Disclaimer: I own nothing from Katekyo Hitman Reborn.
Chapter Summary: When the call comes in and the Family realizes that their boss is dead, how will they react? Prequel/Sequel to 'Remnants of a Death' and 'Revival of a Death'. Can read as standalone. AU, oneshot.
Aftermath of a Death
It was pure chance that the call came in when Shamal was going through one of his regular checkups for Reborn. The Sun Arcobaleno barely looked up when the phone went off, exhaustion lining his baby features as he sat silently on the examination table.
On the other hand, Shamal glanced at the screen of his cell, quirking one eyebrow at the caller ID before picking up. "Vongola, I'm surprised to hear from you. I thought you were ditching your paperwork today?"
"D- Dottore Shamal, th- this is Luca Accardo, D- Decimo's driver."
Shamal's smile faltered a little at the shaky tone. "Ah, yes? Did something happen?"
On the makeshift bed, Reborn stirred, gaze slowly moving to focus on the doctor.
"I- I- Oh Dio! Dottore, p- please- I don't- Decimo-!"
Shamal was no longer smiling as he barked, "Pull yourself together, man! What is going on? What's wrong with the Decimo?"
Gasping sobs answered him before actual words tumbled over the line and wrapped around Shamal's heart in icy tendrils.
"D- Dottore, Decimo is dead."
All the colour drained from Shamal's face and for a moment, he simply couldn't process the information.
"W- What?" He whispered, distantly aware of Reborn shifting on the table, tired eyes demanding to know what was going on.
"He's dead!" The driver choked out. "Th- Those Millefiore bastardi killed him!"
Shamal felt his world narrow, containing nothing but the strangled voice on the other end of the phone and the unbelievable news he had just received.
"That's impossible!" Shamal snapped, voice heated and harsh. "Tsuna went out for hot chocolate around the corner! In full view of the public-"
"No, Dottore," Accardo's voice sounded somewhat steadier now. "We headed towards the café, that is true, but we did not stop. Decimo ordered me to drive him to a building an hour away from the Vongola mansion and then to wait outside and tell no one of where we were. Th- There were already cars parked out front. H- He went in, a- and twenty minutes later, a group of men came back out, all wearing the Millefiore White Spell uniform. They were accompanying their boss, Byakuran, and they drove away soon enough. B- But Decimo didn't come back out. I- I was worried so I went in after him a- and I found him-"
The driver's voice cracked but Shamal had heard enough.
"What's the address?" He demanded, his free hand grabbing his coat and medical bag even as Accardo rattled off the location. If Tsuna really was- There was no point in getting his equipment at this point but he had to feel like he was doing something.
"Wait there," He ordered. "I'm on my way."
He had all but forgotten Reborn and was just about to rush out of the room when the Arcobaleno stopped him with a faint but still sharp command.
"What is going on?" Reborn questioned, rising unsteadily to his feet.
Shamal stilled. God, what the hell was he supposed to say? For that matter, what the fuck was he going to tell Hayato?
"Reborn," Shamal started, and then the words got stuck in his throat. The hitman's eyes were still as blank as ever but there was an urgency to his demeanor that hinted at a trace of fear. On some level, Reborn already knew.
Shamal swallowed hard before forcing the words out. "He's dead. Vongo- Tsuna's dead. Assassinated."
A detached part of his mind that wasn't currently screaming at the injustice of it all examined the Sun Arcobaleno's reaction with interest. Reborn's eyes had widened minutely and what little colour the sickness hadn't robbed from him had bled away in the blink of an eye.
Shamal looked away, somehow feeling like he was intruding on the hitman's privacy. Out loud, he said, "I have to go. I have to- I should... get him back."
"I'm coming with you," Reborn rasped abruptly, leaping off the table. The news must have temporarily suppressed any weakness the Arcobaleno was feeling because Shamal couldn't detect any tremors as he landed on the ground.
"Reborn, the radiation-"
"I am coming with you," Reborn's voice brooked no arguments and his eyes held an almost maniacal glint in them as he stared up at Shamal.
Shamal knew when to back off. With a stiff nod, he continued on his way, sprinting through the mansion as fast as he could. He found it oddly depressing that, at the moment, Reborn was running faster than he was.
"Oh god," Shamal groaned as they followed Accardo into the meeting room, the smell of blood descending on them when they entered.
Reborn said nothing. His entire being was concentrated on the brown-haired man slumped on the white armchair, back facing the door they had just come through. The walls were white as well. Everything was white.
Reborn had never hated a colour more.
Circling around, he leapt up onto the arm of the leather chair and his breath promptly froze in his chest as he got his first glimpse of his former student.
Features calm even in death, Tsuna could very well be asleep if it weren't for the unmoving chest and the pool of blood soaked clean through his shirtfront, darkening the starch white cloth to a deep crimson. A few drops had even splattered on the armchair. His hands were folded on his lap and his head was tilted to the side, resting against the back of the chair. His eyes were mercifully closed.
"No pulse," Shamal mumbled as his usually confident hands fumbled clumsily at the brunet's neck. "God, there's no pulse."
Reborn didn't snap or raise his voice or even speak. He simply looked at Shamal until the doctor's shoulders sagged and his hand fell limply back to his side.
"I'll wait outside," He murmured wearily, motioning for the distraught-looking driver to follow. The room was cleared within seconds, leaving Reborn staring at his student's face.
Reborn was an experienced hitman, the greatest one in the world, and he had never been one to let his emotions dictate his actions, but this...
This was Tsuna.
He would never be sure if his shaking hands were because of his sickness or the utter helplessness he felt in that moment or both but Reborn slowly reached up and placed a small trembling hand against his student's cold cheek.
