"Hey, your name was Yamamoto, right? You were sent from the Celestial Realms from the God of War to help with our quest, and that's pretty amazing! What does the Celestial Realm look like?"
Yamamoto glanced at one his current companions, who had 'summoned' him to aid their quest. They had odd roles – the enthusiastic person talking to him was a good looking young guy in charge of a resistance army. In fact, the whole new world aspect of the thing didn't really hit Yamamoto yet, since everyone seemed so… normal.
"You're gonna go in, Yamo-dude!" the Angel of Legends had said with a blinding smile, her profile looking like a weirdly realistic depiction of an anime character from the nineties. Including the sparkling eyes. That boob armour was impressive. "These heroes needed a rep from the God of War to realise their legend, but there was some miscommunication and the original guy turned to the other side! I needja to stand in, bro."
So he stood in, and his powers were kind of the same, only instead of only having Rain Flames at his disposal, he could also use the… God of War's whatever power? Something like that.
"You mean Heaven?" Yamamoto laughed, kicking his heels into the cliff he was sitting on. The cliff shook. Oops. He forgot about his Godly Warrior status, sometimes.
"What's Heaven?" Jallinan (the guy he was supposed to help build the legend on) tilted his head, sitting next to him with a flump. "Is it what you call the Celestial Realm?"
His sparkling eyes reminded him of Lambo when he was younger, only less greedy and more innocent. He would have never guessed this guy was the head of the Resistance Army. He laughed again, more carefree than usual. More carefree than the last four decades of his previous life, actually.
If he was going to say anything, out of all the people he'd been close to in his life… the kid reminded him of Alice, somehow, only it didn't make sense. Alice had been the most deadpan, non-energetic person he'd ever known except… there was a sense of a story here. A sense of young anticipation.
Maybe it was hope.
"I guess, kinda? I mean, I died once, and now I'm here."
Jallinan had stars in his eyes.
"Ooooh, you died? That is so badass, tell me about it! You're from the God of War, so it must have been a battle!" Jallinan wiggled a little to get comfortable in the grass, before looking up, shielding his eyes. "We have time before we go to the Temple of the God of Harmony to summon our warrior there, so tell me!"
Yamamoto shrugged, thinking that this life might not be too bad, after all.
"Well, it was more like an ambush. I had companions, like you, and we were trying to protect our stronghold from enemies…"
Tsuna panted into the dark, his eyes trying his best to adjust as he staggered through the marsh. He had to defy fate – and Tsuna knew what that meant enough. He'd done it so many times before, after all. He'll have to push, push, push, and push some more, even when he's past his limits, because he's past his limits. He's been in the Mafia for so long – he knows that the true character of someone is most highlighted when they've strained themselves beyond their normal boundaries.
But it's hard, and it's always been hard, and Tsuna started flagging, his eyes drooping.
Defy fate, was the thing that echoed in his mind the most. The second was, and you will meet your friends.
Yamamoto, Lambo. What were they doing now? Were they doing a hellish Trial as well? Tsuna figured he deserved it though, having dipped his hands in blood so many times. A life of Mafia royalty was not the path of a saint.
Nana, Iemitsu. Bianchi, Mukuro. Gokudera. Alice. Kyoko, and his burning desire to greet her in Heaven, to live an eternity with her as he promised. His Family. His friends.
They were the ones that pushed him on, in the dark, through this stupid, horrendous slush.
Defy fate, the angel had said.
So he pushed on.
As he slugged through the dark murk of his regrets, the people and memories of his darkest times taken form pulled him down, tried to drag him into the murk where he knew if he even started falling, they would drown him and he'd never wake up.
But the people he'd cared about also pushed him forward, hands upon hands of people he'd cared for tugging him up, pulling him, up and towards the end of this stage.
When Tsuna's feet finally hit the platform and all the murk had fallen away, he'd yelled in victory, a raggedy breath of a thing. He was in a dark room again, a circle of spotlight surrounded by dark stage curtains. He took a deep breath.
"I'VE PASSED, FATE!"
Fate appeared before him again, another form this time. Fate had a different every time he saw him, actually. This time, his face was still stern, but it also held a hint of sorrow. What stage had it been now? Tsuna wondered, the seventh? How many had he passed, how many still to go?
"Sawada Tsunayoshi," Fate intoned, "you have passed the stage of regrets. However, regret is a subjective thing. I will now ask you, do you regret killing this child?"
Fate pulled up a picture – a little boy, holding his father's hand, smiling up at the camera.
Tsuna grimaced. Fate did not pull his punches. "Yes, and no," he replied. "If I didn't kill him, Vongola couldn't have gotten the advantage that led us to winning that battle. But he was his own person, and he didn't have anything to do with his mother's crimes."
It was one of the most defining moments of his life, signing away this little boy's death. A moment of question. What have I become?
Fate looked at the picture himself.
"And what have you become, Sawada Tsunayoshi?" Fate stared at him now, and these trials were all the same, all similar. They linked up to each other – the first was confidence, which lead them to ask why he was confident. After he'd faced his family, the stage after that questioned why they were important. After facing the legacy he'd created, the next stage of the Trial questioned power and use. Then he faced regrets, and now he faced his present – what had he become? What was he, to live this way?
Fate melted away again, as the next stage started, the room falling away, the curtains lifting.
"Ask yourself, Sawada Tsunayoshi," Fate whispered, "what have you become? Then come back when you have your answer…"
"Go, go, go Yamamoto!" Lambo cheered at a mirror on the table, and from where I stood I could see Yamamoto's God of War fantasy MMO-like costume. It suited him surprisingly well though, to be honest. He looked quite fierce, especially with the face-paint that he couldn't wash off.
That time when Yamamoto washed his face like, seven times because he thought his face was still dirty and then everyone in his group thought he had OCD. Ha, that was funny.
Hibari and I held hands into Lambo's castle, late for lunch. We haven't really gone onto the intense stage of talking intimately yet, just glad to be in each other's company ('Urgh', Gokudera had muttered, rolling his eyes, 'what are you guys? You guys aren't stuck in the Elizabethan era you know?') but when Lambo looked up to see who had entered the room and saw us, he recoiled and slapped a hand to his eyes.
"Oh my gosh, too much PDA!"
"Lambo," I said, quietly amused. "We're literally just holding hands. The last time you walked in on us, we were just hugging."
"It's so strange," he moaned, collapsing dramatically onto the floor. "I don't get it! I thought Hibari wasn't interested in things like that!"
In Hibari's replying 'hn', I sensed you're right.
"You're adorable, you know that?" I said to Hibari, leaning into his shoulder. Hibari just walked forward, pulling me with him towards two seats, and Lambo's eyes bugged out.
"What? What? Why isn't he killing her right now?" Lambo whispered with flailing panic at Ryohei. Ryohei just continued to munch on his chips, cheering on Yamamoto's battle.
"Aren't you used to it yet?" Ryohei gave a wide smile and a nonchalant thumbs up at Lambo's direction. "It's EXTREMELY old news now. Just roll with the punches!"
"You don't get it," Lambo wailed. "For the past fifty years of my life or so I've been gearing up to protect people, and Alice is my older sister who doesn't care about her personal safety, and so every time she talks to Hibari I have this strong instinct to jump between them!" He thumped his head on the table. "But logically I know that for some strange reason they're dating, so if I did leap between them then Hibari would kill me. This dating business is going to literally kill me and…"
Lambo trailed off as he glanced up. I'd joined Ryohei with cheering Yamamoto on 'GO YAMAMOTO, DODGE THAT EARTH PUNCH!' Hibari had gone to the cupboards to start tea, and Gokudera was in the corner obviously not caring about Lambo's crisis.
"Great. Great. No-one cares, that's cool, just leave Lambo to die, your comrade for the past few decades. It's fine, right? …Oi, but still, someone has to agree with me. Bakadera, hey, reply to me."
Gokudera didn't even glance up, and just kept monitoring Tsuna's progress on his own personal mirror. He'd been doing that a lot lately – I guess if he was given free rein to stalk Tsuna twenty four-seven, he would.
And here was proof. He did.
"Don't drag me into this. Leave me alone," Gokudera muttered, his eyes tense as he watched Tsuna suffer… again.
Watching Tsuna suffer in his trials made us all depressed and inspired at the same time. It was like the most masochistic feel-good show, where a lot of things got dumped onto the main character's back, and the only good thing about it is watching the main character endure it and grow. It was that feeling of, 'you can do it!' and 'noooo, whyyyyyy did that happen he didn't deserve it', and pulled on all of our feelings and even made Gokudera cry once or twice with forlorn cries of 'JUUUDAIMEEE'.
Watching Yamamoto, however, was like watching prime time adventure/bromance/action/romance/fantasy anime.
Guess which one we liked watching more.
We watched both equally, of course, (even if we preferred adventure-friendship to masochism) just because we were both anxious of how they would pass. The Trials for Legends and Fate both had a fifty-chance fail rate. For Gokudera's Angel of Trees, the fail-rate was only five percent – where there were people who didn't feel enough to even start growing trees (i.e. sociopaths), or failed to grow Peace and Love trees in ratio to their more negatively inclined ones.
Lambo's Angel of Agriculture was a gruelling, but very mundane Trial that prized endurance, and its fail rate was a little higher, at twenty percent. Ryohei's Angel of Creation had a fail rate of seventeen. My own, the Angel of Worlds, had a fail-rate of thirteen percent. Those were low-risk Trials.
Then there were Trials like the Angel of Love, my father's, which had a fail rate of around twenty-five. The Angel of Technology (Gokudera monitored Bianchi for me) had a fail rate of twenty-seven. Nana had gone to the Angel of Secrets – no-one actually knew what that Trial was like – but the fail rate was thirty-three. The Angel of Peace (Hibari's Trial) usually had a lot of political nuances that were hard to navigate, testing sensitivity and innate kindness that Hibari just… kind of cheated, really, but the failure rate of that was around thirty-five percent.
(By the way, if anyone was wondering where I got these statistics from, the Angel of Statistics held an ever-updating chart in a part of Heaven that anyone interested could gawk at).
Then there were High-Risk ones.
The one time I took a glance at Iemitsu, the Angel of Hope's Trial was brutal. Its failure rate fluctuated from the high forties to the low fifties (it depended on the current batch of not-so-bad-maybe people in the world). The Angel of Disease – Belphegor's Trial, the Angel of Justice – Gamma's Trial, the Angel of Vices – Byakuran's Trial, etcetera, all had percentages around the same – around a fifty percent failure rate.
The one and only Trial that had a one-hundred percent pass rate was Death and Rebirth – but mainly because Dardar's very nature was to give second chances. People who had had no choice nor chance, who had been born into a life where they had to be cruel, were sent there. However, when I asked around Heaven (Grey's friends, my family, Turchino), they all said they would never chose Dardar's Trial. For obvious reasons though, I would think, if I thought about Mukuro.
