A/N: Another KHRfest piece, an excerpt from a possible interlude in Ex umbra in solem. For those of you waiting for new Ex umbra in solem, I'm sending several chapters off to the beta this weekend. I haven't stopped at all. I just got sidetracked by the fest exchange.
Doing his best to ignore the roar of the crowd milling around them, Tsuna frowned in silent outrage at the monitor hanging across the hallway. It was bad enough that his father had refused to use the Family jet to take his mother on vacation, but to fly a public airline and then demand that Tsuna pick them up at the airport was just infuriating. It was also very like his father.
It wasn't like Tsuna didn't have enough to do in a day, what with managing the Family, breaking up fights and dealing with his own personal issues. Now he had to haul himself and his self-appointed protectors all the way to the airport in the middle of the afternoon as well. That was an entirely other world of pain.
"The plane's been delayed, Tsuna," Reborn told him from his spot slightly behind him and to the right of Tsuna. His slight fidgeting told him that Reborn was checking with his sources as to how long the expected delay would be, fingers moving relentlessly over the keypad of his PDA. "We're going to be waiting a few hours. They hit some bad weather some distance out."
"That's not enough time to go back and return again to pick them up," a frustrated and dangerous voice responded from behind Tsuna's other shoulder. "How annoying. We could return to the car for the duration, rather than stay here."
Turning, Tsuna smiled apologetically at Kyoya, his shoulders slumping slightly. "I'm sorry. I know it's a huge pain in the ass. I could have brought some of the others with me, Kyoya. I know you've been busy lately."
Kyoya answered him with a slight shrug and a tilt of his head, which a decade of experience allowed Tsuna to translate into a casual acceptance of the situation married with an absolute frustration at the crowding and noise of their current environment. Tsuna could certainly sympathize, and he glanced around for some sort of salvation for them. The last time Kyoya had gotten irritated with an environment like this, Tsuna had been forced to pay to have an entire police station rebuilt.
"There's a bar down the hall," drawled a deep, lazy voice from the wall behind them. "We might as well get something to drink while we wait."
"That's always your answer," Reborn replied, turning slightly to smirk at Xanxus. "I'm beginning to worry about your liver again."
"Shut up, old man," Xanxus snarled, glaring at him fiercely. "My liver is none of your fucking business."
"See? This, this right here, is why I wanted to bring Takeshi and Mukuro instead," Tsuna told them, frowning. "I can't trust the three of you to behave in public, especially not when you're together." He hadn't forgotten the spectacular brawl Reborn and Xanxus had started at a baseball game last summer, either, when they disapproved of the quality of the food in the stands. "I can't take you anywhere."
"That's not true," Kyoya said, looking at him thoughtfully. "It's just not wise of you to take all three of us to the same place at the same time."
"I'm not the one who invited the three of you along!" Tsuna snapped, growling slightly at all of them before realizing it wasn't bothering them in the least. In fact, they all looked slightly amused, like he was a cute, snarly kitten. "Fine! We're going to get a drink." With that, he headed down towards the bar, ignoring the three of them even as they settled around him almost instinctively, pacing him.
It wasn't that he didn't love them, all three of them. It was that they all got touchy and irritable every time that Tsuna chose to step foot off of the Vongola estate. Their tempers sharpened brutally and their normally somewhat tolerable acceptance of each other blurred into irritation and open hostility before long. It didn't help his understanding of their dynamic that he knew very well that all three of them hopped in and out of each other's beds as well as his own on a regular basis. On the other hand, he was the one who had just yelled at them, so who was he to judge?
Thankfully the bar itself was quiet and fairly empty, which bode well. Glancing around the space, Tsuna finally claimed a corner booth in the back for them, sliding in and sighing, happy to be off of his feet for a while. He was pleased when Kyoya joined him, settling to his right. When the others didn't slide in, Tsuna looked up at them curiously.
"We'll get the drinks," Reborn told him, nodding towards the large bar in the center of the room. "I'm fairly sure if we don't start boozing Xanxus up soon, he'll bite someone and then we'll have to pay for rabies shots." A quick duck and tilt allowed Reborn to dodge the lazy swipe Xanxus made at the back of his head in retaliation.
"Fine, go. Don't start any wars with other Families," Tsuna paused, thinking over the past few years, "or any countries, warlords or anything similar. Get the drinks. Come back here. Sit down. Behave." He drew each sentence out into a firm order.
"Sure, Tsuna, no worries," Reborn said, waving off Tsuna's concerns casually as he followed Xanxus to the bar.
"You do realize how unwise that was, right?" Kyoya asked him, leaning back in his seat and resting his head against the wall, eyes sliding closed slowly.
"Of course I do," Tsuna replied. "But if I'd gone, then all of you would insist on coming, and sending you with either of them is just as bad. None of you can behave yourself when you're together. It's like running a fraternity house on the move."
