Playing House

by Asael

From the day they move in, Hibari knows this mission is going to test him. Not because of the difficulty of the mission itself - long-term surveillance isn't his strong point, but they have a lead on someone connected to the creation of the box weapons, and Hibari is unwilling to leave it in anyone else's hands. No, it's because of the company, of course. Since surveillance and information gathering isn't Hibari's strong point, Tsunayoshi has seen fit to send the best of the Vongola along with him.

And as it is a long-term mission, that means the possibility of months spent with Rokudo Mukuro.

It isn't the horrifying thought that it once might have been. They're both older now, and Hibari has other things to think about - he doesn't like Mukuro, but he also doesn't obsess over beating him anymore. Hibari knows he is the strongest of the Vongola Guardians, and no longer feels the need to prove it.

But that doesn't mean Hibari likes Mukuro. That rivalry may no longer be there, both of them consumed with their personal missions and their tasks for the Vongola, but they aren't friends either. They aren't even allies, beyond both being Guardians, and on top of that, Mukuro is extremely annoying.

Now they will be living together in a small apartment in the university district of an American city. The scientist Hibari's men found is employed at the university, so here they are.

Hibari already hates it. Japan will always be the only country he loves, despite time spent all over the world on missions, despite penthouses in London and country estates in Italy. He's never been at all fond of the United States, and he's never wanted to spend so long here.

The worst part is that it's already obvious that Mukuro's English is much better than his.

They are moving in, the very first day of this mission, and their neighbor stops by to say hello. She's an older woman, plump and kind-looking, and as she welcomes them to the building, her eyes move between them. Hibari begins to glare, but then Mukuro touches his arm and smiles at the woman and her eyes widen. Hibari doesn't catch exactly what Mukuro says to her - it's been years since his English classes in high school - but Mukuro's hand on his arm makes it clear enough, that and the way he alters his body language ever so slightly.

The woman leaves, and when they are inside Hibari turns on Mukuro, shoving his hand away roughly. "Don't touch me," he says, and narrows his eyes, "did you just tell that woman I was your boyfriend?"

Mukuro laughs and shrugs, unconcerned with Hibari's anger. "What was your explanation for two young men living together?"

"I don't know, roommates?" Hibari bites out, venom in his voice, and Mukuro's eyes widen in false surprise.

"Ah, you're right, that might have worked too. Oh well," he says, and then he starts unpacking Hibari's computer equipment.

That is their first day together on this mission. Hibari does not expect it to get better. With luck, he might be able to make it through this without murdering Mukuro, but he doesn't count on it.

To be honest, Mukuro is not particularly overjoyed by this mission either. He has little to do with Hibari Kyoya by choice, because why spend time around someone who so obviously can't stand him? Hibari was fun when he was young and easily consumed by rage, but now that he's older the spark is gone. He still has a temper and a vicious way of expressing it, but he's calm enough that he can simply turn and walk away if he chooses, no matter how Mukuro provokes him.

It's no fun at all, and Mukuro has always had other goals in life than teasing Hibari Kyoya, as much enjoyment as it had given him when they were young. If he had to be sent on a long-term mission, he would have chosen the Rain Guardian (simple and easily tricked, pleasant enough in small doses) or the young Thunder Guardian (still young enough to be somewhat terrified of Mukuro). Not Hibari, who is difficult to work with on the best of days.

But Mukuro is the best at what he does, and both Hibari and Tsunayoshi need someone to get close to this scientist, lie and deceive and wheedle everything he knows about the boxes out of him. Really, it's a subtler approach than he'd expected from someone like Hibari, but apparently at some point the Cloud Guardian learned that you couldn't terrify information out of everyone.

Or perhaps it had been Tsuna's idea - he is still softhearted, and as far as they knew this man has done nothing wrong. He even apparently devotes his free time to researching cures for debilitating childhood illnesses, or saving puppies, or something disgustingly sweet like that. Possibly Tsuna has requested that they get the information in the least damaging way.

It doesn't really matter why he asked Mukuro to go. Mukuro is here now, doomed to weeks or even months of pretending to be a goody-two-shoes grad student and living with Hibari. He has to make his own fun, and if that includes making Hibari pretend to be his boyfriend - well, Mukuro thinks it's funny.

They'll have to learn to live together somehow, he thinks, but there's no way that he'll be the one to make all the compromises. Hibari ought to learn how to bend a little, too.

