I've finally moved! Now to spend the rest of the summer unpacking before I head back to campus, hahaha. I also just got my internet back up, so I couldn't have posted any earlier than today. I hope you all enjoy the chapter!
GreenDrkness - Ah, parents and their misguided attempts to try to help their children. Haru's dad was kind of fun to characterize, considering that we get almost nothing about her parents besides the fact that her father is a professor. But just because he's a professor doesn't mean he always knows what's best. And I can definitely hear your sarcasm. :) Iemitsu's appearance has never been too good for Tsuna, has it? But I won't say any more, since you'll see below. ;)
secretwhovianpony - No, it doesn't. Poor Tsuna and Haru.
ilovecartoonsgirl - Don't they both? That's the problem with some people when they make decisions - they don't factor in how they impact people. You'll have to see (but the wait is over)! Thank you for both. I really appreciate it. I'm glad I'm feeling better. This chapter was much easier to write.
OperaEagle IcelynLacelett - Thanks. And I did manage to get it out a lot sooner than last time, so I'm happy for that. Yeah, Ibuki was a bit of jerk, wasn't he?
When Tsuna finally returned home, he wasn't expecting to be mauled by a cat. If Takeshi hadn't been right behind him to catch him, he probably would have fallen right there at the door.
"Emi, no," a shaky voice all but whispered from inside. Within seconds, Tsuna felt a pair of hands bump into his as they both sought to free the angered cat from his face. As the cat's fur finally zoomed away from him, Tsuna released his hands from its body and fell against Takeshi's chest. Looking in front of him, he finally noticed the red-haired boy who had freed the cat from his face. Dressed in a torn jacket and dark pants too loose for him, he was about Tsuna's size. But unlike Tsuna, the boy's lip was quivering, and his downcast eyes were quickly filling with tears. "I'm sorry. I'm already being a burden. I shouldn't even be here right now."
"No, no – you couldn't help it!" Tsuna laughed nervously, trying to reassure the other boy. He didn't address the rest of what the boy said, however, because he was right – he shouldn't have been in his house, not when they had never even met. But he didn't have the heart to say this to him – one glance at his face told Tsuna that the last thing this boy needed was to feel any worse than he already did. Because as long as it had been since he had seen that face, he still knew it; it was like looking in a mirror from the past.
"Tsuna, is this a new friend? You sure are popular these days!" Takeshi laughed as he helped Tsuna adjust himself. "Though it looks like you aren't much of an animal charmer."
"Takeshi!" Aoi admonished, while Tsuna snuck in a chuckle of his own. It wasn't every day that he got to see his soulmate running his hand through his hair, with the faintest hint of a blush on his cheeks – it was always him who messed something up, from accidentally knocking over his food at lunch to putting his clothes on so hastily that he put something on backwards or inside-out.
"Actually, no, I've never met him before," Tsuna replied, before looking back to the boy who was trying to hide behind the door frame as he stepped inside. "Hello. My name's Sawada Tsunayoshi. But you can just call me Tsuna."
"Kozato… Enma…" As the boy held out his hand, the sleeve of his jacket slid down his arm, revealing a large mark on his right forearm. Half of the mark was that same sky blue that Tsuna was starting to grow accustomed to, but the second half was covered in a lush green meadow. Tsuna couldn't take his eyes off it, drawing the attention of the other boy. "Is something wrong?"
"Oh, no, it's just, your mark is really cool…"
"Cool? It's just a-" The boy started, before peering down at his arm. "… It wasn't like that before… You're…"
"What?" Tsuna asked, right as Takeshi's mother cleared her throat.
"Well, I think it's about time for Takeshi and me to go back. Tsuna, please tell your mother hello for me. I'm sure she has... a lot on her plate right now." As Aoi turned around, Tsuna's mom came staggering down the stairs, looking more disheveled than Tsuna had ever seen her looking in his life.
