Posted: October 2nd, 2011
Updated: October 2nd, 2011
Chapter Words: 6460
Rating: T (Language, violence, death, dark themes)
Full Summary:It was a crash at an intersection. A mother and her last wish. But when all forces are doing their best to keep this wish unheard, unacted upon, and unfulfilled, what is Watanuki Kimihiro supposed to do with young child, Sawada Tsunayoshi? What brings Watanuki into the world of Mafia and Tsuna into a world of spirits, is never guzen...never coincidence. It can only be hitsuzen.
Warnings: Takes place before Katekyo Hitman Reborn and after Watanuki deals with the whole spider and eye mess, but before Himawari's episode. This story does not require a lot of knowledge of KHR I don't think, but you'll probably be confused if you haven't seen xxxHoLiC because it's going to be in Watanuki's POV. Might be a little OOC but I'll try not to. Will be AU later I think. I'm slow at updating.
Disclaimer: If I owned Katekyo Hitman Reborn or xxxHolic, you could guarantee that they'd be on infinite hiatus with my track record xD. Don't own.
3. Tomorrow's Dream
They were seated at the edge of the platform, bare feet just lightly brushing the dew-spotted grass. The skies were dark, yet clear; it was a nice change from the earlier downpour. Lit by the moon, a smile ghosted across Kimihiro's face before he looked back down at his companion. When he first 'awoke' to this scene, he thought Doumeki had snuck in again, but Kimihiro was getting better at differentiating the two at this point.
"Good evening, Haruka-san. I suppose…" Kimihiro gave a glance at his surroundings, recognizing it to be his workplace. "…this is a dream?"
The man replied with a serene smile, idly lifting a cigarette to his mouth. "If that is what you make it to be, Watanuki-kun." The teenager smiled ruefully. Unbidden, Kimihiro's eyes drifted towards the moon. Distantly, he admired the view.
For a while, they sat in silence before Kimihiro began to speak. "Haruka-san… Do you… Are you aware of what happened earlier…today?"
The man raised an eyebrow and turned his head towards Kimihiro. "There are many events that happen in a day. It is not easy to separate them out into what's significant and what's not." Here, a hint of amusement colored Haruka's voice. "However, there was an indeed something today that seemed to strike Shizuka into a worried frenzy." Kimihiro winced, now recognizing the knowing look in Haruka's eyes amidst the sea of amusement.
"Aa… You mean," Kimihiro's hand rose and rested on his right eye. "…I was in a pretty emotional situation there. I didn't mean to worry Doumeki." A cloud descended on Kimihiro's head. "…oh man, and now he's going to bother me again and stick his nose into all my business, that jerk…" he mumbled, ignoring Haruka's light chuckles at his words.
"Shizuka is not a person to worry easily. He made a call to Yuuko-san. Although, hearing that you were both out did not exactly alleviate his worries." He leveled Kimihiro with a kind stare. "Do you, perhaps, feel like telling me about your circumstance? Something seems to be bothering you."
Kimihiro sucked in his breath, but he knew he would agree. Haruka had proved to be a wealth of wisdom, and often solved any conflict Kimihiro had in his mind. "Well… I had been down in Namimori…"
He went through the story slowly, but concisely. He paused at the part where he entered the bus, unsure as to whether or not he had been foolish upon hindsight. He felt uncomfortable at describing the victims, but he was also aware that they needed to be mentioned. Finally, he finished with the query Yuuko had presented him with and was left silent.
A breeze swept by, rustling the dry leaves on the ground; the sound was made all the clearer amidst the quiet. Then Haruka spoke. "And now you are conflicted as to whether you should take in the boy or not." It was a statement, not a question, so Kimihiro simply nodded. Haruka calmly took a breath of his cigarette before continuing. "If you are conflicted…then you must know the pros and cons of either choice, do you not?"
Kimihiro looked almost puzzled, but then he nodded slowly. "If I take Tsunayoshi-kun in… I don't know if I can provide sufficient care," before he could continue, Haruka smoothly cut in.
"Then why do you not leave him to the ambulance or the police who can give him to a family that will provide such care?"
Kimihiro thought it would be difficult to find an answer, but it immediately popped up in his mind. "Because… I made a promise, and I…" Haruka would not fill the silence with an assumption; instead his eyes looked kindly upon Kimihiro, waiting for his answer. Kimihiro knew the answer, but now that it had become apparent to him, he was hesitant to voice it. "…and I… I don't…. I don't feel like I should leave Tsunayoshi-kun with somebody else.
"I… I usually trust these sorts of feelings, especially after disasters like these happen, but…" A strange look covered Kimihiro's face. "The emergency ambulance being delayed…the suspicious gang in the alleys…there's more to this than what's seen at first glance, and I get the feeling I'm getting into something I should end up regretting." His eyes dropped to his clutched together hands, a hint of sadness in his eyes.
