Title: As Bitter As Pure Sweetness Goes
Word count:
6959
Rating:
PG
Pairings:
None (but maybe some 1827 if you really REALLY squint)
Characters:
Hibari, Dino, Tsuna, Xanxus, Gokudera, others.
A/N: Written a couple of months ago for khr_undercover over at live journal.
This story utilises the third-person omniscient narrative style, which means there will be instant POV shifts at certain points. Thank you to Batsie for the beta. Any mistakes left are my fault and only mine.


01 - Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved sweets.

Young Dino Cavallone had always known that the mafia world was not a kind world. There were secrets meant to be buried forever, hidden away from prying eyes. Even though he was named the tenth boss of the respected Cavallone Famiglia after his father, Dino tried not to care about the mafia world he was born into. He dreamt of escaping the throne he was doomed to inherit from his father. He dreamt of a place where he was just another boy in another peaceful household. He longed to have a mother who would sing him lullabies at night and read bedtime stories to him before tucking him in. Sometimes, he wished his father had remarried after his mother died in childbirth. He wished he had been given at least a small taste of a normal household before he would be forced to hold a gun, pull the trigger and turn around like nothing happened.

His days were filled with respectful bows from his fathers' subordinates who would one day become his as well as greetings and giggles of young maids who doted on him endlessly. Every day was the same until one day when his father's right-hand-man, Romario told him his father wanted to talk to him.

Dino was ten years old when his father called him into his study to tell him an elaborate story about a Japanese woman he secretly married in Japan a couple of years after Dino's mother passed away giving birth to him. Young Dino did not understand why his father needed to keep his second marriage a secret from everybody else. He was slightly mad at his father for not telling him, wondering if all this time he could have grown up next to a mother figure instead of all the maids who mostly only cared about getting paid or sucking up to the family. On a second thought, he didn't know if his father's second wife would like him enough to treat him like a son anyway. His father must have had his reasons for keeping his marriage a secret.

"Why did you keep this from me, Dad? Did you think I would be angry?"

His father gave a sad smile and nodded softly, causing Dino to avert his eyes to stare at the floor with great interest.

"…I'll only be mad because you didn't tell me I could have grown up with a mother, Dad."

Dino had no chance to meet his mother, so he didn't have any attachment to her except for the feelings of love and gratefulness he extended to her in his prayers for having given birth to him at the cost of her life. There was no way he would be mad if his father were to introduce a new mother to him. He was different from the boys in soap operas on TV who would throw tantrum after tantrum at the thought of having their mothers replaced with new women in their households. It was ridiculous.

"That, and I didn't want to pull her into our world, son," was the ninth Cavallone's reply, his eyes slightly downcast as if he was recollecting a long story with a bitter ending. "I wanted her to live a different life from ours. I wanted to tell you about her when you're older, when I'm not so scared of you rejecting her from our family. But things have changed."

Dino looked up sharply at the heavy tone of regret in his father's voice. "What happened?"

"She passed away."

The young boy didn't even try to suppress his loud gasp. The flame of hope he had in his heart was extinguished with a cruel whooshing sound of the wind invading his lungs along with his sudden sharp intake of breath. He wanted his father to tell him that it was just a lie, that this as another lie his father made up to hide the knowledge of his second wife from the world. He waited and waited and waited. The sight of a small well of tears in his father's tired eyes was like a sword to his heart, and Dino stared at the floor again.

"I… I'm sorry for your loss."

The older man shook his head. "I'm sorry for not telling you. And there is something else that I want you to know."

"What is it?"

"Dino, my son, you have a younger brother."

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02 - He loved sweets so much that he didn't realise that sweets weren't good for his health.

Dino blinked at the boy standing next to his father. He was prepared to meet his little brother, armed with a little Japanese and smiles to make the boy feel welcomed in his new house. His little brother was like the complete opposite of himself. Dino's slightly coarse and spiky hair against the boy's smooth and straight locks, their hair and eye colours – they were all different. His little brother was fairer than Dino was and his eyes narrower, giving away a common feature of his maternal heritage.

"Meet your brother, Dino. His name is-"

The little boy interrupted his father before the man could say his name. "Hibari Kyouya."

