Title: Numb
Rating: R
Warnings: "If you two won't behave, I'm going to have to separate you." (Hibari and Mukuro and everything they entail), "Oh, shit! DUCK!!" (flying puke), "You better not piss her off, it's that time of the month." (Chrome with something resembling a backbone), "Hibari is not going to be happy..." (Ken), "Step away from the drugs and no one gets hurt." (mentions of addiction)
Word Count: 15,500~
Prompt: For the LJ community khrfest: IV-29. TYL!Mukuro/anyone (Hibari) - sensory overload after getting out of the tank; "Illusions and reality are different, even for him."

Tsuna was just fixing his tie into place when he heard the knock at his door. He'd been expecting it for the last ten minutes and had adjusted his collar dozens of times trying to get the most serious look out of his attire that he could manage. On the bed behind him were the casualties of his indecision; nearly all of the ties in the entire Vongola manor had been hastily thrown around the room as he tried to make his choice before his Storm Guardian came to pick him up.

"Tenth, I don't mean to rush you, but if we don't leave right now, we won't make it to the council in time…" The trailing off at the end of his sentence told Tsuna that Gokudera was thinking along the same lines as him. If they didn't make it in time, there was no way the council of judges would grant his request for the tabula rasa, no matter how much money or how many compromises he threw at them.

"I'm ready!" he called out, grabbing his coat and opening the door for his friend.

The simple black tie would have to do.

~*~

When they left the courthouse, the reactions among his Guardians were mixed. The decision was everything Tsuna had hoped for, but he knew the appeal wasn't personally supported by everyone in their group. They'd still shown remarkable support for their boss and trusted his instincts even if they weren't happy about it. In the end, it was Hibari's surprising last-minute Guardianship offer that had swayed the decision of the council. Everyone knew that out of all of Tsuna's Guardians, Hibari held the strongest opposition to the appeal and when the council heard that even Sawada's strongest Guardian was willing to offer compromises, they could find no good reason not to grant the appeal.

"Now what?" Yamamoto's question shook everyone from the odd silence they had all been trapped in since the approval. "I mean, do we go now or wait?"

"We can't all go, that's for sure." Tsuna looked up at Gokudera's voice and nodded to him. He couldn't take his entire family into the Vendicare just to pick up his last Guardian.

"Well, obviously we have to go!" Ken spoke up. He had his arm around Chikusa and they were glaring at everyone, daring someone to try to say otherwise.

"No, obviously you don't," Tsuna said, giving them a stern look. "I'm taking as few people as I can get away with. Chrome is going at Mukuro's request. I'm also going to take Gokudera and Hibari with me in case anything happens while we're there." Most of the people in the meeting hall translated the 'anything happens' into 'Mukuro screws things up'.

"What about us!?" Ken shouted, not happy with the Decimo's decision. "We have more of a right to go than the chain smoker over there!!" He jabbed his thumb at Gokudera. Not even Ken was stupid enough to try that with Hibari.

"Actually, you don't," Tsuna snapped back, narrowing his eyes. "He's my right hand and has a much easier time acting rationally when there's danger than you, Ken. I'm sorry, Chikusa." He nodded politely to the stoic man who simply shrugged in response.

"Can we at least come with you to the compound?" Chikusa asked. "That way you have more protection once you have Mukuro-sama in hand. With your Guardians looking after him, you will be more vulnerable." Tsuna smiled happily. "Anyone who would like to come and wait at the doors is more than welcome to join us."

They eventually came to an agreement to visit the prison in the morning with all of the Guardians, Irie and Spanner, Basil, and the two Kokuyou men in case of trouble. Yamamoto and Ryohei would wait just inside the gates listening for trouble and would be ready with any first aid anyone might need, including sedatives for Mukuro. The rest of their group would wait by the cars with all the necessities to keep Mukuro comfortable on the ride back to their hotel. The girls volunteered to get his room ready for him and to buy some much-needed clothing. Since no one knew what his sizes would be now they just used Yamamoto's measurements, remembering that as a teen he had been about the same size.

~*~

There was a lot of apprehension flowing through the three Guardians when Tsuna raised his hand to the knocker on the gates outside of the prison. Gokudera had kept the car window cracked and constantly had a lit cigarette between his fingers or lips throughout the entire ride. Chrome was continuously wringing her fingers as though she wasn't sure what to do with herself until they were on their way home. Hibari was the only one of them who looked remotely calm, but to someone who knew him much better, the light tapping of his foot was a dead giveaway to the tension coiling through his body just like the rest of them.

It took five full minutes before the gates finally opened and they were brought in to see the wardens. Gokudera had become so anxious that he'd begun to threaten to force open the doors with his dynamite if they didn't make an appearance soon. It was only Tsuna's counter-threat of sending him back to the waiting cars that calmed him down to a more manageable level of anxiety.

When the doors shut behind them with a series of beeps and clicks, Tsuna stepped forward to greet them and handed over the council's orders in the form of a small manila envelope. The guard took the papers without a word and read them over carefully. Even Hibari couldn't hold back a sigh of annoyance at the way the guards seemed to want to drag out the whole process. It looked as though they wouldn't be getting out of the compound any time soon. It was Tsuna who finally broke the silence, his steady voice betraying only a hint of irritation.

"These orders should have already been relayed to you at the end of the trial. Where is my Guardian being held?" The guards looked up at him from the pages of the file and turned around, walking back the way they had come.

"Do they want us to follow them?" Chrome asked softly, clutching her staff close to her.

"I…guess," Tsuna responded hesitantly, leading the group after the Vendicare guards. They were led through the maximum-security portion of the jail, passing by hundreds of mafia criminals who seemed too dejected to even think about escaping, much less attempt it. Hibari kept his eyes locked on the back of the nearest guard and Tsuna tried his best to follow his Guardian's example, but Gokudera couldn't help but gaze around in awe and horror.

"Mukuro managed to escape from here?" he whispered in amazement.

"Twice," came Chrome's voice, soft and shaky, from beside him. She was staring at Tsuna's feet in an attempt to avoid looking around her. Gokudera's first thought was that she was terrified to be there, but a quick glance over revealed tense shoulders and a white-hot grip on her staff and he realized it wasn't fear but barely-contained rage. He patted her shoulder gently and moved a bit closer to her.

"This place gives me the creeps," he muttered, and the group seemed to pull a little closer together in agreement. Hibari kept a few feet between himself and the others, unimpressed with the prison so far.

They were led into the lower portion of the prison, down a rickety elevator and guided towards a cavernous room. The mood of the group quickly changed to wonder at the soft, flickering lights that seemed to cover the floor below them. The glass wall of the elevator gave them the perfect view of the lights, which seemed to grow in size the closer they got.

"Wow," Tsuna exclaimed, awestruck.

The group kept staring, mesmerized by the sight of what now looked like upside-down blue-green flames with black centers. Even the floor around the flames reflected their eerie light. It wasn't until another minute had passed that the first of their group turned and started retching. Tsuna and Chrome whirled around at the sound and found Gokudera clutching his mouth, looking almost as green as the lights they were now so close to.

"Gokudera! What's wrong!?" Tsuna asked quickly, kneeling down at his Guardian's side. When Gokudera finally found the ability to keep his breakfast down and point as well, Tsuna followed the finger and realized that not everyone had turned away from the ethereal glow. Hibari was the only one to remain staring at the lights, only now his eyes were narrowed in a furious glare, his jaw clenched tight, the wonder completely gone from his face. They stood back up, Tsuna keeping a supportive hand on Gokudera's shoulder, and looked past Hibari only to gasp in shock. The disgust on Hibari's face was instantly mirrored on their faces, as they were now close enough to realize exactly what those flickering flames were.

As the elevator made its descent, the glowing lights had grown into flames and then into what Gokudera had seen first: hanging from the stone ceiling were large glass tubes holding the bodies of hundreds of prisoners, all suspended in the back-lit water that gave this section of the prison its name.

"Does anyone see Mukuro's…" Tsuna trailed off not sure whether to call it a cage, a cell, or a fish tank. The few prisoners who were close enough for them to see seemed to be crammed into the small glass tubes like beautiful fighting fish in a cup at the pet store. Chrome shook her head.
"He isn't close enough to see the elevator," she said softly to the group.

"You know where he is?" Tsuna turned to her, almost unable to take his eyes off the morbid sight below them.

"Not exactly," she replied quietly. "I've seen things sometimes. Wherever he is, it's dark and he's alone. There aren't any of these things around him where he can see them." Tsuna shuddered at the thought of Mukuro being able to see the prison he was trapped in. Even though his former tutor Reborn had told him in the beginning not to forget all of the things Mukuro had done to deserve a punishment like this, and not to feel pity for him, the Vongola boss couldn't help but feel an extreme amount of sorrow at anyone in his family being held in such a place.

The elevator finally ground to a shaky halt and even Hibari had to tighten his hand on the rail to keep himself steady at the sharp jolt. The gate opened and the guards led them out and through what seemed like a maze of rooms and hallways until they came across the single cell that Chrome had been talking about. Tsuna stepped into the vast room first and was greeted with the familiar figure hanging from the ceiling, wrapped in every manner of cable, tube, and chain imaginable.

He'd seen Mukuro like this a couple of times in the ten years his Guardian had been imprisoned and Chrome had more insight into Mukuro's mind than anyone, but it was a first for Hibari and Gokudera. Both Guardians stopped in their tracks, staring up at their comrade as though they were seeing a ghost. He was hanging from the top of his glass cell – limp and lifeless. His floating hair framed his face and body, making him appear delicate and fragile. It wasn't an image anyone was comfortable associating with the Mist Guardian.