Mukuro is very aware that they'll either end up getting along or killing each other. It will be interesting to see which.

They settle into a strange rhythm in the first couple weeks of the mission. Mukuro attends classes at the university, Hibari takes care of Vongola communications and research from their apartment. They mostly avoid each other, as much as that's possible in their small apartment. It's an awkward kind of peace created merely because they're both still settling in - Mukuro is working on his cover, acting the part of a bright young student and getting close to the scientist, and Hibari is busy with whatever it is he does all day.

Mukuro would like to assume Hibari just naps, but he knows that's not true. Hibari has always been interested in the box weapons, and he's hard at work compiling data or something like that. He spends most of his time in their apartment, though, and Mukuro is not terribly surprised to see that it's kept scarily clean. Hibari does not like clutter.

He is surprised to find that Hibari is a halfway decent cook, though. He's usually asleep when Mukuro leaves in the morning, but more often than not Hibari makes dinner - always Japanese food, but always good. Mukuro doesn't comment on this strange discovery, and Hibari doesn't mention it either, but he makes enough for Mukuro.

It's not all that bad, Mukuro thinks, but he doesn't think this fragile peace will last long. He is right.

It is dinnertime, the third week of their mission. They are eating dinner, Mukuro paging casually through the file on their target as he does so. Hibari ignores it even though it's extremely rude to read and eat at the same time - he is fairly sure Mukuro doesn't care.

"I should have come in Chrome's body," Mukuro muses, "he doesn't like men at all. This mission would be much easier if I could just seduce him."

Hibari doesn't say anything, but frowns slightly. Mukuro isn't really talking to him, so he doesn't need to respond, but that kind of thing always irritates him. Everyone knows that Mukuro's missions often involve seducing his target - whether the goal is information or murder, that is the easiest way to get close, and of course Mukuro can be exactly what his target desires. But Hibari hates that kind of thing, the lies and deception and tawdriness of it all.

Mukuro sips his glass of water. "I could try anyway, but if it doesn't work it might be a big setback."

"No," Hibari says, looking across the table angrily. It's not that he doesn't think Mukuro can do it, even Hibari can see that Mukuro is handsome and charming (though those charms have no effect on him). But this is his mission, not Mukuro's. "I'm not going to let this be dragged down to your usual level."

"Excuse me?" Mukuro says, and he is looking at Hibari now, one eyebrow arched in quizzical interest though there is irritation in his eyes. "My level?"

"This isn't a seduction mission, you're not going to spread your legs just to make it easier," Hibari says coolly. Mukuro carefully sets down the file he was reading, calmly faces Hibari, the water glass still in his hand.

"Is that what you think I do?" His voice is level and dangerously soft, and Hibari knows this won't end well, but he isn't going to lie and scrape and treat Mukuro gently. They've faced each other in battle often enough that there is simply no point.

"That's what I know you do," Hibari says. "You'll do anything to complete a mission. Everyone knows that." It's not simply a rumor. Hibari is the Cloud Guardian, he knows the kind of missions Mukuro is asked to do and he knows the way Mukuro deals with them. Layered deception and trickery and seduction, murdering people at the hand of their loved ones, making them love him and taking everything from them. Hibari hates it all, hates how low it is, hates that he once thought Mukuro was worthy of his attention and his strength. The years have revealed that Mukuro is nothing, just a serpent crawling on his belly and biting anyone foolish enough to lower their guard.

"You're a fool, Hibari Kyoya," Mukuro says, and there is anger in his eyes. "You have no idea what you're talking about. My, it would be nice to live like you, given only the assignments I like, nothing to do but beat people into bloody stains. You would be less than useless if Tsunayoshi asked you to take one of the missions I usually do, but if he gave me one of yours? I assure you I can reduce people to bloody stains just as handily."

Anger sparks in Hibari as well. Of course he would never do a mission like Mukuro's, information gathering and assassination and seduction. Because he's not like Mukuro, he won't sneak around and twist people into knots and disappear. He's not a coward.

He says all that, and Mukuro stares at him for a moment, then stands. Hibari's hands tighten. There will be a fight, he knows, and he's ready - but Mukuro laughs, and Hibari is momentarily confused. Then the water glass Mukuro was holding is flying at his head - not a gentle toss, when Hibari moves just in time it shatters into a million pieces against the wall behind him and leaves a noticeable dent.

