Notes: Dark, Character death, OOC

The Drag by ficklepickles

There were many things Tsuna knew. There were many more which he didn't.

Tsuna was the first to find him. The room was dark, but reeked of death. His bloodless fingers reached for the light switch with morbid numbness. The scene the that the white halogen lights revealed did not disappoint.

Blood had spattered everywhere. It wasn't the bright, vibrant red of movies. Rather, they were dark brown, crusted streaks of dried blood on the walls and ceilings. A pool of it lay in the middle of the room, thick, viscous, and sticky beneath the body.

Tsuna could only stare in horror as he tasted the blood in the air. His eyes drank in the sight of the too familiar corpse. He was seeing, but his mind was hardly believing.

He wanted to take a step back, wishing that he could turn off the lights and walk away. It's unfair though, and he knew that he could not be so unkind. This was his friend, so he stopped mid-step.

It was well he did for he suddenly found something pressed against his back, something sturdy and warm with large hands. One came around to pull him close, the other covered his eyes. "Don't look." A deep voice whispered.

Silently, tears trekked down his cheeks.

"Don't look." The voice murmured again.

Tsuna could hear the footsteps as his men rushed in, securing the room and examining the body.

He was turned around, face buried in a black suit, crisp and clean, and tailored to the wearer's body so neatly. It could only be one man, but he had never been held so gently. "Shhh…" the male voice hushed, long fingers rubbing soothing circles into his back.

Suddenly, Tsuna moved, knowing that he cannot be showing weakness. It was important as the head of the family. He could not let his men down. But those arms caged him in, held him still, wouldn't allow him to turn.

"I—" He began.

"No," the voice countered. "Now is not the time." Then softer, "later. You'll see, later."

However, Tsuna's eyes were too good, his mind too quick. Years of training had already ingrained in him the memory to recall even a glimpse of what he had seen. There was a black suit, grey-hair, and sticks of dynamite sliced in half. Blood obscured everything else.


Tsuna sobbed.

That night, Tsuna came to his room. He had been expected, and when the door opened, Dino welcomed him with open arms and a bottle of wine.

Tiredly, Tsuna waved aside the offered wine. "I don't want to get drunk, Dino." The young boss said quietly.

The Cavallone chucked good-naturedly. "Of course not, Tsuna. Think of it as the Italian welcome." He said with a tender smile, though he did set the wine down, offering his companion a seat instead.

The chair, Tsuna accepted, sitting down heavily.

Dino moved to stand behind him, placing his hands on the boy's shoulders as he had done earlier that day. Reflexively, Tsuna swallowed. For a moment, the two stood in companionable silence.

"I got the reports in." Tsuna began slowly.

Knowing how difficult it was for the younger boss to speak, Dino said nothing, allowing his hands to express himself instead. They rubbed the Vongola's shoulders in gentle, rhythmic motions.

"They… they say that it had to be an inside job." He continued haltingly. "Not just anyone either. It was someone close." Tsuna hung his head. "Close, but under suspicion." He added in a whisper.

It was difficult for the fledgling boss. Tsuna had only been a mafia boss for a few years. True, he had come into his own quite well. The young Vongola was respected as the Tenth, and despite his youth, commanded authority well. Though, his inexperience showed in both his mercy and his naturally trusting personality. Tsuna simply didn't have it in him to be ruthless.

The brunette covered his face with his hands. "Gokudera was going to tell me something that day. He was suspicious about someone who had close ties to us. I was worried, but I was too late. I should have listened." Thin, strained hands clenched into tight fists. "I should have been there." He snapped at himself.

"No." Dino said again in that smooth, calm tone he had used earlier. "It's not your fault." His fingers tightened on the slender shoulders of the youth before him.

"I should have been there." Tsuna repeated. "I'm such a fool."

The Cavallone leaned forward, resting his forehead in the nest of Tsuna's downy hair. "There was an accident. It couldn't be helped that you were late."

Beneath his fingers, he felt Tsuna stiffen.


"No excuses, Tsuna. I have an information network as well." Dino explained coolly.


