Thanks again to Beyond My Reach for being my beta and making this flow so much better than it would on my own.
Thankfully, Tsuna returns to the Varia in one piece, and Xanxus breathes a sigh of relief. Right up until he sights the interloper.
Xanxus is nearly twenty years old. He is the boss of the Varia, with almost a full set of Guardians, and Tsunayoshi's most trusted Guardian. So he is not jealous when Tsuna shows up with a ten year old, silver haired brat that insists on following his Sky around like a lost puppy.
No, he just doesn't understand why Tsuna has brought him in. The kid is clearly not quality, even if he's flame active. And Hayato Gokudera is a Storm! The last thing Tsuna needs is another Storm flame.
"He can use more than one Flame, Xanxus," Tsuna insists, giving him that look that suggests Xanxus is the one being unreasonable. Xanxus itches for a gun.
"No, he could use more than one eventually," he snarls right back. "Right now he's a Storm and he's courting you."
It was true, and Xanxus really didn't think he was getting enough credit for the sheer amount of self-control he was showing in letting an unaffiliated Storm hang onto his Sky like a limpet. How is he the bad guy in this?
"Xanxus, he's ten."
"I was eight! Seriously, what is with you and kids? Get rid of him."
"That wasn't a fucking request!"
Goddammit, for the first time in years Xanxus is deeply regretting not trying to find a way to force Tsuna to harmonise. If any of his Guardians had brought the brat home, they would already be kicking him out the door for making their Sky so upset – but with Xanxus as Tsuna's Storm and nothing but a Vongola-Varia-legal standing putting Xanxus above him in the family hierarchy, Tsuna will only ever follow Xanxus's orders if he wants to – flames (or you know, common sense) have no compulsion over him. Which is more than a bit frustrating considering his storm flames get so agitated whenever he upsets Tsuna.
Tsuna, however, just stares at him in disappointment.
"He has nowhere else to go, Xanxus. He can't go back to his family, and Shamal was getting ready to kick him out. I'm not leaving him on the street."
"Why is any of that our problem? Dump him on Kara-Trash and her brats!"
Tsuna just raises an eyebrow. "He's staying, Xanxus. You're the one who told me it was time to get more Guardians."
Xanxus gestures at himself, with some rather rude hand gestures. "You already have a fucking Storm!"
"And I've already told you I won't harmonise until I've taught him how to use another flame," Tsuna counters, flames flaring in warning before he starts to walk away to help Gokudera settle into a guest room. "We're done talking about this."
If he hears Xanxus scream and shoot up the hallway, he doesn't react.
Two days later, Gokudera found the piano in the second greeting room, and he's playing something while Tsuna leans on the instrument and smiles the way he used to only ever smile at Xanxus.
From his seat on the sofa, Xanxus fights the need to shoot the little brat in the face. Repeatedly.
Said brat then fumbles some of the keys, and Tsuna moves in, sitting next to him and asking what's wrong. The look on Gokudera's face is one of pure adoration, and Xanxus can feel his flames flaring from here.
He grabs his pistol. Screw this, the kid's getting his brains blown out. Tsuna will forgive him eventually.
His plans for homicide however, vanish when he feels a hand grab his wrist, and he glares as he takes in Squalo's good arm pinning it down as the man sits. Before he can go for his other one, Lussuria is on his left, grabbing him in a bear hug.
"Oh, Xanxus honey, green is not your colour at all."
"Boss, trust me, shooting the runt isn't going to solve your problems."
Xanxus growls, trying to jerk out of the hold. It's no good, he's trained them too damn well. He didn't even realise they were in the room.
"Well what the fuck am I supposed to do?" he hisses. "The Trash refuses to get rid of him, and if he keeps throwing those damn flames around I am taking out this entire wing."
Just to make things worse, Tsuna chooses that moment to laugh at something the interloper says, and Xanxus flares his storm flames in reaction, mentally grabbing Gokudera's and crushing them out of air. The kid chokes, buckling under the vicious presence, and Tsuna glares at the three, before pulling him away and out of the room. The kid glances over his shoulder, and – Xanxus cannot fucking believe this – smirks before hugging Tsuna's leg as they reach the door.
Oh come on! At this point it wouldn't even be murder so much as assisted suicide! The kid's practically asking for it!
