In the universe where Xanxus is the Tenth, what happens to Tsuna and his friends? Drama with Humor and Tangential Romance, I-4

Pairing(s): Xanxus/Squalo

Tsuna stood in the shade of the small ‘control tower’ building and watched as a sleek private jet rolled to a stop, and tried not to fidget.

“Why did the Tenth have to come here?” he asked Reborn one more time. “I haven’t even graduated from high school yet!”

“Because he’s the one you’ll serve when Iemitsu retires and you take over CEDEF,” Reborn told him. “It’s about time you met each other. Quit complaining.”

“Who said I was going to take over CEDEF?” Tsuna muttered, more out of habit than hope at this point.

“I did.”

Tsuna sighed and then stood up straighter, nervous, as the jet’s door opened and a tall, dark man prowled down the stairs. He was followed by another man, lean and not quite so tall with a fly-away brush of short silver hair, and—thank goodness!—a boy about Tsuna’s age, looking around with sharp eyes under a curtain of darker silver hair.

“Xanxus,” Reborn greeted the one in the lead, not that Tsuna had really had any doubts.

“Reborn.” Xanxus looked Tsuna up and down and lifted a brow. “You’re sure he beat Mukuro?” he added doubtfully.

“Quite sure. Not that he wasn’t pathetically clumsy about it.” Tsuna rolled his eyes and caught what might have been a glint of sympathy in Xanxus’. “Which is why I wanted you to come help with his training,” Reborn finished.

“What?!” Tsuna yelped.

“Well of course,” Reborn told him, perfectly serene. “I can’t arrange escaped mafia criminals for you all the time, you know.”

“He didn’t tell you,” Xanxus stated rather than asked, and snorted.

“He usually doesn’t,” Tsuna admitted.

Xanxus looked him up and down again, more measuringly this time. “Hm. Got a problem with training against me?”

“I, um, don’t want to die and I don’t like pain?” Tsuna suggested, not entirely sure this would weigh with the kind of people Reborn seemed to know.

“Ah, don’t worry about that,” the lean man put in with a rather unnerving smile. “You probably won’t die.”

Tsuna sighed, slumping. Yeah, that was about what he had figured.

“This is the Vongola house in this town,” Reborn announced when they arrived.

It was the first Tsuna had heard of any such thing, and the first time he’d ever seen the large, western style house they had pulled up to. For the first time he wondered exactly how much money Reborn had at his personal disposal, to set this up.

Actually, considering property damages, maybe he should have wondered that sooner.

He helped haul luggage into the spotless foyer while Xanxus looked around, hands on his hips. “Nice place,” Xanxus observed with a hint of what sounded like suspicion. Xanxus, Tsuna reflected, seemed to know Reborn awfully well.

“I called in some of the Family to get it ready.” At Xanxus’ frown Reborn added, “They’ve already left again.”

“Good,” Xanxus grunted. “Can’t stand having a bunch of fawning idiots around.”

Tsuna blinked, started by the harshness of that comment on the Tenth’s own Family.

“They’re not actually pretending, you know,” Squalo said, in the tone of someone who’d said it many times before. “Just because they’re not afraid of you any more. I mean, how long has it been since you even broke someone up during training? Someone who wasn’t Varia,” he added.

Xanxus made a noncommittal sound and turned down the hall, glancing into each room as if he expected to find concealed attackers. Squalo looked after him, shaking his head and smiling crookedly, and jerked his chin at Gokudera, who followed quietly after Xanxus.

“If he doesn’t believe his own Family respects him, there will be trouble,” Reborn said.

The tolerant look slid off Squalo’s face and he narrowed his eyes at Reborn. “He’s getting there,” he snapped.

“He’s the Tenth now,” Reborn shot back, inflexible. “Get there faster.”

“Mind your own business,” Squalo growled, and Tsuna tip toed back a little, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. “You’re the Ninth’s man. You don’t know the Tenth.”

“If he can’t inherit the Ninth’s men, the Vongola will fail at the end of this generation,” Reborn said quietly.

Squalo’s mouth tightened and he said, just as soft, “And do you really think Iemitsu will give Xanxus everything he gives the Ninth? Do you really think you will?”

Reborn pulled the brim of his hat down, quiet for a moment. “That’s why I’m here,” he finally answered.

“Then I guess we’ll see.” Squalo turned away, following Xanxus and Gokudera.


Tsuna started a little, and tried to breathe normally again as the tension in the front hall eased. “Yeah?”

“Tell Yamamoto to stop by and see us, once he’s done with his team practice.”

Tsuna stared at him. “Um. Okay?”

Reborn didn’t explain the non sequitur, just hopped up onto Tsuna’s shoulder as he turned back for the next suitcase.

To Tsuna’s temporary relief he was not tossed to the Tenth’s un-tender-looking mercies the very next day. Instead he was training with the boy his age, Gokudera Hayato. His relief was only temporary because this involved getting blown up.

“You need to increase your endurance,” Reborn declared. “We’ll start easy; just put out all the bomb fuses before they go off.”

Put out the fu—?”

