Also, please keep in mind that character POVs are my best attempt to think from the character's perspective. People have personal bias and uncharitable thoughts- sometimes even politically incorrect ones.
So keep that in mind, yeah?
And that's pretty much my cue. Enrico supposed rather gleefully as Iemitsu whipped out a bundle of photos of his 'cute little tuna fish!' and started rambling on about the latest adventure his offspring had gone on. As if the man ever goes home to see the brat in person. The eldest son of Timoteo Vongola thought rather disdainfully as he gestured to his Mist to pay attention so that Toscano could be poised to get good reactions shots, before signaling his father for permission to speak, having waited for everyone else who had been party to the review- and their entourages- to vacate the conference room.
Enrico settled back to wait for his father to put a stop to Iemitsu's babbling; why his father indulged the idiot so often, Enrico would never understand. Couldn't, even. Father had never, ever been half as indulgent to any of the Vongola brothers as he consistently was to his External Advisor.
The whole reason Enrico had deigned to come to the bi-annual 'security review' was to deliver this particular bit of news, after all. Otherwise Enrico wouldn't be willingly in the same postal code as his father. Let alone in one of Iemitsu's garishly decorated conference rooms- Enrico knew that Massimo had better taste than this!
The lighting was too bright, there was far too much clutter, and the way a person was forced to sit was both uncomfortable and left them vulnerable. The colors were eye-searing. And that was all of them, not just a few brighter accents to spruce up the place. The Guardians were squished up in an awkward corner, save for Enrico's Toscano and Nono's Ganauche, who were guarding by the door.
Massimo himself was absent, out with a nasty summer cold that Enrico had zero desire to catch. Then again, Gucci had always been the sickly one- the nickname being a byproduct of Massimo's passion for interior decorating and design. Those two things being the younger Vongola's life's purpose before their father had gone completely off the rails in terms of sense and sensibility!
Since he had been old enough to reach the crayons in his nursery, Massimo had been matching colors and pushing his play equipment around to better suit his sense of style- he would never have put together a room this horrid! Not even as a toddler! His enthusiasm- and unholy natural talent, to be entirely honest- was how Massimo had earned the nickname 'Gucci', though only those truly close to him- like his brothers and his sole Guardian- used it nowadays.
Massimo had even gone to school for interior design! He had earned his own admission into a prestigious program, nearly entirely on his own merit. The Vongola money had helped in terms of tuition and supplies, of course, but the university was located on neutral ground as it was within twenty-five kilometers of Vatican City, and notorious for their strict adherence to the philosophy of 'talent before favoritism'.
Yet, despite the good it did for Vongola's image- and it had done a lot of that!- and the dividends that Massimo being an accredited, accomplished designer would only add, Enrico's brother had been unable to graduate- due to father's senseless approval of the previous CEDEF Boss' retirement.
Well, Boss Amigligo's retirement was not the senseless part- the man had faithfully served the Vongola since a week into Ottava's reign, after all- it was the Vongola Nono's refusal to hand the CEDEF over to Enrico that had caused the breakdown between father and son. The snub made Enrico positively furious with his old man- because it was Nono's refusal to make Enrico the CEDEF Boss that had forced Massimo to have to leave school!
There had been no need for it, either! Well, in Enrico's opinion- which was shared by most others who were 'in the know' about the decision. No matter the pressure or gold-plated reasoning presented to him on the matter, however, Timoteo utterly refused to make Enrico the CEDEF Boss. And as the eldest Enrico had pushed for it.
Oh, Timoteo had given some half-assed reasoning about 'appearances' and other shit, but Enrico knew it had to do with him taking over Nonna's network and point-blank refusing to introduce Iemitsu to the various contacts, let alone show the man the drop points and the cover businesses.
However, Enrico being refused the CEDEF Boss position could be reasoned out as him being the Vongola heir, so to keep up appearances- and to prevent internal strife or rumors of weak points popping up- Massimo had been pulled from school and forced to be 'Assistant Director' to Iemitsu's 'Executive Director'.
It made Enrico want to smash things- like Iemitsu's smug face- whenever he saw Massimo and noted how his usually irrepressibly cheerful eldest younger brother was getting more and more miserable as time went by.
