Authors Note: And here, it is finally. The last one. Words will never be enough to express my gratitude towards all of you who've read and spent days with me on this piece. It was a cathartic experience and I enjoyed it tremendously. I hope we shall all meet again-in one fic or the next.
BALLS, BONDS & BAIL
Once men are caught up in an event, they cease to be afraid. Only the unknown frightens men.
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The Waldorf Astoria
301 Park Avenue, New York, New York
To say that the Mafia knew how to throw a lavish affair is like living in Buckingham Palace and calling it a cottage. There's lavish, there's New York style lavish and sophisticated, there's Los Angeles lavish blingfest, there's Las Vegas over the top lavish and then there's the Underworld Lavish. Louis the Fourteenth with a bit of Caligula opulence seemed more apt to describe the scene that greets someone's eyes when they walked into the Annual Sky Ball.
The Waldorf Astoria's Vanderbilt Room was transformed into a sumptuous recreation of a 14th century Renaissance Palazzo filled with rich velvet draperies and golden ornament, the air buzzing with the sound of laughter and merry making as jesters, court magicians, acrobats and strolling troubadours completed the colorful tableaux. Men in formal evening dinner jackets and women of all ages and races awash with glittering gems and fabulous couture gowns mingled with one another under the light of the Vanderbilt's iconic crystal chandeliers.
Amidst the glittering throng of moneyed elite politicians, celebrities and other illuminati's, awash in the sea of gems, furs and expensive clothing of the privileged guests who circulated and undulated in the ever changing landscape of talks and laughter, there was a lone figure who simply stood at the threshold of the beautifully turned out room and watched and waited.
Special Inspector Dominico De Luca decided to attend the event with Officer Rossi who already expressed her interest in transferring to the Organized Crime Division. The young woman was certainly a fresh face in the scene, not to mention to the fact that appearing with a lady on his arm rather a retinue of men would send a message as effective as carrying around on his person a veritable while flag.
Of course it wasn't like the attractive officer wasn't doing a credible job of observing her surroundings. Digital surveillance of course was not allowed, not that he could get away with it with all the scanners and whatnot surrounding the room but he didn't want to tempt fate and risk committing such a lethal faux pas. The only way to do it was to have her remember every one of the prominent names and faces of the movers and shakers in the Underworld. To his surprised delight when he gave her a crash course on the who's who of the Mafia, the young woman was gifted in memorizing huge of chunks of voluminous information and matching faces to facts. He didn't need any further recommendation than that to consider the young woman's application to his section. Currently the two of them are circulating the room, taking account of who were in attendance and which faces are making their Mafia debut in this glittering otherworldly scene.
After the young lady excused herself to go and refresh herself in one of the powder rooms, he decided to sit at one of the many tables scattered around the huge ballroom and people watch. He was actually engrossed watching the gathered throng, his mind running through familiar names like a mental roll call of names he's heard of but never seen, faces he's seen but had no names to attach it to when he felt someone come up behind him. He turned to look and the speculative look in his eyes intensified when he recognized who it was that approached him. He certainly recognized the young men that surrounded his table.
"Good evening. Special Inspector De Luca. I'm so glad you could make it."
He stood up and gave the figure and his companions a slight bow of greeting, having been instructed that the young man still clung to his Eastern upbringing. The young man bowed back, his eyes showing quite clearly his surprise at the inspector's actions. When he straightened, he gave a slight signal to the two men who accompanied him and then they took a few steps back but stayed close enough to intercept any danger that may come his way.
"You are certainly full of surprises Vongola Decimo."
Inspector De Luca found that his eyes were riveted on his young host. The fresh young face, the messy autumn colored locks and the clear, lambent russet eyes seemed oddly out of place amidst the sharp, dark eyed men that swirled and flowed like upright sharks around them. The young man was certainly dressed like one though. He was dressed in a black and silver pinstriped formal suit, the distinctive crest of the Vongola Famiglia easily seen on the clasps of the immaculate white mantle that covered his shoulders. His hands clasped demurely in front of him.
"I am sorry we have never been formally introduced, sir. My name is Tsunayoshi Sawada. Please, call me Tsuna."
