Chapter re-written as of April 13th, 2016
There were a lot of things Mukuro Rokudo was expecting as he traversed through a small town during his trip to France, but finding a tiny kid looking as if he was homeless was not one of them. Teal hair hung down into the kid's dirty face and framed pale cheeks, and the clothing they wore was tattered and falling apart. Mukuro couldn't understand how someone could allow their child to get to that kind of state because the mud and filth that was clinging to the child wasn't just from a day's play; it had accumulated well over time and should have been taken care of long ago.
For once, the blue-haired teen was glad he wasn't accompanied by the two annoying idiots who insisted on following him everywhere; he was curious about the kid's state of living and he was sure the others would make things unnecessarily difficult. He remained where he was standing and watched as the kid stumbled and fell, and a pang of annoyance ripped through him when people ignored the boy and passed by him like he were nothing but a roaming mutt; it was something he himself could understand, being neglected like that.
It was enough for Mukuro to put one foot in front of the other and make his way over to the fallen child, aware of the looks of disgust and horror the people surrounding them made, but he didn't care about that; he wasn't one to acknowledge such pettiness – not when they were the ones who were disgusting, after all.
Mukuro could see emerald eyes were looking up at him as he knelt beside the kid, and he wasn't oblivious to the distrust in them; it was an emotion he was only too familiar with. He reached out slowly to the younger, but all it earned him was a flinch from the child, as if the other expected to be hit. Mukuro's gut feeling told him that probably was the case.
"Are you alright, little one?" Mukuro made sure to use his calmest tone; it wouldn't do to scare the boy away. "Are you hurt?"
The kid blinked before he nodded and pointed to their knee. He didn't speak, and Mukuro was pretty sure he knew why; if this kid had been through what he had...
Mukuro glanced down at the leg that was half-hidden beneath the tiny body. He could see the scrape on the other's leg that was steadily bleeding, but even so, he could still see bruising and older injuries all over the small limb; someone wasn't looking after the kid, and he wanted to know why.
The teenager didn't hesitate to grab the kid and help him back to his feet. He allowed the smaller boy to rest against him as he smiled down and asked, "Do you have a home?"
The boy pointed behind Mukuro, but still he said nothing; only stared at the taller male with wide, mistrusting eyes.
Mukuro picked the kid up as he turned around to try and find the other's home. "Who do you live with? Your parents?"
The voice that answered Mukuro was tiny, as if the other wasn't used to talking – and if that was the case, the teen could relate completely. "...My grandmother..."
"You don't live with your parents?"
"..." This time, the response was whispered. "...They didn't want me..."
Mukuro nodded again. He himself had no parents, either, but not for the same reasons. Part of him wondered if the younger cared, or wished he did have parents, but he knew not to think too much about it or else he would only stress himself out. "Little one, do you have a name?"
"Fran. Okay. Are we almost at your grandmother's house?"
The boy – Fran – kept his face hidden against Mukuro's chest as they walked; he could feel the accusing glares directed at him by the other townsfolk, just like every other time he went into town. He didn't know what he had done to make everyone hate him, but he must have done something; there was no other explanation for their treatment towards him.
When Fran finally lifted his head an undeterminable amount of time later after muttering out directions to his home, he found that they were only seconds away from turning into the gate of the front yard. He shuddered, really not wanting to have to go back into that house; his grandmother was nice and all, but… lately, it was like she didn't even remember he existed.
In an effort to distract himself from what was bothering him, Fran looked up at Mukuro and asked, "What's your name…?"
"I don't wanna go home, pineapple…" Fran sighed. He ignored the growl of annoyance the other made and continued on. "My grandma… I don't think… she knows I'm there anymore…"
"Hmm?" The teen cocked his head to the side. "What do you mean?"
"…I… I don't know… I just… She doesn't come into my room anymore, and if I go and find her myself, she always seems… surprised… I don't think… she even remembers my name anymore… She doesn't even… pay attention to me now…"
Mukuro didn't like what he was hearing, but he had his suspicions; could it be that the boy's grandmother was becoming too senile to care for her grandson? It sounded that way to him, and he knew he couldn't leave the other like that – he wasn't one to like kids all that much, but he also wasn't completely heartless, either.
"Would you be happier away from your grandmother with someone who would make you feel valued?"
Fran hummed as he contemplated the question. When he nodded, he seemed almost emotionless; was he really that miserable in his home? "Ne, pineapple, I wanna live with you instead; you're the only one who's been nice to me apart from Grandma."
Mukuro blinked in surprise, having not expected for such a question. He bit his lip for a brief second, not entirely sure of how to reply; part of him wanted to say yes to the kid and bring him back where Fran would be happy and safe, but the other part of him – the logical side of him - screamed no; how was he supposed to take care of a kid when he was fifteen?
But of course, Mukuro had never been very good at listening to his rational side and said, "Okay, little one. If your grandmother will let you."
With that said, the teen knocked at the front door and waited for a response. He was greeted by a short, elderly woman who looked as if she would be on her deathbed any month now; he only had to look at her to realise that she really was too senile to be taking care of Fran – and stuff it; if she couldn't remember her own grandson, Mukuro was just going to take him anyway.
"Hello, there! Would you like some cookies? I've just finished baking them."
The woman seemed nice enough, but if she couldn't even recognise her grandchild in the arms of a stranger… Well, Mukuro couldn't help but be a little curt in his response. "No, thank you; we are just here so that Fran can gather what he wants. Go on, little one; go pack a bag because you are coming with me."
Fran didn't need to be told twice; he slipped into the house when he was put back onto his feet and went straight to his room to gather clothing and a few of his toys. He wasn't disturbed in his packing as he could still hear his grandmother in the entrance hallway talking to Mukuro, and he let out a breath of relief; he did love the woman, but he had dreamt for so long of running away, and now that he finally could, he didn't want a goodbye; it was already hard enough for him as it was.
When the boy returned back to the front entrance hall with a small backpack full of belongings, he didn't look at his grandmother; he walked outside to stand by Mukuro and waited for them to leave. He said nothing when he was offered some of the cookies the woman kept talking about; he knew that if he replied back, it would only make things harder than they already were – he had to be strong and ignore her as best he could, because he knew it was better for him to leave.
Mukuro put his hand on Fran'is shoulder. "Thank you for your tempting offer of cookies, but I'm afraid it would be better for us to leave. Come along, Fran."
The boy lowered his head and pretended it didn't hurt to hear his grandmother farewell him for what he knew would be the last time; he could never go back to her – not ever.
But at least now some of the pressure Fran had been feeling for so long was lifted; maybe now that he was leaving that house that upset him so much, he could finally remember how to smile; something he hadn't done in years.