"Get him down, now." The Vongola Decimo's firm voice carried through the room, commanding obedience.

The lead guard nodded, walking over to a wall panel to punch in a short code and pull the top-most lever. It took almost a minute before anyone could hear the whir of motors humming to life and even longer before they finally saw the effects of the machinery. Torturously slow, the water began to drain out of the tank. Little by little, Mukuro's body slumped against the chains that held him as gravity took control. When the water was low enough, the glass case was lowered to allow the machinery holding his body above them all to be positioned within arms reach.

Tsuna's command was answered with an unceremonious yank from one of the guards, pulling Mukuro roughly from the main components only to dump him wet and shivering onto the floor at their feet.

Chrome yelped suddenly, clamping a hand over her mouth, and backed away from the thin pile of flesh and bones in front of them. They all reacted in horror at the limp form lying at their feet.

Hibari was the only strong enough to swallow his discomfort enough to step forward, kneeling down beside Mukuro's back, lifting up the pale shirt to expose the rest of the black and blue skin beneath.

"These bruises, where did they come from?" He looked up at the guards, demanding an answer. The guards shifted uncomfortably on their feet under his stern glare. They looked to one another before one of them answered. "There's always residual bruising on the criminals' bodies when the water in the chamber is changed."

Tsuna knelt down beside Hibari to check out the bruises and found that some of his Mist Guardian's injuries were months old and already healing, others were from only weeks ago, while new ones were already starting to bloom over his body from the rough treatment just minutes ago. All of them showed the unmistakable pattern of the chains that had been wrapped around his body, hanging him from the top of the water cell.

"We need to get him out of here." Tsuna put his hand on Hibari's shoulder, glaring at the guards, daring them to stop the group. Gokudera stepped forward and, pulling Mukuro up by one arm, helped Hibari carry him out. Everyone was surprised at how the two men were able to lift his frail body like he weighed no more than a piece of paper. Chrome bit her lip and lead the way out with Tsuna taking up the rear to keep an eye on the guards.

They followed Chrome's lead, trusting in her abilities to see through the maze of corridors. It wasn't until Hibari and Gokudera felt the tremors coursing through Mukuro's body that they realized just how bad his condition really was. Gokudera slowed down a bit, pulling the trio to a halt.

"Boss, whatever drugs are in this bastard's system seem to be starting to wear off." He looked over his shoulder to Tsuna. Between them, Mukuro's body was beginning to shiver.

"Something's not right," Hibari spoke up as well, giving Mukuro as worried a look as he could.

"Yeah, we need to get him –" Gokudera continued, but Hibari interrupted him.

"Rokudou, NO!" Neither of them could stop the frail man from suddenly lurching forward to grab Chrome's arm in a vice-like grip. The two fell to the floor in a tangle of limbs, Chrome convulsing and screaming at his touch.

"Chrome! Mukuro!" Tsuna yelled, running forward to help Gokudera try to tug Mukuro away from the girl. Her head was flung back and her arms and legs kicked out wildly as spasms ripped through her body. "Chrome, tell us what's wrong!!"

"LET HIM GO!! LET HIM GO!! AHHHHHH!!!" Her sharp screams pierced through the darkness. They turned to Gokudera, who had managed to pull Mukuro's body away from Chrome, and saw the same seizures shaking his weak frame.
"Gokudera! Let him go, NOW!" Tsuna yelled to him, hoping he was reading the situation right. Almost immediately, Gokudera dropped back to his knees, setting the quivering body on the floor. Like he was possessed, Mukuro managed to reach out and latch back onto Chrome. Her body resumed twitching in pain and she started screaming again. Her clothing was soaked with her sweat.

"Chrome, speak to us," Hibari commanded softly, his eyes carefully watching both Mist Guardians, trying to piece together what they needed. "What's happening with Rokudou?"

"It hurts!!" she managed to force out while gritting her teeth to reign in her screams. "Oh, god… everything is on fire!!" She opened her mouth to scream again, but it was cut off suddenly by a bone-rattling gasp for air. Her eyes shot open and her breathing became laboured and raspy. She reached for her throat with her free hand as she began choking, trying to swallow as much air as possible.

"C-can't breathe…" She managed to force out, trying not to lose her mind. Her eyes left the faces of the men trying to help her and she turned her head to look at the painful grip on her arm. She closed her eyes in pain and cried out again despite her difficulty breathing. "Please…he's suffocating!"

Tsuna stood up quickly, nodding to his Storm and Cloud Guardians, and ran back towards the room they'd just come from. Gokudera frowned as his back disappeared into the darkness, but straightened his own shoulders to take over while Tsuna was gone.

"If he can't breathe, I'm going to have to do mouth-to-mouth," he spoke aloud more to himself than anything else, but Hibari shook his head.

"No, he can breathe… just not this air." His hand was clenched tightly by one of Chrome's as the pain from Mukuro's body was passed on to her. Her eyes had already rolled into the back of her head, but ragged breaths and sharp screams were still being ripped from her tortured throat.

"Fuck, we have to do something. He's going to kill her like this." Gokudera swore under his breath, pounding his fist into the stone floor. Hibari nodded and pried his hand away from Chrome's long enough to grab Mukuro's hand away from her body in a sudden movement which sent another painful scream from Chrome into the darkness. He pulled the weak body just out of arm's reach of the girl and grabbed his head, centering it in his lap, one palm on each side of his temples.

"Leave her alone, you herbivore!" he growled out softly, the echo bouncing off the stone walls. "She's too weak to deal with whatever the hell you're putting her through!" Mukuro cracked open his red eye and reached up his hand to latch onto Hibari's wrist, just like he'd been hoping. He may not like the girl, but he didn't want to see her drown in Mukuro's illusions either. The sudden transfer of pain from Chrome to Hibari was instant. She fell limp and silent to the floor, and was quickly scooped up into Gokudera's arms. Hibari, on the other hand, jerked hard at the touch. His body arched violently, the sickening crack of his skull smashing into the stone floor reverberating through the underground prison.

"Hibari!" Gokudera yelled, leaping towards him.

"NO!" Hibari managed to get out through gritted teeth. He could feel Mukuro's hypersensitivity being transferred to him, making the pain in his head seem like a minor itch. It was as though every inch of his skin was on fire where something was touching it. Everything, from the soft brush of damp fabric that clung to his frame to the cold stone floor they were lying on, made his body scream in pain. It took all of his control to cry out in the same manner as Chrome had.

"We… need to keep going." At any other time, he would have beat the incredulous look off of Gokudera's face, but then, at any other time Gokudera wouldn't have had any reason to doubt Hibari's ability to endure the pain.

"We're close to the elevators, now." Gokudera spoke calmly, setting Chrome on her feet. She was still a little shaky, but she quickly moved to Hibari's side. He pulled Mukuro's body into his arms not saying a word about the gentle hand she placed under his elbow just in case he found himself having difficulty walking steadily. Focusing on his breathing instead of the pain, he took deep, steadying breaths to control the panic that threatened to overwhelm him. Slowly, Mukuro let go of his wrist to wrap an arm over Hibari's neck more comfortably. His eye closed again and he turned his face into the warm shoulder.

By the time they reached the elevator doors, Tsuna had returned with an oxygen tank and mask for Mukuro. They secured it over his face as painlessly as they could, and Hibari took the canister under his arm. His lips were pursed together tightly and he avoided meeting anyone's eyes, preferring to focus on his next steps and the body in his arms. He followed Tsuna's lead, letting Chrome keep him from swaying off course. Tsuna wasn't sure exactly what had happened, but he appreciated whatever sacrifice Hibari had made to get them all out of there.

"Gokudera, we need to change a few things," Tsuna said to his Guardian as the elevator carried them away from the nightmare. Gokudera nodded and without a word, pulled out his cell phone. He waited until they were high enough to get a signal before making all the calls necessary to keep Mukuro comfortable until he recovered, including putting in orders for oxygen tanks, taking the sheets off of the bed the girls had prepared, and readying a new cocktail of prescription drugs Shamal would need to treat him with.

"Tsuna! Gokudera!" Yamamoto's voice was the first that greeted them when they finally stepped out of the dark prison. He had already been warned of Mukuro's condition, and together with Ryohei he rushed over to the group with a stretcher. The Sun Guardian quickly jabbed a needle into Mukuro's arm, ignoring the sharp hiss of pain and resultant glare he earned from Hibari.

"Gokudera called while you were in there and warned us to have a sedative ready when you came out," Ryohei explained to the group as Hibari was finally able to let go of his charge. Mukuro fell limp in his arms and was pulled gently onto the stretcher and carried back to the vehicles they'd brought. Hibari breathed a sigh of relief as the pain vanished with Mukuro's consciousness. It was short-lived, however, as a wave of dizziness brought him stumbling to his knees. Only Chrome's hand on his elbow prevented him from hitting the pavement face-first.

"Hibari!!" Tsuna and Gokudera exclaimed together, rushing back to him.

"You're bleeding, Hibari." Now out of the darkness, the trio could finally see the damage he had done to himself after the initial shock of pain from Mukuro's touch. The blood had matted his hair into clumps and ran down his back, staining his vest a darker shade of black. The small trail slid down the backs of his white sleeves, and his collar had very little white patches left. Hibari coughed slightly, his vision swimming. Mukuro's transference of pain had overridden any pain he had felt from the injury, but now he was starting to feel the dizziness start to take hold.