"You know I can't do that Don Vongola, so I too must offer my apology in this regard. Duty, you must understand, compels me to."
"We all have tasks and duties to perform, Sir. But I must admit, for my first taste at incarceration, you and the members of your precinct made it so much more pleasant than I was lead to believe. I however apologize for every inconvenience we have brought upon that place."
"I really think you should.
He simply smiled and nodded, accepting this gentle reproach with even calmer acceptance, as if he knows that it was his due. He gestured the empty chair in front of the one that the inspector previously occupied and inquired softly.
"May I take this seat?"
As they sat, facing one another from opposite sides of the small table, De Luca noticed that the silver head and the tall Asian young man moved a tad closer to the young Don though they continued to look out into the crowd, their eyes alert, and their hands held casually to their side.
"I would like to extend my apologies again, Inspector."
"I know I said you should, but then again you already gave us your apology."
This time De Luca watched a bright wash of color heightened the young Don's pale cheeks. Something about the sudden widening of those brown orbs and the way he was frantically waving his hands to denounce his announcement amused the old veteran.
"N-no, please don't think of it that way. M-my mother said that I have made such an inconvenience of myself that I had to compensate—and I couldn't think of what else to give so I asked some of our American aides and—"
"I understand. Thank you Don Vongola, for your kindness but may I advise you not to do it again. From one officer of the law, please, take my advice and consider this act of generosity a one-time thing."
Dominico De Luca told himself that being candid and honest with the young man would yield the best outcome for him. He has heard rumors about the strangely charismatic young don but he never really placed much credence in them. Now however, in the face of the man's very presence, he could only stand as a living testament to the man's undeniable strength and conviction. There was just something so compelling in those big clear russet eyes—something that compelled you to either tell him the truth or promise him your loyalty. Or follow him straight down to hell, if he just asked you to.
"I understand. Thank you for your counsel, Inspector."
"You're welcome, Don Vongola."
"Is Officer Jameson alright now? I'm afraid the entire thing had been hardest for him most of all. "
"He is recovering nicely. He sends his appreciation for the largess you gave him. The commendation he received certainly helped in settling the matter. He did however; express his wish never to be designated in booking for the remainder of his career."
"I am sad to hear that. He was a thoroughly pleasant man to watch."
The voice that spoke came from apparently nowhere and De Luca thanked his stars he was used to men that lurked in shadows so he didn't show any outward sign of being surprised or flustered. A tall, slim Eurasian man with the eyes of a predator appeared from the shadows as if born from them. The inspector watched warily as the man prowled closer to where the Decimo sat, a cry of warning blossoming on his lips when the young Don simply turned his head and smiled at the feral beast coming towards him.
"I thought you said you couldn't make it tonight Kyouya. But I am happy to see you here."
"Kusakabe Tetsuya forced my hand Omnivore, and made mention that if I make my appearance now, I could fly home earlier."
"I am sad that you would go so soon, but I understand. Inspector, may I introduce Hibari Kyouya, my Cloud Guardian. He also extends his apology for the unavoidable distress he caused Officer Jameson."
"I apologize for no such thing Omnivore. I am here to do what have requested for me to do. No more and no less."
With that the man walked away without so much as a by-your leave to his boss, melting into the crowd. The silver haired man bristled at the Eurasian and muttered a few choice words at his conduct as the tall one merely laughed and admonished his partner to leave the 'skylark' alone. The young boss merely shook his head at the antics of his men and offered another apology to his guest.
"Forgive him, he's just a bit reserved and slightly abrupt. He means no offense. Let me reiterate, I am sorry for the resulting property damage caused by my men. Of course, we will undertake the cost at repairing your facility—"
Inspector De Luca raised his hand and halted the flow of Decimo's words. He waved aside the offer and explained as thoroughly and as best he could the matter at hand.
"No need for that. The collar you have—unwittingly—brought into our midst more than justifies our requisition for funds. If it's all the same to you, we meant no offense, but it would not do for us to take advantage of your means and generosity."
"I understand completely. When I went around looking for a way to express my apologies, I heard that this ball is something you have desired to see. I am only happy I have a chance to provide for you so precipitously."