Gokudera flicked and fanned sticks of dynamite through his fingers and lit them off his cigarette quite calmly. Tsuna didn’t have time to protest further before the bombs bracketed him on all sides and he’d been shot.

More bombs. Fewer bombs. Bombs further away. Really a whole lot of bombs. Small bombs hiding among bigger bombs.

It was the last that got him, and when he came to he was still smoking.

“Idiot,” Reborn told him. “You need to pay better attention.”

“I was paying attention,” Tsuna protested, spitting out dirt. “It’s just… they looked…”

“Perspective,” Gokudera supplied, perched on a rock with one knee drawn up. “If I can distract you with the larger ones, the smaller ones will seem like regular bombs further away. They’re scaled to look exactly alike.”

Xanxus, leaning against a tree to watch the show, made a satisfied sound. “Hayato will be our best strategist, eventually.”

Tsuna blinked as Gokudera’s cool, businesslike look evaporated into a soft smile and bright eyes and… was Gokudera actually blushing?

“Tenth,” Gokudera murmured. Then he seemed to notice Tsuna smiling and cleared his throat. “So. We going again?”

“Of course,” Reborn said, and Tsuna stood with a sigh.

It was getting on towards evening when Reborn finally said they were done, and Tsuna just collapsed where he stood. “Ow,” he added, after a moment to catch his breath.

“What the hell?” Xanxus was asking Reborn, not quite quietly. “He acts like a total wimp, but he’s been running around like a crazy man putting out bombs like it’s nothing all day.”

“That’s Tsuna,” Reborn said, uninformatively. Tsuna figured that meant he was going to have to do this again tomorrow.

“Hey, Tsuna!”

Tsuna hauled himself to his feet with a smile. “Yamamoto.”

Yamamoto strolled up, bat over his shoulder, and blinked at Tsuna’s ragged, dirt streaked clothes. “Been practicing hard?”

“I guess so, yeah,” Tsuna sighed.

“Yamamoto, good, you’re here.” Reborn landed hard on Tsuna’s shoulder. “There are things you need to work on, too. Squalo,” he added, “Yamamoto uses a sword.”

That seemed an odd way to introduce them, to Tsuna, but sure enough Squalo straightened up and took a long step forward, eyes on Yamamoto. He didn’t speak, though.

Yamamoto cocked his head in friendly inquiry, bat shifting just a little against his shoulder.

Tsuna yelped as a sword blade slid out of Squalo’s sleeve and he lunged at Yamamoto. Everyone else, he realized, was just standing there looking on, and he wondered again when he had stopped knowing any sane people.

One strike that Yamamoto met, bat suddenly a sword, laughing; a second that he dodged, and Squalo’s face was completely still; a third that he stepped into and Squalo’s eyes narrowed and something small flew from Squalo’s sword and Squalo was leaping back from the explosion that blew Yamamoto through the air.

Yamamoto lay still where he’d landed.

“Yamamoto!” Tsuna started to go to him only to fetch up short against Gokudera’s grip on his arm.

“Don’t,” Gokudera said quietly, eyes on Yamamoto as he stirred and slowly levered himself upright.

“You wave a sword around, but you’re not a swordsman,” Squalo said, loud and flat. “With that skill level you’re no use to anyone.” He turned on his heel and stalked away from them all. Xanxus, Tsuna noted even in his distraction, watched Squalo go with a tilted smile.

“Let me go,” Tsuna hissed to Gokudera.

“Do you really think he’ll want sympathy when he’s just been beaten that easily?” Gokudera asked, though he also let Tsuna go. Tsuna hesitated.

“Well.” Yamamoto walked toward them and he was smiling the way he always did, but there was something different in his eyes. “It’s good to see you, Tsuna, but I guess I should get back to practice.” He patted Tsuna on the shoulder companionably and walked on.

“Yamamoto.” Tsuna hesitated.


Tsuna glared at Reborn. “What’s good about it?”

“Yamamoto needs a reason to be serious.” Reborn was smiling his barely-there smile. “And Squalo wouldn’t have been that angry if Yamamoto didn’t have it in him to be better.”

Xanxus snorted. “If it’s the sword, yeah. You’re a complete bastard, you know that?”

“I,” Reborn said, “am the very best home tutor.”

Tsuna thought about that, and about himself and about Yamamoto and about the Family that Reborn said he was already a part of, the whole way home.

For three days Tsuna tried to catch up with Yamamoto at school and completely failed. Yamamoto seemed just as sociable and cheerful as ever, but he was always on his way somewhere: to buy lunch because he’d forgotten his; to team practice, though Tsuna didn’t see him there when he stopped by on his way out to his own training; to take a make-up test, and that was when Tsuna got suspicious, because he usually had to take all of those and he didn’t have any that day. Finally Tsuna asked Reborn if he thought something was wrong. Reborn smacked him casually over the head.

“Idiot Tsuna. Of course something’s wrong. Yamamoto isn’t the kind of person to take being beaten easily.”

After that, Tsuna insisted on visiting Yamamoto’s house and finding out what his friend was doing.

“Takeshi?” Yamamoto’s father smiled. “So, it’s something to do with your business, is it?”

“Um.” Tsuna fidgeted guiltily.

