A Promise Kept by InsaneScriptist

Beta'd by Umei no Mai

Summary: Squalo manages to keep his promise and no one is more surprised by this than him and everyone else that knew of Xanxus' lack of heritage. Reborn's gaggle of prospects might come close, but they had a less pleasant surprise.

It's been a week since the Ring Battles. Squalo's been out of that damn annoying wheelchair for a few days, but that doesn't mean he doesn't miss it at the moment. Standing on an injured if healing leg is painful. It's better than looking like a mummy bound to a wheelchair though. He still thinks the only reason he was tied up in that many bandages was to limit his movement to the point that Cavallone's men had half a snowball's chance in hell of stopping him if he decided to try something.

At least he's doing better than the okama is; Luss is still bed-bound after getting his replacement knee surgically replaced. He's not going to be walking easy for another couple of weeks.

Squalo's hair is still long.

The Ring had miraculously accepted Xanxus and his claim. He knew Boss could do the impossible, it was part of what the Varia was known and famed for, but Squalo knew, he knew that Nono and Boss weren't related.

He was still awake during that part of the 'Cradle Affair' after all. He had heard Boss say it, and heard the ring of truth and witnessed the fury from the sting of betrayal be unleashed. Squalo had even broken in and seen Nono's journal himself, months later. Nono was not Boss's father.

Squalo had watched his Boss' back during the assault, had witnessed Xanxus of the Varia get hit with the Zero Point Breakthrough by Nono. He had watched Iemitsu's brat do the same in the Ring Battle. Both times his heart had screamed outrage while he watched the ice climb over Boss' skin and clothing. He couldn't do anything this time either!

Xanxus getting frozen again and visions being left to rot in a basement as a shameful dirty secret had been featuring a lot in his fear then, like all those nightmares about that fight against Nono had happened over eight years had come again at once and so much worse. He wouldn't let that happen again! So he had raged against the confines of the wheelchair he had been bound to.

But Mammon had thawed Boss out with the Rings before Squalo could get out -and really, what was with everyone thinking that Boss had been broken out by them, when the evidence that the 9th and his Guardians had done so was right there? Mammon had even said it so that you'd have to be blind to miss the implications- and Boss had gotten the Vongola Rings to accept him.

Somehow. Squalo guessed that meant that Boss had Vongola blood in him, somewhere, even if it wasn't Nono's.

Which meant that Boss had won the right to become Decimo over the Sawada-brat. Despite the fact that he was meant to lose, was meant to be the villain in this stupid drama concocted by the only person who had the ability to order the Boss of the Varia around.

Whoops, Nono and Iemitsu had miscalculated big-time. Not that the errors were particularly hard to see; the brats were still alive, two of the Varia's strongest had lost, and who would be that loyal to a man that treated them like what Xanxus had shown the brats and those watching that for eight years? They were the Varia, if they had a problem with each other, it wouldn't be the first time someone had used murder to move up the ranks. At least the Varia was honest about doing that when it was something everybody in the mafia did.

With the Ring's acceptance, Xanxus had upset that particular set-up of the old fucks and whatever the hell Iemitsu was. And then with the sort of political mind that had won allies, friends and enemies alike, Xanxus moved and demolished that particular game.

The two judges had proclaimed Xanxus the winner of the Ring Scramble, and with that Xanxus ordered them gone. They went unwillingly, but they went.

Which left a lot of brats, two Arcobaleno, the CEDEF-brat, Trident Shamal and Dino to wrangle. Oh and that guy who appeared to know the brats, who had no issue carrying around a huge ball-and-chain. Who had 'taken out' a mixed division of Varia; those that appeared were terrible fakers who didn't look the least bit like they'd been hit by a ball-and-chain weapon, or taken any significant damage in close quarters, with or without a weapon. They were moving fine after all.

"Let's discuss what's going to happen, in the gym, shall we?" Xanxus smirked in such a way that promised destruction to all in his path, as the Sawada-brat paled.

It's been two weeks and Squalo's pretty sure Iemitsu is still in shock and the underworld is still in an uproar. Good.

It had been a tense stand off in that school gym, between injured Varia Officers, the Sawada-brat's friends and teachers, with one being an actual ally and all. Dino Cavallone was an important ally nowadays, instead of a historical relic of an ally with no importance and influence beyond historical.

Xanxus had said, "Mammon, Bel, check the gym for left over equipment and stragglers."

Squalo heard, 'make sure we're safe to talk, because I don't trust the Cervello, its organization and I'm going to up-end what these idiots think they know about everything.' Then again, Squalo knows his Boss well. Other people don't know how to listen, which was and is a shame.

It had been a few tense minutes as the Prince pranced around and picked up monitoring equipment, as Mammon floated and removed cameras. There was a nice little pile of technology getting tossed in the floor.