"Let's not alarm the neighbors," Mukuro says, a smile on his face and fury in his eyes. "Come outside, Kyoya." And then he is gone, wrapped in illusion, and Hibari has no choice but to follow.

Mukuro waits for Hibari in an abandoned lot a couple streets away from their building. He's holding his trident now, called from illusion, and he looks calm though inside he is furious.

Hibari Kyoya doesn't know what he is talking about. He insults Mukuro out of blindness and arrogance, and Mukuro is tired of that - it's not new. Everyone in the Mafia treats him with disgust or fear, save for a very few who have learned to treat him with careful respect. Hibari is not one of those, but Mukuro will show him that he should be.

He comes, as Mukuro knew he would, because Hibari can rarely resist a fight. Mukuro does not waste time chatting or taunting as he sometimes does, but simply strikes, trident in hand, Mist flames flickering around him. Hibari is fast, and blocks with his tonfa, following it up with a strike at Mukuro in return. Mukuro wraps an illusory vine around Hibari's ankle, Hibari almost trips until he manages to throw the illusion off. He always has been good at that, Mukuro thinks.

They fight in silence, exchanging blows, landing hits but unable to do much more than bruise each other. Mukuro thinks Hibari looks surprised, and that makes him smile. Did he really think Mukuro would be such a pushover?

After a swift battle that seems to last forever or just a few moments, they separate, catching their breath, each studying the other for weaknesses to exploit. Hibari's eyes are narrowed, and he speaks for the first time.

"At least you can still fight, instead of relying on trickery alone."

Mukuro has to smile at that. "You used to aspire to beat me, and now you think I'm less than you... the Mafia has brought me down so far," he says softly, looking at Hibari. He knows it's true. It's not really Hibari who he should be angry at - Hibari has never had any respect for those weaker than him, and now he believes Mukuro is - or perhaps, until now. It's not true, but Mukuro isn't surprised. He's not fond of what he's become either - a Mafia lapdog.

He does as Tsunayoshi asks him, partially because the boy is actually changing the Mafia, but mostly because he's too wrapped in ties and obligations to get free now. He could abandon everything and run, but then he would be even more of a fugitive than he was as a child - and the Vongola are much stronger than they have been in hundreds of years. Sawada Tsunayoshi has grown into a good leader, and it is too late for Mukuro to have any chance at possessing him.

He waited too long, wanting to see what would happen, and now his choices have narrowed to two. He can run, return to his old plan of destroying this disgusting world, but he knows that he would not survive long, and Chrome and the others would go down with him. Or he can stay, and play at serving the institution that he loathes most, and live.

Mukuro is not happy. Mukuro does his job, and he does it better than anyone else in the world could, and he enjoys it. He enjoys the deception and the murder and the satisfaction of a job well done, but that is not happiness, and this is never the life he wanted for himself.

It's not an existential dilemma, really. Mukuro has never been happy, nor has he ever fallen into depression, though his life has been harder than most could dream of. He's not the type, he won't allow himself to be swayed by such emotions.

But he can't really blame Hibari for looking down on him, for thinking that he's nothing. Mukuro does not think very highly of himself for allowing this life to be thrust upon him, either.

He can't blame Hibari, he can't be truly angry at him for thinking the same things that Mukuro does. But he can take it out on him, because he knows that Hibari can take it. Mukuro won't be able to break him.

Mukuro laughs, then, and the fight resumes. This time he knows why he's doing it, instead of just lashing out out of anger. That knowledge changes it, makes the fight strangely joyful, and Hibari seems to feel it too. Instead of trying to kill each other, they fight for the joy of it, two men whose lives have known almost nothing but battle.

Hibari wakes up early the next morning, because it's hard to sleep when you're covered in bruises and cuts. He has no idea what goes on in Mukuro's mind, and he doesn't really want to know, but last night had started with Mukuro angry and ended... well, Mukuro had seemed to be in an excellent mood by the time they had both been too tired to continue.

It's not that strange to Hibari, because he is often in a good mood after a good fight, but he has never really thought that Mukuro might be the same. He knows he said more than he should have, though he won't apologize for it - the fight should be apology enough, and maybe it was.

He's tired, but he'll nap during the day as he always does. Mukuro is in the kitchen of their small apartment, and Hibari can hear him moving around and smell coffee brewing, so he goes out. In the kitchen, he helps himself to some coffee and some of the toast Mukuro is making, saying nothing.