“Takeshi is at the dojo two blocks down.” Yamamoto-san went back to chopping ingredients, knife flashing, still with that odd smile.

“I’ll… just go see how he’s doing, then.” Tsuna slipped back out of the shop and looked at Reborn. “Was that weird, or is it just me?”

“I didn’t see anything odd about it,” Reborn told him, and pointed down the road. “That way.”

Tsuna sighed and headed on toward the dojo. It was a nice one, large and traditional and set back on a big lot with willows and pines leaning around it. Tsuna peeked in the window slats to see if Yamamoto was really in there, and wound up clinging to the slats in shock. Yamamoto was there all right.

He was moving through the open room like water flowing, one form after another, and Tsuna would almost swear his sword was leaving trails in the air. “Since when…” he whispered.

Yamamoto paused and came to the door, looking around. “Is someone…? Oh, hey, Tsuna!” He grinned. “Come on in. I’m sorry,” he added, penitently, as Tsuna slipped inside and toed off his shoes, “did I worry you?”

“No, no, it wasn’t—” Tsuna started, only to be overridden by Reborn.

“Yes, Tsuna is an idiot, so he was fretting. So? How is it going?”

Yamamoto smiled wryly. “It’s good. At least I think so.” He looked round at the scattered remains of straw bundles. “If you don’t mind, though, I think… I think I’d rather not show you yet.”

“I understand.”

Tsuna was glad someone did. “You’re sure you’re doing all right?” he asked, hesitantly.

Yamamoto smiled at him, open as always though there was a layer of darkness in his eyes now. “Honest, Tsuna. I’m good.”

Tsuna smiled back; obviously there wasn’t anything he could say to change this. “All right. I’ll let you get back to it, then.” He made a face. “I was on my way to training anyway.”

Yamamoto laughed. “Hey, good luck. Oh.” He paused, back to them. “Don’t mention this to Squalo, all right?”

“If you want, sure,” Tsuna assured him.


Tsuna was silent for a while as they walked on down the road. “Reborn,” he said, finally, “is this really going to be all right?”

“Yamamoto is strong enough to be your friend,” Reborn said, serenely. “Have some faith in him.”

Tsuna took a deep breath and let it out.

“All right.”

“All right,” Reborn announced, “today you’re working with Xanxus.”

Tsuna looked at Xanxus and instantly felt scrawny. And breakable.

“You use very different techniques, it should be interesting.” There was, Tsuna felt, something ghoulish about Reborn’s good cheer as he cocked his head at the Tenth.

Xanxus gave him a dark look. “Interesting, huh?” Tsuna was slightly cheered by this evidence that other people than him knew Reborn was evil that way. His eyes widened, though, when Xanxus drew a gun and a hard glow lit his hand on the grip.


“The Vongola Flame,” Reborn agreed.

Xanxus raised the gun and fired at the cliff face, a lot of which turned into rubble.

“Heee!” Tsuna squeaked. He really couldn’t help it.

“It’s about time you got some experience against someone else who uses the Flame,” Reborn told him with perfect ruthlessness.

Tsuna missed most of Reborn’s lecture about special bullets and Wrath and some other Vongola boss who’d also used guns, because he was staring at the cliff in horror. When Reborn shot him he was actually relieved, because it was a lot easier to look at the Tenth’s Flame and not run screaming when Dying Will was humming through his nerves and thoughts. He was also grateful for the week of practice against Gokudera, because he needed every bit of speed and precision to dodge Xanxus’ shots; he had more agility, especially in the air, and that was good since he absolutely had to close hand-to-hand.

The thought stirred, in the back of his mind, that he should do something about that.

More and more of his attention, though was taken up with the taste, for lack of a better word, of Xanxus’ Flame. It was hard and wild, and there was something running through it like a scream heard in the distance. The word Reborn had spoken came back to him: Wrath. A compression and sharpening of the Flame.

He thought Xanxus’ Flame could get a lot sharper than this, too, if he were facing a real enemy. Someone who threatened the things Xanxus cared about.

That reminded him of someone.

When Reborn finally said they could stop and Tsuna collapsed on a rock, panting and aching in every muscle, that thought stayed with him. “Xanxus-san?” he finally said, hesitantly.

“Hm?” Xanxus was leaning back, legs crossed, looking like he’d maybe had a decent workout and could go another round any time.

“Reborn said that Mukuro was with you, now?”

Xanxus snorted. “As much as he’s with anyone.”

“I’m glad,” Tsuna said quietly. He got an odd look from Xanxus for that.


“The things they talked about, that their own Family had done to them.” Tsuna groped for the right words. “I don’t understand a lot of what Reborn talks about, the traditions and things. But that… that’s just wrong. They need someplace to be that will be better. So if they’re with you, now, I’m glad.”

“You think I can be better for them?” Xanxus asked, brows raised, and Tsuna looked up at him.

“I think maybe you’re a little like Mukuro when you care about something. I think maybe you can understand him better than other people.”

Xanxus eyed him for a long moment and then, rather to Tsuna’s surprise, turned and gave Reborn a very hard look.

