All characters © Amano Akira
Perfection. Even the word itself was overrated. For some it was a lifelong goal, and for others it loomed over their heads tauntingly, just out of reach. Some chose not to believe in perfection, as it was an impossible word that required impossible feats. Whether weighed down by emotion, nature, or lack of strength, perfection, they decided, was a nonexistent thing that described the folly of humans all. There were perfect numbers in arithmetic, perfect intervals in music, but never perfect people.
The more complex a creature was, the more difficult the strive for perfection became. There were always little things that got in the way like spots of mold on bread. If you were human, you could never be absolute...which was why so many in the mafia opted to throw away their humanity in the name of power. Then there were others in the mafia who just seemed to be blessed with flawlessness from the start. Those individuals seemed the closest to the ideal being, engendering awe, respect, and envy from all worlds alike.
Contrary to popular belief, Reborn was not perfect.
Trained for the mafia since infancy, he was simply more experienced. Granted, he had talent and good blood running in his veins, and he could conduct himself better than a maestro. But, despite being psychologically, physically, and emotionally inured, Reborn was still a human. And humans were never perfect.
Before he had gone on a life-changing expedition with six others, Reborn had been paranoid. His upbringing had taught him to put his trust in no one. Dependency did not a man make. Under the impression that everyone he met was a potential assassin, Reborn had emotionally distanced himself from people and had succumbed to the cold accuracy of his work. He had a name that he never gave out, and feelings that he never wore. Ruminating, Reborn realized it had taken a baby to finally become a man.
That was also when another imperfection arose: his addiction to coffee.
Reborn raised a miniature hand and pinched the bridge of his nose. He was a pure Italian, and Italians were better known for their coffee than their tea. However, a more potent fact about coffee was the drinker's dependency on caffeine. And the withdrawal.
"What?" Reborn asked quietly, bringing his thoughts back to the present. Tsuna blanched, half hiding behind Gokudera and Yamamoto, who wore a sheepish expression.
"W-well, you see," he began nervously, "Lambo stole Kyoko's spatula, and while Gokudera was chasing him around the kitchen trying to get it back..." Tsuna broke of and swallowed thickly.
"Go on." Reborn already knew what was coming, yet he wanted to hear it for himself.
"Lambo...kind of, um, ran into the coffee machine," Tsuna finished. "And it broke." He winced.
It had been implied, but never witnessed that coffee was one of the few things on god's green earth that could arouse any sort of emotional reaction from Reborn. Tsuna made a mental note that in the future, if he should ever desire espresso, to treat the brewer with love and the utmost delicate care.
No matter how dire the situation, Reborn was able to keep a level head. With some of the things being a mafioso entailed, tranquility was almost a requirement. Passion was the downfall of Reason, as the 18th century Enlightenment philosophers knew well. Control of emotions was a step toward perfection. Reborn took a deep breath and thought for a moment. "Can Gianini or Spanner fix it?"
Gokudera sighed harshly. "No. That stupid cow nearly smashed it to pieces." Tsuna slapped a palm to his forehead.
"Then," Reborn began, his tone calm, "I suggest you buy a new machine quickly." And, although he only stood 40 centimeters tall, Yamamoto and Gokudera cowered.
One trained in the art of reading Hibari Kyouya's kinesics would notice little difference between his expressions of annoyance and his expressions of satisfaction. In both, blue eyes were slitted like icemoon slivers, the corners of his mouth were turned up slightly, and his back was pulled up straight.
However, Hibari was feeling good today. No bothersome people flocking around the base to get in his way. No screaming or bangs from the upper floors, which was usually a common occurrence here underground. The air was fresh; Hibari breathed it in deeply. He wondered why it was so blissfully quiet this morning.
As he walked through the corridors, black prefect's jacket billowing out behind him like a sheet of tar, he came across the infant. Funny, he would have suspected him to be on the levels above, ameliorating whatever chaotic debacle those idiots had gotten into.
"Baby," he acknowledged, which was the equivalent of a cheerful 'top o' the morning' in Hibari-speak.
Reborn tipped his hat. "Ciaossu," he said quietly, meaning to be on his way. But Hibari had other plans.
"You're rarely free from those blathering idiots," he noted, hands stealing to his waistband where his tonfa lay. "This is a good opportunity. Perhaps you wish to fight me today?"
It was rare for Hibari to be this talkative, Reborn noted. Hibari and he shared similar traits, in a way; the boy too strived for perfection, coolly, unemotionally. Action came first, doubts came later, if at all. However, this was one instance where Reborn didn't appreciate the change. His temples thudded dull patterns at the back of his eyelids.
He turned to Hibari, whose tonfa were brandished as casually as silverware in the hands of a glutton. "No, Hibari," he answered. "If I were to fight you now, you would find your guts leaking from your ears and mouth, your spleen exploded down your front, and a good part of your intestines jammed so far into your throat that they would be coming back out of a hole in your stomach. So maybe not today."
Hibari froze. There was a strange feeling, a cool, unfamiliar one creeping up his back as he took a good look at the baby. A hovering gleam was apparent in those fishbowl-black eyes. And then Hibari knew that the baby wasn't making threats. He was dead serious.
Ah, that feeling...it was fear. For probably one of the only times in his life, Hibari was frightened.
Without a word, Reborn walked past, the padding of his shoes emitting a quiet echo down the corridor.
