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Flames are One Thing, Ghouls Are Another

Chapter Text

"Why the fuck are we in Tokyo?" Squalo complained. "For fuck's sake, we're supposed to be in China. Damn that shitty boss." He, Belphegor and Lussuria had been sent out to annihilate some rival assassin group, while Levi and Xanxus went straight to China. Mammon was elsewhere, muttering something about money.

"Shishishi~ The prince doesn't like this part of town." Bel wrinkled his nose at the dirt floating around. 

"And I've heard bad rumours," Lussuria remarked. "Something about cannibals?"

Squalo scoffed at the okama. "Cannibals? Voi, we aren't in the middle ages, trash."

Lussuria shrugged. "Don't blame me, I'm just-"

Squalo held up a hand, and each officer became silent, stilling in their movements. Squalo strained to expand his awareness even more, when-

"Oh, fuck," he hissed, igniting his Flame and hitting the floor hard. Above him, red - bullets? - shot into the wall where he had been standing. Squalo straightened and slashed outwards, noticing Bel setting up his wires and Lussuria readying himself for combat.

Red irises on black gleamed out at them, and Squalo spat at the floor. "Voi! What are you?" He shouted, pointing his sword at them. He could see the vague shape of a man, with a white mask on and loose clothing. Above him, like wings, floated a reed mass.

The man didn't answer, only lunging forwards.

He didn't fool Squalo; the elite hitman knew this was a trap for his other two mates to gang up on them. "Sure you don't want to bring more?" Squalo jeered at the man, slashing outwards. The force of it meant the metal didn't have to come into contact with him, and so as the man was hit, he flew backwards, just having managed to twist at an angle where his eye wasn't damaged-

-But he did not fly far enough. Had Squalo messed up? At the very least, the man should be cut-

-But he was unharmed. Squalo frowned, then shouted, "VOI! He wasn't hurt-"

"-They aren't human," Lussuria panted as he darted away from the second. He was bruised and bleeding, and not many people could do that to Varia Quality.

Bel was licking blood off his hand with glee. He said, "I keep slicing and slicing, but nothing is working, shishishi."

"And those red things," Squalo hissed, now really angry at these pieces of shit that stood in their way. "A new type of Flame?"

"Shishishi, who knows," Bel was still grinning, the insane little shit.

"They're not my type," Lussuria moaned. "I would like one that was."

"Stop bickering," the man that attacked Squalo snapped. "Don't you know your situation? You're dinner."

"Why don't you attack then, trash?" Squalo gestured with his right hand.

"Don't make them angry," Lussuria yelped as the cannibals-monster-things charged.

"Just aim for their eyes," Squalo yelled, "the one that attacked me protected its eye!"

"Shishishi~ The prince is a genius, so that's easy," Bel smirked, his knives spreading out around him. "Although the prince hates working with you peasants."

"Aiming for the eyes is dirty in a tournament, but I still do it anyway," Luss chirped.

And as Squalo charged forwards, not even seeing a need to use his Flames, he wondered what the hell they had got themselves into.

The same bared his teeth at Squalo, spraying the red bullets and lunging at his neck. Squalo got his left prosthetic hand in his jaw, then kicked him off while allowing some of his Flame to trickle into the freak, slowing his movements.

"Voi, I'm not your food," Squalo growled. "I'm gonna destroy you, trash."


They had blinded them, but their eyes were healing.

The fighting was at a standstill, each side facing each other down.

"Who are you?" The one that had attacked Squalo - freak number one - asked. "You're not CCG, that's for sure."

"CCG? Oh, that weird cult thing? Nah. We're the elite independent assassination squad, Varia." Squalo loved saying that; Varia was the best, and the whole world should know it.

The ghouls had no idea what that meant, but it didn't matter. They had minds, and Mammon had finally responded to Squalo's call. The Arcobaleno Illusionist was near.

If only he would hurry the fuck up. 

Chapter Text

Mammon's arrival was a major relief. “Muu, you better pay me,” he told Squalo, who waved him off.

