The Five Stages of Coping with Loss
Written by Kia Ixari

Originally posted on LiveJournal as a response to a prompt from Sinnatious. Thought I should share some love for the people on FFNet.

Warning: explicit mature content. Step back if you're iffy. And language warnings as well, for this is Mukuro and Hibari we talk of today.



Of Pokes and Stabs at Reality


The first time it came was in the middle of a fight. Tentative, curious, exploratory. A nudge, barely even noticeable, in the very back of his mind.

If he were a normal person he would probably have attributed it to the current situation, ignored it in exchange for full focus on self-preservation, or altogether missed it in between dodging missile attacks and hidden land mines. It wasn't everyday, after all, that any normal unsuspecting person experienced being chased around by an automated berserker.

But he was no normal person, most certainly not (and hell forbid he ever become one).

He was Hibari Kyouya. Born fighter, destined killer. Namimori's elite disciplinary prefect. The Vongola famiglia's strongest. Guardian of the Cloud.

As such, he felt it, that tiny little poke, seeking, inside his head.

And he did not like it. Not one little bit.

He paid it no attention during the fight, instead favoring evasion of deadly projectiles and sudden explosions. The Thing in the back of his head seemingly understood the necessity for focus, and relented, hiding away, undoubtedly to return once there was relatively no threat to his safety. He'd hoped to finish his skirmish with the Mosca, but Sawada Tsunayoshi, the blasted herbivore, simply had to step in. From then on it was a confusion of panicked yells, battle cries, jumbled conversations, and the generic cacophony of a battlefield.

He only faintly remembered the end of the battle, the confusion etched upon the supposed famiglia's boss, the old man inside the Mosca. The baby, for once, was grim. The herbivores converged in a huddle around their boss, a mixture of worry and fear and relief and anger all painted upon their very open faces. Weaklings, the lot was.

He could remember stumbling onto his feet and retreating from the scene, quietly. He remembered nursing his wounds at the school's infirmary. He barely remembered reaching home and stumbling into sleep.



Perhaps it was all well and good that he did not remember where and how he fell asleep that night, for if he did, he would have wondered however he made it from his bedroom in the second floor to the basement study. He woke sprawled upon the divan, clothed in a yukata, his usual sleeping attire. The morning was drab and grey, smog obscuring a clear view of the partially cloudy skies. The disadvantages of living in Tokyo, he mused absently.

His muscles and bones ached in protest, but he rose nevertheless, stretching and yawning as he made his way to the kitchen. As expected, the house was already empty, and on the counter a small breakfast was prepared. He slipped soundlessly into the kitchen, noting the familiar twittering descending the stairs. He made to pour himself a glass of milk, when suddenly, the same nudge as the night before came again.

A displeased frown settled upon his face.

He waited for yet another nudge, but none came. His grip on the carton of milk tightened, threatening to crush it with mighty force.

Something – someone – was toying with him, and he was helpless to it all.

No, he did not like it, not at all.



And again.

The nudge, now a blunt but overt stab of something incredibly irritating, repetitively jabbed at his consciousness. It was now at the forefront, no longer content with the darker and murkier corners of his mind. It aggravated him, the fact that there existed within this world something that dared to do such stunts, and also the fact that there was absolutely nothing in the world he could do about it.

More so since he hadn't a single clue what this was.

His eyebrow ticked, almost imperceptibly, but still present. That dark and ominous cloud normally accompanying him had thrice the intensity today, effectively clearing an entire floor's hallways of useless weak little herbivores three times faster than before and letting him pass with no incident. The school, much to the absolute delight of the teachers, was abnormally subdued. Not a single soul could deny that their resident disciplinarian was thrice as much intimidating today, for some unknown and unseen reason. Not a single soul dared to step a hair out of line, for not a single soul wanted to know how a spiked tonfa felt up somewhere not very desirable, not when the prefect was thrice incensed with some sort of invisible force.

There were several slightly daring yet still worthlessly pathetic herbivore souls circulating bets on who would be the very unfortunate outlet herbivore for the stress (in)visibly building up upon Hibari Kyouya's shoulders, but sadly, they would all have to lose their money today, for this Hibari Kyouya planned on bottling everything up until the following battle, where he could unleash all and sate the blood thirst.

As such, he valiantly endured the mocking stabs against his consciousness for a few more hours, focusing instead on the comforting twittering of his only trustworthy companion.



Liquid fire coursed through his veins, licking, caressing, sliding against his flesh, burning, burning, burning – his breath, short and ragged, puffed up dust – the dust further obscured his already blurred sight, forcing him to painfully squint. His muscles, they hurt, hurt, a fucking million worlds of hurt -- and though he was face into the dirt, without any sort of exertion apart from excruciatingly painful breathing, they still bloody hurt!

Those traitorous Cervello had the nerve to plant poisoned needles into the watches they were made to wear – and they didn't simply use any poison, he hissed. They had to use the debilitating kind of poison. He vowed to himself that the moment he rose from this pit of endless pain, he would bite them all to their very graves and leave only enough of their bones to be buried. In truth, there was not even any need for any burial – what would be left of their accursed flesh and bones could simply be left behind to lay and rot. He would bite them and bite them and bite them until their very ancestors bled and drowned in pure unadulterated pain.

He failed to notice, at first, the treacherous, slithering Thing once again invading his otherwise preoccupied consciousness. It hid beneath the unending waves of pain – scorching, torturous, fucking twelve hells of fucking pain – mapping its relatively new surroundings. It was not until the Thing touched upon his actual conscious thought did he realize it was within him.

This time, when the customary greeting stab came, it was no longer a blunt, alien stab, but a startling, knifing, rippingslash at his consciousness. A foreignness enveloped his mind, and his senses began to tingle. Warning bells rang deep and loud within his mind, urging him, pushing him, into a struggle to regain control over his own self.

Snarling in fury, he poured force into his muscles, fighting to right his position. Eventually, after much blinding pain, he managed to get himself upright and leaning against one of the posts of the tower that held the ring.

The Thing, however, did not retreat. It merely lurked, waiting for an opening, mocking him, as if he were defenseless.

He was not defenseless.

Determinedly, he pushed his mind against that Thing, as if to try and shove it away. It only clung to him though, and he felt amusement coursing through whatever – whoever – it was.

He shifted minutely to his side, and an explosion of white hot blinding furious pain made him almost – almost! – cry out in surprise. His muscles were too tightly bunched, too wrung and tense, that they were painfully constricting his nerves. The Thing took this as an opportunity to sneak and strike once more, and Hibari felt the immense pleasure it took at the responding thrash of defiance he gave.

Who are you, you fucking worthless excuse for a herbivore?!

For an endless while, there was pitch black silence, blurred into grey by the edges of his vision.

And then a mocking but deceptively gentle laugh:




Of all people, Hibari Kyouya mourned to the heavens.

Of all people, why him?! Why did it always have to be this infuriating man who always saw him at his very worst?! His very being recoiled at the thought of ever showing weakness to any living breathing creature on the face of the green earth. And if there ever was a necessity to show weakness – hell forbid – he would never ever even dream of choosing this man.


Oh? Interesting. Kufufufu. Would you have preferred someone else to see you like this, Kyouya?

Filthy herbivore. I do not remember giving you permission to call me by name. Hibari lifted his foot, trying his muscles. For some blessed reason, the pain was starting to dull, and his muscles were starting to regain control. Perhaps his system had grown accustomed to the pain. Soon, he would be able to reach across and press the switch on that blasted watch that would release the antidote.

I don't think I need your permission. Hibari could very well see that amused and terribly mocking smile on that disingenuously angelic face. He grimaced, banishing any such thought. If anything, this person was a devil, not an angel. Why thank you. I'll have you know that I think of you as a devil incarnate too.

What are you doing in my head, Hibari asked, tone acid. His fingers twitched as he clenched and unclenched them.

I'm terribly bored, and this is providing me some measure of entertainment.

That is not enough of a reason, herbivore.

Why would it be not? The bastard had the nerve to sound offended, Hibari inwardly seethed, when it was his privacy the fucking bastard was shamelessly invading! The nerve! And unless you have something horribly confidential to keep – which I doubt you do – there's really not much of a problem with this situation. Hibari made sure to tuck in the back of his mind that he would be pummeling this bastard the next time they met face to face. That'll be a long while from now, Kyouya. Now, if you don't mind, I'm getting rather bored with the view here, so let's move somewhere else.

Hibari was about to retort that moving would be nice, except he couldn't, but then he was suddenly moving, his left arm rising from its prone position, and before he knew it he was watching in horrified fascination as it reached for his right wrist, pressed the antidote release button, and --

It'd be much easier to control if you'd stop resisting, you know.

If I were possessing you, I doubt you'd be saying that.

Oh, I wouldn't be resisting! Kufufufu. I'm not like you, Kyouya. I have other means to persuade people into my bidding. I don't need brute force.

Forehead crumpling in irritation, Hibari reclined against the post and rested his head. The soothing cold of the antidote brought much needed relief to his abused and aching muscles, chasing away the constricting burn. Soon, he was rising to his feet. Glad to be back in control, he retrieved his fallen tonfa and demolished the posts holding the miniature tower upright. The abominable Thing in his mind seemed content to leave him in control for now, for which Hibari was glad. He was not in the mood to argue with his own consciousness at the moment.

The ring, the source of all conflict, fell into right into his hand.

Ah, the Vongola ring. Rather curious little thing, is it not?

Hibari could care less, really.

If so, then why do you keep the ring? If all you are after is the conflict, then there really is no need to follow the rules, is there? You could simply attack anyone upon sight.

Hibari decided not to grace that remark with a reply. He instead turned towards the nearest building, one where a Guardian was trapped. Maybe, if he occupied himself with some sort of distraction, then the presence in the back of his mind would dull.

Thus was his (vain) hope.


Of Blessed, Blessed Release


Then there were those instances when the growing presence within his mind felt so familiar he forgot it was even there, until the blasted herbivore once more spoke and made itself known. Those instances were hateful, oh so fucking damn hateful to Hibari, for they came whenever he was wanting just a tiny little slice of heavenly silence.

If it were any other being on the green, plentiful, and herbivore-inundated earth, it would never dare give a single squeak, not a single scuffle, never a single glance. But it was him.


His fist hit the wall.


Irritated beyond belief, he rose from his perch upon the rooftop, his jacket flaring behind him as he whirled about towards the staircases. Behind him, pieces of the cracked and dented wall clattered upon the floor.

