Disclaimer: Not mine.
AN: Happy MukuTsuna FanDay.
There prowls a wolf.
For the past few days, Tsuna has had trouble sleeping.
His mother thinks it is because of all the stress being piled on top of young people nowadays.
His father thinks it is because of unrequited love.
Tsuna finds himself awake even at two to three a.m. In the quiet hours of the early morning, he can't forcefully rest his weary body. Of course, if you asked him, he would say it was nothing, probably just my stupid body being useless again; sorry. And it was partly the truth, albeit only a very small part. Something in his brain told him to stop, to not sleep. He must not sleep. Still, his body collapses around four and wakes up again at six to get ready for school. He hasn't been late for weeks.
His teachers have even begun wondering what was wrong.
Mr. B, his math teacher, thinks it is because of social stigma. Tsuna, after all, was the No-Good student.
Mrs. C, his English teacher, thinks it is because of bullying. The other students did often order Tsuna around and might have done worse after school.
Tsuna will never tell the truth, of course. Of the reason why he could not sleep. It was ridiculous after all. Insane, even.
Tsuna could hear the sounds of breathing other than his own in his empty, empty bedroom.
It was always close by, Tsuna was sure. Always right beside his ear. This heavy, uneven breathing. As if someone had a gaping wound on his chest and breathing hurt. As if someone was choking slowly. As if someone was holding their breath, desperately hiding from something.
A sort of gasping, wheezing.
And always, always, it was in random intervals.
It set Tsuna's teeth on edge. It set his nerves wringing. And it certainly set his imagination on fire.
What if it was a murderous ghost that had latched onto Tsuna's shoulders and would not let go? What if it was a tiny malicious dwarf, tired from poking at scabs on little children? What if it was a hungry invisible cannibal drooling for his brown puffy head?
Then one night, while he lay on his bed staring at the wall; while the shadows were thick as thieves; while the windows were shut tight like locks, he heard the breathing become more distinct, heard it whisper in his ear, "He's here."
Tsuna's eyes rounded and he flung the bed sheets over his face.
Enough was enough.
Later that afternoon, Tsuna walked into an occult store. He browsed through books; some as cheap and superficial as tissues; some heavy and chained with gothic metal; and some with ordinary paper covers. A sleepy clerk on the counter nodded a good morning towards him.
On small console tables with clawed feet, clicking and whirring knick-knacks measured strange things about the atmosphere.
When he passed them by, they buzzed faster and faster until they hit a red line. By then, a faint frantic beeping could be heard.
He walked away faster and the now-curious clerk.
Tsuna tried to restrain his jumping heart. He turned to the side and saw an eye peering at him from a gap between two large hardcover books about children's songs. It was a very blue eye. It rolled sarcastically at him. "Umm…?"
The blue eye huffed at him. "Look. Read this." Then it slid a thin spiral notebook across the gap, covering the eye for a moment. Tsuna grabbed at it. But the eye had already disappeared.
On the blue and red lined pages, was a scribbled story that started like this:
There was a young woodsman who kept watch on all the most dangerous wolves in the world.
Nobody knew quite what he was doing, standing guard over them. The villagers whispered and laughed behind his back, wondering why he kept them so. They murmured witchcraft, devilry, and other degrading rumors. But all that the young man knew was that it was his duty to keep vigil over these wolves. And while the wolves howled and bit and clawed at the high fences around them, the young man watched and made sure they were well and truly locked inside. Day and night and still, the young man paced around the cage of wolves, who paced and loped in time with him.
Then one day, a small child passed by the prison and asked,
"What do wolves do?"
The man replied, "They hunt and kill and trap little young things like you."
The child continued, persistent,
"What if the wolves got out?"
"Impossible. The wolves will never get out. Never will I rest. Never will I stop." The young man answered.
The child asked again, "Why?"
The guard opened his mouth then paused. Truly, he had no answer to give. How could one explain duty and power and the responsibility of having both? Since he was beholden to no authority, to no one more powerful than he…other than his conviction. He Must Keep The Wolves.
But the child certainly was curious and reckless and decided in the middle of the night, when the woodsman had fallen asleep, to unlock the gate.
And then the wolves got out.
And after that, there was no more. Wolves, Tsuna thought. He had tried going back to the bookstore several times but no blue eye appeared. He had even asked the store clerk who had merely looked at him oddly and had said, "You were the only other customer in here at that time. You and me were alone back then."
If that wasn't creepy enough, the voice was louder now.
Over and over, it murmured to him, "He's here. He's here. Get away. Get away."