Dino and his father both blinked down at the boy's cold voice.

"My name is Hibari Kyouya. I don't answer to anything else."

The little boy was making it clear that he would not acknowledge his Italian name written in his birth certificate. He would keep his mother's maiden name and the Japanese name his mother gave him. For a three-year-old, the boy was too intelligent and too eloquent. The little boy's dark eyes stared apathetically into Dino's bright ones. Without words, the boy turned on his heels from everyone else and climbed up the stairs, heading for the room prepared for him in the Cavallone mansion. The staircase was too high for the boy's short legs, but he managed anyway, jumping and skipping lightly to get past the stairs. Dino gave his father a look before running up the same stairs just to fall back down as he tripped on one of his shoelaces.

Hibari simply glanced at his older brother, made a huffing sound and continued to his room. The door was too heavy for him to slam shut, so he pushed it with all his might. He took a chair for him to stand on and locked the door. After jumping down, Hibari scrutinised every bit of his new room. It was too large for his liking, with a bed that would make him look like an ant in the middle of it. He missed his old room in Japan. He missed his mother. She was faithful to his father even though the man was rarely around. He wasn't even there when she breathed her last. For that, Hibari hated his father.

Every day, his older brother would come and talk to him about nothing in particular. Hibari would listen half-heartedly as Dino droned on and on about the parts of Italy that he would like for Hibari to visit the next time they go out together. Hibari would always refuse, but ended up tagging along in the end because his brother would always find a way to shove him into the car with their suitcases ready at the doorway.

It was not that Hibari disliked his new family. He only hated to be in a crowd. The Cavallone mansion was full of subordinates running around and patrolling every nook and crook of their estate, greeting him respectfully and calling him 'little young master' to his dismay. He also disliked the way Dino would trip over everything, causing a scene whenever and wherever. He wished he would not have to be around such a clumsy older brother.

He wondered why Dino didn't start leaving him alone already. The older boy would keep coming back to spend time with him whenever he could and Hibari would always lash at his older brother. The younger boy simply refused to spend more time than necessary around another human being.

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03 - The boy didn't care when his gums started aching.

Hibari's first friend was Sawada Tsunayoshi, a young boy named as the tenth boss of the Vongola Familia, an ally of the Cavallone. Hibari learned from Dino as well as the books in his father's library that the name Vongola was one of the most feared and reverently regarded by all Famiglias in Italy and beyond.

He was six years old when Dino introduced Tsuna to him right after the small boy moved to Italy. At the request of the ninth Vongola who was currently in power, Tsuna was brought to Italy in order to get him acquainted with the family he would one day lead.

Tsuna was the only person Hibari would talk to because they both shared a common native language. Tsuna failed horribly at Italian and Hibari hated speaking the language he still regarded as foreign even after three years of staying in the Cavallone mansion. Tsuna did not take too well on the prospect of having to live in Italy, so Hibari would always smack the boy's head upside down for being so whiny. The way he saw it, the mafia world was a stupid one if all future bosses were like Tsuna, who reminded him greatly of his clumsy and awkward older brother. Still, he was content at being Tsuna's friend. While Tsuna reminded him greatly of Dino, the smaller boy never tried to make him laugh like Dino would. There was just something about his young friend that made Hibari want to protect him.

Besides, he was Tsuna's only friend. Tsuna seemed to trust him unconditionally, so unreservedly that he just couldn't find it in him to refuse the small hands that beckoned for his friendship. Sometimes, a man who called himself 'Reborn' would pick Tsuna up from the Cavallone mansion where he would play with Hibari during the day. Hibari once asked Romario about Reborn and was rewarded with a very long lecture detailing Reborn's reputation as a feared hitman working for the Vongola. He never asked anything from Romario again.

It turned out that Reborn was not only famous for his prowess as a hitman, but also for his brilliance and intelligence. When Reborn came into Dino's life as a home tutor under the request of their father, Hibari watched as his brother was practically tortured daily by the strange man. Dino began to spend less time with him around the time their father became bedridden.

