, leaving the silver haired teen handcuffed to the table.

His day doesn't get any better, when he heads for the glass doors only to find two more police men storming through the doors, a tall dark haired teen in front of them, hands cuffed.

"Yamamoto?" Tsuna cried.

The teen's head jerks up in shock. "Tsuna?"

The men behind him don't let him stop, and Tsuna is forced to backtrack as his friend is thrust into the bowels of the station.

"Yamamoto, what happened?" he asks, ignoring the police who are less than politely asking him to leave. "Tell me what's wrong."

But Yamamoto shakes his head and refuses to answer, leaving Tsuna's sight as he walks through the doors. Tsuna's gaze if finally drawn to the police following, and his heart freezes as he catches sight of Shigure Kintouki in their arms.

It's currently a wooden sword, but there's no mistaking the blood along its side…

It takes several hours and more than a few favours, but Tsuna finally pierces together the baseball players evening. He had been walking home when thugs had jumped him in the street. Yamamoto had reacted with his usual instincts, taking on every single one of them with ease. However, one of them ducked when Yamamoto had expected him to dive, and the teen had found the man bleeding at his feet from an injury far more serious than he'd intended.

And in full view of the patrol car that had arrived at the worst possible moment.

He hadn't killed him (thank god), but he was in critical condition, and the police weren't looking too kindly on a teen who had been walking around with a weapon, even if it was wood – especially when they realised Yamamoto had a connection to the other teen in their custody.

At least Yamamoto didn't have a record. Gokudera's case was a problem of nightmarish proportions but Tsuna was relatively certain he could help Yamamoto. He was already calling up a lawyer that had been helpful in the past…although he was having trouble getting through. Much like the last two he'd tried to call.

He was getting desperate and preparing to go to the very bottom rung on his list of legal aids when the phone started ringing. But instead of an assistant replying to his previous messages, he found himself fielding a hysterical Kyoko.

In a frightfully familiar story, Ryohei had been jumped on his way home, and had sent all of his opponents to the critical ward. The problem was that this time, the 'thugs' had apparently been the ones who called the police regarding a brute that had been threatening them for days.

A brute that just happened to match Ryohei's description.

Any innocence on the boxer's part was immediately tainted by his reaction to the others in police custody – and when Kyoko asked how on earth it could have happened, Tsuna couldn't answer.

The final piece to the puzzle came that morning. Tsuna hadn't slept, too busy trying to handle the 3-way disaster and contacts that wouldn't answer their phone, when his intuition started screaming and Chrome appeared at his door, far too pale and terrified.

He barely heard anything other than 'Mukuro,' 'Vindice' and 'running' before he goes for his phone, dialling in Reborn's number.

Forget legal aids, for this he was going to need help. Reborn level of help. He'll pay him if he has to.

"I need to make a call Chrome" he interrupts, stopping the panicked girl in her tracks. "Stay here…I'll be right back."

He barely finishes typing in the number before a car with black tinted windows is driving up beside him.

Thinking back, he'd wonder how he hadn't seen it. How he'd been so blindsided, but at the time, he walked in with the naivety that Reborn had tried and failed so many times to snuff out. His ride takes him to one of the few high class hotels in Namimori. The room is massive, but holds only three people, Reborn, the Ninth, and one of his guardians. Only the Ninth is sitting, with the other two at his sides.

Reborn won't meet his eyes.

His intuition is beyond manic now, but he ties it to the already heavy weight in his stomach and sits down in front of the mafia don.

"Please sit down Tsunayoshi" Timoteo greets, gesturing to the chair opposite him.

Tsuna obeys, and Nono's guardian moves forward, beginning to pour tea for both of them.

"You called Reborn earlier, despite all insistence that his aid would no longer be required" Timoteo continued. "I must admit to being curious as to why."

You didn't need Vongola intuition to tell the man was lying through his teeth, and Tsuna gritted his own. This wasn't Timoteo, but the Vongola Ninth.

So that's who he'd deal with.

"I find that hard to believe Vongola Ninth" he replied, choosing to go with distant formality. It clearly agitated the guardian and Reborn, which he counted as a plus. "Your men are spread throughout Namimori, you must be aware of the situation regarding my former guardians."