“That’s Tsuna,” Reborn said evenly. “You’ve seen his technique up close, now, and you know what he did to Mukuro. It’s his intuition that’s developing fastest, not his offensive abilities.” He cocked his head. “Isn’t that good, for someone who will be your outside advisor?”

Xanxus answered with a wordless grunt, leaning back to stare up at the sky.

“He could probably master the Zero Point, too,” Reborn added, and sat calmly as Xanxus jerked back upright. “If you agree.”

Tsuna had no idea what they were talking about, but he did his best not to quail under the burning stare Xanxus gave him.

The Tenth stood abruptly. “I’ll think about it.”

“What’s the Zero Point?” Tsuna asked as Xanxus strode away.

Reborn was smiling. “If he agrees, I’ll tell you.”

Their next visitor was a lot more unexpected than Yamamoto had been.

“Hibari-san!” Tsuna scrambled to his feet as Hibari looked him up and down, because he could already hear Hibari’s admonishment about letting his school uniform get dirty by sprawling around on the ground. And Hibari’s admonishments never stopped at words. Tsuna dusted himself off, nervously, as well as could be when Xanxus’ last shot had slammed him into a small crater.

Hibari sniffed and glanced at the others. “Baby.” He nodded acknowledgment to Reborn, fingers already working delicately around the handle of his tonfa.

“Hibari.” Reborn was almost smirking, Tsuna swore. “I’m still a bit busy, but I thought you might like to go a few rounds with Xanxus.”

Hibari’s focus shifted and he examined Xanxus for a long moment. “Are you strong?” he finally asked.

Xanxus’ mouth curled. “Are you?” he returned.

Somehow Tsuna wasn’t at all surprised when they both lunged for each other and Xanxus caught the first tonfa on the barrel of his gun. He backed up out of the way along with Squalo and Reborn.

“He’s good,” Squalo said, arms folded, eyes fixed on the fast, brutal exchange ranging up and down the boulders in front of them. It was the most civil thing Tsuna had heard him say in days, which was a bit of a relief.

“Of course he is.” Reborn crossed his ankles. “I wouldn’t have recommended this if he weren’t.”

“He’s also,” Squalo noted as Xanxus shot the ground out from under Hibari and Hibari sprang forward instead of back, teeth bared, “crazy.”

“Hibari enjoys fighting, and he likes fighting strong opponents the best,” Reborn answered, composed. “You should understand that.”

“Mmm.” Tsuna didn’t understand the sidelong look Squalo gave Reborn.

The open area they’d been using as a practice ground was smoking and scattered with rubble by the time Xanxus got Hibari down. “So?” he asked, out of breath and dripping blood from the side of his head but also grinning, gun trained straight at Hibari.

Hibari looked up at him, expressionless, and twisted, coming up, steel first, inside Xanxus’ reach.

Xanxus laughed as he rolled back and kicked Hibari hard over him and against the broken rocks.

“Um,” Tsuna murmured. “Is this a good idea? I mean,” he went on as both Reborn and Squalo looked at him blankly, “one of them could get seriously hurt if they keep it up.”

Squalo shrugged. “That’s how we’ve trained, for a long time.” With another of those looks at Reborn he added, “Been a while since someone else could keep up.”

It was getting dark before Xanxus and Hibari stopped, and they only did because this time Hibari was actually unconscious. Xanxus took a while to straighten up, too, before spitting out a mouthful of blood and slinging Hibari’s body over his shoulder. “Persistent little bastard,” he panted, limping over to them and letting Hibari slide down to the rock beside Reborn. His teeth glinted in the dusk. “He’d fit right in with the Varia.”

The words left a little silence behind them that wasn’t broken until Squalo stirred and looked down at Reborn. “When you said you’d serve the Tenth,” he said quietly, “you weren’t kidding were you?”

“I’m going to forget you said that.” Reborn tugged his hat down a bit.

Squalo looked away. “Yeah. All right.”

Xanxus was frowning down at Reborn. “Wait. Are you saying that’s why you called the kid here today?”

Reborn shrugged. “I thought you’d both enjoy it, either way.” When he looked up he was unreadable, even to Tsuna. “But the thought occurred to me, when I met Hibari.”

Xanxus looked at Reborn for a long, silent moment, eyes dark, before he glanced down at Hibari, who was beginning to stir. “A new leader for the Varia, huh? He’d have to work his own way up.”

“With Hibari,” Reborn said dryly, “it couldn’t possibly happen any other way.”

“Well, good.” After a moment, Xanxus added, “Tell Sawada what the Zero Point is.”

Reborn smiled. “As you wish.”

Tsuna wondered again what the Zero Point was, that Xanxus was so wary of trusting him with it.

Five days later, he stood on the cliff, staring at his hands with wide eyes, and understood. “I can’t,” he said, husky, raising shocked eyes to Xanxus. “I can’t do that to you!” Now he understood why Squalo had been so tense these past few days.

Xanxus’ mouth twisted. “Not without this, anyway.” He pulled something out of his pocket and flipped it through the air, gleaming. It was a ring. “That’s why I sent Hayato back home to get it.”

“Ah.” Reborn sounded pleased. “That,” he lectured Tsuna, “is the Sky Ring. With it, Xanxus will be able to melt the Zero Point again. With all of the Vongola rings together, anyone could do it.”

