It shouldn't be that surprising that, after Hibari, Reborn would call on Dino to help out with some of Tsuna's other 'less team friendly' guardians. Dino was used to being at the beck and call of a) Reborn, and b) The Vongola. As Romario had said 'they'll think we have nothing to do'. And that was exactly what Dino wanted them to think. Well, it had been what he wanted Tsuna to think back when Tsuna was uncomfortable about joining the mafia, but now that Tsuna was settling comfortable into his job as the boss, Dino was regretting giving anyone that impression.
Not that admitting he DID have things to do would ever have stopped Dino's old tutor from dragging him into one spot of trouble or another. Reborn was cruel that way.
"So, you're who they sent to 'train me'?" Mukuro Rokudo sat across from Dino, in the flesh even, though it was a much sadder form then his illusions would present. Dino had expected someone... older looking, even if Dino knew how young Mukuro actually was. Even after everything Mukuro had gone through he still looked... not childish, but not mature. Caught in between perhaps, forever an awkward teenager.
"Not 'train'." Dino smiled at Mukuro Rokudo, who looked just as put out with his presence as Ken and Chikusa had. Chrome had simply looked adorable and befuddled. "I'm here to rehabilitate you." Dino would be so much easier to deal with then nurses and hospital and places that would remind Mukuro of the Estraneo family. That and they were too much of a security risk, on both ends. Mukuro could escape, or an assassin could sneak in.
While Tsuna may have smoothed things over with the Vendicare (how Dino doesn't know, but he's sure it has something to do with Mukuro's recent attempted break out, Tsuna settling in as head of the family, and the Arcoboleno curing their 'curse') Mukuro isn't exactly a 'fan favorite' with any Mafia family.
"I wasn't aware I needed to be rehabilitated." Mukuro's skin is still damp from the tank, and his clothes (donated by Ken and Chikusa) hang off of his frame like a scarecrow's sack.
"First off, there's getting your physical strength back." Dino gets up from the couch and walks over to Mukuro. Mukuro looks unsure, nearly looks scared, but he covers it quickly with bravado. Dino grasps Mukuro's skin and bone arm and tugs, pulling Mukuro onto his feet. Dino doesn't miss the wobble in Mukuro's knees, or the pained pinch to Mukuro's face.
"Think you can stand on your own?" Dino asks, and it's sad in the same tone Dino has said 'how shall I tame this shrew'.
Although, Mukuro wasn't really a shrew, he was more of a viper. Dino feels the sharp points of Mukuro's fangs press against the underside of his chin.
"You really don't want to possess me." Dino states cheerfully. Mukuro chuckles, kufufufu, and it really is as irritating as Hibari had said it was. The pressure increases, and then disappears. Dino rubs his hand under his chin can't help but laugh a little when there's no dampness. "I'm not sure your body could handle your soul leaving it." Dino lets go of Mukuro's arm, sees him crumple painfully back onto the couch and doesn't try to catch him.
"I'll save it for later then." Mukuro smiles, and it's the smile of a serpent who already knows you're ready to swallow apple seeds. There's a tired quality to his blue eye though, but that might just be Dino reading into things. He is, after all, the type to see the best in people.
"You'll need to get stronger for that." Whatever he was fed through the tube may have provided Mukuro with basic nutrition, but none of it was actual food and it certainly wasn't the amount of food a teenage boy needed. Dino hadn't met an illusionist who didn't burn through calories like crazy. Then there was also the muscle atrophy to take into account. How many years had Mukuro been floating in that tube again?
Sensing Dino's inner mathematics, or maybe proving he was psychic, Mukuro spoke up. "I was fifteen when they put me in there." Mukuro lifted his arm, and then let it fall onto his lap. Dino bet it would have been to push some of his long blue-black hair out of his face.
"Five years then." Enough time for Tsuna to mature and from an uncertain young man into a boss everyone could be proud of.
"Five years?" Mukuro looks... well, Dino wouldn't say shocked. He can't be sure how much of the emotion is feigned and how much is real. Dino would bet that a little of it was truth. Keeping track of time when you're basically a mind without a body would be difficult. "How time flies when you're having fun." Mukuro finishes his thought, and looks off past Dino.
