All characters © Amano Akira

Prompt/setting: Lussuria fic for aesthetically on Livejournal as part of our fic exchange. Happy Thanksgiving!

Varia Quality, with Feathers

He was seventeen, and officially the oldest member of the Varia, older than Xanxus by a year. In the long run age didn't matter much, but he liked to think that in a place like this, his maturity accounted for more than his seniority.

Maybe it was because he was closer to twenty than the rest, or maybe it was because he wasn't as hyped up on warmongering testosterone as the rest, but something made Lussuria realize in the first six months of living with the Varia that men were disgusting.

He didn't even know where to begin.

There was an unofficial policy of "don't ask don't tell" in the Varia, much like the army. As long as you could kill, and you could kill a lot, it didn't matter what your personality was like. Personally, Lussuria found this to be the stupidest idea he had ever heard of, because in order to work with your colleagues, for starters, you needed to understand them. He had asked Xanxus about it on one of their Sundays off, to which the latter had laconically grumbled something along the lines of "it's not my business what trash does."

Take Bel, for instance. They boy was something out of The Bad Seed gone wrong. He was a smiler, always, and some had convinced themselves that his detached observations of the atrocities around him were a child's ignorance. Some thought the eight-year-old was too naive to understand. Others with a stronger sense of ethics (but with a cultural naivety themselves) wondered what an eight-year-old was even doing in the Varia in the first place. Everyone in the newly-appointed team knew better, but sometimes in the line of work they forgot that Bel was only eight, had no surviving family, and was currently living with a bunch of teenage assassins at least six years his senior (those R rated movies they let him watch would come back to bite them all in the ass, Lussuria was sure). Bel knew exactly what was going on, and by the time his twelfth birthday came around his sociopathy had reached full-blown psychopathy.

At this point in time he was docile enough, and easily swayed with a child's curiosity—the only part of him that seemed to be normal. The Varia put up with him because he really was a child prodigy, and he was the easiest one to poke fun at. Who cared that Bel had dropped out of the third grade, didn't brush his teeth, put his peanut butter in the refrigerator, and relied on a group of unruly hitmen to raise him and teach him the ways of life? Lussuria himself dreaded the say Bel would have to be given The Talk; sex ed was probably one of the few things a child genius didn't know, no matter how smart he was. The kid was only eight. He left his clothes on the floor, picked his nose, and he sometimes drank the tequila Xanxus left out.

Now, Levi. Levi had the bizarre notion that multiple facial piercings and hair would make him look sexier and/or more badass (a point that Lussuria would fervently disagree on), meaning that not only would he clog the bathroom sink with hair but he would use everyone elses' razors to do so. And Italian men had a lot of hair. Lussuria and Xanxus were the only others who shaved, despite this, and since Levi would rather die than use his boss's things it was usually Lussuria's razors that met those unfortunate ends. Lussuria could understand the piercings; he himself had a cartilage bar and a navel ring. What he couldn't understand was how Levi left his bloody needlework in the bathroom and didn't clean it up.

Squalo was another one for hair. At fourteen he yet to develop those pubescent whiskers that so awkwardly claimed teenage boys, but the hair on his head was another issue entirely. He had announced that he was growing it out now as part of some swordsman honor/vow/thing that Lussuria only had the vaguest of understandings. The trouble with this was that Squalo didn't quite know how to manage his rapidly growing hair yet; the concept of the comb was a foreign thing to him since fingers seemed such a more convenient tool. Lussuria once suggested he wear a shower-cap since hair was hair, and hair in the shower stopped the drains. Squalo wouldn't take Lussuria's advice until he was twenty, when his hair reached his buttocks and 57 shower drains in the Varia headquarters had been replaced.

In addition, Squalo ate stored foods out of the can with his hands and he, like Levi, burped at the table. He also liked to hawk luges and spit them into the sink whenever he felt the phlegmy urge, which wasn't so bad until Bel saw it one day and tried to do the same thing. There were some things you just didn't do, no matter how cool it looked.