"Aoi, is that you? Why don't you and Takeshi stay for dinner tonight? I'm fixing to start a large stew for dinner, and we'd love the extra company." Although she was smiling, the creases in her face and the way her eyebrows were arched immediately signaled to Tsuna that she was not alright. Tsuna wasn't quite sure of the right word, but even at his age, he could sense the desperation in her voice. Aoi seemed to sense this as well, as she suddenly stopped walking away and came back to the door.
"It has been a while since we've eaten together, and I'd love to help you. What do you say, Takeshi?"
"Sounds great!" The mother and son duo stepped into the house, one with a large smile on his face, the other with a small frown on her lips.
"Boys, why don't you stay in the living room while I help Nana out with dinner?" Aoi offered, placing an arm gently over the other woman's shoulders.
"Doesn't that sound great?" Nana chimed in warily, before disappearing into the kitchen with her friend. Trying his best not to worry about his mother after watching her frame disappear, Tsuna looked over to the now flustered redhead, Takeshi glancing back with him.
"So, Enma, you said your mark wasn't like that before?" Tsuna asked, trying to initiate a conversation with the quiet boy. Though he didn't respond, when he looked up, his eyes locked onto Tsuna's. For just a moment, Tsuna thought he saw a glimmer of hope in his gaze. Neither of them had to ask the question at this point.
"Wow, another one so soon? Maybe the rest of your soulmates won't be too bad, Tsuna!" Grabbed together with his newest soulmate by Takeshi, Tsuna awkwardly hugged both boys back. After they broke apart, both Tsuna and Takeshi tried to question Enma to find out more about him and why he was there, but the boy never uttered another word. After this persisted for a few minutes, their interrogation was interrupted by an insistent knocking at the door. Takeshi and Tsuna traveled over to the door while Enma sat down with his cat, Emi. After peering through the eyehole, Takeshi beamed down at Tsuna. "Wow, you really are popular today! It's Haru-chan."
The instant Tsuna opened the door, Haru crashed onto him. Before he could get a word out, her arms laced around his neck as she started heaving from her sobs.
"Tsuna-kun! I'm running away!" Haru's declaration wasn't firm like her usual voice, but shaky and uttered in between hollow gasps. Even though they had just met, Tsuna had a feeling that the girl was rarely so uncollected.
"Haru-chan? What's wrong?" As Tsuna sat up, he felt the full bag resting on Haru's back. Was she really that set on running away? But what could have set her off so much?
"My dad, he- he said that I couldn't see you anymore!" The moment she uttered the announcement, her sobbing ceased, but the girl continued heaving. "But I don't care what he says. He can't keep me away from you!"
This wasn't good. If Haru's dad was determined to keep her away from him when he hardly even knew the man, there was no telling what he would do if he found out Haru had run away to his house. Gulping, Tsuna gently placed his arms around Haru, while looking back at Takeshi and Enma for help. Enma was still sitting on the couch, looking on sadly at the pair while holding tight to Emi, but Takeshi gave him a nod and retreated to the kitchen. After a minute, Nana came out with Takeshi, her eyes expressing her concern.
"Haru-chan, what are you doing here?" At the sound of Nana's voice, Tsuna felt Haru's grip on him loosen. Slowly but steadily, Tsuna removed his own arms from her back as Nana came to sit beside the two. "I'm happy that you enjoy being here, but you shouldn't do that to your parents – they'll be really sad that you're gone."
Leave it to his mom to say exactly the right words. Haru's movements finally steady as she let go of Tsuna to stand up. "Sawada-san, could you call my parents, to let them know I'm okay?"
"Of course, dear. Tell you what, how about I invite them over, so you can stay here just a little bit longer, and so we can try to talk some sense to your dad?" As Nana winked, Tsuna was revealed to see his mom expressing the same amount of charm she always did. He still wasn't sure why she was feeling so distraught earlier, but he also wasn't sure why his newest soulmate was in his home either. There had to be something that explained everything.
Right as Nana hung up the phone, loud thuds boomed from the staircase. Was Enma here because some old friends of his mom were over? That could explain it, but his mom always told him when they were expecting visitors, that way he could help clean up. No, that wasn't it. "Wow, you kids sure are boisterous. It's nice to hear all these voices, the voices of the innocent."
