|Flames and Family V: Finn's Journey
Author: madashes2ashes PM
Sequel to Flames and Family IV. A story about a young Mafioso's journey to become the "Greatest Hitman!" Rated M for Blood, Violence, and other Adult themes.Rated: Fiction M - English - Drama - Chapters: 37 - Words: 167,175 - Reviews: 109 - Favs: 63 - Follows: 69 - Updated: 05-08-13 - Published: 08-01-10 - id: 6196424
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's warning: This is not a priority project. It's just a little short story I work on when I need to blow off some steam. I use it as a reminder of WHY I love to write stories when the technicalities of the publishing world make me lose motivation. I hope you enjoy what I have so far. Updates will be erratic and the chapters will not be proof-read.
Gokudera Hayato turned off the water faucet and leaned against the bathroom sink while he stared at himself in the mirror. Almost forty, he felt sixty and it was showing. There were more streaks of white in his waist-length, silver hair than there used to be and it was visible even when he pulled his hair into a tight tail at the base of his skull. The only consolation he received was knowing the body hidden under his loose, white suite was in top physical condition-a condition which would make the applicants waiting outside blush in shame.
Picking up his clipboard, he took one final look in the mirror to ensure everything was in place before stepping outside to greet the new, would-be members of "Maverick's Tower of Sweets."
"Line up!" he shouted before the door shut. He felt the vein in his forehead bulge when no one responded. The applicants continued laughing and talking amongst themselves in the pre-test meet-and-greet while completely ignoring him. It was enough to make him reach for a stick of dynamite, but a firm hand on his shoulder stopped him.
Yamamoto Takeshi's sport's whistle got the attention Hayato wanted. Every eye turned toward them in expectant silence and Takeshi preened under the attention like a coach before a new team.
"I know you guys are excited, but Mr. Hayato said to line up," he said with a light-hearted laugh and a hand running through his short, black hair. "The last one will be sent home, so-" Everyone began running in circles without knowing where they were running to, but a few well-timed orders got the result Hayato was looking for: three ranks of seven men and women who wanted a job.
Hayato doubted any of them could make it through the testing process.
"Alright," he called out without taking his attention from the clipboard in his hands. "Number eight, go home and get a haircut. Number twelve, go home and take a bath. Number thirteen, just go home. Number seventeen, your shoe-lace is untied. Number nineteen, this is your third attempt. Correct?" Ignoring the outrage and disappointment of the three being sent home and number seventeen's expression of panic, he looked straight at number nineteen. For three months running, he'd shown up to the applicant testing and he'd failed every time so far. When the young man nodded, Hayato nodded back. He could respect persistence. However- "Go home. I hate guys who are younger than me."
"I-I won't!" he replied. Hayato's penetrating gaze snapped up and the boy trembled in fear. He didn't leave like he had the other times, though. He was still lacking in the self-confidence department, but he'd finally earned his spot among the applicants with his determination.
"Alright," he shrugged. The boy's jaw dropped, but Hayato went back to looking at his clipboard so everyone knew who was holding the reins. Hayato could afford to ignore them, but they couldn't afford to ignore him in return. "The testing will be split up. Each floor has been given over to a different tester. For each test you pass, you'll receive a coupon. It doesn't matter which order you take the test in, but you must have three out of four coupons before you can move on to the fifth floor. If you can pass the fifth floor, you'll meet meet Maverick and be given an interview. He'll make the final decision, so be prepared before you go up to the fifth floor. Oh! And the elevator isn't working, so you'll have to use the stairs either inside or outside the building. You may begin."
"For those wanting to take my test," Takeshi said, picking up the thread of explanation before anyone could leave, "I'll be outside. There's a delivery truck waiting and I need help unloading it. If you can transport eight things inside for me, you'll be passed."
Without waiting for anyone to make up their mind, Takeshi walked out the door to take up his starting position. Several of the more confident men followed him while the rest headed for the stairs to check out the other tests. From this, Hayato was able to mentally weed out the cocky, although it was likely Takeshi's test would do it for him. Eight things didn't seem like much, but it was a trick play.
First of all, the delivery truck was across the parking lot, so everything would have to be carried across an expanse of pristine black-top. With the heat from the sun in the Las Vegas desert, they would be gasping for breath by the end of the first item. But that wasn't all. The task had an extra level of difficulty added. The first two items were fifty-pound bags of coffee beans which needed to be delivered to the first floor. Getting them across the parking lot would sap their strength. The second two items were boxes of ice cream which had to go to the second floor-without allowing them to melt. The third set of items was twenty-pound bags of flour which would sap their strength even more since they'd have the heat from the blacktop and a climb to the third floor ahead of them. The last set of items was two six-pack bottles of juice. If anyone made it that far without giving up, they'd pass out on the way or they'd be weak enough to drop the bottles during the climb to the fourth floor. Either way, they'd fail-without allowing Takeshi's laid-back nature to give them an easy pass.
