Wow, this chapter had its setbacks. Should have been up in May but kept stalling during certain scenes. Although it's doing so much better than DK&T right now. Hope you enjoy.
Luce, rather frustratingly, didn't seem to understand how urgent it was that Mukuro and his flunkies return to Italy.
"With all due respect Natsu, I can't keep them locked up" the former Arcobaleno explained over the phone. "Mukuro has been hell bent on locating you, and runs away from any family I try to place him with. Frankly I'm astonished it took him this long. The boy is rather driven."
Natsu shuddered, visions of an older homochromatic Mukuro flashing through his mind. "I'm aware. But I'm barely managing to raise Tsuna, I can't be responsible for three more children. Especially one's that need the kind of care they do."
"You underestimate yourself" Luce insisted. "You keep assuming that these children are the people you once knew, but their paths have been forever altered thanks to your influence. Don't get me wrong, Mukuro is…admittedly an odd child, while Ken has anger management issues and Chikusa needs more social interaction, but they are still innocent children."
Frankly Natsu didn't think he was capable of registering 'Mukuro' and 'innocent' in the same sentence, no matter what his upbringing.
"They want to thank the person that rescued them" Luce continued. "You are responsible for their freedom – now you need to take responsibility for that. You told me to place them somewhere they'd be happy and safe, and I think that's been achieved."
"Tsunayoshi" Luce interrupted. "You'll do fine. I promise."
And Natsu found himself spluttering into the dial tone as Luce hung up.
Meanwhile, the three visitors were making themselves comfortable under the kotatsu and staring at Tsuna in curiosity.
"It's a little Natsu!"
"A Natsu hedgehog maybe."
Ken was tugging at some of Tsuna's spikes, while the boy sat frozen in equal parts shock in curiosity. His face lit up when Natsu returned, desperate for some normalcy. For his part, Ken looked up as Natsu sat down, and shuffled back, now slightly behind Mukuro.
Natsu couldn't help but take in the young versions of the trio. Ken was lacking his scars, while Chikusa had no barcode and was missing his glasses (did he need them yet?), but was still wearing a woolly cap that covered any trace of his hair. Mukuro was maybe a centimetre or two taller, but it was still the same boy he'd spoken with all those months ago smiling at him with smug arrogance.
"Luce explained things?"
Natsu starts to glare, but hesitates when he spots the clenched fists and nervous expressions on Ken and Chikusa's faces. For all of Mukuro's posturing, he genuinely doesn't know if Natsu is going to let him get away with it – this is not the Mist he remembers, but the untrained prototype.
"…You can stay until after New Years" he capitulates, shoulders dropping. "But after that you're heading back to wherever Luce recommends. I'm in no position to take care of the three of you."
Chikusa looks down, but Ken is grinning and shuffling back towards to Tsuna.
"Looks like we'll be getting to know each other midget" he chuckles, choosing to tug at Tsuna's hair again. Tsuna is trying to back up, glancing at Natsu in a silent plea for help. Natsu sighs.
"Tsuna, this is Ken Joshima, Kakimoto Chikusa and Rokudo Mukuro. They-"
How the hell does he explain how he knows them to a three year old?
Before he can figure that out, Mukuro quickly slips in.
"We're orphans" he explains completely unapologetically. "Your father saved us from a very bad home, so we'd like to stay with him as he's a very nice person."
Ken and Chikusa are staring at him in minor confusion, but Tsuna's eyes are wide.
Tsuna's face falls, and then looks at his paper and colouring pencils, before pushing them towards Mukuro.
"Do you want to colour Rokudo-san?"
"Oh just call me Mukuro, Tsuna-chan."
All three Estrano children are grinning now, and Natsu feels his head thud against the table at the look of triumph on Mukuro's face.
When Natsu arrived at Takesushi that afternoon, Akiko took one look at the three additional children tagging along and gave him a sly grin.
"Natsu-Chan, is there something you want to tell me?"
The man sighs in resignation, but before he can explain, Tsuna chooses to pipe up.