Inexplicably, neither man at his side seems to see it that way, and pin him down until the two are out of sight. Now that he doesn't have to look at the interloper, Xanxus's shoulders relax, though his Guardians can feel how agitated his flames are. It takes a few minutes to get them under control, even with Squalo being ridiculously liberal with his own.
"He is not good enough" Xanxus finally snarls, shaking off the Rain's tranquil influence. "I don't care what other flames he's got, he is not harmonising with Tsuna."
"Oh, I know, Honey," Lussuria croons. "If you didn't kill him, Bel would within the week. Right now we're paying Mammon through the nose to distract him. But Tsuna's far too sensitive, you can't just shoot this problem away."
"Voi! You know he's right," Squalo warns. "And I am not playing 'twiddle our fingers while the Boss flees the country to try and apologise to his bleeding heart of a Sky' again."
"You fucking Trash-"
Squalo ignores him, brandishing his phone. "Thankfully, I know a perfect way to get the brat out of this house without crushing said bleeding heart."
Xanxus stares in confusion while his second dials a number, only to grin in anticipation as he hears the words.
"Voi! Bucking horse, you free any time soon? There's someone I want you to meet…"
It takes a few days and some excessive bribing of young Estrano Mists, but somehow, they manage to pry Tsuna away from Gokudera for a few hours. He leaves the young Storm some strict instructions to not leave his room – but sadly didn't think to offer instructions on what to do if someone broke in.
As such, when Dino arrives at Squalo's request, Xanxus is practically giddy… and Dino understandably goes on high alert as they meet outside the main entrance of the mansion.
"Xanxus, Squalo," he greets somewhat tentatively, clearly regretting having come alone. Even if his tutor from hell is no doubt somewhere in the vicinity watching it all go down. "Not like you to invite me over. You said something about introducing me to a possible flame candidate?"
"Voi! Yup," Squalo grins. "No good for us, but might be just what you need."
That doesn't make him look any less nervous – although given the Varia's reputation, someone they want to get rid of should probably come with a warning label.
Dino flinches when the front doors slam open – and doesn't exactly relax when Bel comes running out. Bel almost skips all his way down the steps until he reaches Xanxus, who only acknowledges his arrival with a raised eyebrow and a simple question.
Dino shudders when he sees Bel grin. "Oh yes, it was very therapeutic.
"...You did follow the-"
"Ugh, the Prince didn't spill any blood," the teen whines. "I followed your rules."
Xanxus grins. "Good, now get out of my face, Trash."
He's pretty certain the kid is rolling his eyes under that fringe, but he quickly complies. Xanxus, meanwhile, places an arm over Dino's shoulders – clamping down tight to make sure Dino can't escape. Squalo stays in front just long enough to open the door for the two of them – and then quickly falls in step behind them.
"The way I see it, I kind of owe you a Guardian," Xanxus explains, trying to sound friendly. It's not something he does often enough for it to be natural, but he's trying. "And as it happens, we have a surplus of Storm flames in this building."
Dino's face goes pale. "Oh god, you're not going to try and load off the little blond-"
Xanxus growls. "Fuck no, he's mine, back off."
Dino's hands are already raised. "Nope. Nope, backing off. So then, um…"
He cuts off for Xanxus to drag him up some stairs, and then into a waiting room. Levi and Lussuria are already sitting on a sofa, Lussuria tending to what looks like explosive burns on Levi's face, and a pile of various weaponry loaded on a coffee table.
"Little brat's got some skill, I'll give him that," Levi mutters at his questioning glare. "Especially since we weren't allowed to hurt him."
"What brat?" Dino questions, eyeing up the room, and finding it missing anyone else. Xanxus releases his tight grip from the other man's shoulders, and pats it one last time.
"Just to check, you don't have any plans for the next five hours right?"
Dino frowns. "Uh… well…"
"Good, " Xanxus says without waiting for him to finish. He immediately shoves him, letting the Cavallone clumsiness do the job for him.
Dino squawks, arms flailing as he stumbles back, directly in front of a walk-in cupboard normally used to store weapons. Before he can slam against it, Squalo is there opening up the door, grabbing Dino's shoulder and spinning him round so he falls face first into the cupboard.