Mukuro seems to be in a good mood, a smile on his face though he's moving carefully - as bruised as Hibari is. There's one purpling bruise on his cheekbone courtesy of Hibari's tonfa, but luckily that's the only one visible. "You look cute in your pajamas, Kyoya."

Hibari frowns and doesn't respond, retreating to the kitchen table, passing the remains of the glass from last night still scattered on the floor. He'll clean it up today. He makes a mental note to remind Mukuro to cover up the bruise, too - he doesn't think Mukuro's classmates will understand how a supposedly mild-mannered graduate student ends up covered in bruises.

They eat breakfast together, and it's more comfortable than ever before. Something has changed. They each kept their distance before, circling each other with hackles raised like wild animals, but the fight last night has settled things. Hibari feels it - he doesn't watch Mukuro out of the corner of his eye, doesn't tense up when Mukuro moves too quickly or too close. Mukuro's smiles are just a tiny bit more sincere, his casual comments friendlier.

Hibari isn't able to put his finger on what exactly is different, but something is, and it's for the best. Their mission has just begun, and constant circling and tension would be pointless and energy-consuming for both of them. This calm roommate situation is nothing like the lives that either of them lead normally, and that's part of the reason it has been so difficult to get used to, but Hibari understands now. It's just a game, playing at normal lives and pretending to be normal people. If they do anything else, if they hold on to everything that they do when they're being the Vongola Cloud and Mist Guardians, they'll probably end up failing at the mission - or he will, anyway. Mukuro might be able to fake it.

It's much more relaxing to not have to, though, and although Hibari doesn't ever take breaks or vacations, he decides to view this as one. His participation in the actual mission is rather minimal. For now, just for a little while, he can see what a normal life might have been like. It's boring, but since it won't last forever, that makes it strangely precious, too.

He doesn't know if it's the same for Mukuro. Mukuro has had even less of a normal life than he has - but Mukuro hates the Mafia more than Hibari does, too. Maybe this is a kind of vacation for both of them, away from the politics and infighting, the alliances and betrayals.

Mukuro gets his things and gets ready to go, and Hibari looks up from his coffee cup. "It's raining. Take an umbrella."

"It's only a light rain," Mukuro says, glancing out the window. "Besides, no one here uses an umbrella."

"I don't care," Hibari says, "if you get sick I'm not going to take care of you."

"Fine, fine," Mukuro says with a laugh, and picks up an umbrella from its place near the door. "See you later, Kyoya."

He leaves, and as Hibari brings their dishes to the kitchen he hears Mukuro talking to someone outside. From the sound of the voice, it's their nosy next-door neighbor, and she's shocked. He realizes he forgot to tell Mukuro to cover that bruise up.

"What happened?" she asks, voice full of interested concern, and Hibari hears Mukuro laugh.

"Things got wild," he says in that annoying tone that implies so many inappropriate things, and Hibari rolls his eyes. Mukuro enjoys making the neighbors think strange things a little too much. "You know, Kyoya and I, we like to have fun."

"He doesn't... hurt you, does he?" the woman says, and Hibari thinks she might actually be concerned, rather than fishing for gossip.

"Kyoya wouldn't hurt a fly, and certainly not me," Mukuro says, and Hibari thinks of their no-holds-barred fight the night before and smiles, at least until he hears the rest of what Mukuro says. "At least, not unless I ask him too."

Their neighbor gasps, scandalized, and Hibari hears Mukuro moving away down the hallway to the elevator. He rolls his eyes and begins to wash the dishes, thinking that Mukuro has far too much fun at other people's expenses.

It's a couple weeks later, and things are surprisingly good. Mukuro never expected to get along with Hibari Kyoya so well. They give each other plenty of space, of course, and Mukuro is gone most of the day, which makes it easier, but even when they do see each other... it's not bad. Hibari is blunt and dislikes Mukuro's playful nature, but he's not entirely without a sense of humor.

They both have little to do in the evenings, and more and more Mukuro has found himself playing at some kind of a friendship with Hibari - watching a movie, or washing up after dinner together, or something else. Once Mukuro convinces Hibari to do the crossword with him, but Hibari gets frustrated at his own sub-par English and tears it up, which is fine because Mukuro was filling in the spaces with dirty words in Italian anyway.

