Title: Sea Change
Mukuro, M.M.
It's time to get a few things straight.
For round three of Prompt Battle at anime_manga on DW, prompt: Mukuro and MM, "We need to discuss the nature of possessiveness." 1692 words; Mukuro being Mukuro.

Sea Change

M.M. was rather proud of the little flat that she'd secured as a bolt hole. It was her secret, one kept well apart from her business activities and identity. Her landlord rather put her in mind of Father Christmas, avuncular and jolly and just a bit dim, and was persuaded that she was a music student of some sort who traveled a lot. Certainly he never questioned her comings and goings, and probably would die of shock if he ever found out just how she earned the money that paid her rent.

M.M. had no intention of letting that happen, however. She was much too careful to cover her tracks, for one thing, and for another, she was rather partial to the cookies that his wife made. She didn't care much for his fatherly attempts to make small talk with her, of course, but the old lady did have a deft hand in the kitchen and was free about sharing the results.

All in all, it was nearly an ideal arrangement, if M.M. did say so herself. She didn't care to spend extended periods of time in her little flat--it was a drab little place--but she had never underestimated the importance of having a room of one's own, as it were, to be used as a stronghold or a place to regroup. That was exactly what she found herself in need of after the end of the Millefiore affair and Byakuran's downfall; the dissolution of the alliance between the Gesso and Giglio Nero was sending shockwaves through the underworld, as had Sawada Tsunayoshi's miraculous return from the dead, and a wise woman, she felt, always knew when to take a little time to reevaluate her circumstances when they changed so drastically.

She exchanged greetings with her landlord and endured five minutes of chitchat before excusing herself by claiming fatigue, and then ascended the stairs to her walk-up and let herself in. When she turned around from doing up the bolts on the door, she saw that Rokudou Mukuro was sitting on her couch, one long leg crossed over the other and his hands clasped on his knee. M.M. did not do anything so silly as to shriek, but she did twitch and make the first involuntary movement towards her box weapon. "Mukuro," she said.

He smiled at her, sweet and benevolent, though there was a certain hardness around his eyes that concerned her. "Just so," he murmured. "Do come in. I've been waiting for you."

M.M. did, slowly, setting her bag down and watching him; just because he was here didn't necessarily mean anything bad, she told herself. Neither did it necessarily mean anything good, of course.

Mukuro watched her, the faintest of smiles curving his mouth, like he knew exactly what she was thinking. It wasn't impossible that he did.

He'd always had a taste for theatrics, as she recalled, and that was something that she could work with. "I trust you haven't been waiting long. Can I get you something to drink?"

He inclined his head as graciously as a monarch granting a boon. "If you like."

Having offered, there was nothing for it but to follow through, which M.M. did, wondering how it was that he'd managed to make her feel like he was the one doing her a favor, and how she could possibly feel like a servant in her own home. She took glasses down from the cabinet and investigated the refrigerator--it would have to be soda, it seemed, since there was nothing else and she hadn't had time to shop for food.

Mukuro accepted his glass with a smile that curled his lips, mocking, and gestured, languidly. "Please, sit."

M.M. pressed her lips together, tightly, on the retort that rose up in her throat at that, and did, perching on the very edge of her easy chair and gripping the cool glass between her palms. Mukuro lifted his glass, toasting her briefly, and drank. He treated the soda as if it were a fine wine, savoring it in his mouth even though it wasn't anything more than cheap sugary crap. M.M. took a breath, and another, and reminded herself not to play into his hands no matter how provoking he tried to be. Instead, she focused on the question of why he had come to this place, and how he'd even found it.

"I'm very surprised to see you here," she said, when he'd lowered the glass and was tracing a fingertip in the condensation beginning to bead on the glass. "No one else knows about this place."

"No one?" Mukuro echoed, and smiled, kind. "Really, my dear. There are very few actual secrets in this world, and when more than one person is involved in a thing, it can no longer be called a secret. You've been very discreet, I grant you that, but even so, it was simple enough to find you here." He glanced around him, cool eyes taking in the dinginess of the walls and the broken-in nature of the furniture. "I confess, I was expecting rather more from a place that you retreat to so often."