Lussuria didn't even know where to begin with Xanxus. He could start with the man's appalling died of steak, bread, and tequila, how he put his muddy, wet boots on the table, his tantrums that no one over the age of six should have had, or just his blatant disregard for etiquette in general. Xanxus never covered his mouth when he coughed or sneezed and he would use his Varia uniform to wipe his face. He would also use the uniform to wipe the tables or to mop up spills. Lussuria had (wisely) invested in a bottle of hand sanitizer during those first six months.

Lussuria knew Xanxus cared in his own special way, even if he threw chairs and vases at them and cursed their mothers with words that would make a sailor weep. The boss had taken them all in, regardless of their backgrounds, confident that they wouldn't betray him as he had been betrayed. He had seen something in a bunch of six misfits that no one else had, which was a thought that made Lussuria beam in the privacy of his own quarters.

Mammon didn't count as the oldest, even though he technically was. When you looked like a three year old, you were often treated like one. Out of everyone, Mammon was probably the least disgusting out of them all. Even though he was rude, callous, and greedy, Mammon picked up after himself and often washed the dishes. Lussuria wasn't experienced enough to discern whether or not the clean dishes were actually there or if they were illusions, but they looked nice nonetheless. The kid didn't need much—not that he was actually a kid, mind you—and for that Lussuria thanked god for small favors.

On clear nights Lussuria sometimes stared out his window and liked to think of the world as one big meal table. The universe had spilled its pitcher of milk in the sky, and one of those drops had become the moon. The other splashes had become stars, scattered. The Varia were like those stars. They all came from different places, had different backgrounds, and they all had their stories to tell.

Xanxus's "noble blood" was merely a title he threw around to cover up his ancestry of Italian mendicants. Squalo was from the north, cursed with unfortunate albinism and an inflated sense of pride and honor. Belphegor was Danish and really did have noble blood. Levi was from Naples, though most of the city's glory went unnoticed by him as he spent his childhood trying to please his abusive parents. Mammon...well, no one could find many files on him, to which no one was really surprised at all. Lussuria had a loose, jumbled concept of the Arcobaleno based on what little Mammon had told them, but they were a mysterious bunch.

He himself had ancestry in Siam, hence he was an experienced nak muay farang. Muay Thai had been passed down in his family for generations before they had migrated west. He knew the eight points of contact, he knew the body's pressure points, and later when he would obtain his sun flame, Lussuria would think that no flame suited him better.

He loved perfumes, expensive scarves with high thread counts, and facial cleansers (especially from the Dead Sea). That was one perk about the Varia: all of their expenses came out of the Ninth's respectable budget. After joining the Varia, Lussuria mimicked Xanxus's style of an open coat, white dress shirt, and thin black tie. It took him 47 minutes to shave and gel his mohawk in the mornings, and another ten to curl his eyelashes. Polishing his steel kneecap took another fifteen. He got up the earliest out of anyone to do so, when the moon would dribble into the faded gradient of the daylight sky and the crickets were still chirping outside. Mammon would follow an hour or so later, followed by Levi, then Squalo. Xanxus and Bel took indulgence in sleeping in to ungodly hours of the afternoon, which Lussuria both hated and envied. Lussuria could see why Bel, a growing boy, would need his sleep, but Xanxus had little excuse other than because he could. He also didn't need one.

If Lussuria had had complete say over designing the Varia uniforms, he would have made them all have feathered fringes. Unfortunately that didn't sit well with Xanxus, so Mammon and Levi took over the operation. They didn't do a half-bad job in the end: high-collared pea coats with a military button design. Lussuria was put in charge of the tailoring bills.

He sometimes had to have Levi read him the bills, since small, up-close text proved to be the bane of Lussuria's existence. He wore thick prescription sunglasses almost all the time save for in bed or in the shower. The eyes behind them were filmy and scratched, had been for a while, due to a childhood injury. It was actually Squalo, believe it or not, who was the only one who knew what that injury was. He knew that it was maternal abuse, and knew that it was the reason why Lussuria could never love a woman. With his pale blue eyes, white hair, and feral grin full of straight white teeth, Squalo really was like a shark. And, like a shark, he knew how to distinguish his prey (meaning he had a surprising way of knowing when it was not appropriate to pick on someone). Squalo was generally the first one to poke jibes and bitch to anyone unfortunate enough to be listening, but if you paid close enough attention you'd notice that Squalo was the only member of the Varia who didn't tease Lussuria about his sexual tendencies.