"You fool," Reborn finally whispered, so used to death but still wishing, desperately, for those familiar brown eyes to open once more. "How dare you go and do something like this?"
His mind flitted through the numerous memories of the past few weeks. The Varia ordered to America. Chrome and Mukuro off to Tsuna-only-knew-where. Hayato to Russia. Takeshi to China. Kyouya to Japan. Ryohei to the States as well to assist the Varia. Lambo still at home, entertaining I-Pin.
It was all so pathetically obvious so why hadn't he seen it before?
The answer came back, settling in his chest in a tangle of heavy guilt and sorrow.
Because he had been sick. Because it had been months since he had last really looked into what Tsuna was doing. Because he was almost always in his room now. Because Tsuna had kept it from him.
"You weren't supposed to go before me," Reborn told the boss – his student, always – as his fingers drifted down to brush against the chest wound glaring back at him. They came back wet. "We both know I'm going to die soon. I was supposed to die first. Why did you do this?"
Of course, he received no reply, and his clean hand reached up to pull down his fedora in an attempt to regain some sense of equilibrium. Leon, grey-skinned and lethargic, crawled down onto his shoulder and leaned into his cheek, attempting to offer comfort even as his eyes blinked mournfully at the dead man. Reborn's gaze travelled from the bullet wound to the rafters opposite his student and above the empty chair sitting across from them.
A perfect shot. The sniper would've had a clear trajectory to his unprotected student. One shot, and it had all been over.
Turning back, Reborn closed his eyes and thought back to yesterday. Tsuna had visited him in his room as he tended to do every few days, taking time out of his busy schedule to make sure Reborn was still alive. He knew about the Sky flames, of course; he wasn't that far gone yet, but he knew his former student would never stop helping him no matter what he said so Reborn had stayed silent and feigned ignorance.
But he should have known. Tsuna had stayed longer than usual, keeping him company for most of the day and even sitting with him when he dozed off sporadically, not leaving until evening had come. And the brunet had talked of the past, the good times, the fun times, the hard times. Reborn had thought Tsuna had been trying to cheer him up, and he had felt better, but perhaps his student had been trying to comfort himself as well.
And when Tsuna had said goodnight, smiling warmly at Reborn as he usually did, if he really thought about it, hadn't that goodnight sounded awfully like goodbye?
Reborn drew in a shuddering breath and reached up once more to brush back a stray strand of hair that had fallen over his student's closed eyes. There was nothing vulnerable about Tsuna, nothing that would give Byakuran the satisfaction of seeing him die, and for that, Reborn was proud. But he still found himself wondering what Tsuna had been thinking when he had realized that there was no way out, when the bullet had hit, when his life had slowly bled away, when he had understood that there would be no one to hold his hand as he died, completely alone save for the face of his killer to keep him company.
Reborn wondered if the lonely, clumsy little boy he had first met all those years ago had reared his head and cried while the older, strong, resolute Vongola Decimo had stared death in the eye without flinching.
Well, he would never know now, but he had known Tsuna best. He could make a fairly good guess, and it only made the agony weighing down his heart worse.
He braced himself as a wet cough, pain alleviated by his student's flames even now, wracked his body and he smiled grimly as he wiped a trail of blood from his chin.
Surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, he felt nothing but a peaceful sense of acceptance.
Reborn had neither time nor energy to investigate Tsuna's reasons. His death was fast approaching, and in his current state, there was very little he could do anyway. Whatever his student had been up to, he would trust Tsuna's judgement and let it all pan out. All he wanted to do now was rest.
"Wait for me, Tsuna," Reborn ordered softly, jumping down from the armchair to retrieve Shamal so they could get the Vongola boss back to headquarters. "I'll be following you soon, so wait for me."
In addition to being the Vongola Storm Guardian, Gokudera Hayato was also the Right-Hand Man of Vongola Decimo, and as such, he was the first to get the bad news.
Hayato was in the middle of meeting with one of their allied Families, the Volkov, when he got the phone call. Jyuudaime had sent him to Russia to meet with the Volkov boss, Anton Volkov, to work out their next plan of action against the Millefiore.
"Excuse me," Hayato said when his phone vibrated. He didn't usually take calls during meetings – it was rude – but the number that showed up on his cell was the emergency line, and from Shamal of all people. He ignored the cold thread of anxiety snaking its way through his heart.
Anton nodded graciously, leaning back in his chair and murmuring to one of his men as Hayato rose to his feet and took a few steps away before answering. "Gokudera. What is it, Shamal?"
There was a long pause on the other hand and Hayato inwardly twitched, his back stiffening as the silence stretched. "Shamal, I'm in the middle of a meeting. If you're not gonna say anything-"
"You need to come home," His old mentor said abruptly, voice flat and emotionless. "Forget the meeting; it can wait. ...There's been an assassination at the hands of the Millefiore. Vongola Decimo is dead."
For an entire minute, Hayato merely stood there. His mind simply could not understand what the doctor had told him.
"Come again?" He finally said, unaware of how ragged his voice had suddenly gotten or the fact that the entire room had fallen silent, the topic of the phone call still indistinct but the tension from it clear. "I don't know what you're trying to say."
A heavy sigh rustled down the line and Shamal's voice gentled. "Hayato, Tsuna's dead. Come home. The news is already spreading like wildfire throughout Italy. We need everyone back."
Another second and then the truth slammed into him with all the force of a typhoon. He staggered back, felt one of the Volkov men come forward and catch him by the elbow, saw Anton stand up, a concerned frown on his face, but all he could hear were those damning words repeating over and over in his head.