Haruka smiled and turned towards Kimihiro. "But will you regret it? You understand that it may end up being dangerous for yourself…but whether or not you are there, that boy's life will remain dangerous for him.
"It may also end up dangerous to the people around you."
Kimihiro's eyes widened, but at the same time, those words ended up clicking in his mind. "…to the people around Tsunayoshi-kun…" Kimihiro cut off his mumbling, and instead stood up. Feet sinking into the damp earth, he gave Haruka a warm smile.
"Thank you. I… I can't be certain of what my choice will result in, but my beliefs haven't led me far too astray yet." He bowed to Haruka, who also stood up.
"It is good to trust in your beliefs. If you are determined to help him, then perhaps, the present is as good a time to start as any." They were cryptic words that served to confuse Kimihiro. Yet, as he lifted his head and eyes to question the man, he found himself in an entirely different location.
It was the inside of a western-styled home. Kimihiro blinked and glanced around, realizing he was still standing. A look at the window however, revealed… Kimihiro paused, surprised. There was no window. It was incredibly dark within the closed room, and suddenly Kimihiro was uneasy. Hadn't the room Tsuyoshi-san showed him to include a window? Confusion befuddled him as he stumbled towards the wall, trying to find a light switch in the dark. It didn't feel like morning yet, but in case it was, he had better get up. It wasn't like he could see the futon anyway to go back to sleep.
Yet, as much as Kimihiro tripped and shuffled forward, his outstretched hand hadn't touched the wall yet. It was honestly eerie. Then, the teenager jumped when the sound of crying broke the silence. He spun around and could see that amidst the darkness, one corner of the room was lit up. He had no idea how he missed it earlier.
Opposite from Kimihiro was a little boy curled up beside a work desk and a bookcase. He was clutching an orange scarf tightly, and it was this picture that allowed Kimihiro to find the familiar connection. "Ts…Tsunayoshi-kun?"
"Ha…ah…" The boy was gasping like there wasn't any air left in the world. "H…ah….Mama…." It struck a chord in Kimihiro's heart, and he wondered if the boy was crying.
"Tsunayoshi-kun…?" Kimihiro stepped forward when the boy didn't reply. He couldn't see Tsunayoshi's face, buried as it was in the scarf. Yet, even if that one corner was lit up like a beacon, the rest of the room was still immersed in the darkness. With a yelp, Kimihiro crashed forward, tripping over some other mess on the floor. A thought flashed through his mind, was Tsuyoshi's son simply this messy with his room or…?
For that matter, wasn't Kimihiro in the guest room?
In any case, he managed to hit the carpet with both hands, thus protecting his face. Tsunayoshi continued to cry in the background.
Slowly, Kimihiro sat up, now only a foot away from the boy. He took the opportunity to observe the situation.
Now that he was closer, he could see that what he originally perceived as a beacon of light focused on Tsunayoshi, wasn't really a beacon at all. Shadows crept at the edges of the corner, jagged and sharp, as if the light was being torn apart. It was more likely, Kimihiro guessed, that the base of the room was light, and that it were the shadows that were trespassing, so to speak. Centered in the middle of it all was Tsunayoshi.
"…hahh….auh…" The corners of Kimihiro's mouth pulled down, and he lifted a hand gently to Tsunayoshi's shoulder.
Although there was no reaction from the boy, Kimihiro spoke anyway. "Why are you crying, Tsunayoshi-kun?" Still, the boy ignored him, and Kimihiro had to use a different tactic. Not unkindly, Kimihiro set both of his hands on the boy's shoulders and endeavored to get Tsunayoshi to sit up and look at him. Finally, Tsunayoshi resisted and curled up even tighter, shaking his head.
Although it was negative, Kimihiro was glad to get a response. "Should I really go away? I-" Before he could even finish, a hand shot out and latched onto Kimihiro's sleeve.
"W-wait…! I…" Sniffling, Tsunayoshi lifted his head and Kimihiro got a clear look at the boy's face. His eyes were red and in the manner of all young children, he was sobbing in such a way he could hardly speak. "D…don't le-leave me….ah….too…" The child's head sank as he tried to keep speaking, but it was impossible behind the ball of tears in his throat.
Kimihiro leaned forward. "Try to calm down, Tsunayoshi… I promise I won't leave." Patiently, he waited as the sobs gradually subsided.
Then, the boy forced out, in between bouts of dry sobs and gasps. "I…I'm scared….Mommy's gone….and it's all dark… Hahh… I'm all…by myself…and no one…no one is going to…" The boy brought the orange scarf to his eyes and hid his face. "…I don't know…where I am….wher…" It grew quiet, only broken occasionally by Tsunayoshi's sniffs as he said no more.
Kimihiro bit his lip, and then wrapped his hands around the boy. Even as Tsunayoshi stiffened in surprise, Kimihiro pulled the boy into a hug, and spoke. "But you're not alone, Tsunayoshi-kun. Even now, your mother is waiting for you somewhere, wishing for your safety. I don't know where she is…but I'll definitely find her for you." Kimihiro couldn't hear any crying as he paused for a breath, so he continued on. "All this darkness doesn't belong here at all. Your mother… She must've been such a bright person, and she told me you were a wonderful boy. It's not that hard to bring the light back."