“I will,” he snapped at the former Arcobaleno. “Just get rid of these freaks.”

Mammon sighed, but did as he was told. As the ghouls charged, intent on eating before whatever they were talking about happened, they were halted by a wall, slamming into it.

While Varia didn't see the wall, they saw the look of pain etched on their features. The ghouls saw ropes lashing out at them, choking them. The mind kills, Squalo could hear Mammon thinking. But damn that chibi was a little sadist – who the fuck enjoys shit like this? The best way to kill someone was in a good sword fight.

Once the ghouls were dead, Squalo breathed a sigh of relief. “Voi, what were those things?” He demanded of the others.

“Squ-chan, if I knew, don't you think I would say?”

“Shishishi, no matter what they were, they couldn't stand against the prince.”

“They weren't human,” Mammon stated. “I did a bit of digging, and they're called ghouls. They're flesh-eaters, and seem to be especially rampant in Tokyo. The CCG is the one in charge of hunting them. And that will be a million yen. Transfer it by the end of the week.”

Squalo glowered at the corpses. “The Shitty Boss is probably done in China already. I think we should get him over here, and call the Ninth. That Decimo brat can't do anything about this; he'll just end up talking his feelings.”

“Fine,” Mammon agreed, and it was decided.


The flaw in Squalo's plan was that Xanxus was an arsehole. He sat silently through Squalo's explanation, then told him to shut up.

“VOI! Don't tell me to shut it, you shitty boss. We have a real monster problem going on-”

“Squ-chan, nice pun-”

“-So we need to do something about this! What if business is affected by this, huh? We didn't even kill the rival group.”

“What if the ghouls were the rival group?” Lussuria asked. “After all, they matched our description.”

“They moved well enough to be assassins,” Bel agreed.

Squalo rubbed at his forehead. “This shit is crazy,” he moaned. “Fuck, I thought all this sort of shit was over after Bermuda and Checker-face, but noo. The world has decided to screw us over again-”

Xanxus threw a vase at his head, and Squalo turned on Xanxus. “This is serious,” he yelled at Xanxus. “So stop shitting around-”

Xanxus opened a single eye and glared at Squalo. “They're just trash. We wipe them out. End of story. Stop panicking, shitty shark.”

Squalo gaped at his superior, wondering if he had lost his mind.

“Mammon, you said the CCG was the anti-ghoul establishment?”

“Yes, boss,” the illusionist said.

“Then we observe,” Xanxus ordered. “Each officer will find a style that fits them, and then-” his lips curled up into a smirk, “-we steal their gear, and do their shitty job for them.”

Squalo groaned. “But why? We just need to know if they're affecting business or not. We're not vigilantes, for Chrissakes.”

Xanxus only closed his eyes again, and Squalo thought he wouldn't be getting any more information out of him. Then Xanxus opened his eyes and said, “We received orders from the Ninth to eliminate any ghoul that threatens humans. Ghouls eat humans. Therefore they're existence is a threat. We kill them.”

Squalo resigned himself to a lot of paperwork and even more deaths. If it was an order from the top, then they had to go through with it.

They weren't Varia Quality for nothing.


“Juudaime,” Gokudera said eagerly, “I think there's a UMA over there.” He slapped at Tsuna's arm and pointed.

“Don't point, Gokudera-kun,” Tsuna scolded. “And she's human, I think.” They were in a neighbourhood, lost and confused -well, he and Gokudera were, but Ryohei and Yamamoto were just enjoying the adventure, and Lambo and Chrome were just playing.

“Boss,” Chrome said, “I'm getting hungry. And I'm tired.”

“Lambo-sama wants to eat candy,” Lambo demanded, dragging on Tsuna's leg. What was supposed to be a holiday was turning into a nightmare for Tsuna. He reckoned his head would implode before they got back to Namimori. Vongola was rewarding for all their hard work, apparently; the defeat of Bermuda, and the breaking of the Arcobaleno system, and in exchange the Ninth had said they could take a vacation in Tokyo, all expenses paid and a limitless credit card.

