Tsuna was pale when he stood at the head of the mahogany meeting table and announced that there had been an attempt on the head of the Cavallone family a few days prior. There was no word yet on identifying the family that had put the hit out but it didn't look good for mafia relations in northern Italy at the moment. Dino had been in the hospital and was scheduled to be released in a few days. He took a deep breath and steadied himself, continued on to say that he was considering taking a trip to --
"I'm going," Hibari interrupted, his voice and expression just as stonily unaffected as always when the eyes of the entire family turned to his corner of the table.
"W-well, you--" Tsuna began, clearly surprised by Hibari's words. Of course he'd been the Cavallone's student and as such, were Hibari anyone else, it wouldn't have seemed odd to hear his determination. But this was the ex-prefect of Namimori, the Vongola's Cloud, with arguably less concern for his fellow humankind than even Mukuro. "The situation there is--"
"I'm. Going." Hibari's intense, slanted eyes met Tsuna's from the length of the table and the Tenth knew it would be true whether or not he went as Tsuna's body guard or simply shirked his duties and disappeared.
"R-right," Tsuna nodded, understanding there was no use in arguing. "Very well... Please keep us informed of the situation and be safe. Take someone with you. Kusokabe-san, maybe?"
Hibari just nodded once and stood, taking his leave in the middle of the meeting and ignoring Gokudera's outraged shouts after him that they weren't done yet. Yamamoto laughed and remarked on what a good friend Hibari was. It earned him a tonfa to the head as Hibari walked out.
Hibari's connections, in combination with those he earned by virtue of being a Vongola guardian, managed to secure him a private plane-- a preferable alternative to packing himself and his right hand onto a commercial flight full of old people and squalling children.
It was a long flight and though Tetsu seemed interested in engaging him in conversation, Hibari announced that he would be sleeping and was not to be woken until they landed. Tetsu sighed as his boss instantly fell into slumber.
A car met them at the airport and it was late in the evening when they finally reached the Cavallone estate. Romario was there to let him in, the man haggard and rough with stubble and red in the eyes.
"The boss came home this afternoon," he told the travelers as their things were taken away to their rooms. "He's still sleeping."
"Please inform Tetsu of the current situation," Hibari told him, pausing to inspect himself in a gaudy Italian mirror. The place was a horror show of marble and hideous flower arrangements. It couldn't have been further from Hibari's own minimalist, Japanese abode. He frowned at himself -- rumpled from travel but at least well rested. "Tomorrow the real investigation will begin. Where is he?"
Romario shifted uneasily, eyes drifting upward as he worried the back of his head with a well-calloused hand. "He's-- ah... upstairs. In the master bedroom. Third on the left, but, Hibari-san.. sir. Perhaps your visit could wait until the morning? Master Dino... he--"
Hibari didn't even bother cutting him off with words, simply turned away. "Don't wait up, Tetsu," he called over his shoulder as he ascended the swirling marble of the staircase.
The two right hands shared a bewildered glance.
At the door Romario had described, Hibari met a woman with a silver cart which housed what must be the boss's evening meal. Her surprised expression indicated that she must have been house staff for the recognition that came over her as she looked upon Hibari.
"I'll see that he eats," he said simply and he let himself in quietly, without knocking, and drew the cart in after him.
The front room which served as a sort of private office was, unsurprisingly, empty, the Cavallone boss more occupied with healing than signing papers.
Even as Hibari entered the bedroom, there was no movement from within. The form half covered with wrinkled sheets and a comforter tossed aside was still, blond hair a mess about his pillow. Hibari could see some of the extent of Dino's injuries, his torso swathed in bandages, one arm bound to his chest to keep it immobile. His face was bruised, more purple than not, a split lip and a gauze taped over one eye completed the look.
The room was dim and the door that Hibari opened without invitation cast a long stretch of yellow light into the room. He paused, looking in, considering. Wondering if he might have made a mistake in coming. But Hibari Kyouya rarely, if ever made mistakes. The cart was perfectly silent, well oiled as he pushed it across the ornate oriental rugs -- again so gaudy, so ugly, so Italian -- that covered the polished floors. He left it at the end of the bed and stood over Dino's sleeping body, looking over him. The man who dared to call himself Hibari's mentor, as tenderized as meat. Perhaps Romario had been right, that he aught to leave Dino to a night's sleep. Maybe then the thoughts he'd slept through on the plane would be gone and the following day, he could simply go about family business, the business of punishment -- rather than the business of revenge.