Tsunayoshi asked softly, "How?" Tightly gripping Kimihiro's shirt, Tsunayoshi whispered, "It's too dark to see anything."
Kimihiro stood up, swaying slightly with the weight of a child, if a distorted weight. "Then let's wake up from the nightmare, Tsunayoshi-kun. We just have to keep walking forward."
In the well-lit guest room, amidst the soft chirping of birds and wildlife, Kimihiro woke up.
His eyes snapped open, revealing shades of gold and blue for a short moment, before the gold dissipated and only blue remained, as usual. Heart beating, Kimihiro simply laid there for a few moments. Now that he was properly awake, he wondered how he could've ever mistaken dream for reality. Not that dreams didn't hold sway in the real world.
A set of pounding footsteps lent credit to his thoughts as a boy cried out, "Dad! He's awake! The boy woke up and he looked really scared!" Despite his words, the child didn't sound particularly worried—rather, he seemed upbeat. Shaking his head, Kimihiro sat up, glancing at the clear floor, open window and empty corners. Yup, definitely reality.
"Shush, Takeshi! Our other guest is still asleep." There was a pause in the noise as Kimihiro stood up and grabbed his glasses, running a hand through his hair while he was at it. Then, the teenager peered towards the door when there was a knock. Before he could welcome Tsuyoshi in, the door popped open ajar and the man glanced around, catching sight of his only-just-awakened state. Dryly, Tsuyoshi continued his earlier statement. "Or rather, our guest was still asleep before you woke him up, Takeshi."
"Ahh, sorry, Dad!" The voice was young and carefree, bringing a smile to Kimihiro's face. Takeshi, Kimihiro assumed was the kid's name, stuck a head in the room as well to examine Kimihiro with a gaze of curiosity. Before he could duck back out, his father reprimanded the kid about his manners. "Right, sorry for waking you up, Tanuki-san!"
"That's 'Watanuki-san', Takeshi!" The father groaned when his son only chuckled nervously and revised his apology. Kimihiro, nevertheless, found himself amused. Certainly, he didn't look like a tanuki, did he? He made a note to check to see if he had rings around his eyes later when he visited the bathroom.
But before that, he had to see Tsunayoshi. "Good morning, Tsuyoshi-san and Takeshi-kun. Tsunayoshi-kun is awake, then? May I see him?"
The man nodded and swung the door open wider, gesturing for Kimihiro to follow him. "Good morning to you too, Watanuki-kun. And I think it's indeed best if you look to the kid. Must be scared senseless, waking up in a stranger's home." Tsuyoshi then shot his son a look. "As for you, Takeshi, check and see if the rice is done yet."
"Alright, Dad!" Takeshi scampered off as Tsuyoshi led Kimihiro just down the hallway to a door left slightly ajar. Kimihiro pushed the door open, hardly noticing Tsuyoshi turning back and walking away to the kitchen.
It was almost a familiar scene that met him. The room was dim, and only a sliver of light slipped past a set of curtains. They landed squarely on a brunet boy; he was curled up and his face was hidden. For a split second, Kimihiro paused and his vision swam. Then the room came back with crisp distinction, and the differences could be seen. The orange scarf wasn't wrapped around the boy, but rather, neatly folded on the desk. Tsunayoshi wasn't crying in loneliness, but tired and hardly awake. He wasn't hidden behind the desk or bookcase, but wrapped up in a colorful, boyish comforter.
Kimihiro let out a small breath and set his hand on Tsunayoshi's shoulder. "I heard that you're awake. Let's all eat breakfast together, then?"
The boy's eyes blinked open and he stared at Kimihiro in mild trepidation and surprise. Then—"You…you're the one that scared the darkness away!" Kimihiro wasn't certain of the word choice (he didn't scare anything away? He just told Tsunayoshi to wake up from the nightmare…) but then the boy continued. "It was so warm… It lit the room and sent all the darkness gone!" A shy, but eager smile accompanied the words, and although Kimihiro wasn't quite sure what he was talking about, he nodded and smiled at the boy's happy dreams.
"I'm glad you're safe now, Tsunayoshi-kun. Let's head on down, and then…" His smile softened. "I'll explain what's going on with…"
Sadness and apprehension colored Kimihiro's reply. "Aa…" Kimihiro stood up then, unsure of when he had kneeled in the first place. Suddenly, Tsunayoshi grabbed his sleeve, reminiscent of the same scene that had occurred in the dream, but it was only curiosity in the boy's eyes this time—not terror.
"Wait! You…you know my name; Tsunayoshi." The boy declared—almost as if reaffirming it to himself. Nonetheless, Kimihiro nodded bemusedly. "I…ano...your name…?" Tsunayoshi was blushing and looking down, embarrassed for some reason, even when it was clearly Kimihiro's fault.
