A/N

I was actually trying to finish up the last bit of the latest chapter of one of my other stories (Bleach), when inspiration for this struck me. I can safely say that episode 199 of Katekyo Hitman Reborn was to blame for this too. (Chrome and Mukuro-sama!) I'd been waiting for that particular scene to be animated, along with some others, so...yeah.

Anyways, this is set in the future, when everyone goes back to their rightful time-periods. So it's all TYL. In my mind's eye, in the ruins of the base, everyone's enjoying a sort of...hastily thrown together party, to celebrate a lot of things, really.

Hope you like it, even if it is a bit long.

Edit: Thank you all for your reviews -this really was an on the spur of the moment one-shot, but it's nice to know that it was a somewhat enjoyable read. And thanks to NeoGene for spotting the 'Octupus-head / Lawn-head' mix up!

Disclaimer: Alas, as much as I long to be the sole owner of Xanxus, Gamma and Dino, it is not to be. It all belongs to the wonderful Amano Akira.


His Name is Rokudo Mukuro:

"Come here Sawada! Time for an EXTREME picture!"

"O-Oniichan-! C-Can't breathe-!"

"Why you-! Let go of Juudaime, can't you see you're-"

"Ah, no, it's fine Gokudera-kun, really."

"Stop fussing, Octopus-head. It's just a photo. C'mon, say 'biscuit'!"

"Haha, biscuit?"

"It's 'cheese' Lawn-head, 'cheese'!"

"I extremely don't like cheese."

"Wha-? What does that have to do with anything?"

"Stupid Octopus-head, why would I say the name of something I don't like?"

From her place in the corner of the wrecked room, the dark haired woman couldn't help but smile as she observed the four men by the table laden with hastily bought and prepared food and drinks.

And to think that it had taken a terrible couple of years, fighting only to survive the menace that was Byakuran Gesso, and being contained in a white machine whilst their younger selves cleansed this world of its main source of evil, for her to realise how important these people were to her.

"It doesn't matter if you like it or not! It's still 'cheese'!"

"You are being extremely fussy about this!"

"I'm-"

"-Haha, we're here to take a picture, right? So let's take it. Sempai, since I'm taller, shall I take the photo?"

"Good idea Yamamoto! But first, squeeze in somewhere-"

"-Ack! That was my foot you big oaf!"

"Haha, sorry Gokudera. Yo, Tsuna, you alright? You look a little...uh, blue..."

"LAWN-HEAD YOU'RE CHOKING HIM!"

"WHAT? I AM NOT –oh. Sawada, we need to work on your lungs. Breathing exercises in the morning are extremely good for strengthening lung capacity."

"A-Ack...I –a...ck..."

That was not to say that she was best friends with any of them, for to say so would be...unrealistic. They were kind to her, they cared about her, and even worried for her, yet, within the Family itself, there was still a certain level of distrust, or there had been, due to both the nature of her element, and due to her links to certain people.

Or rather, her link to a certain person.

So, no, they were not 'best friends forever', not to her, but they were still people whose welfare she was interested in. Particularly her Boss', but that went without saying, for it was he, more than anyone else, who had fully accepted her; and even then, it was not for who she was connected to, but for who she was.

Well, no, she amended, for even her Boss did not know who she truly was. The person he knew, the person he accepted with a warm smile and a comforting presence, was the person she had become.

"Haha, careful, sempai. We just got him back, you know?"

"I am extremely sorry Sawada!"

"N-No, i...it's fine-!"

"Don't you ever do that again, you stupid-"

"-Okay guys, I'm going to take the pic –ah, Hibari, there you are. Do you want to take this picture with...ahaha, I'll take that as a 'no' then. Scary!"

"One the count of three, everyone! Say 'biscuit'!"

"For the love of-! It's cheese. How many goddamned times do I-"

"-SMILE TO THE EXTREME!"

"Haha, Gokudera, you're supposed to smile."

She couldn't remember the last time a laugh had echoed brightly in their headquarters, nor could she remember a time when the two silver haired guardians had bickered like they were doing at present –perhaps they were making up for lost time?-.

She had never thought that she would actually miss it.