There were… a heck lot more Trials, even if I only wanted to give a basic rundown. A lot more. I hadn't even gotten into most of the VARIA, or Yuni's family, or my own family really…
There were reasons, of course, about who went where. Technically, there was this complex system of who gets sent to who. It factors in age, character, factors of their life, how they lived their life, how they chose their morals.
If I were to guess, I would think I got sent to Bill because I died young – and Anise (Spartan Teacher three) had said something like that, that most people sent to the Brighteyes died young – we hadn't really had much chance to live yet. Thus, we were sent to low risk. There were exceptions, of course, but most of the people who had died old and were sent to Bill were… generally really nice old people.
It didn't make sense, then, that Gokudera got sent to an even lower risked Trial than me, but… well, I could guess why. He didn't chose his life when he was thrown to the dogs on the street, and when given the choice to change, he did, and more impressively, he stuck to it. With a burning passion. Throughout his whole life. However, he had to let stuff go – living honest to himself in a mostly moral way had probably already guaranteed his character, but he still had been Mafia, okay. So… Cedar appeared.
Ryohei… didn't need explanation – he was a more complex character than depicted (of course), but everything he did he did with burning honesty and no regrets. The Angel of Creation dumped Ryohei's spirit into a… sort of spiritual nebula? Something like that – it was hard to watch him in all that light and brightness and stuff. There, he monitored and nurtured worlds that hadn't even taken form yet, that were still being created. In life, Ryohei had never been the most sensitive (understatement of the year), nor the most patient. I guess the Trial was targeting that. I don't really get what really happened in that Trial (Ryohei was uncharacteristically tight-lipped), but what I did get was something akin to,
"I learnt an EXTREME amount of things, Alice!" But Ryohei's boisterous laughter after that petered out a little, then, as he peered out the window to the large mirror surface of my Heaven, a little ways off. "Doing it let me realise a lot of the things I didn't realise… Well, it's nothing you have to worry yourself with, ahaha!"
"Huh?" I asked, my eyebrows furrowed in confusion. I even stopped sipping my tea to give him my extremely dubious look. Why would I worry? I was just curious.
Then he just gave me this fond grin thing, and ugh, I hated being reminded how much life-experience they had on me.
Now, I would then ask… what was the difference between Hibari and Ryohei? They both lived with conviction and honesty their whole life.
If you were going to ask about their character, it was as obvious as night and day. Ryohei was sunny and extraverted, Hibari was incredibly, violently, introverted. One was a happy, fun, loud sort, while the other was the dark, broody, stalkery and definitely-a-child's-nightmare sort.
Also, one was much more good-looking than the other.
(Though that may just be my incredibly biased opinion.)
They both had the same conviction to lead their life honestly – but Hibari had been given a harder Trial, while Ryohei a relatively less risky one. If Hibari hadn't cheated and gone years before he was supposed to deliver that parcel, he probably would have needed to face a lot more trouble than he had. And as an eight year old, he'd already faced a lot. Maybe he'd passed because of his foresight though – Hibari had told me that glancing at the situation in the world he'd been, if he had waited until he turned twelve, war had probably would have already broken out. He'd avoided it – and made the burgeoning war stop – by just neatly avoiding the problem and just delivering it four years early. I guess that impressed the Angel of Peace too?
So he passed. Even though he cheated.
I digress though. The main thing that was different from Ryohei and Hibari was that Ryohei lived honestly for others. Hibari lived honestly mainly for himself – they both had no regrets for it either. However, Ryohei's selflessness (in my opinion) and Hibari's selfishness is the factor that decided it, I think, because both have a very honest and brutal way of approaching the happenings in their life. Hibari had no justification at all, and thus, he had to face the brunt of his life more than Ryohei.
Was it unfair? I had no idea – Bill himself, in his Trial, had already proved that Heaven wasn't perfect. It tried though, which I guess counts?
I don't know what Nana did to get the Angel of Secrets, but her life was her life.
And then there were the high-risk ones. Most of the Varia (surprisingly though, Squalo got one like Gokudera) had one of them, and most Byakurans who died also got High Risk trials. Yamamoto and Tsuna, Iemitsu, the Ninth…
Those were the Trials that really tested you. That made you confront who you were, what you did, why you did so, what made you become who you were, and who you were now. And if it didn't come up to scratch, you weren't allowed to access Heaven.
Because they did horrible, reprehensible things in life with full knowledge, with full choice to do different, and bent their morals to fit their actions, transformed themselves into something else in justification. Ryohei and Gokudera and Hibari stuck to their moral code, stuck to their integrity – and sure, Hibari's self-integrity wasn't that great, but that's why he was given such a sucky Trial in comparison to Ryohei.
And as much as we didn't want to admit it, Yamamoto had always been the more self-aware, the one who had bent himself, changed the most, to follow his friends. Was that a bad thing? In our eyes, not really. How he'd changed himself – an athlete turned assassin… His fifty-year old self would have been horrifying to his seventeen year old self.
The same thing with Tsuna. He'd had to bend himself for the greater good.
Was that a bad thing? Was that a good thing?
Was the self, the person they'd transformed into, someone they could accept, that someone their Angel could accept?
I thought about it a lot – shared many of these thoughts to Hibari too, since we really liked sitting in the garden outside the house and stare at the never-ending horizon (it wasn't as lonely with someone there). We sipped tea together, and talked about anything on our minds. That day, Hibari had given me this example when they were… hmm, around thirty-five-ish or so.
Hibari had been walking down the corridor when he heard this, between the underground Vongola base and the area linking to the Foundation. He'd been walking towards Tsuna's office, but was surprised to hear Tsuna's voice in a small meeting room that split from a small, usually unused corridor. He'd softened his footsteps and dampened his Flame, and walked towards the door to eavesdrop because he obviously had no qualms about that.
"Yamamoto, will you accept the mission?" Tsuna asked quietly. "I understand if you don't. I asked Ryohei before, but he told me no. I… I half-expected it, actually," he'd said, and Hibari heard a soft sigh and the fabric of Tsuna's sleeve as he ran a hand through his hair. "This mission, I don't believe… Every time I glance at it I can't believe I've signed it, but then my brain catches up and I know why this has to… be done."
Hibari's stealth skills were nothing to be scoffed at – he was still the best Guardian of the Vongola's Inner Family for a reason. When he shifted a little to change the angle, he saw that Tsuna held a photo to Yamamoto.
He spied the silhouette of a child holding an adult's hand.
"I have to kill this child, Tsuna?" Yamamoto asked quietly.
"There's no-one else I can trust," Tsuna replied, his effort to be matter-of-fact flimsy at best. "There's a mole, we all know that, and we know it's hers. She gets all her power and confidence from her love for her son, we know that. We have to take her down before she undermines us. If we can't find any weaknesses, we make a weakness. We have a time limit, I really didn't want to do this, and even if I did, Yamamoto…" Tsuna paused, and the photo in his fingers shook. "Even if I did, I would have wanted to do this personally. But I can't. I don't know who is watching me."
"Reborn?" Yamamoto queried, as his fingers stopped short of the photo, not quite holding it yet.
"He's Arcobaleno, and he's mostly always by my side. If anyone, he's even more high profile than me. He's on another mission, and his mission depends on this."
Yamamoto was silent. "VARIA? The other Arcobaleno? Allies?"
"I can't trust them. Not yet, not before we find the spy"
"I can't ask this of Gokudera," Tsuna admitted then. "He's not like you, or Ryohei, or even Mukuro. He won't say no. He will never say no when it matters to me and the Family. Even if he hates himself afterwards, he won't say no."
"You, Yamamoto," Tsuna nodded. "I know if you say yes, I know it's not because you won't say no. You would have thought it through logically, and if you walk with me into hell, Yamamoto…" Tsuna bowed his head, his fingers gripping the photo. "I know it's not because you put me on a pedestal."
"…Let me think about it. Tell me everything about why you think this is necessary, Tsuna," and the Rain Guardian's voice was sterner and more strict than any other time that Hibari had heard it before. "Give me the most thorough, in depth briefing you will ever give anyone. Don't hide anything."
Tsuna breathed out. "Okay," he said, sitting up again, shoulders heavy. "Okay. I owe you, at least that much, even if you don't do it."
Hibari walked away then, resolving to give his information at a later date.
A week later, Hibari noted the child was dead.
Two weeks later, the enemy of the Vongola, the empire the mother of the boy had controlled, fell by the Arcobaleno Reborn's hand in a decisive victory. The spies were routed. The Vongola were thus unimpeded in changing the underground for the better.
And many might not have noticed, but Hibari (as unwilling as he was to admit it) noticed how the Rain Guardian and Sawada Tsunayoshi had changed. One more tired, and one more resigned.
That was the first step they had taken, I realised, after Hibari shared this story with me. I'd glanced at the horizon – so beautiful and not just empty now, with someone by my side, and hoped. That they would pass, even if those steps they had taken were why they had the most High Risk Trials.
I guess it would've been the same for Byakuran, Xanxus, and such. They had a choice – and that choice had been reprehensible, but they did it anyway. Tsuna and Yamamoto weren't bad people, to me, but they… they would definitely have been someone else's nightmare.
So now I sat next to Lambo and watched the mirror where Yamamoto was unleashing his full powers in the Temple Summoning of… Either the God of Light or something just as pretentious, and wished for the best.
"Yamamoto seems so much happier now," Lambo noted happily, as he pointed to Yamamoto's smile as he glanced at Jallinan beside him and laughed. "This Trial was good for him."
"Like yours was good for you?" Ryohei laughed, clapping Lambo's shoulder hard. "Watching you toil the fields was the most boring thing I've ever had to watch!"
Lambo scowled, slapping his hand away. "You didn't have to watch me!"
"But Lambo's right," I hummed, slipping into the chair next to Hibari so I could steal some tea. "Yamamoto seems so much happier now."
There was a moment of appreciative silence as we all watched Yamamoto get clapped on the back by his new comrades, and his laugh – I hadn't noticed, watching him in Katekyo world, but comparing his laugh now and his laugh back before he died…
Wow, how depressed had Yamamoto been?
I resolved to add a cup of hot chocolate for Jallinan whenever he came up to Heaven.
"No, Juudaime!" Gokudera gasped. "He's falling, guys, he's falling!"
With a quick swipe of the hand, Lambo had already changed the scene from Yamamoto's victory in a beautiful, light-airy-gold trimmed setting to the now familiar darkness of Tsuna's one. There, this time, Tsuna was facing a dark mirror in a hallway full of dark mirrors.
Tsuna didn't know this but… this was the last stage of Fate's Trial. The corridor was designed so that he started at the beginning of the hallway facing one dark mirror. He had to solve the riddles the mirrors gave out (and each mirror was a reflection of something he'd done in his life) and the mirror would vanish… where he would see after a few steps another mirror.
It was psychological to the extreme.
Fate was either a sadist or extremely heartless.
"Tsuna!" Lambo cried at the same time as Ryohei, and I had to shove Ryohei's head out of the way to see what was happening.