Hibari didn't mind. He started spending more time with Tsuna. This time, he was the one who demanded to be driven to the Vongola estate. A few months later, a new boy who claimed to have been 'saved' by Tsuna after running away from his 'evil' family came into the small circle of friends, stubbornly and proudly calling himself Tsuna's future right-hand-man. It was a scene similar to a young girl claiming to want to marry her first crush - so sickeningly sweet and disgusting at the same time that Hibari's hand itched to beat the boy to pulp each time he called Tsuna "Juudaime" with sparkly green eyes. Gokudera Hayato was nevertheless a half (or so the boy said), so Hibari refrained from trying to kill the annoying boy. He had soft spots for Japanese people after all. Even so, his first meeting with Gokudera ended up with both of them trying to pummel each other to death. Gokudera didn't like how Hibari was close to Tsuna even though he was from a different family. Hibari retorted that he didn't remember Gokudera being one of Vongola, and that he had known Tsuna longer that Gokudera had.

When he was eight, he came home from school to see Dino holding his face in his hand at the dining room. He found out from Romario that Dino's only friend at school was involved in some sort of siege attempt at the Vongola Headquarters, along with a man called Xanxus who Hibari remembered being referred to as 'brother' by Tsuna.

Dino did not even have time to stop him from running out of the Cavallone estate towards the Vongola territory, intent on finding little Tsuna.

Hibari was there when Xanxus pointed his gun at the crying boy who was being held in a firm hold by Gokudera. The intimidating man looked like he was hesitating, but Hibari had no time to think about Xanxus. His priority was Tsuna. With all his strength, he picked up heavy items littered on the ground and threw them one by one at Xanxus, trying his best to distract the man. At the moment of distraction, he pulled Gokudera and Tsuna along the hallways as they escaped to the forest.

They were found by Dino who pulled all three of them into a teary hug, bringing them back with him to the Cavallone estate.

None of them managed to make Tsuna stop crying for a long time. Sometimes, Tsuna would call for Xanxus as he cried himself to sleep. Hibari didn't know why this Xanxus person was so important in Tsuna's life. He never met the man although he had been spending most of his time at the Vongola mansion with Tsuna, so he was slightly confused.

One night, after making sure that Tsuna had fallen asleep, Hibari went to see Dino. Since his older brother's friend was involved in the siege, Hibari assumed that Dino knew everything about the incident. He let Dino pull him into his lap as he was told a lengthy story of Dino's friend, Squalo, which led to another story about Xanxus. Hibari listened silently as Dino told him a story of how Xanxus was blinded by praises and expectations of people who believed that he should be the tenth boss of the Vongola instead of Tsuna. Those nameless people believed that a child like Tsuna could never measure up to Xanxus.

"If he is so strong, then why is he not the heir? Why must Tsunayoshi be the next boss?"

Hibari wanted to lash out. Perhaps Tsuna could have had a different life. Perhaps Tsuna could have grown up away from this mafia world he found himself beginning to really dislike.

Dino only smiled and ruffled his hair.

"Xanxus was only an adopted son, Kyouya. He wasn't the ninth biological son."

"Tsunayoshi isn't his biological son too!"

"Kyouya, Tsuna was the only one who carries the Vongola blood now. He's a direct descendant of the first Vongola who retired to Japan. You know about that, don't you?"

No, he didn't. Hibari didn't know about the internal conflicts of the Vongola. Although he wondered why Tsuna was chosen as the next boss, he never bothered asking his friend directly. If his friend didn't feel the need to tell him, he would not pry into it.

Dino continued talking when Hibari continued being silent. "You see, Tsuna had known Xanxus all his life. I'm sure you've heard Tsuna mentioned his name before, right? Xanxus is like an older brother to Tsuna. His brother tried to kill him, Kyouya. Of course Tsuna would be sad."

An older brother.

Like Dino.

After the talk with Dino, Hibari began to think seriously about the rumours he heard about him. Loud mouths of ignorant people and narrow-minded subordinates had been spreading rumours that young Hibari would one day overthrow the Dino as the head of Cavallone. He had been hearing voices talking behind their backs, talking about how he would make a better leader because of his graceful nature against Dino's natural gaucheness. If he were to seize the title from Dino, he imagined the older man crying to sleep the way Tsuna did at having someone he trusted trying to end his life.

Hibari's heart ached just at the thought of it.