"Someone grab the gauze!!" Gokudera shouted, running towards the group of cars they had brought. Behind him, Tsuna and Chrome helped Hibari back to his feet and half carried him back to the rest of the family to get his head treated.

With practiced ease, Yamamoto pulled out the medical kit and began to thoroughly examine Hibari. They had been looking after each other's injuries for years and knew how to handle everything from cuts and scrapes to bruises and concussions. With Irie and Spanner hooking up the oxygen tanks for Mukuro and making sure the heart monitor was on and working, Ryohei giving Chrome a quick check-up, and Gokudera hovering between both groups asking every question that needed to be asked about the conditions of everyone, Tsuna was finally able to relax enough to smile at the group fondly.

~*~

"Are you sure it's okay for you to do this, Hibari?" Tsuna asked as soon as he walked into the bedroom of the little villa they had rented in a quieter part of the country. It was a couple of days later and Hibari had finally gotten the go-ahead to resume his Guardian duties from Shamal. He had been in the middle of dressing when his boss came in and continued to button up his shirt before answering.

"Do you plan on going back on the conditions of Mukuro's release?" he asked calmly. Tsuna shook his head.

"No, of course not." He didn't look comfortable with that thought. "I would never put Mukuro back in that place."

"Then you must be questioning my honour."

"Your honour?"

"You think I'm incapable of controlling myself around him and will hurt someone weaker than me." Hibari fixed Tsuna with a hard stare, waiting for his response.

"No!" The Decimo laughed and held up his hands in surrender. "I'm just worried about you and being a little protective." He nodded to the single bandage wrapped around Hibari's head. "I don't want you doing something you're not ready for." Hibari quirked a little smile at him.

"You're questioning my abilities to perform as your Guardian?"

"No!" Tsuna laughed again, knowing he was being teased just a little. "But you know Mukuro will take advantage of any little weakness he sees in your defenses. I just want you to be careful."

"If he tries anything, I'll just refuse to give him the morphine." Hibari shrugged and walked out of the room with his boss.

"Please take good care of him, Hibari," he said softly. "If he's in pain, don't let him suffer too much." He looked up in time to see Hibari nod curtly, but the look on his face was sour. Tsuna turned around, wondering what brought on Hibari's irritation, but he didn't need to. Ken's voice carried through the house better than if they had installed a speaker system.

"HEY YOU!" He was stomping through the front hallway with Chikusa at his side. Neither of them had been satisfied with the role they'd been allowed to play in Mukuro's release, or with Hibari's refusal to let them into his villa where he was keeping their master while he fulfilled his babysitting duties. Tsuna stepped in front of Hibari, intent on nipping their anger in the bud before any more furniture needed replacing, but his Cloud Guardian put his hand on his shoulder and shook his head.

"I'll deal with these idiots," he said, quietly.

"What's the meaning of not letting us in to see Mukuro-sama?" Chikusa spoke up, much quieter than Ken, but still angry.

"YEAH!" Ken chimed in. "You let that girl in!! Who the fuck do you think you are?! We have more right to look after him than you, shitface!!" Hibari's eye twitched at the insult but his hands remained crossed over his chest. He'd learned restraint over the years.

"We had this conversation when you wanted to go in to do the extraction," he explained to them, civilly. "You are a hindrance. Your entire group is annoying, and I'm the one who has to look after the herbivore. I refuse to baby-sit Rokudou's little fan club as well." Tsuna hid a chuckle behind his hand at Hibari's version of "my house, my rules".

"You've never gotten over having your pride handed to you by our little 'fan club' have you?" Chikusa's eyes flashed behind his glasses. Tsuna looked between the men, a little anxious about the impending fight that seemed to be brewing, but didn't say anything.

"If I recall, I had no problem walking out of your little ruins with my pride and my teeth intact. Your group was led off in chains, right?" Hibari narrowed his eyes at the pair.

"If Mukuro-sama wasn't recovering he would have no problems bringing you to your knees again!!" Ken yelled. He'd barely had a chance to blink before he crumpled to the floor from the impact of a tonfa to the head. Tsuna sighed and put a hand over Hibari's arm, preventing him from lashing out at Chikusa as well.

"If you ever want back in this villa, I would suggest you pick him up and leave," he said to the bespectacled man. "I don't think insulting Hibari is the best way to get in." Chikusa huffed in annoyance but pulled Ken up by his arms and dragged him quickly out of the little house.

It wasn't until the door slammed shut that Hibari was aware of movement out of the corner of his eye. He turned his head to look at the mirror in the hallway, already tense and itching for a fight. Standing right behind him was Mukuro in the flesh, his eyes dark with emotion, staring straight at him. There was the tiniest hitch in Hibari's breathing at the sight of the thin and atrophied body leaning against the frame of the bedroom door. It looked like it had taken all of his energy to pull himself to that spot. Hibari whirled around to look behind him and let out an annoyed breath of air when he found nothing out of the ordinary behind him.

"Hibari… are you okay?" Tsuna's soft voice came from beside him, wondering what Hibari had sensed. Instead of replying, Hibari turned back to the mirror but only saw Sawada and himself in the reflection this time. He cursed softly under his breath for falling for the illusion so easily. He hadn't heard anything approach them from behind, so he should have recognized it. "Hibari?" Tsuna tugged on his Guardian's sleeve gently to get his attention. Hibari shook his head, feeling stupid for underestimating Mukuro just because his body was incapacitated.

"Rokudou's illusions," he explained curtly, walking towards the kitchen.

"What did you see?" Tsuna followed him in, sitting down at the table to give Hibari room to work without being hindered by someone in his personal space. Hibari pulled a few vegetables out of the fridge, shooting him a light glare for forcing the subject.

"Him," he said, bluntly. If Tsuna couldn't take the hint and move on, then he wasn't about to make it easier for him.

"Ah." Tsuna nodded wisely as though that one word answer cleared up everything. "You do know you reacted physically to seeing that illusion of him, right?" Hibari's glare darkened. Sometimes it was very inconvenient for Hibari that Tsuna had grown into a very observant boss. One who wasn't as afraid of Hibari's glares as he used to be. He wasn't sure if he should ignore the implied accusation, deny the reaction, or explain what he saw.

"I wouldn't put it past him to attempt to drag his pathetically weak body out of his room." He'd managed to avoid, explain, and deny that his reaction meant anything in one sentence. Tsuna quirked a grin at him, aware of this as well. They were silent for a few minutes while Hibari prepared the soup for Mukuro's lunch.

"Why are you only refusing to let them in to see him?" Tsuna's quiet voice easily carried through the kitchen.

"The frog and the girl are much easier to ignore."

"If it were just that, you could leave the villa for a few hours and let them in to see him." Hibari looked up to see Tsuna eyeing him curiously. "I know you don't care about possessions or the mess they could make, so what's the real reason?" Hibari continued chopping up the frozen chicken for a few minutes before replying.

"Rokudou had issues with hypersensitivity when we got him out. He's still in pain when he's not sedated. The pup doesn't know how to be quiet or how to respect boundaries. If the four-eyed freak can't keep a leash on him, then neither of them will be allowed in." He frowned at the young Vongola's amused smile. It was starting to irritate him.

"I've never seen you act this protective before," Tsuna chuckled, but cut it short at the angry glower and the extremely sharp cutting knife in Hibari's hand. Despite the danger, he kept the grin on his face. They maintained a companionable silence for the rest of the time while Hibari prepared the food until Tsuna's phone rang, breaking the peace in the room. The Decimo excused himself politely, waved goodbye to his Cloud Guardian, and left the little cottage.

~*~

Later that afternoon, Hibari found himself leaning against the doorframe, watching Shamal check over Mukuro while he slept. The only reason he was certain the young man was asleep was the tension in the frail body. He was having nightmares. While he was awake during the day, he would usually hold his body perfectly still so he could pretend to sleep while still being aware of the things going on around him. Everyone who visited him was fooled, if only for the fact that Mukuro waited until he was completely alone to truly fall asleep. Only Shamal and Hibari were aware of what a slumbering Mukuro really looked like. Hibari was certain Chrome also knew, but she chose to let Mukuro keep his dignity around her whenever she could.

Shamal looked up from the chart he had set up to record Mukuro's progress. His expression was grim.

"He's still feeling pain from the overload to his senses, so I've given him a drip that will ease the pain." Shamal nodded to the bag hanging beside his bed.

"How long?"

"He should only need it sparingly for about two weeks," came the doctor's answer. "When he needs the painkillers, just press the button. He also needs to start being weaned off the oxygen, immediately." Hibari nodded and put that at the top of his mental to-do list.

"And the nightmares?"

"There's nothing we can do about them right now." Shamal stood up and straightened his pants. "Where's that cute thing that normally comes in here?" Hibari gave him a blank look. He didn't expect any less from the lecherous man.

"She's busy," he deadpanned. "Are we done here?" Shamal nodded and grabbed his things.

"I'll come back in a few days to check on his progress. He should be sitting up on his own by then." He reached up to take a swipe at the soup on the tray Hibari had been holding but stopped before he could get his hand within a foot of the bowl. Hibari had kneed him in the groin without disturbing the food in his hand. With a rough shove, Hibari walked past him and into the room, no longer acknowledging his presence. He winced and limped out of the room.