How? Why? When? Where? What? How could the Tenth die? Why was Hayato in Russia and not beside his boss? When had this happened? Where had this happened? What had happened?
The jumble of questions shouted over each other in his mind and all Hayato could do was collapse, pale-faced, into the chair he had been sitting on – bantering with Anton, discussing the next attack – only minutes ago.
"That's impossible," Hayato muttered through numb lips. "This is some sort of joke-"
"Do I sound like I'm joking?" Shamal's voice was uncharacteristically sharp.
No. No he didn't. And as the truth sank in, Hayato's world fell apart.
"Hayato," The Volkov boss was studying him intently when Hayato hung up in a daze of horror and grief. "Is something wrong?"
Hayato wanted to laugh. He wanted to rage and scream and blow up the bastard who had destroyed his entire reason for living. Was something wrong? Nothing was right anymore.
But he was Vongola's Storm Guardian and Vongola Decimo's Right-Hand. He couldn't afford to fall apart now.
Step One: Start informing their allies. The news would be spread throughout the underworld soon enough. A death as important as his could never be kept under wraps.
"Volkov Shestoy," Hayato said formally, the Russian falling like stones from his mouth. Across from him, Anton's frown deepened and the man straightened in his seat. "You are officially invited to attend the funeral of Vongola Desyatyy, Tsunayoshi Sawada."
The Volkov boss stared, shock freezing his features as the other men in the room, Vongola and Volkov alike, stood in stunned incredulity.
"The time and date will be forwarded to you once they are set," Hayato continued blankly as he rose to his feet, his limbs on autopilot as he nodded politely. "I trust you'll keep this within your Family for now. If you'll excuse me."
Step Two: Get home. Contact other Guardians. See his boss.
He swept out of the room, his men at his heels, all of them foregoing protocol as they babbled questions he had no wish to answer.
Hayato recalled the argument they had had right up until he had boarded his plane.
Why, Jyuudaime? Why did you insist on sending me away? Did you know this would happen? Did you think I couldn't stop it and wanted to spare me the pain of watching you die?
In the privacy of the sectored off area at the back of the jet, Hayato bowed his head and cried, agony closing in around him in crushing waves as the Storm broke, no longer having a Sky to defend.
But Jyuudaime, didn't you know? Not being there at all is a million times worse.
Yamamoto Takeshi had just finished gathering a new set of rings hidden in an abandoned lab in western China when the call came in. Tsuna had been adamant that he go on this mission and he was glad he could bring back what his boss wanted.
However, Takeshi frowned when he caught sight of the number on his cell. The emergency line had never been used so far, and for Hayato to use it...
"It's me," Takeshi said, endeavoring to keep his voice light even as fear clenched in his stomach. "What's up, Hayato?"
"Get back to Italy," Hayato ordered without preamble, voice hollow in a way that sent chills down Takeshi's spine. "Now."
Takeshi's hand tightened around the phone.
"What happened?" He had to force the question out.
Hayato never wasted time beating around the bush and this time was no different. Takeshi wished he did, if only to live in ignorance for a few seconds longer.
"Jyuudaime's dead. Shot by a Millefiore sniper. Hurry up and get back home."
Hayato's voice was flat and held that scratchy quality that said he was smoking again but Takeshi barely registered it. Instead, his fellow Guardian's voice dimmed as if he was hearing it from across a baseball pitch. Blood roared in his ears and it wasn't until the blare of an alarm bell sounded and cut through the haze in his mind did he gasp for breath, not even realizing he had stopped breathing.
"Haha," Takeshi chuckled weakly. "What are you talking about, Hayato? Are we play-"
"I swear to god, sword freak," Hayato growled, the thin control the bomber had had snapping and the unsteady tone in his voice became clear. "If you so much as mention this to be a game, I will kill you."
Takeshi didn't respond, his hand dropping back to his side as he hung up and sat down on the nearest flat surface – the street curb.
This couldn't be possible. Tsuna wasn't- Tsuna couldn't be-
If this wasn't a game, then how was Takeshi supposed to handle this?
Laughter drew his attention to the building across the street.
A school, he realized. A middle school.
Dimly, as the students rushed out, he was glad his sword wasn't in sight.
Unbidden images of his own teenaged years rushed back as he continued staring. He remembered the first time he had seen Tsuna for who he was. The brunet was the only reason he wasn't dead, hadn't died ten years ago.
And how did Takeshi repay him?
He was an expert on smiles; Takeshi had spent most of his life smiling, real and fake smiles that only Tsuna had ever been able to completely see through.
So why hadn't he pushed when Tsuna had seen him off with that quiet, not-quite-happy smile a week ago? Why had he gone rushing off like a fool when his best friend had been upset?
He knew why. Because Tsuna had seemed so stressed lately, not eating as much, not sleeping as much. And the brunet had sounded so worried when he had asked Takeshi to take the mission to China, to find and bring back the A-class rings, that Takeshi had agreed without question. He had wanted to take away some of the burden that Tsuna was always walking around with nowadays. And he had thought he had succeeded when some of the shadows had left his best friend's face and clear brown eyes had looked back at him when he had consented.
Obviously, he had been wrong. Tsuna hadn't been happy to see Takeshi go, sending him on some out-of-the-way mission in China. He had been happy to know that Takeshi wouldn't be anywhere near Italy when he-
But why? Takeshi was used to Tsuna's Hyper Intuition. No doubt, his boss would have sensed the danger, the approaching death, so why had Tsuna sent him away?
Takeshi bowed his head and buried his fingers in his hair as a choked sob tore itself from his throat. Did any of that matter? His boss, his best friend, Tsuna, was dead.
