Author's Note: Hi, everybody! Thanks for reading Chapter Three of Through a Glass Darkly. We hope you enjoy it, as we certainly enjoyed writing it! :)
Disclaimer: I don't own KHR or any of its characters—that honor goes to Akira Amano-sensei. However, if there was an alternate universe where I owned Hibari, you can be certain I wouldn't be sharing him. :)
Chapter Three: Change for the Better, Change for the Worse
Present Time: Hibari
At twenty-one, Hibari Kyoya is impatient. The preparations for the move to Italy have been underway for weeks, and he is ready to simply pack up and leave the rest of the squabbling herbivores behind. Reborn has promised him battles in Italy—the Bucking Horse will be there, and the Varia, and many, many enemies to cut down. Apparently, if one is in the mafia, one can leave as many bodies behind you as you like, and other people will clean up the mess.
Though the move is temporary (six months: Kyoya had grudgingly given Sawada that much—to leave Namimori for any longer would be anathema), the benefits are reason enough to endure the hassle.
Or so he thought.
He is re-evaluating things at the moment, ever since Tetsu had come up and quietly informed him that as a member of Sawada's Guardians, Reborn was politely requesting he greet the Guardians of the Ninth Vongola, who'd come all this way to help them with the transition.
Hibari had resisted the urge to shove a tonfa down his second-in-command's throat. It's not Tetsu's fault he's in this predicament.
Hibari does not take well to orders. Hibari does not take well to being classified as a member of a herd, no matter how much the herd had improved from its days of pathetic, clueless grazing to its current level of shocking, monstrous strength. Hibari, especially, does not take well to meeting others and making small talk.
Hibari was made for bloodshed and violence and the pure, sweet joy of broken bones and ruptured organs. He was not made for this…unpleasantness of etiquette, this tedium of conversation.
But if there's anything Hibari understands, it's the need for order, and there is an order to these things. Besides, the baby is interesting, and Sawada has potential, so for the sake of reserving his prized position as #1 on the list of people allowed to use Sawada as a punching bag, he comes.
He even dresses for the occasion, a Western-style suit tailored perfectly to his form. Dryly, he sneers at the ill-cut clothes the Sun Guardian is running around in, watches the Storm Guardian fidget in his finery, notes the way the Rain Guardian's suit is obviously borrowed from his father, and thinks no amount of tailoring will help Sawada if he doesn't straighten up his spine.
It's more than a little amusing that despite his own disdain for the clothing, he's the only one who wears it with any style.
It's not surprising, though. Five generations ago, his family had been ronin; three generations ago, they were the fore-runners to modern-day yakuza; now, his father is so deeply entrenched in the arms industry that they've developed the veneer of respectability. His mother, of course, is twice as ruthless and three times better at hiding it, and she made sure her son could fit comfortably in his skin no matter he wore. At the pointless gatherings of the amoral rich who made their fortunes off of human misery, she can present him and strike fear into the hearts of his father's business rivals, obviously a cut above the rest while still managing to blend in just enough.
The Ninth's Storm Guardian eyes the way he stands and tenses a little. Hibari instinctively shifts his stance, muscles loosening, readying himself for a fight.
The old man merely smirks and cocks a brow, leaning back into his chair, completely at ease.
"Later," Reborn says, interrupting Sawada's stuttered greetings.
"Huh?" Sawada says.
Reborn smacks him impatiently. "Hibari and Coyote can fight later," he clarifies.
Hibari grins while Sawada blanches. "What? Coyote's in his seventies, that's not even—are you crazy—wait, no, stupid question, I already knew you were. Hibari, stop smiling like that," he finally snaps, temper sharpening his voice and bringing out that authoritative quality that always makes Hibari want to challenge him to a no-holds-barred fight.
He subsides, though, at Reborn's quelling look. The hitman promised him a fight, and he's always delivered, so Hibari resigns himself to waiting.
The Storm Guardian clears his throat. "So, uh, like the Tenth was saying, we'll be leaving Japan in two weeks. There haven't been any problems with the arrangements thus far, and so long as we get a wing to ourselves on the estate, we should be fine. Most of our luggage has been shipped already, special concessions like weapons, etc., are being handled, and everything looks good on our end. So according to my calculations, we should be settled in and ready to be presented to society a month after our arrival."
"Splendid," Coyote rumbles. He nods approvingly at Gokudera. "It's good that you have all the details down, like a right-hand man should."
The Storm Guardian's chest puffs with pride, though he ducks his head to hide his grin. "Uh, thanks."
Sawada smiles at him, too, and there is something possessive and indulgent about it, similar to the way Hibari's mother tends to smile at her favorite engineers or executives. The Ninth's Guardians take note of it and approve, if their own smiles are anything to go by.