The mission is going well enough. They always knew it would take awhile - the man they're trying to get information from needs to have no idea who he's giving it to, since he apparently took a solemn vow to never have anything to do with the Mafia again. It will take awhile for Mukuro to get close enough to draw it out of him, but he is already getting closer.

When he comes home that day, he's in a fine mood, and Hibari looks up from his laptop with mild interest. "Did something happen?"

"I was asked to be a research assistant on one of his experiments. It's a good first step, I can use this," Mukuro says, throwing his bag (full of books and papers that he never even glances at) on the sofa. Hibari frowns and moves it to its proper place on the floor.

"How'd you manage that? We haven't been here long," Hibari says, looking up at Mukuro again. "Did you sleep with him?"

It's hard to tell, but Mukuro is fairly sure Hibari is joking. "No. It turns out that compliments get you pretty fair." He laughs. "Oh, professor, I read the paper you published three years ago! It was so interesting. Tell me more, I can't get enough of molecular reactions... or whatever the hell it was about."

Hibari rolls his eyes and shuts his laptop. "I can't believe that worked. People are so weak."

"You'd be surprised," Mukuro says. "Everyone likes being complimented. Here, I'll show you." He smiles at Hibari, his very best smile, carefully tuned to be flattering but not too creepy. "Kyoya, I have to tell you, it's a thrill fighting you. You're by far the most exciting opponent I've ever faced."

Hibari frowns at Mukuro, but there's a little quirk to his mouth that tells Mukuro he liked it. Compliments can even work on this man - he'll remember that. "Don't be stupid, you can't tell me how you do it and expect it to work on me immediately afterwards."

Of course Hibari would never admit that Mukuro's compliments make him feel good. That's no surprise, and Mukuro's smile turns a little sharper, more playful. "Really, it didn't work at all? Let me try another. Kyoya, when you come out of the shower with your hair all wet and just a towel around your waist, you are extremely sexy."

That's actually true - Mukuro finds that the best ways to make people uncomfortable are to say things with just enough truth in them - but Hibari turns red and glares at Mukuro for a moment before regaining his composure. "Don't ogle me," he says.

"What are you going to do, report me to Tsunayoshi for sexual harassment? Good luck with that," Mukuro says, making himself comfortable on the couch next to Hibari. "That reminds me. Some of the other students have invited us both out. I usually turn down their invitations, but I can't do that forever. I need to blend in with them."

Hibari doesn't move away from Mukuro on the couch, and that's how he knows that Hibari didn't really mind what he said. "So you go. I don't see why I have to."

"Because I keep telling them that I have to go home and have sex with my boyfriend, and they'll start to doubt me if they never see you." Mukuro ignores the half-horrified, half-angry look Hibari gives him. "They said they'll take us to a sushi place, since you're Japanese."

Hibari is silent for a long time, but much to Mukuro's surprise, he eventually agrees to go. Maybe Hibari is getting a little stir-crazy too - he spends most of his time in the apartment, taking care of Vongola business from afar while Mukuro goes out and pretends to be a student. Whatever the reason is, Mukuro is pleased.

They go out with Mukuro's 'friends' the next weekend, and Hibari is obviously uncomfortable - obvious to Mukuro, at least. He's not used to the language or the slang that the other students use, he doesn't like their joking around or their general undisciplined demeanor. The students, though, seem to find Hibari incredibly interesting (Mukuro doesn't blame them), and Mukuro does his best to run interference so no one will get bitten to death.

Hibari at least enjoys the sushi, until he gets a good look at the chefs. Then he shoots Mukuro an offended look and says, in Italian, "Those men aren't even Japanese."

Mukuro bites his lip so he won't laugh, and looks over. It's true. They look Mexican, but the sushi is good enough - though really, sushi isn't difficult to make. He smiles at Hibari. "Now you know how I feel whenever I eat Italian food in Japan."

That shuts Hibari up for long enough for one of Mukuro's friends to ask how they met, and Mukuro spins an entertaining lie about studying abroad in Japan and picking up Hibari at a host club. He can tell Hibari's English isn't as bad as he thinks, because Hibari kicks him hard under the table when Mukuro starts to talk about their (imaginary, but very enjoyable) first night together.

It's an entertaining evening out for Mukuro, these roles are second nature to him. It's difficult for Hibari, but he does well enough, and the students are sold on their act. It'll help Mukuro, but more importantly, it's fun to see Hibari completely out of his element from time to time.

