Title: Shackles

Rating: PG

Disclaimer: I do not own the rights to Hitman Reborn and this is for amusement purposes only, not for profit.

A long overdue ficlet written for my jerk of a friend

The man frowned and stared down at the girl. He had evacuated the room fairly quickly with a few choice words, although his mere presence was enough to clear out the weaker among them. He had learned over the last ten years how to control his power and his possessive tendencies. Time had even softened his ridged demeanor slightly, allowing him to joke and tease with his enemies before obliterating them. He blamed that man for such sick and unnecessary tendencies. A man did not need to speak to those that had crossed him; he simply had to create a solution. Most of his solutions involved blunt trauma, but the means could easily be justified by the end result. Or not justified at all. He was inclined to the latter.

Cooperation was not an action that came easily to him.

Attachment was another such action that he had no wish to work towards. Yet it had happened anyway. Perhaps time was, as Dino had jokingly suggested, taming him. The last ten years had changed him, if not his base beliefs and behaviors. Those were merely modified into a more congenial front. He could pretend, when he wanted to, that he cared, or not. It was a useful skill, although the active deception left a mildly disgusting and bitter taste. Because it reminded him of that man.

As did the girl before him.

It was strange to see her now. He had accepted rather quickly the younger versions of his past acquaintances, doing his best to humor the younger Sawada, who he was not surprise had not changed much over the years. Still too lenient and naïve. He had warned of the potential disaster of the box weapons, had warned of rival families being gathered under one banner, for information had become his specialty; yet, he had done nothing to hinder the course of history. If he had been ordered to, he may have wiped out all that opposed the Vongola family in a few clearing motions. It was better to take care of problems immediately, rather than let them fester. Yet the order never came, and he felt little regret at Sawada's death for the man had been a fool.

He glanced down at the girl again. She was pale, drained of blood and energy from her battle. The snow white owl nestled beside her head and he frowned deeply at the box animal.

There were other things that festered that he could not take care of. It was disgustingly obvious because the past never stayed buried. Especially the unpleasant parts.

He had never liked sharing either.

He had touched her liberally enough when stabilizing her, a skill he rarely let others know he had.

Let them think that the Sun boxes were nurses. Of course, it was a wonder that those around him were so thick. Perhaps because they were afraid of him or perhaps because he had learned to hide his injuries well, yet no one had ever questioned how quickly and seamlessly he healed. Perhaps they simply thought it was another magical, awe-inspiring power of his. He smirked, enjoying the thought. He had certainly spawned a nasty amount of rumors over his abilities and lack of patience with stupidity. There were few who dared to bother him now, even if they thought he might respond to their weak summons.

He did dare to quickly brush his fingers across her forehead softly taking note of the sweat-soaked brow. He would ensure she was tended to in his absence. It was not particularly hard to walk away, although he knew it should have been. There had simply been too many times where he or she had walked away. They both knew that duty came first. And he also knew that he tied for a second in her regard, as much as it galled him.

He loathed the shackles of duty around him. They limited his movements and tied him down. He was repulsed by the notion of chains, and Sawada understood that. He rarely asked for his Cloud Guardian's assistance, and in return, the man was sure to appear when he was needed and only then. Adding more shackles of his own accord displeased him and he felt those cold bounds tearing at him.

But he was, in his own way, a man of honor. Once something was his, he could not abandon it. He could not abandon his school, despite that it was gone. He specifically built his base in the area, remaining forever tied as disciplinary of the grounds. Except his grounds had grown to include all of his homeland. It was a duty he accepted with cold inevitability. He could not abandon his Guardian ring, despite how it clung to his finger. He did as duty commanded, although only when he deemed necessary. And he could not abandon her, not as the other man had done. Whether he wanted it to be or not, she was his, and she had become his of her own free will.

But this Chrome was not his Chrome. This Chrome did not belong to him, she belong to the other. His claim would not begun just yet as his younger self had much more important business to attend. A mirthless smirk crossed his face at that. In some ways his younger self was stronger and wiser.


He grunted and looked down, mildly surprised that she had woken so soon. Her blue eye was unfocused and flat but she held his face in her vision. There was more strength in her small body than anyone had given her credit for.

"Rest." He commanded.

She nodded and closed her eye, sinking back down into the pillow.

After a second's deliberation he bent down and brushed a kiss across her forehead. She murmured something but didn't protest.

He gave a rare smile before returning to his normal expression as he walked out the door. She was his no matter what the other thought.