“Oh.” Tsuna nibbled on his lip. “Well, I guess…” He could tell, though, that the Zero Point was a harsh technique, and he didn’t like the thought. Finally he straightened up. “Show me, first, then. Use it on me.”

Xanxus’ brows lifted. “What are you, kid, a masochist?”

Tsuna frowned. “You’re telling me to do this to you aren’t you?”

Xanxus snorted. “That’s different.”


Xanxus was silent for a long moment, hooded eyes fixed on Tsuna. Finally he sighed, exasperated. “Fine, fine. Don’t complain to me after.” He holstered one of his guns and laid his hand over the remaining one, closing his eyes. The alternation of his Flame was slow to build but eye-hurtingly bright when it flashed. Tsuna took a breath and gathered his own Flame. Finally Xanxus’ eyes opened, dark and clear, and he raised the gun and fired. Tsuna met it, as he was learning to, but this time the touch of Xanxus’ Flame was very different—draining, slowing his strength, stilling everything. Tsuna gasped as ice closed around his gloves, not really cold but an absence that seared him. It was a shock like being cut and not seeing his blood flowing.

When Xanxus’ hand settled over his, with that ring glinting on his finger, and Tsuna could feel it, could feel his own Flame again too, the relief made him dizzy. “Xanxus-san,” he whispered, looking up at him.

Xanxus frowned a little. “You okay?” he asked briskly.

“Why is it all right for me to do this to you?” Tsuna demanded, voice cracking a little.

Xanxus looked away abruptly. “I’m used to it,” he finally answered.

He didn’t mean the Zero Point itself, Tsuna could see that. Trying to think what else might feel like that, though, made him sick. And angry. A small, hot anger in the center of his chest at people he’d never met and probably never would.

The Zero Point was something that might stop those people, though.

“All right,” he said, low, and Xanxus looked back at him, sharp and startled. “I’ll do it. I’ll learn it. But I’m stopping for the day if I think we’ve done too much.” He looked up at his prospective boss, Will rising, lifting his determination like a tide.

Xanxus’ mouth quirked. “You will huh?” He stepped back again and aimed at Tsuna, the hard glow of his Flame steady this time. “Ready or not, then.”

Xanxus fired on him again and again, ruthless, pushing Tsuna back and back as he tried to catch the rhythm of the Zero Point. But even when the shots left him smoking, they didn’t break that new determination. Every now and then Tsuna caught a glimpse of Squalo, off to the side, leaning against a tree with crossed arms and a sardonic smile. He thought maybe he was starting to understand Squalo, too, a little.

It took hours, but finally Tsuna found his balance and when he closed with Xanxus that time he left Xanxus’ gun hand frozen. Xanxus’ expression didn’t alter a hair as he laid his ring hand over it and melted the not-ice. “Again,” he said.

“Wait.” Tsuna stepped back, frowning down at the ground. “There was something…” He placed his hands together, as if for the Zero Point, and felt it again, like something he’d heard years ago and forgotten but might remember if he could just find the thread of it. Finally he looked up, determined. “Yes. Again.”

Xanxus frowned at him, and frowned at him some more when he backed off to take the shots again. “What the hell, Sawada?” he asked after the first few left Tsuna smoking again.

“It’s something else,” Tsuna insisted. “There’s something else I could do with this.” He took a breath and focused again. “Please.”

Xanxus’ mouth tightened, but he fired again. And again. And again.

As he watched the last shot coming, Tsuna thought what he wanted was like the Zero Point inside out. Moving with the thought, he turned his hands around.

The flow of his Flame reversed.

This time he didn’t stop, either his Flame or Xanxus’. This time Xanxus’ Flame ran into him with no resistance and flared through him—out from him, overflowing. He let it, let the new strength drive him forward, closing hand to hand before Xanxus could move. “This,” he said quietly, hands closed around Xanxus’. “This was it.”

He stepped back, meeting Xanxus’ shocked stare calmly.

“I told you,” Reborn said into the silence. “Tsuna’s intuition is what’s growing the fastest. That’s how he’ll best serve you.”

Tsuna smiled at that. “Yes.” He looked up at Xanxus, calmed by the way he’d found, by the assurance that he could do better for Xanxus than piling more pain on him. Xanxus looked back at him, and Tsuna could see something slowly relaxing in him.

Leaning against his tree, Squalo was downright grinning.

Tsuna thought it was just typical that whenever Xanxus and his people were running out of groceries it was him, and sometimes Gokudera, who got sent out for more.

“Here,” Gokudera said, holding out a bag. “I’ll put stuff away upstairs if you get the kitchen.”

Since it had already been a very long day and the thought of not climbing stairs was extremely appealing, Tsuna agreed.

Most everything was easy enough to find the right place for, in the refrigerator or the pantry, though the package after package of instant noodles amused him as he stacked them neatly on their shelf. This, he thought, might be what people usually meant when they talked about the eating habits of bachelors. The only one of those he’d known previously was Yamamoto’s father, and that was obviously a special case.

He heard the refrigerator open and close while he was putting away the last of the rice, and then the sliding door out onto the deck behind the house.