Tsuna was sitting with his back to a corridor.
"He didn't even glance at the mirror!" Gokudera snarled, shoving the hand mirror he had in his pocket. "He just, just stopped! What that Angel is doing to Juudaime is inhumane! I can't take it any more!"
Gokudera stormed out of the room to, presumably, try to demand access to the Angel of Fate for the seventh time. We all knew it was harder than that to actually meet an Angel though. Especially someone high-up like Fate.
"Come on, Tsuna," I whispered to him, and Hibari pushed his cup of tea under my nose. I took a sip and put it down. "Come on."
And in the mirror, Tsuna's tired eyes glanced at the mirror, he slowly stood up, and his gaze firmed into something stronger.
"I can't give up now," he said to himself. It resounded in Lambo's room, and it was amazing the effect that Tsuna had on us even when he wasn't there. "People are waiting for me. I've done things like this before." He stared down at his hands for an interminably long time, before clenching them.
Then he paused, before stepping straight in front of the mirror.
We all sagged in relief and warmth and feelings because no matter how many times Tsuna used us as a reason to keep going, it never stopped feeling amazing and inspirational.
This was what I meant. Watching Tsuna was like watching the most masochistic show ever.
Lambo read the silence and disappeared to somewhere else in the castle for a few minutes, before lugging out another large mirror. Arranging the two mirrors side by side on the table, he tuned the new one to Yamamoto. The old one continued to monitor Tsuna.
"You're nearly there," Ryohei just said to them, his voice still hoarse from the boxing match between two of his boxing heroes he'd attended two days ago. "Come on. We can face anything if we're together, Tsuna, Yamamoto. We're waiting for you guys now, don't you guys dare give up."
While I was chilling in my kitchen prepping another cup of hot chocolate (Hibari disapproved, but he disliked sweet things. As if my teeth could rot in Heaven, right?) when I felt an unexpected tug.
I reached the front of the house at the same time as Hibari, and I raised an eyebrow at him.
"Hey, Hibari," I asked, automatically holding the hand he'd held out (like our second first meeting, all that time ago) and tucking it into my side, "who do you think it is?"
"Hn," Hibari made a noise to indicate he was thinking, even as I swung our door open straight into the white room. Hibari stopped at the end of the room, and I had to let go of his hand to take my place near the middle of the room again.
There was Ryohei and Gokudera next to me, and most of the Vongola. Lambo was near the front, surprisingly, so it was obviously someone from Vongola but… who?
Then I spied Mukuro's weird non-human ears at the very head of the pack and I smiled.
And not even a second later, Chrome stepped through, blinking at the light (with two real eyes!) and in surprise at all the people in the room, as her age shifted from something extremely old to around eighteen.
"Everyone…" She said with a small happy exhale, and dammit, how was Chrome so cute even when she was technically so old?
And when Mukuro stepped forward and gave her a hug, she started crying.
While half of the room was cheering (Lambo, Ryohei, most of the Vongola), the other half were trying their best to look away and give them their privacy (me, and some other illusionist people she'd known).
While Chrome started walking down the room, I heard Lambo loudly ask something at the start of the room, having aged himself all little younger for maximum nostalgia effect (the brat).
"What Trial did you get, Chrome?"
Chrome blinked her eyes at him, in the middle of giving Lambo a kiss that looked strangely grandmotherly in her eighteen year old form, and smiled.
"I was lucky," she said gently. "I went through the Judgement Gate."
Everyone in the room groaned in envy.
"If only I could've done that," Lambo said, giving Chrome an extra squeeze before letting go. Chrome gave a really happy giggle at that before moving on.
"Well for one, I'm glad I didn't go through the Judgement Gate! I learnt a lot of things, you know!" Ryohei shouted loudly, throwing Chrome in the air when Chrome was within grabbing distance – Mukuro next to him gave him the most disapproving frown I'd seen on him since ages, and that time was because me and Gokudera had rigged his house to become glow-in-the-dark neon pink…
Hey, wait a minute. If Chrome started living with Mukuro, didn't that mean we couldn't prank his house any more?
"Alice!" Chrome's voice said right in front of me, before I was engulfed in a hug. I'd shifted to sixteen just for her, and to my surprise, Chrome was actually taller than me in her eighteen year old form. I subtly shifted my age a little older (Mukuro's smirk totally told me he didn't miss what I did. I stuck my tongue at him, because Grey liked me better no matter how much he tried to buy his favour) while I hugged her back.
"Chrome! It's so nice to see you again!"
"You too," Chrome said with extreme sincerity and gah, that made me need to hug her again.
"Mukuro lives close to all of us, so you can visit any time you want!" I assured her as we pulled away so Chrome could continue on. "I have some chocolate waiting for you!"
"Sure!" She said back, before she continued down the line, and I smiled happily as I followed behind them. After the rollercoaster rides of watching Yamamoto and Tsuna, I wasn't sure that I could have followed any other Trial without having a stress induced aneurism.
Jokes. This was Heaven. As if I could get any medical problems any more.
When Chrome came, I didn't really notice much had changed except Mukuro's mountain had extended its territory closer to our house a lot more. My house still faced the endless horizon, but the back view wasn't one lone mountain, but the forest on the mountain kind of… reached down into the sea too? It didn't really make much sense, biology wise, but there were even some really cool underwater roots going on that you could duck your head under in some deeper parts and watch.
Especially since you could breathe underwater here. The grass shoots that Lambo had introduced grew a little thicker, but it still didn't break the surface of the water behind my house.
Chrome and I talked sometimes, when me and Gokudera got caught trying to rig a paint explosive over Mukuro's project room.
(After Chrome came, Mukuro's ruins became a lot more liveable. For one, it wasn't much of a ruins but this stone bungalow thing that still had no roof, and two, the climate in the mountains was much warmer. Mukuro had just flicked an ear and said 'as expected of Chrome' but really, it was obvious he was happier.)
"What are you worried about, Alice?" Chrome asked, smile kind. It was nice to see that kind of expression outside of Grey's face, once in a while.
Also, it felt really weird, but suddenly I was the one asking Chrome for advice instead of the other way around. But I guess it's just natural that dynamics change, after all this time.
"…Do you think Tsuna and Yamamoto will pass?" I asked, kind of worried.
Chrome nodded in understanding when she heard my worry, because she had seen the utter nerve-wracking things that watching Tsuna did to everyone, and Yamamoto's worrying lapses of… utter coldness? Sadness? Resignation?
"You can't do anything about it even if you worry, Alice," Chrome just reminded me, wiggling her toes in the thick underwater grass, and watching it in fascination. "All we can do is watch and support them when they arrive, so cheer up!" Chrome said with an encouraging smile on her face and that actually made me feel better.
"Chrome, you're amazing," I gushed, linking arms with her. "I didn't even realise how much I was in need of female company until you arrived!"
"Isn't Turchino female?" Chrome asked curiously, not minding following the path I was deciding randomly.
"…Don't tell her, but she's so badass that I kind of don't dare to label her in any gender categories," I whispered, "which includes female, of course. And male too. She blows those wimps out of the water. But she's really proud of being feminine, so uh, don't tell her."
Chrome just gave me an amused smile.
"Oh, Alice. Don't you realise she's right behind you?"
I froze. That was a joke. Right?
"Oh, Alice? Were you badmouthing me?" Turchino's voice was curious and pleasant. Too pleasant.
"No, I wasn't!" I called behind me. "I was just calling you badass! Really badass!"
Then I left Chrome behind, raced to my house door, wrenched in open, and stood in the only safe place on earth.
"Grey, save me," I said, keeping Grey bodily between me and the door while Grey just twitched his moustache in amusement. Grey's Heaven always had happy cheeping birds and friendly forest animals (more like forest friends) running around his farm, so it was always like dumping myself into a hot bath of warm fuzzies after the kind of cool and elegant atmosphere of my Heaven.
I didn't really consider myself any sort of cool, so it was probably Hibari's atmosphere permeating it.
"Alice, what did you say to Turchino now?" He said, all warm and grandfatherly and stuff and ugh, he should just stop making me want to hug and beg him for more sweets. I wasn't actually a five year old, thank you very much.
"That apparently I was badass," Turchino's voice said at the door, voice so extremely dry I actually wondered if she'd heard anything else.
"You are badass," Grey just turned his extremely effective sotto voice on Turchino, and she just visibly melted.
Hah. And that was from the woman who kept boasting Grey was in the palm of her hand.
"You think so?" She said hopefully, and then they both just forgot about me while they did their coupley stuff.
So… I took the opportunity to raid their fridge, sneaked out the backdoor back to a very bemused Chrome and shared the pear tarts with her. We kicked water and gossiped. Chrome caught me up on Kyoko and Haru, who were both now in highly protected aged care centres, but Hana was in hospital now.
"Everyone will be here soon," she promised, and I gave her a small smile.
"I'll believe you then."
"Yamamoto, you cover the left!" Jallinan shouted to him, and Yamamoto shot him a grin, adrenaline rushing through his veins. "You're our strongest offence right now, and we need that tower down!" He winced when another arrow got too close for comfort, and Yamamoto nodded in understanding.
"You sure you'll be alright here?" Yamamoto asked even as he began to charge up the War God's magic into his body to surge up, so that he could leap up and take over the left tower. "We're only midway through our journey, you can't die on me yet!"
Jallinan laughed. "This coming from our resident War God's representative! Just fight, Yamamoto! We'll be fine here, won't we?" When Yamamoto glanced over all his companions and saw their determined faces, he laughed.
"Alright, cover for me!" Yamamoto leapt up and away, leaving a streak of faint blue. Leaping through the first floor window, he swept through most of the thralled soldiers, making sure not to kill any (Jallinan reminded him of Tsuna when he was younger – all optimism and hatred at useless deaths, and wow did that thought make him feel light!) and got to the top of the tower soon enough.
As soon as he stepped to the top of the tower, however, a voice stopped him in his tracks.
"God of War, so you've come!" In front of him was a twelve-year old kid, all wild black curls and green eyes. Yamamoto was struck by familiarity – Lambo? Was Lambo here? He even laughed the same way, with his head thrown back and his hands at his hips. "You have come to greet the great Romeo! Have you come to purify me of the Thrall that holds me asway?"
Even his voice…
"Lambo?" Yamamoto said, his voice shocked as his sword lowered. A grimace flashed across the kid's face.
"Lambo's my little brother's name. Don't remind me of him! My first kills should be remembered in glory."
Yamamoto's hands gripped his sword hard then, the cloth grip in his hands keeping him steady, as his eyes narrowed. His stance shifted, and he leapt forward towards the kid… only for him to hit a barrier.
"It's too late!" Romeo yelled, throwing his arms wide with a face of manic glee. "You were trapped the second you let your guard down!"
Behind him, through the open window, Yamamoto's enhanced senses let him hear Jallinan and the rest of his party finish the battle below. He could hear their worried murmurs – 'Yamamoto's not back yet,' Jallinan whispered to Reil, their healer. 'Let's go up and check on him, he might need help. He's not infallible,' and then footsteps started echoing up the steps of the tower.