But what she missed more than that was the lighter air that surrounded the brown haired Boss. It was by no means the light, innocent air that had surrounded him when they had first met, or even for a few years after that; but it was not the burdened, almost defeated air that hung over him like a second shadow, before he was 'killed' by the Millefiore.

"I am smiling, you idiot."

"...Uh, maybe you shouldn't smile...? Because you kind of look like you're two seconds away from blowing something up. And when you're in that sort of mood, I'm usually the one who gets dynamite thrown in my face. Haha."

"W-Why you-"

"Gokudera-kun? Wait, you find that amusing, Y-Yamamoto?"

"Well, you get used to it after a while. Haha, anyway, on the count of three, then, 1...2...3."

"BISCUIT!"

"Ow! O-Oniichan, that's my face..."

"Juudaime! Mind your damned elbows, you idiot!"

"Haha, this is one funny picture."

Tearing her eyes away from the four friends, she cast her eye around the rest of the room, skilfully ignoring the state of ruin it was in as a result of the attack on the base.

It served to remind her that they still hadn't learned all the details of what had taken place while they were... 'sleeping' –apart from the obvious ones, such as the defeat of Byakuran, the sacrifice made by a very brave young girl and her loyal follower, their return to the past, and the hurried departure of the Varia once things were settled.

Reborn-san and Boss had agreed with Irie Shoichi when he suggested they could hear everything later.

Not too far from the food-laden table stood Haru-san, Kyoko-san and Bianchi-san. She couldn't tell what they were talking about, but it seemed to be an animated conversation, if the short haired brunette's 'hahi's were anything to go by.

She idly wondered what was happening with the two girls in the past. How did Boss and everyone else explain what had happened in the future to them? Had they been told the truth about what exactly the rest of them were involved in?

Allowing her gaze to move on, she spotted Lambo and I-pin –and here she smiled- seemingly arguing over the plate of food held in between them. From the mildly frightened look on Lambo's face, it looked as though the last pastry was going to be I-pin's.

Fuuta and Basil-san were standing together with Reborn-san, Giannini, Irie Shoichi and...a fair haired ex-Millefiore mechanic by the name of Spanner. They too seemed to be having an animated discussion, a more informative one.

The rest of the Arcobaleno, along with Lal Mirch, had formed their own group, and there was a mixture of loud exclamations coming from them too, though she had no idea what they were about.

And finally, in the far corner of the room, was the last remaining guardian, along with Kusakabe, Dino-san and his men. As usual, Dino-san was doing all the talking, although he did not seem to be too bothered by the fact that his former student wasn't listening to him.

Everything was, she decided, going to be...alright. Not all at once, of course, for a lot of things would need to be seen to, and there would be a lot that needed to be repaired and rebuilt, but...everything was moving in the right direction.

Everyone was safe; everyone was alive; and everything was going to be alright.

She lowered her gaze at the thought, choosing to stare at her shoes instead.

There was still something...missing. Something that she had thought...that she had hoped

She shook her head slowly, trying to rid her mind of the thought. Irie Shoichi had said that he was not in that dreadful, terrifying place anymore. So what if her, Ken and Chikusa's attempts to get him out of that dark place had not worked, no matter how hard they had tried?

The bespectacled engineer did not seem to be lying when he had mentioned his appearance in the battle, and she truly had no reason to doubt him, not now at least, after his true role was undoubtedly clear.

If he was telling the truth, and he was a free man –no matter how legally or illegally-...then...where was he?

Was he not fond of playing games?

Shouldn't he be here, reminding their Boss that he was still waiting for the day he could possess him, or something like that?

Shouldn't he be here, testing the patience of he who had earned the title of the strongest Vongola guardian?

Shouldn't he be here, lounging about as though he owned the place –for all that it was in shambles- and looking smug enough to irritate most of those present with the knowledge that he was free now, and was not going to go away any time soon?

Shouldn't he...

Shouldn't he be here with me?

She shook her head, appalled. Why would he be here, just to be with her? She would forever be grateful to him, and would do everything in her power to help him, should he ever need it, but...he was out of prison now.

He was free.

What could he possibly need from her anymore? He didn't need her to exist outside the water-cell he had been kept in for the last ten years. Not anymore.

She hadn't so much as caught a whiff of his presence in her mind since they had...come back, and she didn't want to admit that it hurt.

