Chapter Seventeen - And the Pieces Fall into Place

There was a commotion at the other end of the park, shouting voices and thumping feet. Tsuna had been ignoring it, hoping it wouldn't be closer, hoping that maybe it was just parents and an unruly child shouting.

Then it started to get closer.

He'd been sat on the bench for nearly half an hour, reading the five minute updates Gokudera seemed determined to give him to make sure he knew that Gokudera was definitely on his way.

A boy turned the corner at the far end of the park, carrying a frankly ridiculously sized book.

Too old to be being chased by his parents, Tsuna surmised, but who knew what kids got up to these days.

Two men in black rounded the corner after him and Tsuna's heart dropped to a pit in his stomach. His fingers felt cold. Whereas before he had heard the distant rustling of leaves from the trees, the sound of traffic behind him along the road hidden by hedges, it was like he was focused on one point, everything narrowing down to the small boy being chased by two men.

For all that they could be businessmen, Tsuna had a gut feeling that they weren't - and more often than not, his gut feeling was right nowadays. Just two days ago he'd pulled Yamamoto out of the road as a car had come hurtling around the corner - neither of them had known the car was there until they'd seen it blast past where Yamamoto had been just a scant few seconds earlier.

Reborn had been awfully cryptic about Tsuna's new found sense, while at the same time being an unnecessary amount of smug.

The shouting reached him long before they'd crossed even half the distance towards him.


"You brat, get back here!"

It was amazing they had breath to make such noise. Tsuna was on his feet before he realised it, quickly crossing the space between them. The boy spotted him, must have decided he was salvation, and course corrected until he was beelining directly for Tsuna.

Tsuna swept his arm out automatically as the boy, heaving for air, ducked behind him and crouched down, desperate to make himself a smaller target, back bowing protectively over the book.

"What, what do you think you're doing?" Tsuna demanded, voice faltering briefly before he firmed his stance and stood his ground.

"This isn't any of your business," the first one, dubbed Goon A in Tsuna's mind, snarled out. His hand reached out as if to grapple Tsuna away. Tsuna twisted deftly away from it.

"It's my business when you're chasing someone who doesn't want to get caught," Tsuna said mildly, even as his heart thumped so hard in his chest he thought he might be sick. "Maybe you should go before I think to call the police."

His phone was still in the hand not curved to the side to cover the boy.

The man he would have dubbed Goon B had he known them any longer simply lifted a gun from his waistband and shot him between the eyes.

Tsuna woke up in a bush. This was new. Normally, he'd wake up where he fell.

"Are you awake?" a small voice asked.

Tsuna's head turned. He made eye contact with the boy he'd rescued. He was still wrapped around his book.

If he was ten years old, Tsuna would, well. He didn't know what he'd do. It was unnecessarily cruel, this whatever it was that allowed kids to see such a nasty thing as death.

"You saw that, huh?" he croaked, trying to sit up. It took a few tries, but he eventually had his trembling arms holding up his weight.

"I rolled you into the bushes when they left," the boy confirmed with a solemn nod. "I'm Fuuta. You're Tsunayoshi Sawada, the Vongola Decimo."

Tsuna closed his eyes.

"How old are you?" he asked, feeling incredibly tired.

"Nine." When Tsuna opened his eyes, Fuuta's mouth was turned down in an unreadable expression.

"I'm sorry," Tsuna had the urge to reach out and ruffle Fuuta's hair. He did.

"It's okay," Fuuta said, curling tighter around his book. At Tsuna's touch, his lips quirked into an attempt at a smile. "It's not the first time I've seen someone die. It's the first time I've seen someone survive a gunshot to the head though."

Nine. Tsuna wasn't too violent, normally. He wanted to strangle someone, anyone. Lambo, at five. Now Fuuta, at nine. Someone was making bad choices in letting children see bloodshed and whoever was at fault he wanted to punch them hard enough they regretted being born.

"I'm sorry," Tsuna said again, letting his fingers ease off from where he'd clenched them so hard his knuckles ached.

"It's not your fault. And you saved me," Fuuta added. The knowledge that Tsuna had laid his literal life for Fuuta's made a hard line in Fuuta's shoulders relax.

"I didn't expect them to have guns," Tsuna grumbled. "But it doesn't change my decision regardless."

"I know that. I'm glad I found you." Fuuta's face took on a determined set. "I want to be part of your Famiglia."

"Absolutely not," Tsuna balked. "It's dangerous."

Fuuta gave him a flat stare.

"Those men with guns were after me," he said, his voice just as flat. "And they will not stop."

"What makes you think I'd be the better choice?"