On the climb to the fifth floor where he'd be giving his own test, Hayato checked in on the other testers. Lambo's test in the second-floor ice cream parlor was easy, but took concentration instead of strength. Being a superstar, he could easily distract the people trying to sort individual sprinkles by color with tweezers. Considering each person only had an hour to sort a one-pound jar, it was actually the hardest test of them all-at least, in Lambo's opinion.
In the third floor's sandwich shop, Chrome was overseeing a batch of bakers who had the most underestimated task of all-picking a loaf of bread out of a selection of fifteen identical loaves. Many of the loaves were no good-being either too hard, too soft, stale, harboring incorrect flavors, having poor texture, and a plethora of other deficiencies-but the would-be Family members had to pick a loaf they would eat before going into a private interview. Depending on the reasons they gave Chrome for their choice, she would either pass them or fail them.
Ryohei waited alone in the fourth floor's teen club and Hayato gave him a small nod in passing. It wasn't unexpected for him to be alone so early in the testing since his test was actually a meal request. After telling each person that he was a boxer, the applicants would have to build him a meal using items from each floor. This was harder than it seemed. Anyone who brought something caffeinated or sugar-based from the coffee shop would be eliminated. Only yogurt and frozen fruit from the ice cream parlor would be accepted. And, finally, anything brought from the third floor sandwich shop would have to be pleasing to all the senses-without being unhealthy.
Upon reaching the fifth floor-the VIP club for adults where alcohol was served-Hayato made himself comfortable in the padded booth next to the stairwell leading to the Boss' loft by ordering a martini and throwing his feet up on the table. Only four had reached the fifth floor in the eight months they'd been testing applicants, so his expectations weren't high. He'd honestly prefer to take a more active role by testing on one of the lower floors, but his judgment was needed for any who might have the chance to face the Boss. After all, just because someone passed a test didn't make them trustworthy enough to be in front of Vongola the Tenth on their own.
Twenty minutes into the test, Houston came up to inform him the field had already narrowed by a third. Two had been bribed into quitting with autographed aprons signed by Lambo and a single kiss on the cheek each. Two had fainted during Takeshi's test. One had upset Ryohei to the point where Ryohei K.O.'ed him-apparently an expresso, a chunky chocolate caramel sundae, and a greasy mass of bread, bacon, roast beef, and mayonnaise was something worth being hit for. And the last two quit after seeing three ambulances in a row.
"Let me know when it gets down to ten," Hayato yawned as he plucked the speared olives out of his martini. As his teeth closed around one to pull it off the toothpick and Houston excused himself, he was surprised to see a hesitant man climb the stairs from the fourth floor. He had three coupons in hand-a feat in itself-but Hayato knew he would have to fail the guy. Even though he'd warned everyone to prepare themselves before going up to the fifth floor, the man had been too eager. He hadn't stopped at the bathroom to refresh himself and it showed in his disheveled appearance.
On a whim, Hayato decided to give him a chance anyway.
"Number four," he said as he took the three coupons and marked the name off on his clipboard. The guy lurched to stiff attention, but Hayato stayed comfortable. There was no reason to move yet. "There's something out of place in this room. You have five minutes to find it and bring it to me. If you bring me something that should be here, you fail and you have to bring me three more coupons to have a chance to try again. Begin." Checking his watch, he marked the time. Five minutes wasn't too short of a time since the answer was relatively obvious.
At least, it was in Hayato's opinion, but the man was a disappointment. After using three of his precious minutes looking through drawers and cabinets for something strange, the fool brought Hayato a drink umbrella.
"I-I couldn't find anything else," he said. "I figured this was out of place for a VIP club."
"Fail," Hayato groaned. The applicant left in disappointment to make another attempt to collect another set of coupons, but two more applicants surprised Hayato by arriving. Putting his feet down, Hayato took the coupons, gave them the instructions for the test, and marked the time. Three people had made it to the fifth floor? He knew the Boss had said to make the test easier since they were pressed for people, but had they made it too easy?
The answer was no, because these two applicants also brought the wrong items: an ice bucket and a pineapple. When they left, another three entered. Following the same method, Hayato was kept too busy to make himself comfortable. Of course, two of these also failed by bringing a bottle of V Special and a bottle of sake, but the third-
"You pass," Hayato said, gaping at the fly in the man's hand. Hayato wasn't sure who was more astonished-himself or the applicant. From the man's expression, he'd thought the answer to be a long shot, but it was exactly right. Dead flies often collected between bottles on display and along the mirror behind the bar, but it was something often overlooked even though it didn't belong in the club.