Tsuna and Gokudera stayed with them until the conflict was all over and Hibari started keeping more distant from Dino, spending most of his time at Tsuna's, helping the boy in his combat training mainly because Gokudera was not the best person to train with in hand to hand combat. After the incident with Xanxus, it was decided that Tsuna should be taught combat skills so he could protect himself. Hibari vehemently agreed with the decision when Tsuna told him about it, promising to train along to stop Tsuna from whining. Ever since Gokudera proudly revealed that his 'ultimate weapon' was an endless supply of dynamites, Hibari and Tsuna both learned that they would be better of training with each other. Sometimes, Dino would join them with Reborn.

Hibari was floored when he saw Dino demonstrate his skills in front of them. Even Reborn nodded his approval. After he went home with his brother, Hibari stared at his hands the whole night. He decided that he would be stronger if he had a weapon to support him. The next day, he picked up a weapon he thought suited him best from the collection of old weapons he found at the basement of his house. The pair of tonfa felt so light and perfect in his hands, even more so when he swung his hand to beat up all who tried to bring him down or harm his friends in any way.

"Those things are scary!" Tsuna whined one day after getting hit by a sharper end of Hibari's tonfa.

Hibari smirked. "Get used to it. You're going to be a big bad boss. What's a little pain, herbivore?"

"I don't even want to be the boss, though."

Hibari hit Tsuna again as a remark to the boy's whine, this time on the head but with weaker strength.

Gokudera would throw dynamites every time Hibari hit Tsuna. It was like a routine. They might not play what normal kids would play at playgrounds, but they all had fun and that was all that mattered.

Hibari's father died when he was nine and Dino was hailed the tenth boss of the Cavallone when Hibari was ten. Tsuna's father, Iemitsu and the ninth Vongola, Timoteo extended their eternal gratitude for the Cavallones; they settled all of the Cavallone's financial debt left behind by Hibari and Dino's late father.

It was around the same time that Hibari started gaining reputation as a ridiculously young and strong fighter, along with Gokudera who never once left Tsuna's side, training to become stronger and stronger for Tsuna's sake. As peaceful as it seemed, they were all living in a dangerous world. Now that Dino was the boss, he would keep reminding Hibari that the mafia world was not a kind one. Hibari would not say anything because he knew his brother's words were true. Assassins after assassins tried to kill Tsuna. Hibari stopped counting after he smashed his tonfa down on a hired assassin disguised as one of the maids at Tsuna's place. The maid's accomplice disguised as a gardener was taken down by Gokudera with his dynamites. While both of them were always at each other's throat, fighting back and forth, they agreed on the same thing.

They would protect Tsuna.

To Hibari, and probably to Gokudera as well, Tsuna's existence was the most real, solid and warm in the wild world they were growing up in. Unlike Gokudera and Hibari who regarded their mafia heritage with contempt, Tsuna never hated his heritage. He loved Timoteo like his biological grandfather, adored Xanxus and Dino like older brothers even though the former betrayed him, laughed and smiled genuinely all of the time. They knew Tsuna would one day become the boss of the great Vongola Famiglia. Hibari knew there was no way Tsuna would escape his fate, just like how Dino could not escape his.

He had already witnessed how Dino's smiles were no longer as bright as when they were younger, so Hibari would do anything to keep Tsuna from losing those smiles and laughter. He would keep getting stronger.

Soon, rumours about Hibari overthrowing Dino's reign started up again. He could not even eat properly in his own house anymore regardless of how unaffected Dino acted around him in the midst of all the rumours. Hibari would take a small bite of his breakfast and excuse himself before Dino could start making small talks he felt no interest to participate in.

Dino's nonchalance only flamed the rumours, although Hibari knew Dino was only trying to look as if no one was saying anything to make them both feel better. Dino must have thought Hibari was deaf to all the rumours flying back and forth or that the latter was too young to comprehend the deeper meanings of the cruel words. The older brother would always tell the younger how proud he was of the younger's strength, that he believed Hibari would be an important figure in the world in the near future.

It was irritating. Hibari knew how hard Romario tried to douse all ill-natured rumours about the half-brothers, but nothing seemed to help. When Tsuna and Gokudera were sent to Japan by Timoteo for time away from the Italian mafia scene following yet another assassination attempt, Hibari tagged along despite Dino's protest.