Who would humour him even in the darkest of times and come with him to watch baseball games?
Who would cry with him on his father's death anniversary and stay up the rest of the night to listen to his drunken babble as he lost himself in a bottle, only to help him home afterwards?
Who would be the Sky his Rain was responsible for cheering up, for washing away the sorrow and tears, for making sure it could still laugh?
Roughly scrubbing an arm over his eyes, Takeshi stood up abruptly and made for the airport. He had to go home. He had to see for himself that this wasn't all some sick joke the Millefiore had come up with and strung everyone along.
And if – when, a traitorous voice at the back of his mind whispered – it all turned out to be true, then, and only then, would Takeshi allow himself to mourn.
Bovino Lambo was laughing at a joke I-Pin had made as they ate their lunch when Reborn kicked down the door and stepped into the dining room. Lambo hadn't completely gotten over his dislike for the baby hitman but he had softened towards him over time and even he didn't have the heart to try to get a rise out of Reborn all the time when he looked as bad as he did nowadays. The only reason he still did it was because the hitman always looked faintly pleased when Lambo continued the ten-year-long tradition.
At the moment though, Lambo took one look at the grim expression on Reborn's drawn face and the laughter abruptly died in his throat.
"What happened?" He half-demanded, rising from his chair. To his knowledge, after ten years of knowing Reborn, only one person could drag any sort of emotion from the hitman, whether that be annoyance or exasperation or happiness or worry. This was leagues beyond worried. This was... defeat.
Beside him, I-Pin seemed to have frozen to her seat, the beginnings of fear clouding her expression, and Lambo automatically reached out to snag her hand in his as Reborn tugged down his fedora to hide his eyes.
"There was a shooting," Reborn revealed, not mincing his words. "Tsuna's dead."
The baby hitman was already turning to leave by the time Lambo registered the words.
"Liar," He said reflexively even as he saw tears slowly welling up in his girlfriend's eyes. "You're lying."
Reborn actually sneered at him.
"Why would I do that, you stupid cow?" He rasped harshly, suppressing a cough. "See for yourself. His body's in the hospital wing."
And with that, he was gone, leaving a thunderstruck Lambo in his wake. It was I-Pin's shaking hands curled around his left hand and her heart-wrenching sobs that finally reached him. His legs buckled and he collapsed back into his chair, wrapping numb arms around his girlfriend as he let the news sink in.
Lambo was a crybaby; even he admitted it, if only to himself, so while it came as no surprise when the tears came, spilling from his eyes and down his cheeks, it was vaguely astounding that not a single sound came from his lips. He didn't wail, he didn't scream, he didn't make any noise at all.
And he thought, at the back of his mind, that there was simply no way to express the raging grief threatening to swallow him, no way to form the words that would justify the death of the older brother figure who had taken him in at the age of five.
Lambo knew he drove Tsuna up the wall sometimes, and when they were younger, Tsuna's Dame-ness made Lambo scowl and pick on him. But there had always been affection underlying all of their interactions. They were family, not just Family, and Lambo wouldn't want it any other way.
Tsuna had been surprisingly successful (eventually) in asking Kyoko out and Lambo had eventually gone to him to ask for advice when the first thought that struck him one day as I-Pin walked in wearing a simple skirt and sweater was cute. He would've asked Gokudera but the bomber had been even more hopeless with Haru than Tsuna had been so he had picked the lesser of two idiots.
His surrogate brother had been surprisingly helpful, giving him the push he needed to ask I-Pin out, and though he spent the majority of the first date blushing, the entire thing had gone fairly well and they were going steady now.
And thinking back, Lambo realized he had never thanked Tsuna. He had never thanked him for a lot of things. For taking him in when he was still a whiny selfish brat. For accepting a rejected Bovino into the Vongola Famiglia. For taking care of him even after all these years. For being the older brother his own older brother had never been. For simply being there.
And now he would never have the chance because Tsuna wasn't there anymore.
Lambo glanced down silently at the muffled whimper. I-Pin stared back, eyes large and wet and miserable in a way that made him want to electrocute someone and throw a temper tantrum (so someone would make everything okay again) at the same time.
He did neither, clumsily getting to his feet and pulling I-Pin up after him instead.
"Let's go see him," He said hoarsely. "Let's go see Tsuna-nii."
But even as they stumbled down the hall towards the hospital wing, all Lambo could think of was that there would be no more Sky for his Lightning to flash across; no more Tsuna to play with him when he was sad.
No more Tsuna.
As the only Guardian under Vongola Decimo (with Takeshi a close second) that could interact with the Varia without getting insulted, insulting them, getting shot at, getting into fights, and other things that would result in tons of paperwork for the boss and damage costs all around, Sasagawa Ryohei was the most successful when it came to working with Vongola's top assassination squad for more than a few days. As it was, he received the news at about the same time as the upper echelon of the Varia.
Oddly enough, it was Squalo who received the call. Xanxus never picked up his phone if he could help it and the strategy captain would rather waste time talking to the trash on the other end than waste time replacing yet another phone. Almost everyone in the Vongola also knew this and usually directed their calls to the Varia Second-in-Command anyway. Those who didn't were the useless grunts who deserved to die, but, in Squalo's opinion, they wouldn't be able to find their ass with both hands and a squad behind them anyway, so no loss there.
"Voooiii!" Squalo bellowed down the line as he picked up the phone in his office. "What do you want?"
A mumbled curse answered him and Squalo recognized their baby boss' Right-Hand as the man spoke.
"Fucking hell, shut up, you long-haired bastard. I'm not deaf."