"We're clear, Boss." Mammon reported.


There was a moment's pause before a shimmer of Mist Flames encompassed the gym. If the pile of junk technology went up in a pretty little bonfire of Mist, well, it wasn't his problem.

"We are."

"Brat," Xanxus said, addressing Iemitsu's offspring directly, "how did you find your first introduction to politics?"

Dino's face was one of shock.

See, Dino understood the mess of politics that was the Vongola's top people then. Maybe, if he was smart, he'd see exactly how he'd been used by Nono and Iemitsu too.

And people wondered why Boss was so angry all the time.

It's been three weeks since the Ring accepted Xanxus. The Ninth has been making a fuss, scattering apologies and so on whenever and however he can. Squalo's enjoyed laughing in the old man's face whenever he can get away with it. It's not as often as he wants, because Nono's always been a canny old man and there's appearances to keep up. Appearances really don't mean a lot, not really so Squalo's managed it a more times that's probably proper without a word of punishment for his disrespect.

The Ninth after all, knows who has power now. He's nothing more than an old man now, in many respects; still formidable, but it seems the surprise of Xanxus' acceptance of Decimo by the Rings has broken his faith in whatever it is he believes. So the old man is trying to made amends. Xanxus has never bought into a lot of what the old man said beyond 'you are my son' which isn't true even if most of the mafia still believes so. Xanxus, sadly, is knurd where Nono and mafia politics is concerned, to use a Terry Pratchett reference. To put plainly, he was so severely disillusioned with Nono, politics and more that there's a reason Xanxus usually has alcohol on hand.

Iemitsu tried to give them trouble, but the guy's not even a bit grateful that Xanxus didn't kill his son. Some people. Iemitsu was more outraged on the Ninth's behalf than he was concerned for his brat. For Tsuna. His only child? Really, some people.

See, after the whole mess with Ring Scramble, the Varia got to explain to Vongola allies, affiliates and the former prospective Decimo generation that, 'ha, joke's on you.'

No one found it funny. Dino in all his bronco glory, was furious, as were his men. Understandably, on their part; their Boss had just been used. The Arcobaleno weren't happy either and neither was anyone else. The brats weren't either; for all intents and purposes, the Varia had thrown their fights. There were so many things they could and didn't do, that would have ended the fights with dead brats.

Lussuria used a style of hand-to-hand that was known for how deadly it was, but it wasn't like the guy didn't know what to do with a knife or an elbow to the throat. Levi could have just shot his opponent. Bel could have used something so much worse than a little needle coated with anesthesia. Squalo could have used a different blade, could have stayed quiet about what he knew of the style and Squalo knew he knew a lot more of the style than what he had said. Mammon had control of the area inside the gym, much like Mammon did now.

There were lots of questions and taunting answers, that only made sense now to everyone not already in the know; not even all of the Varia had the whole picture. Bel, the genius that he was, had figured things out by the time of the Storm Battle so he made sure to rub it in the others' faces that they had been fooled by misleading information.

Because to quote Bel, "Who would wait for eight years, for a man they'd only known for a few months when eight years was all the years they had lived already?" Considering that Bel had spent eight years of his life waiting for Xanxus, half of his life, clearly the murderous Prince had found someone worth following. The rest of the Varia was the same way.

The famed Arcobaleno, allies and more had clearly made mistakes in their intelligence gathering. Which meant they'd fallen for it. An image presented to them, even though Boss was a terrible actor. Like Squalo hadn't already known that. Squalo's pretty sure the rest of the Varia are terrible actors too; the three that 'fainted' after reporting about the ball-and-chain guy were moving around just fine in the background. Squalo had seen them, even trapped in his wheelchair like he had been. He had been facing the hole in the gym wall during the discussion so he had a fine view of outside, since Dino was still technically holding him hostage.

A lot of non-Varia people were feeling very stupid shortly after the Ring Battles.

A month after Xanxus has won the Rings, Squalo's hair is still long. Xanxus has the Ring, he is Decimo.

Just one that hasn't been acknowledged by the Vongola's allies in that ceremony yet. It's that reason that Squalo hasn't cut it yet. That's what he told Lussuria, as soon as the Sun was capable of asking. Squalo had to keep the okama's scissors away from him somehow while Boss was frozen -even though some people phrased it as 'sleeping' as if Boss had been off in dreamland for eight years- so Luss had to be told why Squalo hadn't cut his hair.

The Outsider Adviser's opinion of who should be Decimo doesn't matter now. Xanxus won the Ring and it accepted him. End of story. Continuing to make of issue of it was straying perilously close to treason when the rings had decided Xanxus was the better candidate. It's not like Squalo's going to beg to kill Iemitsu, but well, planting an idea is very much a reminder that Iemitsu due to being CEDEF doesn't have the immunity that the rest of the Vongola and its allies do from the Varia; the Varia can't kill allies and members of the Vongola famiglia without approval of the Vongola Don. Which is currently lip service to Nono. Iemitsu should know this, without having to be reminded.