Lussuria was legally blind and had worse vision than some adults over the age of 45, but he didn't need 20/20 vision to spot the things that others had overlooked. He didn't understand everything now, but he would, in time. At seventeen he saw that while good friends, Squalo was, on some degree, terrified of Xanxus. He saw frightening child sociopathy in Bel, an acute inferiority complex in Levi, and frustration in Mammon from the Arcobaleno curse that could easily have been passed off as greed. He saw that Xanxus had a wounded pride, wounded by something that Lussuria would not know about for another eight years.

Lussuria may not have been the strongest one in the Varia, but he certainly had the most heart. He knew men were disgusting, but at seventeen, he also knew he loved them. Even though they were an eclectic bunch, they were family. None of them kept in touch with their biological families (Xanxus and Mammon had no family, as it turned out, Bel had killed his, and Levi and Squalo didn't talk about theirs), but Lussuria was perfectly content with his new one.

He knew how to properly cook, clean, and care for any domestic debacles that may (and tended to) surface. He had a collection of Tide pens in his cabinet for stains and spills and blood. Every two months he would cut Bel's bangs with his styling scissors, though when Bel got old enough to do it himself he opted to have his hair fall over his eyes anyway. Lussuria vacuumed, replaced food in the refrigerator, and got Levi a triple-blade mega razor.

Lussuria would check to see that Bel always had his inhaler; eventually Bel started to carry it around with him just to shut Lussuria up. When the need arose, Lussuria was the one who cleaned the mud and blood from Xanxus's shoes. The coffee machine was always clean and full, thanks to Lussuria. Laundry was done on Mondays, groceries on Fridays. During the winter he also took care of administering the Advil, the Tylenol, and any other medicine that was compatible with the Stubborn Teenager.

Every few weeks they would all gather in the late night hours and plan for the event that would later be known as the Cradle Affair. They would sit by a roaring fireplace that was much too big, talking quietly as if the walls and the oil paintings on them were listening. Xanxus would smile his rare smiles then, the embers of the fire gleaming in his eyes like glowflies in the night. For Lussuria, that was his Christmas, his birthday, his New Year's. It was their family time. Sure, there were no adults, but they weren't really needed when everybody played their roles. Lussuria was the son of Xanxus, the mother of Bel, the brother of Squalo. He was everything, nothing, Varia, human, man, woman. He was seventeen one day, twenty-seven the next; it didn't matter. In the history books it would read that generation IX of the Varia was created to overthrow the Ninth, but Lussuria, in later years, would come to speculate that it was the attempt of a boy crying out for attention and love. And for a brief sixth months, that boy got his wish. As did the other six.

After eight years Bel would continue to pick his nose, Levi would clog the drains, and Squalo would still be hawking luges into the kitchen sink. They would still be disgusting, man-boys who had never been told "no" and who had no hopes in a million years of charming a woman with their manners. Xanxus would always call them "pieces of trash" rather than by their given names, and after almost a decade he would still throw glasses of tequila at their heads. The Varia was and would be their life, and despite their rowdiness none of them seemed to complain too much about this fact.

Sometimes, on those same nights that he would stare out the window, Lussuria questioned why they were doing it all in the first place. They had a whole mansion to themselves and the impressive title of Varia. Although they were young—still children, a newly-formed group of minors at that, they had been taken under the wing of the Vongola, the Ninth. Thanks to him, they were able to bypass the normal education laws and could pay their future taxes under clever pseudonyms. They even had life insurance. Who wouldn't want a mafia don who supported you, fed you, and gave you anything you ever wanted?

It almost made Lussuria feel bad about the coup d'état...but then again, it came down to one thing, really.

Disgusting or not, he simply valued his own family over the Ninth's.