The rest of the meeting is spent in friendly, relaxed chatter that Hibari tunes out. Afterwards, he goes over to a corner only to see that it is already occupied by the Ninth's Cloud Guardian, who merely smiles at him and says, "Can't take me yet, pup."
Hibari snarls but concedes the spot. The point is to find a place to be left alone, not interact with others. Fighting is nice, but it's still interacting, and he's had enough of that for now.
He goes upstairs and climbs onto the roof, and spends a leisurely half hour napping. When he wakes up, the Ninth's Guardians are on the verge of leaving, and the members of Sawada's household have returned: his mother, I-Pin, the ranking-obsessed child, and the two females.
Hibari decides that he's already met his socialization quota, and slips back into the house, intending to leave through the backdoor without any fuss.
Instead, he runs into the Mist Guardian on the first floor—literally.
"Oof!" She exhales upon impact, hands instinctively clutching his shoulders to balance herself. "My apologies, Hibari-san," she says.
He snarls at her and moves to shove her out of the way, but surprisingly she sidesteps him, the movement quick and graceful.
"Oh," she says, blinking. She glances at his hand, then at herself, and her mouth quirks. "Those lessons with Storm Man are paying off," she says to herself. Then she looks at him. "Ah! Please don't tell him I still call him that sometimes. He gets very annoyed."
"Why would I do that?" he asks, annoyed himself. Training with the Storm Guardian improved her reflexes enough that she could dodge him? Why hadn't either of them presented themselves for a fight? If they were going to subject him to tedium and boredom while they dragged their feet making preparations for the trip to Italy (he'd been ready for days now—why no one else saw the benefits of efficiency was beyond him), the least they could do was give him a challenge while they were at it.
She shrugs. "I suppose you wouldn't." She glances at him, glances behind her in the direction he was heading towards, and says, "I wouldn't head out the backdoor, if I were you. Gokudera-san went outside to smoke, and then Haru-san followed a few minutes later, looking for a place to cry. They'll probably be fighting right now."
He glares at her. "Did I ask for your advice, herbivore?"
She wilts under his gaze a little, but doesn't look away. "No…but I was trying to be helpful."
"I don't need help," he tells her.
He uses the front door, and ignores Sawada's invitation to dinner. Why subject himself to more torture?
(He tells himself that he took her advice only because it was convenient, not because there was a light in her eye that practically dared him to disregard her words.
He doesn't dwell on the fact that in order to prove her wrong, he also proves her right. Mists are annoying that way, and someday he will deal with the problem simply by eradicating all of them from the face of the earth, but that day is not today.)
Present Time: Gokudera
At twenty, Gokudera is slightly more patient than his fourteen-year-old self—but not by much. In his opinion, patience is a vastly overrated trait anyway.
"I—I can't believe this is really happening!"
"Geez, stupid woman, would you quit your crying already?" he grumbles, staring down at the girl before him, clutching his button-down shirt like it's a lifeline.
A part of him wants to pry her fingers off of him, because hey, he's a guy, and weeping women are so not his thing. Not to mention she's probably ruining the silk with her tears. He isn't sure; it isn't like he's worn formal wear that often since he ran away from home, war meetings and epic battles notwithstanding. He pulls uncomfortably at his tie—God, the thing feels like a noose and the stupid woman gripping him really isn't helping matters. He's a right-hand man and he wants to look the part, damn it.
You're the son of a boss, my dearest. Stand up straight and look the part. A voice he's almost forgotten makes its way to the forefront of his mind, accompanied by the image of a face that wore a stern frown at odds with its laughing green eyes.
He'd instantly complied, doing his very best to follow the woman's directions. However, he couldn't help but tug at the bow-tie around his neck. The woman's mock-frown had melted away to reveal a stunning smile, and fine-boned fingers reached out to engulf his tiny hands. Stop pulling at your tie and do your mama proud, that warm, warm voice said in Italian, her beautiful face drawing close and placing a kiss on his cheek. It was a face that looked so much like her daughter's, but nothing like his (God, it's so obvious now that he thinks about it—why did she never say she wasn't his real mother, why did she let him think she was proud of him when she wasn't, why did she say I love you, darling, when she clearly couldn't, didn't, never loved him, lied, lied, lied).
When people hear his sob story, they tend to focus on the fact that he lost his beautiful mother to a tragic car crash.
They forget that while Lavina Gokudera was lovely, and kind, and he was drawn to her in ways he never understood until years later, he only saw her three days a year.
The other three hundred and sixty-two, another woman wiped his tears away, kissed his scraped knees, listened to his dreams, worried about how he and his sister couldn't get along, read him stories, and let him crawl into the bed during thunderstorms.
