Title: A Year in the Life: Fuuta
Characters: Fuuta, Reborn, Bianchi, Gokudera, Yamamoto, Tsunako
Summary: In which Tsunako gives Fuuta a delightful new research project.
Notes: Continuing the re-imagining of the Daily Life arc from Fuuta's point of view. Mafia politics, strategic regurgitation, and genderswap. Part of Choice: The Betrothal Arc. General audiences. 4403 words.
A Year in the Life
In the end, the Family left it to him to decide whether he would go or leave the task to another, and Fuuta chose to go himself. After all, he reasoned, was he not Japanese on his father's side? And was he not of an age to seem unthreatening and therefore harmless? He was a good choice for the job, and it was not as if a de la Stella could ever be truly alone, no matter where he went in the world. So long as he was able to reach out to the libro delle stelle, the book of the stars that bound them all to one another, a de la Stella could do very nearly anything.
Even so, it occurred to Fuuta that perhaps those members of the Family who'd had reservations about his decision—his mother and grandmother not least among them—might have had a point after all. Not that admitting as much was going to do him much good in his present circumstances, but at least it would give his mother and grandmother a moment of vindication later on, once he had a chance to share it with the Family.
The three men in front of him were from the Cocchi, ranked 749th among the mafia Families in terms of strength, 652nd in terms of political influence, and first among the Families in debt to the de la Stella. That last was probably why they were here now, trying to corner him and doing a distressingly competent job of it. There was no time to reach out to the book and do a proper ranking of it, but even so, Fuuta gauged their apparent strength and found it certainly enough to hold him if they caught him. Worse, at least one of them was agile enough to compete with one small boy, no matter how determined that boy might be.
It was probably just as well that Fuuta was ranked twentieth among the children of the mafia in terms of speed, and sixteenth among them in skill at escaping.
"Whatever it is you want, I'm not going to give it to you," he said, edging himself backward one more careful step. "You have to realize that." That was the rule of the de la Stella, the one unbreakable law: one did not allow oneself to be manipulated by the other Families, and one did not betray the secrets of the book, no matter what the cost.
"Don't worry, it's not you who'll be giving us what we want." That was the man on the left, the one with the thickest neck of the three and probably the leader, though not on account of his intelligence. "When your Family realizes we've got you—" He stopped there and smiled unpleasantly, showing off a gap where one of his incisors should have been, and left it to Fuuta to fill in the rest.
That was the Cocchi all over, ranked dead last in terms of intelligence—it was no wonder they kept turning to the de la Stella to supplement that lack, and too bad they didn't understand how to actually make use of the knowledge they purchased. It was almost enough to make Fuuta feel sorry for them. Almost.
The man on the left shifted, readying himself for the grab. Fuuta tensed himself to run, keeping a wary eye on the the one in the middle, apparently the smartest and, unfortunately, most agile of the three.
"I mean it." Fuuta was rather pleased with how calm he sounded. "I'm not going to give you what you want." Not that he thought they would understand that, not unless it all went horribly wrong for him.
"We'll just have to see about that, won't we?" the ringleader said as the one on the right lunged. Fuuta had been waiting for that and threw himself to the side, feinting out of the broad, meaty spread of that one's hands and ducking under the grab the leader made for him. He broke for the gap between that one and the one in the middle, the one who had watched and waited, and found that the man was even faster than he'd suspected and the Family rankings held him to be.
Fuuta twisted under the tight grip of the man's hand on his arm, wondering whether he would have a chance to correct that oversight in the book's rankings, and aimed a kick at the man's knee. It was supposed to be one of the ideal places to hit an assailant, but either he didn't have enough purchase or the man had a higher pain tolerance than most (what were the rankings on that?) because he did not flinch.
Fuuta was just beginning to worry in earnest when the equation shifted radically.
"Hey! What do you think you're doing?" The voice was young—female, Fuuta thought—and scared underneath the layer of outrage that had it ringing off the walls of this alley, scared like someone who was acutely aware that the situation was dangerous but had decided to get involved anyway.
It was a girl, in fact, which Fuuta saw when his captor twisted to see who was addressing them. She was short, not all that much taller than Fuuta himself, and looked old enough to be in middle school. She had a bag slung over her shoulder and she stood with her feet planted in a solid stance. "You let him go!"