Dino has a split second to notice a young, silver haired child tied up in what looks like several miles of piano wire lying in the small space before he crashes on top of him. Then the door slams closed behind him, followed by the lock clicking in place.
"Voi! Bucking Horse Dino, meet Hayato Gokudera!" Squalo yells. "You're not getting out till you harmonise or kill each other. At this point the Boss will take either!"
"Squalo!" Dino screams, banging on the cupboard door. "Let me out right now!"
On his side of the door, Squalo just digs a finger into his ear and saunters off, tossing the key to Xanxus on his way out.
"Let's leave em to it. I've got work to do – check up in an hour, Boss?"
Xanxus smirks, throwing himself onto a spare seat. "Do what you want, Trash."
He suspects it'll take more than one – even if Dino has to activate his flames just to get light in the tiny room, he'll be too on edge to trust the kid immediately. But the need to have a 'family' member to help him get out of the situation will start to get pretty tempting by hour two...
"So we're just waiting for something to happen?" Lussuria comments, and immediately ducks as Xanxus grabs a short sword from the weapon pile on the table and chucks it at him.
"We've emptied that cupboard up, so we might as well do inventory," Xanxus orders, looking pointedly at his Guardians. "Nobody is leaving that door unattended until we've got the reaction we want."
Both his Guardians audibly groan, and Lussuria tosses a deck of cards onto a nearby table, clearly having had other ideas. Xanxus ignores it, and grabs the ledger to start calculating how many of the guns need cleaning.
Two hours and forty five minutes later, Squalo's poked his head in three times, Levi's accidentally stabbed himself twice, and Lussuria has pocketed at least one set of knuckle dusters he thinks Xanxus didn't spot, when a soft sound comes from the cupboard.
"...Wait, do you hear that?" Xanxus tenses, dropping the very nice Luger pistol on the table as Levi glances at the door.
"Hear what?" Levi asks.
"He's right. I think I heard giggling," Lussuria replies, standing up and leaning against the cupboard. Whatever he hears makes him smile, and Xanxus steps a little closer.
...His Sun is on the money. There's definitely laughter happening.
It takes a second to unlock the door and fling it open, filling the cupboard with light. Xanxus feels himself grin as the two figures inside freeze, glancing their way as if caught doing something naughty. Dino has his hands half wrapped in piano wire, while Hayato has an arm free and a red Storm flame glowing from it as a light source.
Xanxus risks flaring his flames, and bursts into laughter when he feels Dino bristle – the brittle but very tangible bond clear between the two.
"Oi, back off!" Hayato hisses, and Xanxus quickly raises his hands and steps back.
"Oh, no problem at all," Xanxus says. "Happy to do just that. I'll back off and let you explain it all to Tsuna."
The glare quickly vanishes, and the boy starts to pale, looking even more guilty. Dino looks confused – but before he can question it, they all tense at the sound of a door slamming open, the flames of an irate Sky practically flooding the buildings. A moment later, Tsuna's enraged voice echoes through the halls.
"Xanxus! WHAT THE HELL DID YOU DO TO HAYATO?"
It's an awkward few minutes that follow, with Tsuna looking like the only reason he isn't removing Xanxus's head from his shoulders is because he wants to remove Dino's first, Dino clinging to his new little Guardian with a vice grip, Hayato looking like someone is holding a gun to his head, and Squalo laughing like a banshee in the background while Levi and Lussuria make themselves scarce. But eventually, Tsuna gets Dino's fingers pried off Hayato's shoulders to pull him into a corner, speaking with the boy in hushed voices as he kneels in front of him, and then Xanxus finds himself on the receiving end of a rather murderous Cavallone.
"Squalo, Xanxus," Dino growls, voice far too low. "Tell me you haven't manipulated me into poaching another Sky's element."
"They hadn't harmonised yet," Xanxus replies, grin creeping onto his face as he remembers an argument from long ago. "Technically, they hadn't even started courting yet. You're in the clear."
"Voi, surely the brat mentioned Tsuna," Squalo also counters, and Dino flushes red.
"I-he...yes but Tsuna already has Storm flames, so I figured it was more just a custodial guardianship, and you said-" He cuts himself off, biting back the words. "I don't like being used like this."
"Voi! Stop complaining. You're getting the better end of this deal," Squalo cackles, and Dino shakes his head.