Really, the man should be happy that his son is still alive, even if said son is going to replace him once he's old enough to be an adult. See, no one even has to get murdered for that to happen. If you know, Iemitsu gets the hint and shuts up.

"And what are you planning to do with my student?" Reborn had asked a month ago, after the mess of politics between the Boss, Iemitsu and Nono had collided and dragged in his student and allies. Squalo wasn't looking forward to the fallout then, as they'd have to deal with some of it but the majority of it will fall squarely where it's supposed to. Lots of surprised subordinates aplenty, hurt feelings and broken trust to mend but not on the Varia's side of things.

"Exactly what I said." Xanxus said.

"I'm not letting you kill my student." The Sun Arcobaleno replied, coolly ready for what he thought would happen next.

"When did I ever say that?" Boss said as he smiled; Squalo remembered that sort of smile that held nothing but dark promises and a glee to fulfill them. "I said, obliterate, destroy, demolish all he held dear. I should be more plain-speaking since my meaning wasn't understood. Obliterate his former self, destroy his weakness and demolish what holds him back, no matter how dear he holds some ideas."

"Just what do you mean, kora?" Colonello asked, for clarity.

"Until I've got children, he's the only choice of heir I've got, unless one of Nono's other sons left a bastard around." Xanxus pointed out to the Rain Arcobaleno, clearly dismissing the Rain Arcobaleno as an idiot to politics and how involved the Mafia Land protector is here; he trained the brat's Sun Guardian, so not very. Colonello's presence is pretty much superfluous except as more firepower, Squalo remembers thinking. No other close connections except to the CEDEF through Lal. Has a lot more possible connections through Mafia Land but the strength of those are dubious if numerous.

"More to the point, he's too involved now to become a mere civilian again." Mammon added. "To be forgotten here in Japan. He's been targeted for his connections to the Vongola, he will be targeted again and he has no choice but to accept that. If he had won, he'd be Decimo. That's what holding the Vongola Sky Ring and having it accept you means. Reborn's contract is with Nono right? What exactly were the terms for that? Or has that contract been broken since your student can't become Decimo due to the Ring choosing Boss?"

Two months after Boss won the Ring Battle, Boss is doing a needed shake-up of the Vongola. When he's not terrorizing the famiglia into shape, he's speaking with allies and terrorizing enemies. Squalo's behind him every step of the way and a few steps further back there's the rest Varia, watching and willing to wade in on their own. Mostly they're getting a show and some clean-up duty; it's good for the mooks and itty bitty recruits to watch and learn. If some of them have stars in their eyes, it's not Squalo's problem. His problem is that he's thinking it's 'cute' and that means that he's been spending far too much time around Luss. Then again, eight years; he needed someone halfway sane to talk to and his wallet would be a lot more empty if it was only Mammon.

There's a rather large reduction of enemies soon after because Boss and the Varia are that good. There's assassination attempts on the Boss of the Varia and Squalo is not the only member to find the attempts hilarious. It is not something any assassin with anything close to sanity would chose to do.

Some of them are just so bad that Xanxus was more likely to die from laughter than anything else.

Attempts on the famiglia on the other hand... scorched earth might be what everyone expected, but you don't make and stay Varia on just one skill and trick alone. Xanxus actually has more options than violence now, with authority being backed by the Vongola instead of people humoring Nono's youngest. Crushing a famiglia through sabotage, through economic means is something no one seems to have ever expected from him. It's not like Xanxus doesn't have Mammon as a loyal Mist Guardian for a reason. Some of the more hesitant and blood-shy members of the famiglia are re-evaluating things now.

And if desperate dimwits try to attack anyway, Varia Quality is spoke of as such for a reason.

The good news doesn't end there. According to Reborn's report, now being sent to the Varia -specifically Mammon through Arcobaleno specific means- and thus Xanxus too was that Tsuna was progressing well, if slowly. There's so much work in changing a civvie into a Boss, even of just of the CEDEF that Squalo wished Reborn luck. Technically the brat was still only heir, but well... it's still a couple years before he graduates school. That could change. Maybe for the better.

The brat was so painfully naive that it hurt to look at him, but that wasn't what Xanxus wanted Tsuna in the CEDEF for. Not for loyalty, not for his intelligence but his honesty and willingness to stand up for what he believed was right. The CEDEF was the only part of the Vongola that could honestly say, "Fuck no, that's stupid, wrong and you're being a goddamn idiot," to the Don or Donna of the Vongola and get away with it. Most didn't, because that was polite, but clearly it wasn't like Xanxus recruited the Varia or anyone for their manners. Xanxus respected people who could take as his plans and point out where the holes were because that meant they had brains and a spine; something worth respecting, even if how Xanxus showed it was not in a normal fashion.