"I'm with the Vongola," he claimed proudly, dragging his luggage behind him. "So I'm going with Tsunayoshi."

All rumours died out at Hibari's self-admittance into the Vongola family.

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04 - One day, he consumed way too many sweets that it left his tongue tasting nothing but bitterness for days.

Dino visited them every now and then. When he was in Italy, he would hear reports, updates and rumours about his brother and his friends in Namimori, Japan. To say that he was surprised to hear about Hibari founding the Disciplinary Committee in Namimori was an understatement. Soon, new names started appearing in reports sent to him by his men stationed around the town; Kusakabe Tetsuya who was loyal to Hibari and the Discplinary Committee, Yamamoto Takeshi whose father turned out to be an acquaintance of Squalo, Sasagawa Ryouhei who doted on Tsuna like a brother, Miura Haru and Sasagawa Kyoko who tagged along in their adventures every once in a while, Lambo who cried too much, Rokudou Mukuro who was once classmates with Hibari in Italy and many other names.

When Reborn was sent to Japan to coach Tsuna, Dino knew things would start changing. For better or for worse, he didn't know.

The brothers met again when Dino was appointed to be his brother's tutor by Reborn. Naturally, Hibari was not happy with the development and Dino felt it with every heavy blow thrown his way. Nevertheless, they trained together. Hibari only got stronger and stronger until there was nothing left for Dino to teach him anymore. The young boy could defeat a whole building of assassins without breaking a sweat.

"You'll be leaving the Cavallone soon." Dino's words were soft as he tried to catch his breath, sitting on the ground and leaning against the wall after a long training session on the rooftop of Namimori Middle School. He paused for a moment, sipping his drink that Romario brought him. "The tenth Cloud Guardian of Vongola, huh? I bet Dad never saw this coming…"

It was the truth. He knew Hibari was more attached to the Vongola ever since his friendship with Tsuna began, but Dino never thought Hibari would one day become one of the moving forces behind the Vongola. The Vongola was always several times stronger than the Cavallone would ever be. Dino also recognised there would come a day when his power could not compare to Tsuna's once the boy grew up. Once, when they were young, he thought of making Hibari his second-in-command. He even entertained the thought of handing over the family to his brother who was evidently stronger and more capable than he would ever be. Gathering followers, founding a reputed committee in Namimori and establishing a solid reputation all on his own in a short span of time – if there were people who disagreed that those were some of the proofs of Hibari's leadership, Dino would hunt them down and personally beat them all up. In his little brother's words, he would bite them all to death.

His silent reverie was broken when Hibari huffed, wiping a small trace of blood from the corners of his lips. "Don't talk about that man in front of me."

That man? Oh.

"He's been long gone and you're still holding a grudge? Kyouya…"

"Shut up."

"Kyouya, you know Dad loved you and your mother."

"I know he did."

"Then why?"

"It doesn't change the fact that he wasn't there when she died."

Dino didn't have anything to say about the last part. He probably would only make it worse. Romario was also silently telling him not to pry further into the matter. Sighing, Dino let Romario help him to his feet and prepared to leave their training ground.

"Is that why you're so adamant to dissociate yourself from our family?" Dino could not resist asking before he left the young boy on his own. Silence, however, was his only answer.

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"Don't start, please."

Hibari blinked at the timid but firm voice from a boy who had just entered the Reception Room – the room claimed by Hibari and his Disciplinary Committee. Tsuna waved at him tiredly before sitting down on one of the settees available.

"Start on what?" Hibari questioned with a raised eyebrow.

Tsuna merely raised one finger and pointed at a lone pack of cigarette lying on Hibari's work table. "On that."

It didn't take long for Hibari to notice what Tsuna meant by that. Snorting, he took the pack and threw it into the trash can placed appropriately next to his table.

"I had no intention of doing what your stupid mind was thinking of, idiot. That's the pack I confiscated from Gokudera."

"Again?!"

"Again."

He watched with silent amusement as Tsuna looked torn between laughing and sighing. The boy did both before making himself more comfortable on the sofa. "You should just give up, Hibari-san. It's Gokudera-kun we're talking about here."