The waiter brings the check and lingers, asking Mukuro questions about his hair and leaning a little close - flirting. Mukuro is about to send the waiter off - he's supposed to have a boyfriend, after all, so no flirting with foolish waiters. But Hibari leans across Mukuro, takes the check from the waiter's hands, and in English says, "Back off."

The man sitting across from Mukuro, an occasional lab partner, raises his eyebrows, and Mukuro bites back a laugh. Hibari's getting into the role. He likes that. As they leave the restaurant, Hibari ostentatiously brushes a piece of hair out of Mukuro's face and places an arm around his waist.

Mukuro thinks he's overdoing it a little, but the blonde girl from his study group sighs as if she thinks it's the most romantic thing ever, so he decides not to tease Hibari about it later. True, it might not be up to Mukuro's standards for deception, but considering that this is Hibari Kyoya, it's actually rather impressive.

He likes the way Hibari's arm feels around him, but he tries not to think about it. It's not a good idea from any angle.

Mukuro is on the couch, paging through the information they've acquired so far. Hibari watches him, cleaning the last of the dishes they used for dinner (Mukuro is off cleanup duty since he decided water fights sounded like fun). It's strange, living like this, a comfortable routine that would never be possible in their normal lives.

Strange, but not bad, and it won't last. Time ticks down inexorably, and before long Mukuro will have the information they came for and they'll be heading back to Italy. This false peace will shatter, and Hibari will never again be able to see this unusual thing - Mukuro relaxed, calm, not plotting or fighting or brimming with impotent disgust at his own situation and everything around him.

It's surprising for Hibari to realize that he'll miss it. The Mukuro he knows from years of working with the Vongola is bitter and mocking and infuriating. This Mukuro, the one he has come to know since arriving in this country, can be mocking and extremely infuriating but the bitterness is - well, not gone. But less, as if Mukuro feels free from his obligations to the hated Mafia while they are thousands of miles away from the center of power.

Hibari doesn't understand how Mukuro thinks and doesn't try, but he can understand some of that without trying. He expected this mission to be an ordeal that he would simply have to endure, but it has actually been very relaxing to be away from the ridiculous politics, the constant negotiations with Sawada and Reborn. It's... nice, which is much different than he had expected months with Rokudo Mukuro to be.

There is a knock at the door and Mukuro answers it. They both tense at times like these - the Mafia lifestyle runs too deep. It's only a classmate of Mukuro's, though, bringing him an assignment from a class he missed - not such a strange thing, as his mission is to gather information, not to do well in class. Mukuro doesn't even really do his work, instead making his way by illusions and trickery. He's no scientist, but thanks to the efforts of Shouichi and Spanner he fakes it well.

Hibari watches their interaction, the way this young man looks at Mukuro, the way he stands, the way his fingers linger just a little too long when he gives the papers to Mukuro.

Soon, Mukuro sends him off, thanking him graciously for the favor. Then Hibari leaves the safety of the kitchen to go to the door, where Mukuro is. "He likes you," Hibari says, and it's a stupid thing to say. Of course Mukuro knows that.

But Mukuro just smiles and sets the assignment aside. "It's kind of nice," he says, and shrugs gracefully. "I wasn't trying to make him like me."

It isn't so difficult for Hibari to unpack the meaning in that. Mukuro is used to people liking him because he flirts and says the right thing and very carefully becomes exactly what they want. He undoubtedly finds it tiresome, uninteresting, and how could it be complimentary when the one they want is a creation, nothing like the real Rokudo Mukuro at all?

And for some reason it annoys Hibari, and all he can say is, "That boy doesn't know the real you either."

Mukuro laughs then, that familiar laugh that Hibari has come to find somewhat less annoying than he once did. "Of course he doesn't. He'd be terrified if he did. Who can know the 'real' me and not be terrified?" His voice is light and playful, but Hibari isn't sure he means it.

He rolls his eyes. "You aren't that scary, Mukuro. Don't be so conceited."

"You would say that," Mukuro says, but now he sounds pleased. "Maybe I should seduce that kid, just for fun."

"Does that brain of yours work, or is it really just pineapples knocking around in there?" Hibari says, annoyed, and when Mukuro looks at him in surprise he moves, pinning Mukuro against the door. He doesn't see why Mukuro should be surprised anyway, since he's been flirting this whole time - maybe he just didn't think Hibari noticed or cared. But unlike some Mist Guardians, Hibari is not an idiot, and it didn't take him long to figure out exactly why that boy annoyed him so much.