But Dino stirred, as though Hibari's dark thoughts were audible, a small, stringy groan slipping past dry lips and he turned in his half-conscious state, away from the injured shoulder, but onto some other hidden wound that left a hiss through his teeth and his eyes, red, bruised dark, fluttering.
"If your doctors knew you better, they would have put you in traction for your own good," Hibari said quietly, as though he weren't talking to Dino at all. And perhaps he wasn't, since he wasn't really awake.
"Nngh," was his only answer, before the young Cavallone rolled toward the edge of the bed with all the determination of the accidentally self-destructive.
Hibari's eyes widened slowly because surely he wouldn't -- after all the man barely had the strength to breathe from the looks of him -- but no, there he went. And before he could think better of it, Hibari rushed forward, half-scrambling on to the bed to catch Dino's shoulders before he could go toppling over the other side and undo thousands of euros of medical treatment. "Idiot," he hissed with irritation.
"Kyouya," Dino breathed, and for a beat, he stilled beneath Hibari's hands. Then, as though it had only just occurred to his body that he ought to be in pain -- particularly with Hibari's none-too-gentle grip -- his eyes flew open, lips parting in a gasp. "Kyouya," he said again. "Ah-- ow."
The younger man's hands released him quite abruptly, letting him sag back to the down comforter. He sat back on his haunches, fixing Dino with his usual critical expression. "One broken arm wasn't enough, apparently."
Dino's hooded eyes swept the room as though looking for others, finally met Hibari's, ignoring his words but offering a question. "I thought Tsuna wouldn't be able to spare anyone these days. Nngh... help me sit up, dammit." There was no bite in the Cavallone's words, only exhaustion, peppered, perhaps with just a little bit of humiliation to have his one-time student see him this way.
Hibari snorted faintly but he had brought Dino's dinner so he offered him a hand in sitting up, pushing several thick, embroidered pillows behind the battered mafioso to support him. "Can you imagine that herbivore trying to stop me?" the Cloud Guardian scoffed and then before Dino could question him, he continued, "Discipline is my specialty, lest you forget. It would be an embarrassment to the family for his 'brother's' assailants to go unpunished."
Dino's eyes flashed as they caught and held Hibari's. "Kyouya. You can't go solo -- they'll be waiting for retaliation. They'll be ready for it." He flinched, shifting to find some way to sit that didn't pain him.
"Tetsu came with me," Hibari replied easily. "And I'd venture a guess that your men might be interested in assisting me. Would you deny them that?"
"Looking for revenge is a good way to get themselves killed," Dino shot back, lifting a hand to press at his temples as though warding off a headache, or perhaps nursing one that had lasted a little too long.
The raven haired young man frowned at him for a long moment but eventually he just shrugged. Dino wasn't exactly in the best shape for discussing politics -- and nor was he in the best state to do anything to stop him when his pursuit began. He hesitated, eying the cart at the end of the bed. "I brought your dinner," he finally said, realizing belatedly that he was kneeling on the edge of Dino's bed. He regained his footing and drew the cart closer.
"So you did." A quiet sigh told Hibari that Dino would gratefully take the change of subject, would perhaps be able to relax in the face of such mundane conversation as one might have over a meal. "I hope you didn't scare Giulia too badly."
"She seemed to know me. Otherwise I would have fired her for letting me in to your room. I could have easily been an assassin." He lifted the try atop the cart and as he expected, there was a steaming bowl of soup there. He stared at it for a very long moment, briefly looking at Dino and then back at the soup as though it were challenging him, as though he were posturing for a battle to the death. He licked his lower lip slowly and again, considered leaving. Perhaps all the way back to Japan.
"Are you going to hand it over, or are you going to search it for explosives first?" Dino teased, a laugh that turned into a cough which he quickly smothered with his free hand. Then, "Don't worry. I'm sure Romario or someone else is nearby. I won't drop it."
Hibari scowled at him bitterly for another long moment. This is what he'd come to do though and he refused to second guess himself, to let his good judgment cloud his... whatever it was that had made him walk out of that meeting and the next day get on a plane. He rolled the tray closer and took the spoon in hand. When he held it to Dino's mouth, it was with a steady, even grip but where his hands were ready with kindness, his eyes were filled with murder. "If you tell anyone. I'll bite you to death."