Tsuna's bloodshot eyes were on constant guard, the whole time he was tucked underneath his comforter. He was starting to think he was going crazy. He needed help. He needed to get out of here. He wondered why he didn't just move to another room or to the couch. But something stubbornly refused inside his head.
He was going to un-sleep here in his bedroom.
Then the next night, when he sat up from the bed, he saw a leg outstretched from underneath his bed. It was a pale, sickly leg with mottled bruises and deep red gouges and the edge of the bed was digging painfully into its small form. Even when Tsuna had been a child, he'd been unable to crawl underneath this bed. The bottom was too low to the ground.
Tsuna felt he was going to puke from fear.
The breath became faster, more anxious in his ear, more taut with fearanxietyinsanity. Tsuna heard it swallow something huge, a wet fleshy sound. Then it croaked to him, the volume of his voice now going up and down like a seesaw, "i'm hEre. hE's heRe. cOMe hEre. dOn't LeAVe mE."
Then his little brother, Fuuta, opened door with a plaintive, "Tsuna…"
Tsuna jumped and dashed forward, grabbing his bewildered brother and running out of the room. He slammed the door behind him. Fuuta turned round eyes towards him and with a trembling voice asked, "W-what was that?"
That night, they both didn't sleep even when they were in Fuuta's room.
The next morning, armed with a golf club, Tsuna and Fuuta (with a frying pan) went back inside Tsuna's room. There was no leg, no breath, no voice. But the notebook had been opened. And on the pages after the scribbled story were red smears of childish fingerprints.
Tsuna grabbed it and his brother's hand and ran out of there again.
Fuuta decided he was going to research this carefully in the library and skipped off, with his red red scarf and red red hooded jacket while Tsuna decided to meet a…specialist.
After school and escaping from his classmates, Tsuna took out a crumpled piece of paper that said SLEEP IN BUS 469. On the back of it was a single name and title, Mr. Byakuran Millefiore; For The Supernatural. He'd found it, tucked in a corner of the occult bookstore around the second time he visited it.
The bus came, small and rickety and rusted and empty. A grumpy driver gestured at the poster that said the prices and Tsuna paid his fare. As Tsuna sat down on one of the graffiti-ed chairs, he wondered what would happen if he didn't fall asleep. He decided not to risk it and anyway his body was pretty low on sleep.
He nodded off as the bus rambled on down the street.
"~and I was a white little sheep
and Mary quite the contrary
led me, with a smile, to my sleep.
My body, she had to bury
In a hurry~"
The hoarse voice woke Tsuna up to find that the bus had stopped in the middle of a field of white dandelions puffs. A white-haired man in jeans and a shirt sat opposite Tsuna, swinging his legs back and forth while he sang a mangled version of children's rhymes. He was smiling and his purple eyes peeked out of curved slits in his face.
The driver was gone.
The man stopped singing and then said, "Tsuna, eh? I am Mr. Byakuran Millefiore at your service."
Tsuna handed over the notebook and related his troubles with his bedroom. Byakuran listened, his smile never dropping and his eyes slitted all the time. The fluorescent lights of the bus flickered now and then; the sky outside, dark and troubled. After Tsuna's tale, Byakuran flipped through the notebook, studying it with a smile as wide as a cat. Finally, he said, "You should know by now what to do. You've always known, I think. Keep your vigil at night in the bedroom. Ignore the voice. Ignore the leg. When it finally comes out, kill it. Bring an axe or a knife, whatever."
Then Mr. Byakuran stood up and patted him, murmuring, "When you're done, come back. Bring the body."
Tsuna fell asleep.
The quite pissed off bus driver shook Tsuna awake and told him to get out as this was the bus's last stop. Oddly enough, it was right by Tsuna's house even though he was pretty sure he'd never seen this bus before around this neighborhood. Nevertheless, he complied and went outside. The sky was already dark.
His mom was there at the door, panicking. Where was Fuuta?
Tsuna's little brother was missing.
And the thought bubbled in Tsuna's mind.
The wOlF had eaten Fuuta.
That night started, with a butcher knife in hand, Tsuna sat on his bed ready and waiting.
He was reading the story on the notebook again. Wolves, Tsuna thought. And a child and a Woodsman. Three players. Red fingerprints the size of a child and a small leg stuck painfully under the bed. A voice warning him and calling for him at the same time. What did it all mean? And Tsuna who could not sleep, would not sleep. Even when he counted one, two, three sheep.
Sheep and wolves, Tsuna thought. That Mr. Byakuran had been singing about sheep.