I'm surprised they don't make you pay for all this damage you cause the school property.

He descended the stairs with the predatory sway of a prowling jaguar, parting the sea of students in the first floor main lobby the moment he stepped in. Strode past them without a single glance, not even when Sasagawa Ryohei, that coarse herbivore, called out to him fearlessly. He had no business with them as of the moment; the Ring Conflicts were over.

Mm, what's this? You're ignoring me? Kufufufu. Adorable.

And Hibari has been. Or more accurately, has been trying to, for the past few days. Having a very unwelcome Thing in one's head and ignoring it completely is not exactly the easiest thing to do. But Hibari is determined. And whenever Hibari determinedly wants something, he gets it, no questions asked. That was, is, always will be how the world works. (If not, well then, the world would simply have to get reacquainted with his (most certainly very painful) tonfas.)

Egocentric much? Never did grow out of childhood, I see.

Hibari does not understand why this abominable herbivore insists on bothering him and not that doe-eyed weakling girl illusionist. There is a small part of him that almost, almost, wants to regret ever confronting this – this THING – a while back. For if he'd never confronted, then he would never have been trapped, and if he'd never been trapped, then he would never have been injured by that blasted bloody trident, and if he'd never been injured by the trident, then he'd never have this blasted bloody fucking damnable incessantly irritating THING inside his head!

It would be nice if you stopped calling me a 'thing'. That's not exactly a very nice way of treating a gracious guest.

What a fucking hypocrite his 'gracious guest' was, Hibari remarked, to even dare call himself anything within a five-meter radius of grace. Where was gracious within imposing oneself upon another human being's mind?

At least I don't completely take you over, the glib voice pointed out.

Right. As if that's any measure of comfort for me.But it was a measure of marginal comfort, really, for him to find that he still had control over his own body. (He was yet unaware of his nightly escapades.) For a person like him, who lived life in a constant wanting for the thrill of a good fight and the secure ground of absolute order, losing control would be nothing short of disastrous.

Kufufufufu~. Careful, little Kyouya. I'm one who takes advantage of weaknesses. Never forget that.

Hibari's eyes darkened, his tonfa snapping out in fury and narrowly missing a student scared shitless. The gate post bent with a horrid screech of straining metal.



Thus was spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening, wandering about Namimori and viciously trying to stamp out the irritating voice inside his head, the one that was not supposed to be there. Prowling the nighttime downtown streets, his eyes flickered into hidden corners barely illuminated by the street lamps. Oftentimes he could find a herbivore or two to beat up in one of those dark and dinky alleyways. The tougher ones, the ones he wanted right now, were the rarer ones.

Several times he came across minor squabbles between herbivores from other schools, and he quickly dispersed them. No being on earth was allowed to wreak havoc upon his Namimori, unless with due permission. He took a dark pleasure in bruising and bloodying the dirt that sullied his streets, the seeping anger transforming into a rush of pure adrenalin with each connecting hit of his tonfa. And right along with him, in the recesses of his conscious, the chuckling voice joined. Exalted, even, at the rush of destruction and pain. The faint thought of 'perhaps we are of the same making' crossed Hibari's mind, and he could not help but momentarily entertain the thought, before pushing it away, lest the infernal lurker catch it and proceed to pester him for the next twelve hours.

The voice suddenly quipped, If you just want a tough opponent, go to the Arcobaleno.

The baby does not want a fight.

You're actually honoring the wishes of your opponent? He could hear a drawn out mock gasp.The world's end must be nearing!

I've no desire to fight him while he's preoccupied with the herbivore Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Kufufufu, excuses, excuses! You simply do not want to lose. Tsk, Kyouya. I'd expected better of you.

A particularly menacing glare was sent towards a couple making out by one of the stores. The couple, a little bit older than him, hastily separated and shuffled away.

Hibari walked a block more before turning a sharp left and entering a darkened causeway and into a patch of low-class neighborhood where the crime rates were highest. This was a prime place to hunt. There was always a rat or two to be found beneath and between the dirtied folds.

Not even five minutes and Hibari heard a muffled shriek. His feet halted, intently waiting for another sound. Noisy scuffling from one of the deeper alleys to his left a few meters away. A dog barking at one of the farther houses down the road.

The voice in his head was silent.

He stalked forth, baring his tonfas, cold hard metal glinting under forbidding moonlight. The moment he rounded the corner, however, a familiar face jumped out from the darkness.

Chrome Dokuro, lip bloodied and jacket dirtied, struggled valiantly – albeit vainly – within the arms of a masked man. No matter what stunt she pulled, though, it was nigh impossible for her to escape a much bigger man on her own, her frail body prone against brute force. And the trident was lying abandoned a meter or two away on the ground.

From the looks, it was either a mugging or a rape. Or both, Hibari mused.

Either way, he was not interested. Intentions were meaningless weighed against actions.

With naught a single word, he charged forward with blinding speed. Tonfas made contact –crunch-snap! – and the masked man, despite his build and weight, was thrown backwards. Chrome stumbled out of his grasp and out the alley, standing where the light flooded her shiver-wracked form. She immediately snatched the trident from the ground, hugging it close to her person.

Ribs broken, the man wheezed. Hibari moved. Relentless, he hit, and hit, and hit. A cut at the jaw, a stab in the plexus, a slice at the shoulder. Every swish and slide of the tonfa mesmerized him, every slip and slice of it through the air. Metal impacted upon flesh and broke skin. Blood sprayed against Hibari's jacket and shirt, staining the immaculate white and dulling the sheer black. Droplets clung to his skin, dying, sticky. It iched. He gave no heed.

Bubbling, expanding, burning fury frothed and bubbled at the edges as he unloaded everything. The man was hoarsely crying for mercy, but his attacks didn't cease. He hit, and hit, and cuffedswipedsmashedhit – hit until his arms hurt, hit until the man was limp and lifeless on the ground, hit until it was only his heavy breathing in the ever-present silence.

The tingling in his senses told him.

The man was dead.

He had killed.



And the rush of release was exquisite.

A blood-thirsty smile etched upon his face, he turned his back upon the corpse. With a haphazard arm he wiped off sprayed blood from his cheek. He replaced his tonfas and strode into blinding fluorescent lamplight, blinking at the girl standing stock still, her hair in mussed tufts from the scuffle.


"What?" Hibari gruffly asks.

"…Mukuro-sama tells me to thank you," the girl says.

His eye twitches.

But he turns his back on her and heads the other way. Far, far away.

"And he tells me," the girl calls out as he walks away, "that – that you have to walk me home."

Hibari stops.

"…and what, in all of the seven hells, possesses your damned herbivore of a master to think that I would do such a thing?"

The girl opens her mouth to relay the words, but then pauses.


Turning to look, Hibari raises an eyebrow to find a very flustered Chrome. She opened and closed her mouth several times, as if trying to form the words, or trying to decide how to form the words. Hibari had to wonder what thought was so hard to convey for the normally straightforward girl.

"B-Because –" Chrome swallowed thickly, "Because y-you're a very obedient – obedient puppy, and if you don't walk me home, you'll – you'll forever never know what you've been doing at night when you're asleep?"

The girl ended with a confused tone, her head tilted to the side in contemplation. Her forehead was crumpled in thought as she tried to focus on whatever the voice in her head was saying.

To Hibari, however, truth dawned with a dash of horror and an entire truckload of scorching fury.

Fucking bastard asshole herbivore – I'll bite him, maim and torture, kill and mangleflattenMAUL

Hibari stiffly strode towards the girl, grabbed her wrist, and proceeded to tug her down the empty road.

I will CRUSH you.

I love you too, Kyouya. Kufufufufu~.


Of Pretention and Every Variation of Deception


Whatever are you talking about?

Seething, Hibari furiously stabbed the table with the fork he held in hand. The wood gave way to metal, but the metal bent midway, creating a strange angle for the fork to rest upon the wood. Around the prefect, students scattered to give wide berth.

You very well know what I'm talking about, filth. Now tell me. What have you been doing while in my body?!


The previous night, after dropping the illusionist girl at the apartment she stayed in with the two other Kokuyou herbivores, Hibari was left to his own thoughts, which he found surprisingly refreshing. The quiet was most certainly a welcome change. The turmoil, however, was not. His rage turned his insides into knots as he mustered it all in, wanting nothing more than to unleash it all on that blasted herbivore.

He hadn't slept at all, torn between wanting the voice back if ONLY to strangle out of it answers he needed, and wanting the voice forever, forever GONE. Which, of course, only quadrupled his already tripled tension. (The entire lobby practically emptied of the customary swarm the moment his toe crossed the threshold.)

You hate me that much, Kyouya? I'm hurt.

Hibari did not believe a single word. He'd learned not to, after nearing a week of putting up with the annoying presence. Besides, it was quite literally physically impossible for the bastard to hurt, not when the body was in a medically induced coma and locked within a dark chamber underneath some prison in Italy. (Hibari personally thought the bloody herbivore deserved it, if said bastard had to be this vexing.)

Trust me, Kyouya, I have not done anything to deserve any of this, even by your standards.

The voice was uncharacteristically subdued, perhaps even somber and lacking their usual mock. The underlying disdain for the world, however, still lay firm and present.

It is just a cycle, and they were the ones who took the first turn. I am a mere product of their wickedness, thus I, too, am wicked. Chi la fa l'aspetti. The world has decided it shuns my existence, so I shun it twice as much. The world tries to bring me down, I bring it down with me. It is simple logic. Surely you, of all people, would understand.

He did not grace that with an answer, didn't get the change to, when a clumsy body bumped against his table and upset his glass of water. He threw an acid glare.


Hibari's ears prickled at the herbivore's stinging screech. Unbelievable how such a weak fledgling could be declared the heart and soul of the famiglia.

"Tenth, don't worry, if he tries to hurt you, I'll blow him up!"

"Ah, Hibari, hahaha, what's up?"


The beginnings of a menacing headache creeping at the edges of his sensation, Hibari rose abruptly, sweeping past the clump of weak little fledgling herbivores and out the cafeteria. (He chose to ignore the universal sigh of relief from every occupant of said cafeteria the moment he stepped out of the threshold.)

You did not even bid the Vongola Tenth a good day?

Hibari soon stepped out of school grounds and made his way to the nearest place that offered palatable food.