"…What was your little brother Lambo like?" Yamamoto tried to stall.
"Bratty," Romeo sniffed. "Snotty. Way too whiny for my taste. So I killed him, after he tried to stab me. It's not my fault he saw me killing our parents. I sent him off to steal summer grapes from the vineyards for a reason. Really, doing kindnesses doesn't reward anybody…" Then he trailed off, the smile returning to his face. "Oh, look here! The rising legend everyone is whispering about! Jallinan Ackerlisch isn't it? Welcome!"
Jallinan only looked bewildered for a second before, with a glance, took in Yamamoto's situation and readied his weapon. With a wave of his hand, all the other party members prepared too, raising staves and bows.
"Can you release my friend, please?" Jallinan asked with a frown.
"And let the God of War attack me? He is the best in combat in all your party, Legend," Romeo dismissed. "I have the advantage right now. Why would I give it away? You haven't even realised your whole party is in my barrier trap. No, the more interesting one is you." Romeo turned his focus on Yamamoto. "God of War."
"I'm not really the God of War, you know?" Yamamoto said with light humour. "You've got the wrong person!"
"I know that, you oaf," Romeo said. "No, watch this."
With a huge breath in and a lot of flexing muscles, Romeo's barrier trap over Jallinan's party glowed violet. Then it started to glow and constrict.
"…What are you doing?" Yamamoto asked, while subtly starting to wriggle out of his own barrier – splitting concentration like that was hard (he'd asked Jallinan a few months before), and as smart as Romeo seemed to be, he was still a twelve-year old. Yamamoto hid a smile when his arms started moving. Just a little more…
"My boss just wants me to stop the Legend here before he takes down everyone," Romeo replied, distractedly. "But I've always been curious about the God of War. All the other Gods are of Light, or Hope, or Love. But why is there a God of War? Why venerate such violence?"
Through Yamamoto's ample experience with Tsuna, he knew smart evil people loved to monologue. It was a pathology. It was just what they did.
All the better to free an arm with.
None of his teammates in the purple prison indicated they saw what Yamamoto was doing, and it just made Yamamoto experience another rush of affection. These were good friends. Partners.
"But of course, it's just the age-old adage isn't it?" Romeo continued, just like Yamamoto expected. He let Romeo continue blathering. "Violence is a tool, and it depends on how it's used to determine good and evil, blah blah blah, but whatever. I just like killing. I like seeing people dead and knowing I did it. There's a feeling of satisfaction of a job well done, you know?"
And… there! Yamamoto freed his arm and had one arm on his sword already. Now that his arm was on his conduit, he channelled the War God's energy down it – a thick white energy (Jallinan had called it Divine, and it certainly felt powerful, to say the least) that he used to break the barrier around him. The next thing Romeo knew, he was held down, being bathed by Divine energy.
"Good job, Yamamoto!" Jallinan and the others cheered. "Now he'll get out of his Thrall and free us!"
But after even ten seconds, the longest time Yamamoto had ever channelled Divine energy into another person, no dark wisps were being forced out of him.
The barrier was still constricting, Yamamoto observed from the corner of his eye. It looked like it would start burning the others soon – Reis was trying to hold a white barrier to counter, but it wouldn't do much good from the inside. Romeo was staring right at him, even through the obvious pain of being purified inside out.
"Oh, God of War," Romeo coughed. "Haven't you ever met someone purely evil? I wasn't under any thrall. I volunteered my services, and look, you aren't doing anything, the barrier is still getting smaller~"
There was a muffled cry of pain, and Yamamoto forced himself not to look, and forced more Divine energy down his arms. It might just be deep-rooted, right?
Romeo's face tightened as he struggled to speak now.
"This barrier is complex. Either I stop it… or you kill me."
"NO!" There was an immediate cry behind Yamamoto. "Don't do this, Yamamoto! There is always another way!"
Romeo's green eyes bore into him, so reminiscent of Lambo. Lambo, who he'd killed in this world.
"There is no other way, War God," Romeo smirked as best as he could, more of a grimace than anything impressive. "Kill me. I've done so much wrong, haven't I? I'd continue to do more too. I know you can kill me, you know," and Romeo raised a hand up, obviously in pain but strangely gentle as his hand caressed his cheek. Yamamoto refused to flinch. "I recognise that look in your eyes. You've resigned yourself. Nothing is too hard for you, isn't it?"
"Don't listen to him!"
Jallinan's voice seemed far away – the boy he reminded him of… Yes, Tsuna.
Tsuna, who'd given him that photo that evening, the boy's eyes brown, not green. He'd been smiling, holding an adult's hand. Reminded him of his own son.
("Will you kill him?")
Would Jallinan change as well?
"Believe in yourself!" His new friend, so close, so nostalgic, yelled at him. He could smell burning flesh, time was running out. "Yamamoto, you can do whatever you believe you can do! Believe in yourself, don't listen to him! There's always another way…"
And there Jallinan's voice went, distant again.
"No, there isn't," Romeo said, so much closer. "They're going to die in a minute or so. Kill me, and you'll save your friends. Anyway, before I die, I'm curious."
"Shut up, don't listen to him—"
"The first thing you said to me, yeah, wasn't it…"
"—he's trying to corrupt you—"
"Hey, War God. How did you know my idiot brother Lambo?"
Yamamoto raised his sword high, the white fire burning fierce in his sword, and plunged it straight down.
"This dessert is great once again," I said grandly, my face full of mango. Hibari always ditched me whenever I visited Grey (he always gave me disapproving looks whenever I ate too much dessert in front of him and that sucked the joy out of the experience, the party-pooper) and now I was hanging with Turchino. She was twirling her hair with a finger, and grinning at me.
"Hey, Alice," she started, and I was just starting to look up when there was a huge BANG at the front door.
"Alice-nee!" And I looked up in concern when Lambo barrelled through the door straight into my arms. I instantly hugged him (I'm better at hugs now) and stared at him in concern.
"Lambo? What's the problem?"
"J-Just…" Lambo sniffed, and Turchino wordlessly pushed a box of tissues at us. I took one and started rubbing his nose with it. "Just come with me."
Tsuna had a feeling this was the last trial. The last mirror.
"I love you," he said, thinking that this, this was the answer to the last riddle. "I love you," Tsuna said to his younger counterpart, such a source of shame and blame. Whenever there was something wrong in his life, whenever something came blocking him, he'd blame it on his older tendencies to laze, to not try, to blame the world for his own failures… his lack of hard work that led him to be too weak to save one friend after another. What if he'd started earlier, sometimes he wondered. What if his father had trusted him to start training since elementary school? He'd probably dead by Xanxus's targets, probably. But what if? What if he had been strong from the get go, never seeing the world from the side of the weak, strove to be the top and only saw ambition?
Then he would never had held the ideals that had defined him for his life. Even if they had become warped, even if he'd changed, at the core, he was still the same. The same drive. The same ambition.
"I love you," Tsuna said to himself, and meant it.
And in his heart, he knew his friends smiled, his Family, knowing as he did that he'd always loved others much easier than he'd loved himself.
"I love you," he promised again, and his younger self in the mirror blinked and smiled. It was ridiculous, seeing the smile bloom on his younger self's face. He remembered that time. His hope of getting friends in school, getting crushed every day, being teased every day. Being pushed and shoved every day. Being laughed and mocked at every day.
He'd hated the bullies for a few weeks, before he opened his ears and listened, and realised most of the things they said were true. After that, he'd just hated himself.
"I love you," Tsuna now insisted, falling to his knees and touching image of the seven-year old on the mirror, imagining hugging a child, fluffy hair barely tickling his chin. It reminded him of hugging his own sons.
"Geez," his younger self finally replied with a smile. "I get it. You've said it like, seven times already."
Then the room lightened, the last mirror disappeared, and Fate stood in front of his knelt form instead, and on his face for the first time, was a smile.
"Congratulations, you've reached the end," Fate said, and Tsuna felt a brief sense of savage satisfaction at the slight surprise in his voice. "Do you have your answer for me? Who have you become, Sawada Tsunayoshi?"
When Tsuna prepared to tell him, Fate held up a hand. "I do not need to know."
Fate this time looked a little younger, a little softer. How many years now, had he been tormented in this place? How long had it been since he'd seen a smile?
"Congratulations again, Sawada Tsunayoshi. You have proved to me, beyond doubt, that you are worthy. Go now, to Heaven."
And without warning, Tsuna was falling into darkness again. Tsuna's chest felt a brief flicker of panic (what if that bastard Angel was toying with him?) but this darkness felt different – there wasn't any malignant energy in it or anything. It was just… there. He was just floating there.
"I am Judgement, child," a female voice then said, and Tsuna opened his eyes to see a plump woman with a really nice round face. "Welcome to Heaven. Open the doors, Tsuna."
Tsuna turned around, and was surprised to see a door there. Had it always been there? Reaching out and pushing them, white light poured into his eyes, and with that encouragement, Tsuna pushed with all his might into a bright, white room.
To tell the truth, after that Trial, Tsuna thought he might have trauma with the dark. It was over though, finally! This white room was an antithesis of all he'd been through under Fate. Having light burning his eyes was great!
And everyone he'd cared about, everyone who had died, were there in front of him. His mother wasn't there (maybe she was still in a Trial?) but faces he hadn't seen in such a long time! Gokudera was there, with a wide, wobbly smile on his face, and Ryohei and Lambo, and Mukuro with Chrome too! Hibari and Alice were holding hands (he was glad), and seeing them all together made his heart swell and the biggest smile bloom on his face.
This was what he fought for.
"Everyone!" He said, smiling, feeling his feet (he hadn't felt so light in ages) start running forward when he registered their faces. His smile faltered. "W-what's wrong?"
"I'm sorry, Tsuna," Alice said, and even though her face was still slightly stiff and sad, he was just so glad to hear her voice. "This is supposed to be such a happy time for you, I mean, we watched your Trial and we know what you've come through to get here but…"
Tsuna felt himself slip into Boss mode – more competent, more calm, in front of distressed Family.
"What is it, Alice? You can all tell me." He directed the last part to the group.
Lambo hiccupped when he tried to say anything, so he stopped. It was Ryohei who answered, because Gokudera had looked to the side to avoid his gaze and Hibari was comforting Alice as best as he could (which was awkwardly).
"Yamamoto… Yamamoto failed his Trial, Tsuna."
"He's been cast into Limbo?"
This was new news from Lambo, whom Tsuna had sat down at Hibari and my house and started softly interrogating. Only Lambo had been watching Yamamoto when he'd failed, and the subsequent Angel interaction.
Lambo nodded miserably.
"The Angel of Legends said that he'd proved that he could change, but he'd proven his true nature in the end, and so he doesn't go to punishment, but to Limbo."