"And it's me you're trying to persuade here."

"…Point taken."

Tsuna looked worn out, so Hibari assumed he had just been training with Reborn under some straining condition. Hibari himself was still slightly tired after training with Dino, but he supposed he was not too tired to listen to whatever his friend wanted to say. Tsuna always lounged on the sofa whenever he had something to say. Hibari left his table to sit on the opposite sofa, making himself comfortable as he waited for Tsuna to speak.

As if on cue, Tsuna started talking. "I don't want to face Xanxus Onii-san. I don't want to fight him."

Hibari should have known Tsuna was thinking about Xanxus. Ever since they were informed of a series of battle Tsuna and his guardians had to go through before he could fully qualify as the next boss, the boy had been looking depressed. Gokudera would always try to cheer Tsuna up, but Gokudera wasn't around at the moment, probably still training or arguing with Yamamoto somewhere.

"You don't have a choice."

"I know."

Silence took over for a moment. Hibari could not fully comprehend what Tsuna was feeling. The boy was too emotional, too kind and too trusting. Hibari just knew Tsuna would never get over the hurt of having almost been killed by Xanxus when he was younger.

"He hesitated."

Tsuna's head turned in Hibari's direction so quickly that he could feel the strain. "Excuse me?"

"That night. He hesitated. He probably wouldn't have pulled the trigger even if you didn't run."

Another silence stretched over the heavy atmosphere. And then it was broken when Tsuna smiled warmly. Hibari resisted the urge to smile with him. He was glad that Tsuna could still smile as sincerely as before even after everything. They were all alike - Hibari, Dino, Tsuna and Xanxus. If it had been Hibari holding the gun and Dino the one he was going to shoot, Hibari knew he could never pull the trigger. Xanxus must have felt the same way. Killing someone who had put his trust in you would mean abusing the greatest faith, even more so when you were tied to that someone by blood or emotions stronger than blood bonds.

"Don't you miss Dino-san, Hibari-san?"

It was Hibari's turn to blink at the sudden question. "What? I just saw him this afternoon, Tsunayoshi. Besides, why would I miss anybody?"

Tsuna shook his head. "That's not what I meant," he said. "Don't you just miss those days when you were young?"

So this was another one of Tsuna's 'you should stop running away and keeping Dino-san out of your life' kind of talk. Hibari's answer would be 'yes' and 'no'. He remembered digging up wet flowers from behind the Cavallone mansion on Dino's twelfth birthday, throwing them at the older boy's face and then running away into his room. He remembered doing the same the next year, throwing the flowers onto Dino's bed because he didn't want his father and Romario to lecture him about manners like the previous year. He remembered big hands ruffling his hair, gentle and loving.

Sadly, he also remembered the old rumours and the way Dino tried so hard to appear nonchalant despite everything.

"Nothing good comes from looking at the past."

"But it makes us remember." It makes us remember who we were, what we were and how we used to live. It reminds us of our triumphs and our mistakes.

Hibari understood what the younger boy was going to say although it was not said outright. He wondered when Tsuna became so witty. The maturity peeking through the small frame was startling sometimes. Hibari would blame Reborn every time Tsuna appeared reserved and nostalgic. He didn't want Tsuna's training for the sake of assuming his role as the boss to take away his childlike innocence. Hibari remembered the changes Dino went through when he was trained under Reborn. He hoped Tsuna would not change so much.

The solemn look on Tsuna's face prompted Hibari to respond, but the words quickly died in his mouth when Tsuna suddenly broke into a round of giggles more horrible than Kyoko and Haru's combined.

"Well, I know you love him, Hibari-san. Like I love Xanxus Onii-san. You're just being shy, aren't you? Oh, and I love Dino-san too!"

Instead of responding, Hibari sent one tonfa flying in Tsuna's direction. Tsuna dodged it while laughing at the same time. Trust the boy to break a poignant atmosphere. Both of them were practically chasing each other around the room like little kids when Gokudera opened the door and yelled at Hibari for trying to harm his darling Juudaime.

Before Hibari went to bed that night, he received a short e-mail from Tsuna.

Hi Hibari-san!

