In the oversized sitting room behind Hibari, the voices of the modest social gathering have settled into a low rolling murmur with the occasional trickle of laughter.
He stands apart from the rest and hidden from view at his preferred spot to one side of the balcony, facing the dark gardens of the Vongola estate nestled deep in Japanese countryside; he eyes the distant perimeter, calculating the efficiency (or lack thereof) of Sawada Tsunayoshi’s men out on patrol while his ears automatically pick out Yamamoto Takeshi’s voice from the rest. Over the course of the past seven years together Hibari has become attuned to Yamamoto’s pitch the same way bats can distinguish and locate one another across vast distances. But more strongly than the cadence of Yamamoto’s voice, what Hibari senses right then is danger—surrounding the mansion, seeping outward over the land, circling the skies over Namimori like plague—and with it a taste as sinister as ash.
It’s late. He’s ready to leave. He’s been ready for a while now; Hibari looks down at his watch, hands gripping the balcony rail to prevent them from acting on the restlessness he feels in his core, in every part of his body.
The smell of champagne floats on the air. Glasses clink, signaling yet another toast. The warmth emanating from the room, yellowish light mingled with the easy company of long-term school friends gathered together in reunion, doesn’t reach him until Yamamoto comes over to stand at his side; he leans one elbow against the railing and offers Hibari the long-stemmed glass in his hand.
“Hey,” Yamamoto says, a placid smile on his lips. “I think there’s also some wine left, if you’d prefer.”
Hibari shifts his eyes to the side, meeting Yamamoto’s. He takes the glass.
“Just how much longer do you intend to stay here mingling with those herbivores, Yamamoto Takeshi?”
Yamamoto chuckles. “Why, you jealous?”
“Hardly,” Hibari scoffs. He downs the champagne in one long gulp, handing the empty glass back to Yamamoto. “I’ve had enough. I’m going.”
Hibari turns towards the hidden side exit, but he is stopped by Yamamoto’s arm catching him across the back, as expected. The arm then settles over his shoulder, Yamamoto’s thumb brushing the side of his neck. Hibari shivers.
“Kyoko-san mentioned she’d like to thank you personally for her birthday gift,” Yamamoto comments, rubbing lazy, calming curly-cues back and forth along the edge of Hibari’s suit collar. “Come and speak to her before we go?”
Hibari sighs, hands bracing once more on the banister. He fires Yamamoto an irritated glance. “You owe me.”
“Haha,” Yamamoto grins, bending to place a chaste kiss on Hibari’s temple and then backing away a suitable amount, letting his arm fall back to his side. “I always pay back my favors, don’t I?”
Hibari doesn’t bother answering; they both know it’s true. There are few men as honest or loyal as Yamamoto Takeshi, and fewer still who have earned Hibari’s respect and trust. Kusakabe Tetsuya probably comes the closest, but even he ranks second behind Yamamoto’s inexplicable charm, a mix of innocent smiles and reflexes so deadly even the Baby gives pause; the opposing sides are nonetheless pure.
Hibari reenters the sitting room long enough to catch Sawada Tsunayoshi’s eye and then pay his respects to both him and wife. He permits Kyoko’s gentle grasp of his hand since he—along with everyone else even remotely associated with the Family—is somehow utterly unable to refuse her. At least Sawada knows better than to try Hibari’s patience in such a way, waving goodbye to him from three paces back, laughing to cover his nerves. Somewhere on the floor above their two young sons are sleeping, for which Hibari breathes a sigh of relief. If there have to be children present at all, Hibari vastly prefers them to be sleeping and out of his sight.
After a cursory glance over the other guests, marking Sasagawa Ryohei and Hana, and Gokudera Hayato standing guard behind the Poisonous Scorpion and her latest man, plus a handful of others he wouldn’t normally interact with, Hibari makes his way to the front door and exits the mansion first, predicting it could be some time yet before Yamamoto has finished his farewells.
Hibari checks the number of Sawada’s guards on duty and deems them adequate, for now, although the restless feeling that has been gnawing at his ankles is back the moment the cool night air hits his cheeks. Hibari gets into the passenger seat of Yamamoto’s car and buckles his seatbelt. Then he unbuckles it, disliking the sudden sensation of being trapped. The lights on the first two floors of the house are bright and inviting, spilling yellow rectangles over the lawn that cut through the darkness to proclaim a false sense of safety, as if anyone inside could be protected by mere man-made walls against the threat that hovers over them all that very moment.