"He has to recollect the best parts of himself then," I concluded, and everyone glanced at me incredulously. Tsuna, because he had been here for literally five minutes and drama happened (even in Heaven Tsuna attracted trouble), but everyone else who had come to Heaven ages ago were looking at me strangely. "What?" I asked defensively, walking half a step backwards to bump into Hibari, who'd been standing at the edge like usual. He didn't like other people in his personal space.
"How do you know that, Alice?" Ryohei asked seriously.
"Huh?" I asked with furrowed eyebrows. "What are you asking about?"
"No-one knows anything about Limbo," Mukuro said. "So how do you know anything about it?" I felt Hibari's chest behind me hum quietly in agreement – he didn't really want to agree with anything Mukuro said out loud, but he let me know what he thought anyway. I felt a flash of affection, before my mind stopped.
Wait a minute. "Bill told me," I said, the cogs in my head slowly turning, a plan starting to form. A hunch.
There was something missing. Suddenly, in my instinct, I knew there was a way to get Yamamoto out. To get somewhere, something related to Bill. It had been a little while ago, but Bill, Bill had said something…
"Chrome, I need you!" I said, jumping up. Mukuro shifted protectively – it was a habit that hadn't been broken, and in return Hibari also stiffened (because boys are idiots), but I waved them down distractedly. "No, remember Dardar? I used my favour on you, Mukuro," I said, turning my gaze to him now, slightly desperate. "Can I use Chrome's now, Mukuro? Will you let me, Chrome?"
They both glanced at me, before Chrome stepped decisively in front of Mukuro.
"Wherever you need me, Alice," she said with quiet conviction glittering in her deep blue eyes. I smiled in relief.
"I don't know if this will work," I cautioned, as I took her hand.
"What's happening?" Lambo asked, his voice starting to get unclogged after five tissues.
"What are you planning, Alice?" Hibari said behind me, stepping forward, but my mind was racing too fast to really acknowledge him. Limbo was a dangerous place – Yamamoto had lost his whole self except for his basic will. I didn't know much about it except that part, so I wanted him out. Out as fast as I could.
"Death and Rebirth!" I called out loudly into the air, and everyone jumped a little at my voice. Probably because I usually didn't raise my voice. "I call upon your favour to Chrome! I don't know how to contact you so I guess you're coming here, or you transport us somehow or—"
"Yeah, I hear you," Dardar suddenly appeared, floating above my dinner table. Everyone gawked at him, Lambo's eyes bugging out while Grey gave him a welcoming smile – oh right, Grey had gone to Dardar, hadn't he? "What's up? I was picking which shade of plum I should paint my lips, you know?"
"Chrome is letting me use her favour," I said shortly, to the point. "Can you arrange a meeting with Bill for us?"
Dardar gave us a funny frown. "What? That's such a weak wish! My domain is literally Death and Rebirth, you know? Why don't you try your real wish with me?"
Right. "We have a friend who was just sorted into Limbo. Can you get him out?"
"Oh, your wish was that?" Dardar's face was twisted into a type of exaggerated frown, and sighed, inspecting his manicure. Perfectly black, of course. "Limbo is already a second chance, so I can't touch that. But no wonder you want World. Limbo is kind of like a whole different world… Alright, I can do that! A visit with World, coming right up!"
"You—" Hibari's voice came from behind me, as his hand held my upper arm, but just when the heat started seeping in through my shirt, we were already gone.
Oops. He's going to be totally pissed when I get back.
I had to blink a few times for my eyes to adjust – my house was always filled with light, reflected from the faint ripples from my ocean world into the house through large windows, but Bill's library was super dim, with only a few streaks of sunlight that poured in through the ceiling. In front of us was a fireplace, and a bowed little man on the sofa staring into the fire.
"What? Dar, why are you intruding… oh. You. Alice, wasn't it? You've already passed. How did you get in here?"
"Bill," I greeted, dragging a silent Chrome around. I think she was letting me talk, since I was the one who obviously had a plan here. "I… I need you to do me a favour."
"Why should I?" He asked, even as he waved us onto a red sofa that appeared from nowhere, again. Two hot mugs of tea appeared on the table. "I'm one of the greatest Angels in Heaven. You know that."
Returning here was kind of surreal – the library had a mystical silence over it, interrupted only with the flap of wings, sometimes.
"You also want to retire," I returned. "You've told me you were tired so many years ago now, Bill. Nearly a century. Don't you still want to retire?"
Bill glanced up at me in surprise. "How did you know… Oh, of course not, coincidence." He harrumphed, before taking a deep gulp of his own tea. "I was just thinking about it. Retirement. I've… thought about it a lot, these couple of years. More than usual."
"…Were you hesitating because you still didn't know what do with the situation with your wife?"
"I nearly forgot I told you about her," Bill mumbled. "She's going to have been in Limbo for… nine hundred years now." Chrome gave a small start at the number, and I patted her hand reassuringly.
"Has she gotten better?" I asked as gently as I could. "Has she walked out yet?"
Bill gave a bitter smile. "No. And I keep wondering," he replied as he stared at the fire again, "if I would care more if I was a simple spirit again, residing in Heaven. If I wasn't an Angel with omnipotent powers, would I pull her out in a heartbeat?"
"Yes. Yes, you would," I said with easy confidence.
"How do you know? You're not human any more, either," he pointed out with a lackadaisical wave. His mug of tea filled up again.
"Simple. Because after so many years in Heaven, I've learnt that you don't stop caring for them," I replied promptly.
"Alright then," Bill said with a humourless grin. "Let's say I play along. Who do you want me to get out of Limbo for you?"
"A friend of mine called Yamamoto. He came from a Trial for the Angel of Legends." I paused at Bill's look when I mentioned the Angel of Legends, before forging on. "He was allowed into Limbo because he was changing, he was getting better, Bill, but the challenge he faced came way too early. He hadn't… he hadn't learnt enough from his new comrades yet."
"And that's why he got sent to Limbo, though," Bill pointed out. "It's a second chance for him to crawl out."
"But we both know that's a lie, isn't it?" I looked at him straight in the eye, and Bill took a moment before his gaze dropped away to the fire again as he gave a small nod.
"You're right. Man, this just tells me I shouldn't give out Heaven's secrets randomly. It comes back to haunt you, even nearly a century later. Alice, time flies doesn't it?"
I agreed, taking a sip of Bill's tea myself. It was cheap stuff, with a teabag with a weird swirly symbol on it, but the hint of citrus was soothing. "When will you retire, Bill?" Bill glanced at me with slight bemusement at me just cutting to the chase like that, but he just shrugged.
"Any time now. I've gotten a replacement ready for ages. I just… I don't know if I should bend the rules and…"
"Take her out, Bill," I asserted. "Take her out."
"You think so?" He asked me now, his hand ready to snap his fingers. "Why am I listening to you, anyway?"
"Obviously, it's because you wanted an opinion," I said with a shrug. "And this is my opinion. You will be really happy that you've taken her out when you've relinquished your Angel position. But, do me a favour. Pull out Yamamoto too. Didn't you say you owed me from making me suffer a lot when I shouldn't have? I'm cashing in now. Please pull Yamamoto out."
Bill sighed as he stared at his hand, before in a decisive move, snapped his fingers.
Suddenly, in front of the fire place, was Yamamoto. Chrome gripped my hand tightly, and I squeezed back even as I glanced back at Bill for confirmation. Not his wife first?
"Better do yours first," Bill said distractedly. "Janey had been under World's jurisdiction, even if it was the Angel before me, so if I decide to pull her out it's okay. But Yamamoto was sent there by Legend so it's not so simple. It's not my decision to make."
I processed that slowly, but kept my face as blank as possible. No weakness.
"Then whose is it?"
"Legend herself, of course. Oi, Legend!" Bill, with a snap of his fingers, suddenly summoned a lady in this bright flashy armour next to his armchair. The woman blinked as she nearly stumbled, the wings on her back flapping desperately as she tried to regain her balance.
"Bill!" Legend complained in a long drawl. "What was that for, bro? You didn't needta pull me like that. I was flying, yo!"
"You're under my jurisdiction anyway," Bill said shortly. "Anyway, I pulled this guy out. He's yours, isn't he?"
"Oh, Yamamoto," Legend said sadly when she noticed him on the floor, staring vacantly at the ceiling. "There was a challenge that came waaay ta soon for him, Bill. There weren't any other option when he failed, ya know, so I gave him the nicest one. Limbo ain't as bad as near-eternal punishment, yeah." She floated over and hovered over Yamamoto's body. "His bros and his Legend are falling apart without him, I dunno whatta do."
"I'm giving you another chance here, Legend, if you haven't noticed," Bill said testily. "Do you think Yamamoto was a bad person?"
"No!" Legend protested, her long braid whipping violently left to right when she shook her head. "He was changing, Bill bro, you gotta believe me. But I had no choice, ya know?"
"I'm giving you a choice here. I'm giving you to do something else with him."
Legend shrugged. "I'd put him back intah his challenge, meguess. It's the best place for him, since he did fail once but it wasn't fair an'all. It's not enough though, for me ta say so."
"I'll pull him out and place him back in as one of my Trials then," Bill said.
Was it like what Dardar did when Wend failed Bill's Trial?
"A retrial, hm? You're higher up on the scale, so that should be alright, yeah. Yamamoto deserves it, as much as that's worth. Death and Rebirth does mosta those though," Legend mused. "Whyja doing this?"
"I'm… repaying an old acquaintance of mine," Bill just replied vaguely, and I suddenly realised that Legend couldn't see me and Chrome on the couch. Huh, when did Bill do that? "But I'll keep him in your care. My usual rules like 'don't kill' wouldn't be effective for a high-risk soul like his."
"Sup, Boss. As you say!" Legend saluted jauntily, before slapping Yamamoto on the face a little. "Come on, bro, wake up! You gotta miracle second chance going on here, can't miss out!"
Bill did some complicated hand waving, and then Yamamoto – who had been corpse still for the past conversation – suddenly stirred.
It was working. My plan was working.
"Man, Yamamoto, Jallinan would be so glad to see ya," Legend was saying as she hauled him up with one arm. Yamamoto blinked.
He tried to turn his head but only succeeded in lolling his head in Bill's direction. When Legend noticed where he was looking, she chuckled.
"Yah, thank the Boss for ya second chance. I can't bend the rules like he does, dude."
Bill gave a small smile even as Yamamoto's brain started to catch up.
"No, thank those two."
Yamamoto's eyes slid sideways, before widening at us. Chrome gave a small wave, but I broke out in a great grin.
"You'll always be one of my greatest friends," Yamamoto had said to me that day, so long ago.
Of course I returned the sentiment. As if I could let one of my best friends rot.
'Don't give up,' I mouthed to Yamamoto, as he was carried up towards the library ceiling by Legend, who was babbling all sorts of new rules and berating him for failing in the first place. I hoped the next time I saw him in person was in the white room, waiting for the door to open.
"I'm not going to retire immediately, you know," Bill said drily. "You two better get going. I'll send you back to where you two belong. You guys aren't supposed to be here, and I have no idea why I so easily agreed to your favour, but I'll ask myself that later. Bye."