You know, you're taking the cliché route I've seen in some movies Dad cried rivers watching. Shouldn't you at least let Dino-san know why you're keeping your distance?

Tsuna.

He spent time looking at the content of the email longer than he would have liked. He replied to the email with a message just as short.

Hey,

As if you're not running away yourself.

HK.

Tsuna never replied. Hibari didn't expect him to anyway. This mutual understanding was one of the reasons why they were each other's best friend…

…although it would be years before Tsuna would stop pestering Hibari about treating Dino better.

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05 - He considered throwing away all his stashes of sweets until a wise man told him he should not give his passion up so easily.

It took Dino five more years and a series of conversations over whiskey with Romario, Reborn, and Squalo before he realised why Hibari decided he would be better off with the Vongola. Not because the boy deemed his own family unworthy. Not even because the boy hated his family.

It took him five years but he finally understood. He should have understood when the rumours died out. Once when they were all younger, young Tsuna happily told him, "You know what, Dino-san? Hibari-san is actually a very kind person. Like you~"

He really was such a bad older brother, wasn't he?

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06 - Following the wise man's kind words, he found out that the sweets would not taste bitter if he was patient enough to eat them slowly, remembering to always wash his tongue with water before having more sweets.

It was Tsuna's 18th birthday and Dino was already nearing 30.

The older Cavallone watched with glowing pride as his younger brother walked the red carpet leading up to the magnificent stand where he would recite his vow as the tenth Cloud Guardian of the Vongola. Hibari held out his hand and let it hover over the sacred grail of the Vongola, setting the clear liquid inside it aflame his ring's cloud flame just like Gokudera and Yamamoto had done before him. The flame brought the audiences to a collective gasp of awe not because of its purity, but because of the unadulterated, undiluted strength it held in its slow dance in the elaborate grail.

Hibari stared straight into Tsuna's eyes from his stand, piercing the boy's gaze with his more passionate one as he held his right hand over his heart and recited his vow with clarity as intense as his amethyst flame.

"I swear in the name of all things sacred to me, to the Famiglia and to the holy will of Vongola Primo. I swear by the force that holds the sky and moves the sun to dedicate my world, my life, my will to Vongola Decimo, Sawada Tsunayoshi. I pledge my loyalty, my devotion, my dedication to the protection of Vongola Decimo and the Vongola Famiglia. Never shall I let my faith sway and never shall I let my will betray. I swear in the name of Vongola Decimo to be the cloud that moves and shields the sky, to become the invisible arches at the sky's feet, to follow the sky over and beyond all horizons. I pledge my loyalty, my devotion, my dedication, my life, my will as the Cloud Guardian of Vongola Famiglia on the family's pride and honour. I swear by my name: Hibari Kyouya."

Tsuna did not walk down from the Throne of the Vongola to douse the grail as the symbol of his acceptance of the cloud flame as he did at the end of Gokudera's and Yamamoto's vows. From his position, Tsuna stood firm and raised an eyebrow. His lips formed a small smile as if trying to coax Hibari into adding a few more words to his vow. Yamamoto and Gokudera exchanged brief, confused glances at each other, sharing their confusion. Dino fidgeted slightly from the tension he sensed flying to and fro between the boss and the guardian. He just hoped they would not start a fight in the middle of this ceremony. He looked back at his brother in time to see a brief solemn look that was gone as fast as it appeared.

He recited the last part of his vow another time, remembering to end it with his given Italian name under the surname Cavallone, much to everyone's surprise. Gokudera looked like he was having a hard time keeping a straight face while Yamamoto simply had a look of amazement on his face. From his stand in the crowd, Reborn smirked. Nodding once, Tsuna proceeded with the ceremony, dousing the cloud flame and announcing Hibari as the official tenth generation Vongola Nuvola, holding his hand out for the man to plant a kiss on his sky ring.

Dino's eyes watered, but he held back his tears. It was unbecoming of a boss. For Hibari to openly admit his loathed Italian name was something the Cavallone Famiglia had reluctantly deemed impossible. It was probably the longest speech he would ever hear from the cold little brother who used to stare out of the window of his room with disinterest as Dino told him story after story to get the boy to acknowledge him. The little brother who threw dug up, soiled flowers from the wet garden at the older brother's face on Dino's twelfth birthday, the little brother who would, from this moment onward, be a part of the core of the great Vongola Famiglia, the little brother whom Dino knew without a doubt would later be known as the strongest Vongola guardian in the history of the family...

