Characters: Yamamoto, Squalo
Notes: I might have taken the 'quirky scenarios' preference too far, but I hope it's okay. There's a slight spoiler for one of the more recent chapters.
The last two people on earth stumbled through snow and the mounds of rubble underneath, shoes crunching and sliding on glass and concrete and the forgiving stiffness of corpses; "This reminds me of something," said Yamamoto.
Every time he spoke he wanted to hold his breath in that moment when the silence was still absolute and inhumane.
"It reminds you of everything!" Everything, everything.
He could actually hear Squalo echo in the silence left behind by everything else, and it made Yamamoto want to laugh the most. It let him breathe easy again.
"HEEEEEY, katana brat! You've got used to things like this already, haven't you?" Squalo grinned in the way that showed off more teeth than people were supposed to have. "You've been at the real business for a couple of months now."
Real business. Yamamoto quirked his eyebrows at that idea, jumped from a rock pile in place of a shrug, and then smiled as he looked at his suit-and-tie outfit. "I guess I am wearing the right clothes to be a businessman."
Squalo looked sharply at him from the top of the mound. "We don't know how long we'll be in this mess. We'd better see if we can find you some new clothes."
"Haha, yeah. I didn't even notice." He was cold, he realised. The tips of his fingers, nose, toes and ears tingled and his breath steamed visibly. It was a pity they'd had to leave the cars and their heating systems behind, but the cars would never make it over this collapse.
"Let's go," said Squalo, striding past.
"Let's!" He caught up and they settled into synchronisation, naturally dividing the area into hemispheres on their respective sides for each of them to keep watch on.
"Here," Squalo said, holding out his coat as he flicked glances in every silent direction, watching and waiting. "This is warmer than your jacket. We'll swap them every hour or so."
There was no spare kindness in the offer, only Squalo's mind grinding over the ways in which this would work out, because it had to, because he wouldn't settle for less.
Yamamoto settled the coat on his shoulders and gratefully pulled the furred ruff closer to his ears and over his mouth. Grinning made his gums ache.
It was a good plan, but Squalo kept having to remind him to switch coats. Yamamoto couldn't really keep in mind how cold it was, in spite of the snow. They looked like they were the last two people on earth, and he kept being distracted by how it didn't seem so bad.
Squalo wandered over the rubble city with certainty, and also (Yamamoto was looking) no regret.
He perfunctorily filled some silences by pointing around after scanning the area with brief glances: left and right, hand and sword, and the landmarks were fountains, bars, cathedrals, restaurants, plazas.
Yamamoto wavered between amused and bemused. Finally at a men's outfitters that served mainly the top-ranked mafia men, Yamamoto burst out laughing. As Squalo pointed at it, pointing back was the arm of maybe a mannequin, forlorn and one-fingered.
Squalo turned and stop almost on his heel. "WHAT?" he said impatiently.
"It's just - don't you notice? That's the first place where there's been any sign of the stuff you talked about!"
He blinked and then looked around, as if he really hadn't noticed. "It's my place! I lived here for years and fought off the little local gangsters who thought they could get somewhere through me. Of course I learned my own territory!"
He turned, dismissive, and Yamamoto watched him walk down the centre line of the road. "But there's no way to tell. You can't say this is your place anymore, can you?"
Squalo looked a challenge at him with one eye - he never bothered brushing his hair back when it got in his face. "Oh yeah?"
Left and right, hand and sword, and now the landmarks were: the flatness of ground that showed where the business district was, the river that had swallowed that bridge, the hill where a Vongola house had stood... The gash he'd scored in the cobbles under their feet when he'd stabbed his sixth opponent through the neck. "HEEEYYY! It's still here!" What a memory.
Squalo beamed, and they stopped. Blazing with pride, Squalo fitted the sword on his arm to the gash and let it sink inches deep. The sword he would have used back then must have gone even deeper, because it would have been of a narrower, less heavy make for the boy of then to handle.
Impressive, sure, but more interesting was the building they stood in front of. "You did that at an aquarium?" he said, an eyebrow raised.
"I was fourteen! Who cares about diplomacy when you're a brat?" Squalo snapped. His coat collar gave the impression of ruffled fur. "Anyway, it was a fucking boring school outing. No one else was paying attention either."
Inside the remnants of the aquarium the tanks had cracked or the water frozen. It was too cold for it to smell much, but Yamamoto sighed. There was nothing fit to make sushi from.
"What do you want to do in here anyway, ice-skate?" said Squalo, and Yamamoto frowned.
"Why didn't I think of that? There probably won't be a chance like this again..." He brightened as he spotted a pile of rubble in the corner that went up within reach of the top of the tank, and jogged over.
"Dammit - Yamamoto!" said Squalo.
"Squalo!" Yamamoto called back, exuberant with the rare use of his name, and beckoned from the top of the pile. "Come up here! The water's frozen pretty levelly!"
It was still pretty impossible to skate wearing shoes. Squalo came up soon to swear at him, and eventually to hack loose chunks of ice to throw at him. Yamamoto slipped and slid out of pitching range.