Mukuro's back to looking tired and weak, and Dino has to stop himself from offering to leave Mukuro to sleep. Sleep was a vulnerable position to put yourself in, and Dino wondered if it would remind Mukuro of his prison. Then again, Mukuro might refuse for the same reasons Hibari refused, simply out of obstinacy and teenage rebellion.
Twenty year olds still counted as teenagers didn't they?
"Am I allowed visitors, dear warden?" Mukuro asked, calling Dino back from his mental wanderings, Mukuro's tone was sarcastic, but not biting.
Dino smiled. "It's not prison." Though it was, and they both knew it was, it wasn't the Vendicicare, but there would be locks on the doors, or no closed doors, all of Dino's men would be armed, and Mukuro would be watched. Mukuro smiled back, a smile as fake but just as cheery as Dino's own.
The smile changed Mukuro's face, made him look younger than 20, was that the smile that launched a thousand ships and burned the topless towers of Illium? No, Mukuro's smile had just lured people to their doom.
"You're allowed visitors." Dino said when the silence stretched too long, became brittle and tense. "Chrome Dokuro is waiting outside right now." And Ken and Chikusa were waiting with her, just a little further down the hall.
"No Sawada?" Mukuro's voice is careless, carefree, but it's clear he's having a little trouble breathing now. Too much time on bottled oxygen? Maybe. Or maybe it's suppressed emotion. "I'm hurt."
"Tsuna's busy right now." Dino's smile is rueful, and not quite so fake. Tsuna is busy distracting Hibari from killing Mukuro while he has the chance. Kyouya was stubborn like that, and who knows, maybe he wouldn't kill Mukuro, but any damage done to Mukuro right now could potentially be permanent.
"Mmm." Mukuro's eyelids droop, nearly close, and his head begins to drop forward before her jerks himself awake again.
"Do you feel up to visitors?" Dino asks, already moving through the door to open it. He doesn't give Mukuro a chance to say 'no'. Mukuro's expression is displeased, but it changes swiftly when Chrome hesitantly steps into the room.
"You're even cuter in real life, Chrome." Mukuro's voice is silky, and for a brief second an illusion shimmers around him of a body much stronger than the one he wears. Dino's heard that one of Mukuro's strengths is his combat ability, and that was how he beat Marmon. It must be painful to face your subordinates with no strength at all in your limbs.
"Mukuro-san." Tears glitter in Chrome's eye and she takes a few hesitant steps across the room before bolting and kneeling at Mukuro's feet, her face pressed against Mukuro's bony knees. Dino leaves the room after Ken and Chikusa steps in, motions that the door be left open and that the two Cavallone guards should step closer to it. They've set up a system already, hand signals and passwords. Nothing foolproof, Mukuro would probably still be able to break out easily, but the trick was to stall him as long as possible.
Dino catches Romario halfway down the hallway and smiles at him, Romario hands him a cellphone and Dino dials the men outside watching the windows and the escape routes.
Dino's next call is to Tsuna, who doesn't pick up. No doubt he's busy. Dino's soft tread is followed by the familiar sound of Romario's quietly efficient strides.
Dinner is polpo in inzimino, the octopus tasting just right and with enough heat to make Dino feel pleasantly warm. After another call to Tsuna, where Dino actually manages to get through, Dino is checking on his 'guest'.
Chrome sits slumped against Mukuro's shoulder, tears still clinging to the ends of her lashes. Ken is seated at the window across from the door, and he growls at Dino when he steps into the room. Chikusa is seated in the couch Dino had vacated earlier, a book lying open on his lap while his yoyo spins up and down.
"Come to check on me?" Mukuro asks, and the impossible to disguise groggy tone informs Dino that his guess was correct. Mukuro had fallen asleep.
"Just checking to see if you'd eaten yet." Dino looks at the tray set on the coffee table, it's picked at and picked over. Dino hasn't missed the fact that most of Kokuyo was skin and bones, Ken the only one of them that looked like he'd eaten a decent meal in the past week.
"I'm not hungry." Mukuro's speaking must have jostled Chrome, because the girl shifts and wakes up.
"Mukuro-san." Dino wonders how much Chrome sounded like Mukuro before they tied their lives together. They sound like brother and sister not like two individuals who's meeting was fate, but not fated.