Hibari recalls the room of relaxed guests enjoying each other’s company in peace, not a care in the world. And then he pictures the alternative if something isn’t done: the estate in ruins, nothing left but bones and jewels buried under carbonized beams and jagged concrete, the last cinders steaming and the wind choked with an updraft of bitter ashes.
Better have your fun now, he thinks, then presses his lips together, grim. He watches the front door of the mansion through the rear-view mirror until Yamamoto appears, jogging up to the car. For someone so popular Yamamoto hasn’t kept him waiting too long; Yamamoto fires up the engine and Hibari just has enough time to fasten his seat belt securely before the sporty car screeches through the circle and down the private driveway.
The drive back to Namimori isn’t that long, especially the way Yamamoto drives, but to Hibari it feels interminable. He rests his elbow on the door’s armrest and his chin against his palm, watching the countryside speed by, bare trees like the dry bristles of a calligraphy brush, soaking up the night’s noxious ink to paint chilling ballads with every rustle of the wind.
They drive a third of the way in silence before Yamamoto clears his throat. “You’re thinking about him again.”
Hibari remains still, except for his eyes, which narrow into slits.
Yamamoto’s eyes narrow to match. “And how much longer are you going to brood over that guy, day in and day out?”
“Until he’s back behind bars where he belongs,” Hibari replies. “I will not rest while he’s out there going wild in my country or my town.”
“You don’t even know where he is,” Yamamoto argues. “He might not even come to Japan at all.”
“Do not let him fool you, Yamamoto Takeshi.” Hibari scowls, lifting his chin so he can make a fist and press the side of it to the cool window glass. “The Vongola alliance has never been so strong. This latest breakout is no coincidence; he’s only been biding his time—”
“—So let Tsuna handle it, Hibari.”
“Sawada Tsunayoshi does not have what it takes,” Hibari scoffs. “He will not accept the truth. That man is an eyesore who needs to be wiped from the face of the earth—”
“It’s Tsuna’s problem,” Yamamoto raises his voice a notch, his brow tight. “And Tsuna’s job. No one else’s.”
“Ridiculous.” Hibari rolls his eyes, then returns his chin to his palm, seething. “I will do what I please, Yamamoto Takeshi. Stay out of my way.”
Yamamoto drops the subject. Hibari dislikes that Yamamoto is at least partly right. And though he dislikes it, what he dislikes even more is arguing the same topic with Yamamoto over and over again without getting through to him—this same conversation has repeated many times in the last two weeks, ever since Sawada Iemitsu and CEDEF got first wind of the prison breakout, thus giving Hibari’s Foundation a sound beating at the intelligence game. Hibari’s wounded pride has still not recovered, sitting hollow in his gut and festering with every day that goes by without a single lead that will allow him to reverse this unacceptable situation.
The when, the how, and the where may be uncertain, but there is no mistake—that man is coming, and Hibari will stop him this time, no matter what it takes.
Yamamoto zips around the causeway and merges across three lanes onto Namimori’s main highway, the bleak and shadowed countryside dropping away behind the curtain of electric twilight hung by modern civilization.
“Maybe we should go on vacation, yeah?” Yamamoto says. “Take your mind off things, something quick, a weekend at a hot spring maybe.”
“I will not leave Namimori,” Hibari snaps.
Yamamoto is quiet for a moment, breath held suspended between his teeth. Then he exhales slowly. “I know.”
Neither of them say that a vacation is out of the question. Not with Yamamoto’s teaching and coaching responsibilities at the high school, Hibari’s work at his Foundation, and Iemitsu’s recent orders—couched within friendly suggestions, of course—that all of Vongola Decimo’s Guardians and allies should expect to be on call for the indeterminate future until things overseas settle down. An unofficial code indigo. Of course, none of this would even be happening if Sawada hadn’t negotiated the prison transfer many years gone by; Hibari warned him this would happen, warned all of them. But no one listened.
Yamamoto sighs, managing a lackluster smile. “Just … don’t forget I’m on your side, okay Hibari?”
Hibari cringes at the sappy comment, but he does understand the sentiment behind it. He tucks his shoulder into the car door and continues to watch the scenery out the window, but reaches across the gear shift to put his hand on Yamamoto’s thigh, high enough up so it won’t interfere with the driving. He squeezes once in reply, leaving his hand where it is for the duration in a rare gesture of reassurance, and gaining a similar relief from tangible confirmation of Yamamoto’s presence.
Yamamoto receives the message, throws the car into the highest gear and pilots them home in record time.
