All characters © Amano Akira
Summary: Fandom: KHR. In 2014, the Namimori Board of Health decides to demolish Kokuyo Land. Although Tsuna sees it as yet another way for the universe to torture him, it turns out to be an opportunity to get closer to his family.
The Cobweb Tarantella
"He lied to me," Tsuna fumed to a silent Hibari Kyouya as he paced the reception room of Namimori Hospital. The dirt on his boots left watery marks on the sterile hospital tiles (which had earned him several disproving glares from the nurses), but he had been too frazzled to bring a change of clothes. In actuality, Tsuna was more than frazzled. He was angry. He was, by nature, of a meek and caring disposition, but the one thing that simply got on his nerves was when the people he cared about endangered their own lives. And yes, he did care about Mukuro...in that cautious, if somewhat pitying way that Reborn had warned him about countless times.
And in his own, disillusioned way, Hibari cared too, even if all he claimed was, "I don't really care, but then I wouldn't be able to bite him to death anymore." Hibari had paid the hospital out of his own pocket to give Mukuro, Ken, and Chikusa private facilities.
"He lied to me," Tsuna said again, grazing a hand through his hair and taking it out to open a palm toward Hibari. "Why would he do that?"
Hibari gave a shrug. "They probably didn't want to live with the likes of you," he replied, arms folded. It wasn't a malicious statement; merely an indifferent observation that was probably more accurate than Tsuna wanted to admit at the moment.
"I never said they had to! I merely offered to help them find a place."
"Hn." Hibari closed his eyes. "And look how they responded. Useless herbivores can go die."
To this day, Tsuna wasn't sure if that was meant to be a compliment or not.
Although Tsuna may have had the best natural intuition in Japan, he was oblivious to the fact that Mukuro had been lying through his teeth. In all actuality Kokuyo's former denizens had no place to go, but Mukuro, Ken, and Chikusa had all been unanimous on the front that they did not need "outside aid." Chrome, on the other hand, was with the Vongola more often than not, so she had separately taken Tsuna up on his offer. Tsuna had breathed a sigh of relief at that, thanking god for small favors.
Tsuna sometimes forgot how apt Mukuro was as a liar. In general, Mukuro loved to pontificate and demonstrate his extensive vocabulary ad nauseam, so by the time Tsuna had taken it all in it was too late to try to remember what was true and what was simply a farce.
So in one of Mukuro's less intelligent moves, he had decided to temporarily live in the underpass of Namimori's main bridge. The bridge itself was immense; it was part of Interstate 46 and led to all the main roads in the town, crossing over the river and gracing Namimori with easier transportation circa 1924.
Stubborn pride and habit often diluted wit, which was quite common inside and outside the Italian mafia. Most of the girls knew this; the boys did not. Mukuro was probably one of the smartest people in the Vongola (his intelligence only rivaled by the likes of Shamal, Belphegor, Irie, and Gokudera, to name a few), but he did not foresee the disastrous effects his actions would have due to the fact that, since he was proclaimed jackanapes Rokudo Mukuro, he obviously needed help from no one. His cohorts put up little argument since they shared similar sentiments.
On the morning the construction began, Tsuna had no appetite. He kept up with the news when he could, and since he had never heard from Mukuro, he assumed that they had not needed him after all. Thinking back, he should have checked in with them. He really should have checked. That was his job as boss, after all, wasn't it? Mukuro had provided him with an existing place (which in actuality had not been abandoned but was operating just fine), yet Tsuna had trusted his Guardian and had not looked into it.
It was times like these when Tsuna wondered privately if he was indeed too trusting of others. Then again, a deeper, more mature part of himself reminded him that this was also his greatest strength.
Mukuro had lied artfully, and probably would have gotten away with it if it hadn't been for Chrome. It had been one of Tsuna's more shocking moments to discover Kokuyo's former inhabitants camping out under the bridge. Tsuna had taken charge like the boss he was becoming, calling in for help and threatening Mukuro, Ken, and Chikusa to get in the ambulance lest they be handed over to Vindice. They had been too weak at the time to protest.
The official diagnosis, which Tsuna found out later, was ghastly. He remembered studying the Holocaust in his sophomore year of high school, and one of his textbooks had shown pictures of the camps at Auschwitz and Dachau. Seeing Mukuro, Ken, and Chikusa under that bridge brought those pictures to mind. To a lesser extent, certainly, but he had seen the same sunken looks. They had been living on choco-bits and whatever else they could scrounge from the school vending machines. All of them had some form of infections, whether viral or bacterial. Mukuro outweighed them all with a "whopping" 52 kilos; Ken had a respiratory infection that bordered on full-blown pneumonia, and all had developed severe vitamin deficiencies. Give or take another week, they would have died.
Tsuna could see why Chrome had been a little upset.
Being too malnourished to do anything other than sleep for a few days, Rokudo Mukuro woke up in a bad mood.
He smiled briefly at Chrome, who he found dozing in the corner, but his smile quickly dissipated. There was an IV drip in his arm. And a certain Sawada Tsunayoshi was staring at him.
"Are you all right, Mukuro?" Tsunayoshi asked, his brown eyes big and earnest.
"I hate hospitals, Sawada Tsunayoshi," was the first thing Mukuro said. From his spot on the bed and covered in white cloth, he could almost pass for normal (albeit the mildly disturbing heterochromia). His pupils were pinprick-small in the crisp hospital lights and his dark hair was tucked behind his ears. Tsuna thought then that his face looked very pale, very open.
"Yes, well," Tsuna pursed his lips, eyes lidding, "this hospital is keeping you alive."
"And Ken? Chikusa?"