"Go away, little girl," the leader of the Cocchi's pack of thugs said. "This doesn't concern you."
But oh, it did, Fuuta could have told him, if he had cared to, because the girl wasn't alone. There was a tall boy to her right, dark-haired and not listed anywhere in the libro delle stelle, but there was also a scowling boy with a silver hair at her left hand. He was the Smoking Bomb, ranked ninety-third among the independent hitman and thirteenth among the explosives experts, currently employed by the Vongola. And that meant that the girl was Sawada Tsunako, the very person Fuuta had placed himself in this spot in order to meet. It looked like he was going to be able to see to that task more quickly and in more immediate circumstances than he'd expected.
As Fuuta observed, very nearly wholly diverted from his current situation, the Vongola heir lifted her chin. "I don't care. You can't go around hassling little kids and think that's okay. Let him go."
Interesting, Fuuta thought, that she was going to treat this like a simple case of—bullying, abduction, something like that, rather than as a case of mafia politics in action. Discreet of her, really.
"Run along now, kid, before we have to do something you'll regret," the leader, apparently the chivalrous sort, said. "This doesn't concern you." He nodded to the man who held Fuuta. "Bring him."
Fuuta twisted against the grip on his arm, struggling against it a shade less vigorously than he might have done if he weren't so interested in seeing what Sawada Tsunako would do next. Would she continue to involve herself in this business, or be warned off, or—
"She said to let him go, assholes." The Smoking Bomb stepped forward, fanning a handful of the bombs he was said to favor between his fingers. "Think that means you ought to let him go."
"Yeah, I mean, she has a point." That was the other boy, the one Fuuta didn't have any data for. He stepped forward too, slinging the bag off his shoulder and producing a baseball bat from it. He rested it against his shoulder, smiling all the while. "You go around grabbing little kids off the street and you're going to end up with a nasty reputation, you know?"
That made the leader growl, even as Fuuta watched the boys, taking note of how they were clearly willing to act on implicit orders from the Vongola heir—it made sense, she didn't look particularly strong in her own right, and the Cocchi did know how to choose their foot soldiers for strength, if not smarts. "Fine," the leader said. "But don't say I didn't warn you." He jerked his head. "Come on, Carlo."
The Smoking Bomb went one way and his cohort went the other, still wearing that cheerful smile. Fuuta elected to watch the latter since they already had data for the Smoking Bomb, but nothing for this one. He seemed to be unconcerned that Carlo stood a full head taller than him and probably outweighed him by twenty kilos, and held his bat in a casual grip. For his part, Carlo (6,231st in strength, 52,333rd in agility, 73,694th in speed) didn't seem to be taking him seriously. He folded his fingers into fists as he lumbered forward and swore a startled if unimaginative oath as the boy evaded his first punch and sent the bat whistling through the air. It sang, actually, not like a bat at all—Fuuta blinked, since metamorphosing weapons were rare and expensive enough that one did not see them in the hands of amateurs.
The boy was clearly an amateur, though a gifted one. He was strong, if not as strong as Carlo, but faster and more agile, enough so that the clear openings in his stance were recuperated by how quickly he recovered, not to mention Carlo's own lack of intelligence and the way his temper mounted with each punch the boy eluded, and when the boy landed a stinging blow.
Something exploded—the Smoking Bomb at work—and the man holding Fuuta muttered something under his breath. The explosion didn't bother the unknown boy, though Carlo whipped his head around to look. It was a costly mistake on his part; the boy was good enough to press the opening, bringing his sword around to knock against the backs of Carlo's knees. That was when the man holding Fuuta swore again and scooped him up. Fuuta protested as the man slung him over a shoulder and took off running, more annoyed that he was missing the rest of the fight than with the fact that he was being abducted at first. He hammered a fist against the man's back. "Put me down!"
His captor didn't bother answering. He just ran, his every stride jouncing Fuuta against his shoulder. The upside-down view of the world around them and the blood rushing to his head began to make him feel alarmingly nauseated. Maybe that was something that could be useful, he thought dizzily. The man would surely stop to do something if he were vomited on, and that would be a good chance to escape.
Before he could deploy any sort of tactical regurgitation, his captor skidded to a stop. "You've got to be kidding," he rumbled while Fuuta fought against the way the world was spinning and his captor's back blocked his ability to see what was going on.