"There's a bed in the other room, Miss Dokuro, if you want to use it." Dino wants to grin, he really does, it's hard not to grin when his statement earns him Ken's growl and a snapping motion of Chikusa's wrist. They're protective of her, even with Mukuro there. Habit? Dino doubted it. Chrome doesn't smile at him, she gives him the look of a half-startled rabbit, not sure if she should run or let him run her over.
"Are you tired, Mukuro-san?" Chrome lightly touches Mukuro's shoulder, where she had been laying her head. Dino wonders if Mukuro is bruised. Dino's seen less brittle people in a hospital ward, in nursing homes.
"Your nap refreshed me, Chrome." Mukuro's smile twitches robotically before it blooms, like he's not quite sure how to move his face yet.
Dino wonders if Mukuro knows he has a little dried drool on his cheek.
Silence again, though this is not stretched and brittle, but instead filled with the breathing of five people. "I'm... tired, Mukuro-san." Chrome's voice isn't wheedling, isn't a deception, but is obviously not the whole truth. "Will you sleep with me? I'd sleep better."
Mukuro looks at Dino, and it's a look that clearly says he knows he's been manipulated. Dino shrugs carelessly, though the back of his neck itches, like it's waiting for the cold hard pressure of a gun barell.
Or maybe, given Mukuro's weapon of choice, a trident. Dino is grateful that Mukuro didn't slice him up that morning, but he worries all the same. Mukuro's ability, the ability to possess people, is not something anyone should have. It would be interesting to see what happens if Mukuro does try to possess him. Dino's already warned Romario. "I'll leave you four then."
The bed in the other room is large enough to fit four bony teenage bodies, if they squeeze. Dino's sure their sleeping arrangements will prove interesting. Dino busies himself in his study for a few hours, ink blots and signatures and messily stapled together papers. Dino tries to be orderly about it, but he wishes he could hire a secretary for some things. Dino's never been the neat type, even now that he's overcome his natural clumsiness.
When moonlight paints shadows on the courtyard outside, and Dino's eyes are beginning to itch Dino sets his pen down and sighs. "Should we check on things again before bed, Romario?" And it's a testament to Romario's will as Dino's right hand man that he is still awake. Romario was up before Dino that morning, getting the arrangements ready for fetching Rokudo Mukuro, and will be up before Dino again tomorrow.
"I still think you should leave him with the Vongola." Romario says. Romario's gotten older, and it makes Dino's heart twinge every time he causes new gray hair.
"It's been a while since there were kids around. Maybe they'll liven things up." Except, Dino doubts that Mukuro and his gang were ever given the chance to be proper children. This might end up being an even bigger disaster than that one time he brought Yamamoto Takeshi home.
"It's just my opinion." There were stronger voices against Mukuro's stay at the Cavallone house, louder voices. Voices that made Dino says look very carefully at the people he set on watch. It wouldn't do to have any accidents. The set of rooms Dino has given over to Mukuro are quiet, the door still open and the two men outside looking bright and awake.
Dino peeks inside, unsurprised to see Ken and Chikusa sitting outside the door to the bedroom, which has been closed. If Dino was tempted to match his skills against theirs, he would try to open it and look inside.
There was time enough for that tomorrow though.
Dino feels accomplished when he climbs into his own bed, large enough to fit five healthy men or women, even though all he's done is transport and put up a psychologically and physically battered teenager, and three hopeful and emotionally battered teenagers. Dino stares at the canopy above his bed for a half an hour, his mind buzzing with plans for tomorrow, for the next week, for a month. He'll need to get in some doctors to see Mukuro, Cavallone subordinates of course, and try to find some way to prove he isn't going to slip drugs into the food. Tsuna had said Chrome would help with that, though he admits that it took Chrome a while to trust food that didn't come out of a bag as well Dino slips into sleep wondering what can be done to prevent Rokudo Mukuro from ever happening again.
The dreamscape is a familiar one, Dino's old school, the blurred and watercolor background of old stone and blue sky. Dino half expects a ring of antagonists to encircle him, and he draws his whip in preparation. Dream!Reborn isn't there and after a second
Dino realizes that it's not the same dream as always.
"Kufufu... do you sleep with that, Dino Calvallone?"
As Dino turns his dream!self morphs from his fourteen year old body to his adult self. Dino is grateful, because giving Mukuro anymore of an edge would probably be a very bad idea. In fact, Dino's sure that giving Mukuro any edge at all would be a monumentally bad idea.