"This is Mukuro, Chikusa and Ken" he announces proudly. "And they're going to stay with us."
"Temporarily" Natsu immediately adds, watching the three grin and give sloppy bows in greeting.
Tsuyoshi chooses that moment to walk in with Takeshi, and stands still at the sight of three children, all of whom clearly weren't of full Japanese descent or related to the Sawada's. He starts glaring at Natsu, who shrinks under the scrutiny.
Takeshi, on the other hand, quickly spots Tsuna and the new kids, and lunges over with a quick 'Hi-my-name-is-Yamamoto-what's-yours-and-do-you-play-baseball?'
Akiko, bless her ass-kicking soul, is quick to intercede, smoothly slipping between the line of sight and coaxing the four children upstairs.
"You can play baseball later Takeshi. For now, why don't you do something slightly quieter. Maybe show them the origami you learned to make?"
Once the boys have vanished upstairs with varying degrees of resistance (Mukuro's head is spotted watching Natsu through the stairwell more than once before he's chased out of sight), Natsu then finds himself inside the living area of the building while Akiko prepares tea.
"So, what's the story Natsu-Chan?" she asks good naturedly, and Natsu slumps into a nearby seat with a moan.
"I'm not even sure of that myself" Natsu mutters. "Those three, they're wards of a friend. She's been trying to find them a foster home but they've fixated on me for some reason. I don't even know how they got here!"
He's not surprised by it, but admitting that would be admitting far more than he wants to a civilian. Especially with Tsuyoshi still glaring in the background.
"Well I think they're adorable" Akiko announces, grinning at his frustration. "Tsuna seems to have gotten quite attached – have they been here long?"
"No, they arrived this morning" Natsu admits. "But Mukuro is a charmer, Tsuna didn't stand a chance."
"Will you be keeping them?" Tsuyoshi asks abruptly, and Natsu glances over. He's pretending not to pay attention, focusing on his tea, but Natsu knows the tells.
"No" Natsu replies. "They're going back to Italy in the next few days, and then my friend will find them a permanent home."
"With acceptable families, I presume."
He stiffens momentarily, before giving a shaky smile.
"Probably not the kind you're thinking" he replies. "I can't speak for the other two, but Mukuro has proven difficult to place with most families."
Tsuyoshi's eyebrows raise at that, somewhat surprised at the admission. Akiko, oblivious to the hidden conversation, just smiles at Natsu.
"In that case, maybe you should keep them" she says. "At least temporarily. I'm sure being orphaned at that age must be traumatising. If they've gotten attached to you so quickly, I'm sure you could offer a safe and stable home."
Natsu doesn't manage to stop the bark of laughter before it leaves his mouth.
"Akiko, although I'm flattered at the faith you have in me, raising Tsuna is a full-time job. I don't want to consider having to handle him squared."
"But it gives you a big family!" Akiko insists, and Tsuyoshi smirks.
"Wife dear, not everyone wants an entire baseball team."
"Oh hush hubby-mine. Just wait till Takeshi starts school and you don't have him underfoot all the time. You'll be begging me for baby number two."
"You want more kids?" Natsu asked, staring in shock as Akiko sighs dreamily.
"I love kids. Takeshi's gonna have at least two siblings."
"One" Tsuyoshi warns.
"Three!" Akiko snaps, and Natsu watches in amusement and sadness.
In one reality, that dream had never happened. Akiko had left this world leaving only Takeshi. Would he be able to see his former rain be an older sibling this time around.
His mind flashes to the three upstairs, and considers breaching the topic of adoption to his female friend-
Then sees Tsuyoshi making the same connections and all but pins him to his seat with killing intent. Natsu was not dumping this problem on them.
"It's not that simple Akiko" Natsu begins, bringing the conversation back to subject. "Even if we ignore the fact that I have no legal documentation to help take care of them, I only have so much money coming in each month, and suddenly adding three more mouths and school fees to my budget will be pushing it. Plus, I barely know what I'm doing with Tsuna. Outnumbering me doesn't seem like a smart plan."