"What now, sir?" he asked as he dumped the fly into the wastebasket behind the bar.
"Order yourself a drink on the house and wait quietly in a corner somewhere," he replied as a woman entered with a set of coupons. "Once everyone quits or passes, I'll take you up to see the Boss." The guy nodded and ordered himself a glass of water to wait with. Hayato kept his eyes on the man as the woman and the two more men failed, attempting to size up his personality by his body language. On the surface, he seemed honest enough-if a bit nervous-but Hayato knew how looks could be deceiving. His own Boss was often underestimated-
"How about this?" the woman asked, holding up a piece of hardened gum from under one of the tables. Gokudera was flabbergasted. Two in one day? There was nothing he could do, though. The answer was correct and he had no choice but to send her to wait with the man.
His nerves calmed when Houston returned with a report on more quitters. They were down to ten applicants with only two people passing. It was a respectable number since they'd lowered the difficulty level of the test.
However, when all ten reached his floor and failed, he began to get nervous. None of the remaining people seemed like the type to give up. Since there wasn't a time limit on the tests, they could try as many times as they wanted-
"We're down to three," Houston said, returning only fifteen minutes later. "Two more fainted. Four gave up in exchange for a professional photo-shoot with Lambo. The last one- Well, it seems he hit on Chrome and Chrome hit him back with his worst nightmare. He ran out of the building screaming."
"Good riddance," Hayato sighed. "You want a drink before you go?"
"Is that a trick question?" Houston laughed before heading back downstairs and Hayato smiled. Although he was approaching adulthood, Houston was still a teenager and the poor boy had already learned his lesson with temptation. A night partying with a Guardian was enough to make even the strongest peer pressure seem like a light breeze.
Since the ranks were so thin and everyone was tired from their first attempt, it took nearly an hour for the next person to arrive. It turned out to be number-nineteen-who'd-refused-to-leave. Surprisingly, he'd properly prepared and he passed the test by bringing a cigarette butt which had been kicked against a baseboard. Unsurprisingly, the other two quit immediately after failing his test again by being too sloppy in their appearance.
Hayato took great pleasure in expelling one by force.
"Leave your drinks on the table and follow me," Hayato told the three winners. All three nervously stood and followed him up the stairs in a single-file line. With a careful knock on the door to announce himself, Hayato poked his head inside. With only a glance, he knew something was wrong when Hotaru lurched away from Chin on the Tenth's couch and blushed. Figuring he'd interrupted an intimate moment (a rare sight since baby Moment was born), Hayato blushed with her, but he didn't back down. "Where's the Tenth, Boss?"
"He ditched," she replied as she stood. Responding to her gesture to bring the winners inside, she appeared disgruntled when the three lined up in the middle of the Tenth's living room. "Only three? I was going to ask you to tell me my gender as a test, but I think we've thinned the ranks enough already." All three applicants blushed as Hotaru openly inspected them. Considering how revealing her open-front shirt was, Hayato couldn't blame them. In his case, he couldn't look directly at the Eleventh without feeling like he was committing a crime.
Hotaru still did her job as the Sawada Boss, though, by giving them a group interview. First, she introduced herself and Chin. Then, she learned their names and their reasons for wanting to work at the Tower:
"I'm Plunket," the woman replied. "Papa Maverick found me on the streets and got me connected with a social worker. It didn't work out with Wasp, but he said I could still have a job with the Family if I was determined enough. I figured that wouldn't be such a bad thing and I heard some good things about him. I could get all respectable-like and get off the streets at the same time."
"I'm Finn," number nineteen said. "My reasons are personal, so I'd rather not say it in front of everyone. I'm not anyone you have to worry about, though. I'm not a narc and you can trust me. I'm ready to work hard and... uh... I know about the... uh... the Family. I'd be honored if I could join."
"My name is Welsh," the final one replied while raising his eyebrow at the other two. "I am experienced baker. I look for place to work and His Highness Badru suggest here. I have visa and I honor Lord Sky, be he human or no."
"A vampire. No wonder you passed the test," Hotaru smirked. Then she sighed. "I guess I can skip the join-the-bakery, join-the-Family speech. All three of you already know that working here will make you part of the Family and I don't think I need to explain what I mean by 'Family' either. You all have determination or you wouldn't have made it this far. I have no problem with any of you, but-!" she said, holding up a finger in warning before they could get excited, "In respect, I always give my father a chance to veto. To join the Family and work here, you'll have to get his nod of approval. As you see, he's not here and he's a pretty hard person to track down. He never stays in one place for very long, so good luck finding him. Consider it your final test."