But of course! You're Hibari Kyouya. You don't bid people good day. You have a reputation to keep.

They are not worthy of my attention, filth as they are, exactly like you. That's all there is to it.


The earlier conversation was never more broached.



The evening was once more spent prowling the streets for any wayward civilian behavior. Hibari, for once, was left severely wanting reprise from his usual duties. He was not eager for a repeat performance of last night. Not that killing the man had bothered him; nothing beat practice ahead of time (no matter how lousy the target). It was more along the lines of not wanting another run in with another one of the Guardians, or, hell forbid, the illusionist girl. She was far too easily manipulated by Mukuro, far too easily controlled by her emotion for her purported savior. Far too easily used as a weapon.

He rather disliked that breed of herbivore. (The Rain swordsman, Yamamoto Takeshi, or the Storm bomber, Gokudera Hayato, were more preferable, if he absolutely, absolutely had to choose. Note restatement, italic, and bold.)

Oh? How come I'm not even considered? You skipped the Vongola as well.

The fledgling is weak. He needs to grow a backbone.

And what about me?

You can burn and rot in the lowest pits of hell. After I maim you beyond recognition

Kufufufufu~! Sounds delightful, Kyouya. I'll be holding you to that the next time we meet.

A predatory grin spread upon Hibari's lips. Oh, he would most definitely be holding on to it as well. There was no way in the entire fucking herbivore-teeming world he would miss a chance to bite and maul that fucking illusionist to death.

Speaking of which, I am rather hungry.

Are you even capable of feeling hunger, filth that you are?

My body is currently in a state of sleep, but my psyche is very much awake. Thus, I can feel hunger like any living creature, being everything we know occurs in the mind. As you eat, I will be sated as well, since I am half-possessing you. So. Shall we eat?

Hibari stopped in front of an Italian restaurant downtown, not even knowing how in the world he'd gotten so far. Not even noticing it. Gritting his teeth, he strode inside, bottling the anger for later. He was already here, and there was nothing to be done. He was pretty sure it would merely escalate into a full-blown mental argument – ultimately, a full-blown migraine by late night – and he was not up for such abuse of his mental capacities right now.

Without much questions asked, the waiter sat him at one of the isolated tables, and gave him a menu.

One glance, and he'd decided: Ossobuco – Penne – alla Milanese –all'arrabbiata.


I want spicy.

I want meat.

Too much meat is not good for you~.

I don't see why you should be concerned; I am the one eating, after all.

Such sting in your words, Kyouya; it hurts my heart. Tsk. I'm merely being a good friend.

Hibari barely managed to restrain his own fist from hitting the glass he was currently seated beside and shattering it into a million tiny shards.

Whoever said we were—

"Excuse me," the waiter came. "Are you ready to place your order, sir?"

Hibari gritted his teeth.

Penne all'arrabbiata, but you are telling me what you have been doing to my body in my sleep.


"Penne all'arrabbiata," Hibari muttered to the waiter, who nodded and promised his meal in a few minutes and refreshment right away.

Sad you aren't allowed wine. Maybe I should have thought to have you change clothes first, that way you aren't so obvious.

What have you been doing to me in my sleep?!

Kufufufufu~! Don't you worry, Kyouya. I didn't do anything incredibly… ah, incriminating. Kufufufu~.

Slovenly excuse for a herbivore, you will tell me or –

Or what, little Kyouya? Kufufufu. I reside in your own body. You cannot hurt me. Not unless you have masochistic tendencies – then it's an entirely different matter, and we're having this conversation in the wrong place. Kufufufufu.

In an attempt to calm himself, Hibari took a sip of his freshly squeezed lemon juice.

But alright, I'll tell, if that appeases you. The voice had this untrustworthy sheen to it, playful and coy, that Hibari was disinclined to believe any single word to come. I… moved your body.


That's it.

Yes, that's it. I moved, that's all.. Nothing incriminating.

Hibari was not stupid; he saw what the Italian was doing. And so he decided he would play along. If bargaining worked, then he would bargain. He saw no wrong in that, and it would give him immense satisfaction to up one on the vermin he was forced to accommodate within his conscious.

Of course, this all depends on what 'incriminating' exactly entails.

The waiter approached with the penne, placed it on the table, and bowed. Hibari was minutely impressed. Never were these high-class restaurants ever so fast, unless there weren't many patrons present. Perhaps he was the only one tonight.

The conveniences of being able to talk with your mind, the voice in the back of his head muttered as he began to dig in. You can talk while eating without having to appear an uneducated street slob.

The inconveniences of being able to talk with your mind, Hibari drolly rebounded. There is never reprise from nonsensical herbivore babbling, and nor is there any finite definition of 'personal space'.

Ah, come now, Kyouya. You know you appreciate my presence.

Fat chance, that.

It's a little bit too bland. Add a little more parsley.

A little more parsley, and you'll tell me exactly what you did to me – my body – while I was asleep, how you "moved", why you moved, where you went, if you talked to any people, if you ate, if you touched any of my belongings, if you wandered out of the house, down to the very last detail.

There was momentary silence, for which Hibari was smug. He was one up, just by silencing the slovenly herbivore.

That's awfully demanding of you, Kyouya, to ask so much in exchange for just a little pinch of parsley!

I could simply quit eating altogether.

Do that and the next time I have control, I will randomly grab a random person and fuck them using your body.

you mean you haven't already done that.

I'm not that bad! the voice said, obviously miffed. I didn't even step out of the house. I just walked around a bit. That is considered moving. I've been locked up for quite a while now, if you don't realize. Now, my pinch of parsley, please.

That would explain the mornings, Hibari mused. The first time he woke on the divan in the study. The following morning when he woke in the bathroom. And the day after that when he woke in the living room.

And then his eyes narrowed in realization.

Even before the fight against the Mosca, he'd already been having lapses during his sleep, not remembering where he slept, when he slept, or how he got to where he was upon waking. It was odd, but only happened once in a while, and as such, Hibari did not think much of it.

Hibari bristled in indignation and anger.

You – vermin – filthy herbivore – fucking pretentious mind-whore

My parsley?

Shut the fuck up.

Hibari took much joy in savoring his entirely parsley-free penne that night.



The next day was another day of vainly trying to ignore the loud, invasive, and oft vulgar commentary in his head. The blasted Thing talked of literally anything and everything under the sun, if only to annoy him and elicit some sort of response, never mind if response consists of hellion fury and much profanity. Even the most mundane of things – I wouldn't have imagined that you, of all people, could cook this well! You'd make a good housewife, kufufufufufu~! – managed to become topics of heated argument.

Thus passed one entire hell of a week. It did not take much to get Hibari riled, and as such, none dared to approach him, for which he was minimally thankful. He honestly did not want any more nuisances in his life; the big one currently taking up residence in his head was more than enough, thank you very much.

Time and time again, Hibari questioned why, of all conceivable things under the sun, he was chosen for such severe mental torture (not that he was caving, mind you). Time and time again, Mukuro's simple reply was a happy chirp of "Chi la fa l'aspetti". What goes around comes around. It was apparently, according to his 'gracious guess', his payment for terrorizing so many innocent people – worthless filthy herbivores, he corrected – day after day after day.

Hibari thought it was unfair, really. He hardly stalked someone and made them suffer twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. If the Thing in his head was going to hedge on a concept of equivalent exchange, it wasn't going to work. Though he believed that two wrongs made things right, it wouldn't apply if the two wrongs didn't equal each other out.

But no matter how hard he pressed, Mukuro would not budge. The mind-whore was enjoying every moment of his imposition upon Hibari, and was not above flaunting it. And each time Hibari reacted with anger, it only served to fuel the nettling, chafing, godforsaken fucking glee.

As such, he strove to calm his anger. La calma è la virtù dei forti. He recalled reading it in passing on one of the books in the library.

Speaking of books, the voice in his head blithely pointed out, we haven't finished reading that interesting blue book yet.

He repressed a sigh. If he'd known that the mind-whore had an insatiable appetite for books, he would've never stepped into the house's sizable library. However, the mistake had already been made. He was now spending more than five hours a day doing nothing but reading book after book, those he's already read, those that didn't even marginally interest him (but interested the little parasite he had in his head), the oldest and untouched, the most recent.

He'd rifled through ancient Japanese scriptures, even the some of the oldest existing texts in Japan. His grandfather did not say a word; in fact, the old man approved of his sudden bout of interest in the texts, saying it was only proper. His parents, if they noticed his altered behavior, did not comment. The mind-whore had questioned their apparent nonchalant lenience, and when he refused to tell, Mukuro pried the answer from within Hibari's knowledgebase while said host was asleep. Suffice to say, it was one very interesting family.

We are not reading today.

Why? You don't have anything scheduled for today. It's the weekend. You stay home on weekends.

Point. It's the weekend. I stay home and meditate. Maybe if I meditate hard enough I'll manage to push you out.

You're welcome to try. Kufufufu~.

With a roll of his eyes, Hibari made his way through the house, relishing the refreshing silence. It was known within the household's occupants that the boss disliked noise, and as such, things were kept as quiet as possible. Even more so since the traditional Japanese style offered little soundproofing between rooms, the paper-thin shoji almost see-through given proper lighting.

He divested himself of his yukata, the only thing he ever wore at home, and stepped into his very own private bath, already prepared and steaming for him. He went through the motions of washing himself with soap and water before stepping into the bath quietly. The parasite in his head was disconcertingly quiet as well, but damned if he wasn't going to take advantage of the momentary peace.

Soon, he was slipping into the bath, releasing a sigh as the hot water immediately loosened knotted muscles in his back. Idle thoughts flitted back and forth in his mind as Hibird twittered around. After a couple of minutes of chirping the school song, the bird settled for nesting atop Hibari's head.

Why do you keep the bird?

Why do you keep your Kokuyou minions and the Dokuro girl?

Kufufufu. You seem to have a hidden affinity for adorably cute animals.

And you seem to have an affinity for fledgling little herbivores who are more of burdens than benefits.

If you really believe so, then you'd be calling yourself a fledgling little herbivore as well, Kyouya, the voice happily pointed out. Hibari's eyebrow involuntarily twitched in annoyance, but he mastered his temper and opted to listen, a decision he was sure to regret. The voice then practically purred, You're not half-bad, you know.

An unbidden shudder shimmied down Hibari's spine despite the water's heat. Abruptly, he rose. Hibird fell off his head, twittering indignantly at being so suddenly disturbed, but Hibari paid his pet no attention. Instead, he headed for the door, and through it towards the wardrobe, where a new yukata was waiting for him.