"Oh, nobody knows what they're doing the first time" Akiko says, waving the concern away. "But I guess I can see the problem financially. You can't even claim child allowance without documentation – can't your friend forward you the documents?"
"She could, I guess" Natsu admits. "But there's also the fact that they were born in Italy, and there are plenty of normal, well-adjust people who could take them in if they'd just given them a try. I'm going to get them to head back home in a few days."
"Natsu, don't take this the wrong way, but someone who flies halfway across the world to stay with someone doesn't strike me as the type of person who will leave easily. You must have made quite the impression on them."
"How did you meet them?" Tsuyoshi pipes up for the first time. "They're wards of a friend, but what did you do to make them fixate so strongly?"
Akiko actually glances at her husband in surprise. Natsu can't really blame her – this is the first time that Tsuyoshi has chosen to speak up during one of their conversations. He normally just scowls and fetches more drink – this is practically jovial.
"To be honest, I only ever met Mukuro" Natsu admits. "I…well it's hard to explain, but they were in a bad living situation, and I was the one who organised getting them out. Mukuro tracked me down when he heard and said he wanted to go with me rather than one of Luce's foster families, but I tried to talk him out of it. This was something I didn't expect."
Akiko frowned, but before she could answer, they heard yelling from upstairs, followed by Takeshi yelling downstairs.
"Mom! Dad! You have to see this!"
The three adults glance at each other in confusion, before standing up as one and heading up the stairs. There's commotion coming from Takeshi's room, and Tsuyoshi opens the door only to gape in shock. Seconds later, both Akiko and Natsu mimic him.
The boys had clearly been making origami shapes, which varying degrees of success. But there's currently an entire flock of paper cranes flying through the air, Ken jumping on the bed to try and catch them, while Tsuna and Takeshi cheer.
And if you know what to look for, Mukuro is glowing faintly purple.
"Look! Mukuro made the origami fly!" Takeshi yells, jumping up and pointing to the fluttering paper. "Isn't is awesome?"
He hadn't expected this either.
"You brought an illusionist into my house?"
"I swear, I had no idea he could do that" Natsu insists. It wasn't even a lie – Estrano hadn't started experimenting on Mukuro yet, and he was only five. How was he to know Mukuro had started using his mist flames? Luce hadn't said a thing!
Lambo and I-Pin flash through his mind and he winces internally. One of these days he's going to stop underestimating people just because they're children.
Tsuyoshi isn't happy with that explanation. While Akiko had been complimenting Mukuro on such a clever 'trick', Tsuyoshi had dragged Natsu into the corridor, and started looming.
"I warned you" he growls. "If you threatened Akiko and Takeshi in any way…"
"I haven't threatened her!" Natsu finally snaps, because he's really starting to get agitated at Tsuyoshi's utter refusal to accept him at his word. "Mukuro did something he shouldn't have in a civilian house, yes, but it was utterly harmless."
"Real illusionists are only found in the underground. Akiko and Takeshi don't know about -"
"And she still doesn't" Natsu insists. "Any more than Tsuna does. As far as they're concerned, Mukuro just performed a fancy magic trick. They don't know how he did it, but they don't see it as anything more than that, a trick. It's not like illusionists openly broadcast their career preferences!"
Tsuyoshi is still glaring, but Natsu sees his shoulders relax.
"Fine. But I don't want him or his minions hanging around Takeshi" he replies, drawing back. "If Takeshi figures out it's not a trick, he's going to want to know more. You'll have enough trouble keeping him out of the mafia if he keeps it up. Assuming you're right about him wanting to stay out of it."
Natsu gives a helpless shrug. "It's not going to be my problem for very long, but I know Luce can place him with someone who can handle it."
Tsuyoshi blinks, and then, to Natsu's astonishment, gives an almost mischievous smile.
"Wow, you really don't see it, do you?"
The man just sighs.
"Just get them out of my house. And tell pineapple-head to keep his act to himself."