"Why would you even use me like this?"
"Because my Sky likes to piss me off," Xanxus replies. "I owed you a Guardian, so I got you a Guardian. Enjoy."
Dino gives a soft laugh. "Enjoy? Hayato clearly adores Sawada. I misunderstood the situation. He's probably going to fight me tooth and nail-"
He stops when Squalo tenses, his eyes on the corner with Tsuna and the brat, and Xanxus focuses on his Sky, knowing Dino's likely doing the same. Tsuna's shoulders have sagged, and he's got his hands on Hayato's upper arms, but the misery he's clearly feeling is being covered up with a smile, as he nods and gives Hayato…
Well, it kind of looks like he's giving Hayato his blessing, if the way the kid throws himself into his arms is any indication. Xanxus can practically feel Dino's flames breathing a sigh of relief, and his own flames are feeling pretty giddy as well. Tsuna's not going to fight this, and Xanxus got the kid out of the way without resorting to murder. That's a win in anyone's book.
Tsuna straightens up, and Hayato darts straight over to his new Sky.
"Tsuna says he wants to visit, but I should go empty my room and move in with you," Hayato says with bright eyes. "He says if I want you to be my Sky, then he'll support it 100%"
Dino laughs, grinning as he reaches over and ruffles the kid's hair. "That's great news. Sawada has always been a reasonable guy. You go get your essentials, and we can organise a proper move later."
Hayato nods. "Sure thing, Tenth!"
Xanxus has his eyes on Tsuna as this exchange takes place, which is the only reason he hears Tsuna suck in a breath at Hayato's phrasing. For a second the man looks like he's been stabbed – and then it's gone, a nostalgic smile on his face as the boy runs out of the room, and Tsuna walks over to Dino.
"Take care of him," Tsuna warns. "Hayato doesn't do anything by halves. He will burn himself alive to keep you warm. Don't let him."
Dino straightens, almost looking like the Boss Reborn is torturing him into becoming. "I won't. I know he's young, but I'll have the Cavallone family helping me out. We'll keep him safe till he's strong enough to become an officer."
Tsuna smiles. "Just so you know, that kid won't settle for anything less than Right Hand, so you should probably warn Romario."
That gets a laugh. "Maybe when he's a little older, but I'll keep it in mind."
Dino's smile dims. "Look, Sawa-Tsunayoshi, there wasn't a claim, and he was a Storm. I swear, if I'd had any idea that you were-"
"I know," Tsuna assures him, and his eyes slide towards Xanxus.
"I'm not blaming you for this at all," he says, and Xanxus feels a shiver up his spine.
Tsuna leaves with Dino and Hayato. At the gates of the Varia, Xanxus spots Reborn coming in and drop kicking Dino to the ground, probably spouting some lesson Dino has failed – before quickly stepping next to Tsuna as they vanish out of sight.
Xanxus isn't the nervous type, but he hates, hates thinking about an angry Tsuna taking refuge with the Cavallone and the brat. Reborn is still more likely to encourage Tsuna harmonising with Dino than Xanxus, and Tsuna can be petty when he's pissed. But surely not petty enough about this that he won't come back, right?
It's an ominous feeling to have, and Xanxus, at his core, is not a complicated man. So when Tsuna shows his face on day three of his exodus and knocks on the door of Xanxus's office, he's angry and ready to defend himself from anything his Sky can throw at him. As such, when Tsuna stands in front of his desk with an impassive expression, Xanxus explodes.
"Don't fucking look at me like that!" he screeches. "What else was I supposed to do?"
"Not interfere with my Guardian candidates," Tsuna counters. "We've had this discussion before."
"This was not even remotely the same thing!" Xanxus yells. "He was not going to fit with us, and deep down you damn well know it!"
Tsuna sighs. "You're right," he admits.
"I DON'T FUCKING CARE IF YOU THINK I'M-wait, what?"
Xanxus gapes at the man, who scratches the back of his head sheepishly.
"You were right," Tsuna repeats. "I was trying to help Gokudera, but I was going about it the wrong way. He never would have been happy harmonising with me. Introducing him to Dino is something I should have thought of. The Cavallone can give him support, a place, a family, in ways I couldn't- can't- give him."