Hibari put the tray on the table beside the bed, letting it cool down. He'd noticed while talking with Shamal that Mukuro's body had slowly relaxed and then gone completely still aside from his soft breaths. He rolled his eyes, but pulled up a chair beside the bed anyways.

"The herbivores you fool with that stupid act won't be here for an hour or so, so stop it." Hibari leaned forward, pulling down Mukuro's oxygen mask. The heart monitor beside the bed showed his pulse pick up its pace and he began wheezing. After struggling to breathe for a few moments, he cracked open his eyes and glared at Hibari. His red eye stood out in sharp contrast to the pale, almost translucent skin of his face. A rough groan came from Mukuro's throat before a soft voice filled Hibari's head.

You're a sadist. Hibari smirked at him, recognizing the voice.

"You heard Dr. Shamal," he said softly. "You have to start breathing air sometime. And maybe this way you'll learn not to use your illusions on me."

I have no idea what you're talking about. Hibari leaned forward again and put the mask back over Mukuro's mouth, satisfied with how quickly his pulse and blood pressure returned to normal. More than likely, Mukuro had been helping his body along in its panic.

"Lunch is soup." He was pleased with the frown that passed briefly over Mukuro's features. Hibari knew he was beginning to get frustrated with his liquid diet and greatly appreciated being able to inform him of the menu.

I can't feel my fingers. Hibari looked down at that and saw the slim digits tapping restlessly on the bed.

"You don't want to." He knew that Mukuro's skin was still sensitive from the few times he had touched the older man and received a jolt of the white hot pain Mukuro seemed desperate to push onto everyone.

They sat in an uncomfortable silence for a little while before Mukuro got bored. Hibari had brought a book and was attempting to read it when Mukuro poked his way into his head again.

I know how that one ends. In a few pages he meets the commander who everyone thought was dead for ten years. Hibari tried to ignore the voice and didn't reply to it, but sure enough the commander was brought back into the story in a literary twist. It would have been well written if Mukuro hadn't spoiled it. He looked up from his book and glared hotly at him. Even Tsuna would have still cowered from his look but Mukuro just coughed a little in his attempt to chuckle.

Want to know whom the shopkeeper's daughter ends up sleeping with at the end of the next chapter? Hibari pinched the bridge of his nose to keep from pulling out his tonfa. Mukuro was saved by the soft cough that came from the doorway. Hibari looked up, putting his book down.

"Hibari-san," Chrome said, quietly, when his attention was on her. She smiled. "Have you been waiting long?" Her eyes were drawn to the soup bowl. She was well aware of Hibari's refusal to feed Mukuro while he was injured and he often made the soups so they would be cool enough for Mukuro to eat by the time she showed up. Hibari shook his head and stood up.

"Long enough." He shot another disparaging look at Mukuro before leaving the two alone.

~*~

He was technically only required by the council to chaperone Mukuro's recovery and he was satisfied that Chrome had instantly volunteered to feed, bathe, and otherwise look after her sick master while he was at Hibari's villa. As much as Hibari disliked the other Guardians, she was at least quiet and minded her own business.

A few hours later he heard Chrome speaking softly to Mukuro in the bathroom. He stood beside the door, curious about what she usually said to the other man. Since the door was open just a crack, he didn't feel that he was doing something as immature as eavesdropping. Her quiet but steady voice was describing for Mukuro her day with Ken and Chikusa. He snorted quietly to himself when she explained why they weren't visiting.

Hibari didn't see any point in listening in any further and turned to leave them to their little chat when a tingle made its way up his spine. He froze for a moment when another little flutter stirred in his stomach. He knew this unease. Growling under his breath, Hibari shoved open the bathroom door angrily. At the edge of the bathtub, Chrome was kneeling on the floor, her hands working soap through Mukuro's long, dark tresses. It looked normal enough except Hibari could feel an illusion at work.

"Hibari-san, is something the matter?" Chrome asked quietly, turning to look at him with a worried frown on her face. He could tell from the emotions flitting across her face that she was worried about her bringing up Ken and Chikusa. He glared at her and followed the path of the bubbles to where her fingers had stalled in their work on Mukuro's hair. Hibari felt another tingle and acted on it.

Lunging forward, he grabbed Chrome roughly by the arms, pulling her to her feet and away from Mukuro. He then proceeded to yank the wet hair roughly, ignoring Chrome's surprised yelp and pleading for him to stop.

"You're hurting him!" she yelled at him, trying to reach around his body to pull him back.

"Hurting him?" Hibari retorted, tilting Mukuro's head back. "This is nothing more than an illusion." He reached forward and pulled out the oxygen mask that was hidden under the bubbles. "Why do you think he wasn't wearing this?!"

"He said he didn't need the oxygen anymore!" Then something clicked in her eyes. "Wait, then where is he?" Hibari ignored her, instead staring at the water.

"Drop the illusion and I'll give you the oxygen back," he said, his tone livid. After another moment the fake-Mukuro disappeared and the real one splashed to life from under the water, coughing and sputtering. Hibari quickly leaned forward, supporting his body with his arms and put the mask back in place on his mouth. He then turned his anger on the bewildered girl behind him.

"How the hell could you be so fucking stupid?!" If his outraged glare didn't scare her, his colourful language did the trick. She knew that if he didn't have both arms wrapped around Mukuro, he would have hit her. He had never been restricted by something as insignificant as gender. "Illusions and reality are different, even for him! If you allow him to merge the two, then what the fuck was the point of freeing him?! Get out. NOW." He turned his back to her again and ended the conversation. She couldn't deny that she had deserved much worse than a verbal lashing from Hibari, but she was the least masochistic of the three of them and so left quickly without another word.

"I don't care what kind of pain you're in," Hibari hissed into Mukuro's ear. "If you do that again, I will drown you myself." Being so close to the frail man, he was able to catch a glimpse of why Mukuro had allowed himself to slip under the water. The duller senses and the feeling of weightlessness was calming for him and, as disgusted as it made Hibari feel, it was something he was used to. It was a place he was comfortable in.

Don't I deserve a moment of peace from this? Hibari leaned Mukuro's body against the edge of the tub and began stripping to his boxers quickly, one hand on the wet chest to keep him sitting up. He slid into the water beside the Mist Guardian before answering.

"If you would rather we put you back in the prison, tell us now." He grabbed the bottle of shampoo and grudgingly began the job Chrome should have been doing.

Why is it always black and white with you? He lathered up his hands and began massaging his fingers into Mukuro's scalp, ignoring the way his body tensed in pain. If he hadn't messed around, gentle Chrome would still be there.

"Because there is no halfway here. Either you live in this reality, mind and body, or you share Chrome's body and leave yours behind in the Vendicare prison to rot away. Sawada might give a shit about you, but I'm not about to spend the rest of my life looking after your pathetic excuse for a body while you pretend to enjoy your freedom."

I'm not used to feeling weak like this.

"You cannot say you didn't earn this." Hibari began scooping up water to rinse out the suds.

Don't ban Chrome from visiting, I used my strongest illusions to fool her. Hibari shrugged. He hadn't planned on banning her completely as punishment, but he wouldn't let her back in for the rest of the day. He knew by dinnertime he would be fed up waiting on the illusionist in her place.

"You can't use your illusions to trick her again." They both knew Hibari had no real leverage, but Mukuro nodded anyways. He closed his eyes and leaned into Hibari's touch for the rest of the bath.

~*~

Almost a week later, things were going a little smoother. Chrome had been much more diligent about Mukuro's illusions and chastised him each time she caught him trying to trick her. Mukuro behaved as well as could be expected, knowing neither of them wanted to leave him in Hibari's care for longer than necessary. It usually ended up with the Mist Guardian on the receiving end of Hibari's tough love style of nursing.

Hibari walked into the room while Chrome was brushing Mukuro's hair and announced that he was going to allow Chikusa and Ken the opportunity to come and visit their master. He narrowed his eyes at Chrome, silently telling her she was to keep them both in check if they expected to leave the villa alive. She grinned easily at him and nodded.

"I'm going out," Hibari said when the doorbell rang. He wasn't about to stay in the same villa and listen to Ken's shouting all day. He opened the door without another word, glaring when Ken just shoved past him like a hyper puppy and ran to Mukuro's room. Chikusa followed him in and nodded politely.

"We won't break anything," he promised Hibari as he took off his shoes. Hibari ignored the promise and pulled his own shoes on, leaving the small house immediately.

He spent the morning at the market picking up some fresh ingredients for the meals he was making. The Italian merchants were used to him already; they had their best produce out for him and didn't make him haggle for the lowest prices.

After a couple of hours in the market, Hibari couldn't come up with any more excuses to avoid returning to his villa and decided to go back. The fruits and vegetables he'd bought would spoil if he kept them out in the sun all day anyways. It was almost time for him to prepare Mukuro's lunch too.

When he opened the door, there was a sense of panic that had flooded the entire house. Chrome was rushing in and out of Mukuro's room, and shouting orders at Ken and Chikusa. The pair was looking fairly chastised, standing outside the bedroom door. The quieter of the two was holding a towel to his chest.

"If Hibari-san comes back and finds what you two have done, I won't be able to protect you!" Hibari had never heard her raise her voice before and it looked like the same could be said for the two she was furious with.

"Ugh, this place stinks now," Ken made a face to his friend, ignoring Chrome's threat.

"You're no bouquet of roses yourself, you know. When was the last time you showered anyways?"

"Shut the fuck up, asshole!"