"I can improve on your average pitch by about thirty metres!"
"VOOIII! Like I care? It's a fucking stupid sport, katana brat!"
Yamamoto stayed out of reach, and came back after he'd found the turtle. "Look what was stuck in the ice."
"That's dead," Squalo said with mild disbelief. "A little late to save it."
Yamamoto laughed. "Who said anything about saving? This is supper!"
"It's a good thing you never decided to waste your time by opening a restaurant."
"I've never done turtle before," Yamamoto said. "I just saw a documentary once where these island people cooked one." He sleepily mimed a spear-thrust, the motion lost in the darkness.
"Documentary?" Squalo bellowed, and Yamamoto laughed. "Next time, no matter WHAT happened, I'm not doing this kind of thing without getting decent provisions first."
"Hmm, yeah." Yamamoto didn't think he'd bother with provisions himself, when faced with an end like this, but it had been a long weird day and sleep was more important than worrying about it.
His name again instead of something with brat attached, so Yamamoto sat up and paid serious attention. Stapled-together sheets of paper slid off him. It was an annoying kind of blanket, even if it was surprisingly warm. They'd really have to look for a store with camping supplies tomorrow.
"Is something wrong?" Squalo said.
"Hm? What would be wrong?" They were almost warm, and full. There wasn't much more to hope for, considering.
"Everything," Squalo said, so solemnly that perhaps the end of the world had left an impression on him. "You noticed."
Yamamoto looked at the sky through the partially caved in roof of the bank building they were sleeping in. How to say it? Squalo had lived here for years, after all. But there wasn't a better way than to say it as it was, and he thought that Squalo was more worried for him than for the city, or at least the memory of it that remained. How strange and kind.
"It's not so bad," Yamamoto said.
Squalo didn't reply. In the absence of electricity it was impossible to make out his expression.
For a while it was enough to listen to his breathing. Then Yamamoto reached out and tugged the corner of his coat that was in reach. "It's my turn with that."
It was too cold for Squalo to stay up after the exchange, and he piled sheets of paper on himself and lay back to back with Yamamoto.
Did such a simple thing mean trust, in the mafia world? It was a strange thought. Yamamoto decided not to bother wondering, because even stranger, he'd already known Squalo trusted him. Comfortable, he drifted off.
"There they are," Yamamoto said softly. And no one had contacted them about the arrivals, so they'd have to take care of these guys.
There were a good few people packed onto the approaching cars - big all-terrain type vehicles - and he was pretty sure he could make out some big guns too. There weren't too many cars, though, so it must have been tough to get past the perimeter guard. Did he know anyone who'd been on this guard? Mammon, and he definitely would have made it. Illusionists had a knack for making it out of tough situations.
"Where's our back-up, I ask you," but Squalo's tone wasn't asking anything and didn't give any indication of caring, although it did sound like something he'd yell about later on when he found whoever drew up the schedule.
"Think these guys have rings?"
"There's a good chance. It would make it easier to get through the illusions around this place."
"Right, right." Yamamoto removed the box for the swallow from his jacket's inner pocket. "If they made it through our guys, they must suspect someone's here, so we might as well go meet them."
Squalo reached for his own box without looking, focused on the approaching cars. "No holding back, brat," he said, grinning, which made it only a bit less of a warning.
For a moment Yamamoto couldn't imagine why Squalo would think he'd hold back. Shigure Kintoki was settled into his right hand, as at home as he remembered it, making him think of how it must be for Squalo to have his sword permanently in place. Comfortable. He'd come a good way since the two of them had met.
A missile launched from one of the vehicles as they ran down, screaming down from the centre of the sky. They definitely weren't normal people, right, come to see why the city had gone silent, if they had weapons like that? Squalo's shark opened its mouth to meet it, and Yamamoto figured that was crazy enough to distract them from his swallow camouflaging him with a copy. He veered off sharply on a different course to come at them from a direction they wouldn't expect.
It was easy; the end of the world had been easier.
He suggested that they should move towards the edge of the city to try and meet any others that might be coming in too, and Squalo said okay.
"Although I guess we've proved it's safe for people to be in here. That's all Tsuna really wanted to make sure of. They'll probably let us know we can leave soon."
"Looking forward to it?" Squalo said.
"It'll be nice to get warm. But this was definitely an experience!"
"What's WRONG?" Squalo gestured so emphatically it threw blood off his sword in a bright arc, striking snow far off with a little melting hiss.
"That question again?" Yamamoto said, looking up from cleaning Shigure Kintoki with a handful of snow.
Squalo's sword pointed at him, accusing. "Why haven't you cracked yet? You haven't been in the business that long. A couple of months. Not long enough to take this. They levelled a city!"