Much to Tsuyoshi's frustration, Akiko has no intention of letting her guests leave early, and he has to endure the presence of Natsu's hoard for several more hours. Mukuro, ever the people reader, can tell Tsuyoshi is not happy playing nice, and is acting like butter wouldn't melt in his mouth. Akiko keeps giving him extra food for it, which he usually slips to Ken or Chikusa, who are also aware of the tension and keeping quiet.
At least, they are about Mukuro. Ken likes to complain quite vocally about his chopsticks. None of the three are particularly talented at using them, but Mukuro and Chikusa are doing much better with training chopsticks that he is – the blond eventually takes to stabbing his food with one chopstick, using his hands, and digging out miso soup spoons to get by. It would be annoying if Ken wasn't five and clearly using the anger to hide his embarrassment.
Tsuna, oblivious to it all, is happily chatting with Takeshi in his own comfortable bubble, while Natsu sits on a hair trigger just waiting for Mukuro to show off again. In the end, only Tsuna, Takeshi and Akiko consider the afternoon a successful event, and Natsu doesn't think he's ever been so relieved to leave a place.
The Yamamoto's definitely know how to feed someone, because none of the kids even ask for a snack. Instead they all crawl into the living room. Come sunset, all four boys are dead to the world, half under the kotatsu and draped over pillows. Ken is drooling slightly and Tsuna is using Chikusa as a pillow but they all look so comfortable Natsu doesn't have the heart to wake them. He drags Tsuna's blanket downstairs and drapes it over as much of the four as he can. Mukuro is on the edges, but most of him is under the kotatsu and in no immediate danger of chilling anytime soon, so Natsu leaves them slumbering as he heads for bed himself.
It's the middle of the night, but Natsu finds his eyes snapping awake as he registers a new presence. He's half out of bed before he recognises the small shape lying on top of the blanket, and drops down in exhaustion.
"Mukuro, what are you doing" he sighs.
The boy just cocks his head and frowns.
"I don't understand you."
Natsu summons the energy to drop his hands over his eyes.
"This couldn't wait till morning?"
"I didn't mean to wake you. I'm sorry."
It actually sounds sincere. Enough that Natsu pulls his hands back to stare at the boy. He's not looking at Natsu anymore, choosing to draw patterns on the blanket.
"I didn't mean to mess up this afternoon" he continues. "I forgot normal civilians don't know about flames."
"Mukuro, it's okay" he insists. "Everyone just thought it was a magic trick. It all worked out."
The boy doesn't answer, and Natsu decides to push on.
"But, it does prove my point. You shouldn't be here. You should be in Italy, with someone who knows what you can-"
"I don't want to be mafia."
Natsu pauses at the interruption.
"Well, I didn't think you wanted to anyway, but-"
Mukuro is shaking his head.
"No, I don't want to be mafia. But I don't want someone else to decide what I'm going to be either. You understand that. Better than Luce or any of her stupid families"
The hands pause mid-spiral.
"We won't get in the way. We won't get into trouble. You'll barely notice us if you don't want us to. I promise."
"Mukuro, you can't promise that" Natsu insists. "You're just children, getting into trouble and 'in the way' is what you're meant to do. That's not right."
The boy's hands clench, and he looks up, biting his lip slightly.
"Are you just going to pretend you don't have mist flames?" Natsu pursues. "You can't do that. I wouldn't want you to do that."
His head lowers even more, and Natsu barely hears the boys next words.
"We'll be good. Just…please let us stay…"
Natsu looks away, but Mukuro can probably sense his will shaking, and drops back on the blanket, stealing a pillow and choosing to feign sleep even as Natsu tries to shake him awake. It's wrong to surrender, but it's what he does. Best to handle it come daylight.
In the morning, Natsu wakes to find Mukuro has been joined by the three other children in the home, all splayed out across his bed and pinning him down. But for all their ridiculous contortions, they've all managed to cling to a limb of at least one other child, creating an awkward sleeping chain, ending in Mukuro still clinging to Natsu's shirt.
There is no doubt at all in Natsu's mind that Mukuro orchestrated the whole thing the second he fell asleep. Still…
…How the hell is Natsu supposed to say no to that?