Squalo twitched, instantly pissed. "I can talk however I want! Just get to the point, trash!"
"...Vongola Decimo has been assassinated by the Millefiore. I need you to send Ryohei back here first, finish your own jobs, and then return as soon as possible yourselves."
For a long minute, Squalo honestly thought Gokudera had switched to a foreign language he wasn't familiar with because he simply could not comprehend what he was being told.
When he finally managed to connect the words to his brain and his brain to his mouth, he blurted out, "Are you shitting me, trash? Is this some kind of fucked up joke?"
"Why the fuck does everyone ask me that?" Gokudera snarled from the other end, sounding ever-so-slightly hysterical. "Why the fuck would I joke about something like this? Jyuudaime is dead! Get your asses back home! Now!"
With that said, the bomber hung up and Squalo was left with the dial tone and a sick feeling of dread pooling in his gut.
His first coherent thought, absurdly enough, was the amount of money it would cost to repair whatever damage his shitty boss would no doubt inflict on the base.
His second thought was much more concise and summed up the situation quite neatly.
Squalo found all of them in the dining room, even Xanxus, who was usually holed up in his office drinking and not doing paperwork. The man was up and about though, looking to be getting a cup of coffee as he surveyed the room with an irritated eye.
As expected, Lussuria and the baby boss' Sun Guardian seemed to be continuing their ongoing contest of who could out-creep the other with their gay shit and extreme retardation that Squalo didn't even want to look at much less deal with.
Levi was watching their shitty boss like the disturbing groupie he was and Squalo had to shove down the urge to cut the bastard down. He was a Varia officer after all and 'no killing fellow officers who could still be borderline useful' was in his contract.
Bel and Flan were bickering as usual, with the latter deadpanning mockery at the blond and the latter using their newest member for target practice. In a very, very small corner of Squalo's near-nonexistent heart, he was happy they had managed to secure Flan as one of their own. Bel had completely stopped smiling after Mammon had died, and the loss of that insane grin produced more anxiety than relief. Flan, at least, managed to rile up their resident Storm Guardian to the point where he was back to normal. Or Varia-normal anyway.
"Scum, what the hell do you want?"
Squalo didn't react outwardly to his boss' demand, only turning to look at Xanxus as he tried to think of the right words to describe their hell-in-a-handbasket situation.
For all that the Varia liked to pretend that the trash leading the Vongola at the moment meant nothing to them and they were simply biding their time until the Decimo copped it, their insults and threats of death didn't add up to the fact that they always defended the baby boss like their lives depended on it. Even Xanxus wouldn't stand for anyone badmouthing Sawada, though their shitty boss always insisted it was because the Vongola couldn't look weak and anyone who asked were fired, maimed, and or killed.
And while their relationship with the brats would never be rainbows and sunshine (Squalo shuddered at the very thought), it was definitely a hell of a lot better than it had been ten years ago. It certainly helped that their baby boss always placed so much trust in them to do their jobs properly. Naive, Xanxus would always scoff.
"Scum, I asked you a question!"
Squalo ducked the coffee mug aimed at his head and rounded on his boss with sudden anger. He wasn't even sure who or what he was angry at.
"VOOOIII!" Squalo shouted, and while everyone was used to his volume, they still looked taken aback for a split second. The strategy captain was loud but he didn't usually jump from complete silence to ear-splitting decibels in the span of a heartbeat.
Squalo took three steps forward and threw the missive that the bomber had sent over via email only minutes earlier onto the counter in front of his boss.
"Decimo's been killed," He bit out ruthlessly, ignoring the way the entire room froze and Xanxus' eyes narrowed dangerously. "A fucking sniper got him. The Millefiore trash did it."
The silence that followed was deafening and Squalo braced himself for the fallout. He didn't have long to wait.
"What did you extremely say?!" Sasagawa jumped in, eyes wild as he met Squalo's flinty gaze. "Tsuna would never- He can't- YOU ARE EXTREMELY MISTAKEN!"
The Sun Guardian's voice cracked and Squalo was torn between being disgusted with him for the emotional display and being disgusted with himself for the pity that spiked through him at the growing horror on the boxer's face.
He chose the former.
"I just received the phone call, trash!" Squalo snarled. "Your fucking Storm Guardian contacted me because you lost your fucking phone again!"
Even as he said it, Sasagawa began patting down his coat, movements frantic and jerky. Squalo tch'ed and glanced away, taking the opportunity to scan the rest of the Varia.
Bel's smile had slid off completely and Squalo actually managed to catch a glimpse of stunned blue eyes behind the blond bangs for more than a couple of seconds. Beside him, Flan didn't look affected at all, which was no surprise, but the rookie trash stayed silent for once, somehow managing to hold his tongue in the thick silence of the room.
Levi was no longer staring at their boss and was gaping slightly. Squalo made a mental note to kick the trash's ass later, if only to release some steam.
Lussuria was the only one who was moving, hovering uncertainly at Sasagawa's shoulder as if he wasn't sure what to do. The homo trash was always spouting something gay and was as much of a mother hen as any of the Varia could get but even he didn't seem to know what to say at this point.
Before Squalo could chance a glance over his shoulder at their eerily silent boss, Sasagawa was talking again, rambling a mile a minute as he gave up looking for his phone.
"That can't be true!" The boxer shook his head almost violently. "I was just talking to him before I came here! He wasn't any different. He asked- He asked me for permission to marry Kyoko! I said yes to the extreme! He was going to propose to her! They were going to get married!"
Squalo looked away. It was almost painful watching the usually enthusiastic Guardian fall apart. And marriage. Well, he shouldn't be surprised. Sawada had been courting that redhead for five years now. It was about fucking time.