Massimo had never been an athletic type, but he had always been a healthy weight. A little on the 'I despise the gym' side, but cheerful and affable enough it had only added to his charm. Even while in school and bouncing between workrooms and the labs, Massimo had stayed within a reasonable weight class; even though he tended to eat pre-made, quick, junk and only made it to the gym whenever Enrico and Xanxus or Federico and Xanxus showed up to drag him away from his projects.
Since his withdrawal from school and his 'demotion', however, Massimo had progressively gotten heavier as he sat inside the CEDEF offices and tried to sift through the reports that Iemitsu wasn't fucking reading or going to power lunches- or dinners- to keep old allies satisfied in the wake of Iemitsu's careless, senseless encroachment into non-Vongola territories. It wasn't a pleasant- "I'm having way too much fun and I have no time to spare! Let me live!"- sort of weight gain, but a broken-spirit, 'drowning in comfort food because my life's purpose is gone and there's no way out' sort of weight gain and it made both Enrico and Federico terribly worried about their middle brother. Xanxus was worried as well, but he barely ever got to see Massimo nowadays because Iemitsu not-so-secretly loathed the kid and could be a petty, vindictive asshole if one of three eldest Vongola brothers wasn't; around to put a stop to his bullshit.
Naturally, father and the staff of the Iron Fort always seemed to overlook the part about Iemitsu constantly baiting Xanxus and jumped straight on Xanxus' inevitable temper control episode.
Given that Father doesn't even care enough to notice one of his sons wasting away, it shouldn't surprise me as much as it does. Enrico thought, a bitter edge to his smile as he not-so-patiently waited for Iemitsu to stop fucking prattling on and for Nono to finally address Enrico's indication for acknowledgement. But it makes me so furious I want to burn it all down, if only to Iemitsu get his fucking due.
Then there was the situation with Fede…
Federico, the youngest of them save for Xanxus, was currently still in school- and his baby brother was going to stay there if Enrico had anything to say about things.
Fede had wanted to be a doctor his entire life!
The kid was only eighteen and already in his third year of pre-med, even with all the extra responsibilities of learning how to manage the Famiglia and his training with tutors in 'nontraditional' education. Federico had worked his ass off to get where he was- just like Massimo had. And Enrico refused to allow history to repeat itself!
That was why, using his resources Nonna's heir, Enrico was the one keeping most of the assassination, seduction, and law enforcement trolling attempts away from Fede, despite Enrico's doing so being a major breach of Vongola protocol. Enrico didn't rightly care if his father found out and got pissy, though, because there were holes the size of Rome in the Vongola's security procedures; thanks in no small part to the ineffectiveness of the CEDEF under Iemitsu's rule, despite Massimo's best attempts to keep things 'business as usual'.
Timoteo finally cut his Advisor off and acknowledged the silently seething Enrico.
Oh, yes. Enrico was going to enjoy this.
"Now that I have your attention." Enrico drawled contemptuously, relishing the syllables as they rolled off of his tongue. "I have something important to tell you, Father."
"Oh?" Timoteo glanced up at his eldest son in guarded curiosity.
Iemitsu sent Enrico a rather sharp look as well, gathering up the pictures and replacing them inside his suit pocket.
"Yes." Enrico continued, fighting to keep the evil smirk he was feeling off of his deliberately polite face. "Xanxus is going to be accompanying the Sky Arcobaleno's little brother for the next year or two."
"Oh?" Timoteo's eyebrows rose in honest surprise and his Guardians shifted uncomfortably.
Iemitsu piped up before Enrico could continue. "Is that such a good idea? Xanxus' temper-"
"My baby brother's temper is none of your concern, Iemitsu." Enrico growled dangerously, his hands curling into fists and his Flames twisting through him in agitation. Iemitsu's tendency to treat Xanxus as one would usually treat a rabid wild animal was one of the major points of contention between the two men. Iemitsu was actually just a year younger than Enrico, so they had always been fiercely competitive for Nono's attention. Enrico's eyes cut to his father, silently daring the man to make a stupid comment.