It's a question that he's still mulling over come the afternoon. He'd managed to ease Mukuro's grip and slip out of the bed and make his way downstairs to start breakfast.
The rice had barely started when he heard a sound, and turned to see Chikusa staring at him.
"Good morning?" Natsu offered. Chikusa looked away.
"Good morning" he replied, eyes darting elsewhere. A few seconds later, Natsu realised he was eying up the rice cooker, and smiled.
"The rice will take some time to cook, but I have some fruit if you're hungry?"
The boy's head jerked up, and he bit his lip before nodding.
"Yeah, I want – ah, yes please."
He winces, but perks up as Natsu drops the bowl of fruit on the bowl, pulling off a banana and handing it to the boy. Chikusa immediately sits down and starts peeling it, and when Natsu turns away, he spots the boy reaching for another two, trying to slip them into his pocket. He briefly wonders if he should call him on it, but decides to let him hoard so long as he leaves fruit for the rest of them, and digs out some eggs.
"What are you making?"
"Rice omelette" Natsu replies, looking for the rest of the ingredients. "It's not too hard, and easy to make in bulk."
It's also a great recipe for practice. Tsuna's going to get sick of it eventually, but the novelty of a cooked breakfast hasn't worn off just yet.
He pauses, and glances over at the boy. He looks away when Natsu stares, but there's genuine curiosity on his face.
"Well, it's basically an omelette – milk and eggs – over rice" Natsu explains. He hesitates for a brief moment, before smiling and gesturing beside him.
"Do you want to help?"
The boy freezes, and for a second Natsu worries that he read the situation wrong, before Chikusa loosens up and walks towards him, clearly ready to bolt at the first sign of trouble, but not quite ready to leave.
He needs to use the chair Tsuna uses to watch Natsu cook, and he's quite happy cutting up ham and other ingredients for the rice. By the time the omelette is on the stove, Chikusa has gotten over his nerves and is happily talking about food at Luce's and how he likes to add extra ketchup to everything. His face practically lights up when the food comes off the skillet, that they barely notice Mukuro and Ken watching them from the doorway.
"Good morning Natsu" Mukuro greets, though his eyes are focused on the blond beside him. "Chikusa, I hope you're not being annoying."
"Oi, what are you doing-byon" Ken mutters, still digging sleep from his eyes. "Woke up and didn't know where you were."
Chikusa looks guilty, and Natsu's having none of it.
"Don't blame him for being able to get up early" he warns. "Chikusa was helping me make your breakfast, so you should be grateful."
Ken flinches back, and Natsu momentarily wishes he'd been slightly more diplomatic, but Mukuro is quick to smooth things over.
"Of course, Natsu" he chimes, smiling at Chikusa. "Thank you, Chikusa. It's good you were able to help out."
Chikusa lights up at the words – clearly Mukuro still has the devotion of the two younger boys regardless of their altered history, and helps Natsu carry the plates to the table. Ken is seated instantly, though frowns at the chopsticks.
"Oi! Don't you have any normal cutlery-byon?" he moans. Natsu quickly darts to a drawer and digs out some plastic cutlery he'd picked up from takeout at some point. Ken scowls at the flimsiness, but digs in nonetheless.
"Tsuna! Breakfast!" Natsu yells up the stairs, but gets no answer.
"He was still sleeping when we got up" Mukuro explained. "We didn't want to wake him."
Natsu sighs. That certainly sounds like his younger self.
"If he's not up by the time I finish, can I have his?" Ken asks, pointing to the plate. His own omelette is already half finished – Tsuna's is in real jeopardy.
He figures he'll need to go upstairs and drag the boy up, but Mukuro slips past him, darting up the stairs."
"There's no need, I'll go bring him down."
A few seconds later, Natsu hears a high pitched 'HIEI!' and winces as Tsuna appears at the top of the stairs and immediately slips. He leaps up several steps and grabs the boy before he tumbles the full way down. By the time he's got Tsuna back on the ground, Mukuro is halfway down the steps, grinning like a loon. It's a look that falters when he realises Natsu is glaring at him, and gives a shaky smile.