"Oi, trash, shut up."
Silence descended on the room in the blink of an eye as everyone turned to the Varia boss. Squalo eyed the hand clenched around the missive in a white-knuckled grip. Nothing else gave anything away.
"You," Xanxus growled at the boxer. "What did Sawada say when he sent you here?"
The command in Xanxus' voice seemed to have steadied Sasagawa somewhat and he answered automatically. "He said the Varia needed extreme backup. He wanted me here on standby."
Squalo instantly frowned. Backup? He hadn't requested backup, and his shitty boss would run naked down the streets of Italy before asking for help. His gaze flickered back to Xanxus as realization dawned on him.
Xanxus swore viciously and slammed the missive back down on the counter, cracking the surface with the force of his hand.
"We didn't send for backup, scum!" Xanxus snarled. "What are you, brain dead?! Why would we need help defending a puny base like this one?"
For the first time since Squalo had met Sasagawa Ryohei, the boxer's temper flared and snapped.
"THEN WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY SOMETHING TO THE EXTREME?!" The boxer roared. "WHY DIDN'T YOU SEND ME BACK TO ITALY?!"
Xanxus shoved a nearby chair out of the way as he advanced, said chair skidding across the room before hitting and splintering against the wall.
"Because that shit-for-brains boss said you wanted to be here!" Xanxus sneered. "Begged me to keep you here so you could help. What kind of Guardian are you anyway? You can't even tell when that piece of trash is lying to you!"
This shut Sasagawa up faster than a bullet to the head and Squalo just sighed as the boxer's expression deflated and a lost look replaced the fury.
"Trash, get outta here," Squalo muttered, shoving the boxer in the direction of the door. "Gokudera's ordered you back to Italy. Hurry the fuck up."
Lussuria cut in before anyone could say anything else. "Mou, Ryohei honey, I'll accompany you back to Italy. Come on."
The last thing Squalo heard before the door closed behind the pair was Sasagawa's faint voice.
"What am I going to tell Kyoko?"
Squalo looked around, at Bel who was staring sightlessly out the window, at Levi who was scowling moodily at the floor, at Flan who was playing with his hell ring, at his shitty boss whose scars were slowly spreading over the rest of his face.
Fuck, he thought wearily. I should've stayed in bed today.
Xanxus didn't bother with the beeping coffee machine that was telling him his drink was ready. Instead, he let his rage surge up even as he grabbed his guns.
"Get out there and finish off the scum surrounding the base," He growled, deceptively calm. "I don't care where they're hiding; hunt them down and kill them all. If you useless trash aren't done by nightfall, I'll get rid of you myself."
His squad bolted from the room, only his shitty Second brave enough to glance back once at him and Xanxus shot a burst of flame at the shark's head in retaliation.
When the room was empty, he headed for the liquor cabinet in the corner, not bothering to get a glass as he hauled out a bottle and gulped down a large mouthful.
That pathetic trash. What right did that barely-out-of-diapers boss have to go and get himself killed? The goddamned fuck had defeated him! He had no right to get himself killed by someone else! And a single bullet to the chest by those Millefiore scum to boot. Where did that piss-ant baby get off making the Vongola look weak?
He gritted his teeth against the nagging voice that taunted him for the spark of grief simmering low in his gut (He's gone. He's really gone. He accepted you into his Family with open arms when he had every right to kick you out after you tried to kill him and this is how you repay him.). He suppressed the memory of the last conversation he had had with the baby boss (Be careful, Xanxus. You have to make it home for Christmas.). He downright refused to acknowledge that he was anything but pissed (Because the Vongola looks weak now. Isn't that your excuse for everything?).
Instead, he allowed the sharp twist of wrath thrumming through his veins to grow as he hurled the bottle of liquor at the nearest wall, the sound of smashing glass and wasted alcohol doing nothing to calm him down.
Without a backwards glance, Xanxus headed for the door as well, not even pausing to grab his coat. He had had enough of this shitty country. If they weren't on the private jet heading back to Italy by evening, heads would roll.
Ryohei knew he wasn't the smartest of people and he sometimes had trouble understanding the simplest of things but even he couldn't mistake what was happening now.
This was his fault; there was no denying that. He was the Family's Sun, the healer, and he hadn't been there when Tsuna had needed him most. It didn't matter that his honorary brother had lied. Ryohei should have seen through it. After all, Tsuna had always been bad at lying. Ryohei could usually tell when Tsuna tried to brush off his injuries. The younger man must have spent days practicing in front of the mirror.
And now he was halfway home with a heavy guilty conscience and an even heavier heart. And worst of all, he had no idea what he was going to say to Kyoko. He knew his sister loved Tsuna dearly, and vice-versa, which was the reason he had readily agreed when Tsuna had approached him with a rare shy smile and nervous hands. He knew no one would be able to make Kyoko as happy as his boss did.
But now what? How could he even begin comforting Kyoko when he could barely see past his own daze of misery? And if Ryohei felt like this, Hayato and Takeshi must by dying. And what about Lambo? He was still a kid! And his wife and Haru and Chrome and I-Pin and even Tsuna's two 'problem children' and- and-
What were they going to do now? With their Sky gone, how were they supposed to go on?
Ryohei was a man and he was man enough to cry. Besides, there was only Lussuria within earshot and his fellow Sun Guardian had been unusually quiet for a long while now.
So he cried. He let the world hear his grief and helplessness and pain, bent over with his forehead pressed against his knees as his hands formed fists and tangled tightly in his hair.