"Let him go." Sawada Tsunako again, her voice not quite steady.
"You gonna make me? All by yourself?" His captor scoffed. "Don't be stupid."
"If I have to," she said, sounding young and scared and very determined for all that.
Fuuta tried to focus on what that might mean about this Vongola heir, though his dizziness and nausea didn't make that as easy as it might have been. Before he could make anything of it, his captor sighed. "If you're gonna make it like that…" The world spun again as he slung Fuuta down from his shoulder, then exploded in pain as he slammed a fist against Fuuta's face. "You stay put," he commanded as Fuuta reeled and staggered, stars exploding across his vision and Sawada's indignant shout echoing in his ears. There was a wall—he bounced off it—there was the ground beneath his hands, and there was his gorge in his throat as he threw up, jaw aching and his pulse pounding in his ears as he heaved.
None of that was important. Fuuta forced himself to raise his eyes from the ground and focused them on the curiously doubled figures of Sawada and his captor. They were circling each other in this little culvert. His rankings—Fuuta groped for the man's rankings, but they hung tantalizingly out of reach now—they had to be better than this girl's, this girl who was thirteen years old and slightly built, pale-faced with her fright (or was that anger? He couldn't tell). She was outmatched in every way, but she was still going to try—
The man lunged for her, faster than a man his size ought to have been, and she yelped when he seized her—no, she called out for something, someone—"Reborn!"
At first Fuuta thought that it must have been a ploy, however clever, because of course the Vongola heir would have another bodyguard, of course she wouldn't need to fight directly, and he felt a distant sort of pity to know that the Cocchi man would be meeting his fate at the hands of the strongest of the Arcobaleno—what could the de la Stella learn from that? The man didn't even seem to realize how doomed he was, preoccupied as he was with the girl struggling in his hands.
The cracking sound of the gunshot wasn't unexpected, but its effects were. As Fuuta bit down on his nausea and blurred vision, he saw the girl go limp. For a fraction of a second, he wondered whether Reborn had somehow missed his shot (surely an impossibility from one of the top-ranked shots in the mafia). Then Sawada caught fire and Fuuta forgot about the sick churning in his gut and the ache of his head as he watched the ensuing action. It was one of the special bullets, it had to have been, and Sawada tore into the man without restraint. She battered at his face and got a good jab of her elbow against his throat. When he choked and gurgled, she managed to sink a knee into his gut.
He staggered backwards and she pushed her advantage, hammering at him with her fists until he went down, all his strength and agility from before muddled by his apparent disorientation—Fuuta supposed it was understandable, since Sawada had looked very, very ordinary before she'd manifested the Sky Flame and a complete absence of any sense of proportion.
Perhaps that was why it was over so quickly. The man groaned feebly where he was sprawled across the pavement and Sawada stood over him, her thin shoulders heaving and her eyes wild, before the Flame on her brow and in her hands whispered away. It was like the close of a spell; Fuuta's nausea returned in full force, along with her awareness that her clothes had—
Some of the special bullets had very strange effects, he thought, retching again.
A hand settled on his shoulder, very light. "Are you all right?"
Fuuta took stock of himself and decided that he would probably survive. He raised his eyes and saw that it was Sawada crouched next to him, her clothes restored to an untidy facsimile of their previous order. She was peering at him, anxious. "I think so," he said, much more interested in her than his aching head or rebellious stomach.
"Your head," she said, looking angry. She touched the side of his face, her fingers light, but even that hurt. She must have seen that, because she immediately apologized. "Sorry! You need to see a doctor—can we call your parents? Where are they? Somewhere nearby?"
Where were his parents? Fuuta blinked at Sawada, disoriented by the question. "They're not here," he said, to see how she would take that.
"Of course they're not," she sighed. "They'll just have to meet us at the hospital, I guess." She smiled at him. "My name's Tsunako. What's yours?"
"Fuuta," he said, more confused now. "Fuuta de la Stella," he added, just to see if that changed anything.
Her expression didn't even flicker. "Fuuta-kun," she said. "It's nice to meet you. Do you think you can stand up?"
Probably he could—his head still ached, but the dizziness and the wavering feeling in his stomach were ebbing away now that he'd had the chance to be still for a few minutes. "Why did you help me?" he asked instead.