"So, I'm guessing this is my dream right?" Dino only confirms this before the dreamscape shifts, from his school yard to a familiar riverbank. Was it only five years ago that he brought Kyouya to this very same place?
Mukuro's stance widens, but it's a minuscule, barely noticeable shift. "I wouldn't bring you into mine."
The echo of screams, the tang and blood and metal at the back of his throat.
"I'm grateful." The trees waver behind Mukuro, green and lush to pink sakura blossoms and back.
Dino flops onto the ground, folding his legs up under him. Mukuro watches him, his hair as long as in real life, nearly down to his ankles. It shifts around Mukuro like a dark cloud, or given Mukuro's ring, perhaps a 'mist' would be more accurate.
Dino shrugs, the fur of his coat tickles his throat and chin. "Well, I'm not about to attack you, so I might as well."
"You're a very strange mob boss, Calvallone." Mukuro doesn't bother to say that he won't attack Dino. Dino's sure he won't, if there was any advantage to be gained Dino is sure that surprise would serve Mukuro better. The ability to chase away nightmares is a necessity when you're a mafia boss. Dino's gotten very good at it.
"You're a very strange mass murderer, Rokudo Mukuro." Dino pauses. "I've always wondered what your real name is."
Saccharine sweet smile and a shadow around Mukuro's right eye. "I don't remember." And maybe it's a truth, and maybe it's a lie.
"That's fine." Dino leans over, splashes his hand in the river. It doesn't feel like water, it feels like a dream. Dino doesn't even think about it, but because it's a dream both of them are barefoot with their pants rolled up, standing in the rushing water. Conveniently the water is only ankle deep, which DIno knows it's not in real life. Kyouya had thrown him into the river once.
"Charming, Calvallone. Shall we go fishing?"
The trident is in Mukuro's hands again, and it's twirling it around idly looking for something to spear.
"Don't give me ideas." Dino can't help but laugh. "I'd love to see you in a shell bra."
Dino's not sure which is more entertaining, the flash of abused dignity, or the fact that Mukuro really does look quite good as a mermaid.
When Dino wakes up, he's still laughing.
Chrome joins him for breakfast, sitting across the table and making faces that are halfway between moues and sly glances. Chrome sits to his left, Romario to his right, and the table is filled to bursting with Calvallone family members. Laughter is heard down at the foot, but the closer anyone gets to Chrome, the quieter it gets. Dino isn't sure if this is because Chrome is Vongola, or because Chrome is Mukuro's.
"Fritatta?" Dino offers, passing her the plate and taking some for himself. Chrome has half a grapefruit on her plate, barely touched.
Chrome looked at the omellete, like she wasn't sure if it was going to bite her or not. Chrome was a cute 'herbivore', as Kyouya would say Though Hibari would no doubt leave off the 'cute' part.
"Thank you, Dino-san." Chrome cut herself a portion and the plate was passed on. The man to Chrome's right breathed out a breath he hadn't known he was holding, and Dino turned to Romario to ask about the day's accompanies Dino when he walks up to Mukuro's room, and Dino doesn't miss her attentive gaze when he signs the password at the new guards.
"Just a precaution." Dino says, stepping into the open room. Dino's not surprised to see Mukuro already up, though he wonders if Mukuro walked to the couch on his own, or if he needed help.
"And then Ka-" Ken's in the middle of what sounds like a fun story, but he stops when Dino comes in. Ken sneers at Dino, then at Chrome, and pushes himself up from where he was crouching on the side of the couch.
Mukuro looks at Dino, then at Chrome, then back at Ken. "You can finish the story later, Ken."
Mukuro has to know that they have the room bugged, and Dino's sure the rest of them know it too.
"Did you eat your breakfast?" The bowl of broth looked at least half empty, though Dino was not sure how full it had been when it was sent up. The glass of water looked barely touched. The other plates were empty, and Dino thought about what he had the cooks send up. Vegetable omelets, toast and jam.
"I'm not that hungry." Mukuro admitted. Dino was sure he wasn't. What did you feed someone after they had lived off an IV for years? Not very much, and nothing strong, or so Dino was told.
Chrome sits at Mukuro's side, the same place she had occupied yesterday, and she leans over to whisper something in Mukuro's ear.