Immediately, Kimihiro bowed and apologized. "Ah! Sorry, Tsunayoshi-kun; I completely forgot with everything that was going on. My name is Watanuki Kimihiro." Kimihiro then offered a hand to the boy and gently pulled Tsunayoshi off the bed. He smiled.
"It's nice to meet you."
"So nice to see you well and awake, Tsunayoshi-kun." Tsunayoshi stared wide-eyed at the eccentric woman crouched before him, a positively 'deer-in-the-headlights' look in his eyes. Kimihiro twitched and would've immediately pulled Yuuko away from the poor boy before he was traumatized (or worse, corrupted), but he was unfortunately too busy yelling and restraining Doumeki from devouring his breakfast.
As for poor Tsunayoshi, well, he had wanted to know what was going on, but he didn't expect...
"At a loss for words, are you?" Her smile was not at all comforting, and when Kimihiro was finally able to motion Tsunayoshi over to the table and away from the woman, he was positively relieved. Quickly scrambling into the vacant seat, Tsuna watched as Kimihiro scolded the woman while the other strange man next to him suddenly snatched Kimihiro's eggs.
"Dam—Dang it, Doumeki!" Kimihiro caught himself and abruptly lifted his plate off the table with a scowl. "This is mine! MINE! What happened to your plate?"
Tsunayoshi glanced over, the man's—Doumeki's—plate was pristine. That reminded Tsuna of his own plate, still mostly full. He picked up the chopsticks and poked at the rice.
He wasn't very hungry… But his mother always told him to eat everything, especially when they were at a guest's. He bit his lip, faced with a dilemma. Then, the boy next to Tsunayoshi made the decision for him. "Do you not like it? My dad can make sushi crazy fast if you want that instead!" The boy looked a bit older than Tsunayoshi, but was entirely welcoming with his wide grin and bright eyes.
"Ah, Takeshi! We don't eat sushi for breakfast!" His father looked a bit annoyed, but instead of a frown, he wore a smile. Turning towards Tsunayoshi, we asked jovially. "But you are not eating… Would you-"
"No, i-it's alright!" The first words he spoke since he left the bedroom. They were stuttered and quiet. If it weren't for the attention focused on him, it would've been completely overshadowed by the rest of the conversations going on around the small table. "I-I'm eating…" Shakily, the boy started eating, the first few bites tasting odd in his mouth. After a while, the food began feeling comfortable in his stomach and Tsunayoshi relaxed.
Beside him, unnoticed by the content boy, Kimihiro smiled. From there, the rest of the table's occupants similarly settled and the room was filled with introductory conversations and small talk.
"This here is my loud son, Takeshi. Introduce yourself, Son."
"Uhm, I like playing sports and being with friends. Oh, and I go to Namimori Elementary!"
"It's nice to see such energetic children, Tsuyoshi-san. I also see you haven't lost your touch when it comes to the kitchen, despite the years."
"Hah! Doumeki! Now what? There's nothing left for you to steal!"
"Ph-phfwat? Don't just take something right out of my hands, you—you!"
"So what's your name? I'm Takeshi, and I'm seven years old!"
"Oh, uhm…I-I know… Uh… I'm Tsunayoshi…"
"Can I just call you Tsuna?"
"Great! I don't get to bring friends over here that often, so it's great you're here, Tsuna!"
Before long, the food was finished and Kimihiro hurried to help his host clean up, as thanks. Yet, it was impossible to notice the light atmosphere gradually sink as more and more eyes turned towards Tsunayoshi, the biggest curiosity in the room. As it was, the child wasn't completely dense. Sinking into his chair, it was clear he was nervous for what was to come.
"So, Tsunayoshi-kun, now that that is finished... what questions do you have for me?" It was Yuuko that spoke, and in the same sly tone she used with all of her customers.
Before Tsunayoshi could panic however, the older man—Takeshi's father—spoke up. "How about we take this to the living room? Much more comfortable over there." Calmly, with a smile towards the young boy, he stood up and led the guests to the cozy room.
Kimihiro wiped his wet hands on a towel and made to follow them, before a hand on his wrist held him back. "Wha…" He turned around to see Doumeki, his serious visage a bit more serious than normal. Kimihiro bit back his usual overblown reaction and raised his eyebrow. Without releasing his arm, Doumeki pulled him back towards the kitchen, signaling he wanted a quick conversation. As he reluctantly followed, Kimihiro called out with a hint of annoyance, "Sorry Yuuko-san, just a moment."
Once behind the doors of the kitchen, Kimihiro pulled his arm out of Doumeki's grip and crossed them. "Before we start, why are you here anyway, Doumeki?" Seeing the annoying jerk definitely wasn't his idea of great start of the day.