The ninth smiled in apparent understanding. "Ah yes, that was some terrible luck for poor Yamamoto and Ryohei. I do believe from Xanxus's rants that Squalo is furious while Lussuria has been sobbing since he heard. But the Smoking Bomb was always aware this might happen one day. It's a side effect of choosing the solo life."

"I'm aware" Tsuna admitted. "But that doesn't explain why the Vindice are now looking at returning Mukuro to custody. I thought that was settled years ago."

"It was" Timoteo agreed. "However I do believe some of the fine print on the paperwork did specify that Mukuro would be under Vongola supervision if allowed to go free."

Tsuna's hands gripped his pant legs, and bowed his head.

He hadn't wanted to do this, but for his friends, he'd grovel.

"Please…" he begged. "Gokudera, Yamamoto, Nii-san and Mukuro have all done Vongola great service over the last few years. You've invested a great deal into them and received plenty back. All I ask is that you replay that loyalty."

He could feel the Ninth's eyes staring at his bowed head, but not Reborn's. That was getting worrying. The hitman was many things – he honestly hadn't thought having a conscience was one of them…

"I'm afraid we can't Tsunayoshi" the Ninth replied, and Tsuna's head' snapped up.


"They are not family Tsunayoshi" Timoteo reminded him. "It would not be in the Vongola's best interests to intervene here."

"That's bullshit!" Tsuna screamed, well aware that his hands were burning and refusing to care. "Those men came after Yamamoto and Nii-san because of Vongola! We sorted things out with the Vindice so they shouldn't be coming after Mukuro! And Gokudera has been here years without anyone bothering him! Why would he be arrested now?"

Timoteo casually lifted his cup and sipped. "We only announced to the underworld, rather privately I might add, that the current heir and his guardians were no longer to be considered under Vongola protection. I assume that a few less savoury individuals with scores to settle with the Smoking Bomb decided to drop a few hints with the Italian police about where they might find him."

The sheer apathy in his voice cut through Tsuna's rage with an icy force, the dying will flame flickering out as all the pieces of the puzzle dropped into place.

He hadn't seen it – hadn't wanted to see it. But Nono, kind, sweet and charming Nono had blinded his intuition. Allowed him to forget that this grandfatherly figure was a mafia boss.

And you didn't get to be an elderly mafia boss by accepting no…

"You did this" Tsuna whispered, "you set it all up."

Timoteo just stared back at him, and when he glanced to the side, Reborn's fedora was pulled down, refusing to meet his eyes.

In a heartbeat, all the fight drained from his body, and his knees buckled, collapsing into the chair behind him.

"So, Yamamoto and Nii-san looking at jail time, probation and black marks on their records at the very least, and no hope of University acceptance. Mukuro back in Vendicare, and Gokudera facing extradition to Italy and probably death before he ever hits a court room" Tsuna surmised. "Let me guess, if that's not enough, you'll take Lambo away from Kaa-san and put a bullet in Hibari's head right?"

Timoteo shook his head. "Hibari Kyouya's goals have changed little regardless of your decision, and the Bovino will react if they feel Lambo is unhappy. Besides, if you are a man who is willing to sacrifice four of your Guardians, including your right hand man, you are not the man I want to succeed me."

From behind his chair, Nono's Guardians stepped forward, placing a familiar wooden box on the table, and Nono dropped the teacup down beside it.

"You have made your stand Tsunayoshi" Timoteo began, lacing his fingers. "And you have refused to listen to those around you. So now I make mine. You can walk out the door, and know that no one from the Vongola will ever darken your door again. You can travel Australia, work where you wish, marry who you want and remain one of the countless masses. But in exchange, Vongola will ignore those allied with you – their fates will remain as they are. Or-"

He lifted the lid of the box, revealing the seven rings of the sky.

"You can accept the title of Vongola Neo-Primo and use your influence to save them."

It had been a long time since Tsuna had truly hated anyone.

But at that moment, as he reached forward and picked the ring from the box, he hated everyone in the room.

Including himself.

Say what you want about his Guardian's varying intelligence, it didn't take them long to figure out how charges were so quickly dropped. In the evening, the three released from the station knocked on the door of the Sawada household, and immediately set their eyes on Tsuna's right hand.

Gokudera's shoulders sagged, while Yamamoto's eyes took on that sharp tint that promised retribution. Neither was a surprise.