"Oh, shit." Chikusa was the first to spot Hibari walking towards them. Ken looked up and they shared twin looks of fear and guilt. Hibari ignored their expressions.

"Where is Chrome?" he asked, glaring at them. "And what did you two do?"

"She's in the bedroom," Chikusa said, elbowing Ken in the ribs. Neither of them looked excited to be telling Hibari what they had done wrong.

"Ken!" Chrome's voice carried out to the group. "Where's the towel?!" The dog practically tripped over himself to get away from Hibari and his stony stare, tugging the clean towel from Chikusa and running into the bedroom.

Hibari looked towards the bedroom and for the first time, caught the sounds of retching. He turned back to Chikusa and shoved him hard against the wall.

"What the fuck did you do?" he hissed.

"H-he just said he w-was hungry…" Chikusa trailed off at the end and Hibari didn't need to hear any more of the confession.

"You gave him solid food?"

"Ken made up the curry." Hibari's frown deepened and it took a lot of self-control not to knock out the four-eyed man with his tonfa.

"Fuck," he swore and let him go. There was more yelling from inside the room.

"Ken! Throw that in the laundry!"

"Ew!! Fuck, that's disgusting!! I'm not touching that!"
"If you don't, I'll be forced to tell Hibari exactly how you caused this!" Hibari was almost impressed with Chrome's ability to stand up to Ken's belligerent behaviour.

"How the fuck was I supposed to know he wasn't allowed solid food yet?!"

"I told you SOUP!" she screamed at him. There was the sound of something wet landing and a shriek. Chikusa beside him had to stifle his laughter.

"YOU BITCH!! WHAT THE FUCK?! THAT TOWEL HAD PUKE ON IT!!"

"Soup was not chicken curry!!" Chrome continued, ignoring Ken's outrage at having a used towel thrown at him. "And I told you to go and take those out! Would you like me to throw the bucket at you, too?!"

Hibari decided against his natural urge to run and avoid the mess in the room and stepped in carefully. He looked around the room and sighed in annoyance. Chrome had cleaned up for the most part, but the plate of curry was still lying shattered on the floor and there were towels all over the place. Ken looked up and sighed at his presence.

"Fine, I'm going." Chrome looked up, unused to Ken being so agreeable and saw what made him want to leave so quickly. He slid out behind Hibari.

"Hibari-san!" Chrome blushed in embarrassment. She was sitting on the edge of the bed, changing the damp cloth over Mukuro's forehead. He looked paler than usual and his skin was clammy.

"I will kill those fucking herbivores if they set another foot in this villa," he ground out through his teeth. He dropped his bags by the door and walked over to them. Mukuro cracked open his eyes and coughed slightly. Chrome reached forward and helped him to sit up. He smiled softly at her in appreciation of her help, but he still looked nauseous and reached for the button to release another dose of the liquid painkillers. Chrome quickly gave him what he was asking for and turned her attention back to Hibari.

"I'll keep them away. I'm so sorry for this." She looked back to her master, apologizing to both of them. Mukuro sighed softly at the pleasant feeling now coursing through his body and patted her hand lightly in forgiveness.

"I have no use for apologies," Hibari spat at her. "I don't want to see you again either." She quickly jumped off the bed, seeing how angry he was and nodded.

"Mukuro, get better quickly." She leaned over him and kissed his cheek before getting off the bed. Hibari glared at her as she carefully slipped past him and out of the room.

She was only trying to fix things before you came back. Hibari turned his glare at Mukuro, kicking the plate pieces from the floor.

"You keep defending her when she screws up. Maybe next time it will be your life." His voice sounded hopeful.

Why do you get so angry? Do you like me or something? Mukuro grinned lazily at that thought. Hibari snorted at the very possibility.

"I'm pissed because they're delaying your recovery like I knew they would," Hibari explained to him. "Each time they mess around here, means you have to spend longer and longer in my care. I would rather kick you out on your ass, but I have a responsibility."

"And… when I'm healed?" Mukuro managed to ask, though his voice was still quiet and rough from lack of use. Hibari looked at him in mild surprise.

"Then I'll get to fight you again." He smirked at his charge. "Until then, don't eat anything your puppy gives you." Mukuro coughed softly, masking an amused chuckle.

"You would rather me drown in all the soup you force me to eat?"

"Stop being such a herbivore and maybe I'll start making you food you can chew."

"You're my chef?" Hibari pursed his lips and glared at the implication that he was working for, and subsequently subservient to, Mukuro. Although Mukuro just grinned at him, Hibari could hear his voice reverberating through his head in a deep chuckle.

"Fuck you." If possible, Hibari's response prompted Mukuro's smile to widen.

"Are you offering?"

Not wanting to give the Mist Guardian any more entertainment, he stood up and walked out of the room. He hated that the way that Mukuro's laughter in his head seemed to follow him for the rest of the day.

~*~

There was a knock on the study doors, startling Hibari from his thoughts. He walked over to them, unsure what he was expecting. Whatever he thought he would find on the other side of the door, he certainly didn't expect an empty hallway. He growled softly at the annoying presence in the back of his head and muttered his curses at Mukuro. He knew that the other man was just trying to catch his attention but Hibari wasn't about to give him anything he wanted. Just as he was about to slam the door in frustration, Kusakabe rounded the corner and smiled at him.

"Kyou-san!" he called to his boss. "We just need your signature before we send the prescription refill request to Dr. Shamal for his signature." In his hand was a manila folder filled with a list of drugs they were running low on. Hibari frowned.

"Shamal gave us more than enough drugs and painkillers." He took the folder and pulled out the files, looking over the prescription list. "What's going on? We were given a month's supply of these pain medications. That bastard was supposed to have stopped treatment two weeks ago." He would have said more but for the crash that echoed through the house.

"Was that Mukuro-san's room?" Kusakabe asked before Hibari had a chance to think it himself. He nodded to the taller man and they both rushed to the room to see what had happened. To Hibari's knowledge, the other man was alone in his room. They found Mukuro lying on the floor, whimpering in pain.

"Mukuro-san!" Kusakabe moved first. Hibari stood in the doorway, his eye twitching a little. Mukuro had fallen to the floor, pulling all of the machines, tubes and cables with him. It didn't look like Kusakabe noticed what the illusionist had been reaching for.

"Ah, that hurt," Mukuro hissed through his teeth, looking up at Kusakabe as he was lifted off of the floor. "I was just trying to push the button." It was then that Hibari realized that Mukuro hadn't been trying to get his attention earlier, but piss him off enough to keep him away. Hibari put a halting hand on Kusakabe's arm as he reached up to do Mukuro the favour of pushing it for him.

"Don't," he said firmly.

"But what about what Tsuna-san said about giving him the medication when he's in pain?" Kusakabe had been privately told to keep an eye out for both men to ensure they both lived through Mukuro's recuperation.

"Unhook it all." Hibari's voice was steady and sure.

"What?" Mukuro's brow was furrowed tightly. Hibari turned to look at Kusakabe directly.

"I will bite you to death if you disobey me," he growled at him. "And if he tries to possess me to stop you and you let him!" He could already feel Mukuro trying to break through his defenses to take him over as Kusakabe began turning off the machine.

"STOP!" Hibari growled loudly, punching Mukuro hard in the face with the last bit of control he had. It shocked him enough to give him back full control of his body, but he also felt the searing pain of the hit in his own jaw. "You're so fucking weak, Rokudou." They glared fiercely at each other as Kusakabe wheeled the machine out of the room and left them alone.

"I'm in pain, and you know it," Mukuro said, referring to the shared pain they had just experienced. Hibari was about to open his mouth to reply when he thought about it for a moment.

"No, I don't know it." He frowned at Mukuro. "All I feel is the illusion of pain that you're forcing on me. If I had known you were so weak, I never would have agreed to keep you here. You're disgustingly weak if you allow yourself to develop an addiction. You're an embarrassment."

Without waiting for Mukuro's reply, he stormed out of the room. He was angry with Mukuro for the illusions, but even more furious at himself for not recognizing it sooner. Despite his firm words to Kusakabe, there was a moment when even he wanted to give Mukuro the painkillers. And that was without Mukuro's influence. It was a weakness he wouldn't allow himself to succumb to again.

~*~

In retaliation, Mukuro spent the next week irritating Hibari with all manner of illusions. Every time he put something down, it would be moved halfway across the room. Every room he entered, he was showered with fragrant Sakura blossoms. Every night Mukuro played havoc with his dreams, turning them upside down. But it wasn't until he woke up from a particularly erotic dream Mukuro had given him, starring Dino and Kusakabe, that Hibari decided to respond to the attacks in his own way.

That day Mukuro got nothing but soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Instead of being angry, like Hibari had hoped, Mukuro seemed to be amused at finally getting a reaction out of the Cloud Guardian. He let up in his illusions and Hibari found that he could actually get some work done for the first time all week.

A few nights later, Hibari fell asleep and found himself lost in a typical wet dream. He'd never dreamt or thought of anything specific – just hands touching his body, wet but hungry kisses, groans and whimpers of pleasure coming from both him and his partner that sent shivers down his spine – but it was always just enough to reach his climax and release the excess tension in his body. He was more than satisfied to let his partner in these fantasies remain anonymous and genderless. It was during this very predictable dream that things began to change.

First, it was the voice. The whispered words of encouragement started sounding familiar. The moans were lower than he usually heard. The tongue that licked at the edge of his ear promised him dark and very specific things would happen to his body.