Tsuna rubbed his face, looking as tired as Mukuro felt. At least Mukuro had the common decency to ask about them, which actually didn't surprise Tsuna at all. He'd known that, although Mukuro claimed otherwise on several different occasions, those two and Chrome were perhaps one of the world's only individuals that Mukuro actually gave a damn about. "Down the hall. They're fine for the most part."
Mukuro cleared his throat to rid it of its rustiness and tried to get a look at the name tag at the foot of his bed, unsuccessfully. "What am I under?" he asked.
"Routarou Miyano, Japanese citizen," Tsuna recited with feigned nonchalance. His eyes were hard. "You can thank the Vongola for that, Mukuro, and for also covering up the fact that you have no existing medical records nor any of the proper vaccinations needed in the last two decades."
"I didn't know you cared, Sawada Tsunayoshi."
Tsuna gave Mukuro a pained look. "What was I supposed to do when I found one of my Guardians living under a bridge?" he asked. "Did you even know you had developed Lyme disease?"
Mukuro stared at the IV with distaste, and a tired shadow of his old smirk threatened to break out on his face. "You're mad, Sawada Tsunayoshi," he noted, still staring at the IV. It was odd, since Mukuro was usually the type of person to look people right in the eye when talking to them.
"Well, more like offended, really," Tsuna replied mildly, playing with the ends of his shirt. He didn't like reprimanding people, since he rarely felt he was in a position to do so. But this... "What you three did was completely idiotic. I offered to help you, and instead you—you get yourselves almost killed!"
"Ku, fu, fu." It was a humorless laugh, and like a spoiled cake: all frosting and sweetness, but once your teeth set in you found yourself chewing on maggots and squirming things and something truly nasty. Mukuro's eyes were still on the drip. "Really," he shook his head and absently brought a hand up to rub at the faint scar tissue below his right eye, "you don't understand."
"I think I do," Tsuna said quietly. "For one thing, you don't like doctors or hospitals. I may not know exactly what happened with your family all those years ago, but I do know they experimented on all of you and that you've been living on your own ever since. Something like that...well, I can see why you guys would think that you don't need anyone else."
Mukuro had finally torn his eyes away from the IV and was looking at Tsuna with an odd mixture of contemplation, bitterness, and amusement in his eyes.
"It's something a lot of our Family has trouble admitting," Tsuna said, "but it's okay to have help sometimes, and to trust in people."
Another laugh escaped Mukuro's lips. "You're odd, Sawada Tsunayoshi," he said. Silence fell upon them. For a moment there was only the sterile smells of the hospital to tickle their noses and the faint noises of beeping machinery to satisfy their ears. Mukuro let his eyes stray to Chrome, who was curled up in her chair in a deep sleep.
"She stays over here every night," Tsuna stated, also looking at her. He turned back to Mukuro. "She saved your lives, you know."
Mukuro let his gaze rest on her for a moment longer with something that, if it hadn't been Mukuro, others would have mistaken for fondness. "Why do you care so much for my well being?" he finally asked. Unlike most of what Mukuro said, the question held genuine confusion. Tsuna could understand that.
"Because that's what Family does," he replied. "If you remember your mother or your father— " Mukuro shook his head slowly, smiling twisted— "anyway, Family looks out for each other. If I was badly hurt, would you worry about me?"
Mukuro looked thoughtful. "Probably not," he replied. Tsuna said nothing, for he saw a different truth in Mukuro's eyes. Somewhere.
"You know, Kyouya came by the other day," Mukuro recalled, changing the subject. "He thought I was asleep." He smirked. "I wasn't."
"He was worried too," Tsuna pointed out. "You had a fever of 40 for two days, your white blood cell count is dangerously low, and you're being fed through a tube."
Mukuro's smirk widened in an effort to not look uncomfortable. With most people, it would have worked.
"There's one thing I want to confirm with you, Mukuro," Tsuna remembered suddenly. "It was bothering me for a while."
"And what may that be, Sawada Tsunayoshi?"
"Your illusions over Kokuyo Land," Tsuna began, "I was wondering why they disappeared after all these years."
Mukuro's bony shoulders jostled once in a shrug, and he picked an a nonexistent spot of lint on his hospital robe. "I simply got tired of wasting my power on unnecessary things," he said.
Tsuna shook his head. "No, I don't think that's it. In case you haven't noticed, Mukuro, I've seen Kokuyo Land recently. It was hardly suitable for living." Hardly suitable could have easily replaced the word "understatement" in the dictionary; Tsuna didn't even want to imagine to what proportions the amount of vermin there had been allowed to grow.
Mukuro had kept the park hidden for so long, but nothing lasts forever.
"Could it be...that you wanted change?"
Mukuro scrutinized Tsuna for a moment, a slight crease forming a slash across his pale brow. "I'm tired, Sawada Tsunayoshi," he replied finally, closing his eyes. "I think I will sleep now."
A smile graced Tsuna's features, but nonetheless he nodded and rose. "I think I understand you a little better, Mukuro."
"Think what you wish," Mukuro replied faintly from the bed.
"And be sure to thank Hibari-san for the private room once you get better. I'm sure the regular nurses would have been very curious as to why you spend over 90% of your nights in REM sleep," Tsuna remembered from the rather dry report Hibari's medics had given him the other day. "Or why Chikusa shows symptoms of a prefrontal lobotomy and Ken has traces of animal DNA in his chromosomes."
He departed then, mind full of thoughts and preparations to make Kokuyo an official home in the Vongola Headquarters. This time Tsuna doubted they would be quite as eager to expostulate.
Once Tsuna had left, Mukuro let his eyes crack open again and turned his head to face Chrome. "Heh. Our boss really is an interesting character," he told her quietly. The only response he got was a slight snore, and it was only then that he allowed himself to smile fondly.
"Thank you, dear Chrome."