"Heee, what do we do now?" Tsuna pulled at clumps of his hair frantically, only succeeding in making it stand up in more comical spikes. The others had tried to calm him down, but being them had only exacerbated the predicament.
"Mah, mah, it's alright, Tsuna."
"How the hell can you say that, Yamamoto? Reborn is going to rip our heads off when he finds out that the store was all out! This is the cow's fault!"
"No it wasn't! Stupid-dera was playing tag with me!"
"What?! Come here, you sad excuse for a bovine! I'll show you tag!"
"Nyeh-heh-heh! Can't catch me!"
"What is the matter?" A new voice had joined in. Tsuna looked tearfully down at the spectator standing in the kitchen doorway. Lal raised her eyebrows at Gokudera, who was holding Lambo by one socked foot.
Ryohei smiled and wiped sweat from his morning practice off his brow. "Yo, Hibari!" he greeted as his fellow guardian breezed past.
Hibari scowled, not even uttering a "hn" in acknowledgment. Training always helped Ryohei in the observation department, and he stopped. "Hibari? What's up?"
"None of your business."
Ryohei miffed. "That was rude to the extreme."
"I don't care," Hibari said. His good dispositions for the day had flowed right down the drain with a last protesting gurgle.
"Fine, fine. Don't ask don't tell, right? It's always the same with you," Ryohei sighed, slinging a towel over his shoulder. "You know if you keep everything in, you're not going to solve any problems. No one's perfect enough to do that."
Hibari's scowl only deepened, pulling his whole face into a churned mix of dissatisfaction. Ryohei took this as his cue to change the subject.
"By the way, have you seen Reborn? I need to ask him something to the extreme."
Oh, how ironic. Hibari was about to dismiss him and leave, but his sour mood got the better of him. "I last saw him downstairs," he replied. If anything was to further annoy the baby, it would be that loud voice of Ryohei's. This should be fun.
Ryohei blinked. "Wow, thanks, Hibari!" He balled his hands into fists of enthusiasm and jogged away.
Hibari smirked to the empty air. "Don't mention it," he said softly.
"This is bad," Lal concluded.
"Tell me about it." Gokudera folded his arms and blew a strand of hair out if his eyes.
"No, this is really bad," Lal repeated. "I'm surprised this base is still intact."
Tsuna's eyes widened. "What?" he yelped.
Lal averted her eyes. "Before we became Arcobaleno...we hadn't realized how serious Reborn's dependency was on coffee.
"His fighting was top-notch, his coping skills were exceptional; he could do anything," she continued. "We thought he was perfect."
"Reborn's one flaw," Tsuna mused thoughtfully.
"Well technically he had a few," Lal added. "But we didn't realize how this one made up for everything else he excelled in. Until it was too late."
Gokudera chewed on a dry cigarette. "Is Reborn that bad without his coffee?"
"Every hear of the Persian Gulf War?" Lal asked dryly. Gokudera didn't know whether she was joking or not. Taking the cigarette out of his mouth, he decided it in his best interest if she didn't elaborate.
Tsuna extracted a finger from his ear slowly. "Hey, oniisan."
Ryohei looked troubled as he surveyed the inhabitants of the kitchen. Lal had locked herself in her quarters, refusing to come out until there was something caffeinated in the residency. "I think Reborn is sick!"
Tsuna sighed. "No, he's not."
"Can Arcobaleno even get sick?" Ryohei wondered aloud. "But something's wrong with him to the extreme! He told me he was going to lie down!"
"We know," Yamamoto explained. He then proceeded to describe the unfolding of events to Ryohei, which took a good half-hour before he comprehended the seriousness of their situation.
"You were lucky to escape unscathed," Yamamoto remarked, laughing.
"Yeah! And I think Hibari ran into him too, since he was looking pissed to the extreme!"
At this Tsuna had to smile. If anyone could best his Cloud Guardian, you could count on Dino or Reborn to do the job. "So...now what do we do?"
Gokudera shrugged. "You tell us, Tenth."
Tsuna took a deep breath, waiting a few seconds before exhaling. "Alright," he began. "We need to find another store that sells espresso machines. Gokudera, you get the phone book..."
The day was almost over, and the shakes were pretty bad now. Reborn pulled the brim of his fedora even farther down over his face in hopes that sleep would come easier. He rubbed his black eyes that were now laced with snaps of red and silently fumed over this little imperfection of his. Leon chittered in protest at his side, equally nervous.
A tentative knock at his door made him start. He rubbed his temples, sat up, and said calmly, "Come in."
Tsuna entered, followed by the usual gang. "Um, there weren't any local stores with a decent coffee machine," he began. A droplet of sweat snaked down the side of his face. "But we had one express shipped and it's here now!"
Reborn hopped to his feet. "Good work, Tsuna," he said. "I have some business to take care of now so I won't be able to set it up, but the instruction manual should help you through it."
Gokudera blanched suddenly. "I-Instruction manual...?" Yamamoto stopped smiling.
"Gokudera-kun..." Tsuna looked like a sheep who has just realized it is trapped in a pen of wolves. "Don't tell me you..."
"He used it to clean the mess that Lambo spilled," Yamamoto muttered.
And Ryohei, who they had instructed not to speak in fear that his overly-loud voice would irk Reborn, opened his mouth.
"Oh, shit to the extreme..."