Doumeki gave him a look, specifically, the 'are-you-stupid?' look, and pointed to his eye. "Well yeah, Doumeki, I'm not stupid," Kimihiro twitched, "But why did you come and how?" Kimihiro paused and scowled. "Wait, don't tell me Yuuko brought you along just to annoy me. Dang it, I knew she liked you…"
Barely restraining a roll of his eyes, Doumeki replied, "I asked Yuuko and I came since I could tell you got yourself into a situation again."
Kimihiro exploded into a rant, "A situation? I got myself into a situation—again? It was a car crash! A bus! Situation…! And how many situations do you think were your fault in the first—" Doumeki didn't even bat an eyelash at the tirade, but it did have the unfortunate consequence of calling Yuuko's attention.
"Boys! My patience is dwindling. Kiss and make up on your own time." Yuuko's teasing left Kimihiro bright red in furious denial, but did the job as they both headed towards the living room. Before they left the veil of privacy though, Doumeki set a hand on Kimihiro's shoulder.
"Watanuki. If that boy is being pursued…" Briefly meeting the taller boy's gaze, Kimihiro seemed to shrug off both the hand and the warning.
But then he replied evenly, "Don't worry. I can take care of myself." He paused. "…and if I can't, that's what you're here for, right?" Doumeki clearly wasn't convinced and his eyes promised another conversation in the future. Yet, with those words, they entered the living room.
It was decorated in the traditionally Japanese style, which was probably the source of the curious look on Tsunayoshi's face. Tsunayoshi seemed to be extremely fascinated by the room (translation: avoiding Yuuko's knowing gaze). When Kimihiro sat down on the cushion beside him, the boy squeaked. Even as Kimihiro began apologizing, hurriedly standing up, and Tsunayoshi just rapidly shook his head in panic, Yuuko just smiled and politely coughed. "Watanuki—He was just surprised." Yuuko shot him a pointed stare and Kimihiro quickly sat down, both boys wearing identical flushed faces.
Amused, Tsuyoshi commented, "They're a bit similar aren't they?"
Yuuko laughed, replying as if Kimihiro wasn't in the room and bristling at Yuuko's attitude. "Oh, Watanuki's just nervous. He doesn't want to startle Tsunayoshi-kun." Her eyes slid to said boy, his brown eyes surprised and his mouth open round at her explanation. Shooting a timid glance at Kimihiro, Tsunayoshi wondered if it was true.
Then their eyes met and for once, Tsunayoshi didn't immediately look down and away. Any side conversations that were going on quieted, and just as suddenly as they did, did the questions begin.
It was something Tsunayoshi should've asked from the very beginning, but he had been scared. And yet, he had felt safe at the same time. Tsunayoshi was confused.
It was such a vague question. For a moment, Kimihiro looked alarmed (did Tsunayoshi lose his memory or something?), but then the boy quickly amended, "I-I mean…why am I here? Who are you? Where…" Unconsciously, Tsunayoshi fisted his hands and bit his lip. "Where…is Mama? Where is home?"
Tsunayoshi felt so far away from his home. Surrounded by all these merry people when it was usually just him and Mama. The nervous tension that filled the air as opposed to the comfortable warmth of his home. Everything had changed…far too quickly.
Kimihiro was nervous. Of course, he made his decision and he'll stick to it, but only a blind man would think he wasn't nervous. Blind and deaf, because every one of his heartbeats sounded louder than a gong to his ears.
With the raging blood in his veins and his frantic thoughts, he could hardly tell what was going on in front of him. Still, Kimihiro forced himself to focus. If Tsunayoshi was going to be in his care from now on, even if only for a while, he had to pay attention to this important moment.
So he focused his gaze on Yuuko, just in time to hear her reply to that loaded question.
"You are currently in the home of Yamamoto Tsuyoshi in Namimori. Your home is where it's always been and the house your parents owned is not quite safe for you to be in at the moment." The bland smile on her face did not change as she gave her vague answer, but everyone noticed what she hadn't mentioned.
"And…Mama?" Tsunayoshi was shaking and his hands were scrunched up in tiny fists. Kimihiro wondered if the boy already knew; after all, he had been there in the bus.
Yuuko seemed to think along the same lines, although she lacked the sense of moral tact Kimihiro had. "You already know, don't you?"
"Yuuko-san!" He hissed.
Yet, Tsunayoshi, still shaking, met the smiling woman's gaze and murmured his answer, curling up slightly. "She's…not here…"
Kimihiro froze, the unfortunate wording making him gulp, before turning and grasping Tsunayoshi's shoulder. "No, wait—I mean, yeah, she's not here, here—but she's not!—I mean, your Mama—!" Kimihiro took a much needed breath before continuing his explanation, a little less frantic. "Your mama is in the hospital and she's hurt, but she'll get better. She'll be back." He tried to bury the uncertainty in his voice. Once again, Kimihiro deeply regretted not being able to get the mother's name. But perhaps Tsunayoshi would know…? It was a question to be asked at a later time.