"Would it help if I said I was sorry?"
Tsuna squeaks and just shifts around the tree trunk in the yard. Natsu had scolded Mukuro for using his 'magic tricks' on Tsuna, and the boy had promised not to use them again on him, but Tsuna was still a little afraid to get too close.
Mukuro pauses, and his hands drop back to his side.
He'd miscalculated this morning. Natsu had only warned him against using his illusions at the Yamamoto's, and didn't seem to have a problem with him using them at home. But he'd not realised just how easy civilian children scared – the Estrano children wouldn't have batted an eye at his fake monster alarm.
If Tsuna was terrified of him, Natsu would never let them stay. He needed to win the boy over again. Natsu had needed to go over some paperwork, and the children had found themselves outside. Tsuna had tried to keep his distance, but that couldn't be allowed.
"Is there anything I can do to apologise?" Mukuro asks in frustration, and Tsuna just stays hidden.
"Oh, leave him be Mukuro!" Ken finally snaps from where he's sitting on the outer deck. "He's just being a big baby."
Mukuro turns to glare at him – that is not helping at all – when Tsuna's head jerks out from its hiding place.
"I am not!"
Ken smirks. "Oh really? Then why are you hiding?"
Tsuna's cheeks redden. "So, he won't trick me again."
"You think hiding is going to help?" Ken bursts into laughter. "Mukuro can get you whenever he wants, hiding won't help at all, baby-byon."
"Ken!" Mukuro hisses in warning, only for it to trail off when Tsuna pushes away from the tree and storms up to the blond.
"I'm not a baby!"
"Then why not be grown up and accept Mukuro's apology" Chikusa pipes up, watching the two of them. Tsuna bites his lip, and shakily turns to stare at Mukuro.
"…You promise you won't do it again?" he asks.
"I promise" Mukuro replies a little too quickly, but he's relieved when Tsuna nods and doesn't go running again, although he's clearly not willing to get too close. Mukuro is pretty sure he can fix that though.
"Tell you what, if anyone ever bothers you, I'll use it to scare them so they'll leave you alone" he offers.
"And I don't have to use it to scare people" he reminds him, summoning up another piece of origami. "I can create anything I want."
The origami crane goes fluttering through the air, and although Tsuna immediately winces, the awe eventually wins out and he holds out a hand, letting the bird land on his palm.
"I guess it's kind of cool" he admits. "How did you learn to do it?"
Mukuro's eyes darken momentarily.
"Family secret" he offers.
"Could I learn?"
The origami vanishes, and Mukuro gives him an apologetic smile.
"Sorry, it's a very special skill. Even Ken and Chikusa can't do it. I doubt you could learn."
Ken growls. "Enough mumbling, can we do something? I'm so bored-byon! Don't you have any games?"
Chikusa crossed his arms in thought.
"We could play tag, or hide and seek – although we don't know the area very well so we might get more lost than planned."
"Dad doesn't like me leaving the yard without him anyway" Tsuna warns. "He's scared I might get hurt."
"How about football? Don't you have a ball or something-byon?" Ken asks.
Tsuna shrugs and points at the tree. They follow his finger to spot something pink and spherical in the higher branches.
"How did you get it all the way up there-byon?" Ken squawks, more than a little impressed at the height.
"That does seem rather high for someone like you?" Chikusa states.
"I threw it out my bedroom window" Tsuna admits, blushing slightly. The three look at the house and the window of the boy's bedroom, and nod in understanding.
"No matter" Mukuro promises, trying to focus on another illusion. "I'm sure I can get it down."
"Wait Mukuro!" Ken squawks, running forward and all but hugging the tree truck. "This is my time to shine!"
Natsu is going over bills and trying to figure out how his mother did this without going crazy, when Tsuna shuffles back into the kitchen.
"Are they really leaving soon?"
"Yes Tsuna" Natsu confirms. "I promise you can write to them if you want, but they need to go back to Italy."
"Can't they stay a little longer?"
Natsu puts away his documents and bends down to meet Tsuna's eyes.