Fuuta drummed his fingers on his book.

"Your ranks. Most compassionate, least likely to abandon a Family Member, most likely to protect others. Most likely to die while saving others. I see now that isn't a mistake."

"My ranks," Tsuna echoed, digesting the rest of the information. "And where do you discover this from?"

Fuuta thumped the book with the palm of his hand this time. "It's all in here. I get it from the Ranking Planet. It's why those men were after me. The information in this book could change the mafia world."

"Then why don't you change it?" Tsuna's attempt at understanding anything the mafia could throw at him apparently had no limit. If Fuuta said there was a planet based on ranks Tsuna would give him the benefit of the doubt. For goodness' sake, he couldn't die. He wasn't about to debunk anyone.

"I have no clout," Fuuta said simply and Tsuna squinted at him, wondering if he truly knew the meaning of the word 'clout'.

"And you think I do?"

The flat stare came back.

"I do, Decimo."

Tsuna had walked straight into that one.

"Do you have anywhere to stay?" Tsuna finally asked into the silence that followed Fuuta's words. The pinched look came back. It looked unnatural on a young face.

Tsuna sighed and stood up, scrubbing at his face. His hands slicked over his forehead, spreading blood everywhere and it made him want to curse or cry or shout.

"We don't have a spare room at the moment," Tsuna said, "so if you don't mind weirdos, you can bunk with - " he bit his tongue, not sure he should mention Mukuro.

"I know about your guests," Fuuta replied mildly, "but I don't mind weirdos. I'd like to, I mean, that is," he looked frustrated as he stumbled over his words. "Please let me stay."

"I wasn't going to say no immediately after offering," Tsuna smiled wryly. "My mother is absolutely delighted that the house is lively again."

Fuuta hugged him, suddenly. The corner of the book jabbed into Tsuna's ribs painfully, Fuuta refusing to let it go even as he grabbed onto Tsuna. There was a faint tremble to his body, fingers grasping tightly at Tsuna's jacket.

As mean as it was, Tsuna hoped Fuuta wasn't crying. He didn't know how to help crying children considering most of the time he felt like a crying child.

"Thank you," Fuuta mumbled into his chest, voice thick.

"I'm not so cruel to let you walk out there on your own after what you've told me," Tsuna pet the back of Fuuta's head. Fuuta sniffled. Tsuna pretended he didn't hear, letting Fuuta keep his modesty.

"And what did you say to me about bringing strays home?" Mukuro tutted at Tsuna, peering down at Fuuta. "Though, this one here is, hmm, interesting for sure."

"Mukuro, please kindly keep your opinions to yourself until I can wash the blood out of my hair," Tsuna pressed his palm into Mukuro's face. Mukuro let himself be pushed away, but he followed Tsuna closely, on his heels.

"You had a fun time?" he questioned, casually. Tsuna wondered if it was his way of showing concern, could feel Mukuro burning holes through the back of his head for how intently he was staring despite his interest in Fuuta not thirty seconds before.

"Mama," Tsuna called through the house, ignoring Mukuro. "Can I have a friend stay for a bit?"

Nana answered in the affirmative. Tsuna sometimes wondered how many friends he could have stay over until it became ridiculous; what would be the point his mother said no?

"I wonder when she'll say no," Mukuro mused, voicing Tsuna's thoughts. "I see you have it all coming together, however. Ranking Fuuta, what an interesting one. You found him before I could lead you to him."

"Mukuro, cryptic bullshit counts as an opinion. To yourself, please." Tsuna herded Fuuta ahead of him, guessing correctly that Mukuro would continue stalking him through the house and up the stairs. "Fuuta, this is where you'll be staying."

Chrome was perched on one of the beds of the room Tsuna had led them to. She smiled beatifically at Tsuna and Fuuta as they entered.

"It's good to see you home, boss," she said softly.

"This is Fuuta. Fuuta, this is Chrome. The bathroom is just that way; busy in the mornings so if you have nowhere to go I'd suggest washing up at night."

Fuuta peered around the room with wide eyes, mouth opening to answer.

Downstairs, the front door slammed open. In the distance, Tsuna heard Gokudera bellow his name, concern making him a pitch higher than normal.

"I'll see to that," Tsuna said wryly and left, Mukuro still on his heels.

Chrome turned her smile to Fuuta.

"It's nice to meet you," she offered quietly, patting the bed next to her.

Fuuta took the offer, sitting next to her, and for the first time felt like he was at home.

Aha, what's this, another update? Surprise! I'm like that one bit from Mulan, Mushu, rising from the smoke: I LIIIIIIIIVE