Kimihiro didn't notice the almost sad, but pleased smile on Yuuko's face or how he had taken over the answering of the questions. Instead, Kimihiro simply watched Tsunayoshi's wide eyes and continued. "Until we can make sure you're safe, I'm going to look after you. There might be…" He glanced at Yuuko, but she only looked back. "…There are some bad people looking for you, so we have to be careful that you're safe. But we'll do our best to get you back to your family, safe and sound, 'kay?" He gave a nervous laugh, but was surprised into silence when Tsunayoshi smiled back.
'Did I do that right?' Kimihiro let out a quiet sigh of relief. It had been awkward, nervous, but he got it out and Tsunayoshi smiled. Now then…what was next…
Tsuyoshi spoke up with a small smile. "Well, first thing to do is to find said family. Tsunayoshi-kun, can you tell us your family name?"
The boy blinked and shyly answered, "Ano…Sa-wa-da. My name is Sawada Tsu-na-yo-shi." It was undeniably adorable how Tsunayoshi slowly enunciated his name.
Tsuyoshi grinned. "That's great! Hey, can you write it down right here?" He pulled out a notepad and grabbed a pen off the low table before handing it to the boy. Biting his lip, Tsunayoshi scooted forward and carefully wrote the kanji down after a moment of consideration.
Tsuyoshi keenly gazed at the characters before nodding and ripping the sheet out. Passing it to Kimihiro, Tsuyoshi asked his next question, "Alright, and do you know where your dad is? Was he in the bus as well?"
Kimihiro spotted an opportunity and quickly added, "And would you happen to know your mother's name as well? Or your father's?" Tsunayoshi started to look a little overwhelmed and Kimihiro tried to backtrack, although it seemed Yuuko had it in hand.
"Now, now, let the boy speak. Don't rush him." With a smile sent at Tsunayoshi that seemed to only make him nervous, she gestured for him to start.
"Uhm…" Tsunayoshi's hand wavered over the paper for a moment before he hesitantly scrawled down a name in hiragana. 沢田なな "Ano, Mama's name is Sa-wa-da Na-na."
"Papa…" After a pause, the boy shook his head. "N-no…he wasn't in the bus…" His voice was quiet, but audible. "Uhm…Papa…" Tsunayoshi looked like he was thinking hard. "Mama said a long time ago…" Kimihiro wondered at the boy's definition of 'long', but kept listening. "…that Papa disappeared and became a star."
There was a pause, and then Kimihiro immediately felt a wave of sympathy for the boy. Yuuko murmured, "Oh, you poor boy." However, she was still smiling and Kimihiro couldn't help but look at her suspiciously because those words were not at all in character.
He was proven when not yet a second later, his employer brightened and clasped her hands together. "Oh, well that's settled then! There's no family for him to return to, he can't live safely on his own, his mother is still in the hospital, and you, Watanuki, are the boy's only hope! You agree to take care of him?"
"E-eh!" He sputtered, but then he felt Tsunayoshi shift and immediately switched his attention to him. The boy looked nervous, and Kimihiro felt that sympathy return. When he thought about it… Tsuyoshi was right about what he said earlier. He and Tsunayoshi were similar. Personalities aside, they both were chased by beings they didn't want to be chased by and their caretakers weren't their parents. Yet…Kimihiro had been a lonely child. Set apart because of the curse in his blood.
Looking upon Tsunayoshi, Kimihiro decided he wasn't going to let the same happen to this boy.
"Tsunayoshi-kun…If you're okay with it, I'll take care and keep you safe for as long as necessary until you find your family again," Kimihiro slowly questioned. He wasn't even finished speaking when Tsunayoshi nodded and leaned towards him, resting against Kimihiro's stilled body. The boy looked scared and solemn, but Tsunayoshi couldn't help but gravitate to the protective warmth Kimihiro exuded. Hesitantly and yet, gently, Kimihiro returned the hug. '..it's what I promised your mama, after all.'
It was an hour later when all loose ends had been tied and Yuuko, Doumeki, and Kimihiro with the addition of his new ward were ready to step through the akake.
Many conversations had taken place and plans ironed out. Kimihiro belatedly realized he had missed school that day (and somehow, it was his fault Doumeki was missing it as well), and that had led to the topic of Tsunayoshi's schooling.
"We'll touch upon that topic again once we figure out what caused the oddities in the crash."
"Hey Dad! Can Tsuna go to my school?"
"That's not my choice to make, Takeshi."
"Ano…" Judging from Tsunayoshi's wide eyes and shy, if nervous, smile, he had been quite flattered by Takeshi's request. Somehow that led to a scramble for the notepad again so Takeshi could give Tsunayoshi his house number and address. Kimihiro still wasn't sure what to make of the slightly sinister smile on Tsuyoshi's face when his arm swung around his shoulder and he noted, "We're going to have a set up a play-date for the boys sometime soon." One thing was for sure: suddenly it wasn't so odd that the man knew Yuuko anymore.