“So? What do you think?”

Tsuna peeked around the pantry door to see Squalo setting a beer down by Xanxus, who was lounging in one of the deck chairs and might have been there the whole time. Squalo leaned against the rail across from him.

“What do I think of what?” Xanxus asked and took a long swallow. Tsuna went back to trying to find room for the new bottle of vinegar.


Tsuna froze.

Xanxus snorted. “I think he’s crazy. Pretty sure I said that before.”

Tsuna reached for the last bag, trying to stack things quickly and silently so he could see about sneaking out of there.

“He’ll fit in, then. But do you think he’ll be loyal?”

“To the Family? I’m guessing so; he’s a protective little bastard. Should have seen him when you were having your go at his friend the swordsman.”

Tsuna anticipated another loud and profane tirade over how far Yamamoto had to go before Squalo would call him that. Instead Squalo said quietly, “That’s the Family. Do you believe he’ll be loyal to you?”

There was a moment of silence and then Xanxus snorted. “As long as he does his job, what difference does that make?”

“You know,” Squalo said dryly, “if anyone ever wanted to know all the things that are really important to you, all they’d have to do is listen and see what you act most careless about.”

“Squalo.” It was a growl, and Tsuna peeked around the edge of the door cautiously. He saw Squalo push away from the rail and come to kneel beside Xanxus’ chair instead, looking up at him.

“Boss,” was all Squalo said, but Tsuna could hear things in that one word he didn’t even have names for.

Xanxus looked down at Squalo for a long moment, eyes dark, and finally glanced away. “Have I told you have have a really damn smart mouth?”

The mouth in question quirked. “Not just lately.”

“Well you do.” Xanxus reached out, though, and rested a hand on Squalo’s shoulder. After a moment he turned back and Tsuna, still trapped at the pantry door, could see he was smiling a little. “There are better uses for it.” He slid his hand up into Squalo’s hair and pulled him closer. Squalo went easily, eyes sliding half closed as Xanxus’ mouth covered his. “Come here,” Xanxus murmured after a moment, and Squalo slid up to straddle his long legs and be pressed tight against him as both Xanxus’ hands slid up his back and pulled him down to another kiss.

Tsuna took the chance while they were distracted and scuttled for the hall, face burning. There were no crashes behind him so he thought he’d gotten away clean, but he didn’t slow down until he ran into Gokudera at the bottom of the stairs.

“Sawada?” Gokudera’s hand slid to his belts, and he glanced around sharply. “What’s wrong?”

“Huh? Oh.” Tsuna realized he must look a little wild. He felt like it, wide eyed and probably very red. “No, no! No, it’s not… Nothing’s wrong, it’s just… um… Xanxus-san and Squalo-san… um…”

Gokudera frowned at him for a moment before his own eyes widened a bit. “Oh. Yeah.” He was turning a little pink himself. “Yeah, they’re um. Yeah.” He glanced down the hall Tsuna had come out of and cleared his throat. “So. I guess we shouldn’t start dinner yet, huh?”

“No! Really not!” Tsuna squeaked.

“Right.” After a moment Gokudera suggested, “Delivery?”

“Good idea,” Tsuna agreed fervently.

Dinner was enough to get them both past the embarrassment and talking sensibly about the weather in Italy, but as he walked home that night Tsuna remembered the question Squalo had asked about his loyalty to Xanxus and the way Xanxus hadn’t answered it.

He thought especially hard about the things Xanxus acted careless about.

Tsuna was back to exercises against Gokudera’s explosives because Hibari had been back for Xanxus today. Again. Tsuna was reminded of the last time Dino had come to visit, and the way he laughed when he’d said Hibari didn’t need a reason to fight, just an occasion. Xanxus seemed to like being the occasion.

Tsuna thought they were both kind of weird.

“Ninety percent chance of success is going to get a whole new meaning with him, I can tell,” Squalo was saying to Reborn as Tsuna and Gokudera came in for a drink. “I can’t wait until he meets Bel.”

“It will probably take a while to pry him out of Namimori,” Reborn cautioned. “But if he knows he can find so many strong opponents by coming to Italy we can convince him to transfer his attachment. Dino is already telling him little things about the honor and traditions of our world.”

Squalo’s smile tilted. “Ceirano will like having someone else around who’s into tradition; they’ll get along.”

“As much as two people aligned with Cloud ever do,” Reborn murmured.

“No surprise.” Xanxus joined them and caught the bottle of water Squalo tossed him with his off hand. He was favoring his ribs today, Tsuna noted. Hibari was already halfway into the trees, one arm dangling.

They were definitely both weird.

“So, we’re done for the day?” he asked hopefully, glancing up at the clouds. He’d felt a drop here and there and it looked like it was just about to open up and pour.

“Of course not. This is a good opportunity to train in low visibility,” Reborn declared.

Tsuna groaned. Of course.

Tsuna was drenched and gasping for breath, and the puddles were nearly ankle deep before Reborn finally declared himself satisfied for the day. Squalo wasn’t in quite such bad shape, but he hadn’t spent the first half of the day being blown up either. Tsuna dragged himself back under the trees, feeling like a drowned rat.