Wasn't there a saying about wolves and sheep and hiding in disguise?
Tsuna held his breath, dizzy with dread. He clung to the knife, the only anchor he had in that darkness. The mutilated leg at least hadn't appeared yet. It was something to be thankful for.
Then tiny deathly grey fingers closed over Tsuna's eyes.
The child kept still, playing a game of hiding. He lay crumpled on the ground, the moon round and pregnant that night. The ground dug painfully into his side while the grass, wet and shining with dark blood, tickled his cheek. He was stifling his breath, trying to hide. Playing pretend that he was dead. Every now and then, a small soundless puff of breath would come out, terrified and helpless.
Each breath hurt.
The corpse of the woodsman lay over him, a shallow form of protection the man had struggled to do. It had worked as the wolves fed their rage and hunger on him instead of the child. The man's body was heavy but still retained some warmth for the child. Because the night was cold.
Because the child was holding in his tears, his blue eyes so red and raw.
Because it hurt, the bites and bruises.
The wolves had left, one by one. Content and satisfied. Thinking that the child and man were dead. Claws sharp as knives clicked on the ground as they sauntered away into the night. The child felt hot tears begin to track down his cheeks. It was his fault. He was the monster here. It was his fault, the woodsman had died.
Then the child choked on a bit of blood, a thin line dripping down his mouth, a dark feeling blooming in his heart.
The last of the wolves paused at the edge of the forest. It turned slitted eyes back.
The wOlF swallowed the child whole.
The fingers fell away and Tsuna turned around and lifted the knife.
The woodsman stood straight and proud and true.
An hour later, carrying a heavy black trash bag, Tsuna boarded bus 469. The driver avoided his eyes.
Tsuna slept fitfully.
"~Little fish, little Tsuna-fish. Won't you let me come in?~"
Back again in the field of dandelions. Mr. Byakuran was smiling happily at him outside the window, tapping the glass. Tsuna dragged the trash bag towards the door of the bus. Behind, it left a trail of bright red.
Byakuran's eyes gleamed in satisfaction.
Tsuna opened the door (pretend, pretend, pretend). Cry wolf, he thought.
Mr. Byakuran nodded approvingly of him. "I see you've got the filthy thing. Well, give it to me then."
Tsuna shoved the trash bag at him, keeping the man's hands occupied. Mr. B's eyes widened in shock and realization but by then Tsuna had leapt and slit Byakuran's throat with the knife hidden taped on his wrist inside his sleeves.
Tsuna had cut through his skin like paper peeling back. In the belly of the beast, Tsuna found a small hand with smears of red and he pulled his sleeping brother, Fuuta, out. Beside him, the trash bag lay open and inside was Tsuna's blankets wet with red paint.
The big bad wOlF was dead.
For the past few days, Tsuna can sleep well now.
His mother thinks it is because Tsuna has found a way to cope with all that stress.
His father thinks it is now because of requited love.
Tsuna lets them think that. There is no possible way to tell them the truth. He sleeps deeply now, quietly. Of course, if you asked him, he would laugh and say that it was all finally okay. And it was the truth, the whole of it and the completed version of it. Something in his brain said, ok. It also doesn't hurt that—
Heterochromatic eyes of red and blue smiled at him. "This your notebook? You left it in the bus."
-Well. His father might soon be right anyway.
Mukuro held loosely in his hand, Tsuna's thin bony hand. Tsuna had fallen asleep on the bus again.
It was time for a new beginning.
The woodsman would never know the feeling of claws as sharp as glinting knives digging into skin, Mukuro promised himself. He gazed slitted eyes around him, scanning the other passengers vigilantly. They avoided his eyes. There were other wolves of course. But Mukuro was here now.
The ploy had gone off without a hitch. One wOlF was dead and the notebook was returned once again to its original recipient, Tsuna.
Mukuro sometimes thinks he is going insane.
Because the wolf had swallowed the child. But the child had swallowed the monster too. Devoured it whole and completely from the inside out. Once there had been a wolf and a child. Now there was only Mukuro. One blue eye and one red eye. Stained red with the woodsman's blood or the wolf's flesh, he would never ever know. But he had the woodsman now. He glanced affectionately at Tsuna's brown puffy head leaning on his shoulder. That was all he would ever need.
He smiled to himself, baring shockingly white sharp teeth, Little fish, Tsuna-fish.
You will never know
My justice for you.
As long as you stay,
Safely in my stomach.
Because wolves were wolves and there are other ways of devouring.
Happily ever after.