Another woman was his mother. And the day he found out whose son he really was, he lost her, too.
"Hahi! Haru is not crying! Haru just has something in her eye!" Haru insists, bringing him abruptly back to the present. He shakes his head—why did he start remembering her of all people? Was it the suit? The impending return to Italy? Whatever brought it on, those old memories are best left buried and forgotten, and he has bigger problems to deal with right here and now.
Like the woman who is currently blinking her eyes rapidly in a futile attempt to…to…he isn't sure what she's doing, actually, but it certainly isn't helping matters.
"Oi, here, wipe your face. I don't want you getting snot on my shirt, and you look ugly when you're blotchy." He waves his handkerchief in front of her face, wincing as she blows her nose loudly and starts berating him.
"Shut up, you insensitive man! Haru is not ugly!"
Not usually, no, he thinks. The girl could be quite pretty, though the effect is rather ruined for him the moment she opens her mouth. Out loud, he says, "Who cares? I just need you to pull yourself together before the Tenth sees you and freaks out. You know he feels bad about leaving you guys behind."
There. That got her to stop.
Haru straightens and firms her trembling lips into a hard line, the look in her eyes determined. "Tsuna-kun has nothing to feel bad about. Kyoko and I will be fine."
Just when he's on the verge of forgetting the stupid woman had steel for a spine…Gokudera feels his mouth curve into a smile of grudging acknowledgement. Yeah, the Tenth has no need to worry at all. By the time the girls joined them in Italy (and Gokudera isn't an idiot; he knows there's no way the girls were staying behind in Japan forever), they'd probably be more competent than all the Guardians put together. Scary thought.
"Get that smirk off your face! It isn't funny! Hahi! Kyoko and I will show you!" Haru yelled, misinterpreting the smile on his face. She pushed him away from her roughly and stomped into the house, where the last of the boxes were being packed up and loaded into the moving vans outside.
As she walks through the doorway, Chrome passes her on her way out. The Mist Guardian takes in her friend's expression and raises a quizzical brow at Gokudera. "Everything alright, Gokudera-san?"
"Yeah, just peachy," he replies. He leans against the wall and pulls out a cigarette, patting himself down in search of his lighter.
"Here," Chrome says, a Mist flame cupped in her hand.
"Does that even work?" he asks.
She smiles, close-lipped and mysterious. She holds out her hand, the purple flame dancing over her palm.
He lights his cigarette. What the hell. It does work. He's gotta try that with his own one of these days. "Thanks," he mutters.
"Glad to be of help," she replies, and isn't that the truest thing she's ever said? Sometimes he thinks she's even more eager to please than he is, and that's saying something (yeah, he's perfectly aware that he can get a little…zealous when it comes to serving the Tenth, but for a boss like Tsuna? It's worth it).
"How about you?" he asks, wanting to make sure she isn't running herself ragged in all the hustle and bustle. "How are you holding up?"
"Just fine," she replies. She leans against the wall beside him, sighs quietly and folds in on herself a slightly. "Kyoko-san was a little sad yesterday," she admits in a soft, low voice, almost like she's imparting secrets of grave importance, and in a way, she is. "She's feeling better now, but I thought Haru-san might be…" She pauses, searching for the right word. "…torn up about us leaving, too." She glances up at him, silently asking him to share his information as well.
"How should I know what that crazy woman's feeling?" he says, shifting, uncomfortable with the topic.
She shrugs. "You're the right-hand man. You make it your job to look after your Family," she says as if it's the most obvious thing in the world.
At her words, Gokudera feels some of the tension and uncertainty that's been plaguing him melt away. He gives her a wry look, certain that the Mist's tendency to manipulate is playing a role here, but her expression's as patient and innocent as ever. "Yeah, well, Miura's not exactly the type who needs looking after," he eventually settles on saying. "She can take care of herself. You'll see."
Chrome nods, apparently reassured, and they lapse into a comfortable silence.
Until Lambo runs screaming out of the house, that is.
"AAAAAAAHHHHHHH!" he wails.
"God damn it," Gokudera mutters under his breath, snuffing his cigarette beneath his heel. "What is it now?!" he yells at the wayward Thunder Guardian, who is barely more mature at age eleven than he was at age five. In fact, Gokudera thinks he might have regressed.
"I-Pin says I can't bring weapons to the airport!" the preteen sniffles, trying to hold back his tears. He's clutching the Ten-Year Bazooka to himself like it's a lifeline, or a beloved teddy bear, both of which could be accurately used to describe its purpose to Lambo. Not for the first time, Gokudera wonders what the hell the Bovinos were thinking, sending their heir off with the only working time-traveling device they have. But then, considering the fact that they were responsible for bringing Lambo into the world, maybe it's not so surprising.