Dino frowned, the twitch of his lips clearly indicating he was torn between amusement and chagrin. "My first meal in a week that isn't through a tube." He sighed. It was a fair enough trade. He wouldn't tell anyone that Hibari had held the spoon and Hibari would tell no one that he'd been spoon-fed like a invalid child. He opened his mouth, reluctant but obedient.
For long minutes, Hibari said nothing as he carefully spooned hot soup between Dino's lips. Romario must have moved closer because there was a dignity to him as he ate, in spite of his bruised appearance. No soup dribbled down his chin nor did he accidentally knock the spoon out of Hibari's hand. The threat of harm faded from his eyes and they unfocused somewhat as he watched Dino eat, lips in a pursed frown. Pensive. Quietly angry. "Tell me what happened."
Dino sighed, licked at the corner of his mouth and avoided Hibari's eyes. "They must have been tracking my movements for months. It was the first time I'd been away from my guard since I've been back in Italy. Romario and I-- went driving." He laughed a little. "Serves me right, hm. Pretending to have a normal life for just one afternoon?"
Hibari said nothing, only fed a few more mouthfuls to Dino solemnly. "What did they break? What was the damage?"
"Bullet grazed the bone," Dino nodded down at his bound arm. "Wrecked my favorite car. Romario walked away from the crash, took half of them out before the cavalry arrived. He's-- he's taking it pretty hard."
Hibari sighed, long-suffering and fed Dino quietly until the Italian waved him away. He set the bowl lightly aside and sat on the edge of Dino's bed, looking at him, calculating, quiet in that intimidating way he had. "Vandalism," he said finally, softly and lifted a hand. His fingertips brushed lightly over the gauze that swathed Dino's arm, always so deceptively delicate. A pretty, almost soft-looking wrapping for the ferocity within. Soft, tapered fingers. "You won't lose it? The arm?"
"No," Dino confirmed, not bothering to hide the relief in his voice. "I'll need physical therapy, and... it'll take a while, but... I'll be fine." A beat, then reluctantly, "You'll want to talk to Romario. I think he knows who it was. I don't remember much and we haven't had the chance to talk since he brought me home."
Hibari nodded. "Tetsu is being debriefed by him. I'll get more details in the morning." He paused, considered. "I suppose you need sleep."
"I suppose so," Dino echoed, but made no move to lay back down or close his eyes or tell Hibari to leave. "I haven't done much more than sleep for the last week," he added, somewhat petulantly.
Something warmed the edges of Hibari's eyes, something that was similar to a smile. Dino was exhausted with healing now but he already could anticipate that Romario would be fretting over him within a week, trying to convince his energetic boss to stay in bed. "And I missed it -- you being quiet for a whole week. What a shame."
Dino did smile, the corner of his mouth twitching up in a sort of fond amusement. "You were the one who woke me up."
"So I was," Hibari admitted with a brief shuttering of eyes. Then his gaze was looking over Dino's face in the dim light and he reached out again, this time for blond hair. His fingers sifted through Dino's hair, moving it away from his cheek. Stitches. He looked on silently for another moment and a single finger touched the sutures very lightly, very carefully. "When Namimori is vandalized," he said softly, "I am careful to record every detail. To make sure that the punishment fits the crime."
It would have been easy, to tease Hibari, to question whether he was comparing the Cavallone Tenth to a school building, but in truth, they both knew he was, and they both knew that it meant... something. Dino closed his eyes, trusting, as the younger man's fingers searched the battleground of his face. "Almost lost the eye," he admitted, turning his face so that Hibari's touch grazed the edge of the gauze. "It will probably scar."
"Hm. I suppose you want me to tell you you'll still be beautiful." When Dino slit an eye, Hibari was smirking just faintly. Mocking him. His hand passed over Dino's eyes and his touch traveled from gauze to skin, brushing over his bruises and scrapes with impossible gentleness. "At least it wasn't your tattoo," was the best condolence he could come up with and even that was half a tease.
"I think I'll get another." Dino didn't call him on the tease-- on the gentleness either. "Something on the other arm, when it heals. Any ideas?"