And he hoped that some of the anguish he was feeling would dissipate by the time the jet landed, so he could do his job and shine for the others. He was the Sun after all. When even the Rain couldn't wash away the sorrow, it was up to the Sun to burn it all away.
Hibari Kyouya was waiting for the call and he didn't hesitate to pick up when his cell rang. He acknowledged the news with a cold curt word and hung up. He informed Tetsu of the Decimo's death, ignored the way he was gaped at, and made arrangements to head back to Italy once the private jet was refueled. He packed his bags, dumped it all by the door, locked himself in his room, sat down, poured himself a cup of tea, and drank.
When Kyouya had agreed to the plan, he hadn't thought it would hurt as much as it did.
It had been a long ten years and Sawada Tsunayoshi had evolved into someone Kyouya could respect, did respect, and was even willing to follow. The herbivore had become an omnivore and it had fascinated Kyouya. There was never a boring moment when the brunet was involved. Peaceful, yes, but never dull.
But Tsunayoshi was gone now.
Temporarily, Kyouya reassured himself. The fact that he had to reassure himself at all made him frown. He was above such herbivorous actions.
Only if the plan is successful, a sly voice whispered.
Kyouya pressed his lips together and placed his teacup down with more force than necessary.
If the plan was unsuccessful, he countered logically, then he would be dead anyway and it wouldn't matter whether or not Tsunayoshi had died.
Except it did.
Because he was the Cloud that protected the Family from afar, and while Tsunayoshi could never bind him, would never bind him, clouds still needed a place to drift in, a Sky to protect, and hadn't Kyouya failed to do exactly that?
No, of course he hadn't. This was the plan. Tsunayoshi had to die for the plan to succeed. They had discussed this part for months. It was the only option.
It still didn't change the fact that Tsunayoshi was dead though.
Kyouya winced inwardly when the teacup cracked in his hands and a shard of china cut into his finger. That was unexpected. The cup must have been getting old.
"Kyo-san, the jet is ready."
Kyouya rose to his feet, dumping the teacup in the trashcan before washing the cut. It was time to go. He would attend the funeral and watch the others mourn (he himself had no reason to mourn; Tsunayoshi was only temporarily dead) before beginning his investigation into the boxes.
Kyouya had never failed to do anything in his life (Tsunayoshi's death did not count, he snapped irritably when that exact thought surfaced) and he would not allow this plan to fail. When the ten-year-younger Sawada Tsunayoshi appeared, Kyouya would train him without mercy, would give the boy everything he could to make sure his future boss survived.
And when (not if) the Tsunayoshi of his time woke up, Kyouya would make sure to bite the omnivore to death for putting him through all this trouble.
When Dokuro Chrome, or Nagi, as Mukuro and sometimes Boss called her, heard the news, she was attempting to contact Mukuro. She was the go-between for her boss and the older Mist Guardian after her surrogate brother had infiltrated Millefiore.
"Nagi," Mukuro greeted, and she smiled at him in her mindscape. Her smile faltered when Mukuro failed to return it, looking troubled for once.
"Mukuro-nii?" Chrome frowned worriedly at him. "Did something happen? Did Byakuran find out about you?"
Mukuro looked pensive and he stepped forward to rest his hands on her shoulders.
"Nagi," He murmured. "I need you to go home right away. There is something you must check for me."
Chrome nodded at once. "Of course. But what is wrong?"
Mukuro's hands tightened momentarily before relaxing again. "Word has spread throughout the Millefiore Family," He said quietly. "Earlier today, the rumours say that Byakuran has killed Vongola Decimo."
Chrome's mouth dropped open and she stared frozenly at her brother.
"B- Boss?" She began shaking her head, backing up as unbidden tears welled up in her good eye. "No, that can't be true. I just talked to him a week ago, over the phone. Mukuro-nii-"
Her words withered in her throat as Mukuro pulled her into a hug, tight and soothing at the same time.
"Which is why you must check," Mukuro told her and his eyes glittered almost dangerously down at her. "After all, I cannot possess a dead body. Tsunayoshi-kun should-"
His voice didn't crack nor did he cut himself off. If she had to put it in words, Chrome thought her brother had sounded as if he had simply run out of breath, the words not quite making it past his tongue.
"I'll go," Chrome promised, sniffling a little as she pulled back. "I'll go right away. Boss is strong. Boss can't be dead."
But when she opened her eyes and a strangely silent Ken greeted her sight, her phone in hand and an odd downward tilt to his mouth, Chrome knew.
The person who had given her a home was gone and she didn't need Ken or whoever was on the other end of the phone or Chikusa standing a few feet away to tell her what she already knew. Her boss, who had been nothing but kind to her and her ragtag family, was gone. She would no longer have someone to dance with at parties when Ken was too embarrassed and Chikusa couldn't be bothered and Mukuro was off teasing one of the guests. She would have no one to go to when she thought Mukuro was pushing himself and being reckless. She would have no one to welcome her home when she came back from a mission, worn-out and ready to drop, only for her boss to catch her and carry her to her room when Ken and Chikusa weren't around.
"No!" She lunged for the cell and pressed it to her ear, almost dropping it as she babbled into the phone. "Boss isn't dead, right? Boss is still alive! Boss can't be dead! We were going to decorate the Christmas tree in a few days! He said so! All of us! Boss-"
"I'm sorry, Chrome," Hayato's rough voice had taken on that rare gentle lilt that he only ever adopted when he was breaking bad news. "He- He was shot. By some sniper. Do- Do you mind passing that on to the pineap- to Mukuro? I need at least one of you back here to prepare for the- the funeral."