Fortunately for the integrity of the incredibly ugly table, Timoteo stayed quiet.
"As I was saying." Enrico gritted out through his clenched teeth. "Xan will be accompanying Harry of the Giglio Nero as the boy travels the world with Habitat For Humanity. They are currently undergoing a twelve week training course that will grant them certifications in Search and Rescue operations, allowing them to work with SAR operations in between HFH projects. According to the Giglio Nero Nona the boys are receiving training from retired military personnel who are certified to do said training and are getting hands-on experience. Some Mist misdirection was used on their paperwork- Xanxus' paperwork shows him to be twenty, while Harry's paperwork shows him to be an emancipated minor of sixteen, though Xanxus is listed as his 'guardian' in the even he should require one. Both boys are also going to be learning to fly helicopters, though they will likely need at least another year before they can even begin to consider gaining their certifications, as they need to do their flight hours here."
"Can this…Harry do his flight training here?" Iemitsu asked rather nosily.
"Harry holds dual citizenship. He is a citizen of both the United Kingdom and Italia." Enrico spat back with a toothy smile that was anything but kind. Iemitsu had said 'Harry' with the same inflection he usually reserved for 'Xanxus' which was about three shades colder tha the tone the idiot used against enemies and it pissed Enrico off something fierce.
"And Xanxus agreed to this?" Timoteo asked rather skeptically.
"Xanxus volunteered." Enrico informed the old man rather smugly, a light wave of reassurance from Toscano allowing him to firmly clamp down on his Flames and boiling temper. "He's become quite good friends with Harry since the Giglio Nero wedding and so when Harry presented the idea to his sister, Xanxus volunteered to go in place of one of the Giglio Nero Nona's people."
"And she allowed this?"
The only reason Enrico was bothering to rein in his temper was that his father looked honestly hopeful and interested by this point. "Yes. She informed me- in a phone call, once Xanxus had left- that she is quite pleased at the friendship and she hopes that the boys- and I quote- "have lots of fun traipsing around the world together"."
"Hm." Timoteo said, a small, relieved smile curling at his lips. "Very well then. Xanxus has finished school and though he is quite intelligent he has never voiced a desire to continue his education. This should be quite the eye-opening, world shaping experience for him. Please inform Nona Nero that updates would be appreciated."
"Of course, Father." Enrico, satisfied and wanting to escape before anything else was said- likely by Iemitsu- that might cause a fight, rose from his uncomfortable chair smoothly. "By your leave?"
"Yes, I do believe we're done here." Timoteo agreed, also rising, causing the rest of the room to spring into action.
"Did you get those shots?" Enrico murmured to Toscano as they reached the garage and swiftly entered their shiny black car.
"Oh, I'm sure I got some really great ones, Boss." Toscano grinned- shark-like and rather wicked- at his Boss as he put the car in gear and set about maneuvering around the garage. "Iemitsu's face when you said 'Habitat For Humanity' for one."
Enrico threw his head back and laughed.
Harry and Xanxus meandered over to a picnic table, exchanging tired, harassed smiles with their fellow aid workers along the way.
"Well, brat." Xanxus grunted as he slapped his paper plate down on the table and all but collapsed into his seat. "Where are we going from here?"
Harry- who had also sat down, if not with far more grace- gave his best friend a wry smirk. "I'm not sure, exactly."
They fell into an easy sort of silence as they both began to eat their well-earned meal, absently thanking another aid worker who came by to drop off a couple of blessedly cold bottles of water.
Well, it wasn't really silent silence.
All around them, their fellow aid workers were talking and laughing or whispering and consoling each other. It used to really bother Harry- and it still did- but after nearly two years on the move from disaster to disaster, with far fewer breaks for his Habitat work than he originally had anticipated, he had learned to let the noise roll over him instead of through him.
In the past two years he and Xanxus had gotten their helicopter licenses, completed their Search and Rescue training, and had even become decent enough to qualify as Journeymen Electricians, Carpenters, and Plumbers. Harry had been sort of surprised to learn that such archaic-sounding titles still existed, but they did and both Harry and Xanxus now held permits that would let them work a number of trades just about anywhere.