Because it shouldn't hurt, because she should have expected this, because she shouldn't have had the audacity to hope that she would still be needed, because no matter how she had longed to see him over the last ten years, it just wasn't going to happen.

From what the engineer had said, Ken, Chikusa and M.M had been with him, and despite her crushed hopes and feelings, she was glad. For it meant that he wasn't alone.

Ken and Chikusa, she knew, would follow him to Hell and back, many times if it was so required, and she knew from her dealings with M.M that the pretty young woman had feelings for him, that she had had those feelings for ten or so years. She would never do anything to hurt him; that much she knew.

But what about me?

Perhaps he returned M.M's feelings, perhaps he had returned them all along, but could not do anything about it due to the terribly inconvenient fact that he was in Vindice.

But what about me?

Spanner-san had said that he couldn't be sure that the four of them had left the base, and she supposed that she could find out for sure if she were to just take a walk, but...she didn't want to.

She had had a sinking feeling that she would be abandoned someday, so why bother looking for proof of it?

But what about me?

The members of the Vongola Family in Italy, along with the allies that were of the same opinion, were right; she was but a puppet, a doll on strings –and now that she had become of no use, it was time to discard her.

She frowned.

How could she think of him in that manner? Had he not saved her from death? Had he not saved her from herself? Had he not done both of them time and time again, over the years?

But what about me?

Who was she to speak of him in such a manner? Who was she to think that she deserved...whatever it was that she hoped to gain from him?

Even if she did not look so much like him anymore, with her longer hair giving her the appearance of who she was, of who she had been before meeting him, she was just...her. Nothing more and nothing less. It was no wonder that—

She found herself glancing up at the sudden spike of tension in the room, tearing her gaze from her shoes as her eye wandered around the room only to land on a rather stiff Hibari Kyoya. Dino-san was looking a little worried as he attempted to placate him, but she couldn't for the life of her figure out what had brought this on.

Belatedly, she realised that her Boss was standing unusually straight too, a look of discomfort on his face even as he dealt with the 'manly' shoulder slaps he was receiving from Sasagawa Ryohei.

So, when the brunet turned around, she found her eye following his gaze to the door on her right, though she couldn't see any-

"Kufufufu... How lovely it is to see everyone again..." Her eye widened, for she would have recognised that voice anywhere, even without seeing its owner. "Ten years is a very long time, hmm?"

He stepped into the room, an amused smile on his lips, and all she could do was stare.

She was vaguely aware of the sharp 'hiss' of tonfa being drawn; of frantic attempts to hold back the wielder of the tonfa; of the low muttering from one of the four friends who had been fooling around with the camera; of his eyes sweeping across the room...but it didn't matter to her.

Not when he was here.

His hair was longer, she noticed, much, much longer than it had been when she used to meet him in her dreams, and much longer than her own hair had grown. And while it was different to see him in an outfit that was not the standard white shirt and dark trousers he always wore when they met in dreams, it suited him far better, even if briefly wondered if the high boots were uncomfortable.

He was looking at her, but she could not muster the—

Wait. What?

Her breath hitched as she fully registered his eyes on hers, her lone, strikingly purple eye taking in his red and blue pair.

He was here, he was alive, he was well –if a little pale-, he was smiling and he could probably hear her heart beating at twice its normal rate, but, oh gods, he was here, and not in a horrid, water-filled cell.

Someone was talking –Reborn-san, she realised, after a moment- and was asking him something that made him laugh, and his eyes briefly left hers to look at the Arcobaleno, before they turned back to her.

Someone else said something now –it was Gokudera Hayato- and then Hibari Kyoya was moving forward, just as Boss moved forward to placate him, albeit rather wearily.

She swallowed the lump in her throat as he laughed freely at the scene before him, clearly quite amused and saying something to further incense the Cloud guardian, before turning to her again.

"Cat got your tongue, Chrome?" he asked in his lilting voice, the teasing note quite evident, "Or is it Nagi?"

Even as everyone turned to look at her, she opened her mouth, but no sound left it. When had she lost her voice? He laughed again, his eyes crinkling. "Ah, but I have not introduced myself, have I?" he queried, suddenly. "Where are my manners?" he wondered, with a shake of the head.