"Hmm, not sure how we're going to arrange that, though." Yuuko hummed thoughtfully. "It's quite lucky Doumeki is here for this ride or else the akake would be a lot more troublesome, but it's not like we can drag him with us every time little Tsunayoshi-kun wants to see his friend… unless of course, Watanuki makes it worth his while…" Yuuko's eyes slyly cut towards Kimihiro's horrified face. 'She cannot be insinuating…!' At once, Kimihiro's eyes glared at Doumeki with a gaze sharp enough to stab through the walls of space and time.
Doumeki immediately replied, "Inarizushi. Every day." For a breath of time, Kimihiro was relieved. '…cooking. Right.' Then Kimihiro realized, cooking. RIGHT.
"You ba-j…jerk! You want me to make Inarizushi for you every day? Find your own food! I'm not your personal slaving cook that comes bundled up with a lifetime warranty, equipped with a fast and easy Inarizushi making machine that whirrs and ac-"
While Kimihiro ranted, Yuuko simply kneeled down and looked to Tsunayoshi with a smile. Like she wasn't even listening to the argument that consisted of weirdo movements and single word answers of "Inarizushi. Inarizushi. Inarizushi."
"So, Tsunayoshi-kun. Do you like Takeshi-kun?"
With a glance at the slightly older, beaming boy, Tsuna stuttered, "Y-yeah! Takeshi-kun…Takeshi-kun is my first person-friend!"
"Oh…?" Ignoring the odd prefix attached to 'friend', Yuuko continued. "So of course you want to visit and play with Takeshi; that's what friends do after all."
"Un!" Tsunayoshi agreed, nodding his head rapidly, oblivious to the effect of his statement.
In the background, Kimihiro silently sulked, clearly having heard the conversation and simultaneously remembering the sinister lilt of Tsuyoshi's words concerning his son's upcoming play-dates. "…Fine, idiot-Doumeki. Inarizushi."
Doumeki raised an eyebrow. "Every day?"
"Yes, everyday in your lunch already! Happy now?"
"Argggh! Mono-syllabic…! ….J-jerk!"
Once the plans for future visits were settled, Kimihiro kneeled down to explain to Tsunayoshi what to expect from the akake.
"M-Monsters…!" Tsunayoshi squeaked.
"Ah…! Well, not…really…? I mean…with Doumeki here," Kimihiro threw a resentful glare at the guy before grudgingly admitting, "none of the spirits will be brave enough to go anywhere near us. I'll hold you close and you can just shut your eyes and we'll be out of there quick as can be!" Kimihiro sent him a reassuring smile. "Then at the other end is this really weird shop! But it's full of interesting things and there's even this stupid black manju-bun, but he's not so bad. There are also these two girls that will probably love to play with you! Sound fun?"
Tsunayoshi nervously bit his lip, something Kimihiro noted he should probably break the boy out of before it became a bad habit, and then slowly gave a smile, bolstered by Kimihiro's own enthusiasm as he spoke of the magical shop. "Y-yes!" Off to the side, Yuuko quirked a smile, knowing her little part-timer didn't even notice the zeal in his words.
"Then, it's time to be off." Yuuko opened the door to the storage closet of the Yamamoto household, temporarily converted into the entrance of the akake. The gateway looked dark and foreboding. If Kimihiro had to describe it, he'd say just imagine a portal to hell. At first, blobs of darkness seemed to surge up and Kimihiro instinctively associated them with leeching, malevolent spirits. Then Doumeki stepped forward, casually sliding in front of Kimihiro and the creatures abruptly dissolved and fled, as if in fear.
Tsunayoshi popped his head out from where he had been hiding behind Kimihiro. "T-that's…?"
Kimihiro restrained a gulp and tried to put on a calm face. "Yup." Without further ado, Kimihiro gently grabbed Tsunayoshi's hand and stood up. He turned back and faced the family of two sending them off. Bowing deeply, Kimihiro thanked them again, hiding a smile when he saw Tsunayoshi clumsily copy him.
"Ah, wait just a sec'!" Suddenly, Takeshi parted from his bemused father and ran up to the second floor of his house. Kimihiro blinked and glanced at Yuuko, but she only adopted a mildly curious face. Before Kimihiro could wonder any further, footsteps signaled the boy's return. It was soon followed by the mildly heart attack inducing sight of Takeshi jumping over the banister to his father's amusement.
"Yo, Tsuna! You almost forgot this!" Before Kimihiro could get a good glance at it, Takeshi jumped forward and swung something bright over Tsunayoshi's head.
At Tsunayoshi's surprised squeak, Takeshi only laughed and explained, "I knew something was missing!"
The boy moved aside, finally allowing Kimihiro a good look. Blinking, he commented, "Oh, right!" Messily draped over the boy's shoulders and trailing on the floor was the long orange scarf the boy had come to their doorstep bundled up in. "The bright color suits you, Tsunayoshi-kun." Despite his compliment however, the boy didn't really seem to hear Kimihiro.
Concerned, Kimihiro furrowed his eyebrows and knelt forward. "What's wrong?"