That deep, booming voice… there was something almost familiar about it - as if Tsuna had heard it a long time ago. But when he closed his eyes, he just couldn't picture any faces to go with it. It wasn't until the voice called out to him from behind, that he finally got a face to go with it. The stranger behind him, dressed up in an orange jumpsuit and a plain tank top, sported blond stubble and short blond hair. His smile was bright, almost blindingly so, but there was a certain mischievous look in his eyes. After a few moments, Tsuna finally realized that he had seen that face before, in photographs that had long been stored away.
For the first time, the Sawada family had actually used all eight chairs at their dining table. When both of Haru's parents arrived, Nana searched frantically for another chair until both Haru and Takeshi offered up their chair to sit with Tsuna, who didn't oppose either of their propositions. And so, on one side of the table sat Takeshi, Tsuna and Haru, and Enma, while directly opposing them were Aoi, Ibuki, and Haru's mother, Rita, respectively. At the two heads of the table, which felt worlds apart to Nana, was Nana herself and Iemitsu. Despite the tension hanging heavily over all of their heads, she couldn't help but take a picture of the moment – something like this definitely didn't happen every day.
Despite the constant glares sent across the table, Nana felt a sense of relief from the fact that no one had taken to verbal assaults, or even worse, physical ones, though from looking at Aoi's face, Nana could tell the raven-haired woman was doing everything she could to hold back her tongue every time Iemitsu spoke. After Aoi had comforted Nana about Iemitsu's return earlier, the woman couldn't stop cursing about how he was taking his family for granted and how manipulative he was for always keeping Nana on a loop. She'd gotten so angry, that Nana feared she would never calm down until her body forced her to by making the frail and usually docile woman quiver uncontrollably. Not that he didn't deserve to hear anything that Aoi had to dish out at him – even though Iemitsu explained the danger that Enma was in, he still left a lot of questions unanswered – like where he had been all of these years, why he never bothered to ask about Tsuna, what it was that he actually did, and why it was worth more than his family. Even if Nana had managed to ask him about everything, however, she knew that she couldn't expect a straight answer from him. But Ibuki was just as angry as Aoi – Nana wondered how a blood vessel hadn't burst already.
"Sawada-san, this stew was absolutely wonderful; it's leagues better than anything you could buy at a store or restaurant. You'll have to give us the recipe sometime," Rita suggested with a smile, trying to break the tension as everyone began to finish up. The children, who had been awfully quiet for the meal's duration, chimed in as well, beginning to show signs of their usually energetic dispositions. Luckily for her, it had been Rita who received the call, and not Ibuki – had he answered the phone, she was certain that she would have been met with threats instead.
"Ah, you're too kind, Miura-san. But Aoi helped me out quite a bit. Maybe next time, we can cook together."
"Nana, you're too modest. All I did was help you chop up the food. I never could season as well as you or Tsuyoshi. You're too good for this world, and some people will never understand the hell that they put you through."
"That's debatable," Ibuki uttered, only to groan after his wife gave him a swift hit to his ribs.
"That's hardly fair to Tsuna, Mom," Takeshi complained. Nana knew exactly who Aoi had been referring to. And as much as she wanted Aoi to go loose, none of the children needed to be in the room for that, and two of them desperately needed some positive reassurance. That, and she didn't want Aoi to stress her body out again. While Enma's situation was more complicated and wasn't exactly something she or anyone else could really deal with, she could try to clear up everything with Haru's parents.
"Oh, it's really not a big deal," Nana responded before Aoi could correct her son. "It's so nice that this house is finally full of people. We might not agree, but it's not really about us, is it? Our job is to be there for our kids, and they seem to be enjoying themselves."
At this, the other parents – even Ibuki – nodded in agreement. Progress. Now for the hard part. "Don't you think it would be a shame for them to be separated?"
"Sawada-san, that isn't going to work. What I said earlier still stands."