"You've gotten attached, haven't you?" he says, more than a little sympathetically. Tsuna just shrugs.
"I wanted more friends. Mukuro is kind of a jerk but I don't think he means to be. And I like Ken and Chikusa, they're fun."
He gives a hopeful smile."
"It would be cool to have some big brothers."
Natsu doesn't even pretend to hide the groan.
"They've gotten to you huh?"
Tsuna squeaks, but looks up hopefully.
"But they're nice. And they don't have anywhere to go. And Ken got my ball back from the tree."
Natsu jerks up.
"…The ball you threw out your bedroom window and is nearly three storeys up?"
Natsu lunges to the door. Sure enough, the four-year-old is crowing at the top of the tree in the garden while Mukuro and Chikusa send witty comments from the ground, complete with some illusionary banners and balloons.
"KEN!" Natsu shrieks. "Get down from there before you break your neck!"
The blond squawks, hands waving in surprise before he regains his balance and clings back to the tree while Natsu suffers a stroke. He starts shuffling down, face red, while the kids on the ground stare at Natsu's flustered face. Mukuro is grinning.
"Wow, is that your 'Dad' voice" he chimes, face full of false innocence.
Natsu feels banging his head against the doorframe is perfectly acceptable, even if it causes Tsuna to panic.
That night, Mukuro doesn't wake him up, but all four children are sleeping on his bed again come morning.
He waits until the boys are busy eating breakfast (toast, but with the really sugary spread that both Tsuna and Mukuro adore and will eat out of the tub with a spoon if given half the chance), and he slips out to call Luce.
Even as the phone rings, he's trying to piece together exactly what he's going to say. The need for plane tickets, competent guards, the impossibility of them staying…
Luce picks up.
"I take it you've made a decision?" she says, already aware of just who is calling. Natsu's shoulders sag.
…Oh who is he kidding? He'd lost this battle the second he'd let them stay the first night.
"Just send me all the legal documents you can so I claim custody" he moans, and Luce laughs.
"Oh Natsu. I sent that ahead the first day you called me" she chimes. "I knew you wouldn't be able to resist all three of them for long."
"What? I have visions of the future, how are you surprised?"
Natsu thuds his head against the doorframe.
"You could at least pretend I had some say in it" he mutters.
"Well you can complain to me all you want when you're in Italy for the wedding" Luce tells him. "I do hope you intend to drop by at least once."
Natsu rolls his eyes.
"Luce, I'm not going to the wedding."
"Are you sure about that?"
"Have a good day Natsu."
He scowled as she hung up. Forget whatever he'd said about favourites, he'd clearly forgotten that all Arcobaleno come with a twisted sense of humour.
"You're going to let us stay-byon?"
He looks up. All three of his visitors have abandoned the kitchen to stare at him, huddled in the living room doorway. A few seconds later, Tsuna's head pokes through the gap near Chikusa, just as interested.
Natsu takes in the three. Ken's fingers are digging into the frame while he scowls, and Chikusa's eyes are refusing to meet his, fingers digging into his t-shirt. As for Mukuro…
The boy looks calm and serene, as if he'd planned the whole thing – at least, that's the look he's going for. Natsu can read the nervousness from here.
He smiles, and holds out his hands.
"It's a terrible idea, but I guess we'll be giving it a try."
"Yes!" Tsuna yells, punching the air.
The words lift a weight. Ken's fingers loosen, while Chikusa sags in relief.
Mukuro is smiling. The first genuine one he's seen on the boy since he arrived.
"You will not regret it Natsu-sama."
"It's just Natsu, Mukuro" Natsu insists, walking towards them. The four make space as he herds them all back into the kitchen. In a brief moment of inspiration, he ruffles the hair on Mukuro's head as he passes, grinning at the squawk of shock it results in.
The grin however, fades when he remembers the last conversation with the Yamamoto's.
Lord, Akiko and Tsuyoshi are never going to let him live this down…
Hopefully (HOPEFULLY) I can get onto a steadier schedule as of next month, but can't guarantee it right now.