Building houses, schools, and other things had been the highlights of the journey, had been amazing. Harry had routinely laughed himself silly at Xanxus' expression- once word had gotten out about Xanxus' knack for planning escape routes or safe rooms- and their Project Foremen would whisk him away to assist the engineers shortly after they arrived at a new worksite.
It had been vindicating, though. To see Xanxus' confidence rise as he learned to be in charge of people who could work around his temper and appreciate his genius. It made him a bit mellower, less inclined to drink every drop of liquor on site, and helped Xanxus learn to deal with being in power without it going to his head.
Harry was damn proud of Xanxus and the steps he had taken to better himself on their world-wide adventure. Not because he had to, but because he wanted to, and, really, anything Xanxus put his mind to he excelled at.
That was their Habitat work in a nutshell. Helping people help themselves and ending up learning more than a fair bit about himself along the way.
The disasters- well, Harry had learned a lot about how advanced technology- especially in medicine and power supply- helped saved lives, seen some truly inspirational people do amazing things in trying to help others and had helped reunite families after they had been torn apart by tornadoes or floods.
Then again, Harry had also seen the toll technology and industrialization was taking on the environment and the little man. And for every act of selfless mercy he had seen at least five situations that had made his very soul sick. He had been wept on when someone had discovered that they were the only one who made it out alive, and had buried more than a fair few of his charges who had decided they didn't have the courage to face life anymore in the wake of such a realization.
"I think." Harry said after swallowing his bite of food and washing it down with some clean water. "That I'm just about ready to head home."
Xanxus grunted noncommittally as he tore into his own bottle of water.
"I mean-" Harry limply waved a hand around to indicate their situation. "-I believe in what we've been doing. In what we've built." Harry sighed heavily, slouching and picking at the remainders of his meal. "It's just- I don't think this is the best way for me to help."
"You want to build clean, next gen tech." Xanxus informed his friend with a wry grin. "Fucking bleeding heart do-gooder."
"Paranoid, suspicious anti-hero." Harry shot back with a small amount of heat, grinning mischievously when Xanxus growled at him.
"Fucking delusional, you are." Xanxus replied after an impromptu staring contest.
Which Harry totally won, mind you.
"I prefer the Sith."
"You would, anti-hero."
"Fucking brat!" Xanxus roared, taking a swipe at Harry, who only tipped back out of range and laughed like a maniac.
"I won!" He called to the curious onlookers, most of whom were unused to their antics. "Paul, make note of my victory!"
A deep voice from the crowd piped up with a snarky. "Yeah, you two are tied now, right?"
"Mind your own fucking business, asshole!" Xanxus shot at the cheeky bugger, who merely made a kissy face and cheerfully flipped Xanxus off.
It took a couple of minutes, but soon enough the old hands had filled the new ones in about Xanxus and Harry's rather hilarious, mostly-play fighting and everyone went back to their meals, cheered by the small exchange.
"Fucking unbelievable." Xanxus muttered under his breath, finishing off his food without ceremony before tossing back the rest of his water.
"I do what I must." Harr informed his friend primly, deciding to push his uneaten food over to towards his disposal- aka Xanxus- and finishing off his own bottle of water. "It's just." Harry toyed with his empty bottle, idly staring at the few drops that remained trapped inside the plastic. "I want to do more to help. Not only the people, but the environment. And-" Harry sighed heavily and tossed his bottle into their trash pile, peering up at Xanxus with weary, troubled green eyes. "-and I think we've learned a lot, you know? But I haven't been able to see my family in months, and from what Eric has passed on to you, things back home have taken a turn for the worst and I just-" Harry broke himself off with a frustrated sigh and ran a hand through his shaggy hair in agitation. "I just feel like it's time to go home."
Xanxus pushed himself to his feet and grunted before swiping up all their trash and heading for the exit. "I didn't need a fucking dissertation, trash." He tossed over his shoulder as he tipped the contents of his hands into a bin. "I just needed a heading."
Harry let out a short, bright bark of laughter as he hopped up and bounced over to his friend. "All aboard?" He asked his friend amusedly, digging his elbow into Xanxus' side.