"What's behind your back?" Chikusa asks. Dino doesn't jump, though he's startled at being addressed. Beyond glares and growls Mukuro's oldest 'tools' hadn't bothered speaking with Dino.
"This?" Dino holds up the DVD case. "Entertainment! Since I wasn't sure how bored you all were." Dino walks over to the television and VCR.
"Does anyone mind?" Dino asks, already turning on the television and slipping the DVD into the player. The Littler Mermaid might be a little young for them, but at least Mukuro would get any future dream references. Dino leaves to the opening strains of Disney music.
Dino spreads the rest of the day humming snatches of remembered songs under his breath. Romario looks a little worried, but Dino assures him that humming 'want thingamabobs, I've got twenty' is completely within the range of strange and bizarre things that Dino
and not Mukuro, would do.
Lunchtime begins to rear it's head, and Dino has a business meeting with the don of another family. He packs up his brief case and hands it to Romario. On his way out of the house Dino glances into Mukuro's room, not missing the not well hidden smiles worn by the two men outside the room, or the sudden silence when Dino pops his head into the room.
"Enjoy the movie?" Dino asks, pleasantly.
"Tch." Ken snorts. "It's a movie for freaking kids."
Chrome is blushing though, and shyly turning her head to hide it against Mukuro. Mukuro is smiling at Dino, and DIno bets it's the smile people see before they die. Killing intent is something Dino's very good at sensing.
"It was interesting, but please don't feel the need to go out of your way again."
Dino smiles, agrees, and makes his way to his meeting. On the way back he raids a video store for various children's movies he has fond memories of, or has heard about. Romario, ever put-upon, caries the bags.
Dino makes it back to the house only to find out that he's needed elsewhere, a local family having a little trouble with the authorities. Romario is left, while Pascal and Giotto are picked up. Pascal knows the family, and Giotto is the man Dino often sends to deal with police when Dino can't do it himself.
"Mrs. Ghirlanda, we'll handle this. I'm sorry for the trouble our patronage has brought." And no, no, no, they don't mind at all the Calavallone have bought wreaths and bouquets from the Ghirlanda family for decades, there's no reason to stop because of a little
police snooping. It happens once in a while, the police feeling they need to look into these affairs. Dino appreciates the fact that the law enforcement isn't slacking... but wishes they would be productive while keeping their nose out of Dino's business.
Dino notices that Giotto has stopped to talk with some men down the street, who leave quickly seconds later. Dino makes a note to call some people later, and he orders a bouquet of roses from the Ghirlanda's. They'll brighten up the rooms!
Dino exchanges the two men behind him with Romario after stepping into the house. "Did anything happen while I was gone?" Dino asks, cheerfully handing the bouquet of roses to a maid.
"Do you have Enzio on you?" Romario asked, and Dino quickly pats down his pockets.
"Of cour- ..." Dino pats down his pockets again, takes off his coat and searches around inside. "Er. No, I don't. Did something happen, Romario?"
Romario's face is stonily unamused, which is a rarity. Enzio must have destroyed the house again, but as it was still standing and Dino had obviously just been outside of it...
He is lead to the backyard where Rokudo Mukuro is lounging on a sun chair. Dino wonders how he got there. Sunbathing alongside Mukuro is a german shepherd sized version of Enzio, who is quite calmly standing still while Mukuro uses him as a table.
I was wondering when you'd get back." Mukuro states, and whatever had been holding Enzio back breaks, and the turtle is heading straight for Dino's pool.
Dino's not sure when he started saying, "Enzio!" instead of 'oh crap!' but the sentiment is the same, Dino's whip wraps around Enzio, and Dino's jerked forward, Enzio's straining towards the water barely a foot away. Dino managed to draw Enzio back to him, but what he really wished for was a really, hard rock to bash his turtle over the head with.
This is exactly like having Yamamoto over.
"Your pet is very badly trained." Mukuro observed.
"Ah hah..." Dino tightened the whip around Enzio's neck, holding it there until Enzio ran out of air and collapsed. "I think he's Reborn's way of keeping me on my toes." Dino noted that Tsuna didn't end up with an impossibly to control pet, though Tsuna did end up with several insane subordinates.
"The arcobaleno has a sense of humor I can appreciate."