"You have no idea how much I have wanted to see this affair—just once. I know as an officer of the law that there is nothing I can do here—officially. Forgive for saying this but a chance to study an adversary up close is not a chance I am likely to have again. So despite my better judgment I had to be here."
"Consider yourself welcomed by my famiglia and our allies, if by no one else. Please enjoy yourself and ease your mind, he will watch over you."
"I have no need for—"
The young Vongola Don's eyes looked straight into the inspector's blue ones and something about the way the light shone upon them made the hair on the Inspector's nape stand out. It was as if the young man sitting quietly in front of him suddenly became someone else—someone different. He still looked young, no doubt about that but the air around him shimmered with strength and some intangible air of power that made the Inspector admit that despite the shy, almost feminine air of delicacy to the young man that sat so quietly in front of him, there was power and authority his demeanor. He exuded palpable aura of strength, dignity and gravitas that reminds you that he is the one who claimed the title of Boss of the most powerful, wealthy Famiglia in the world. When he spoke, his voice was mellifluous, soft and utterly unassailable.
"Inspector. You are my honored guest. You have placed some trust and confidence in me when you came here—of your free will and deliberately made yourself and your subordinate vulnerable in ways you would not have chosen otherwise—so please, allow me this. He will not intrude, and he will not be in your way. Think of him as a silent omniscient guardian angel."
De Luca recalled the way light vanished into the deep purple grey eyes and shook his head ruefully at the clearly disillusioned Don, though he knows his words signaled his defeat and reluctant agreement.
'You forgot lethal."
The answering smile the young Decimo gave in turn, assured the inspector that contrary to what he and all the others thought when they look at him, the Vongola Don knew exactly what kind of feral creature he kept as his side.
"Oh I didn't. I never do. Have a pleasant evening Inspector. I will see you again at dinner."
"I look forward to it Don Vongola."
The ensuing dinner of course, could only be described as a feast for all the senses. As the night's revelry continued and his escort for the night expressed concern for lateness of the hour, Special Inspector Dominico De Luca found himself, once again, standing just at the threshold of the Vanderbilt room, waiting for Officer Rossi to collect her coat and bidding farewell to his generous young host.
"Did you have a nice evening Inspector?"
"It's certainly a night to remember, Don Vongola. I may not have the proper words to express what I thought of this chance at a glimpse of your world, but I assure you, it was a learning experience."
"I'm glad you found something worthwhile tonight, Inspector."
Dominico De Luca was not an impulsive man, though he was, to a fault a curious one and so he gave in to the one question that has been plaguing his mind ever since the Vongola Don stepped into his precinct.
"Don Vongola, you have extended a generous gift to me—personally and professionally—tonight, but may I ask you for one small favor."
"Of course, Inspector."
"Permit to ask, what made you commit it. If you hadn't Officer Rossi would not have cause to bring you in."
"Ah…" the young don's eyes twinkled merrily and for the first time tonight, he saw a glimpse of the young man the Decimo must be like beneath the pomp and seriousness, and cold-blooded reality of his chosen path. He smiled self-consciously, his hands, tapping his breast pocket as though reminiscing some private past memory. "I was retrieving something very precious to me. For that, I would've gone through it—well mostly all of it—all over again."
Officer Rossi finally emerged from the cloak room and offered her own thanks to their host. The young don simply blushed and waved aside her words, offering his own thanks in return. When Officer Rossi turned to go, Special Inspector De Luca walked alongside her before suddenly stopping and turning back to the young man who looked on curiously.
"Did you forget something Inspector?"
"Ah, yes, somewhat. Just one more thing. I, too, have something for you Don Vongola."
Reaching into his inner jacket pocket, he retrieved a flat parcel and offered it to his host.
"I think that in the ensuing chaos during our first meeting, there was something very important that you left behind."
The young brunette looked down at what he offered, a single brow cocked inquiringly. The Inspector simply continued to hold it out until the young man took it. With a short nod and a small smile, he turned away and vanished behind the ornate swinging doors.
On the other side of the ballroom, behind another pair of ornate swinging doors, in another room much smaller in scale and grandeur as the one prior to it, a smaller gathering was being held. Here, all the most powerful heads lounged in easy repose, hands wrapped around delicate crystal flutes of red wine, lips painted with smiles or grins of amusement, eyes watching the ones around them in mischief or fascination.