Chrome was vaguely aware of Chikusa taking the phone out of her hands when she failed to respond for several minutes but all she could hear were Hayato's words, echoing again and again in her head.
"Stupid girl!" Ken's voice snapped out loud and abrasive, but it was the note of worry embedded in it that drew her back to the present.
The blond in front of her scrubbed a frustrated hand through his hair before glancing briefly over at Chikusa.
"Well? What are we gonna do now?" Ken asked impatiently. "Gokudera said to contact Mukuro. And then- And then we can go home, yeah?"
Chrome managed a shaky nod and closed her eye again. Mukuro would know what to do. He would know where to go from here.
Mukuro would be able to tell her what the Mist was supposed to do when there was no Sky to hide away anymore.
Rokudo Mukuro was possessing a lowly White Spell technician when the first whisper reached his ear.
Byakuran killed Vongola Decimo!
It took a surprising amount of self-control to not grab the one who had spoken so gleefully and skewer the man with his trident. How dare he speak such a lie?
But the rumours continued, circulating throughout the building with growing triumph until Mukuro had found an empty bathroom, cast a large illusion on his surroundings, and locked himself in a stall, waiting calmly for Nagi to contact him. If she was doing something important, he didn't want to distract her.
He had told her to go check, because the boss he followed (so possessing him would be easier later on), the man he respected (as expected of someone Mukuro had deemed worthy), simply could not die so easily.
One look at Nagi's face when she returned was all it took to bring home the truth. And he didn't feel sorrow (Death was to be expected in the mafia world.) or grief (Why should he grieve for someone who had sworn he would change the mafia but had died before he could keep his word?). He wasn't even angry (Because that would mean Tsunayoshi's death meant something to him, and it didn't. It didn't.).
But after he had told Nagi to go home, to help with the funeral, to mourn as he knew she would and leave everything else for later, Mukuro swore revenge.
It wasn't anything personal. Byakuran had taken away his toy and Mukuro was simply going to return the favour. Tsunayoshi had entertained him and now that he was gone, Mukuro would need something else to keep him occupied. Who better than the smiling fox who had dared to intrude on what was his?
And when the funeral came around, he would attend, because nobody expected him to and Mukuro liked keeping people guessing. It didn't matter that the one who had given him and his subordinates (not friends, no matter what Tsunayoshi said) a home would no longer be there to greet him when he returned from a mission. It didn't matter that Mukuro would no longer have anyone to tease. It didn't matter that there would no longer be someone who could look him in the eye without fear or mistrust and smile at him and mean it. It didn't even matter that the Mist would no longer have the Sky to shroud and conceal.
It didn't matter that Tsunayoshi was dead.
Because the Mist's sole job was to deceive, even if that meant deceiving himself.
The funeral was held and it seemed as if the entire world had shown up. Allied Families, the Foundation, CEDEF, Varia, Vongola Guardians, and the rest of Vongola, from the lowest of grunts to the highest assassin.
And Reborn, of course.
It had been decided that, for now, no one outside of the mafia would be told. Kyoko, Haru, Hana, Nana. They would be kept in the dark. It would perhaps be safer.
The people attending the funeral mourned and the world mourned with them. The clouds roiled angrily and a storm brewed within them. Icy rain pelted like bullets down on them as thunder and lightning cracked and lit up the skies. The sun was nowhere to be found and mist enveloped everything in a heavy, wet fog.
The next couple months were spent fighting and struggling to stay one step ahead of the Millefiore.
Chrome and Mukuro disappeared though everyone assumed (hoped, prayed, wished) that they were still alive and spying on Byakuran.
Hayato had taken over the Family and had ordered the Varia back to their mansion while the majority of the Vongola had scattered after the mansion was destroyed. Upon his orders, the Guardians and those closest to them had fled for Japan.
Takeshi and Ryohei remained at Hayato's side, doing what they could to take down as many of the enemies as they could.
Kyouya had also disappeared, but they received regular updates from Kusakabe so no one was too worried about the Cloud Guardian who seemed to be travelling the world for reasons unknown.
Lambo and I-Pin still went to school but both kept a sharp eye on the women, if only to make sure none of them were caught in an ambush. They were told, of course, that Tsuna had become much busier and couldn't see them at the moment.
Iemitsu had taken Nana out of the country as well, producing tickets for a cruise for the two of them and hiding his grief behind a sunny smile. He had to be strong, for his wife, for the Family, for his dead son.
The Arcobaleno had disappeared the day after Sawada Tsunayoshi's funeral, and no matter whom Hayato sent out or what connections he used, no one could tell him where the hitman had gone.
It was only three months later that they found out where Reborn had been. Hayato, Takeshi, and Ryohei had gone out in the morning for their routine patrols and found a body at the doorstep of their hideout. Dressed in a White Spell uniform and unmarked save for the single bullet hole through the man's chest, there was no doubt that this was the sniper who had shot down the Tenth, especially after they found a black CZ75 1ST, the gun Reborn always wielded whenever he wasn't using Leon, placed neatly on the man's chest beside the bullet wound.
They disposed of the body, refusing to give the man any form of a burial, and grieved for the death of the greatest hitman in the world, Vongola Decimo's most trusted advisor, and one of Sawada Tsunayoshi's dearest friends.
But there was a tone of wistfulness underlying it as well. After all, Reborn had gone to join the Sky they all longed to return to.
But when the young fourteen-year-old Sawada Tsunayoshi appeared via the Ten-Year Bazooka, all those wishing for their Sky's miraculous return allowed themselves to hope once more.
Dottore – Doctor
Dio – God
Bastardi – Bastards
Shestoy – Sixth
Desyatyy – Tenth