Dino wonders if his efforts to train Enzio would prove more effective if used on Mukuro or Hibari. They'd certainly be less troublesome. ...although it might just hasten Dino's eventual death.
"Enjoying the sun?" Dino asks instead, waiting until Enzio has shrunk enough to pick up.
Mukuro smiles, and notes which pocket Dino places Enzio in. "It's a pleasant change. I never knew how much I missed it."
"It's something you don't really miss until it's gone." Would Mukuro object to vitamins? Obviously Mukuro would benefit from vitamin D. Dino sees a man in a white coat exit the house and start across the lawn, accompanied by another of Dino's men. "Do you mind coming back up to your room?" Dino asks Mukuro. "The physical therapist is here."
Dino wishes he had timed how fast it took for Chrome, Chikusa, and Ken to surround Mukuro's chair, like chess pieces clustering around a king.
"Chrome, Ken, Chikusa." And Dino wonders how much it pains Mukuro to admit that he needs help, to admit that he's going to need someone other than them to recover. Maybe it doesn't. Nothing Dino has read has attributed any sort of emotional attachment to Rokudo Mukuro, and Mukuro himself (according to witnesses) had said that his subordinates were just that, people who worked for him, tools, nothing he had an attachment too. All of Mukuro's psychological profiles swear that Mukuro works with people only because it was expedient. Then again, no psychologist had spent any time actually talking with Mukuro, so their studies were all BS anyway.
"It'll be far more private inside." Dino doesn't miss the way Ken is the first one to help Mukuro up, but Chrome is the one Mukuro leans on. The physical therapist and Otto stop, wait for Mukuro and company to pass them and then fall into step with Dino.
"I have several tests I'll need to run," The therapist starts off with, briefing Dino on the things he'll be running Mukuro through. Simple tests of strength and motor control, the therapist chatters nervously, and Dino tries to make the man feel at ease. Someone must have told the man who he would be dealing with. After all, the name Rokudo Mukuro isn't a name to have hit mainstream news.
The tests are simple, but take time, and the physical therapist explains everything he is doing like he has a whole room of people breathing down his neck. Which, actually, he does. Ken and Chikusa make no secret how they feel about this stranger touching Mukuro, and Chrome sits close enough as to occasionally hinder Mukuro's tests. When the therapist is done Mukuro's skin has returned to it's unhealthy pallor, losing the color Dino had spotted when Mukuro was outside Mukuro lowers himself onto the couch carefully, and Dino wonders for a second if the young man will break. The therapist writes furiously for a minute before handing over a calender to Dino. "I-if you could make sure he follows this exercise schedule."
Dino's aware of Ken's bristling, Mukuro's silent, unamused, but tired anger. He says, "I'm sure it'll be taken care of." The therapist is out of the room as soon as Dino can find a man to escort him, and Dino is left to deal with everyone's raw nerves.
"Given how easily you controlled Enzio," Dino reads over the schedule, "I'm sure you won't need any help following the doctor's orders."
"Don't talk to Mukuro-san that way!" Ken snaps, his limit apparently reached. "He-"
"Ken." Mukuro sounds as tired as he looks. How much easier is it to live in Illusions then real life? "It's alright."
Chrome does not join the Calvallone family for dinner, the seat on Dino's left is filled by Chikusa instead. Dino doesn't notice until halfway through the meal that Chikusa doesn't eat anything unless it comes from a communal plate and even then he does not touch it unless Dino's the one eating it. Chikusa is silent, but not in a way that forces others around him to be quiet. Chikusa's presence is like a ghost, something there but not something you talk to.
It makes Dino itchy.
Dino's not surprised to find Mukuro already asleep when he checks after dinner, and he leaves Chikusa with Ken and Chrome before going off to deal with papers and phone calls to Japan. There was nothing quite so entertaining as Tsuna in the early hours of the morning. When Dino drops off to sleep he's not surprised to find Mukuro already waiting by the riverside. "I'm surprised you have the energy for this."
Mukuro is holding a fishing pole, and has an empty basket next to him. "It's not tasking to dream walk."
Dino drops down beside him and looks into the basket, then out at the river. "There's no fish in there, you know."
"There are if I want there to be." Brightly colored fish flit through the water now, going with the current and against it. Obviously Mukuro's never actually gone fishing. Dino's about to comment on this when a brightly colored yellow fish waves at Dino from the river, then cheerfully hooks itself on Mukuro's rod.