It was Ryohei, who without any of proclamations of 'Extreme sacrifice' stormed forward and clamped Tsuna in a tight hug that caught him off guard. He couldn't help but return it, and smiled despite himself when he felt Gokudera and Yamamoto bicker for a brief moment before joining in.

The next morning, Reborn was back. Tsuna found him sipping coffee at the table, Nana and the younger wards suspiciously missing.

"I asked the cow to distract Maman for a few minutes" he explained. "I felt this was best said without distractions."

The ring was a heavy weight on his finger, and the flames oh so close to the surface, but he forced it down and took a seat, déjà vu echoing in his mind.

Reborn set the cup down, and bowed his head.

"I'm sorry."

In any other circumstance, Tsuna might have shrieked in shock at the revolutionary works coming from his tutor's mouth. This time however, only made it harder to hold himself back.

"You're sorry?" he hissed, nails digging grooves into his palm. "I trusted you Reborn. Even when your very existence made me scared to get out of bed in the morning I trusted you. You once thanked me for giving you another chance at life, and you think sorry is enough?"

"No" came the expected reply. "But it's all I can offer.

This was my fault. I was your tutor. I am the best, but in my arrogance I forgot an obvious but essential fact. This last month would never have happened if I had done my job properly."

The loathing in his voice was usually reserved for Lambo or Skull, or whatever minion or assassin had tried to take on the Vongola Tenth and his guardians without doing basic surveillance first. It was almost eerie to hear him use it against himself.

"I had trained several students, though only two in how to be a mafia boss. You were so much like Dino once was I ended up being lazy, and treating you just like him. I forgot that Dino was always mafia.

For all of Dino's cries and rejection, he knew, deep down, that his future would always be the mafia. He just hoped he'd get away with being an underboss or some long distance advisor" Reborn continued. "He already knew he was mafia. I just had to teach him to be a boss."

The hitman finally, finally looked Tsuna in the eye. "I saw you and thought 'Vongola,' instead of civilian. I never thought to teach you to be mafia. Never mind dying will, that should have been your first lesson, when you were weak and malleable. Instead I let you believe you actually had a choice and you acted accordingly."

"Forcing you to break me down for remedial lessons" Tsuna finished, wanting to look away but refusing to submit. "I never would have accepted it."

"You would have" Reborn said, self-assured as always. "Believe me, fourteen year old Tsunayoshi would have broken very quickly, and have been far easier to build back up."

"If I had, I wouldn't have done half the things I've done" Tsuna argued back. "I think you know that too."

Reborn never answered, instead standing and walking to the door.

"If it's any consolation, none of your Guardians were ever at any real risk" he says. "Bermuda owes you – he wouldn't have put any real effort into hunting down Mukuro, Squalo was preparing papers to enlist Yamamoto into the Varia, and Colonello would have come for Ryohei if you'd actually said no. Like you said, Vongola have invested far too much in them just to cut them loose now."

Tsuna looked up. "…And Gokudera?"

"Did you really think Bianchi and Shamal would have left him to rot?"

He strode out the door, one last remark flying from his lips.

"Your lessons will resume tomorrow afternoon. I suggest to be ready."

And as Nana and the younger residents returned, he slipped out the door and vanished from the street.

So rings were back on fingers, acceptances to Italian Universities were received, and mafia tuition resumed. Flights were refunded and brochures and maps thrown in the recycling bin. To Tsuna, the past two months almost felt like a dream – one that he could look upon fondly as a what might have been. Lambo and the other kids were still a little young to really understand what had happened – Lambo seemed happy enough to get the ring back, and seemed to operate under the assumption that Tsuna had just changed his mind. Tsuna found it easier just to let him believe it.

But not everything could be forgotten. His other Guardians understood that more than anything, and he couldn't help but notice the dark look in Yamamoto and Ryohei's eyes when members of Vongola dropped in.

Gokudera was civil, but nobody failed to notice that the once hyper enthusiastic right hand now referred to his boss as Tsuna-sama in formal situations – there was no Judaime, or even Decimo in his words. It was a simple thing, but Tsuna appreciated it regardless.

However, the most important outcome from the whole incident came from the wild card of his Guardians.

Mukuro had appeared a few days after Reborn's apology – one moment Tsuna had been speaking with Chrome (who had been able to understand Tsuna's reaction to be browbeaten into a role he had no desire to play on a level the other's never could), the next he found himself pulled down a dark alley and staring up at his second Mist Guardian (and his usual lack of respect for personal boundaries).

