All characters © Amano Akira

Summary: The story of how Shamal was once recruited by the Varia, but turned them down.

Author's notes: Shamal is 35 in the current KHR timeline. Under the assumption that Squalo defeated Tyr when he was 13/14, I made the story take place fifteen years ago. Squalo would be seven (aw!), and Gokudera and most of the current Vongola would be born this year. I'm also assuming Tyr is in his late thirties here. He's your canon OC, so I took some liberties with his personality.


Hourglass

The same day in which a nine-year-old Xanxus discovered he could make flames in his hand, coincidentally, was the same day that Tyr visited the Cardarelli Hospital in Naples.

Next time he met with the Ninth's consultant— that curlicued bastard with the fedora— he was going to personally hand him one for suggesting he take the Venizia Santa Lucia. If Tyr hadn't just traveled four hot, noisy, and smelly hours from Venice, effectively traumatizing three train conductors and one ticket master, he would have considered leaving Naples right then and there. The Afghan boy lying in the bed was pushing 50 kilos at the most, and was almost the same shade of creamy white as the blankets that covered him.

Tyr inwardly cringed at that pungent, chemical smell that always seemed to imbue hospitals; that cloying yellow odor of fading sicknesses and last breaths. It was hard to believe that this was the deadly assassin. From the looks of it, death seemed to be on the winning end.

He'd never met the boy in person before now, but Tyr was sure the boy recognized him. The boy—young man really, since his files stated that he had recently turned twenty—opened his eyes. There was no need for formalities; introductions were never necessary for people like them, who lived in an underworld where everybody knew of everybody.

The boy let his tired brown eyes fall on the stump of Tyr's left hand. "You decided to live up to your name?" he asked in a crumbly, used voice. He sounded as weary as he looked, but his voice was low and smooth.

"And you know your Norse mythology," Tyr nodded. "They said you were smart."

The boy coughed. It was a deep, wet bark, and this time Tyr's cringe was visible. The boy looked apologetic as he rubbed his chest. "They probably also said that my immune system is shit," he added. "Pneumonia is never fun, even after the fourth time."

"Why don't you recover at your private estate?"

"Oh, you mean the Hayato's? Lavina's about to have her baby, so I don't want her running around trying to take care of me. Plus," a ghost of an imp-grin flitted over the boy's features, "there are too many cute nurses here."

Tyr sighed. He knew small talk when he heard it, and decided that his time would be more appropriately spent if he got to the point. He cleared his throat and said, "You probably know why I'm here, Shamal."

"Tyr, the Varia leader." Shamal, who would later become known to his Japanese colleagues simply as Doctor Shamal, nodded. "Yes, I suppose I do. Unfortunately though, I'm afraid I'll have to decline your offer."

"I haven't even made it yet," Tyr replied, straightening his collar. The room was a little warm, he noticed, and suddenly he found himself wanting to open the window by the opposite bed.

"But you were going to."

"Yes," Tyr agreed, swallowing again, "but looking at you in your current state, I may have to check the validity of my sources. They call you Trident Shamal, and I traveled four and a half hours on a stuffy train to meet you. But you don't even look capable of fighting." Something turned over in his midsection as he finished talking, and suddenly he felt it was necessary that he open that window.

Shamal smiled that imp-grin again, transforming his pale face into something almost deviantly handsome. A few more teeth showed this time. "Are you sure about that, Sword Emperor?" he asked.

Now it wasn't a little hot in the room, but stifling. Tyr wasn't really surprised to find breathing difficult as sweat popped out on his brow and dizzying tunnel vision abruptly set in. The hospital room's angles seemed to be shrinking, closing in with a sucking speed. He began to tremble as a feeling of unreality more frightening than he'd ever felt before washed over him. Was he really here? Was he really here at all, or was he still back in Venice? Simultaneously, Tyr felt his throat begin to close.

"Claustrophobia is a psychological disorder, but it produces rather debilitating physical effects," he heard Shamal note from somewhere far away, as he swayed precariously on his feet. "If I was your enemy you'd be dead by now."

There was a little sting behind Tyr's neck and suddenly the room was just an ordinary room again. He was in in Naples, of course, in this balmy Cardarelli hospital to recruit a young assassin into the Varia. The window had been open a crack the whole time, Tyr noticed, and the smell of sterile equipment mingled with the smell of leaves and bread that swirled in faintly from the outside.

"If I had the energy to be a condescending dick, I would ask you if you'd like to retract your statement," Shamal said as a mosquito perched on his bony index finger. Its stinger had three ends.

Tyr, still massaging his throat, bowed his head in a gesture that was more acknowledgment than defeat. After all, he still had his pride, which made him refuse to admit that he should have known better. "Will you consider, Shamal?" he asked. "Your skills would be a tremendous asset."

Shamal leaned back into his pillow and slowly shook his head. Tyr supposed he could and would find someone else, but he was also not daft. Despite all odds, the kid was a genius assassin who more than compensated for his physical setbacks. Anyone with half a brain could see that the kid was one in a million.

Tyr began, "If health is an issue, I'm sure we can find the best doctors—"

"—the best doctors?" Shamal cut in, with a smile that was somehow bittersweet in the way it twisted, "why, I'm the best. Qualified without the twelve years of med school and the SSN's been trying to nab me for years. But you know that, don't you, Tyr?"