Kyoya ignored him and seemed content to doze quietly for the moment, allowing Tsuna to relax slightly. The quiet of the bar helped, and Tsuna himself was entering a light doze when his subconscious noted that it had been over ten minutes since Reborn and Xanxus had headed off to the bar. His eyes snapped open immediately and he started looking around for them, relaxing slightly when he caught sight of them, only to tense again.
The glare Xanxus was giving the blond stranger at the bar was terrifying enough, but the glare Xanxus was receiving in return was just as unexpected. While Reborn and Kyoya had a more polished, cultured look to them, Xanxus was never anything but wild, dangerous and terrifying. For a stranger in a bar to challenge him so openly boded poorly for Tsuna's afternoon. The fact that Reborn was grinning cheerfully behind Xanxus scared Tsuna, especially as the blond was joined by another, taller man, this one with dark hair and a grim, serious expression.
He slammed his knee into the table as he practically flew out of the booth, determined to prevent whatever confrontation was brewing. There was no way in hell Tsuna was paying for another renovation after they'd torn a place apart. Swearing under his breath at the pain in his knee, he skidded to a halt next to Xanxus, wrapping his arms snugly around the arm that had started to rise.
"I thought you were getting me a drink," Tsuna said, looking up at Xanxus with wide, innocent eyes. "What's taking so long?" He was hoping, desperately, that a little redirection and possibly some flirting might prevent a fight. The slight glow of awareness that appeared in Xanxus' eyes gave him some hope as the other man refocused entirely on Tsuna for the moment, ignoring the strangers.
"Hey Shin, doesn't that pipsqueak look just like the fucking shrimp?" the blond asked in English, leaning casually against the bar, clearly ignoring the sensitive moment between Tsuna and his homicidal companion. "He's all short and cute and fluffy."
"You're right," the other man said, leaning closer to get a better look at Tsuna. "He does look a little like Sena."
Tsuna blinked, surprised to realize the two strangers were both Japanese, and surprised again when the strange man's face appeared right in front of his, looking at him closely. He would have backed up on his own but Xanxus acted first, growling and moving quickly, tucking Tsuna behind him. One moment he was staring at a strange face and the next all he could see was the back of Xanxus' jacket. Frowning, he paused for a moment to collect his thoughts and then punched Xanxus square in the kidney for being an ass.
"What the hell!?" Xanxus roared and spun, glaring down at Tsuna, much to Reborn's obvious amusement.
"I'm not a child," Tsuna told him sharply, glaring right back at him. "And before you ask, yes, I am the boss of you." He prodded Xanxus firmly in the chest with a finger, not the least intimidated by the dangerous look in Xanxus' eyes.
"Ah, but he's feistier than the shrimp," the blond commented, leaning against the bar now to watch the scene, radiating amusement in the same frustrating way that Reborn often did. "Cute, though."
The other man, Shin, nodded his agreement as he joined the blond. "Very similar, but Sena's not that aggressive off the field."
That comment caught Reborn's attention, which promptly caught both Tsuna's and Xanxus', distracting them from their argument. They watched as Reborn focused thoughtfully on the two strangers as he tried to figure something out. It was rare to see Reborn with that slightly confused look on his face, and so they were both somewhat pleased when it cleared.
"You're football players. American football, right?" Reborn asked, looking at them curiously now, with a vague hint of excitement.
"Huh," the blond said, looking at Reborn thoughtfully. "Didn't expect to be recognized in Italy. You're right, we are. You a fan?"
"He's a fan of anything he can watch on ESPN," Xanxus commented with a loud snort, deciding to ignore the two since they clearly weren't a threat and resume ordering drinks instead. "He's a fucking freak that way."
Tsuna, on the other hand, was curious. He'd never met anyone from Japan that played on professional sports teams. Switching from English to his native language, he decided to confirm that they were, indeed, athletes from home and prevent the argument Xanxus' comment was sure to start. "You're Japanese, right?"
"You got it," the blond replied, focusing on Tsuna now. "Hiruma Youichi. This is Seijurou Shin," he nodded at the other man. "We're in town for an exhibition game, only half of our team were dumbasses and booked onto the wrong flight, and now they're late."
"Are they still not here, Youichi?" A sleepy voice came from behind the two athletes, followed by the arrival of another young man, this one with rumpled brown hair and tired eyes. "I can't believe you two left me to sleep on a bench in the middle of a foreign airport surrounded by strangers. I could have been robbed or something. You're horrible!"
"We tossed our coats over you, pipsqueak," Hiruma replied, grinning at the younger man wickedly. "Besides, we took your wallet to pay for the drinks anyway."