"..." Dino's not quite sure what to say about that. Flounder is dropped into the basket, where he lies flops and gasps a few times before he dies.
"Did I just rape your childhood, Calvallone?" Mukuro asks cheerfully. "I was debating netting an octopus, but they're really more Gokudera Hayato's speciality."
Dino's traumatized. His charge just killed Flounder. What was next, Nemo? On cue an animated clown fish signaled Mukuro that it wanted to be caught.
"Me and my active brain." Dino laughed. At least he could laugh about it, disturbing as it was. And weren't Nemo and Flounder salt water fish anyway? The riverside wavers, but Dino keeps it there. There's no need to expose Mukuro to the ocean quite yet, and Dino has fond memories of the ocean, he doesn't want to walk those beaches with Mukuro.
"I'm entertained." Mukuro reeled Nemo in and dropped him in the basket, where he gasped and died as well. "Any other fish I should know about?"
"I only have hazy memories of Arthur and Merlin as fish in The Sword in the Stone, so I think we're good." Dino's fingers don't grasp Nemo or Flounder when he reaches into the basket to toss them back in the water. Dino thinks back on Mukuro's earlier statement."So if Gokudera's Ursala, would Tsuna be Ariel, and Kyoko-chan would be Prince Charming?"
"I'd make a better sea witch." Mukuro reels the line back in, and then tosses it into the water. "But I won't deny that it fits... despite gender changes."
Dino tries to kill the thought of a girly Tsuna before it can be born. He is apparently not fast enough, because the next thing to be snagged by Mukuro's line is Tsuna with breasts in a bikini.
Dino is shocked back into consciousness with the charming peals of Mukuro's laughter ringing in his ears.
It takes a hot shower, a strong cup of coffee, and a conversation with Lothario about a brawl that broke out last night to wipe the memory of Tsuna in a bikini from Dino's mind. Romario ruins all that hard work when he mentions over breakfast, where Chrome is once again seated at Dino's left, that one of the Vongola guardians will be stopping by to check up on Mukuro. Dino risks a glance at Chrome, wondering if the girl will be offended that she is apparently not trusted enough. Chrome smiles sweetly at him, her lips wrapped around one of Dino's grandmother's antique silver forks.
"Gokudera-kun and the Boss are both in Japan." Chrome says softly, just like, Dino realizes, she says everything softly. "So it will either be Sasagawa-san or Yamamoto-san."
Dino wonders where Hibari is. Did Tsuna convince him to leave Italy, or was Hibari skulking around the corner waiting for Mukuro to put one toe out of line? Then Dino realizes that several of his men are glancing nervously his way and whispering to their neighbors.
Dino lays his fork down with a clink and sighs. "He isn't really that bad anymore, and he wasn't really that bad a houseguest."
"Given your teenage years, sir," One of the more impudent and uppity members of his family speaks up. The man is 10 years Dino's senior though, so he has never seen fit to take offense. "I don't think you're the best to pass judgment on how bad a house guest someone is."
Dino laughed. "Well, I'm sure he won't start up a game of baseball and break anymore windows or priceless statues." Dino smiles and pushes back his chair, excusing himself. Romario rises as well. "I'll try not to do the same."
Chrome dabs at her lips daintily with a napkin, and follows a split-second later.
It occurs to Dino that just as he is keeping an eye on them, they may be keeping an eye on him. Although they haven't staked anyone outside of his office or to follow him around at all times. Perhaps they are just being cautious.
"Did you sleep well last night, Chrome?" Dino asks, dropping back so that they are walking side to side instead of Chrome walking two steps back and a step to the left.
Chrome startles, her shoulders rising up to her ears before she relaxes again. She is still wearing her green Kokuyo uniform. Dino did a brief batch of mental mathematics, it seemed that his newest house guests were always making him add up the years. Chrome had to be around 18, didn't she? Was it her last year in high school then?
"I slept well enough, Calvallone-san." Chrome's face is a careful measure of wary and disinterested, but her cheeks are pink. "Mukuro-san's bed is quite comfortable."
Dino wondered. Did they do anything in Mukuro's bed besides sleep? But no, Mukuro couldn't possibly be strong enough for that. Well, if Chrome was the aggressor…
But Chrome seemed to timid for that as well.