The syllable was spoken with such a small note of surprise, Dino knew that Tsuna was still reeling from shock. Of course, he hadn't the time to grieve, he told himself. Tsuna had just lost a close friend. He must be given time.

So, the Cavallone resumed his ministrations on Tsuna's shoulders, his hands dipping down along the boy's back ever so often.

Betrayal had stung the boy badly. He couldn't be expected to handle it well.

Reborn must have been quite cross.

There had been a reason Tsuna had come to him.

The others weren't speaking with him. Tsuna would not understand, not yet, why they were ignoring him. Though, it wasn't because they didn't care, nor were they angry with him. More, they were angry at themselves. Tsuna's Guardians were a merciless lot when it came to Tsuna himself. The boy, the pure, innocent, so soft boy was held on a pedestal that few could compare to.

Dino himself regarded Tsuna highly. There was no reason not to do so.

Therefore, when Tsuna was hurt so badly, it was no wonder that his own Guardians turned into bloodmongers. They meant to find out who had hurt their dear, darling boss, and they would make him pay.

It was the way of the mafia.

Blood for blood.

Dino was different though. All he wanted was to protect Tsuna. He would hold the boy's hand, comfort him, and when the need came, close off his eyes and ears. Even if Tsuna was a boss, there were still many things Dino would shield him from.

The taller man circled slowly to the front of Tsuna and dropped to his knees. The boy's brown eyes were bright with unshed tears, hands fisted in his lap. Carefully, Dino took those hands in his and opened them to lay flat within his own.

"Tsuna, I promise you, when you need me, I'll always be there for you." He said, holding Tsuna's desperate gaze in his scorching one.

He held his arms out, palms up.

All too quickly and yet not soon enough, Tsuna had fallen into his embrace.

Reborn was grim-faced as he surveyed the scene.

Yamamoto, who had been there the longest, stood from where he was crouched over the largest bloodstain. "The full report has already been compiled and submitted." He said in a neutral tone, his voice betraying nothing. Blue eyes studied the adult Arcobaleno with a small hint of suspicion.

Reborn had been one of the first on the scene. He had taken one look around, then left. Hours later, he had finally returned.

The hitman nodded to the swordsman.

"Have you found out anything?" The Guardian asked, adjusting the strap of his sword with his thumb.

Reborn remained silent.

Yamamoto moved then, crossing the room to stand not a few feet from the Arcobaleno. Reborn had grown up, but so had Yamamoto, and now the former baseball player held a few inches above the hitman.

"You know who did it." He stated coldly, his eyes blazing.

Reborn returned it with a withering look of his own, but said nothing.

Fingers, strong and calloused from years of practice, tightened around the hilt of his sword. "You know, don't you." He hissed accusingly.

The muscle along Reborn's jaw clenched. "I'll take care of it. This is my mistake." The hitman said tonelessly. Then he turned on his heel and left.

Out of sight, with the last clicks of polished shoes on marble echoing in his ears, Yamamoto spun and punched the wall, cursing in frustration. "Fuck!"

Then a light clicked in his mind, and in a stride that was hastened with worry, he hurried to find Tsuna.

Revenge was not their boss's style, which is why they would do it for him.

But first Tsuna had to be found. Had to be comforted. Then, had to be told that Reborn was not quite so trustworthy as they had thought.

"You can't keep protecting him." Reborn said from the doorway.

Dino set down the decanter he had been sipping from. "That is my decision, not yours."

"He needs to learn how harsh this world is." Reborn pointed out.

The Cavallone's expression gentled. "It's too soon. He is not ready."

"He never will be if you keep coddling him." The Arcobaleno replied.

Dino snorted. "What about you? Just a Vongola hitman? And the Guardians? You're all hounding for blood in Tsuna's name. This isn't what he wants."

Reborn raised a black brow. "You would know better?" He asked in a tone that insinuated that Dino, the student, knew his pupil better than the teacher himself.

"We can't all be like you, Reborn." Dino said. "I still remember what it's like to be young and soft. He's not ready, especially not with that pedestal you put him on."

"He's learning. This is his world. It's in his blood."