That Xanxus wanted Tsuna to be that person... even if the Varia had reservations about what happened prior to the Cradle Affair, had said them then... it didn't mean they had the power to stop him. Tsuna clearly could. Which was, the point. Again.

It was pretty much the highest amount of praise that Squalo had ever heard Xanxus bestow on someone, however implied and backhanded as it was, but clearly the brat had needed to hear it. That he was wanted for something he did and could do. That he had value to somebody.

Fucking Iemitsu. No wonder Boss hated the CEDEF head even more these days.

Three months after the Ring Battles, Nono is finally making noises about the Inheritance Ceremony.

About fucking damn time. Squalo's looking forward to short hair again.

Six months after the Ring Battles, the inheritance ceremony finally happens. Nothing goes wrong in it, many too scared of the Varia to even think of acting up. Most approve of Xanxus' more hard-lined policies, once they could actually see Boss and not whatever worst fears they thought he represented to the Vongola. It wasn't like Xanxus didn't have his compassion and mercy, but they were highly tempered. Eight years of absence had definitely distorted Xanxus' image in the minds of the rest of the mafia, but that was mostly dealt with now. Some found him scarier than they remembered.

Iemitsu's brat, Tsuna is there in a suit and seems to have found some confidence. Having someone powerful need him seems to have catalyzed him into growing up or at least a spine and confidence. He's still a work in progress, but he seems far more at ease instead of a nervous wreck.

Squalo finds the whispers that follow Tsuna around of 'Primo' to be annoying, but probably not as much as the brat does; the resemblance in a pinstripe suit with that hair and all is stupidly ridiculous. There's a lot of staring as both Tsuna and Xanxus casually banter about the decorations Luss chose. Apparently that's the point, according Tsuna, since decorations or not, people would find things to complain about. If it's only decorations that people find fault with... well...

Reborn, perched on Dino's shoulder nearby looks impassive, but there's a smugness to him now.

The night of the Inheritance Ceremony, after most people have made their way out or into bed, Squalo and Xanxus are alone. In a sense of irony and history known only to them, it's the same balcony where Squalo promised to grow his hair out. Eight years on ice, a few months prior to that, a little over seven months free from the ice... they're just a week shy of when Squalo made that promise, he quickly calculates; he had to think about when that day was.

He pulls his hair into a low tail, and cuts above where he tied with a sharp knife. His head feels lighter, and his hair is closer to jaw-length than his knees.

"Nearly nine years now." Xanxus murmurs from behind him, having grasped the length of bound hair, cut free from the head that grew it. Xanxus clearly had counted.

"Yeah." Squalo agrees, turning around to face the man he would always follow. Xanxus is looking at the hair with some sort of expression that Squalo's not sure how to recognize. Some sense of wonder, a bit of vulnerability maybe. It shifts out of that soon enough, when Boss catches him looking.

"You look stupider than I remember with short hair. Grow it back out."

"Voi, where the hell do you get off thinking you can tell me that shit, Boss?" He snarls back, already feeling the absence of the length of hair.

"You're the one that grew it out in the first place, shark."

Squalo can't deny that fact, he had made a promise about it, but as soon as he sees his face in a mirror he sees that yes, short hair is not his sort of look. The shorter hair above his nape and along the back of his head is spiking already instead of being pulled flat by gravity and it looks ridiculous; the cut of his hair shouldn't lend itself to that but it does. The fact that he even thinks that, can actually see how much it doesn't suit him, is something to blame Luss for.

And Nono, because eight years was enough time for Luss to mess with his head to that point.

The day after the Inheritance Ceremony, Squalo sees a few thin but long silver braids hidden in the mess of feathers and fur that tangle at the back of Xanxus' neck and over his shoulders.

It's going to be real obvious where the braids came from once they see how short Squalo's hair is now. He hopes Iemitsu chokes on that realization later; Tsuna had a moment of pause and then had just congratulated the choice and Xanxus' taste in accessories. Squalo remembers thinking it was a really diplomatic answer. The young Sky might have just found himself a whole new set of responsibilities and diplomacy is going to be a main one. Boss doesn't make good first impressions, he makes fucking terrifying impressions to most of the world be they first, second or third. The rest of the Varia isn't much better. Tsuna is probably going to be the only person Xanxus trusts capable of being polite to irritating scum and that's something to make use of.

He's also growing his hair back out. This time, his hair has a different sort of promise than just helping Xanxus become Decimo. That's a promise that's been kept, one that he would have kept even if it had been impossible.

Squalo's pride is a multi-faceted thing, but keeping his word, his promises is an important part of it.

A/N: Just a one-shot, but it's a lovely one. May turn it into a series or a playground. Should others want to play in it. Hm?