Mukuro was the next to recite his vow, followed by Ryohei, and, finally, a stuttering Lambo who tried not to trip and cry in front of such a big crowd. After the ceremony, Tsuna ran down to Dino to give the man a huge hug, much to Gokudera's dismay.

"I'm glad the ceremony's over," Tsuna beamed happily up at Dino. "I don't know if I can endure standing still up there like a robot. I probably would get leg cramps and end up making a fool of myself if the ceremony were to continue for another hour."

Dino was more than familiar with the horror of initiation ceremonies and inaugurations. When Tsuna attended Dino's ceremony, the boy had fallen asleep in the middle of a speech by an elder of the Cavallone family.

"It's probably not appropriate to say I understand how you feel, Tsuna. Your initiation is on a greater scale compared to mine."

Tsuna threw his head back slightly and laughed. Unbeknownst to Dino, Tsuna promised himself that one of these days, he would get Dino to stop being so modest with him of all people! The man was like a real brother to him. He would have liked for Dino to be more relaxed around him.

He was about to say something when firm but soft footsteps approached both of them from a corner. Tsuna smiled when he saw they belonged to Hibari.

"I'll leave you now so you can talk to him," he lowered his voice only for Dino's ears. With a small wave, Tsuna walked away. To both men's surprise, Hibari caught his hand before the Decimo could move too far and dragged him back to his former position standing next to Dino.

"Uh, Hibari-san…"

"Um, Kyouya…"

Both bosses were immediately silenced with a sharp glare. Satisfied at the silence, Hibari gave a small sigh and bowed. Dino took a step back at the sudden gesture while Tsuna stood staring in silence at the scene, wondering why Hibari wanted him to be there. Romario and Dino's other subordinates looked on with awe from the sidelines, trying to make sense of what their young master was doing. While the bow was not a deep one, it was enough to convey a wordless message that took Dino a while to understand. When he did, the tears he had during Hibari's vow returned to his eyes.

Dino moved closer to Hibari, who was still bowing his head. He lightly patted Hibari's head like he always did when they were younger. The hair Dino used to ruffle was now shorter and slightly coarser than it was in their childhood, but it still felt the same even after all these years. This dashing young man clad in his formal uniform was still the same little boy who came home bleeding from his first fight with Rokudo Mukuro in the school playground. This was the same boy who declared at the top of his voice that he was not interested in taking over as the head of the Cavallone family to silence the buzzing rumours about him in the household. This was the same little brother Dino thought hated him until he had flowers thrown at his face on his twelfth birthday and then found similar kind of soiled flowers staining the white linen of his bed on his thirteenth.

"I'm so proud of you, Kyouya. I can't even describe how proud I felt when I heard your vow during the ceremony."

Hibari's eyes dimmed, but a smile played at the slightly curved corners of his lips.

"I hope you keep getting stronger and protect your family." Your new family. And Tsuna.

Hibari straightened himself and nodded once at his older brother.

"Come home sometimes. You know your room will always be there for you and you'll always be the young master. Never forget that too."

An affirmative 'Aah' was the only response Dino received from his brother, but it was enough.

It was more than enough.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Nothing can stay sour forever.

Tsuna was moved by the brotherly exchange, so moved that he remained frozen in place. He understood now why Hibari wanted him to be there as a witness. He wanted Tsuna to stop running away from Xanxus too. If someone as prideful as Hibari could afford to make the move, there was no way Tsuna would not be able to do the same when he was the one telling Hibari to make amends with Dino from the very beginning.

He turned around and walked away when Hibari didn't move to stop him from leaving. One bitter chapter of Hibari's life had been brought to a close with an elegant flourish. It was time for Tsuna to do the same.

It took the newly instated boss a while before he finally found the person he was looking for. The man was lounging on a sofa, staring silently at the half-empty wine glass in his hand. Thanking Hibari in his mind, Tsuna straightened himself.

And then he walked.

…and the bitter aftertaste of sweets never bothered the boy ever again.

-End.