"Che palle! You are a condescending dick," Tyr exclaimed, but he was grinning. Now that was a personality more suited to the Varia, he thought. The kid would have to be taught a little discipline, but all the basis for what he was looking for was there. The IQ and the ego seemed to grow proportionately, as it usually did with people who were too smart for their own good. He'd heard that last year the kid had been given three intelligence quotient exams to test what they thought had been severe ADHD, and that the kid had taken them all at the same time. Apparently, the scores on them had been near perfect.

Shamal gave a shrug and barked another cough, bringing a fist up to his mouth to do so and wincing. He gestured to the meager collection of reading material by his bedside that had been provided by the hospital staff; a few outdated Italian romance novels, a worn copy of Don Quixote, and a magazine for homeowners. "I get bored here. Not even any Playboy."

"Then why not occupy yourself more productively?" Tyr offered. "To me, it sounds like a great deal; you get the title of Varia—I'd put you in the top ranks, naturally, not one of the lower squads. You're already part of the Vongola, and, although you don't really need it, we can financially support you for the rest of your life."

"It sounds promising," Shamal agreed, nodding, "but even though I respect the Varia, I don't share your ideals. I don't believe in combat if it can be avoided." Tyr was silent.

Shamal continued, "In my line of work, I've found that those who will always be closer to death due to misfortune or disease tend to value life a little bit more. I don't like fighting. Am I correct in saying that guys who harbor such ideals are considered weaklings in the Varia?"

In some ways this tired boy with the shadows under his eyes and the chest-rattling cough was absolutely right, but Tyr was also smart enough to know that fighting was not always the answer. With his swordsman's honor he could vaguely comprehend Shamal's mindset, which was more than could be said for the majority of the mafia. There was empathy in Tyr's eyes, but no sympathy, Shamal saw, which meant that he would never fully understand.

"Biological warfare shouldn't be used as an offensive gambit," Shamal said. "I only employ it as a defense, since I have no other ways of protecting myself or others. It doesn't bring me pleasure to watch a man cough up the lining of his stomach or to witness full-body gangrene." He chuckled suddenly. "Unless it's to save a pretty girl." Tyr couldn't tell if he was joking or not.

The fain blip of hospital machinery was the only sound in the room for some time. Tyr could imagine why someone like Shamal would want to preserve lives in lieu of throwing them away, and, although he would return from his trip empty handed, he felt as if he had gained something intangible. No, Shamal wouldn't be in the Varia, but Tyr wouldn't force him to join. He believed that things wouldn't happen unless they were meant to be. It was how he'd been raised.

"So is this a formal refusal?" Tyr concluded.

"I'm afraid it is," Shamal replied. "I never had any intention of joining the Varia. I work for the Vongola, which means you can confide in me and I will be happy to give you information or medical support, but I cannot accept that title." He thought for a moment. "Besides, there will be other promising aspects; I hear this is a good year in the Vongola metempsychosis cycle."

"It's a shame," Tyr sighed, looking out the window where thick clouds were beginning to coalesce and slowly gulp up the sunlight. "Someone will succeed me one day. Probably some young hotshot exactly like I used to be who loves the taste of blood in his mouth."

"Doesn't that please you?" Shamal asked. His voice was growing hoarse; he had talked too much today.

Tyr gave a perfunctory nod. "I suppose. The Varia will thrive, whether I'm there to see it or not. Despite how many generations it has survived, the mafia seems to be getting younger and younger every day. I've never told anyone this, Shamal, but I feel like I'm living on borrowed time."

"It's a feeling I know well," Shamal replied from his hospital bed. Looking at him, Tyr believed it. He reached into his coat pocket with his one good hand, bringing out a piece of paper.

"You'll probably laugh at how ridiculous it is for anyone in the mafia to have a business card, let alone the reputed Varia," Tyr began, "but this a special one. See, we have missions all around the world, and we're constantly moving. You never know where we'll be. If you ever have a change of heart, you'll know how to find us." He gestured to the paper.

Shamal read it over thoughtfully. On the paper was an almost laughable anagram that, when deciphered, showed a list of cities and dates. "I'm a bit tired now," he said, closing his eyes, "I'd like to rest. Tell the Ninth I'm sorry. He'll understand."

"I hope your health improves soon, and that we may meet again," Tyr said in lieu of goodbye. "With the way my team takes care of themselves on a daily basis, we probably will." It was the closest Tyr came to joking; he was the captain of the Varia, after all, and with that came an image to uphold.

"You should know I only offer my best services to women," Shamal said sleepily, as thunder rumbled quietly in the distance. It was so far away that it sounded merely like a faint, stifled burp. The rain would come much later.

"Maybe you can get one of the nurses here... Francesca has a killer rack..."

Tyr almost snorted at Shamal's comment. Women were a rarity in the mafia, probably, he suspected, because they were smart enough to not get themselves involved with such things in the first place. Tyr buttoned his coat in that odd way he had of doing with just one hand, at the same time overcome with the strangest urge to bow, as was customary of respectful gestures in the east. Thinking suddenly of his friend in Tokyo, Yamamoto, and how nice it would be to spar with him again, Tyr smiled and made his exit.

Once the sound of Tyr's footsteps faded down the hallways and the mild whirring of hospital carts across marble floors took over, Shamal opened his eyes and looked at the paper in his hand once again. After changing the letters around to make the code utter nonsense, he folded the card into a paper airplane and let it sail out the window.

end.


Side notes:

Lavina: the name of Gokudera's biological mother.

Tyr: Amano took this directly out of Norse mythology. Tyr is the god of single combat and represents heroic glory. He's often portrayed as a one-handed man.

Che palle: Italian exclamation that translates into "what balls!"