“Yo, Tsuna,” Yamamoto said, “let's eat there.” He pointed at a cafe, and Tsuna nodded. “Yeah, sure,” he agreed.

“It looks extremely good,” Ryohei said loudly as they stopped in front of the door.

“Anteiku,” Tsuna read aloud. As they went in, Tsuna took note of the older boy with the eyepatch.

“Welcome,” he called, and Tsuna frowned as his intuition crackled with warning. He shrugged it off, putting it down to the fact that Lambo was kicking up a fuss.

“Don't bother Juudaime, dumb cow,” Gokudera snapped at the kid, and Tsuna said to Lambo, “Don't worry, food's nearly here.” He looked at his 'right hand man' (but then again, that was all Gokudera's claim). “You shouldn't speak to children like that.”

Gokudera scowled at Lambo, probably blaming him for Tsuna's reprimand.

“I am extremely hungry,” Ryohei announced as they all sat down.

“Sasagawa-sempai, didn't you just eat?”

“I did.”

“Onii-san, you had three cakes.”

“They were extremely small,” Ryohei said defensively.

“I couldn't even eat a quarter,” Chrome pointed out. “You ate the rest of mine, so you actually had three and three quarters.”

“They were extremely tasty,” Ryohei insisted.

“Lambo-san wants food now,” Lambo complained, and Tsuna put his head in his hands, despairing. He just wanted a vacation. That was all.

They each inspected the menu, and Tsuna wondered if Vongola could really, truly pay for all this. Vongola would probably run out of money before the trip was over.

“Are you ready to order?” The black-haired boy asked. He looked curiously at the girl with the eyepatch, then blushed and ducked his head.

“Yes,” Tsuna said politely, and gave him the orders (Ryohei ordered almost everything, and Lambo kept changing his mind).

His intuition crackled again, like static against his skin. There was something...inhuman about these people, like they weren't normal, Tsuna decided. He couldn't ask the others, because they didn't have that intuition. Only Timoteo could confirm that for sure – did his no-good father even have intuition? He was so dense he probably didn't.

He could ask Xanxus about this, but then again, he didn't want to die.

“...and another ghoul attack has occurred for the eighth time this month, done by the duo known as 'Reaper'...”

“Ghoul attack?” Tsuna asked curiously. “Ghouls? I thought they were ficitonal?”

“No, Juudaime,” Gokudera said enthusiastically. “They're real – they prey on humans and are far stronger than humans. The CCG is hunting them down, but I think they're UMAs lost on earth-” His eyes lit up as he entered scientific speak.

“Maa maa, Gokudera, don't make it complicated. They're more like this,” Yamamoto said, and began to explain with his usual indecipherable noises. Ryohei only laughed.

“None would want to eat me,” Chrome commented. “I don't have insides.”

Tsuna gagged at that, remembering the image of her organs disappearing.

“Lambo-san wants food,” Lambo yelled over the noise, only to be smacked down by Gokudera.


“They're certainly lively over there,” Touka remarked to Kaneki. “It's disturbing.”

“Touka-chan,” Kaneki said uncertainly. “Um, about the brown-haired one...”

Touka glared at him. “What?”

“He...looked at me like he knew something.”

“Really?”

“Yes...”

Touka frowned at the group. “If they say anything suspicious, kill them.”

 

Chapter Text

As Tsuna was paying, he glanced at Kaneki and blurted out, “are you sick?”

Kaneki blinked, freezing in place. “What...?”

Tsuna flushed. “I-I just...w-well-”

“I'm not,” Kaneki said, stratching his chin. “But I was, just recently.”

“Ah. I'm sorry for prying...”

“No, it's okay...”


“Touka-chan,” Kaneki said nervously. “He asked me if I was sick.”

Touka sighed in exsasperation. “Why are you useless?”

Kaneki didn't answer.


Chrome was carrying Lambo, and Yamamoto and Ryohei were giving each other work-out tips.