Even Tsuna had to hide an amused smile at the indignant look that crossed the younger man, Sena's, face at that revelation, watching as he fumbled around in his pockets before glaring half-heartedly at his friends. Tsuna was happier now, as things were calming down. He saw that Xanxus had the drinks and was heading back towards their table, nudging Kyoya awake to take them. Things became even more amusing, however, when Reborn stepped forward, looking a little awestruck.
"You're Kobayakawa Sena, aren't you?" Reborn asked, and Tsuna could swear he could hear a hint of fan worship in his voice. "Tsuna, he's got the fastest legs in the NFL right now. I never thought I'd meet him in an airport." He grinned slowly. "I have tickets to the exhibition game this weekend, simply because he'd be playing in it."
Sena blushed deeply at the comment, hanging his head slightly in embarrassment, catching the attention of his two friends. It amused Tsuna when the blond, Hiruma, pulled Sena behind him in much the same way Xanxus had with Tsuna, only to be kicked in the shin for being rude. It was nice, not being the only one to suffer for once.
"I'm sorry," Tsuna said, elbowing Reborn slightly. "We've been very rude. I'm Sawada Tsunayoshi and this is Reborn. Xanxus wasn't kidding earlier, by the way. Reborn is a huge sports fan. If he knows you by name, you all must be impressive."
"Sawada?" Hiruma-san asked, looking thoughtful and curious at the same time. "The same Sawada Tsunayoshi who left Namimori to take over the Vongola crime family several years ago? It was all over the papers then."
"What kind of papers do you read, Youichi?" Sena stared at him in shock. "They can't possibly be criminals. They're too nice."
This time Tsuna was the one who blushed. "Actually, well, I suppose it is something like that, although we've diversified the Family portfolio a lot. I've been trying to clean it up a bit."
"Why don't you three join us?" Reborn asked, smoothly slipping slightly in front of Tsuna, a silent gesture of defense and protection that even Tsuna couldn't object to because it was so gently done. "We've got a large table in the back, and I'd guess we're all waiting for the same plane. It'll be good for Tsuna and Kyoya to speak Japanese again with someone besides us."
"Kyoya?" Shin asked, glancing over at the table. "The dark, quiet one sleeping that's over there?"
"He looks a little like you, Shin-san," Sena teased, grinning at him cheerfully. "Dark, quiet and focused on what's important. Napping is always important, right?"
"Come on over," Tsuna offered, turning to head back. "We'd be happy to have you. I'll introduce you."
From there, things got kind of strange for Tsuna and Sena. What had started as an almost-violent confrontation at a bar quickly turned into a drinking party that neither could quite wrap their minds around. Hostilities faded quickly in the face of good whiskey and high end beer.
They were both used to their own set of snarly, strange men, but watching two groups of them interact and drink together was a whole new world of strange. By the time the five of them had managed to work their way through a few bottles, the two younger men had retreated to another booth, ostensibly being watched over by the increasingly drunken group. It amused Tsuna slightly to notice that even while drunk and being social, his three stayed close together, always well-positioned to help the others if needed.
"Are they always like this?" Sena asked, eyeing Xanxus and Kyoya timidly, trying to figure out if they were groping each other or just holding each other up. "They seem so dangerous."
"Pretty much. I tried to leave them at home, but they're stubborn and bossy, too." Tsuna sipped at his own drink slowly, not the least bit interested in facing his parents while drunk. Getting drunk was how he was going to celebrate surviving today.
"I can understand that. They'll leave me to sleep on a bench, but if they catch me talking to a stranger you'd think I'd committed a crime," Sena huffed, taking a sip of his own. "Like earlier! I'm a professional athlete after all. It's not like I can't take care of myself." His voice had taken on a soft, plaintive tone.
"I know what you mean," Tsuna replied, sighing. "I'm lucky they even let me come to the airport. If my parents hadn't insisted on us meeting them here, they never would have even let me off the estate. They're so bossy."
"Bossy, that's a good word for it," Sena nodded his agreement and then paused to munch on a few pretzels. "But I guess it's because they care, right? I mean, Youichi wouldn't always have an eye on me if he didn't care, and it's the same with Shin-san and the others, too. They're always looking out for me in some way."
"You're right, of course," Tsuna nodded his agreement and then looked up as the long-delayed flight was announced. "Oh, finally!"
They both stood and glanced over at the other table, only to realize that not only had their companions not heard the announcement, but they'd started another bottle and were well on their way to thoroughly drunk. Looking at each other for a long moment, they both shrugged. Tsuna left a stack of bills on the table to cover their tab and left the lot of them sitting there.
Turning, he exited the bar, with Sena following right behind him, to go meet the arriving flight. He could pick up his collection of drunks on their way out, or leave them to find their own way home. Tsuna was not, however, going to leave his parents waiting at the gate. Sena obviously felt the same way about his arriving friends, and they gave each other a small smile of shared suffering before turning to watch the crowd start to spill out of the newly arrived plane.