He nearly jumped out of his skin when Yamamoto spoke from the shadows beside him.

“So, is it my turn now?”

“Yamamoto!” Tsuna’s first response was relief, because he had been starting to get worried. His second was to get worried, because Yamamoto had a glint in his eyes that he didn’t get even when he was pitching in a tight game. Yamamoto was also carrying a shinai over his shoulder where his bat normally rested.

Squalo’s lip curled. “Back for more?”

Yamamoto’s answering smile was perfectly affable. “Yeah. I’m going to stay with Tsuna.”

“Even if you’re too weak?”

“We won’t know that until I try.”

“Bad timing, fighting the Rain on ground like this,” Squalo said very quietly, and vanished into the falling water.

“Yamamoto…” Tsuna started to say, only to be stopped by a heavy hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t interrupt,” Xanxus told him, eyes narrowed on Yamamoto.

Yamamoto just stood, head cocked, not even looking focused. Tsuna was about to say something, and never mind what the crazy people he was with thought, when that stillness broke. Yamamoto spun on his heel, sword dropping low and coming up in a sure slash, and…

Tsuna stared. The shinai had become a katana. And Yamamoto had caught Squalo’s descending stroke out of nowhere.

“Hmm.” Squalo smiled slowly. “Not bad, kid. Not bad.” He disengaged and sprang back. “Just not enough.” He came in again, faster this time, and Tsuna took in a breath to call something, he didn’t know what, because Squalo was looking a lot more serious than he had while he nearly skewered Tsuna himself. Gokudera seemed to agree, because he took a step forward with a worried frown.

The tip of Yamamoto’s sword dipped to the ground and slashed up, and water followed it. When either of them could be seen again, Yamamoto was behind Squalo. Now it was his turn to charge. Squalo was already turning, though, and Tsuna bit his lip hard.

“Quit worrying so much,” Reborn said, landing on Tsuna’s free shoulder. “Yamamoto is a natural.”

“But,” Tsuna started, strangled, and then gasped. Yamamoto’s hand slashed up and across as Squalo blocked a sword that wasn’t there. Instead it was coming in the other hand, and Squalo’s jacket fluttered, torn. He looked down at it for a long moment.

“Huh.” His eyes on Yamamoto were sharper than ever. “Your style. What’s it called?”

“Shigure Souen,” Yamamoto said, and smiled a little differently than he usually did.

“Thought I’d seen it before.” Squalo’s teeth showed. “Of course, the last time I saw someone using it, he lost.”

They met again, fast and sharp and brutal, and Tsuna felt like he could barely breathe. He knew Yamamoto, he knew Yamamoto always found a way when something was important, but he’d also spent some of the last few weeks fighting Squalo himself. He knew Squalo was the Tenth’s right hand, the strategist who taught Gokudera, the strongest among the Vongola after Xanxus himself. This couldn’t possibly end well.

“Been a while since I watched Squalo get serious,” Xanxus said, leaning back against a tree. “It’s good to see. Is that kid strong enough to take it, Reborn?”

“Yamamoto?” Reborn was smiling under his hat. “Of course.”

There was no question; Tsuna was surrounded by maniacs.

Xanxus grunted, watching.

“He thinks fast,” Gokudera murmured. “Most don’t realize how Attaco di Squalo works.” He straightened suddenly and Tsuna looked back at Yamamoto and Squalo. They were lunging for each other with what looked like exactly the same stance.

At least it looked that way until the actual strike.

Squalo landed hard in the mud and rolled back to his feet, eyes blazing. “What the hell was that?!”

“Shigure Souen,” Yamamoto gasped, down on one knee but grinning. "Eighth form."

“That wasn’t Autumn Rain,” Squalo growled.

Yamamoto blinked. “Of course not. It was the eighth form, Pouring Rain.”

Squalo opened his mouth and froze. “Like that, is it?” he finally said, very quietly, voice almost lost in the downpour. “Well, then.” He smiled, thin and sharp, and beckoned. “Get up and turn your goddamn sword around and show me the real thing.”

Yamamoto met him again, and Tsuna listened to Reborn explaining what must be the shape of Shigure Souen to Xanxus and Gokudera. His eyes were fixed on the flash and dart of swords in the rain, the hard, fierce light in Squalo’s face and the smile on Yamamoto’s. Watched as water swept up and away from Squalo’s charge and Yamamoto leaned into his stance, sword steady. Watched as Yamamoto fell.

“He’s still alive,” Reborn said quietly in Tsuna’s ear.

“Wasn’t that overkill, using Scontro on him?” Xanxus asked, as Squalo hauled Yamamoto back under the trees and dumped him there.

“No.” Squalo’s smile was wide enough to belong on his namesake.

Xanxus lifted an eyebrow as Yamamoto stirred and Tsuna hurried to help him sit up. “He’s that good?”

“He will be.” Squalo flung wet hair back with a toss of his head and kicked the bottom of Yamamoto’s shoe. “Keep working on it, kid.”

Yamamoto’s unsteady laugh broke the glare Tsuna started to give Squalo. “I will.”

“Are you all right?” Tsuna demanded.