“Hah, it's only the first day and I'm sick of Tokyo,” Tsuna sighed, slumping over.

“Today was fun, Juudaime,” Gokudera said, grinning at him.

“Yeah,” Tsuna muttered, as the pair fell back from the group. The gap between them grew longer and longer as Gokudera began talking about UMAs and manga (how those two were linked confused Tsuna).

“And so, Juudaime-”

A spray of red bullets over their heads, and Tsuna dragged Gokudera to the ground as his intuition screamed.

When they looked up, a girl with a rabbit mask was standing over them, red streaming from her back.

“A UMA – I mean, ghoul,” Gokudera breathed, eyes lighting up.

“She's here to kill us,” Tsuna gasped out, grabbing at his arm. “we have to-”

A spray of red bullets was in their path, and Tsuna cried out as Gokudera threw dynamite over their heads, making the ghoul pause. The rabbit jumped down at them, with red wings aiding its flight, and Tsuna was sure he would die-

Dammit, Reborn why'd you have to be in Italy right now?-

Yamamoto was swinging his sword around, serious, deflecting all the red bullets and slicing towards her head. The rabbit ducked under the blow, but only barely, and Yamamoto swung towards her head-

-”Wait, don't kill her-” Tsuna shouted, lunging at Yamamoto. The swordsman jerked back, so his blade whistled harmlessly by the ghoul.

“Damn fool,” the ghoul hissed, lunging forwards again, only this time having to avoid Gokudera's dynamite.

“VOI! Aim for it's eyes, brat!” A familiar voice shouted, and Tsuna panicked.

“No, don't,” Tsuna cried, throwing himself between them and the ghoul.

“Juudaime,” Gokudera yelled, “move-”

And that was when the ghoul with the eyepatch intruded, red branching out from his back, landing between Vongola and the ghoul. They stared at each other as Squalo emerged from nowhere, sword out, hair swirling around his face.

“So now we kill the trash,” Squalo growled, grinning with anticipation. His sword was lined with something red, like the ghoul's-

“No,” Tsuna yelled. “We're not killing each other.”

“Voi, don't you know who these people are?” Squalo asked him, eyeing the boy rather than the girl. “Baseball brat, you take the girl. I'll take eyepatch.”

The eyepatch ghoul tilted his head, saying, “I don't want to fight.”

“See?” Tsuna yelped. “We're fine, everything's fine, and this is just a dream. Ah, my life is over,” Tsuna moaned, and Squalo sighed.

“Voi, just go into Dying Will Mode or something,” he said irritably.

“Juudaime,” Gokudera said nervously, “They're not attacking?”

It was true. Both ghouls were watching them from a relatively safe distance, puzzlement reflected from their red eyes. The male ghoul turned to the girl, gesturing at them. The girl put her hands on her hips and said loudly, “I don't care how nice they are, we're killing them.”

Tsuna frowned as, yet again, his Intuition crackled. Was there a way of turning it off? “Uh, aren't you people from the cafe? Anteiku, or something?”

Squalo sighed, disappointed. “Why the fuck are you trying to relate to them? See, now they've gone passive.”


It was a strange sight to see two masked ghouls sitting opposite a mafia boss with his Guardians around him protectively, and a swordsman looming over them, clothes strangely damp, glowering at them.

“Take off your masks,” Squalo ordered.

The two ghouls stared at him blankly.

“No thank you,” the boy – man? - said politely.

Squalo snarled, “Voi, you don't see me wearing a fuckin' mask, and I'm wanted in thirty-two countries. So take off the mask.”

“Th-thirty-two?”

“Well, thirty-three if you count that time I left all that chewing gum in the president of Singapore's office, but really, it was all his fault for not letting Lussuria out of jail-”

“You're wanted for something so petty?” Tsuna asked incredulously.

“Voi! At least it's not for the murders I committed there, okay?” Squalo rolled his eyes.

The male ghoul seemed to choke a bit, before slowly taking off his mask.