Sawada looked distinctly embarrassed. "Oh, uh. You looked like you needed it," she said, cheeks glowing pink. "Those guys…" Something dark moved in her eyes. "I didn't think they could be up to anything good, bothering a little kid like that."
That didn't make any sense, even though Fuuta was sure that she was telling him the truth as she saw it. "You don't know who I am?"
It was her turn to blink. "Should I?"
Fuuta was still trying to make some kind of sense of that when Sawada's two bodyguards came pounding around the corner, the one grinning and the other full of apologies and recriminations that Sawada had gone chasing after Fuuta and his captor without them. Fuuta's confusion over Sawada's baffling behavior was swallowed up in the flurry of conversation—"You can't go running off like that!" and "But I had to, he had Fuuta-kun, and I couldn't let him get away" and "Hahah, looks like you really did a number on this guy, huh?"
Fuuta's silence went unnoticed in that welter of conversation, even as she was chivvying them along. To the hospital, Fuuta guessed, listening and watching as the boys reported the outcomes of their own fights. The boy was Yamamoto, which niggled at something in the back of Fuuta's mind, something to check later, once he'd had a chance to consult the book. Both Yamamoto and the Smoking Bomb had beaten their opponents, which was less surprising where the Smoking Bomb was concerned than it was with Yamamoto. But Sawada didn't seem at all surprised by their reports.
"Anyway," the Smoking Bomb said, finally, all business-like, "what I want to know is who those guys were and what they wanted with the kid." He was studying Fuuta, his eyes narrow and suspicious, and hadn't looked at all happy about the way Sawada was having him walk right next to her, his hand tucked in hers.
"They were from the Cocchi," Fuuta said. "I think they were going to try to hold me for ransom."
The Smoking Bomb looked even more suspicious at that, but it was Sawada's reaction that was interesting. Her face went pale and her hand wrapped around his turned cold.
Yamamoto made an interested sound. "Why would they do that?"
"He's a de la Stella." This was a new voice—new to Fuuta, anyway, though the three of them didn't seem at all surprised by the interruption. Fuuta got his first look at Reborn when the Arcobaleno dropped down from a wall above them and took up residence on Yamamoto's shoulder. "That's why."
The Smoking Bomb choked and Yamamoto looked confused, but it was Tsunako who looked down at Fuuta, her eyes wide, and said, sounding surprised, "Are you from the mafia, too?"
Near-abduction and possible concussion notwithstanding, Fuuta decided that he was glad to have taken this assignment. He smiled up at her. "I guess I am," he said, feeling very cheerful indeed, because it had been a long, long time since anyone had written anything new in the libre delle stelle—but he could see that this was about to change.
No nine-year-old should be as composed as Fuuta, Bianchi thought, and did her best not to let on how disconcerting the boy was. Even with a purple bruise discoloring one cheek and two hitman sitting across the table from him, he looked absolutely calm. He wrapped his hands around his glass of water and looked at them with polite interest. "So?"
Reborn remained silent—grimly so, though the difference between this and his other silences was a fine-grained one—which left it to Bianchi to ask, "Why are you here?"
Blunt and inelegant, she knew, but sometimes it was better to take the brute force approach.
Fuuta turned his gaze on her, weighing something against what she had said, and smiled. "We need to rank the new Vongola heir." He shrugged, a peculiarly adult gesture for such a young boy to make. "It's what we do."
"Part of what you do," Bianchi said, which was true enough. The de la Stella dealt in information bought, sold, traded, and bartered, and did very well by it.
The way Fuuta's lips quirked hinted at laughter. "A Family must live, Poison Scorpion."
"Yes. A Family must live." Reborn spoke nearly without inflection and stared at Fuuta with unblinking concentration. "The Vongola must live. What will your terms be?"
Either Fuuta was too young to play games at the negotiating table, or he was quick enough to see that games would not endear him to the Vongola just then. His gaze went unfocused for a moment, then cleared again. "The Vongola already knows the price of our silence." He stopped there, looking as though he might say more, and so Reborn said nothing to that. Fuuta looked down, frowning at his glass of water and tapping his fingernail against the side of it a precise three times before looking up again. "Did she really have no idea who I was?"