"What do you mean, what you said earlier?" Rita's face twisted just slightly. So this hadn't been a joint decision then.
"Daddy said I couldn't see Tsu-kun anymore!" Haru shouted, before proceeding to wrap her arms around Tsuna. One glance at Rita's face and Nana knew where this conversation was headed.
"Kids, why don't you head to the living room while the adults handle things?" Iemitsu suggested, only to be answered by the blank stares of the four children. Nana could make out Aoi's muffled snickering at how even the children were hesitant to heed Iemitsu's advice. Still, from the few times that Nana had witnessed Iemitsu in an argument, this really wasn't something that they should stick around to see.
"Go ahead – we'll be done soon." With a quick glance at Tsuna to ensure that he understood, Nana turned her attention to the other adults. It was business time.
Right as the kids were finishing up a game of "Go Fish," the adults finally shuffled out of the kitchen. Though Tsuna noticed that Haru's father still seemed rather annoyed, the parents did seem to be in a better mood than when he had last seen them.
"Come on Takeshi, it's time to go," Aoi ordered. As she turned around to tell Tsuna's mother something, Takeshi reached over and hugged the slightly shorter boy.
"Hope everything goes well, Tsuna! See ya tomorrow!" After Takeshi and his mother left, Haru's parents came to stand in front of him and her, as Tsuna's parents came behind him.
"I'm only going to say this once, so listen carefully." As Ibuki started speaking, both Tsuna and Haru's jerked up to face the imposing man. "I expect you both to do well academically. If I see so much as a slight dip in my daughter's performance, then I will be less than lenient in allowing her out of the house. And don't even think about getting a suspension, young man. As it stands, I still find you to be a dubious character for my daughter to be acquainted with. I also expect you both to take your self-defense training with the highest degree of seriousness. But I suppose I was rather rash in prohibiting any interaction between you two. But if you even think about doing anything to our daughter-"
"That's enough now, Ibuki. I think they get the point. Haru, say goodbye."
Immediately, Tsuna felt Haru grab him and twirl him around. Considering how her father had been earlier, Tsuna smiled. "Isn't this great, Tsu-kun? We can stay together!"
"Why do you keep calling me that? You can just call me Tsuna," the young boy squeaked out.
"Hahi? But Tsu-kun sounds cute, and you're really cute." Tsuna tried to protest against Haru's rebuttal, but he couldn't find the right words to save his life. Despite his frown, he couldn't stop himself from blushing. Why did she have to call him cute?
"Looks like someone has himself a little girlfriend. Nice job, son," Iemitsu teased from behind. Tsuna wished he hadn't said that. The looks that Haru and her father gave him made him want to bury himself in his bed.
"Soulmates or not, my daughter will date no one at this age, and certainly not without my permission! Besides, for all we know, they could just be platonic soulmates! Studies show that there are at least three different kinds of soulmates and I will not entertain the fact that my daughter has any dysfunctional soulmates. But romantic? They're just children!"
"Girlfriend? Does this mean that one day…? No! We're too young!" Behind him, he could hear his parents chuckling, but Tsuna was hardly amused. At last, Haru finally released Tsuna. Turning towards Enma, who was sitting on the coach, Haru gave him a quick wave before turning back to Tsuna. "I'll see you soon, Tsu-kun! Maybe we'll meet in our dreams!"
When the Miuras finally left, both of his parents went out of the living room as well – he could hear his mom cleaning up in the kitchen, while he wasn't sure where his dad had gone to. The only ones left in the room were himself and Enma, who had been noticeably quiet for the entire evening. Even after Tsuna sat down, he noticed how the other boy maintained his focus on the cat.
"You must really like cats, Enma. I noticed that you really like playing with Emi." At last, Enma finally looked up. Finally getting a good look at his face, Tsuna couldn't believe that he had failed to register how peculiar those red eyes were, even though he had looked directly at them earlier. But he only got to look for a moment, as Enma quickly lowered his head again.