"I'm glad you like it. Do you need any extra blankets?" Dino asks, one hand on the banister as they begin to climb the stairs. "Or pillows?"
Chrome trembles for a second, before turning to look Dino in the eye. She has to tip her head back to do it, but she is certainly trying hard. "Ken and Chikusa don't… like soft things. It's not comfortable for them."
Ah, so she knew why he was asking. After years of hard living it must be easier to sleep against the wall than in a bed or on the couch.
"But… maybe an extra blanket or two would be nice. Mukuro-san gets cold easily."
"I'll have someone bring you some." They reach Mukuro's room and Dino is surprised to find Mukuro sitting at the table, a spoon halfway to his lips. The spoon trembles as Dino watches, and is returned to the bowl.
"Can we help you?" Mukuro asks calmly.
"Just checking in." Ken and Chikusa's plates have been cleared; Dino knows that today he made sure they were served quite a bit of meat. Ken is leaning against Mukuro's chair, looking like a well fed and content pet. Chikusa's seated at the table across from Mukuro. "How's the soup?"
"Bland." Mukuro's tone is nearly deadpan, but mostly mocking. "I hope your breakfast was more exciting, my cute Chrome."
Chrome smiles shyly at Mukuro, and sidles into the room to sit carefully beside Chikusa, like she's afraid any second now she'll be knocked aside for being impertinent. Chrome is, Dino considers, birdlike. Skittish and careful, but will come when fed? Dino wonders.
"The Vongola will be stopping by to check on you today, I hope you don't mind the interruption." Dino also had another doctor supposed to come by and check on Mukuro. Hopefully this time Dino's orders not to talk about how Mukuro was an evil sadistic killer would be listened to. It wasn't as if any doctor employed by the mafia hadn't already dealt with known killers. Dino didn't see why Mukuro's actions should have him treated any differently.
Okay, granted, Mukuro was a sadistic evil killer who could ruin your life and drive you insane easier than he could feed himself right now. Dino was hoping all the effort feeding himself would wear Mukuro out. "Who will it be?"
Dino blinked, realized he'd been staring, but that no one had said anything. Mukuro's small smile was peaceable, as if nothing could possibly bother him. He looked, perhaps, like Mother Theresa in the body of a handsome teenage male. "Ah, well, I'm not sure, but Yamamoto knows my house better than Ryohei." And of the two Dino was rather sure he would prefer Yamamoto. Ryohei was not as thick as he used to be, but he was still easily distracted, and even more easily misled. Letting Ryohei lose in a room with Mukuro was tempting fate for some extreme boxing matches again a large, dangerous, probably rabid, animal.
Mukuro nodded. "I see, well I'll be on my best behavior, shall I warden?"
'Best behavior'. Dino looked forward to it. "You know, I much prefer 'sir' to warden."
Ken snarled low in his throat, his face scrunching up into a terrible snarl, the large scar across his face only making him appear even more dangerous. Chikusa and Chrome had also stiffened, though Chrome had also laid a hand on Ken's arm, her fingers curling around Ken's elbow.
It was like the best type of daytime drama.
"I'm sure you'd like 'master' even less." Mukuro stated lightly. "Perhaps I should just call you Bucking Horse."
"Actually I prefer Dino the most." Dino smiled, and really, it was interesting how a human throat could emit such a low, animal growl, or that dead eyes could give such a dark look. Even Chrome looked a little taken aback. "Since I'm already calling you Mukuro, there's no trouble with you being on a first name basis with me is there?"
There's a look on everyone's face at this statement, like they're not sure how to process Dino's genius. Dino's used to that sort of look. Hibari has it all the time, and even Romario sometimes has the same expression plastered across his countenance. Dino appreciates that sometimes people just don't understand that his mind works in mysterious Calvallone ways.
"All that dye must have infected your brain." Mukuro states, calmly, clearly, enunciating every syllable like it's a perfect pineapple chunk, built for Mukuro's mouth and meant to be savored.
Dino tugged a lock of carefully arranged hair forward and smiled. "I'm a natural blond, actually."
Mukuro's gaze dropped, lingered on Dino's large silver belt buckle, and then rose to meet Dino's eyes. "That explains some things."
Dino, for the life of him, couldn't figure out why Chrome was now stifling giggles.