The Cavallone boss reached for his drink and took a swift swig. Alcohol burned down his throat. "You're so concerned," he muttered, not jealously. "What about that illusionist you keep in your midst? Or Kyouya? You call them Guardians when they're beasts kept on such tight leashes. I don't question Vongola methods, but is it really fair of you to expect Tsuna to rein in such willful subordinates? Heaven knows Kyouya never listens to me." He said, changing the subject.

"They listen to Tsuna."

"For now. If you speak of blood, you can't forget that Mukuro was originally of the Estraneo Famiglia. Ignoring his past crimes, he has inherited the blood of traitors."

"He will not betray Tsuna." Reborn stated firmly. He raised a hand to stroke Leon's head. "Dino, leave this matter to us. Don't interfere any further." He said meaningfully.

"This matter is not yours alone. As long as I have a stake in it, I mean to protect it. Tsuna's not ready." Dino turned around, splaying his fingers across lacquered wood and staring into the amber of his drink.

He had ended the conversation, but it was far from finished. In his mind, he could see Reborn walking away, shoulders set resolutely. The last word meant nothing when it came to arguing with Reborn. He would have to be careful.

When Dino found them, they were arguing.

Surprise stole over his features at the severity of their fight.

Yamamoto had always been so careful with his friend, his boss. He had respected Tsuna, and to a degree, loved him. They had been brothers in nearly all things, but this was too much.

The swordsman had the Vongola boss pinned to the wall, long, strong arms locking him there. His face was held closely to Tsuna's, lips moving insistently. The Vongola boss had his head turned away, shaking it repeatedly.

Dino caught few words.

"—can't trust him. There's something more—! We must leave."

"No, there's time. I believe in him."

He separated them at once. "What's going on?" He asked in a composed voice, keeping one hand on Tsuna's arm.

Blue eyes darted to him. "I'm reporting in." Yamamoto replied. There was no sign of guilt in his voice, just apprehension. He did not like how Dino had pulled Tsuna toward him. No, the swordsman didn't seem to like him much at all.

Dino allowed himself a cheerful smile. "I think Tsuna could use a break. This is a stressful time for him."

The Rain Guardian tensed. "It's important," he pressed, urgency creeping into his tone.

Tsuna perked up. "Maybe—"

"It can wait." Dino spun Tsuna in his arms and marched him away. The task of looking after Tsuna was a difficult one, but he would always be up for the challenge.

Behind them, Yamamoto called out. "Wait! Tsuna!"

He jogged after them. A moment of horror struck Tsuna then, that feeling of too late when he had run to meet Gokudera.

Tsuna twisted to answer, but no matter how he dug in his heels, the Cavallone kept moving forward. "Dino, please!"

Yamamoto caught up to them, reached out for Tsuna's wrist.

Blinking, Tsuna could almost see what Yamamoto could have been. A man in a numbered uniform instead of a black suit. In his hands was a wooden bat and no steel blade. In sun, he would be covered in sweat, not draped in blood in the night.

The Vongola pulled back, terrified.

So many options. There had been so many options. He had robbed them, Tsuna realized. Death was too final. They should have never been dragged into this. Guilt settled heavily in his chest.

"I'm sorry." He whispered to Yamamoto, casting his eyes away. His thoughts were full of Gokudera, and the memory of that still body laying a dark circle of dried blood.

Dino ignored them. "Later," he said. "Later."

The sun hadn't even risen when Reborn came for him. It was early, painfully so, but Tsuna hadn't slept at all.

The man had entered and closed the door behind him, locking it. There were no words of greeting.

"I need to talk to you." Reborn said in that collected voice of his.

Tsuna nodded.

"I've kept something important from you." Reborn said bluntly.

This time, Tsuna made no motion to agree. He merely sat, waiting for Reborn to elaborate. There was something missing in what everyone had told him. His fingers had gone cold as he clutched the packet that made up Gokudera's report.

The bottom had been marked 'inconclusive'.

That was unacceptable.

The papers now lay scattered across Tsuna's bedding. He didn't need to read it any more. He knew it all by heart.

Reborn's eyes swept over the papers.

"Tell me." Tsuna said softly.

Dread was a dead weight in his stomach. His feet couldn't move fast enough. Reborn's words haunted his memory. He was stupid to have not seen it.