"Yeah. Cats are like little angels." The moment he said that his hand froze mid-pat over Emi. Before Tsuna could ask what was wrong, the other boy slapped his own face. In a barely audible voice, he muttered, "That was so dumb, especially since she attacked you earlier. I'm always messing things up."
"Hey, you really don't have to worry about it! I didn't even get scratched earlier. Maybe she was just scared." Giving him a pat on the back, Tsuna quickly added, "Please don't beat yourself up about it."
"Thank you." When Enma say the confused look on Tsuna's face, he clarified, "For being so nice to me. A lot of things happened that... I can't really talk about. But you never got mad at me for invading your home or for my cat attacking you. And even though I'm awkward and we don't even know each other, you still tried to interact with me earlier."
As the tears started streaming down Enma's face, Tsuna couldn't help but remember the way he had been when he had first started school. Would he have turned out just as quiet as this boy if he hadn't had met Takeshi when he did? Even now, he still had a hard time opening up. "You know, I have a hard time making friends too."
When Enma looked up, Emi started growling. But rather than turning his attention back to his pet, he actually focused on Tsuna now. And though Tsuna usually didn't care for others focusing their attention on him, he felt a little warmer inside when Enma looked at him. It was... different. "But what about Haru and Takeshi? You seem really close to them."
"Well, I've known Takeshi since I was six. He was my first friend. But I only met Haru a couple of days ago. They're my soulmates, but they're also my only friends." Tsuna offered the other boy a small smile as he did his best to submerge all of the images of bullies, crumpled notes, and dirty glares that were at the back of his mind.
"Really? I've never had any friends, to be honest. But you seem like a nice person."
"Not according to the kids at my school. Everyone thinks that I'm a danger because of my soul marks." At that, Enma's eyes seemed to light up. After biting down on his lip, the boy started unzipping his jacket. When he finally removed it, Tsuna gasped at all of the marks covering the boy's arms. A couple of them were pretty weird, like the octopus and the space ship, but others, like the bloody claws and the drill weren't exactly inviting.
"Are they like these?" Enma asked, pointing to the more imposing marks on his arms. Tsuna gave a nod before pushing up his hair to reveal the trident mark on his neck. Although Enma muttered quietly as Tsuna showed off some of his other marks, he never moved away from Tsuna. After Tsuna readjusted his clothes, the other boy retained his solemnness for a few moments. But before worry could settle inside of Tsuna, the redhead finally spoke up again. "I've always secretly dreaded meeting my soulmates, despite how everyone says that soulmates make life better. But this isn't too bad."
A genuine smile spread on Tsuna's face. Even though Enma was a little hard to talk to at first, it grew easier with each new sentence. "You know, we can also be friends."
Enma smiled back at Tsuna. "I think I'd like that."
At last, the mystery of the cat mark has been resolved! For those of you who don't know, Enma Kozato is a character introduced after the end of the future arc - he's the leader of another mafia family, the Shimon family, but he's a lot like Tsuna in pretty much everything. The reason why his mark was a cat opposed to Gokudera or someone else is due to the fact that Enma was shown to really like cats (he got along with Natsu pretty well), so I thought it would be nice if he owned a cat when he was younger. I kind of messed up on the ages, but then the timeline in the series really doesn't add up after a while, and this is already different than canon, so what does it matter if the years got shifted a little? Anyway, I'd always intended to include Enma among Tsuna's soulmates, but I wasn't sure when to introduce him. At first, I was going to hold off including him until after the characters were in their teens. For a brief time, I thought about introducing him first rather than Takeshi, but if I had went that route, then Tsuna's initial interactions with Takeshi would have been a bit angsty, which wasn't what I wanted. So ultimately, I went with introducing him now, which meant the childhood arc got extended just a little bit.
A little more on soulmate lure in this chapter - it was a little hard to get too much in.
I'm thinking about adding a couple of new fics to the schedule, but I'm not sure if I'm going to go through with one of my ideas or not. I'll have to see. Both of them are crossovers of sorts though, and I plan to start one within the next week.
As always, thanks for reading! Hopefully the next chapter will be out soon.