He kisses Mukuro. It's not gentle or sweet, because they are not gentle or sweet, but it's more passionate than Hibari usually lets his kisses become. After a moment, Mukuro returns it, opening his mouth to draw Hibari in and make it deeper. Their bodies move and press together, Mukuro's hand finds itself on Hibari's belt buckle, and Hibari wastes no time sliding deft fingers underneath Mukuro's shirt.

After that they're lost. They've been playing at a relationship this whole time, and if Hibari had known how satisfying it would be he'd have made it real much earlier.

Then again, how could he ever have known that Rokudo Mukuro seems to have been made from Hibari's unspoken fantasies, from the way he kisses to the way he bites and scratches to the way he moans when Hibari thrusts into him? Even in bed he's the most satisfying challenge that Hibari has ever met.

They are up late that night, and Mukuro misses all his classes the next day.

Waking up next to Hibari Kyoya isn't something Mukuro thought he would ever do, much less get used to, but here he is. Their apartment has two bedrooms but one is now unused - Mukuro stays in Hibari's bed most nights.

He's not entirely sure how it happened. Once turned into twice turned into every night, as if they have both simply realized there is no point in holding back. And there isn't. This mission has an expiration date, one that has nearly arrived, and when they go back to Italy things will be different. Why not enjoy this respite while it lasts?

Hibari is next to him, still fast asleep. His arm is thrown haphazardly over Mukuro, less an embrace than a product of restless movements. Mukuro is careful not to disturb Hibari when he sits up. By now he knows that waking an unready Hibari causes more trouble than it's worth, and Mukuro has places to be today. He's almost got his hands on some data that may be what they're looking for.

He stops to look at Hibari. The Cloud Guardian looks calm when sleeping, peaceful. He's not a large man, but he has the body of a killer - all lean muscle, not an ounce of fat. Mukuro isn't so different, but Hibari has more scars - a fine tracery over his body, marking every place someone has slipped past his defenses.

Mukuro has traced those scars with hands and mouth, enthralled, because he doesn't carry such things. He has fought as many battles as Hibari, if not more, but their different styles - Hibari fighting head-on, Mukuro using illusions and possession - mean that only rarely does anyone actually lay a hand on Rokudo Mukuro. The few that are left are old and faded, remnants of a childhood that made him who he is.

He thinks that, if circumstances were different, it would be a long time before he got tired of Hibari Kyoya. Circumstances are what they are, though, and so he just enjoys it while he can - Hibari's unrelenting kisses, his hands on Mukuro's body, the way he bites hard but never too hard. He amuses himself by breaking every one of Hibari's rules about sex (Hibari has rules about everything). 'No sex in the kitchen' turns into Mukuro bent over the counter, 'no sex while we're working' turns into Hibari trying to send a report to Vongola headquarters while Mukuro gives him a blowjob.

It's fun, and so few things are purely fun for Mukuro. It also won't last, which makes it strangely precious even for a man like him.

He finally coaxes himself out of the warm bed, makes coffee, and leaves for the university.

Eight hours later he returns, hands bloody and a memory stick in his pocket.

Hibari stands when he sees the blood and crosses the room quickly, but all Mukuro does is press the memory stick in his hands and say, "This should have the data you wanted." Hibari's eyes inspect him, see no wounds, and so he takes it and goes back to his laptop while Mukuro goes to the bathroom to clean up.

A few minutes later Hibari is in the doorway, watching him wash the blood out from under his fingernails. "You didn't kill him, did you?"

Mukuro looks at Hibari's reflection in the mirror and smiles, but he can't say he's feeling particularly happy. "I didn't. They were just some of Tsunayoshi's many enemies. They came here for us, they don't know about him yet - if we leave soon, they never will. Did I get what you need?"

Hibari doesn't ask how Mukuro found that out, because Hibari isn't stupid. He knows that Mukuro would be sure to find out what his enemies knew before he killed them, whatever it took - they would need to know whether the whole mission has been leaked or whether someone has simply discovered that the Mist and Cloud Guardians are far from the Vongola power base (and therefore supposedly easy pickings). It is the second, luckily.

"Yes. It's not much, it seems he assisted them in a junior capacity, but it's more than I had before." Hibari walks up behind Mukuro, eyes meeting his in the mirror.

"Then I suppose we're finished here," Mukuro says, and he tries to ignore the strange disappointment he feels at that thought.