"Free your wife!" Was the last thing I said before Bill snapped his fingers, and we were standing in Mukuro and Chrome's home, still clutching each other's hand.
"I didn't know Yamamoto was so filled with futility," Chrome said to me as we walked back to my house, where we presumed everyone was waiting for us to come back. "I would have thought he… he would pass."
I reviewed the Yamamoto I knew though – always laughing, always smiling, even when he tried to attempt suicide. His glass heart. His love for his friends. His decades of falling.
"When I think about it a little," I admitted to the sky, "I think I'm not actually that surprised."
"Hm?" Chrome prompted when I lapsed into silence after that, and I just shook my head.
"He's always been more fragile than he looked. I'm just glad Bill worked with us so well. I can't imagine how many souls are in Limbo."
"The fact that he agreed is amazing," Chrome agreed with a gentle nod. "I bet there are many, many people whose family have been sent to Limbo and can do nothing about it."
But meeting Angels was actually harder than it looked – especially Bill. He sometimes did some desk jobs, I overheard somewhere, but it wasn't all that often. The higher ranking the Angel, the harder it was to really talk and get to meet them outside of an administrator capacity. Maybe it was the first time Bill had been asked to do this. Maybe I was just lucky that the Angel of Worlds had a complex with Limbo, who was inherently kind-hearted and had admitted to being curious of me.
My Trial had been well worth it, I thought. I'd thought that a little, when I sometimes checked on my fanclub during all these years, or how the Vongola grew. But this was truly the moment of satisfaction – before, I didn't know if the fanclub or the Vongola wouldn't have grown into amazing people anyway, without my influence. But this. Saving Yamamoto.
Bill had once said he'd seen a lot of parallel-Alices suffering. That he directed a of that guilt to me, the very last Alice. And now, all that suffering seemed worth it.
I knew all the other Alices would agree with me too, if they realised what had happened.
"Stay strong, Yamamoto," I whispered.
After I'd stuck by Hibari for a long time to reassure his (obviously non-existent) nerves and had explained the whole situation to the rest of the Family, everyone had just smiled and clapped me on the back for a job well-done.
"As expected of Alice-nee," Lambo bragged to no-one and for no reason, and I just suppressed a laugh as I ruffled his hair.
"You're still the same, Alice!" Tsuna said brightly, having reverted to something along the lines of twenty-two.
When Tsuna had appeared, the sky had created a great, shimmering, golden or rainbow (or something gorgeous anyway) aurora in the sky, something great and shifting light that was utterly gorgeous against the ocean. An area appeared between Gokudera's tower and Mukuro's mountain, a beautiful wooden bungalow on a beach. When Tsuna stared at it and realised it was his, his whole face blushed red.
"This is what Kyoko and I wished for," Tsuna explained. "A comfortable beach house for retirement, close to friends and family, things like that. But you don't actually retire, when you're Mafia, so we knew it was a dream. This is really wonderful. What you guys have is truly beautiful."
He hadn't been surprised to note that the little cabin was mine, but the huge endless ocean had been Hibari's. Mukuro's secluded mountain was beautiful in a less surreal and more honest way, while Ryohei's teetering house gave a horrendously nice view. Gokudera's wizard's tower, with its huge telescope, definitely looked classically fairy-tailish.
"It's perfect, Juudaime!" Gokudera enthused. He'd been looking much happier, now that we've confirmed Yamamoto had gone back to Jallinan's crew, and Tsuna was right there. "This beach if beautiful too!"
"Haha, thank you, Gokudera!" Tsuna laughed back, stepping into his home for the first time. "I can't believe I'm saying this, but I can't wait until Kyoko gets here."
"Uh, Boss?" Lambo said from the back. "I think you're getting your wish soon."
On the mirror, Kyoko breathed her last breaths staring out at a garden in her wheelchair. Her orange eyes drooped closed, and Tsuna carefully took Lambo's hand mirror away from him and smiled.
"So we'll meet again soon, Kyoko?" He asked, hugging it tightly to his chest.
We all left him to his privacy then, leaving only Gokudera behind with him. We were all kind of worried after his hellish Trial, but Tsuna had always been strong. I remembered the tiny kid, the scared one who bumped into me and nearly cried when he tried to pick up his books, and could only see the best traces of that boy lingering in Tsuna, now. How strong had he been, to stand to appear every day for bullying, and turn his life around with just a few friends? Tsuna had always been strong – he just never realised it.
As I linked hands with Hibari back to the cabin, I let a smile grow on my face.
Everything would be alright.
"You were really cool back there! Yelling back at that bad guy saying you should never give up. And, and, you don't look as tired as you did before! What happened in the period you were taken to the Divine Realm to be judged?"
"Haha! Some friends helped me."
"Who? One of your former comrades?"
"Yeah. Two girls. Eyepatch and Yellow. …And I know how you told me you would stop me from corrupting but, hey, Jal?"
"You know how I think you're a really good friend of mine, right? You're like Family to me."
"Hah, that's reassuring from you, right before we face the Big Bad. Why the sudden confession?"
"I think… I think I might be able to move on a bit now. Let it go a little. It feels strange confessing this to someone else, but I was really guilty before. So I was sad too. I did a lot of horrible things, Jal. And I convinced myself that that was the only way. And I knew if I ever acknowledged to myself that there were other ways, then I wouldn't be able to bear the guilt of doing all the horrible things I've done already."
"War… war is the ugliest aspect in the Gods. As much as honour and valour arise in battle, so does treachery and cruelty."
"True. You're always right, Jal! Haha, Jal, anyway, I. I think I can accept that guilt now. And by accepting it, I think I can move on to realise even though I can't change… that I can't ever redo my past, I can change what I do in the future. What I do now. I don't have to resign myself into living and reliving mistakes over and over just because I've done it before. I just…"
"Just have to accept I've done wrong, and don't let it swallow me up. I might think I still don't deserve to live with honour or integrity like you, Jal, but. But there's nothing stopping me to try my hardest in regaining it, right?"
"Right. Live your future, Yamamoto. Only you decide where it goes."
"Haha! I'll support you as long as I can first, Jal."
"Oh, Brohug! Yes! And yeah, Yamamoto, of course I know that. You're my friend too, you know? And don't you dare thank me for saying cheesy stuff like 'you're my friend too'. It's embarrassing enough saying it out loud!"
"Ugh, now you've done it! Come back here, you!"
When Yamamoto came up, he'd died side by side with Jallinan, having chosen to remain on earth instead of rising back to the Celestial Realms after Jallinan had realised his Legend and saved the world. They built a lot of stories together, the Legendary Jal and his best friend, the War Demigod Yamamoto, before Jal had died of old age, and Yamamoto finally then, letting the Divine power seep out from him.
It took a long time for him to arrive – Ken and Chikusa had arrived and settled close to Mukuro on the other side of his mountain that linked to something else, Nana and Iemitsu were in another part of Heaven, not joined to ours. Kyoko had gotten the Angel of Aspirations (or Dreams, you could say), a simple low-risk Trial that fitted her personality well, and Bianchi had passed by the skin of her teeth. Haru was still underneath the Angel of Loyalty, with a few months to go. Reborn was on a High-Risk Trial, not unexpected, but he was doing alright under Empathy.
Fuuta had arrived just the other day, and my brother Jack too. I-pin had passed her Trial with flying colours, and lived with Lambo now. Miwa and Setsuna visited my Heaven, sometimes, as I did theirs (they'd gotten together, surprisingly. I never noticed), a nice beachy affair. Emily was still on her trial. Jack had told me how Amanda would probably call on me when she passed her Trial (it was also a long one), and I'd grinned in response, introducing him to all my friends. Jack and Ryohei got along well, surprisingly enough.
Anyway, most of the crew was up here already, when Yamamoto finally decided to rejoin us. There was some bated breaths when he did let go, facing the Angel of Legends for the last time.
"You passed, Yama-bro," Legends happily said. "I knew you could do it!"
"Thanks, Angel," Yamamoto said with a slight bow, and was about to say more when Legends just gave a small playful wave and a dismissive 'don't worry about it!' before she waved him through to Judgement. We all waited for the tug – not too long after, thankfully, and we all crowded through doorways to get there first.
For Yamamoto, all the Vongola Guardians were in front, even Hibari. There were also some of Yamamoto's Trial teammates standing at the very front too, and we smiled at each other (some of them pointing to me and Chrome), before the door opened.
"Hey, guys," was what he said when he'd adjusted himself comfortable.
"What, Yamamoto! That the lamest reaction I've seen!" Lambo complained, stomping forward. "Where's the emotional waterworks? The biggest smile in the past century as you look at your long-lost friends?"
"I'm really happy right now, believe me!" Yamamoto said with a (totally normal) laugh. He hugged Lambo first, before he went to one of his Trial teammates and clapped them on the shoulder. He moved through each precious person slowly, until he got to Chrome. I watched as he gave her a longer hug than the others, as they talked a little in whispers. Then he let go with a dazzling smile, going through a person I didn't know, Hibari, and then me.
"Alice," he said, all warm and stuff, and aged myself up (nowhere near his two metres) before hugging him tight.
"Missed you, Yamamoto," I murmured into his shirt.
"Me too. Thank you, Alice."
I whacked him on the shoulder for that. "I'm your friend, doofus. I couldn't just let you rot in Limbo for the next thousand years. Don't you dare say thank you for that!"
"Haha! You remind me of Jal, you know that?"
That made me grin, knowing how much Jallinan meant to Yamamoto. "You think? He's an awesome guy, from what I saw."
"I bet you'll become good friends, when he comes up," Yamamoto said easily, with the most real happiness and confidence I've seen in him for… ages.
"Your Trial's been good to you," I said quietly to him, and Yamamoto smiled.
"All thanks to you. Chrome told me how it was all your idea."
"No," I shook my head. "I didn't give anything but a second chance. You came up here," and here I nodded to everyone around me, the white room, Heaven, "by yourself."
Then someone from Yamamoto's Trial bounced up to him and threw their arms around him, and I let myself retire here, knowing that I could always talk to him later, now. I stuck close to Hibari again, who'd already drifted to the side of the room. We followed Yamamoto out, and there it was, right next to Ryohei, completing the semi-circle around the back of my cottage. The front of the house still had the neverending horizon, but now the back had the Vongola. Yamamoto had pushed all the grass sprouts Lambo had started all the way up to break the two inches of water, making a beautiful garden that stretched from my cottage to Mukuro's mountain. The garden stopped in a gentle line where my cottage started, shifting back to an ocean by my front doorstep.
There were even flowers. It felt complete, in a way. Like things were finally taking root. Permanence.
"So I wait?" Yamamoto asked, looking around his Heaven – a huge tent, surprisingly enough. Portable. "For Haru and Jal? For my son, and family, and everyone else?"
"Yup," I replied, curiously glancing around the place. It was pretty cosy, for a tent? I guess?