There were parts to the answer. It was no surprise to him what the rings could do, especially hell rings. Something like this had been coming on for weeks according to Vongola intelligence, as they focused on the circumstances around Verde's disappearance, and even Mukuro had dropped by through Chrome to drop hints about how he should be happy about how close the Apocalypse was coming. He'd seen what Byakuran did in that future timeline, and though they'd convinced Uni and her family not to ally with him in this one, there hadn't been a good way of stopping him completely. The snow and cold made a distraction from the worst destruction. The mission was only going to last a couple of days until it was deemed safe to let normal people in.
He and Squalo were the only ones here - and all right, it was partly because they'd been close to ground zero, immediately available, and were masters with weapons that meant they didn't need to carry ammunition, but it was also because they could be depended on and because they were good.
If this was the end of the world (and it should be amazing how that kind of thing could be so easy to believe; it was just easy) then...
"Well ... I guess it would make sense to freak out. But at this point..." Yamamoto waved a hand around the wasteland, laughing. "What's the worst that can happen?"
Squalo looked at what his hand had shown and his face pulled in a mix of disgust and horror, and he stepped back - he almost fell, graceless and fearful, completely unlike Squalo Superbia.
And then he laughed. "Katana brat! You're in-fucking-sane!"
That was a genuine Varia compliment. Yamamoto wiped meltwater off his sword with his sleeve, for a moment too pleased to want to show his face. "Well, let's go."
"You had some good moves with those scavengers back there," Squalo said.
Scavengers. Yamamoto looked over his shoulder and could still see steam rising. Those guys really should have waited to get through when it was declared safe. "Aa?"
"Yeah, you did!" Squalo's voice rose steadily, exuberance pumping it to surround sound.
Yamamoto became aware of his hands on Shigure Kintoki's hilt and he knew that they had a proper hold of it, ready to let him meet an attack.
"Let's go," said Squalo, and launched himself at Yamamoto, sword at the ready.
The other fight had been - he didn't actually know, but it felt short. It might not have been, considering the number of people involved, but he'd recovered his breath soon enough and hadn't learnt the names of any of his opponents (that always made these fights feel longer). This fight felt long from the first strike, grinding down Shigure Kintoki's edge with a grating metal squeal. It was an immediate reaction to even his breathing and pace himself, try to keep as much strength as possible in reserve so he could match the fervency of Squalo's cunning and power. The ground was uneven and slippery, and it was as bad as trying to ice-skate and just as much fun.
The end of the world, maybe! And he'd still have this to throw his whole body and mind into, the exhilaration of this immediate need for perfection, calling up something better and faster to block a killing strike as he threw a grin back at Squalo's.
Yamamoto backed up as he felt the ground rising behind him, taking the advantage of high ground while he could - and then there was no ground, the ramp of the collapsed building ending so abruptly that he laughed his shock up into the snow clouds.
He's stepped off the edge before, he remembers.
These days Tsuna shakes his head when he looks at Yamamoto, probably without knowing he's doing it - it's funny, the way Tsuna notices things. Yamamoto grins and swings an arm around his shoulder when it happens. There's real satisfaction in the fact that Tsuna accepts the friendly weight of that arm with no flinching or weariness, and usually with a smile. It's still simple.
It could be funny that that's true, that things are still simple in spite of and because of the things he's done with his own hands and sword - but Yamamoto's laugh is something that does make Tsuna flinch. Sometimes. Maybe five times, so far; it's hard to keep track. He tries.
Falling, flying. One isn't supposed to be fun.
"Don't lie there with that dumb look on your face." Squalo looked manifestly unimpressed.
Yamamoto prodded the back of his head with some trepidation, aware that there hadn't been time to pack anything once they heard the news, not even a couple of bandages. Nothing bad, there or anywhere else he could feel, only tenderness that was going to turn into bruises soon. He sat up and saw the ledge he'd stepped off only about six metres above.
"I've never had an opponent like you," said Squalo, and Yamamoto laughed at his resignation. But it kind of hurt to hear, knowing that he'd probably never have a friend like Squalo again.
"I have to go."
"We can report back over the communicators. The perimeter got its act together and called while you were still being dizzy. They said this mess probably started further into the city, and we should try and find—katana brat!"
Yamamoto kept walking.
"They're sending supplies in! We'll all be heading in THAT direction!"
It would be awkward to be at the same meetings with Squalo after this. He'd have to tell Gokudera (endure a raging fit of temper) so he'd be able to plan around the problem when he organised meetings.
"Where do you think you're going?"
Echoes and anger all around. Funny, but Yamamoto still wouldn't mind fighting like this, now that there was a reason. Squalo was ticked off enough to seriously attempt to kill him, he was pretty sure. He kept walking.
"VOOOIIII! Katana brat! What the hell are you running for now?"
The city was quiet in every other way. There hadn't been any noises from trapped people, or pets, or any kind of animal at all. The tri-ni-sette was a cornerstone for the world, and its disruption ... Yamamoto had no idea what it did, except that it was this, and this was oblivion.
Squalo roared betrayal. It fell dead soon in the softness of snow.
Even if they were the last two people on earth - pretty easy to believe - he wouldn't turn back.
He'd never been so cold.