His feet, however, halted right as he crossed in front of the wall mirror.


He urged his feet to walk.

They didn't respond.

Instead, his head turned sideways to gaze at his reflection upon the mirror.

It was rightly a shock to see one of his eyes a mesmerizing blood red color. His reflection, his image but not him, gave a darkly sensual smirk. The expression was somewhat ill-fitting on his normally stoic visage, and yet at the same time, the expression was not so foreign that it was totally displaced from his face. In fact, the only reason that he was unsettled was that it was unfamiliar—it gave him a darker, more malicious aura.

I like what I see, Kyouya, Mukuro practically purred.

A seething, low voice: Let me go.

Oh, but where would the fun be if I did? Kufufufufu~. The person in the mirror gently reached up and ran a finger down the smooth skin of his neck.

Stop it.

Mukuro ignored him. I wonder, Kyouya. Do you ever get any?

None of your business, slovenly herbivore. Let me go. Now.

Or do you only pleasure yourself when you're alone?

The hand wandered farther south, and Hibari gave a hiss at a wayward touch. With all his might, he pushed against the overbearing presence in his mind, but it did not give. All the while, his reflection continued the touches, leaning against the opposite wall, languidly pleasuring, teasing, pleasing. He felt his body, his own traitorous body, heat up at the illusionist's ministrations. The mind controlling the hands seemed suspiciously very familiar with the movements, expertly sliding fingers underneath warm, rising flesh.

This would be much easier if you relented, but that wouldn't be fun at all. So feel free to try and break my control, my beautiful, beautiful Kyouya~. Kufufufu~.

Fingers grazed a nipple, and the reflection gritted its teeth—then repeated the action, this time firmer and more deliberate. Hibari stood valiantly against the yet gentle waves of pleasure, but his determination wavered with each lingering touch. The waves weren't even swelling and peaking yet, he seethed, and here he was, already being carried away.

He gave one strong rebellious shove.

Momentarily, he felt the parasite give, and then he found himself suddenly in partial control of some of his muscles. He gritted his teeth, this time completely of his own volition, when a seeking hand slid in between his thighs and spread against flushed skin.

Let go, fucking perverted mind-whore.

I did. You can talk now. Let me hear your voice, Kyouya.

With varying pressure, the hand around his member started stroking, up and down, slowly. Each time, the thumb slid and caressed the tip, and each time, Hibari struggles to hold back a groan. There was something incredibly compelling about watching his own wayward hands pleasure his own body—the knowledge and the sensation of not having control made it feel foreign and totally new.

A part of him, a tiny reluctant part of him, liked it.

And it frightened him.

Come now, Kyouya. No one will hear you. Let it out.

The voice was velvet, coaxing, in his head. Hibari's judgment was clouded and heady with mounting, building pleasure. The hands, they continued to stroke and caress, gentle, and at the same time certain and unwavering. The feel of a smooth palm sliding up his abdomen, rubbing harshly against painfully hard nubs, made Hibari's control waver, and the very slightest of a groan was let out.

Hmm… a little bit louder.

With crushing force, Hibari gritted his teeth, bowing his head and panting in exertion. The hand was agonizingly, torturously slow, teasing, differing the pressure, the speed, the depth of each stroke. The mind-whore, fucking pervert that he was, intended fully to draw out the ordeal.

And then the hands were gone.

He looked up at his reflection, and found the red eyed stranger staring back at him. The hands lay limply at his sides.

Tell me what you want, Kyouya.

In shock, Hibari took a few moments to reply. Did the slovenly herbivore, the perverted accursed mind-whore, just tell him to ask for it? Well, hell if he was gonna do that.

Go burn in hell, fucking mind-whore.

Well, I've been there. Nothing new. Wouldn't be much of a torture, so you've got to choose something better than that, Mukuro blithely quipped. Or you could just tell me what you want, kufufufu~.

Filthy perverted parasite, is this what you do to all of your minions? That girl included? Pathetic pervert.

Of course not, Mukuro indignantly sniffed. Then he purred, Only you, Kyouya, only you.

The hands returned with furious passion, stroking, tugging, squeezing, pinching. A spiral of sensations shot up and down his spine. His breath condensed into tiny puffing pants. His skin was slick with sweat, glistening under the glow lamp. The hand on his erection moved furiously, bringing him close, close, close--

He started out of the cloud of hazy pleasure only when a hand began to wander beyond his erection and past his sacs, probing for the opening it sought.

Stop it!

No, I won't.


All thought processes were halted when two fingers dove sharply into his body. A tidal wave of pain displaced the oncoming release, and Hibari's muscles grew tense in reaction, squeezing down and out. The muscles in his jaw jumped, tense, holding down the grunt of pain, locking it in deep in his throat.

"—damnit, bastard—"

Relax, Kyouya. Breathe. The pain will be over, and then it's all pleasure.

The fingers moved, curling, spreading, scissoring. The other hand was working twice as much now, to keep his mind off the slowly dulling pain.

Filth, if you don't stop this, I'll—

Trust me, you won't want me stopping in a bit.

Perverted mind-whore, let me g—ah!

White hot burning pleasure singed through Hibari's nerves, shooting straight up to his brain, utterly annihilating any remaining trace of coherent thought. He no longer registered the parasite's quietly amused chuckles, the velvet voice, the gentle egging. There was only pleasure, pleasure, pure unadulterated pleasure —

The pace quickened, hands working furiously in tandem to bring the body to its final release. Hibari's head lolled backwards, hitting the wall with a muffled thud. Heavy lidded eyes watched through the mirror, a myriad of expressions crossing the reflected handsome face. This was pleasure to its fullest, his hands in a frenzy, stroking, caressing, flesh against sweaty slick flesh, and Hibari didn't think he could hold on any longer —

A groan escaped his lips, and suddenly, blinding white stars were bearing down on him on all sides. There were spasms, and then blessed, blessed release — he was coming, coming, coming — the pressure lifted, and his hips bucked into his hands, torn between two different actions, muscles straining for the peak —


His muscles ached from the intense exercise, his thighs still slightly twitching from the sensory overload. His breath started evening out. Hibird peacefully watched him from its perch by the washbasin. The lamp light, a faint glow overhead, illuminated patches of white on the floor and across on the mirror.

He found he had control over his body again.

Collapsed on the floor against the wall, he gazed upon his flushed reflection, red lips parted, eyes dilated. There was a faint flicker of red in his right eye.

Positively sinful, Kyouya. Kufufufufu~.

Rage overflowing, Hibari rose, tightened a fist, and shattered the mirror.



Aren't you getting tired of this, Kyouya dearest?

For the rest of the following days, the painfully throbbing injured hand remained a glaring reminder of what had transpired. It steeled Hibari's resolve as he mightily refused to acknowledge the parasite residing in his head. Instead, he faced the mind-whore with an icy silence, entertaining not a single comment, thought, or question. It was a trying challenge, but hell if he wasn't going to succeed.

The wind sifted through his hair as he lay and watched the clouds join and part fluidly in serpentine shapes above him. The sky was endless and blue, and the school was unusually peaceful. There was a lack of familiar herbivore scents in the air—for some reason, the Vongola and his fledgling herbivore minions were nowhere to be seen.

A momentary silence, for which Hibari was once more thankful. These moments were growing rarer and rare by the minute as he continued to ignore the parasite in his head. The blasted thing was hell bent on pushing him out of his icy stoicism, but he wasn't going to give. Not now.

It was just masturbation, Kyouya. Surely you can't be mad because of that?

Hibari wasn't really. It was more of the fact that the bastard took control of his body, while he was trapped inside, helpless. He abhorred helpless.

Your reactions were particularly delightful, though, the voice added. Gives me something to look forward to upon my release from this godforsaken prison.

Do me a favor and never get out.

Ah, so you're talking to me again. Lovely~! Maybe we can go for round two. No one's looking~.

Filth, you expect me to surrender to you that easily?

But you liked it, Mukuro reasoned. Ah, the inconveniences of being parted by land and seas. If only I were there, it would be much bett —

Shut up!

Kyouya —

I said shut up!

A tonfa snapped out in fury, hitting the same spot in the wall his fist had a number of days ago. The wall was almost broken through this time around, the impact spreading cracks upon the otherwise smooth concrete. It only marginally relieved the pent up tension within him.

If you want someone to talk to, go and talk to your pets, filth!

Oh, but they're not nearly as fun as you are, Kyouya. Kufufufufufu~.

Growling in frustration, Hibari rose and paced back and forth in front of the demolished wall, agitation rolling off him in waves. Never had he felt such nettling, suffocating frustration ever before! There was no one else — no one else on the face of this green earth — that could get under his skin as easily as the filthy, slovenly, fucking mind-whore of a herbivore did — and that fact did NOT please him, no, not at all!

If only, he wished, if ONLY he was rid of this herbivore, this vexing parasite in his head, the invading presence, the mocking voice that had no right at all to mock him, he would, oh, he would —

Hibari threw his head back in a hiss and collapsed on the floor once more, running a hand through his hair.

Footsteps ascended the staircases nearby, and Hibari turned to see Kusakabe watching him. He merely lay back down and stared up at the blue, cloudy sky, contemplating all the plausible ways to ensure the parasite's demise.

His eyes slowly drooped as he was swayed by the lull of a quiet and peacefully herbivore-free afternoon. His rage, still bubbling underneath the surface, was worth to ignore if for an restful afternoon nap. The parasite was humming some sort of tune in the back of his head. An Italian song, he noted. He would die before admitting it, but the mind-whore had quite a nice voice.

Let's go to that Italian place again tonight. It would be a nice change. I am getting quite tired of the repetitive Japanese foo —

"Hibari-san, watch out!" "Make way, Lambo-sama is here, hahahaha!"

Hibari's vision whirled.


Of a Silence that Won't Go Away
(DEPRESSION, Hibari-style)


Hibird's twittering sounded a little bit off.

Reaching out and squinting through the settling dust, Hibari watched as the bird perched upon his finger. The bird was agitated. He yawned, slowly rising.

"…what's all that noise?" he mumbled. There was the sound of crumbling stone and muffled explosions all around him.

Who dares ruin my quiet afternoon?


There was a split-second pause, before he realized that the back of his mind was quite disturbingly bare and empty. No blithe and mocking reply came to answer his inwards question, and there was no longer any of the harassing and poking and prodding.