"She wouldn't have recognized you on sight," Bianchi told him. "And I haven't tried to explain the de la Stella to her yet. I assume she saw someone apparently in need of assistance and offered it."
Fuuta gazed at her, probably sifting her words for the truth, and didn't say anything to that, not right away. There was no sense in pushing, not with one of the de la Stella, who were undeniably strange even in a world filled with strange things. Fuuta thought and they waited, until his eyes cleared and focused on the present moment. "I wonder," he said, almost casual about it. "Do the Vongola realize how closely she resembles Vongola Primo?"
"That resemblance has been noted," Reborn said, perfectly even, while Bianchi worked to school her expression.
Fuuta smiled then, open as a child—as the child he ought to have been. "I thought so." He uncurled his hands from his glass and spread them against the table. "We did not come across Giotto Vongola until he was grown, until after he'd already flowered into his full strength. We have always considered that a great pity."
Reborn didn't say anything. Bianchi followed his lead, conscious that she'd become no more than a witness for the bargain being made between the Vongola and the de la Stella. At last Fuuta spoke again. "Any ranking I make now will be incomplete," he said. "I know it will be. We will have to come back, again and again, simply to keep up."
Reborn didn't react at all, but somehow his attitude shifted to one of silent, chilly anger. "Your presence here has already brought the Cocchi to the area."
Fuuta nodded. "Yes, I know. Comings and goings would only increase the notice the other Families take. I propose that I stay instead, so that I may monitor her rankings as she grows into her potential."
Reborn gave Fuuta a hard look. "I'm sure the de la Stella would find that advantageous. Why should the Vongola agree?"
"An exchange," Fuuta offered, quiet. "Omertà, until she reaches her potential. Or until she rejoins the world, whichever comes first."
Bianchi hissed without quite meaning to, between her teeth, at that offer of absolute secrecy. "Until she rejoins the world," Reborn countered. "No sooner than that, the Vongola insists. And we will renegotiate the Vongola's secrets then."
Fuuta's gaze went unfocused again. His lips moved faintly as he calculated. Then he nodded. "The de la Stella finds this acceptable."
Reborn's nod was clipped. "Done," he said. "You will be Tsunako's cousin several times removed, come to live with her family for a while." He paused. "The Cocchi's people have been dealt with. See that there are no more of them."
"We will see to it," Fuuta said, which Bianchi sincerely hoped he would. Dealing with three unexpected bodies had thoroughly derailed her plans for the evening. Fuuta smiled at them both, clearly pleased by the bargain they'd struck. "Thank you. The de la Stella are looking forward to this opportunity." He rose and dipped a little bow to them and went out, calling for Tsunako-neesan and Nana-baasan.
Bianchi exhaled and looked at Reborn, who was very close to frowning outright. "Because things weren't already complicated enough, right?"
He didn't answer right away. When he did, all he said was, "She'll have to start dealing with the other Families at some point. The de la Stella aren't the starting point I'd meant to use, but I suppose they'll do." He clicked his tongue against his teeth and clearly dismissed his original plans. One had to be prepared to improvise, or so he always said, and at least Reborn followed his own rules. "You had no problems with the disposal?"
"None," Bianchi said, not that she would have admitted otherwise. "They're on a slow boat south. When they're found, it'll look like one of the syndicates took exception to their presence." Which reminded her. "You owe me some walking-around money. Rush jobs are expensive."
He sniffed. "There's no reason for them to be."
"I beg to differ," Bianchi said, holding out her hand. "Cough up, Reborn."
"You know," he mused as he drew his wallet form his pocket and began extracting bills from it, "I had thought that the days of being nagged for money were behind me. I do wish I'd been mistaken."
"Keep talking like that and I'm going to add the asshole surcharge," Bianchi told him. He snorted, a glint of amusement lurking in the crinkle of his eyes, and laid down one more bill before pushing the stack her way. "Lovely." She pocketed the money and glanced at the time. "Lesson time," she said, rising.
"Indeed." Reborn got up as well. "I think I must make some phone calls."
Bianchi nodded her comprehension and went upstairs to find Tsunako to brief her on the de la Stella, glad that she wasn't the one who was going to have to explain things to the Ninth.
...and that's how Fuuta came to join Tsunako's entourage!
As always, comments are lovely!