Here too, were the former Vongola Don and his guardians as well the rest of the current Vongola Head's Famiglia. There was also the Varia, the Shimon Famiglia, the Giglio Nero and the don of the Cavallone and his retinue. And in one corner of the room, sitting on an ornate leather armchair firmly situated against the wall, hands casually stacked on his lap, his signature espresso cup on a nearby table, his signature fedora placed rakishly over his black locks, was the man Decimo had been looking for.
The noise continued on as he crossed the room. People called out and toasted him, offered compliments and gave out suggestions and he all answered them with his usual generous smile, his guardian's eyes following him steadily until he reached his destination. The black suited figure spared him a single glance. The young don held the man's eyes with his own and felt the silence that suddenly swept within the room. He stood quietly beside the small table and waited for the chair's occupant to address his presence.
"So Decimo, care to tell your beleaguered mentor what kind of scrape you got yourself into."
Without saying a word, he slid a small folded document across the gleaming antique end table towards his mentor. He then proceeded to walk out of the room with a small smile on his lips and an amused gleam in his chocolate eyes. The sound of the closing door echoed all over the private suite and an expectant, albeit tense, atmosphere descended upon the remaining occupants immediately.
Everywhere else silence reined. Everyone in the room, including the well informed guardians and the Cavallone Don waited with bated breath for how the famed hit man would react once he sees the charge. For a full five minutes there was absolute quiet. Nothing alive was stirring. The music and the festivities just behind the glass doors became muted, their breaths came out softly from lips that could no longer hold them back and even their very clothing refused to rustle. Everyone could hear the way the paper crackle as it was unfolded and slowly perused by the only eyes that need pass judgment.
It started with a mild snort that made it to a chuckle that grew to laughter to outright guffaws. At the sound one very amused don grinned from behind the glass door. Elsewhere, the entire mafia world shuddered in fear and abject terror. It was a battle cry that sounded the death knell of millions. Nothing—save something unspeakably evil—could and should make the legendary hit man laugh like that, they were certain.
The next day, all day, upon the return of the Vongola Famiglia to their Italian Headquarters and stronghold, there was a mood of inexplicable fear gripping the mansion. Maids and gardeners cleaned like their lives depended on it. Underlings found a thousand and one excuses to be elsewhere. Chores and tasks once deemed to be beneath their interests became of monumental importance. People were filing for assignments that could take them as fast and as far away from the mansion as possible. The armory suddenly found itself denuded of bulletproof vests and Kevlar. Bulletproof vehicles suddenly vanished from the garages and everywhere else silence reigned…echoing and pervasive enough to make one hear a single pin drop from across one end of the 5,000 square foot mansion to the other.
Allied families who requested audiences with the Vongola months in advance suddenly found plenty of reasons to delay their meetings with the family head. Newly allied families called in for further meetings and extended dialogues and consultations. They all found ways and means to reassess their proposal to yield the greater benefit of the Vongola. And rival Famiglias and Dons, once so eager and demanding in their clamor to challenge the young Don found that their leadership had a change of heart and most were in the process of reconsidering their stand and reevaluating their willingness to be annihilated.
And elsewhere in the inner recesses of the Vongola mansion, in a small chamber decorated with elegant, sparse furnishings, a smooth, gleaming desk was illuminated by the dying golden light of the day's final light. And on it, amidst bills and letters of intent, remonstration and recommendations, proposals and cancelation, lying innocuous and still, held down by an exquisite crystal chameleon paperweight, was a single sheet of foolscap fluttering in the warm Italian breeze.
The snow white paper was covered with words and affixed single small seal. The paper, heavy stock and filled with officious legalese, bore two things that stood out. Amidst the legal jargon and formal terminologies documenting the release of an offender written in elegant, intricately fine Copperplate hand a few pertinent details could be discerned. The First: the release papers were issued to one Sawada Tsunayoshi, 21 years old, of Japanese descent, holder of Japanese Passport, currently an official citizen and resident of Italy. The Second: It was a release pending the payment of the amount of One Hundred and Twenty Seven Dollars and Ten Cents, ($127.10 USD) for the minor infraction of JAYWALKING.