"Don't you know what'll happen if you disturb my sleep?"

He rose from his reclined position, his tonfas on the ready as his senses tingled in warning. His eyes narrowed, staring down at the strange herbivore in front of him. The herbivore carried swords, proving Hibari's senses right. This was a fighter, and he had stepped right in the middle of a fight.

"Hey you."

The herbivore started.

"In Nami high, those eyebrows," Hibari frowned, "are against school rules."

If the mind-whore was here, there would be some sort of amused retort at that, Hibari caught himself absently thinking. Dismayed at his mind's tendency to wander towards forbidden grounds, he refocused upon the herbivore swordsman in front of him.

"You —"

"Well, never mind," Hibari declared, spinning his tonfa in a nonchalant but still somewhat menacing manner. "Why is our missing student lying here unconscious?"

"I was the one who defeated Yamamoto Takeshi," the swordsman herbivore stated darkly.

Hibari paused momentarily at that information. Yamamoto Takeshi was an able swordsman, this Hibari knew. Of course, the herbivore was not up to par with his own skills, but there was potential to be considered. (He carefully steered his mind away from trying to predict what the mind-whore would have said in reaction to his thoughts. He wasn't going there, no he was not; it was a blessing to finally be free of the fucking perverted bastard. Or at least, this he told himself.)

And this man is saying that he beat Yamamoto Takeshi… interesting.

"Ah, so it was you." A predatory grin stretched Hibari's lips. He slowly let his anger seep past his control, killing intent shrouding him like a cloud. Hibird twittered away at a safe distance, recognizing the start of a dangerous battle. "That makes things easier. No one violates Nami high property." He stabbed his tonfa towards Yamamoto's unconscious form and said, "That is still Nami high property. I will administer punishment."

Finally: release.

"Let's begin."



It was quite tiring listening to the vexing chatter of the herbivores clustering around him, but when trapped inside a tube of glass, one really had no choice but to stay. He started picking out bits and pieces of information — this was ten years into the future, the Guardians were in some sort of battle to go back to the past, this Irie Shoichi was supposedly their ally but had been spying on the other side as per instructions from the older Vongola Tenth and his own older self — and thankfully, things were starting to make more sense.

He kept his usual blank façade up and secure. He refused to let show his confusion. It was vital to keep his emotions from the enemy, for they were leverage for the enemy. This lesson was deeply ingrained from his grandfather and mother, and was reinforced ruthlessly by the mind-whore during their (undoubtedly educational, but he would be loathe to admit it so) grudging companionship.

As the Vongole herbivores finally came to an agreement about what should be done next, the dust settled. They were to go free. There was much fuss about how to open the glass tubes without diffusing the poison gas set by the treacherous Cervello women, but Hibari thought them all idiots, took out his tonfa, and simply shattered the glass.

"Oi, be careful, damnit! You're gonna hurt the Tenth!" Gokudera Hayato, Herbivore #2, gruffly snapped. If it weren't for the blind worship the boy offered the spineless Sawada Tsunayoshi, he would have been a marginally dependable herbivore.

"A few more scratches won't kill him." Hibari leapt from the tube, shoes crunching against the glittering broken pieces of glass. He strode towards the two-faced Herbivore #7 Irie Shoichi and snatched his ring from the outstretched hand. He slipped the comforting weight onto his finger and faced Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi. "Which way is out of this hellhole?"

"Err, I don't know?" Herbivore #1 had the usual doe-eyed herbivore look on his face that made Hibari want to physically beat a spine into the boy. There was strength in those eyes, but they were too innocent, too pure. The boy needed to be shown the necessity for actually showing and using that hidden strength. The boy needed breaking.

"We'll be going through a hidden exit and back into your base," Herbivore #7 explained. "I'm pretty sure the older Hibari already took care of the advance squad sent to infiltrate your base."

The herbivores turned to him at that, and he merely shrugged. He knew nothing of his older self.

There was much fussing about the heavily injured Herbivore #3 Yamamoto Takeshi, and if not for Herbivore #7's insistent nagging to hurry it up, Hibari knew they would never have gotten out of the place.

He spared the gigantic circular machine one last thoughtful glance, a tiny voice in his head wondering what the mind-whore would have said about all of this.

Suddenly, the silence within him became oppressing.



It wouldn't go away.

The silence, it wouldn't go away.

He sighed, turning over in his warm futon. He found his wing more than satisfactory, and immediately took a liking to the privacy and general peace of the quarters. His (very minimal) wounds had been treated earlier at the main base, and suffice to say it was a very unpleasant experience, mingling for a prolonged period of time with boisterous and nonsensical herbivore whelps. The soonest he could, he got up and walked away from the lot of them.

He sat through a concise, but still rather lengthy explanation of everything that had transpired over the years, courtesy of Kusakabe. There was nothing, though, that the man could offer regarding the supposed plan that was only between Irie Shoichi, the older Vongola Tenth, and his older self. Apparently, it was so much of a secret that not even the Vongola's right hand man, Gokudera Hayato, was notified of any such plan.

Hibari merely sat and absorbed the information. His mind was slowly catching up. It was still quite a bit numb from the suddenness of everything. There was no easy way to go about the problem he was now stuck in with a bunch of mindless fledgling herbivores, but that was okay. He was feeling antsy, anyway, and he could use the extra exercise. It would be nice, he remarked, to finally have an outlet for all the bottled frustration and brimming rage.

And the box.

Delicate fingers traced the box in the darkness, mapping its contours, the embellishments and decorations on its surface. Beneath his fingertips he could feel a hum of power, a response from the drunk little hedgehog inside. He'd only met it once, earlier. It was not a very nice meeting, but he liked the hedgehog. Things would work out, he was sure. There was just a need for a little bit more practice, something that could easily be remedied by the reported sheer number of enemies they had roaming about Namimori—about his territory.

Kusakabe had mentioned that his entire family was dead, reportedly killed in the crossfire, but in truth were wiped out completely upon command from this herbivore Byakuran. His mother, bless her indestructible soul, was the only one left surviving, and that wasn't much of a surprise. She'd always been strong. She was in hiding within the Triads in China, and occasionally came upon contact whenever there was information to be exchanged.

He frowned.

If the Millefiore had managed to wipe out his entire family, then he gathered they must be quite extensive. Not necessarily strong, for any weak army could overpower the strongest with sheer number. That might have been the case. Apparently, Namimori was now teeming with unchecked enemy mafioso, the Vongola having been subdued upon the older Tenth's death a few months prior.

They were clearly on the losing side; that much was apparent. He grimaced. He never did like how the mafia dealt with its business, encroaching upon foreign territory to sate their wayward whims, involving people who otherwise did not want any sort of involvement with any such business. He had other things to waste his time on other than this, he thought — cleaning up his Namimori was one.

He would start tomorrow.

He closed his eyes, letting the troubling thoughts flit about in his head.

Perhaps, his subconscious mused, perhaps the about clatter of noisy thoughts would chase out the silence that wouldn't go away.




Disdainfully eyeing the crumpled man on the ground, he replaced his tonfas and walked away. The mafioso did not recognize him, as such, he was allowed to roam about freely. The older Hibari Kyouya was so rarely ever seen that only a select few from the opposite side knew his real appearance, and those select few were either dead, currently incapacitated, or otherwise unavailable.

Taking advantage of this fact, Hibari began disposing of them, one at a time. This was the twenty-first, and he had plenty to go, plenty to siphon his anger off on. When they woke up, Hibari ensured they would be permanently incapacitated enough to be unable to return to the mafia, if not permanently then for a while. (Or he just killed them altogether, either one worked.)

It was nearing lunchtime, and the sun was at its zenith, bearing down on them with nauseous heat. A bead of sweat trickled down the side of his head and into his collar, slithering down his neck. He inwardly shuddered as an unbidden memory of fingers trailing down his neck suddenly rose to the forefront.

Seething, he strode forward, clearing a path ahead of him by simply glaring at people.

Even ten years into the future! Even ten years into the future, and the fucking mind-whore still haunted him! And though this time, it wasn't quite as literal, it was just as real.

His mind, his traitorous mind, had gotten so used to the invasive presence that it even started imitating what the voice would say every time something caught his attention, every time he fought someone, every time he did something. Even the most mundane of things – cooking, clothing, bathing – became big issues as voices, this time all his own, began warring in his head.

(Thankfully he had yet to reach the point where he could fully imitate that abominable chuckle the illusionist was so fond of. Now that would really, truly scare him. It would probably be wise, at that time, to seek help.)

As he walked – stalked – the familiar but at the same time subtly different roads, he began to notice the hunger clawing at his stomach. He had yet to eat breakfast, and his dinner the night prior was hardly a proper meal. He stopped. Eyeing the restaurant across the road, his mind conflicted.

His feet, however, were faster to decide. They began walking him across the pedestrian while the light was still green. Soon, he was ushered into the restaurant, given a seat, and a glass of water to cool down.

His lip quirked.

Indeed, the irony of things was a pleasure to ponder. Ten years ago, he was sitting in the same seat, having an argument with a voice in his head. Ten years later, he still sits in the same seat, but this time around, his head was devoid of that extra voice, and he was feeling quite… off (for he was not lonely, no, definitely not) without that voice.

He peruses the menu, trying to decide which would be a filling meal. Perhaps he would go for meat today.

"Good afternoon, sir," the waitress chirps. The waitress then turns to him, and her eyes lighten in passing recognition, before she turns back to her piece of paper. "Ah, Hibari-sama. Would you like the usual today?"

Maybe the girl simply didn't look close enough, or maybe he really did look much like his older self, only a little bit smaller. He was more surprised to find that he actually came here often enough to be recognized by name by the waitresses.

"It's Seiji-san in the kitchen today," the girl remarked absently, still scribbling something on her paper. "He makes the best pasta of all of them, though of course we don't tell the other chefs that."

Hibari glanced momentarily at the menu's pasta section, and notes that at the very top of the list was a very familiar dish.

He sighs, and closes the menu.

Even ten years later, the mind-whore still manages to be a humongous pain the ass.

"Yes, I'll have the Penne today."



Maybe he died, Hibari mused absently, sipping on the wine that he was not supposed to be drinking.