Then, it was the genderless anonymous lover in his arms. His fingers began finding purchase in places that screamed male. The tight muscles of his stomach jumped at his touch. His back was strong and his shoulders were broad. When Hibari leaned forward to kiss his dream lover's neck, he found an Adam's apple and an angular jaw. Dark hair spilled long and luxurious over his shoulders and Hibari found he enjoyed wrapping his fingers around the strands and tugging.

Everything in his dream became specific and exact. He was no longer getting pleasured by some stranger, but someone very familiar.

"Ah, Kyouya, yes." When he recognized his name in the moan, Hibari was jolted out of his distracted pleasure enough to look up at the man above him.

"Rokudou!!" he snarled, but it came out as a moan. Mukuro's hand was wrapped around his cock and stroking him quickly. "Fuck you." Above him, Mukuro only chuckled and bit his shoulder. The effect went straight to his groin.

"You're a tease to keep offering without any intention of following through, you know?" Hibari leaned forward to bite him in retaliation but found it was counterproductive. He wasn't thinking straight enough to bite as hard as he would have liked and it seemed that, like himself, Mukuro actually liked being bitten. "Oh god, yes… do that again." Hibari wasn't about to listen to him, but his body was more than willing to oblige him. Mukuro hissed softly.

"I am going to kill you," Hibari whispered. "Slowly." His lover turned to look at him and grinned darkly.

"As long as you're enjoying yourself." He chuckled and leaned forward, kissing him deeply. With another few strokes the tight hand with the long, thin fingers pulled his orgasm from his body and forced him out of the dream and into the reality of his dark bedroom.

He stayed awake for the next few hours, not wanting to fall asleep and allow Mukuro to take over any more of his dreams. He refused to give the older Guardian that kind of power over him. When it finally came time for him to wake up the other man, he threw open the door angrily.

Mukuro rolled over in his bed, blinking blearily at the man in his doorway.

"You're so noisy Kyouya," he grumbled, flopping back over and closing his eyes. "Let me sleep for five more minutes."

"No!" Hibari stomped into the room and tugged the blankets off his body roughly. A visible shudder went through Mukuro's body at the sudden chill. "You stop fucking around with my dreams or else!" Mukuro turned around, intrigued.

"I wasn't in your dreams last night, though," he said carefully, measuring the impact of the words. Although he was amused by the overreaction on Hibari's part, he wasn't as smug as the Cloud Guardian was expecting. "But I may have just forgotten, tell me what you dreamt about last night." The grin on his face widened, but Hibari could still see the curious confusion behind his eyes.

"I know it was you," he growled out. He didn't want to look at the implications if he allowed himself to believe Mukuro was telling the truth. "And I'm not about to tell you what happened so you can relive my humiliation." Mukuro just pouted and began to poke through his head.

Not wanting to give Mukuro any ammunition if he was telling the truth, Hibari chose to leave the bedroom and ignore all of the illusionist's attempts to figure out exactly what had occurred in his dream.

Mukuro's interest in the dream was unwavering all day and finally Hibari found that he had no other choice but to allow himself to fall asleep. He told himself he would be more aware of himself in his dreams to make sure nothing else happened. Mukuro was there waiting for him.

"So, you never told me what kind of dream would make you so angry with me, Kyouya," Mukuro breathed out. He walked up behind him, pressing close and dragging a finger down his back. Hibari's body reacted before he could control it and Mukuro grinned at the shudder.

"None of your business," he spat out. Mukuro laughed at his attempts to cover it up.

"So it was a sexual dream?" Hibari turned around and swatted his hand away.

"I'm not going to let you control my dreams. Let's fight." He wouldn't admit it, but Hibari was getting antsy from going so long without seriously fighting anyone. He would be glad when Mukuro was better and could fight him for real.

"I'm not going to give up," Mukuro warned Hibari, but allowed him to pretend he was distracting him from the more intriguing topic of Hibari's dream. The intense reaction Hibari had obviously had from it was too extreme to ignore. But he had more than enough time to figure out what exactly had happened and he didn't need to rush anything.

~*~

Less than a week later, Mukuro was out of his bed and leaning heavily on a pair of forearm crutches Chrome had brought over for him. His knuckles were white from the weight he was placing on the grips. He took a couple of steps forward and stumbled gracefully. Hibari, sitting on a chair across the room, was holding his trident.

"I'm sure I can find a way to break this," he said, idly. He'd brought Mukuro to the edge of the living room and found a way to encourage him to practice walking across it.

"You wouldn't dare," Mukuro glared at him. He almost wished one of the others were there so he could have some kind of positive support. Even Chrome would have quietly cheered for him. But the truth was, he didn't need their help to get better. As much as he hated to agree with Hibari, the challenge of always staying on par with Hibari was much better stimulation and encouragement than the mess the Kokuyo group tended to bring to him.

Even snarky but docile Fran had managed to get himself banned from the villa. He'd made the mistake of bringing his senpai to meet his master without realizing that Hibari and Bel didn't have the best history together. Hibari still remembered the way Bel had sliced him up pretty good during the ring battles before he'd managed to figure out the trick of the wires attached to the knives. He wasted no time in slamming the door in their faces. His excuse was that the Varia shouldn't be allowed within 100 miles of anyone as weak as Mukuro.

"You know I don't make empty threats." Mukuro snorted at that.

"And when was the last time you actually bit someone to death, Kyouya?" Hibari looked slightly ruffled.

"You would give me indigestion."

Mukuro took another few shaky steps. One of the few things he really wanted to do was whack Hibari over the head with his crutch, and he had plans to when he made it over to Hibari's chair. He knew Hibari doubted his ability to make it all the way to him on the first try.

He looked up at his tormenter for a moment, putting his crutch out and feeling his weight force the support from under him. Rather than allow himself to fall entirely, Mukuro put out a foot to stop the fall. He still bruised easily after all. Unfortunately, Hibari also caught the slip and was instantly in front of him with an angry look marring his features.

"What else have you been hiding?" he growled out, grabbing a crutch from under him and throwing it across the room, ignoring the sound of a vase crashing to the floor underneath it. Mukuro was forced to support himself on the single crutch instead of letting his body fall to the ground. "If you're going to do something, then do it completely or not at all!" Mukuro grinned at him.

"You sound like Ryohei, telling me to do everything to the extreme." He laughed at his joke, but Hibari was less than amused and seemed a little offended.

"Don't compare me to that moron," he spat. "Only weaklings and cowards do things lazily."

"You asked for it," Mukuro said as his only warning before standing up straight for the first time in Hibari's presence and swung his crutch out at his legs, taking him down with the surprise attack. It was almost better than knocking Hibari on the head. He had to jump back quickly when Hibari tried the same tactic with his legs. He laughed at the attempt. Hibari climbed back to his feet, a smirk replacing his earlier frown.

"You've been training without me," he observed. Mukuro laughed, figuring that was obvious.

"Did you think I would always let you have the upper hand so easily?" He twirled the support like a baton. "Let's make a deal."

"No."

"But you haven't even heard what I'm proposing!" Mukuro laughed.

"Propose then, the answer's still no."

"What if I bought a ring?" Hibari's confused look was worth the little divergence from the topic at hand.

"Rokudou," Hibari growled in warning, hating to be the butt of anyone's joke.

"Let's make a deal," Mukuro repeated. "If you make my knees touch the ground first, I'll stop the illusions for the rest of my stay here. If I make you kneel, you give me my staff back and tell me what your dream was about." He got a thrill in talking about Hibari kneeling for him.

"Those rules are hardly fair, you would win two prizes where I would only win one," Hibari huffed in annoyance.

"You're worried about losing to me?" Hibari could tell he was being baited, but he couldn't stop himself.

"Of course not. I don't care what you want if you win. It won't happen." He nodded in acceptance of the terms of their deal. "This has to be a purely physical fight though, no illusions." Mukuro shrugged and agreed to Hibari's only demand.

"You think you'll have an advantage?" He grinned mischievously at his opponent. "Just this morning you thought I couldn't walk." Hibari narrowed his eyes, knowing he'd underestimated Mukuro greatly, but he wouldn't allow that to happen again.

"If you use your illusions, you forfeit the win to me." Mukuro just grinned at him.

"I know." He lashed out first with his crutch, doing exactly what Hibari had wanted. Hibari wasn't about to make the first move without first figuring out what he was up against. He dodged and parried, his tonfa against Mukuro's lone crutch, sizing up the older man's skills. Mukuro steered their battle over enough for him to duck from one of Hibari's punches and pick up his other crutch.

"Wow, do you think having two weapons will help you?" Hibari smirked. In truth, he had allowed himself to be pushed back so Mukuro could pick up his fallen support. He wanted it to be as fair a fight as he could make it. When he was nearly smacked in the face with the crutch, he found himself regretting the decision just a little. He took a quick step back, assessing the situation.

Mukuro's reach with the crutches was longer than Hibari's tonfa could reach, but he was limited by the direction and weight. Because Hibari's tonfa were held closer to his body, he could move them faster.

He aimed a punch at Mukuro's face, fully expecting the inevitable dodge, and was in the process of pulling his body back around to catch him in the gut with the back end of his other tonfa when the room spun. His knees buckled underneath him and, although he rolled with the sudden stumble, bringing his weapon up to clip Mukuro in the knee, he knew he'd been the first one to touch the carpet with his knees. Mukuro had anticipated his earlier bluff and ducked in order to attack the back of Hibari's knees, knowing that all he needed was to bring the Cloud Guardian's knees to the floor for a moment to win. Mukuro, taking the opportunity to pin him to the floor, grinned down at him, knowing his smug attitude would make the loss even more of an issue with Hibari.