"It suits my cover story," M.M. said, hearing how clipped the words were and not quite able to modulate them. "If I really were a student, as everyone here supposes I am, I wouldn't be able to afford better."

"Then you should have thought of a better cover story." Mukuro set the glass down on the coffee table, and ran his fingers along the nubbly brown fabric of the couch's upholstery. "But that's not what I came here to discuss."

"No?" M.M. said, as lightly as she could manage. "And here I was hoping that you could offer me some tips on interior design."

His eyes glinted, faintly. "Another time, perhaps. Before that, we need to discuss the nature of possessiveness."

M.M. blinked, and drew a breath, and resolved that the next time she saw Chrome Dukuro, only one of them was going to walk away from the meeting, the conniving, story-telling little bitch. "How so?" she asked, striving to keep her voice even.

"We shall start with the fact that you seem to be under some misapprehensions as to the precise nature of our relationship," he said, and smiled as M.M. felt the blood first rushing to her face. She gripped her glass more tightly, grateful to have something to keep her hands steady. "I believe that it's time we corrected those, don't you?"

"I do so hate to be incorrect," she said, forcing the words out of a dry mouth.

"I know you do." He smiled at her again, gently, and it was like a knife sliding against her and flaying the flesh from her very bones. "You met my cute little Chrome not so long ago, and exchanged some words with her. I suppose that you were not aware of the nature of our relationship."

"I'm sure that I don't need the prurient details," M.M. said, going cold with rage.

The bastard simply smirked at her. "I see that I was right." He leaned back against the couch, fingers toying with the silken fringe that edged a pillow. "My little Chrome is eyes and ears and hands to me. What she sees, I see. What she hears, I hear. What I ask, she does. And what she feels, I feel."

The rage left M.M. as suddenly as it had come, to be replaced by something else altogether, a sick twisting feeling in her chest, and the sense memory of her hand cracking against the little bitch's jaw. "I suppose that it was necessary for that to be so while you were held by the Vendicare," she said, slowly.

"Of course. And it's so useful now, having someone I can rely on to be absolutely dependable." Mukuro smiled again as M.M. clenched her teeth. "Now, regarding the substance of your remarks on that occasion..."

"I think I get the picture," she gritted out, though how he could prefer such an insipid little thing was beyond her. "You don't--"

"Kindly do not interrupt me when I'm speaking," he said, crisply, and then he moved, between one breath and the next, and was standing over M.M. before she quite knew he had done it. He seized her shoulders with those long-fingered hands and pinned them against the cushions of the seat, and lowered his face so that they were eye to eye. He was close enough that M.M. could smell his cologne, something exquisitely subtle and smoky. "I do not belong to anyone, you foolish girl," he said, the words as silky as a cord wrapping around her throat and cinching tight. "Not romantically, as you so fondly imagine, nor in any other way. You have lately been useful to me, and it is for that reason only that I am going to let you live. Do not delude yourself into think that there is any other reason for it, because I am not the sentimental sort. Do I make myself clear?"

"Perfectly," M.M. whispered, staring at him and seeing only her own reflection in his eyes.

"Very good," he said, poisonously soft. "You are my tool, and the tool does not make demands of its master. Do not forget that again."

"I won't," she promised.

Mukuro released her shoulders and drew himself tall and straight again. "See that you don't," he told her, and the smile swept down over his face, leaving him cheerful and sweet again. "I'm so glad that we could have this little talk. No, don't get up. I'll see myself out."

M.M. waited till the door had closed behind him to set her glass of soda down and put her face in her hands. She permitted herself five minutes to shake, silently, after he had gone, in order to get the emotion out of her system.

Then she pulled herself together again, and took a deep breath before picking up the phone to call her landlord about terminating her lease.

It was time to regroup, after all, and reevaluate her situation, now that it had changed.


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