To Hibari, the house they share is sacred ground where none may breach—not even the Baby has been allowed inside since the day he and Yamamoto cosigned all the paperwork to claim ownership of a secluded traditional style house on the side of a hill, complete with a separate enclosed structure for use as a garage, which links to the main section by a short covered walkway.
The no-visitors rule has nothing to do with the house’s proximity to Namimori shrine, and perhaps everything to do with the years they spent apart, Hibari living in various Foundation facilities all over the globe, and Yamamoto staying mostly in Japan, the intervals between meetings occasionally spanning months. It took years to get to the point where they could even consider sharing a home; discovering all the simple pleasures of daily life is a luxury Hibari will not relinquish now that he’s had a taste.
The quiet intimacy of eating breakfast together every morning, trading off on the larger chores, learning to sleep in the same bed night after night without accidental injuries—these instances and countless more are so precious and so private that Hibari simply will not allow a single outsider to witness even one second.
It might be his possessive tendency, but Yamamoto agrees with the “no trespassing” mandate and guards their home-base with the same ferocity with which he preserves the sanctity of his Shigure Souen Ryuu. And if he didn’t, Hibari wouldn’t be comfortable leaving him behind to watch over things when he must travel overseas, or even when leaving him for a large part of the day—there are some things meant to be kept away from prying eyes, and the haste and passion with which they sometimes make love is only one of them. This is their sanctuary, with a threshold no one would dare to cross.
As they enter the house from the garage, Hibari can immediately tell that Yamamoto is determined to drive any thoughts of other men from his mind, bent on reclaiming his full attention. Hibari tastes the jealousy in every kiss, a sharp flavor at the back of Yamamoto’s mouth matching the urgency of his steps across the tatami flooring as they navigate around the table and seat cushions in the dining room, and the sofa in the western-style sitting room, finally ducking into their bedroom. Sometimes they don’t make it that far, but tonight Yamamoto insists; he takes the lead with a focus that will brook no opposition and Hibari submits to his flow, here in this room where only Yamamoto will see.
When was it that Yamamoto Takeshi became his comfort, and not just a worthy opponent?
Hibari shrugs off all such complicated ideas and strips away more of Yamamoto’s dress clothes. He’s a man who wants what he wants, and right then what he wants is the calming sense of security found inside their home and the relief of Yamamoto’s naked body next to his, teeth teasing the trail beneath his navel before Yamamoto’s mouth gulps him whole.
Hibari inhales, thighs tensing from the onslaught of sensation. He watches the crown of Yamamoto’s head through hooded eyes, and then arches his back and lets his head fall backward into the pillows, riding the waves of Yamamoto’s expert attentions. Later Hibari buries his nose into Yamamoto’s temple, inhaling the sweat of his exertions and locking his arms around Yamamoto’s shoulders.
“Takeshi…” he whispers, part goad, part plea.
Yamamoto shivers, pausing, eyes locked with Hibari’s. His fingers comb through Hibari’s tangled hair and cup his face. Then Yamamoto kisses him, continuing the rhythm where he left off and Hibari is rolled under Yamamoto’s riptide and plunged near-death—harsh; sweet—the night’s debt repaid over and over and over again.
By the time Hibari gets up in the morning, typically groggy and out of sorts, Yamamoto has been up for hours. He has been to his father’s dojo and back for morning training, and then he has prepared breakfast, setting the dishes on the low table just as Hibari appears in his yukata and pads over to his preferred seat. Yamamoto cooks with the same effortless competency in which he does most things, and so Hibari leaves him to it, which suits Yamamoto just fine; he grew up above a restaurant after all. They eat together in easy silence, Yamamoto reading the paper and sipping milk through a straw, and Hibari facing his open laptop and sipping scalding hot black tea to help jump-start his system.
After the meal, Yamamoto may ruffle Hibari’s bed-head as he clears the dishes to the kitchen and packs them each a lunch, but otherwise Yamamoto respects his space, and his mood, and Hibari is grateful for the chance to breathe and prepare his schedule for the day without interruptions. Yamamoto is the first to leave, dashing out the garage door and zooming downhill from the outskirts of Namimori shrine on his bicycle, arriving at Nami High full of energy.
Hibari’s morning routine is slower, more methodical; he needs the time to wake up completely before heading into the Foundation offices where he’ll meet with Government officials and view classified reports. Most of the reports deal with basic city management, but the Foundation’s web has multiple layers, from contacts within the police force to the secret intelligence gleaned by his men, both domestically and smuggled in from overseas.