For once though, Mukuro wasn't laughing, and his eyes showed far more respect and sympathy than Tsuna thought he was capable of giving anyone other than Chrome.

"I see you were given a taste of the true Vongola at long last."

Tsuna sighed. "You were right" he admitted. "I don't even know why I thought I'd actually get away with it. If there was ever a time I could have succeeded, it withered and died a long time ago."

"If it's any consolation you have my respect" Mukuro admitted, surprising him a little. "The fact that you forced them to such extremes is more than a little impressive. They expected you to break a lot easier."

"I never broke" Tsuna replied. "I am a long way from broken."

Mukuro smiled. "Oh?"

"I'll tell you what I told Hibari" Tsuna said, forcing down the wince as he remembered that fun conversation. His Cloud's reaction to his choice had been…carnivorous at best. It had taken several hours, a pretty spectacular fight on both ends, and talking him down by asking what Hibari would have done if it had been Tetsuya. And even then, Tsuna had a feeling it would take at least five more sessions before Hibari actually got it.

"They can force me to take the ring" he explained. "They can force me to the take the title. But they can't force me to be a mafia boss. Even Reborn knows it's too late for that. When I take the Vongola mantle, Vongola will cease to be a mafia family. I'll take it back to its roots, one way or another."

Mukuro cocked his head and smiled. "Kufufufu…that's an impressive statement. What if you can't?"

Tsuna smiled. "Then I'll destroy Vongola. I'll even let you help – though I should warn you, from the expressions Yamamoto and Nii-san have been making at some of the Ninth's men, you might need to get in line."

Mukuro's usual chuckle became an outright laugh.

"Oh my Tsunayoshi, sometimes I'm truly grateful I never managed to possess your body. No one else could give me this much entertainment."

Tsuna's smile faded at his words, and he remembered something from years ago.

This was a suicidal thought – but given recent events, one he wanted in place.

"Speaking of possession, I have a favour to ask."

Mukuro ceased chuckling, and his eyes narrowed in suspicion.

"You remember travelling ten years into the future. My future self's plan?"

"I doubt there's anyone in our circle who does not" Mukuro replied.

Tsuna nodded. "That Tsunayoshi. The other's future selves could paint him up as a nice guy all they want, but he was mafia boss. He was willing to let his friends believe he was dead, he set up the girls and the kids as incentive, and he risked the lives of teenagers instead of himself. He never freed you, Chrome never got organs…he made decisions I can't understand. And I never want to become someone who can."

He braced himself and stared Mukuro in the eyes. "If I ever fail that. If I become a…mafia boss, you have my permission to possess my body."

Mukuro couldn't have looked more shocked if he'd been actively trying. "Are you serious?"

"I'll even write a contract if you want to avoid trouble with the Vindice" Tsuna replies. "One way or another, the Vongola's mafia days end with this generation. And if I can't do it I'll just have to trust you can."

"That's a lot of faith to have in me" Mukuro warns, eyes narrow. "What makes you think I can be trusted?"

Tsuna shrugged. "You're not the same person you were four years ago Mukuro" he replies. "You want to destroy the mafia, but you won't destroy the world. There's too many people in it that you care about now. And you're the only one I know will stop me if I can't stop myself."

'Well, with the exception of Hibari' he thinks to himself. 'But Hibari can't actually beat me in a fight. Mukuro will play dirty.'

Mukuro honestly doesn't seem to know how to take Tsuna's admission. It's the most out of water Tsuna's ever seen the teen.

"I will have to think about this" Mukuro admits, drawing back. "You understand it's not a proposal I can just accept."

Tsuna nods. "Just tell Chrome your answer, and I'll write up the papers."

There's something in Mukuro's eyes he can't quite place, but before he can analyse it, the teen is gone, and Chrome is staring at Tsuna in complete astonishment.


"Don't worry about it Chrome" Tsuna comforts. "I have no intention of giving Mukuro my body."

She frowns, not understanding at all. "But you said-"

"I said if I became a mafia boss" he replies. "And I'm willing to believe my will is stronger than the Vongola's. Mukuro is…insurance. A reminder for when I'm struggling under the weight."

Comprehension dawns, and Chrome nods.

Tsuna will never be a mafia boss. If this ever stops being true…

The mafia will burn with him.