"You idiot!" he shouts. "Of course you can't bring weapons into the airport! For God's sake, how the hell were you planning to get it past security!"
"I-Pin could use her voodoo magic!" Lambo yells.
"I-Pin doesn't have voodoo magic." Gokudera runs a hand through his hair. When did answering questions like this turn into his life? He always thought being a right-hand man would be more glamorous. As the wailing crybaby and quietly amused Mist Guardian demonstrate, it isn't. At all.
"Lambo-kun, wouldn't it be better if you let the Bazooka get sent to Italy with the rest of the delicate luggage?" Chrome asks gently.
"No! The Ten-Year Bazooka is my responsibility!" he says, clinging tighter to the thing, shaggy hair falling into his eyes. The Bazooka is still easily a third of his size—Lambo hasn't hit his growth spurt yet, much to his lamentation, especially as I-Pin's an early bloomer and already has a good three inches on him, despite being the same age.
"Responsibility, my ass!" Gokudera says. "Do you remember how many times you randomly shot yourself with that thing?! Your fifteen-year-old self probably spent more time in the past than he did in his own time period!"
"Did—oh, you annoying little fucker. Hand that thing over before you cause yet another existential crisis." Gokudera strides forward, fully intent on ripping the weapon away using bodily force. He pulls out a couple sticks of dynamite to underline the threat.
"No!" Lambo cries out. "This bazooka is special!"
"We know that already!"
"No, I mean it's really special! It's an experimental prototype!"
"You liar! It has the same damn stickers on it that it always has!"
"They're the same!"
"They're—why am I the one arguing with you?! Where the hell is that crazy woman when you need her? She needs to talk some sense into you; I don't speak fluent lunatic." Gokudera scans the area for Haru, but she's nowhere in sight. Damn it. He turns back to the rebellious kid, who is eyeing the unlit dynamite sticks in his hand with growing indignation.
"Hey!" Lambo cries out, pointing at them. "Why do you get to bring your dynamite on the plane? They're explosives! That's worse than a bazooka!"
"Not that bazooka. And besides, the bombs are to protect the Tenth. I've got a special dispensation for them," Gokudera replies.
"Liar! You just bribed the airport officials to turn a blind eye! You damn mobster!" Lambo spites out.
Gokudera closes his eyes and counts to ten. The Tenth really needs a Thunder Guardian. The Tenth really needs a Thunder Guardian. The Tenth really needs a Thunder Guardian, he tells himself. "We're in the mafia, you dumb little twerp," he grinds out through clenched teeth. "Being mobsters—is—our—job."
Lambo just gapes at him, as if this is the very first time this has occurred to him. "But we're Vongola! We're different!"
"Yeah, so believe me when I say that I didn't bribe anybody recently!"
"Aha!" Lambo points an accusing finger at him. "But you've bribed people before!"
Gokudera throws his hands up. "That's not relevant to the conversation! The point is, you're not taking that bazooka on the plane, and that's final!"
"No! You're not the boss of me!"
"Yes, I am, you moronic nitwit!"
"Are not! Tsuna-nii is the boss of me!"
"And I speak for Tsu—the Tenth! So give me that bazooka before I decide to stick dynamite up your ass and pry it from the tattered pieces of your corpse!" He grabs hold of the weapon and tugs, but Lambo has a surprisingly strong grip and refuses to let go.
Chrome stepped forward to try and separate them. "Eh, Gokudera-san…Lambo-kun…maybe it would be better if—"
"Give it over!"
"No! Never! No! No—oh!"
In the midst of the struggle, Lambo inadvertently pulls the trigger, and a dreadfully familiar-looking, pathetic missile shoots out and—
—hits Chrome right in the chest.
"Oh, dear," is all she has time to say before a cloud of smoke envelopes her.
When it clears, Gokudera finds himself looking into the shocked gaze of a stunningly beautiful woman. She's dressed in a black kimono that matches her midnight-colored hair and contrasts with her pale skin. Her face is terribly, horribly familiar, and the single violet eye peering at him is proof enough of her identity, despite the fact that it belongs to a woman a decade older.
She blinks at him, brows furrowing in consternation. "S-storm man?"
Oh, fuck no.
"You," he says to Lambo, "are grounded for life."
Lambo takes one look at the ten-years-older Chrome before promptly going white as a sheet and fainting.
Gokudera feels his eye twitch. Oh, yeah. Patience was so overrated.
Endnote: And that's the end of the chapter! We're sorry for the wait, but we hope you enjoyed it anyway. Next chapter, things really get moving, plot-wise. Well, sort of. We finally get an idea of what the story's about, anyway. ;)
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