"What do you do next?"
"Anything you want."
Yamamoto peered out the tent flap, propping it up with a pin. Outside, Lambo was roaring with laughter at something Ryohei and Jack had said, while Tsuna was happily talking with Gokudera and Bianchi over something I couldn't hear. The siblings weren't actually talking to each other though. Some of Yamamoto's teammates were mingling, introducing themselves and such, and I looked forward to getting to know a whole new batch of people again.
Kyoko sat to the side with Chrome and Fuuta, while I-pin jumped up and down, a little jittery, talking animatedly with a girl I didn't know. Mukuro and Hibari had took off somewhere (not together, obviously), and I felt the smile on Yamamoto's face more than I saw it.
"Anything, huh. Anything you recommend?"
"Oh, right! Yamamoto, you have to eat Grey's mango special. And mille feuille. And basically every dessert that he makes! It's amazing!" I followed him out the tent, into the wet (but not wet, if you wanted to be dry) field of grass where most of the people I loved gathered. It reminded me of a dream I'd had, when I was still alive, where everyone was underneath the sun, readying for a picnic.
"Alice," Lambo whined, "tell Jack that he's got it all wrong, the thermodynamics principle is clearly..."
"No, big sis, hear me out okay," Jack said, trying to appeal to me by shifting to a younger age. He was so clearly cheating. "Modern scientific theory proved that Bernholdt's research was correct, but according to Bianchi's Trial world, it was disproven so the principle is obviously..."
I laughed, and just noogied their heads, before leaving my little brothers behind, heading over to a tree where I spotted Hibari. While I settled next to him, content to just lean against his side, I watched the whole family either bicker, laugh, or alternate. Yamamoto was a pool of weird zen in all the chaos, and I could't suppress the silly grin that started to rise on my face.
It was a good day.
Previous Grey specials: End of chapter 40 & 42 [Please note that I'm so sorry for the weird tense changes]
"Turchino! I love you!" Gris yells over the din, as he snipes another guy that was trying to sneak up on Galopin and only gets him in the meat of his shoulder. Marie hefts his huge axe and finishes the job, hacking the head off his shoulders. Gris doesn't even flinch anymore, and turns his eye to Turchino.
She's a whirl of smooth brown curls that bounces as she throws a dagger into a man's throat with her right hand, holding two daggers in her left that slices deep into another man's leg – one caught a hamstring, and she smirks viciously when she flicks her hair back and steps over the downed man, kicking his head to knock him out.
"What did you say?" She says, her bright grey eyes turned to him, and they seem to glow in the dim light of the early evening. Gris stares at her with stars in his eyes.
Suddenly, out of the battle rush, Gris feels that his idea is very, very stupid.
"Uh, um," he stutters, and Pierre claps a hand to his back. Gris feels every single bit of his awkward fourteen years. Maybe he should've actually waited until he was eighteen. He thinks he would've been much smoother if he was eighteen. "Turchino!" He decides. "I LOVE YOU! GO OUT WITH ME!"
The crew hollers and stomps their feet, and Gris watches for her reaction with bated breath while Turchino still looks poleaxed. The crew swaps some money with either happiness or disappointment in their faces while he waits. He starts fidgeting, trying to kill the nervousness.
He felt really nervous.
"Um. Turchino?" He timidly asks, glancing up, and that seems to jolt Turchino awake.
"No," she deadpans, turns around in her fourteen year old glory and Gris slumps.
"Don't mind it, Gris!" Marie encourages from behind, giving him a big shoulder clap, making him cough a little. "Don't give up! With a girl like Turchino, you have to show how dedicated you are. Are you dedicated?"
Gris looks up. "She's the most perfect person I've ever seen. I am very dedicated!"
"Then go chase her!"
"I love you,"he whispers down the radio. "Am I being creepy by saying this so many times?"
Instead of a reply back, the tiny figure of Turchino through his binoculars immediately smashes several windows, fight off twenty enemies by herself (while Grey nearly chews his nails down to the quick and helps by sniping nearly a whole group of reinforcements in his worry) and turns her angry face straight at the view of his binoculars and no matter how much he loves her, that was actually… kind of creepy.
"You're not creepy," Turchino candidly replies to him after everything was cleaned up and dealt with, "but if you say it again, you'll end up like this guy."
She holds up an incredibly beat up guy. He gibbers something like he was pleading for his dear maman to save him.
Gris gulps and risks it anyway. You only live once!
"Turchino, go out with me!"
But because his nerves weren't that strong, he starts running away immediately afterwards. It wasn't enough though –Turchino's shoe flies much faster than him, and it hits him on the head. Strongly. The next time he wakes he's in the infirmary, Nurse Anne-Marie leaning over him for the nth time.
"She's going easy on you, you know! I think you're getting to her!" She says cheerily, like that might actually encourage Gris.
…Actually, it did.
"You think so, Anne?" Gris says hopefully, and with the cheery nurse's encouragement, bounces straight up with renewed determination. He just needs to confess a little more!
And plus, plus, Turchino said he wasn't creepy!
That must be her softening up a bit. Right? It totally wasn't Gris being hopeful or anything, right?
"Turchino, I," and that's all Gris gets out of his mouth before Turchino interrupts with a frown, having just cleaned the blood off her face.
"If you say 'I love you,' I'll kick you in the face."
"I LOVE YOU!"
Later on, Gris woke up in the infirmary, with Nurse Anne-Marie bent over him in sympathy.
"Reject you again?"
Gris just groans.
"It's not that I don't like you," Turchino confided in him once, when they were lounging in a hotel in Paris, waiting for their target to settle down for the night so they could rappel into his room through the balcony. "You're my closest friend, Gris. If anyone is going to be in a romantic attachment with me, you'll be it."
Gris rolled around the bed, shuffling the pillows so that they propped him up as he regarded Turchino. He'd just turned fifteen, and his gangly awkward teenage years seemed endless. Turchino aged gracefully – purely gorgeous, always (but the guys at home told him he was just biased) – and as much as Gris felt super incompetent next to her, he also knew he was super helpful, so he never complained.
"Then why? Just give me a chance!" He insisted, trying his best to blink back sleepiness. Turchino's eyes were just as sharp though – Gris thought he'd never seen Turchino not aware. Even when she slept she had her hand on a knife. It scared him to bits – what if she hurt herself?
"…You weren't supposed to fall in love with me," she admitted. "You were supposed to see another girl watching opera. You were supposed to fall in love with her, marry her, and inherit her part of the French underground."
Gris blinked, puzzled, finally sweeping away some of the sleepiness that still clung to him after a long day and sat up.
"What? Turchino, that's ridiculous and silly. I saw you, and I love you."
"But you were supposed to love someone else," she insisted stubbornly, her frown a strong line. "I know it. You would've been happy with her."
"But I want to be happy with you."
Turchino threw up her hands. "Ugh, stop being stubborn! I hated your character, you know?" She pointed her finger at him, and Grey couldn't even muster up any confused hurt at apparently being hated? Even though she just admitted being his best friend? "Your character was always so perfect, so sincere. I didn't believe any of it! I finished the series thinking you were the last boss, only you just kept that veneer of perfection till the end! I was so pissed!"
Gris felt like they weren't talking about him here. Hadn't Turchino seen how he'd tripped over his shoe-laces the day before?
"And then you had the audacity to confess to me! And then get targeted over it! And then when I offer you sanctuary, because you're an important character, dammit all, I realise all that sincerity and niceness was true. And now you're improving with cooking, your shots are getting legendary, and you apparently have talent in like, seven styles of martial arts, and I can see you becoming that unrealistic perfect guy in the book only you're real! In front of me! In love with me? How does that work out? How can you love me?"
Maybe Turchino suffered from hallucinations. Gris knew he shouldn't have let Turchino smoke so many cigars, no matter how cool she looked with them!
He didn't know how to fix this.
"Well, um, it seems like you keep mixing me with someone else so, uh, do you want to change my name? I've always like Gabin."
"I, I can't just change your name, there's plot continuity at stake! Don't you understand?"
"Well, too bad," Gabin said, now fully convinced that it was the right thing to do. "Call me Gabin."
Turchino just face-palmed.
"Oh dear Lord," she muttered. "Here I was, trying to explain why I can't love him, and he just breaks off from the plot more. I can't anymore. I just can't. Okay, Gabin," she said, looking at him. "I like that name over Gris anyway. What does it mean?"
Gabin scratched his hair. "It's Hebrew. It means 'Devoted to God'. But I don't know if God actually exists or not, so I guess just… 'devoted'? Now, as Gabin, I want to say," and Turchino looked at him with a weary sort of resignation, "say that I love you! Please go out with me!"
"I give up," Turchino muttered. "Alright. Gabin. I'll date you. Impress me with something on the first date."
"YEESSSSSSS!" Gabin yells triumphantly, and Turchino drubs him in the knee and dropkicks him onto the bed furiously.
"Have you forgotten we're on a mission?" Turchino she hisses, but Gabin didn't even care anymore.
"Right! Yeah! Where do you want to go for a date?"
Turchino just sighed again. "I'm already regretting my decision. Why did I accept again?"
Five years later, they worked as an unstoppable team, and Turchino finally, finally, let Gabin teach her how to dance.
"You don't get it, Gabin," she complained, "I told you about my past life. I was in war. All the coordination I ever did was where to stab and how to dodge." She stepped on his toes again, but Gabin couldn't even bring himself to care, he was just so happy.
"It's always been my dream to dance with you," Gabin said as he hummed a song quietly. He also ignored their whole team hiding behind the bushes spying on them. "My mother and father did this every weekend, and it looked like the most romantic thing. So I wanted to do it with you!"
Turchino looked at him, with a sort of exasperation that he was familiar with now, that said a mix of 'why am I dating this romantic idiot' and 'did he just say that'. But there was also fondness too. It made Gabin, whenever he saw Turchino looking at him, embarrassed because she looked at him like something precious. Like something she couldn't believe she had.
"Mhmm. Are you sure you don't want to marry Lucy? You'll get wonderful resources that way. You don't have to live like a hobo with us too, Gabin."
That just made Gabin roll his eyes again – Lucy was the girl he was supposed to have fallen in love with, and yeah, she was a nice girl, maybe, but she held nothing to Turchino's grace, and fire, and wonderful bluntness and honesty and beauty and their bond of trust!
"Nope! In fact, I want to marry you! Will you marry me, Turchino?" He got on one knee, pulled out a ring, and Turchino was giving more of the 'idiot' look than the fond one right then.
"I knew what I was walking into when I started dating the epitome of romantic cliché," Gabin heard Turchino mutter, but he also noticed her smile, so it was all good. "Are you sure, Gabin? Marrying at twenty?"
"I know I'll always love you," Gabin insisted, and he noticed Turchino didn't protest that point. "Do you want me to say that in Spanish? I learnt Spanish just for you, just in case you wanted something more romantic."
Turchino's grin had something broken inside – maybe even a little defeat as she held her hand out for Grey to slip the ring on.