Xanxus knocked the elbow aside and easily trapped Harry's wayward appendage against him. "Let's roll." He affirmed with no small amount of humor. "Are we surprising Enrico or Aria?"
"Aria." Harry grunted as he tried to wiggle out of Xanxus' firm grip. "Yuni's first birthday is in a couple weeks! We could sneak back in and then surprise everyone at the party!"
"Hmph." Xanxus grunted as their reached their tent and ducked inside- it was one of those rounded, mass produced affairs, with a zipper front opening- heading for his Flame-sealed gear. "If we leave soon, we'd have enough time to swing back up to the States and pick up a couple of those 'Precious Moments' figures that Aria- and the others; woman infected others with her strange mania- are so fucking fascinated with. You never should have picked on up while we were out there for that flood last year. She's gotten fucking obsessed."
"Oooh!" Harry perked up with bright eyes. "That's an awesome idea! Let's do it!"
Xanxus finished retrieving their phone and gestured towards the door. "We're fucking lucky we're in Iran, brat. And not back in the worst of the disaster zone that is fucking Ardabil. If we hike up that hill over there-" Xanxus pointed towards a fairly sizable hill that was at least a half-mile away, once they were both outside. "- our Flames should be able to boost the signal enough for the satellites to pick it up."
"We're going to have to hurry, though" Harry shivered as he huddled further into his jacket. "It's supposed to sleet and spit snow again tonight, and we don't want to be caught out when that shit starts coming down."
"Well, let's get a move on, then!"
"Waitin' on you, old timer."
"Well, well, well. Would you look at what the cat dragged in." Enrico drawled teasingly as grinned down at his glaring brother and Harry Nero with no small amount of glee.
Xanxus glared up at him with familiar wine-red eyes. Though Enrico was gratified to note that his brother stood straighter- a predator secure in his place instead of a lone wolf ready to lash out at anyone who looked at them wrong. Xanxus' hair was still a mess of inky black, half-curly, half-straight strands that hovered between his shoulder blades, still held the familiar assortment of feathers- though they did look new. The brat still rocked more leather than strictly advisable- pants, boots, jacket- and his dress shirt was still halfway unbuttoned and untucked, but Xanxus seemed restrained; calmer.
No that's not entirely right. Enrico corrected himself as he peered at bit more intently at his youngest brother. Not calmer, per se, but aged. Matured. Enrico's lips curled into a sharp, pleased smirk as his brother stomped through the entrance hall and up the split staircase to Enrico's position.
Enrico mostly ignored Xanxus' irritated tirade as he reached over and wrapped his brother in a tight hug. One Xanxus returned just as fiercely after the obligatory escape squirming.
As he glanced past Xanxus- little shrimp was taller than Enrico now, and Enrico was just a hair shorter than Fede, the tallest of them!- he met the amused green gaze of Harry Nero.
Smaller than Xanxus' brawler-yet-lean build, his littlest's brother best friend- and no doubt battle-brother- had hair as dark messy as Xanxus' own, though it was mostly tied back, so Enrico wasn't sure of its exact length. The other teen wore a well-worn and rather ill-fitting leather jacket with strange patches on it- an heirloom, perhaps- though the kid did have the decency to not wear leather pants. The somewhat worn shirt that was could be seen underneath the leather jacket slightly offended Enrico's sense of taste, and the boots were scuffed up enough that Enrico twitched a little bit, but more than all of the superficial quirks were the eyes.
And the Flames. Oh, the Flames.
And- oh. Ohhh. Now, that was interesting.
"We-" Enrico cheerfully informed them as he finally released Xanxus and let his brother regain his personal space. "-have much to discuss."
The teens' razor sharp smiles were thrilling, but the brief burst of Flames that came from them were telling; they let Enrico know that they had gotten his actual message, even a world and seven natural disasters away from the homefront.
Finally. Enrico thought as he turned and gestured them deeper into the house, knowing full well Xanxus would rather handle his own luggage than hand it off to someone he didn't personally know. Allies. Enrico forced himself to not laugh, because really-
They aren't going to know what hit them. We're coming, Massimo, Fede. Just hold on a little bit longer.
Please leave a review on your way out~!