Her heart was beating so loud she wondered why no one asked her what she was doing to it (to which she would only have been able to say that it was not her causing it to react so, rather it was him).

Again she opened her mouth, but could not form a coherent sentence, and the smile in his eyes –not the one on his lips, but the one in his eyes- told her that, somehow, he understood. "My name is Rokudo Mukuro, and it is a pleasure to meet you," he said, with a mock bow.

Oh. Oh. It was then that she fully grasped the meaning behind his actions; he was introducing himself because they had never met face-to-face before. This was...this was the first time they were seeing each other, in the flesh...as opposed to in dreams, even though she knew who he was, and he knew who she was.

And it was ten years after the day they first 'met'!

She swallowed against the lump in her throat, feeling the telltale burn of tears in her eye.

"My name is Chrome Do-" she stopped abruptly, pausing briefly to remember the fact that there were others in the room, but choosing to ignore it anyway, "My name is Nagi, a...and it's nice to meet you too," she stammered, fighting against herself, against the urge to run into his arms and cry until she had nothing left in her anymore, "M-Mukuro-sama..."

He stared at her for a moment longer, eyes softening –or maybe it was her imagination- before he let out yet another laugh.

The next she knew, his arms were held out towards her, and that was all the invitation she needed, for she was walking, then walking faster, and faster, and faster...but didn't get the chance to run, for she hit his chest with the force of ten years of emotion; confusion; hope; sadness; insecurity; fear; anticipation; like and...even love.

His laugh was soft this time, a breathy affair, as though it was meant for her ears and her ears alone.

Strong arms were wrapped around her, and she all but wilted into his embrace. For someone so famously cold and uncaring, he was certainly more than pleasantly warm.

"My dear, sweet Ch- Nagi," he whispered, as he lowered his lips to her ear. She could only let out a muffled sob in reply, taking comfort in the way his embrace tightened. "You have done very well, Nagi. Extremely well."

"M-Mukuro-sama..."

He smiled into her hair as he pressed his face against it.

"I am very proud of you, my cute Nagi," he said, and she would later marvel how only a handful of words from him could dispel the doubts that had been eating away at her for the last ten years.

A little embarrassed and not wanting to ruin his shirt, she pulled back slightly, gazing up at him –for no matter how tall she had grown, he would forever be taller- for a long moment.

"It really is you," she whispered, "You're...really here..."

"Kufufufu, Of course I am, my dear Nagi."

"I – I thought... I..." she trailed off guiltily, causing him to smile before patting her lightly under the chin, making her look up at him again. The smile on his face had taken on an ever so slightly sharper edge, she noticed.

"It really is me, my cute Nagi," he affirmed, before raising an eyebrow, "Ah, no, I can't say 'my cute Nagi' anymore..." He smiled at her confusion, before lowering his voice, "For you, my beautiful Nagi, I am always here."

His smile suddenly took on a slightly harder, distanced edge as he raised his voice for all those in the room to hear, "Of course I'm here, Nagi; I couldn't very well give up on an opportunity to possess Sawada Tsunayoshi, to further my plans, could I? Kufufufu."

"EH?"

"Why you-! I knew you couldn't be trusted!"

"I am...confused, to the extreme..."

"Haha, that's just the way he is, I guess."

"You. Prepare to be bitten to death."

Smirking at the Cloud guardian, he took a moment to audaciously wink at him, before looking back at the girl...young woman still in his embrace.

As chaos –in the form of a Hibari Kyoya about to go on the rampage, along with a myriad of brave or foolish people trying to stop him- broke out, he laughed cheerily as he saw the embarrassment frozen on his dear girl's face.

"My Nagi looks very nice with long hair, and with a red face," he commented, teasingly, before turning them both around. "Let's go for a walk, shall we?"

The smile stayed on his lips as he escorted the frozen girl out of the room, only having to walk to the end of the corridor where the giant hole in the wall served as a quick exit to the city.

Oya, oya, it seemed that he had shocked his poor, dear Nagi.

He was going to have to be careful with this one.


A/N

I hope that kind of made sense, and that it was an enjoyable read. If not, well...I truly am sorry for wasting anyone's time!

Cheers,

Siriusgirl1