Thus conscience does make cowards of us all
Author: Jusrecht

Characters: Tsuna and his six guardians

Notes: One of those plotbunnies that latches onto you and doesn't let go. Title is quoted from Hamlet, thus belongs to Shakespeare.


The Vongola Tenth arrives with three of his guardians. He leads the small procession, solemn in a white ensemble of impeccable suit, and enters the red-brick mansion with two on his heels. One remains outside, bandaged hands fisted behind his back as he deflects a barrage of suspicious stares from the mansion's guards.

The meeting room is a spacious chamber with ostentatious wood-panelled walls and tall windows framed by heavy red brocades. An antique dining table carved out of dark oak and polished into pristine perfection separates the guests from the host. Amedeo Freccia occupies one end, his presence strengthened by ten other men, all sporting black and a contemptuous sneer at the appearance of young Sawada Tsunayoshi.

Tsuna seats himself at the other end, meeting the gaze of the older man across long expanse of polished wood. They consider each other for a moment, one with detached politeness and the other blatant mockery, and then concurrently accede to an exchange of pleasantries. The agreeable weather as September fades from young to old. The carnival that splashes colours on Rome's cool autumn nights. Commendations on their respective thriving businesses, skirting around the fields they are clashing in.

Tsuna smiles. Amedeo laughs. Both calculate each opponent's next move with a gaze too sharp to be friendly.

Six minutes into the meeting, they reach the end of their small talks. "Now," Amedeo says with the confidence of a new, young leader of a substantial family, hands a steeple just under the unpleasant curve of his mouth, "I believe we have business to discuss, Vongola Tenth."

Gokudera's face folds into a scowl. Tsuna tucks his smile inside and dons a carefully blank mask. "Yes, I believe so," he answers civilly but doesn't return the gesture. Instead he leans back and sets his hands down on his lap, legs crossed under the table. Amedeo's eyes narrow, but his caustic retort is postponed by the arrival of one of his men through the side door.

Tsuna watches as sunlight washes Amedeo's face into a livid expression, the muted colour of his hair flaring to life. He guesses that the news is about their ally in Hong Kong, the third most powerful triad in the region, and yet not powerful enough to escape illusions spun from mists and deceptions.

"Disturbing news?"

Amedeo looks up sharply. Tsuna taps a finger on the table and Gokudera touches his watch, obeying an unvoiced order. The signal is sent and Tsuna knows that his message is received and being carried out by Ryouhei when commotion rises outside the mansion.

The windows give out to a vista of clear blue sky and the deep emerald that is a belt of forest surrounding the mansion. Seated, Tsuna can see nothing beyond this blend of blue and green, but Amedeo's lips bends into an ugly curve as he hisses at his men. Guns are brandished, fired in rapid successions, and Yamamoto steps forward, a Rain box ready in his left hand. Blue jewel flashes and the box yields, releasing a torrent of rain heavy enough to shield them from metal bullets. Gokudera has turned around when the door flings open, the skull perching on his cannon sneering as he fires down the hall, harvesting agonised screams that echo in Tsuna's ears.

Ironic how they don't even make him flinch now.

"I apologise," Tsuna says once the cacophony has died down somewhat, his voice bland, "for the mess we have caused."

The smell of destruction is thick in the air, tempered only by tiny waterfalls that spill from the table to glassy pools on marble floor. Amedeo is gripping the carved arms of his seat, knuckles white. The situation is not in his favour, with most of his guards incapacitated and the remaining ten still crowding around him now useless before the impregnable rain shield.

"This is an attack, Vongola Tenth," he declares through gritted teeth.

"A retaliation," Tsuna corrects him tersely. His Dying Flame flickers, slicing through the tension in the room like a knife to butter. Amedeo flinches, and jumps in his seat when a shrill sound smashes the rest of his composure to pieces.

No one moves to answer. Tsuna glances at the telephone, a gilded device that spends the better part of its life being showcased and admired rather than used, sitting pompously on an Edwardian cabinet. There is a beat of wild silence between every ring, like the retreat of smooth, white-crested waves before they strike and splatter the shore. Tsuna isn't smiling when he leans forward and laces his fingers together neatly on the table.

"Please accept the call, Don Freccia," he advises politely. Amedeo stares at him with unconcealed loathing, once or twice glancing at Yamamoto's ring that still hovers in front of the mouth of his box, and orders one of his men to fetch the telephone.

Tsuna doesn't take pleasure from other's misfortune, but there may be a hint of satisfaction buried deep in the darker recesses of his heart when the red on Amedeo's face pales to sickly white. Hibari will have crippled their force in Greece by now, taking the entire branch hostage under his tonfa's rippling flames.

Lambo is only twelve, and Tsuna has seen enough to know that sometimes his mercy saves no one but his own conscience – and his conscience, eternal, loyal companion that it is, matters less to him than his Family.

"Return my guardian to me," the Tenth Vongola says, his warm, kind voice for once laced with ice, "and then we will have that business discussion."