This was his fourth week within this realm, and it was not getting any better. The silence, that is. The battles, though, were faring quite well. The Varia proved to be quite strong, and held steady ground in Italy. He'd come into contact with his mother once, though he hadn't let the woman know that this was his ten-years-younger self talking, lest information leak to the Triads. They were neither enemies nor allies; it was better to steer clear of them.

Sawada Tsunayoshi had also given strict orders regarding secrecy, and though he wasn't about to be ordered around by a spineless – well, alright, he did have some spine now, but still not fully formed – herbivore, he saw the reason behind it. The baby had also insisted that despite his disinclination towards the mafia, he was already a member by simply wearing the Ring, and thus he was subject to omérta.

The best news of all: they were getting closer and closer to Byakuran. In fact, they were currently on a private flight to Palermo, where they would be welcomed by the Varia and the Cavallone family and join together with them for the final fight.

The time for return to the past was nearing, and Hibari found himself growing more impatient by the minute.

But anyway, back to the silence.

It was not getting any better, only festering in the back of his mind, echoing deep, annoying him every single waking moment, tormenting him every single sleepless night. He'd have expected that by now, the mind-whore's ten-year-older counterpart would have already contacted him—but no, not one single sign of life! Apparently, even that girl, Chrome, had no idea where her other half was. She insisted that he was alive, and that she could feel him right there, but he was still in some way detached, and she could not contact him to ask for help, or to inquire about his health, or even to simply talk.

It was strange, she said, as if there was some sort of barrier separating the two of them. There was always a thrum of energy whenever she touched what she could of Mukuro's shrouded consciousness, as if the other knew that she was there and calling out, but couldn't really do anything.

This put the Tenth in deep worry, and Hibari acknowledged this concern, for it was legitimate. If there was any entity out there capable of neutralizing the Rokudo Mukuro without killing him, then there was cause for worry. There was a great chance that this entity was Byakuran, and though this thought should unsettle him, it didn't. In fact, it only settled his doubts, and gave him certainty.

Now he knew his goal.

Bite this herbivore Byakuran to death, and go back home.

Simple, concise, straight to the point. That was always how he liked it.

After all, this future, never mind the familiar faces and familiar places, was not home. It felt off, somehow. His own flame recoiled at the very thought of being in this place, where he was alien. They were not supposed to be altering the future like this, messing with the flow of time, changing people's lives with each choice, each decision, each action they make.

And yet, here they were, doing it, for it was the only way to get back to their own time.

He turned and watched the clouds, his kin, shroud the plane's cramped window. Fate was fickle, and as transient as time. Even if they changed this future, who's to say that the future they would go back to would not entail the same?



It was chaos.

Upon landing, there was a massive explosion at the airport, sending the mafioso in a mad frenzy to protect the Vongola Guardians (even though, in Hibari's opinion, it should be the other way around, for such weakling herbivores would not be able to do anything faced against fatal danger). The bomb, it seems, was set off a little bit too early, not catching its intended targets (which would be them). He shook his head, failing to comprehend why this powerful, influential Byakuran bothered recruiting such abysmal idiots to do such important jobs. Maybe Byakuran was one of those abysmal idiots too.

Snapping into action, Herbivore #2 Gokudera Hayato immediately delegated positions, falling into his by now well-learned place as the right hand man of the Vongola. Herbivore #2 didn't bother assigning Hibari a position, knowing that he would not bother following any sort of plan.

Really, all he cared for was to kill. He hungered, thirsted for the kill.

Dispose of all that stood in his way. It was arguably a very simplistic and brutal way to view the world, but it worked, and it worked well. There was no reason to throw a perfectly valid philosophy in life.

And so, they tore their way through the small private airport, killing off a small swarm of back-up Black Spell fighters. With each hit of his tonfas, Hibari felt marginally better. The building tension within him eased one bit at a time. After they'd finished, he felt better than he had in days. There really was nothing that could beat the silence better than a good fight.

Hibari glanced backwards to see Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi mournfully apologizing to Herbivore #3 Yamamoto Takeshi — somewhere along the way, the swordsman had become the Vongola's left hand man. If the right hand man took care of family business, it was the left hand man's duty to dispose of anyone who violated and/or refused to partake in them. Yamamoto Takeshi had ironically become the Vongola's lead hitman.

It was source of much tension between Herbivores #1, #2, and #3. Hibari took much pleasure in watching the drama unravel, despite his failure to comprehend how a simple thing as killing another person became a complicated issue between the three of them. It was an educational study of the famiglia's dynamics, one he needed to quickly learn to navigate, if he truly had no other choice but be a very reluctant part of it.

"Hahaha, don't mind me, Tsuna, I'm alright," Herbivore #3 laughed, a very blatant fake smile plastered on his face.

Herbivore #2 grunted in disbelief, muttering muffled words, but keeping them to himself.

"It's an emergency," Lal Mirch, Herbivore #4, suddenly called out before Herbivore #1 could say whatever he was to say to his friend. "Byakuran is leading his generals into the Vongola main estate. We need to hurry!"

"Merde," Herbivore #2 cursed loudly, running for the car and opening it.

When, of course, it exploded.

They should have expected that one, in Hibari's opinion.



The final fight was as every bit intense and every bit exhilarating as Hibari had imagined it would be.

Furiously, they tore through the Millefiore's ranks, the best of the best brought out by the danger and the pressure to succeed. To win. There was no more holding back, that much was obvious. Along the way, they practically demolished the Vongola estate to the ground. Herbivore #2 Gokudera Hayato was especially destructive, his Sistema CAI wreaking absolute havoc as explosives went off at random within his periphery. Often he got into a yelling spat with the Rain Guardian Herbivore #3 – "Ow!! Hey, Gokudera, tone it down, will you?!" " Shut up, baseball idiot, and mind your own fucking business!" – whenever the explosives went too close for comfort and singed the swordsman's hair or burned off a battle-tattered sleeve.

Herbivore #5 Sasagawa Ryohei (ten-years-older counterpart) was very damn near exhausted, having had to heal everybody who got injured well enough to have them back in the fight. The Varia pushed savagely, never giving an inch against the invading forces. The shark swordsman, Squalo (hereby nicknamed Herbivore #8), was so unnecessarily loud – "VOOOOOOOII!! GIVE ME MORE!! IS THAT ALL YOU CAN FUCKING DO, BASTARDS?" -- that Hibari had to repetitively repress the urge to stalk over and permanently silence the loudmouth in ways so painful the shark wouldn't even dare think of it. The Varia's leader, Xanxus, was also an enormous asshole for hogging two generals to himself, one of which Hibari had already staked claim on. Some people were just plain rude.

And so, ruthlessly, Hibari brought down one after another general, not stopping even for a single breath. This fight would bring him back home, and hell if he wasn't going to win it. This was not his world; he did not belong here. He would go back to where he should rightfully be, to his real Namimori, to his relative peace and quiet.

And the lack of silence.

He needed this fight, much as he needed a patch of air to breathe. He needed this fight; this fight was his blessed release. The silence, the agonizing silence, it did not go away, no matter what he did—and this was the only way to preoccupy himself long enough, intensely enough, to forget that festering, nagging silence ever-present in his consciousness.

Ergo, he diligently did his job, one by one disposing of three generals single-handedly, killing four more captains on the way. A handful of soldiers got killed in one fell swoop as his hedgehog's spikes expanded to cover the vicinity.

His tonfas were bloodied and battered, but they withstood the repetitive impact of hit after hit after hit. His legs, his arms, his shoulders, they ached and hurt and burned and he really didn't think he could go on any further but he had to, had to, and he did, and won each time.

From then on it was nothing but a blur of red and black and grey, flashes of white and muffled explosions thudding against his consciousness. Hoarse yells scratched against his abused ears, but he ignored them, focusing solely on one goal: to kill, and kill, and maim, and kill.

This was him, coping with the silence, that silence that wouldn't go away.



Bleeding and severely wounded at the end of it all, he stood – barely – near the Vongola, as the other Guardians did, gazing up at the capofamiglia standing over the limp and lifeless form of the Millefiore's feared leader, Byakuran.

The silence, it's back again.

Hibari spun a tonfa and lodged it solidly into one of the nearby pillars, hissing in fury. Even this much, and it wasn't enough to chase the silence away?

In the haze of the aftermath, when several explosives were still going off and battle cries could still be heard outside, their voices were hoarse, subdued. Hibari thought he heard Herbivore #2 call out to the capofamiglia, but it could've been his still partly hypnotized mind playing tricks on him. The herbivores were clumping together once again, he noted with disdain, as the capofamiglia smiled a sad smile at his friends. Killing a person had broken the boy's innocence, but it had given him the spine he needed to lead the family into greatness. It was necessary.

Dazed, he leaned heavily against one of the still-standing patches of wall. His breaths were heavy and labored from exertion. He had no major wounds, but he did lose quite an amount of blood.

Before he could even recover his breath, however, Herbivore #7, Irie Shoichi, was suddenly shoving them all together in a cluster and activating the machine to take them to the past. He was harried, bustling about, telling them to hurry, that they couldn't stay any longer, that complications might arise, that accidents might happen and they might get killed.

Now that the mission was done, there was no longer any reason to stay a single extra second in this bleak and foreign world that was supposed to be their future. With a few last reminders – "Be sure to find Byakuran-san and keep an eye on him in the past! And don't you dare mess up and get the Vongola killed again, you hear me?!" – the machine whirred and spun into life, a gigantic replica of the cow's toy bazooka, except if a little bit grander, and with a ton more of finesse. (And it wasn't a tacky purple either.)

The girls and the children stumbled forward from where they'd been hiding with Bianchi and Fuuta, I-Pin shrieking at Lambo to shut up and stop crying in panic. Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi reached over and patted the little cow baby's head, drawing the girls protectively close as the bright and blinding white light emanating from the machine forced them to screw their eyes shut.

As they whirled into the time vacuum, however, Hibari glanced back.

Vision very nearly half-blind, Hibari was not sure if he had been seeing an illusion or not. But there, partially hidden behind one of the battered pillars of the Vongola manor, was standing a battered and bloodied man, his hair falling, spilling over his shoulders, framing a deceptively angelic face. A single glaring red eye stood out, staring right back at him.


And then everything blurred into stark white.


Of Succumbing Into the Folds of Temptation



Pitch black and bleak. Around him, bearing down, suffocating. The light whisper of velvet petals on his skin. Blood, dried and itching, covering half his face. His muscles, enduring spasms of pain. His breath, light and ragged, puffed and fogged before his eyes. Drowning, he was drowning, in a sea of conscious and unconscious, mingled together as paint blending grey. His eyes, they were still facing forwards, but his vision was dim. The silhouette of a form before him was all he could see. For how long he'd been kneeling here, receiving blow after blow, he no longer knew.