"I'll contact Tsunayoshi," Hibari says, and he looks like he's about to leave, so Mukuro turns and catches his arm and pulls him in, kissing him hard enough to draw blood. Hibari pushes him back against the bathroom counter hard enough that Mukuro knows he'll find a bruise on his back later, but he doesn't care. They do it quickly and roughly. Hibari's kisses are harsher than usual and Mukuro holds nothing back, leaving marks on Hibari that won't fade for days. It's not quite like before, not the easy passionate games they've been playing, this is more desperate and more final and more everything.

It's because of the fight he just came from, Mukuro tells himself, and not because this thing they have is ending. He isn't that weak, he can walk away without a care, it's easier to say it's because of adrenaline and anger.

Mukuro can lie to anyone but himself. He knows the truth. If this is the last time, he wants to make sure Hibari won't forget it, and more than that, he wants to make sure that he won't forget it.

They leave America two days later. With the mission done, they can't stay - the Vongola need them, and they've been gone long enough already. Hibari has what he came for, and the data has already been transmitted to his own servers, where it can be dissected by his men and Tsunayoshi's.

Hibari sits in his seat next to Mukuro as the plane takes off, glad to be leaving this land of rain and people he can barely understand. Italy isn't that much better, but it will be a slight improvement.

Mukuro is silent, and Hibari thinks that things have been different between them. Of course that should be little surprise - they were far away from the weight of duty that they've both become used to bearing, but now it settles upon their shoulders again. The Mukuro that he's known until this trip will return, and this strange little interlude of theirs will be over.

It's not a surprise, but Hibari finds that he doesn't like that idea. He prefers the Mukuro he's gotten to know, the one who fights him with a smile, without holding back, the one who doesn't disappear at a moment's notice, the one who seems to know exactly what Hibari wants from him. There was always this time limit, this definite ending that they both knew would come, but Hibari didn't realize that he wouldn't want it to end.

Somehow, Hibari wants to keep this Mukuro. He looks over, studying Mukuro's profile, the Mist Guardian apparently lost in thought. Why shouldn't he be able to? Hibari is used to getting what he wants. This is no different.

"Fight me again when we get back," he says, wanting Mukuro to look at him. He gets that, at least, Mukuro's eyebrows raised in mild surprise.

"If you like," Mukuro says, and there's something wary in his eyes. Hibari feels frustrated. Mukuro likes fighting him, so why the hesitance? How is he supposed to know what Mukuro wants, he thinks, and then he realizes that he doesn't really know. He doesn't usually care what other people want, and until recently he couldn't have cared less about Mukuro in particular. But doesn't everyone want or expect something from Mukuro? Hibari at least has the freedom that comes with his temperament, the freedom provided by the fact that even his boss is scared of him and they've never found a way to control him.

They have millions of ways to control Mukuro. They have to, because no one trusts him, but doesn't that mean he doesn't have many choices? Hibari finds it even more annoying to think that Mukuro might just see him as one of the crowd now, asking for things from Mukuro and never really caring if he wants to give them or not. It was different before, when Mukuro felt freer, but now they're going back to Italy and all the chains he is used to.

Hibari finds that he doesn't want to add another. He doesn't want to make Mukuro do things. Where is the point in that? He frowns at Mukuro, annoyed at himself and at the other man for the way their lives are, even though it's not really Mukuro's fault. He reaches out and pulls a strand of Mukuro's long hair, hard, and Mukuro winces and gives him a strange look.

"If you want to fight, we'll fight," Hibari says, ignoring the way his voice sounds suspiciously like a sulky five-year-old's. Mukuro looks like he's holding back laughter, but his eyes aren't wary anymore.

"What if I want to do something else?" he says, and his voice is deceptively light.

Hibari shrugs. "As long as it's not perverted or illegal, you know where to find me," he says.

"You aren't leaving me with many options there," Mukuro says, but his smile is more relaxed. His long fingers tap lightly on the back of Hibari's hand where it lays on the armrest.

Hibari turns his hand up, capturing Mukuro's, holding it tightly but not so tightly that Mukuro can't pull away if he wants to. That's how it has to be for the both of them, he thinks. Freely given, or there's no point. "You're creative. You can think of something."

Mukuro is looking at Hibari's hand holding his. "I'll see what I can do," he says. As they fly back to Italy, he doesn't pull his hand away.