"Hm..." Hibari considered, tracing the edge of an ugly purple and green bruise that marked Dino's temple. "Perhaps... butterflies? Kittens? Something to fit your personality. That's what tattoos are about, correct?"
The young Cavallone gave an unseemly snort, lifting his good hand to swat Hibari's away. "That's right, Kyouya. If I recall, however, it's you who has the weakness to cute things." Dino gave a pointed glanced to the tiny bird nuzzled in the back of Hibari's collar.
Hibari was smiling before he could think better of it. A real, genuine smile -- if small, if coy, the smile of a sly cat. "I suppose perhaps I do," he answered in surprising honesty, in an unusual acceptance of any appraisal that Dino gave him. What had he meant to do, coming here like this? Revenge, of course. Punishment, discipline. But there was more to it than that, far more too it. Perhaps he'd intended to accost Dino physically at first sight. How dare he nearly get himself killed when there was still all this unresolved tension between them. It would have been a lot simpler to do it that way, no words or eye contact, nice and straightforward, the way Hibari preferred it. But as brutalized as he was, even Hibari couldn't bring himself to inflict new pain upon the injured mafioso. And the relief he found himself experiencing with the teases shared between them, knowing that Dino wasn't crippled or brain damaged or -- or dead. He hovered close, too close for Hibari. One hand lifted and Dino's eyes followed his fingers as they slowly, gracefully lifted to his lips, a single pale fingertip touching oh so lightly the still faintly swollen split at one corner.
For a long breath, Dino said nothing, did nothing, stayed as still as a child willing a butterfly -or a small bird- into his palm. A faint shiver slid across the mafioso's shoulders, and he breathed almost shakily through his open mouth. Hibari's hand moved away. "Kyouya..." he began. And then, hesitating, as though perhaps he'd meant to protest, but instead he said, "Why did you really come?"
Hibari sat back again and folded his hands in his lap with poise. The smile faded but his face was not unkind -- they were distinctions Dino knew now, like reading in an entirely different language. The language of Hibari was fraught with subtlety -- and danger if misread. "I came," he said slowly and reached back to scratch Hibird's head with a single finger. "Because if you had died, I would have had to kill you."
Dino smiled, translating, then answered, his voice as gentle as Hibari's hands had been. "So... then what's the course of action if I only 'almost' die?"
A long pause, Hibari looking off to the side as he stroked Hibird's head thoughtfully. "I'm still considering that alternative," he finally said. It was strange not to have the answers instantly, not even ones that he held close and unseen. Past needing to be here, everything in him demanding to be here, he had no answers. Perhaps if the man he loomed over wasn't as fragile as the tiny bird under his finger, he might have had better answers. "Heal faster and I suppose we'll see."
Dino laughed, a quiet, shallow laugh that didn't disturb his injured body, but no less sincere in its sentiment. It was, perhaps, presuming too much, but that didn't stop him from reaching out for the hand that lay idle on Hibari's knee, taking hold of it, with even a bit more strength than Hibari might have given him credit for. "Don't get yourself killed tomorrow, and maybe we will," he agreed.
For long moments, Hibari allowed it and looked down at their fingers resting against one another. He turned his hand over under Dino's. Palm to palm. His thumb brushed slow and soft over the top of the tattoo on the back of the other's hand.
"I'll wait," he finally said. "We'll wait. When you're healed, we'll discipline together. You don't need me to protect you."
"No, I don't," Dino agreed. "Good. Good." He squeezed at Hibari's hand once more, then let it go, fussing with the comforter instead. "I'm glad you came, Kyouya. It's good. To have you here."
"Mm." He smoothed his slacks. "You should sleep." He rearranged Dino's pillows and let him sink down into a lying position again. Then he gently picked up the tiny yellow bird from his collar and placed it in Dino's hair. Hibird chirped once and started nesting, making himself comfortable. "In case you decide to roll off again," Hibari explained. There was a high-backed velvety chair at Dino's bed side. He moved to it and settled in the same as Hibird had.
Dino didn't need protecting. He didn't need Hibari to stay. He didn't even need someone to feed him or fluff his pillows when it came right down to it. It was a good thing then, that Hibari Kyouya didn't much care what the Cavallone did or didn't need.
And anyway, what was the point of being a mafia don, if Dino didn't at least once in a while get something he wanted.
"Goodnight, Kyouya. I'll see you in the morning."