He should have known.

Tsuna knew the room, knew where they would be. He slammed the door open.

There was a lone figure standing in the room.

The lights were off, but it didn't matter. Tsuna knew that silhouette well.

"He hates the mafia."

He could smell the blood.

"The mafia took everything from him. He could never forgive them."

There was blood on the walls, splashed across the ceilings and along windows.

"He chose to do what he could to make sure there were no others like himself."

In those shadowed hands were the looped coils of his chosen weapon. Tsuna turned flicked the lights on.

"He is my greatest failure."

"Dino, why?" Tsuna asked, tremulously.

He could not take his gaze from him. He would not allow them to drop to the floor, to see the body which laid there. Too familiar with sword still in hand, but face down in a widening pool of red. Tsuna didn't think, didn't breathe. He just stared.

Dino smiled brightly, uncaring of crimson streaks on his face. Liquid dripped from his sleeves. His hands, large, warm, comforting hands, were painted in the blood of his best friend.

"Hi, Tsuna." Dino greeted him happily.

His boots were coated in it. He hadn't moved, hadn't yet disturbed the growing puddle.

So much blood. How could there be so much?

Dino held his arms out for Tsuna, offering a hug like he had done before. "Come, Tsuna."

The Vongola finally moved, nearly flying to Yamamoto's side. He pressed his hands to Yamamoto's face, turning him. His friend's skin is a sickly white and lukewarm to the touch. His lips had already turned blue.

Blood seeped into Tsuna's clothing. Yamamoto's blood. The marks were the same as what was found on Gokudera. "No…" He gasped.

Dino had moved behind him. Arms wrapped around him. Bloodied hands covered his eyes. "Don't look." The Cavallone whispered soothingly. "Just don't look."

Hands shaking, Tsuna reached for his gloves.

"The world of the mafia is very cruel. He knows this. He also knows what it means to attack the members of another family."

"I'm here for you, Tsuna. I'll always be here for you."

"He only wants to protect you. This is his twisted way of showing you love."

Encased in flames of Sky, Tsuna covered Dino's eyes with gloved hands.

"Gokudera was hurting you. Every time he called you the Tenth, you knew it was a title, not a name. You wanted a friend. He wanted a boss."

Dino had fallen to his knees with Tsuna's hands on his face. Still, he kept talking.

"Yamamoto was an excellent hitman, a great Mafioso. If it continued, you'd have lost him as a friend too."

Tsuna could feel Dino's own Sky flames beginning to fight back. They were a bright orange, streaked with red.

Tears leaked down the Vongola's features, but he kept his hands still. Dino made no motion to move.

"No, no, no, no…" Tsuna begged and pleaded, not even sure what he was asking for.

Minutes later, Reborn came, walking slowly.

Tsuna sat beside Yamamoto's body, with Dino's head in his lap. Eyes, red-rimmed, but dry looked up dispassionately at his former tutor.

"I'll take care of it." Reborn said.

Tsuna nodded. Standing, he carefully set Dino's head on the floor and straightened his suit.

The boy was resolute, and while Reborn should have felt proud, he didn't. Tsuna had changed, had learned the most difficult of lessons. As he swept wordlessly from the room, Reborn watched the retreating back. There was no falter in those steps, nor resignation in that frame. Tsuna would continue to lead the Vongola. He would be their boss.

To himself, Reborn admitted that a small part of him was sad to see it happen. This was not how he had wanted it to be. But Tsuna was the Decimo. As long as that fact remained, he would follow him, even if it meant crossing the lines he had set for himself. It was the least he could do.

"Tsuna, I'm sorry."

Dino had been smiling. Tsuna didn't want to think about it, hardly wanted to acknowledge that expression the man had worn so easily. Even as he had felt those flames fade, Dino smiled and whispered.

Tsuna, I love you.


Well, goodness me. I am certainly out of it. Music helps me study (sort of), and while listening to a particular song on loop, this popped into my head. I do hope it makes sense. I did manage to suck the happiness out of this pairing. I haven't written in a while and felt out of practice doing it. Hopefully this eases me back into it.