Gentle, oh so painfully gentle fingers—they slid under his chin, tilting his face upwards, gently outlining his lips—he could not move, he wanted to move, wanted to bite this treacherous herbivore to death, but his limbs, they were bound by invisible chains—

"Such beauty." The velvet voice was quiet. Fingers caressed high cheekbones, fluttering eyelids, the bridge of his delicate nose. "And such fire in your eyes..." Defiantly he glared up at his captor, hating the amused smirk stretching those wicked, wicked lips. He was met by mismatched eyes, one glaring red, the other a smoldering dark blue. "…breathtaking."

Lips were on his own, sudden, coaxing, gentle. The trident that was lowered beside him nicked his hand—he paid it no mind. A tongue gently traced his lower lip, sneaking into his mouth, exploring. Fingers tangled into his hair, tilting his head, for he couldn't do it on his own. His eyelids fluttered. Heat was pooling in his core, but he was sure it was only this strange virus that had taken hold of his system.

Around them rained pink petals of the illusionary tree towering above, and as the kiss deepened, his eyes fell shut, submerging him in warm, rocking darkness.




His eyes opened to be welcomed by shades of grey blurring into black. He was in his room, in his futon. The familiar ceiling beams comforted his confused mind. Through the shoji he could hear shuffling, faint. The house help were always about taking care of things to be taken care of. His attention returned to the ceiling beams, noting that they weren't aged but well-maintained.

He was back in his time.

Releasing a sigh of muted relief, he sagged against his futon. For a brief second there he'd thought they were still stuck within that bleak future. It was a scary thought, being unable to go back to one's rightful world, trapped in a place where everything seemed right yet still remained completely wrong. He vowed his Namimori would never be subject to any such future, not if he had anything to do about it.

His thumb curled inwards, instinctively seeking the ring. Once reassured of its presence on his middle finger, he groped in the darkness, seeking the thrum of energy that was his box. And there it was, tucked underneath the folds of his yukata. He retrieved it, and in doing so his fingers brushed against bandages on his chest, reminding him of his once dire condition.

He very nearly died, but was alive to tell the tale.

But then that was nothing new, really. He'd already done it before; he would do it again.

Carefully, he rose from his futon. His feet padded silently upon the tatami­-matted floor, and the sliding of the shoji as he pushed it aside was no louder. With a few measured steps, he emerged in his mother's self-attended garden, the beautiful sakura showering him with an abundance of petals. The breeze blew its faint scent to his nose, familiar.

Yes indeed, he was back.

But there was something—


He turned to find his mother approaching from the other side of the garden, having emerged from her own wing of the house. "Mother."

The woman, a startling semblance of himself, gently reached and cupped his cheeks, placing a soft kiss on each. "I am glad to see that you are well." The sleeves of her silk kimono felt sheer against his skin. She drew back, retrieving her hands and tucking them close to her person. "You arrived yesterday afternoon, heavily wounded. You appeared to have been in quite a battle, child. Your grandfather is growing anxious, wanting to talk to you of your… experiences."

He inclined his head in acknowledgement, wryly saying, "I'll be sure to tell him in detail how his lessons helped me take down three generals single-handedly."

"Please do," she chuckled. "Nothing else calms him as well as his beloved grandson's reassurances."

She sat beside him, and together, they gazed up at the sakura in its timeless glory.

"I haven't seen you visit the garden in months," his mother remarked quietly. "Why the sudden change?"

Their housecat, Shiratama, scampered after a frightened little baby bird, leaving his prints on the otherwise immaculately scrubbed wooden floors. Its tail swished, hypnotizing, back and forth. It crouched, waiting for a chance to strike.

He faintly shrugged. "I wanted to see the bloom."

"You've been glaring the tree down since last spring, Kyouya. You don't expect me to settle for such, surely?"

To that, he had no reply.

"Your older counterpart rather loved the bloom."

"…he stayed here?"

"Why, yes, where else would he stay?" Her sharp eyes followed the cat's form as it slunk into one of the lower bushes, carrying within its jaws the limp form of the baby bird. "He came and visited the garden every morning to meditate. He often remarked on the sakura, how beautiful it was." She turned to him with a pleased smile. "Quite the breathtaking young man you will be, darling. We raised you well."

He merely raised an eyebrow to that, knowing it was more of a compliment towards his mother than an actual praise for him.

"He told us quite an interesting story as well," she said. "Of the Italian Cosa Nostra and your involvement with them. Of the possible upcoming war with the Millefiore. Of the boxes, and the rings." She pointedly looked upon his hand, which was adorned by the Cloud ring.

He nodded. "The alliance with the Vongola will help our family. It will warn the Triads to keep their paws to themselves as well."

"I see you've accepted your role within the Vongola," she remarked. "I'm impressed. I would very much like to meet the capofamiglia soon, and your fellow Guardians, if they were able to persuade you so readily into your role. Your grandfather expresses his interest as well."

He nodded once more, turning towards her when she reached over and touched his cheek.

"I just want you to remember, Kyouya," she said, "that before you are a Vongola, you are a Hibari. You are, and always will be, of our family. You are the heir, and one day, you will succeed your grandfather as the kumichou. Never forget that."

"Of course, mother. I understand."

She looked him in the eye, deliberating, before nodding and releasing him. "Good." She rose from her seat. "If you feel well enough, join us for lunch in an hour."

"I will."

Hibari turned back towards the sakura, petals still dancing in an endless shower. The sunlight was mild, for the sky was partly cloudy. Here he belonged. His inner flame was calm, and the box that was tucked into his yukata thrummed with peaceful energy, warming his skin. There really was nothing that could best the peace of his mother's garden, and the warm atmosphere of his old house, and the gentleness of his mother's hands.

Why, you have a very beautiful and most understanding mother, Kyouya! I believe we will get along just fine when I come to visit and ask for your hand.

His eyebrow twitched.

Noisy mind-whores in his head and the blatant lack of festering silence: yes, he was indeed back home.



Descending the plane, Hibari yawned. Twice in a week he'd boarded a plane headed for Palermo. Twice in a week he was forced to accompany a conglomeration of worthless whelps in an inane trip to free the even inaner illusionist currently imprisoned within some remote facility deep in Palermo's surrounding provinces.

He sighed. He really could not see the point of this fucking field trip.

I'm hurt. Aren't you eager at all to see me, Kyouya?

Motioning to Kusakabe for his bag, he retrieved his jacket and draped it about his shoulders. The herbivores were clumped together, the capofamiglia sufficiently confused with the Italian babble. Ever the considerate right-hand man, Herbivore #2 Gokudera Hayato served as the loyal translator, not only for the Tenth, but for all of them.

Traduttore, traditore. Tsk, tsk. Did the Arcobaleno forget the Vongola's language lessons? One must never trust translators. They always lie.

You would know, wouldn't you.

Of course. Kufufufu~.

In all honesty, Hibari hadn't wanted to come with, but the baby had insisted strongly, and even went as far as negotiating with his grandfather in person. He was supposed to stay for the yearly sake ritual of the Hibari family, and as he had promised his mother, he placed his family first and foremost — but as fate would have it, his grandfather agreed to whatever bargain the baby had offered, and here he was, a grudging companion to the rest of the Vongole herbivores.

Them Vongole herbivores made a point to have him know that they did not appreciate his presence (in fact, Herbivore #2 Gokudera Hayato had very succinctly stated that he hated the fact that an uncooperative bastard like Hibari was to come with them to Italy), but that was okay, because he hated them equally as much, and he made a point of showing that too.

The general herbivore clutter and bustle only grew louder and more boisterous (and thus causing twice as much annoyance) the moment they got into the grand limousine. Herbivore #2 was giving his rapt audience of uneducated herbivores an impromptu history lesson as they drove through the peaceful, olden roads of Palermo, and as Hibari listened in, he could not help but notice that the herbivore was focusing upon the best points, intent on making the experience a most pleasurable one for the still slightly jittery capofamiglia.

The voice in his head, however, supplemented everything Herbivore #2 said with the complete and unabridged version. Mukuro talked Hibari through the antiquity, the influence of the Greeks, the Roman Empire's rise and demise, the Germanic tribes, the Gothic War, the Byzantine rule, all through the Middle Ages, the rebellion of Palermo against the Neapolitan crown, its return to the kingdom of Italy, the development that came afterwards only to be damaged by the allied invasion of Sicily, and its instatement as an autonomous region with extended self-rule.

Hibari wordlessly listened to what the illusionist had to say. The familiar voice, loathe he was to admit, was no longer grating against his nerves. On the contrary, it calmed him, centering his scattered thoughts. He relished the soothing quality it had, and the lack of that annoying silence he couldn't chase away.

If Mukuro knew of anything about the silence, he said not a single thing of it. Meddling mind-whore that he was, the illusionist was prone to sifting through his memories without permission, especially during his sleep. There were several instances when he woke with a splitting headache, and upon grilling the mind-whore with sharp-tongued questions, he found that the fucking bastard had gone through his entire experiences, sensations included, from the future, all in one night. All the battles, the thinking, the stress and the pressure, the near-death experiences — all of it was pulled back into his conscious during a time his brain was supposed to be recovering its energy.

Fucking meddling mind-whore just didn't know the meaning of the word 'limits'.

After that night, he'd expected niggling questions about that silence — for surely if the mind-whore really did look through everything, he would have found memories of that silence — but he got none. He didn't ask for any, no. But he still considered it somewhat strange.

And comforting.

(He'd readily bite himself before admitting that.)

You know you could show a little bit more of excitement, Kyouya.

For what?

Well, in a day, I'm going to be free.

A god-awful prospect. Nothing to be excited about. No, it was something to positively dread, in Hibari's very honest opinion.

Kufufufu~! It won't be all that bad. I'll be able to personally hold you and warm you and pleasure your delectable body at nig —

Shut the fuck up, filthy — there will absolutely be no such thing between us!

You say that now, Kyouya, you only say that now. Kufufufu~.

Hibari regarded that with icy silence, resolutely training his attention at the Vongola estate. It looked much different from its counterpart ten years into the future. There were several houses and buildings still not erected, and the general state of the property was less ragged and more polished, the damages of a still-to-happen war nowhere to be seen. The only thing that hadn't changed was the main manor, towering tall and formidable above them as they emerged from the limousine.