"Well, how many girls could say their man learnt Spanish for them, when he damn well knows they don't speak Spanish? You ridiculous person. Okay, Gabin. I'll marry you. Make it as cheesy as your cheesy heart thinks it needs to be."
But her words were lost in the din of their friends jumping out of their hiding spots and loudly congratulating them both, and Gabin didn't really register all that really, because he was already in his own happy whirlwind of planning the wedding. There needed to be tonnes of roses. And a beautiful tiered cake, and…
"Gabin!" The celebration stopped as everyone glanced at the messenger – Lux. "The guy, the guy you've been searching for! The guy with a huge ring with the bee crest on it, right?"
And Gabin's world froze.
"I have to avenge my parents, Turchino," Gabin said, reassembling his sniping gun after cleaning. "I'm sorry. It's the only request I can't follow you on. I… I left some wedding colours on the table? Do you want peach cream, or honey cream?"
"Stubborn fool," Turchino only whispered back before leaving in a flurry of skirts, and Gabin felt terrible, but just remembering his parents, the fear, and sheer anger…
He took inventory, and calculated the preparations against the days. Lux, and Turchino had confirmed it, that the man with the bee rings would arrive at the church in two days. He had time. He had ample time to prepare a trap.
"I thought so," Turchino said quietly. "I thought so. I'd died in a church, so I was wondering if I was going to die at our wedding, but this. This fits too. Protecting you and all."
Gabin's too preoccupied with trying his best to put pressure on the gunshot wound in her gut to respond with anything but tears. His parent's killer is dead by the foot of the fourth pew, but that gunshot had been meant for him. Turchino had made it clear she wasn't going to help with his revenge, so why, why had she been there?
"Turchino," he tries to gasp out through his the tears and his blocked nose, "Turchino, the crew is getting help, they're getting doctors, you've, you've got to hang on, okay?"
"Gabin, you aren't stupid. This is a serious gut wound. The doctors won't come in on time," Turchino just replied all soft and quiet and without any sort of her usual flair and fire.
"No!" He insisted, wishing he had some power to heal. To close that wound up. Wished he got shot instead. "I, I won't let you!"
"Idiot," Turchino just replied fondly. "Now remember, take down that new group coming into Paris, okay? We're still the underground police, and without me there, you need to take care of things. And also, Gabin, let's get married now."
Gabin's got blood all over his hands, and all he could do was gape at Turchino pathetically, tears running down in face in big, fat, ugly drops.
"What?" After he said that, he sniffed. Hard.
"I didn't accept your offer even thinking I would die because of no reason, idiot," Turchino replied back. "I love you. Get it into your thick head, because I'm only going to say it once. I know you're ridiculous, so you probably brought our wedding rings in your pocket as a lucky charm or something," and Gabin was horribly, wonderfully, awed and humbled and so in love it hurt when he pulled out two rings that hung from his neck on a chain. When Turchino saw that, she smiled. "Now put one on my finger and say some short vow. I don't care what it is, just," and she grit her teeth against the pain, "just say it."
"I chose the name Gabin for you," he babbled now, his tears having soaked a patch in her shirt that was unnoticeable because of that huge, red, wet patch and he struggled on. "Devotion. That's what I promise you. Forever. All time. Always, Turchino."
"You ridiculous idiot," she whispered, holding his ring up shakily, only having energy to push the ring halfway onto his finger before stopping. "Me too."
It was a few ragged breaths later, after a few minutes of Gabin's babbling, praying for her to stay awake, please, before her chest stilled. He was found later moaning Turchino's name into her sticky chest, still slightly warm.
After Turchino died, the whole world was monotone. Dark, dreary. So he went back to his old name, but in English this time. Grey. Grey, for his existence without Turchino, for the colour of her eyes when they were happy, for the colour of the doves she liked to raise. He eradicated the enemy groups that Turchino would have disapproved of, headed the underground police of France for many, many years, until one day he couldn't any more. He gave his spot to his second-in-command, said goodbye to the graves of his friends and the ones still alive, and set off to Italy.
There, he'd met the new administrator of the Brighteyes – something he'd gotten access to immediately after he'd told the security guard 'I know about the Trials'. A ten year old child, a girl named Anise. He was fifty, and immediately set as a butler to a tiny little boy, eight years old but unsurprisingly old.
Sometimes, Grey thought about the future Turchino had painted for him – him and his happy family with Lucy. They were side characters, the perfect couple to contrast the broken wreck of the main. Lucy was the daughter of some rich underboss, and he would have inherited it and made it legitimate. Then, very rich and happy, he would have three children – two daughters and one son – and he'd lived in happy splendour being kind and philanthropic for the rest of his life.
But Grey had been mucking with the poor, underground police most of his life, cleaning up Paris's hidden streets and keeping the city and country Turchino loved safe. He now worked as a butler, instead of being the one being served, and he was more than used to assassinations and leaping around with a gun even at sixty.
He found his original life so, utterly boring.
Grey cycled through many children, all who died too young, barely twenty five, sometimes, or even less. He learnt to care less, learnt to take less long missions.
Then Liza, a former charge, asked him to leave Patrick for the newest addition to the Brighteye household. A long term mission, for four years, no less. He saw the picture on the file – the yellow eyes, the grey hair, and found that he couldn't reject it. The girl looked at the world like he did – like love wasn't there any more.
So he accepted it, and moved out.
Alice. That was her name. She refused to give a last name, her real last name, but that was maybe because she thought he didn't know the truth about the Brighteyes, death and such. But that was alright. This Brighteye wasn't as jaded as the others – there was genuine youth in her actions, which only made Grey grieve and celebrate more, sometimes. It only meant she had died young, but also meant she could learn and live in this second life.
She was also horrendous at picking up behind herself and taking care of herself. She acted kind of like Turchino, actually, only with elements of himself bundled in, sparks of the innocence he had had when he was younger, perhaps, or the weird sort of determination that she had.
She was exactly like how he'd imagined his grandchild would be. It was obvious she was starting to see him as a sort of grandfatherly figure, for all that he called her 'Miss' for distance.
And slowly, they both learned to love again.
She died, after a night of stuffing themselves as much as they could on Grey's kitchen offerings, the morning that dawned after he left that hospital was dim. Ah, he thought, his wrinkled hand to shade an aged, blurred world, the world was so much dimmer already.
As much as he knew Alice tried, he returned to the apartment with the fridge still quarter-full with leftovers. He reheated them, let the desserts thaw, and ate them for lunch. The kitchen table was gapingly empty. There was no expectation now, of someone coming back.
It hurt. It always hurt, when they left.
There was a little note Alice had written him on the table, and after reading it, he folded the paper into a ring. Then he pulled at the chain around his neck and slipped the paper ring next to his wedding ring, gazing at it for a while, before tucking it back into his shirt, close to his heart.
Patrick was going to be death of him, running all these risks and hoping for the best. Not that, of course, he didn't have a ten plans for backup, just in case, but it was the principle of the thing.
Grey huffed an exasperated breath, glad that although his body was slightly failing now, his mind was still sharp as ever. He could act as an effective control tower.
"Patrick, to infiltrate the government lab, you need to throw that powder over the gate, remember? Don't forget that."
"Oops, sorry gramps! Getting right to it! I have to get to the next plot point soon, so I might not reply for a while, okay?"
"I got it, move on. It's clear."
As he leaned back, Grey smiled to himself underneath his thinning moustache.
This hadn't been a bad life, at all.
And now he picked apples for apple pie, or strudel, or ice-cream, or any other sort of dessert so that he could see his family, his two favourite people in his life, happy.
The shout was his only warning before Turchino (still such a miracle, seeing her here with him) leapt at him from behind, but he was sturdy enough to put his basket down, turn around and hug her back before anything happened. Turchino pouted – she'd probably bet with Alice if he would be surprised, or fall down, or such.
And Turchino called him ridiculous.
"What is it, Turchino?"
"Oh, right! I just wanted to hug and see you, that's all," she said, and Grey smiled, because lying had never been her strong suit.
"Alright," he agreed though, just to save her face. "Do you want to pick apples with me?"
"Who wants to pick apples?" Was Turchino's response even as Alice (who had creeped up on them) cheerily – for her, anyway – replied with a 'sure, Grey!'
After watching Alice and Grey pick apples while laughing for a while, just like Grey expected, she joined in too, only to crunch more apples than actually pick them. Turchino had always had a bottomless stomach. 'Remnants from war', she assured him, but Grey suspected it was also most likely a combination of her innate personality too, just to be a glutton.
That night, Grey pulled Turchino close.
"I love you, you know that?"
And he smiled, when all Turchino replied with was a 'ridiculous idiot,' before she wriggled closer to hug him a little tighter.
It's finished. DD: I still have extras, of course BECAUSE GREY TOOK OVER THE EXTRAS SECTION I mean he deserves it but I was hoping to get some Bill and Patrick action at least, because the extras chapters after this would come sloooowllyyy (cos priorities). Don't worry though – I have the list. :]
I hope you enjoyed this – I wanted something more conclusive and action-kinda-maybe, like tying everything up in a bow type of feeling, and yeah, its done and I don't know how to feel about this because not writing this would be like ABANDONING FRIENDS which I have been with since like, five years ago.
Oh dear lord. I've been writing this for five years. What the heck. And I'm embarking on new stories too, now, though I have no idea what I'm doing with 3rd person AU perspective (Haikyuu fic is already out on my account, and I'm going to update it fortnightly cos… Fullmetal Alchemist OC fic is going to go out probs sometime this week ahahaha), so I'm probably in for the long haul again. I still have a long way to go, writing wise, and I'm reluctant to force people to read my stories ahaha, check it out if you want to. XD I hope I don't disappoint. Things are gonna be slow for a while.
Guys, thank you for supporting me. If this is the last thing you ever read from me, because I am cheesy and I love cheese, I want to say I love you guys so much, you've supported me for so long and GAH I am a horrible person at replying to PMs and stuff, and I've made a lot of friends which I've lost because of losing PMs left and right, but don't doubt I love you, and always will. You guys are awesome – I haven't even got ONE mean review, do you know that (even though there were some that said you didn't like it, but they were really nice about it), and man, that's amazing when you look at that review count right there. How supportive can you be, dammit all.
I know I've said this before, but you guys, I know you guys are going to be uber awesome and uber successful because bluh, you've changed me as much as I've (hopefully) given you something through this story, and grasping the moment… I'm not good at it myself. I'm kind of. Always scared, sometimes, when I start an original story or word document and I'm like WHAT IF THIS SUCKS, but I'm trying, and I always will try, and some of that determination comes from you. And just because something is scary doesn't mean it shouldn't be striven for! :DDDDDD Right?
I should stop this ridiculously long AN but derp, guys. It's finished. *hugs* Congrats for surviving the feels trip I hopefully gave you (that may, or may not, have inspired something in you), and wishing you, you ALL, a wonderful, substantial and satisfying life. Because you are all awesome.