"That was quicker than I thought it would take." He laughed, keeping a firm grip on Hibari's wrists, spreading them out to make it difficult for the other man to use his weight to push him off. "Have you been slacking in your training? Imagine if I were someone trying to kill your boss. You collapsed like a–" Hibari growled loudly, interrupting his tangent.

"Take your fucking stick."

"You know, we agreed to two rewards if I won."

"You only get one."

"You're going back on your word?" Mukuro pouted. "What if I told you to keep the staff?"

"No." The sharp glare said that Hibari was immovable on the subject.

"Hmm," Mukuro hummed thoughtfully. "Let's compromise then! I'll guess and you can tell me if I'm right or wrong!" Hibari's glare turned suspicious.

"No." Mukuro ignored his response since he hadn't asked a question.

"Was it about me?" Hibari pursed his lips together and turned his head away. "You have no idea how easy you are to read." He chuckled and continued. "Was it sexual?" If he hadn't been seated on top of Hibari, he would have missed the slight tightening of Hibari's jaw and the way his muscles tensed against his wishes. The truth was, he had figured it out days ago and was waiting for the perfect time to spring it on his unsuspecting prey.

"So it was you," Hibari hissed at him. Mukuro grinned wider at the thinly disguised confession.

"Oh, I promise you I had nothing to do with your dreams that night. I'm kind of wishing I had, though." He laughed softly. "I think you're just afraid of confronting the fact that maybe you had that dream because secretly you liked it." Hibari gave him a disbelieving look.

"How could you know what happened if you weren't there?"

"You're an open book to me, Kyouya." He tightened his hold on Hibari's wrists to keep his face from being introduced to his fist again. His cheek didn't bruise attractively. Of course, that wouldn't stop him from teasing the younger man. "So how far did we go exactly?"

Hibari's cheeks coloured in anger and he bucked his hips up to dislodge the weight on his body. With Mukuro sufficiently unbalanced, he broke one of his hands free and punched him hard across the face.

"Get off m–" Hibari tried to growl out, but was silenced by a pair of lips being crushed against his own. He fought against the hands that were back around his wrists, furious at the thought that Mukuro was making fun of him, but stopped when his thigh came into contact with the evidence of Mukuro's mutual arousal.

He was shocked at first but quickly realized it was one of Mukuro's few weaknesses and could be exploited. Just as the Mist Guardian cupped his cheek with one hand, freeing the other, Hibari used the advantage to roll their bodies over so that Mukuro was on the bottom. Instead of using the leverage to retaliate against the sudden kiss, Hibari chose instead to use what he remembered about Mukuro's sensitive nerves to make him lose his mind.

If Hibari was going to give in to the touches, he would take Mukuro down with him.

~*~

Things between Mukuro and Hibari could only be described as awkward at best, though it hardly seemed like it. When Kusakabe came in to talk about the dealings of the rest of Hibari's men, he noticed no change in the man. When Chrome came to visit Mukuro and help him with his muscle training, she noticed nothing odd or different about his behaviour either. It wasn't until Mukuro casually brought up his host to the girl that she became aware of the tension between them.

"So when are they shipping me out?" he asked after a couple of days had passed. Chrome frowned in confusion.

"I don't know what you mean?"

"I obviously can't stay here forever," he replied, bending over to pick up a towel from the floor. He was feigning nonchalance and though he had conned her in the past, she was beginning to pick up on the little lies he told her. He blamed Hibari for making her more vigilant around him.

"Haven't you spoken to Hibari-san recently?" She fidgeted with her fingers and avoided his eyes. It looked like she knew something he didn't, but didn't feel she was the right person to be bringing him up to date.

"No, why? What am I missing?" He grinned at her, pulling her body close to his. Although they had always treated each other like siblings, he knew it would shake her up a bit. "You aren't cheating on me with him, are you?" He joked, but even Chrome could see the honesty in the question.

"Of course not," she responded quickly. "We both know he's more interested in you than me." When she clapped her hand over her mouth and looked up at him in horror, Mukuro just laughed in amusement. It wasn't like it was a huge secret, though if Hibari was trying to keep his feelings under wraps, he was doing a poor job of it.

"So you've noticed?" He chuckled under his breath and felt her body relax a fraction in his arms. "Don't tell him that. I think he thinks he's fooling people with his act."

"What about Kusakabe?" At that, Mukuro couldn't help but bark out a laugh.

"You doubt his loyalty to his master? I'll bet he was the first to notice Hibari's little obsession. He would never betray Hibari's confidence by admitting to the knowledge though. He probably also fears for his life if he ever asked about it." He smiled softly and brought a hand up to brush the hair out of her eyes. "But you've strayed from the topic. What has Hibari not told me?"

"Well," she started, trying to find the words. "According to the terms of the contract Hibari-san signed with the council, his duty to care for you ended when you no longer needed assistance. Tsuna and the others are coming here in a couple of days to pick you up so you can go back to Japan with us. Reborn-san wants you to begin physical combat training to make sure you're back to peak physical performance." The last part sounded like she was reciting something Reborn had told her himself. "Hibari only told them about your recovery this morning." Mukuro nodded, taking a step back.

"How am I getting back to Japan?"

"We're part of the mafia," Chrome explained, trying not to take Mukuro's disgusted look seriously. "Passports and visas were handled quietly. Some money exchanged under the table to get us some Japanese birth certificates and dual citizenships." Mukuro was impressed. It was near impossible to have dual Japanese citizenship past the age of majority.

"I suppose being in the Vongola family has its perks," he admitted.

"Now it's you who's avoiding the topic, Mukuro-san," Chrome spoke up, again. "When was the last time you spoke with Hibari-san?" He shrugged.

"Sometime last week, why?"

"Did you say or do something to upset him?" Mukuro thought he could detect an accusation in her tone. "Because he hasn't once asked how your progress is going, or come to see you."

"And you think I've done something because what? He used to do those things all the time?" He laughed, but the young woman crossed her arms over her chest seriously.

"Actually, he did. He was very attentive to you. You've done something to upset him and I think you should apologize." Mukuro admired her stern motherly tone, knowing she'd had to develop it in order to deal with the rest of their group over the years.

"I make no guarantees of an apology, but I'll find out what has his panties in a bunch." She smiled at him and gave him a quick peck on the cheek.

"That's all I wanted. He's too stubborn for his own good." Mukuro laughed at that.

~*~

"Why are you avoiding me, Kyouya-darling?" Hibari looked up from the work on his desk to find Mukuro casually leaning against the doorframe. He rolled his eyes in annoyance and went back to reading the file in his hand.

"I'm not avoiding you, Rokudou," he replied in a bored tone. "Stop confusing me with some girl."

"Well, I would but you keep acting like one. It's hard to know if you have a cock or a vagina." When Hibari looked up again to glare at the insult, he found a smug grin on Mukuro's face. He hated when he fell for Mukuro's bait.

"What do you want?" he snapped at him. "I'm not interested in playing your games anymore. Go back to the Dokuro girl and leave me alone." Mukuro chuckled a bit.

"Are you jealous, Kyouya?" Hibari slammed his hand down loudly on the desk.

"Stop calling my name like that, like you have the right to be so casual with how you address me." Mukuro walked up to the desk, leaning over it to pull the file out of his hands. He threw it to the floor without even looking at it.

"Kyouya, if anyone has a right to be casual with you, it's me." He grinned, grabbing him by the tie to pull him closer. "Now tell me why you've been avoiding me."

"What do you want me to tell you?" Hibari growled and pulled his tie out of Mukuro's grip. "The sex was good. I liked having your hand down my pants. I've thought about it since then. Now that I've confessed, move on to your next toy and leave me alone." Mukuro's grin widened as though he'd finally figured out some big secret.

"That's what you think this is? That you're just my current plaything? Aww..." He couldn't help cooing, despite knowing it would probably end up getting him killed. "I didn't know you cared so much about our little affair."

"Shut up and get out." Hibari turned away from him and picked up the next file, but Mukuro was far from done with him. He walked around the desk to stand beside Hibari's shoulder.

"But since you've confessed so nicely, it's only fair that I return the favour." Hibari snorted.

"You don't play fair."

"Well, no I don't," Mukuro agreed. "But I thought I would surprise you." He leaned in to brush his lips against Hibari's ear in a way he knew would get the right message across clearly.

"What are you…" The question died on Hibari's lips.

"It's hard for me to move on from the plaything I've waited ten years to play with again," Mukuro whispered into his ear. "And when I want something like I want you, I don't bore easily. I tend to find more and more reasons to want it."

Hibari's mouth went dry and his pants became almost unbearably tight but, instead of fighting the reaction, he chose to take control of it. He turned his head, catching Mukuro's lips with his own, while his hand reached up and grabbed a firm hold on Mukuro's long hair and pulled him rather forcefully into his lap. Mukuro laughed into the kiss, tugging on a handful of Hibari's hair in retaliation. He was still a bit sensitive to pain.

Mukuro was sitting shirtless and in the process of removing Hibari's shirt and tie when a knock came from the very open study door. The Mist Guardian looked up, trying not to break the kiss, and was amused to see Kusakabe in the door. Hibari broke the kiss to glare daggers at him. Sure enough, he was looking embarrassed to have walked in on them being so intimate, but not at all surprised that they were trying to have sex in Hibari's office chair instead of kill each other.