As they were greeted by the Vongola Ninth and a smattering of advisors and underbosses, the voice in his head blithely remarked, I wonder how long it will take me to break you. Kufufufufu~.

He broke the limousine's door.




The moment he entered the dark underground chambers, the stench of desolate coldness assaulted his nostrils. He grimaced, settling a glare upon the pitch black darkness within which he couldn't see a thing. His eyes have yet to adjust to the darkness, but that didn't deter him.

Resolutely, he walked into the dank chambers, following after their lead, who was somewhere ahead of them. An echoing click, and glowing floor lights gave ample illumination for them to see where they were walking. As they proceeded deeper in, the herbivores crowding ahead of him, it only grew colder, damper. His breath misted in front of his face, and his ring, settled on his finger was cold to the touch. The sound of the bustling prison-keepers began fading away, until they couldn't hear anyone from outside anymore.

It was a few more minutes of quiet walking until they reached their destination. The unanimous reaction was a surprised gasp.

Above them, suspended in a glass tube of water, was Rokudo Mukuro.

The faint glow of the floor lights was not enough, and it wasn't until the prison-keeper accompanying them turned on the tube's inner lighting did they properly see. A straightjacket held the arms securely around the body, and metal manacles tightly locked the feet together, immobilizing the legs. There was a tube wrapping around one arm, a needle inserted into the flesh, providing the illusionist with the serum of nutrients necessary to keep him alive and breathing. A mask obscured the lower half of the illusionist's face, providing him air.

"Rokudo Mukuro, subject E7890," the prison-keeper stated. "Highest security facility. No visitors allowed, monitored only from a remote control room. Captured and kept imprisoned for seven months, one week, two days, twelve hours, forty-three minutes, and counting. Since incarceration, none has set foot inside this chamber until today."

"Mukuro-sama!" the herbivore girl, Chrome, exclaimed, running up to the glass tube and pressing her hands firmly against it, as if wanting to cross through.

One of the herbivore Kokuyou minions — Hibari couldn't be bothered to remember who was which — growled at the prison-keeper, "Oi, release him!"

"Wait," Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi said.

"What now?!" Kokuyou Minion #1, the noisy one, yelled. "You promised you would release him!"

"I promised I would release him if he agrees to cooperate," Herbivore #1 corrected, leveling Kokuyou Minion #1 with a silencing glare. Hibari admired the newfound spine the boy now exposed. "I need to talk to him first."

"Mukuro-sama!" Chrome gasped. "Mukuro-sama is awake!"

All eyes turned towards the restrained body inside the tube. A mismatched pair of eyes swept over them, focusing momentarily on Chrome, then on the Kokuyou minions (who were sickeningly overjoyed, much to Hibari's disgust), and then on Hibari himself. There was a slight flicker of amusement as those eyes turned upon him, for which Hibari was annoyed. He could not see what was so amusing with this situation. He was freezing, he was stuck with a clump of useless herbivores, and he was hungry. His time could be spent doing something much more productive, like resting back in Namimori, or ridding his territory of unworthy herbivores, or perhaps hunting prey to sate his hunger.

"Chrome," Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi said, "tell him that I need him to swear to the family first."

There was a pause, and then the girl said, "Mukuro-sama says to state your claim."

The capofamiglia gave a glance to the Arcobaleno and to his right-hand man, who both nodded. He then began, "First and foremost, he will swear absolute allegiance to the Vongola, and upon no circumstances shall he break any law of the family, especially omerta."

"He swears."

"He will be given the Mist ring, his own box, and jurisdiction over his own squads, but he will not abuse any of these rights, nor will he extort any of his subordinates."

"He swears."

"He will report to me annually, with documented records of his activities for the past year." Hibari realizes the usually spineless herbivore must have memorized and rehearsed this before to be able to pull it off so smoothly. "As per the fifth creed of the Cosa Nostra, always being available for the family is a duty, no matter what the circumstance may be."

"He swears."

All the while, Hibari watched the illusionist restrained within the tube. Mukuro was watching over them with gleaming eyes, calmly listening to the exchange between his subordinate and the Vongola. The capofamiglia glanced momentarily at Reborn, who nodded, and then motioned to the prison-keeper.

The prison-keeper gave the go signal into the transmitter he carried with him, and after a deathly silent pause, a whoosh of air was released from the mechanism underneath the tube. A fluid rush echoed through the chamber as the water drained noisily out of the tube. Mukuro was slowly lowered by the wires holding him in place, and a small door was opened through the glass of the bottom part of the tube. Chrome and the Kokuyou minions immediately rushed in, all relieved to have their leader back. The wires retracted from the cuff on his neck and the manacles on his feet. The manacles snapped free, and the straightjacket was carefully undone by Kokuyou Minion #2. Gingerly, Chrome detached the mask from her other half's face.


Limbs free, Mukuro sought support from his overjoyed minions, struggling to have himself stand straight.

"It took a substantial amount of convincing to get the community to agree to your release, Mukuro, so you had better behave," Reborn threateningly said.

Giving the Arcobaleno a wry smile, Mukuro said, "Nice to see you too, cursed baby." His voice rasped, rough and damaged from unused. The Kokuyou minions walked Mukuro out of the tube. The illusionist was still sopping wet, but his minions didn't appear to mind.

Herbivore #1 approached Mukuro, detaching the chain that held the Mist ring from around his neck. His lackeys flanked behind him, a poor reassurance, in Hibari's mind. He handed it to Mukuro along with the box, still a bit wary, but determined. "Your ring and your box weapon. If you don't know how to use it —"

"I already know," Mukuro reassured the boy. There was a verily amused smile on his face. "I've had a very thorough tutorial, thank you." The clump of ignorant herbivores too quickly assumed it was Chrome who taught the illusionist about the ring and the box, but Hibari was inclined to think that all that knowledge came from his own memories. When the illusionist turned to him with a smile, his suspicion was confirmed. "Why, Kyouya! I'm delighted to see you again. I wouldn't have expected you, of all people, to come here. But I do appreciate you going all the way to show your care."

Hibari's eyebrow ticked.

"Rokudo Mukuro. It is my utmost displeasure to see you again, face to face. I'll have you know that every fiber of my being abhors the idea of being here and suffering through your infernal presence, but as fickle fate will have it, I have no choice."

But of course you already knew that, you fucking bastard mind-whore.

"Kufufufufu~. Ever so charming, aren't you, Kyouya?"

Hibari's killing intent deepened, clouding his form. This was only received by Mukuro with a mockingly amused smile.

"Yiii!" Herbivore #1 Sawada Tsunayoshi yelped quietly, inching backwards. The other Guardians warily avoided the two, Ryohei muttering about the inspiring extremity of their animosity to each other.

The baby spouted some noisy thing about keeping schedule, and promptly began to herd them back out of the chamber, paying no heed to Hibari and Mukuro's spat. Something about healthy competition keeping their skills up to pace. They began to (very hurriedly) walk out of the chamber, eager to be away from the darkness and the silence and the cold.

It's rather cold, the voice in his head said with a glaringly fake lightness. I never noticed it was this cold in here.

Hibari resolutely ignored the voice in his head, stepping up his pace to pass the illusionist. Soon, they were out of the chamber and in the prison's fluorescent-lit hallways. Mukuro flinched, eyes fluttering against the brightness.

Aren't you cold, Kyouya? And I wish they'd turn those lights down…

The herbivores were discussing something about a meeting back at the Vongola estates, though they did it in hushed voices. The prison cells around them were tightly sealed, but some people had hellishly sharp hearing. Information in the wrong hands would be disastrous.

I forgot to tell you to tell them to bring the change of clothes to the chamber. Now I have to sop all over the floors and suffer this cold. If only they'd give me a blanket…

A loud sigh escaped Hibari's lips, startling the herbivores in front of him. He abruptly stopped, startling Hibird (who shrilly and very indignantly twittered into his ear) as he sharply turned towards the illusionist. He stepped up to Mukuro.

"A-ah, Hibari-san, you mustn't fight—"

He removed his jacket and in one smooth motion draped it over Mukuro's drenched form.

Now shut up, will you?

"Ah, thank you, Kyouya." There was a pleasantly surprised expression on the illusionist's face, hiding the smugness Hibari just knew was there. "That's very thoughtful of you."

Giving Mukuro an icy glare, Hibari turned about on his heel and stalked down the hallway, past the cluster of stunned and gaping whelp herbivores.

His eyebrow ticked in annoyance.

Even now, months after the first instance of a voice inside his head, he still did not know why that man — that infuriating blasted mind-whore of a man — always bore witness to weaknesses, why it was always that man who saw him at his worst. That man had slowly but surely found a way underneath his skin, gained control over him. He had denied it, he was furious about it, he had bargained and bribed, he had tried to fucking block it all out — anything to end his suffering!

He released a small gust of breath as he emerged from the prison and stood under a swath of sunlight, bathing in the sheer warmth on his chilly skin.

In the end, he realized that there was only one way to end the suffering.

And he absolutely hated every single bit of it.

(Or so he told himself.)

(And that is all.)













Or nearly all. One thinks that something is finished, then suddenly it isn't, quite.

Hibari had a visitor.

There was a quiet knocking on his suite's door that evening, and this extremely displeased him. The night was proving to be a restful night, blissfully free of the nagging voice in his head (but the imposing presence was still there, slightly brushing against his consciousness). Hopefully, the mind-whore was too busy gallivanting with his minions to bother him tonight. Whoever this pathetic excuse for a herbivore was, he would pay.

He opened the door.

"Good evening, Kyouya~! Kufufufufu~."

His forehead met the door.

"What the hell do you want now."

"Ah, not much," the illusionist shrugged, waving his hand in a carefree, dismissive motion. He pushed into the room gracefully, ignoring Hibari's indignant glare. "I just wanted to return the jacket you lent me." To prove his point, he removed the jacket that was still draped on his shoulders and placed it on the divan. He then sat beside it, crossing his legs and tilting his head to the side, gazing at Hibari with a smile.

"You've returned it," Hibari acridly snapped. "Out."

Mukuro ignored him, still smiling. "Care to join me for dinner? There's a good restaurant nearby. We could have penne."

Yes, Hibari hated every single fucking moment of it.

(Or so he told himself.)