The boy was staring at the scarf, but tore his gaze away at the other's words. "Ano…" Tsunayoshi shook his head shyly. Still, Kimihiro thought he heard Tsunayoshi whisper, "I almost forgot it…"
Kimihiro knew there was more, but he wasn't going to push the boy. It was already amazing how much trust the child had in him; he didn't need to try for more. "Well, I don't remember if the portal was cold last time, but let's not risk it. I'll help you tie it, okay?" With Tsunayoshi's shy agreement, Kimihiro deftly wrapped the fluffy scarf around the boy, smiling at the adorable picture his charge made.
"Alright; all set." As he stood back up, he was pleasantly surprised with a touch on his hand. Glancing down, he saw Tsunayoshi shyly look away, but before the boy could retract his hand, Kimihiro firmly clasped theirs together with a reassuring smile. "Ready? Stick close to me and close your eyes if you get scared." The grip got tighter and Tsunayoshi buried his face in Kimihiro's leg, but nodded all the same.
Yuuko smiled. "In that case, goodbye Tsuyoshi-san, Takeshi-kun. Until next time, ne?" Doumeki added his own farewell grunt before a kick from Kimihiro got him bowing in sync with the other teenager one more time.
Tsuyoshi chuckled good-naturedly and bowed back. "It's no problem." From there, Takeshi quickly launched a "Bye-bye, Tsuna! Have lots of fun!"
Kimihiro could practically feel the boy's blush as Tsunayoshi peered back and whispered, "Bye-bye…"
As some final words were exchanged between Yuuko and Tsuyoshi, Doumeki gestured for Kimihiro to begin entering the akake, already in it himself. At that point, Yuuko stepped away from the sushi-maker and sent Kimihiro a subtle glance. It read 'Are you ready?' Kimihiro stared at her for a moment before turning to the portal. After a soft look at Tsunayoshi, he braced himself and pointedly stepped into the portal.
The witch received her answer. And with that, a mysterious smile lit her face and she too, entered the portal.
As her foot left the hardwood floor and disappeared into the inky darkness, the very space that was the akake seemed to unravel and fold itself before the eyes of the Yamamoto household. Threads of darkness disappeared into the very fabric of space and the bright red of Yuuko's dress was shrouded and muddled into a deep maroon. The last sight seen was her hair twisting in the air until, as if sucked into a vacuum, the darkness bled away like it was never there at all. Left in its place was the dim, worn closet as it had always been.
The only thing to tell otherwise was a gently swaying light bulb held precariously by its rusty, old wire.
A/N: God…you don't know how long it took me to figure out how Haruka addresses Watanuki. I dug through like 20 episodes until I finally found it in Shunmuki. So it wasn't hard to find Haruka calling him 'Watanuki Kimihiro-kun' when they're introduced, but like, is it Watanuki-kun or Kimihiro-kun? Took a while.
Okay. I'm really sorry that so many people like this story and had to wait months for this chapter. It wasn't even that long or that interesting…xD, I had the first half done in like January…then slumped trying to write Tsuna. He's not as easy as you'd think, being a cute little kid…that's surrounded by strangers. Don't worry. He's going to have a panic attack next chapter.
Tanuki: A raccoon/dog creature in Japanese myths. Like a raccoon, they have rings around their eyes (which can be compared to…Gaara? I think that was what I was going to say, but I was kind of confused 'cause I opened this document up like 5 months after I started writing that sentence 'which can be compared to-')
沢田綱吉 does mean Sawada Tsunayoshi. I figured he'd know how to write his kanji name by 6, but wasn't sure about his mom so I just used hiragana. Tried to confirm this with my Japanese friends but they wouldn't give me a straight answer so I just stuck to hiragana and now use the excuse of Dame-Tsuna ;).
Inarizushi is tofu stuff. Okay here's a more detailed explanation from the internet: "Basically, Inarizushi is a fried tofu skin (aburaage) that's been cooked in a sweet-soy sauce based sauce, drained then stuffed with sushi rice." It's homey sushi not usually found in sushi restaurants and Doumeki's favorite seeing how often he requests it.
Namimori Elementary is not a very original name, but I didn't think I needed one. On the other hand, I made a mistake in chapter one by saying Tsuna was in preschool when it's actually first grade. Changing that right now. Sorry if it shows up on the alerts.
Black Manju-bun refers to Mokona. Manju is A Japanese wheat bun which is filled with something and then steamed. I believe the nickname was coined by Kurogane in Tsubasa Reservoir Chronicles.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter and sincerely hope you review and give me some advice, opinions, support, or whatever you're willing to give! =). It's really quite hard to decide where to move the story too, and I bet some of you guys had a better idea of how to present this chapter than I did, haha.
Thanks for reading! Next chapter by Christmas me hopes! I'm planning for emotional drama, the shop, a customer, and school. If I have time, the hospital. In the mean time, I think it's time to give Vice and Versa some love…