"What?" Hibari snapped when Kusakabe wouldn't stop gaping at them. "I'm busy." Mukuro stifled a chuckle, very unsuccessfully.

"Uh, the clothing has arrived," he stated, lamely. Hibari didn't look impressed with the news.

"And you thought that was important enough to interrupt me?" Kusakabe had the grace to look properly chastised, but he seemed to think he'd had a valid reason. Even Mukuro knew Kusakabe wasn't that stupid.

"Well, no, but it did come with an escort." His response was cryptic at best, as though the guest was right behind him and he was trying to keep them there. "But I'll tell him you're busy." There was a noise from behind him as he tried to step back out of the door and a voice. Neither Hibari nor Mukuro had moved an inch. "I'm sorry, he's busy, please, wait, don't go in there!!" Kusakabe made an effort to keep the person out of the room, but he wouldn't be stopped.

Tsuna pushed his way into the room, holding a box of clothing and wearing a big grin.

"I thought Mukuro could use these immed–" He stopped when he actually saw the position his Guardians were in and burned a bright red. His mouth opened and closed like a fish for a few moments before he tried his voice again. "Y-you, you're… you two… are… oh…" He suddenly looked like he needed to sit down very quickly.

Mukuro was the first to move. He climbed off of the chair and grabbed his shirt from the mess they had made of the files on the desk, pulling it over his head and walking over to the Vongola Decimo. Hibari grumbled behind him at the interruption. He carefully plucked the box out of Tsuna's hands and opened it.

"Oh, are these for me?" The question seemed to snap Tsuna out of his stupor. He replied as Mukuro dropped the box, unfurling a long black jacket.

"Yeah," Tsuna responded, shooting Hibari a cautious look. He just looked bored, hiding his frustration well. "Hibari sent us all of your sizes and we had Leon make the jacket you used to wear when you were borrowing Chrome's body. Hibari thought it would be a good idea to have something from your illusions made into a reality. It's made of a really stro–"

"He doesn't care what it's made of," Hibari interrupted. Mukuro grinned at the Vongola boss.

"He has a point," he admitted, giving him an apologetic smile. "We were right in the middle of getting naked to have sex, so if you could come back later this would be less embarrassing for you." His smile turned into a dark grin when Tsuna ducked and one of Hibari's paperweights just barely missed his left ear. "See, my darling Kyouya was really looking forward to this." Tsuna nodded quickly and ran out the door before his face turned any other colours or he was hit by any more of the heavy objects on Hibari's desk.

Mukuro turned back to his frustrated partner.

"That wasn't nice, you almost hit him," he chimed in a singsong voice. Hibari cursed his ability to look unaffected by the sudden intrusion.

"I was aiming for you, herbivore." Mukuro chuckled, walking back around the desk.

"That wouldn't have been nice. It's a good thing you're not as good a pitcher as Yamamoto, or else I wouldn't be able to do what I was planning." He dropped to his knees between Hibari's legs the dark grin back in place on his face.

"You let them interrupt." There was a frown on his face, but his argument was weakening at the sight of Mukuro between his legs.

"I'll gladly make it up to you." Mukuro chuckled softly and began pulling down the zipper of Hibari's pants.

~*~

Tsuna was sitting on the sofa, drinking tea with Gokudera when Mukuro came through the room later. Tsuna's eyes strayed to the clock, but made no comment on how long the two of them had been occupied. Gokudera wasn't so polite and obviously hadn't been told about what his boss had walked in on.

"What the hell took you so long?!" he yelled. "We've been waiting for you two for three hours!" Tsuna turned a pleading look to Mukuro, practically begging for subtlety. Mukuro considered his options. He could either tell Gokudera exactly what took him so long in fine detail and let the Vongola boss suffer for a few days of Gokudera's ranting, or he could lie in a way to tell him it was none of his business. He preferred lying anyways.

"Kyouya broke a shoelace. I had to fix it." He smiled politely and sat down opposite them. Gokudera's face turned red and then purple.

"Remind me why the fuck we freed you again?" he spat, but his face returned to a light pink when Tsuna put a calming hand on his arm.

"Gokudera!" he exclaimed. "Be more polite. It's none of our business what they were doing."

"Of course it's your business, you're the boss."

"It's fine, they were busy. Nothing that we need to worry about." Tsuna laughed nervously. "I'm not a dictator."

"I thought Chrome said you only received the news of my health this morning?" Mukuro interrupted. "How are you two here so quickly? Even a mafia boss would take a day or two to plan the trip over." Tsuna smiled at him.

"Shamal mentioned your recovery was in its last weeks and I decided to come and visit you myself. It was only coincidence that I came the same day Hibari sent the message."

"So how is this going to work?" Mukuro asked.

"Essentially, nothing will change." Tsuna pulled an envelope from his bag on the floor and handed it to Mukuro. "We've been working on this for a month and we hope it's something you would be interested in."

"This is a piece of land in Japan." Mukuro was honestly confused.

"It's one of six pieces of land that belong to the Guardians," Tsuna elaborated. "There are secret entrances for you to reach our underground base, but it's secluded and has enough security to keep out anyone you don't want in. The security will be coded when you arrive to only allow you or Chrome in. Anyone else will have to have one of you with them." Mukuro nodded, flipping through the specifics of the land he now owned.

"So, that's just it? I'm free to do what I want?" It seemed too easy.

"Of course not," Gokudera chimed in. "You're under house arrest for the first three months."

"You did agree to be a Vongola Guardian, Mukuro. There are responsibilities that go along with that. You aren't planning on backing out of those, are you?" Mukuro looked at Tsuna for a moment, thinking about the question.

"As long as I have the same freedoms as Hibari Kyouya, I don't mind helping the Vongola out once in a while." Tsuna grinned happily.

"It's so good to have you back."

"I haven't been anywhere," Mukuro chuckled in response.

"Having you as an illusion isn't the same as seeing you in reality. It's much better to know all of my family is healthy and safe." The older Guardian rolled his eyes, but secretly appreciated being considered a part of Tsuna's family.

~*~

Two weeks later, Mukuro was awoken with a sharp knock to his bedroom door. Chrome wasn't home and the rest of the gang knew better than to bother him in the middle of the night. He padded over to the door, opening it cautiously. He couldn't be too certain that Tsuna was being completely honest when he told Mukuro that him and Chrome were the only ones who had access to his place. Whoever his guest was, they made considerably less noise than when Ken and Chikusa first tried to enter the area on their own. There were no alarms this time.

"How did you get in here?" he asked, recognizing Hibari in the darkness.

"Front door," Hibari stated, shoving his way into the room. Mukuro stepped aside and closed the door behind him.

"Not even Ken or Chikusa can get in without me or Nagi." Hibari toed off his shoes by the bed, slipping off his jacket and loosening his tie. He didn't seem too bothered by Mukuro's confusion.

"Fran obviously hasn't come to visit you, then." He turned around, giving Mukuro's sleepwear a quick once-over. "Are those pineapples on your underwear?" Mukuro bristled as much as he could while still half-asleep.

"They're strawberries," he corrected. "And what does Fran have to do with your little break in?"

"Only Vongola members who have mist flames in their bodies have access to your little shack." Hibari began undoing his shirt and belt. "They're working on programming the doors to only accept Vongola Guardians who have the mist attribute." He smirked, climbing into Mukuro's bed as though he belonged there.

"So no matter what they do, you'll always have access." Mukuro chuckled and followed Hibari into the bed, climbing on top of him. "Who else knows about your flames?"

"Only the baby." Hibari brought his hands up to tug on the loose strands of hair. "He finds it more amusing to not tell anyone about it. He also said it would be good for Sawada to have a spare key in case you go rogue."

Mukuro leaned down and nipped his lips. Hibari wasn't in the mood for teasing, though, and pulled him down into a deep kiss. He bent his leg at the knee and pushed his thigh up against Mukuro's erection.

"Did you miss me?" Mukuro asked between his moans. Hibari ignored the question, choosing to pinch him instead. "Mm…now that I know how you got in, I am curious about why you're here."

"I prefer you in reality to your flimsy illusions."

"You don't like those dreams?"

"Which would you choose?" He stopped his hands, looking up at him seriously. Mukuro could tell it was a question that wasn't as spontaneous as it sounded.

"If I had stayed in the Vendicare prison," he began, sliding a hand up Hibari's stomach. "Fighting with you would never be as much fun. I would rather be sensitive to touch than completely numb to everything around me." Hibari hummed in agreement before shoving Mukuro off.

"Get off me, I can't sleep with dead weight on top of me." The Mist Guardian chuckled, but settled on the bed beside him.

"You came over to sleep with me?" He grinned, sliding an arm around his waist. It was swatted at, but no real effort was made to remove the offending appendage.

"Shut up, I'm doing this as a favour to Kusakabe." Mukuro sat up at that.

"Kusakabe?"

"He said I needed to be more generous." Mukuro couldn't hide his soft laughter.

"And waking me up in the middle of the night to steal half of my bed was the best generosity you could come up with? I know my bed is probably better than anything you have in you're pla–" Hibari cut him off with a rough kiss.

"Don't make me bite you," he growled.

"You know I wouldn't mind it, but you haven't explained your so-called charity."

"I've been told it's nice to sleep next to a warm body." Mukuro chuckled and cupped his cheek, giving him a return kiss.

"Better than my best illusions."

End