Currently, the main forces are following certain targets and monitoring airports, others spending hours and hours scouring airport footage for the tiniest clue or lead that could keep them all from falling victim to that man’s newest—and undoubtedly brutal—plot.
By the time Hibari goes home for the night, his mood is foul and his stomach is empty, the frustration at being ill-prepared to deal with any imminent threats a weight that presses on his shoulders. How to defend when the timing and the method of attack are yet unknown? What he really wants is to go on the attack—but that is impossible unless they uncover more leads.
And the cycle of stress continues, and slowly escalates.
The smell of dinner permeating the front rooms all the way from the kitchen helps take the edge off Hibari’s nightmares. Yamamoto is there, freshly showered and greeting him with a smile. And probably offering much more, if he’ll allow it. Hibari puts down his briefcase and exhales in a huff, knocking his forehead into Yamamoto’s shoulder and resting there, just for a moment. Yamamoto chuckles and curls the fingers of one hand into his hair, massaging some of the stress away.
“Food’s ready, shall I heat it up?”
Hibari nods, and then playfully bites him on the arm before separating so he can hear Yamamoto’s surprised laughter. Satisfied for the moment, Hibari pulls on the knot of his tie and heads deeper into their house to change his clothes, although his work will stay out on the table long after the two of them have eaten.
Yamamoto makes no comment at this, but Hibari can tell that it bothers him. It doesn’t change what he has to do.
Hibari stays at the table with his laptop for the rest of the night, intent on finding the lead that will tip the scales back into his favor. Before retiring to bed Yamamoto cautions him not to work too hard, brushes a kiss beside his mouth, and disappears into the bedroom with Hibird perched sleepily on his shoulder.
Hours later Hibari closes the laptop and yawns, his neck and shoulders stiff from fatigue. He joins Yamamoto in their oversized bed and feels some of the stress leach away, replaced by the warmth of Yamamoto beside him, although Yamamoto sleeps so motionless by habit now that sometimes Hibari wonders if he’s still alive.
Hibari leans over to brush a lock of Yamamoto’s hair from his face, smoothing some of the more unruly tufts into a single direction and watching Yamamoto’s eyes flit back and forth beneath his lids while he dreams.
This person, this house, this town—this little life he’s built with his own two hands—Hibari will not let any of it be destroyed.
Not a single, tiny, bit.
One week later, when the darkness of the bedroom is the thickest and the best kind, Hibari stirs. The cause, although not obvious at first, is an oily fragrance permeating the room, disconcerting and unnamable.
Distantly Hibari feels the shift of Yamamoto’s weight. Yamamoto closes the gap between their bodies and places his palm over Hibari’s hipbone, fingertips curled into the pajama silk and then gliding up his side. Yamamoto’s hand steadily slips underneath Hibari’s bent elbow to stroke over the bare skin of Hibari’s stomach and up the center of his chest. The hand comes to a stop just below the ridge of Hibari’s collarbone, fingers closing around his throat and nails lightly pressing the base of his neck.
“Oho?” Yamamoto whispers into Hibari’s nape, voice both curious and smug. The rest of Yamamoto’s body nestles in close to complete the spoon position.
There’s something strange and unsettling about the curve of his lips and Hibari begins to come fully awake, struggling to move within Yamamoto’s hold and getting increasingly pissed off—Yamamoto knows he can’t sleep like this.
“So that’s how it is… What an astonishing development, Hibari Kyoya…”
Hibari’s brow creases. He flinches at the sudden feel of Yamamoto’s wet tongue on the back of his ear and jerks his head away, disoriented from having his sleep interrupted and thus several times more annoyed because of it.
“Quit crowding me,” he demands, shoving his elbow backward with significant force.
But Yamamoto flops away from him with no resistance, sound asleep before his back hits the sheets. Hibari frowns, taking Yamamoto’s limp arm out from under his pajama shirt and flinging it to the other side of the bed where it lands with a soft thud. Then, still unsatisfied with Yamamoto’s lack of any protest over such treatment, or better—an apology for waking him, Hibari knees and pushes Yamamoto the rest of the way over to his side of the bed, leaving his limbs in a deliberately awkward splay. Yamamoto sleeps on, oblivious, not moving a single muscle.
Hibari grinds his teeth in irritation and curls back up as he was before, finally managing to go back to sleep although his rest is fitful and his mouth is dry. He dreams of flowers and soot, vines and blossoms with a smell of decay so potent his stomach churns; under the duress he forgets everything that just happened, dismissing it as a fluke not worth one ounce of interest.