For a moment, Tsuna's face all but fractures, as grief stricken as he was the day Xanxus first met him. But before Xanxus can do more than register the expression, it's gone, tucked away behind tired eyes and a sad smile.
Slowly, Xanxus leans back in his chair, the anger evaporating to make way for confused disbelief as he watches Tsuna scratch the side of his head, clearly trying to avoid eye contact.
"Reborn… he helped me put a few things into perspective. Guess I'm not quite as over everything as I thought I was. I wanted what I had before, even though it was impossible."
"Why the fuck did you even want him?" Xanxus asks. "Reborn and I practically had to drag you into courting – what the hell was so special about the brat?"
Tsuna stills, and Xanxus tenses at the look in his eyes – bitter and cold. He doesn't relax even as Tsuna looks away, sitting down on the couch with a sigh. Eventually, he answers."He reminded me of my first Storm."
Xanxus snorts. "That brat and I are nothing alike."
Tsuna turns his head back to face him, face blank. "My first Storm, Xanxus."
The mirth leaves Xanxus's face as he registers the statement. It's kind of crazy how easy it is to forget that Tsuna had a familia before Xanxus, considering how much trouble it caused them in the beginning. But he never speaks of them, not even when Xanxus was feeling curious or Lussuria and Mammon were in peak gossip mode. And if Karasu or Yamamoto know anything, they're keeping quiet. Given Tsuna's relationship with Karasu, and that fabled former Guardian that caused so much reluctance with her harmonisation, perhaps the silver brat had an older sibling. When had his mother died again?
"I miss him," Tsuna admits, sounding unbearably guilty when he says it. "It's stupid, it's been years, over a decade, and yet…"
His head hits the back of the couch so he can stare at the ceiling. "He wouldn't have been him. No matter what I did, I'd always be looking for someone else, and that would have broken him. But I was selfish enough to not care about it. Because I knew he'd let me."
"You're not selfish, Trash," Xanxus offers, a little wrong footed. Tsuna gives a hysterical laugh.
"Oh, I am," he says, throwing his body forward to hide his head in one hand. "I'm probably one of the most selfish people alive. The things I've done, things I've made people do, all to achieve my own ends."
If it was one of his Guardians, Xanxus would probably throw something and tell them to get over the pity party. If his nerves weren't so raw, he'd probably be yelling at Tsuna to man up. Instead, Xanxus finds himself moving, circling round his Sky until he's sitting by his side.
"You're not fucking selfish, Tsuna" he repeats. "And sure as hell not more selfish than me. I'm the one who drags you into a life you never wanted, and will never give you up."
Tsuna shakes his head. "If I'd truly wanted to, I could have left you behind," he says. "The way I was when we met, I probably could have shoved you into the Ninth's arms and been out of the country before they tracked me. I've held you back almost every second."
"And I'm telling you I don't give a fuck," Xanxus growls. "You say you're selfish? Fine. I don't care, I wouldn't change a fucking thing about you. Even if you bring no good little Storm brats into my home, or run off the play house with other Skies. Hell, we'll inevitably piss each other off and blow up half this building by the end of the year, because we live to piss each other off, but even then, at my maddest, I don't regret it."
The sound Tsuna makes is half a laugh, half a sob, and he leans to the side to rest his head on Xanxus's shoulder – Xanxus's arm coming up to rest along Tsuna's back almost automatically.
"I sometimes wonder what would have happened if I hadn't run into you that day," Tsuna tells him. "I'd probably be dead, or worse."
Xanxus has pondered the same question more than once. He owes so much to the Sky at his side, it's difficult to fathom where he'd be without him.
"Don't think about things that never happened," he says, cuffing the back of Tsuna's head. "You would have been fine. That intuition would have got you somewhere safe, and I was always going to excel. We would have met eventually."
Tsuna grins. "If you'd been Varia, or even just Vongola when we met, you would have hated me."
"I wouldn't," Xanxus defends, and flushes red when Tsuna just raises his eyebrows. "...Fine, maybe a little. But only till you kicked my ass. Then I'd have gotten with the program."
Tsuna gives a short hum. "Is that so?"
"Course, Trash," Xanxus scoffs.
And if not? Well, he pities that poor alternate version of Xanxus.
One more chapter to go. I cannot believe it's almost over...