“Yeah, sure.” Yamamoto blinked up at him as if he didn’t know why Tsuna might have asked, and Tsuna had to restrain the urge to bang his head against something. They were all crazy.

“Well then.” Xanxus stood over them for a moment. “Looks like you have someone for CEDEF, Sawada.”

Tsuna opened his mouth and closed it again. “I’m glad you’ll be with me,” he said at last, to Yamamoto.

As they gathered everything, and everyone, up to slog back to the mansion Xanxus and his people were staying at, Gokudera helped Tsuna get Yamamoto upright and finally ducked under his other arm to help him walk. “Swords make you crazy,” he muttered.

Tsuna couldn’t help laughing, even as Yamamoto looked slightly bewildered by both of them.

At least one person agreed with him.

Tsuna stood out on the private runway again, this time with Yamamoto beside him, and watched the stairs wheeled up to the side of the jet.

“…and for fuck’s sake learn how to use your edge,” Squalo was lecturing Yamamoto. “If you’re not serious about the sword it’ll kill you, and damn good riddance.”

“Yes, Squalo.” Yamamoto smiled agreeably, and Squalo eyed him with suspicion.


“Are you sure this guy isn’t just a complete idiot?” Gokudera asked his senior doubtfully.

“Idiot savant, maybe,” Squalo muttered.

Gokudera eyed Yamamoto and nodded. “Yeah, that sounds right.”

Tsuna could see that Yamamoto was trying not to laugh out loud.

“Nice that Squalo’s found a toy that bites back,” Xanxus murmured, a sardonic glint in his eye.

Tsuna turned to him. “I’m glad you came, and that I had a chance to meet you and work with you, Xanxus-san,” he said politely, which seemed to amuse Xanxus.

“You should be ready for the next insane mafia criminal Reborn finds for you anyway.”

Tsuna quailed a little at the thought, because he knew quite well Reborn would. He pulled himself together, though, because there was something else he needed to say. “Tenth.”

That pulled Xanxus’ attention to him, all right, and Tsuna looked up at him.

“I’ll get stronger. I promise.” At Xanxus’ startled look, he waved a hand, trying to take in the whole mafia thing. “For this.” He took a breath. “For you.”

It was hard to stand there under the sudden sharpness of Xanxus’ gaze, but Tsuna had thought long and hard about this and watched Xanxus with his people, and listened to the little things Reborn said about the Family heir. Xanxus had been hurt, like Mukuro had been hurt, and it was wrong. Tsuna couldn’t see that and do nothing.

“For me?” Xanxus’ voice was harsh, and in the disbelieving edge of it Tsuna heard the darkness he would need to cleanse this time.

The calm that was almost Dying Will stirred in Tsuna and made his voice low and even. “For you.” He remembered how Squalo had said it and smiled. “I’ll be the Tenth’s man, won’t I?”

After a long, still moment Xanxus nodded. “All right.” No more than that before he turned away toward the jet, but Tsuna settled back, satisfied. Xanxus hadn’t pretended it didn’t matter, this time.

He and Yamamoto, Reborn on his shoulder, retreated indoors as the engines started.

“So,” Yamamoto said as they watched the jet rise. “Italy, huh?”

Tsuna gave his friend a long look. “You’re sure you want to come too?”

Yamamoto smiled, eyes still on the jet. “Yeah. Yeah, I think so.”

Tsuna clasped his hands and told his nerves to go away. “Italy, then.”

“You’d both better start training harder, then,” Reborn told them. “I’ll call in some favors.”

“Harder?!” Tsuna had a bit of difficulty imagining that.

“And you should tell Kyouko soon,” Reborn added. “She’ll need time to decide.”

Tsuna just squawked wordlessly. It didn’t help that Yamamoto was stifling laughter.

“You can start with running the distance home.” Reborn pulled out his gun. “How can you expect to take over CEDEF without being in better shape?”

“Who said I was going to?” Tsuna demanded out of pure reflex.

Reborn smiled. “You did.”

Tsuna sighed. He supposed he had at that. On the bright side, he decided as Reborn took aim at him, he probably had an answer that would keep the career counselor at a distance for the rest of the year.

He supposed he’d better start learning Italian.


Last Modified: Jun 04, 10
Posted: Jan 02, 10
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Crow, ichigohaatsu, ellie, ellie and 11 other readers sent Plaudits.

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  1. ellie

    Fantastic! This was absolutely brilliant! I never thought of what khr would look like from the other side, and you know what? It is freaking lovely. I love the note of tenderness throughout the story. Xanxus and Squalo’s moment; Xanxus’ past; Xanxus’ true nature; Tsuna manning up a little (without losing that timid edge that defines him), the element of loyalty…it’s all perfect. It’s BRILLIANT. I don’t know what else to say, it’s just that amazing. Is there more? Pretty please?

    1. Icon for BranchBranch Post author

      Thank you so much! This is one of my favorite “fix Xanxus” arcs, because in canon he focuses so tightly on being the Tenth… well, what if he were? It wouldn’t be all wine and roses, that’s for sure! *grins* No, it would still need Tsuna to help fix things. There’s one more story in this arc, and I keep hoping I’ll be able to coax another one out of the underbrush some day.