“Ah,” Tsuna realised. “You're that waiter.”

Kaneki smiled sheepishly at him. “Yes, I decided you seemed trustworthy?”

Tsuna nodded. “Oh, don't worry, no matter how many secrets you think you have, the Vongola have more.”

The girl swatted him on the arm, and Tsuna blinked at her. “That means you're the waitress, right? I'm glad my Intuition isn't broken,” Tsuna added with a sigh of relief.

“Eh? Juudaime, are you feeling sick?” Gokudera was instantly at Tsuna's side, looking overly concerned.

“No, I'm fine, Gokudera-kun,” Tsuna said, holding up a hand.

“I'm extremely sorry I wasn't there to help,” Ryohei said apologetically, but Tsuna shook his head violently.

“Don't be! Something could've happened to Chrome and Lambo-”

“Actually,” Squalo unterrupted, “Illusions work on ghouls. Mammon's killed a few like that.”

“Oh?” Tsuna said mildly, before hanging his head. “I just treated murder like a casual thing-”

“So who are you damn people?” The girl demanded, finally taking off her mask and proving Tsuna correct. “You're obviously not normal-”

“We're mafia,” Squalo informed her. “I'm a member of Varia, and we've been killing you trash-”

“Who're you calling trash, you damn cross-dresser-”

“VOI! I'm trying to be civil-”

Tsuna was clutching his head as they continued arguing until Yamamoto and Kaneki managed to calm the pair.

“I'm Kaneki Ken,” the boy introduced himself. “And this is Touka Kirishima. We're sorry about earlier, but Touka-chan tends to kill people when she thinks they're dangerous.”

“Smart girl,” Squalo approvingly, and the Tenth Generation ignored him.

“To be honest, we have a few in our group like that,” Tsuna admitted. “It comes with the mafia life.”

Kaneki nodded sympathetically. “I completely understand.”

“I don't even want to be Vongola Decimo,” Tsuna started, getting on a roll. “I mean, I just wanted to be normal.”

“I was human originally,” Kaneki offered. “But then an accident happened and now I'm a ghoul. It really sucks. I can't even eat my favourite meals any more.”

Tsuna and Kaneki got so into their conversation that they didn't even notice when Squalo and Touka started bickering again, with the rest of the Tenth Generation trying to break up the fights.

It was a good thing Vongola was footing the bill.

 

Chapter Text

“So where's the rest of Varia? And what's the red stuff on your sword?” Tsuna, having successfully managed to convince everyone to sit like civilised people (Squalo included), began to question Squalo.

“They work the other wards, but right now they're probably in the hotel,” Squalo said as he polished his sword, looking at it like a lover. It reminded him of Yamamoto talking to his baseball bat that one time. “And the CCG has weapons that kill ghouls, so we stole the technology and all that and used it for ourselves. It's good hunting, really keeps the senses sharp.” Squalo looked almost dreamlike, and Tsuna supposed that was his ideal.

“But why?” Tsuna stressed, spreading his hands. “Why are you killing people?”

Touka and Kaneki were watching Squalo closely as well, waiting.

“Voi,” Squalo said with an explosive sigh, “Because the Ninth ordered it.”

“Eh?! That's a lie, surely-”

“VOI! I'm not fucking lying-”

“Juudaime!” Gokudera intruded, grabbing Tsuna's attention. “Don't believe them. Remember, they've launched two coups, and nearly the Ninth the second time.”

“Maa, maa, Gokudera, why can't we just work together?” Yamamoto waved a hand at Gokudera.

“I extremely think it would be better to hear from Ninth himself,” Ryohei offered as Lambo and I-Pin chased each other around the table.

“Boss, I agree,” Chrome said hesitantly.

Touka was getting annoyed, mostly because she had no idea what they were talking about. “The ninth? Tenth?”

“Juudaime's Juudaime,” Gokudera explained, explaining absolutely nothing.

“Tsuna,” Yamamoto pointed at him. “He's the Tenth Boss of Vongola.”

Kaneki, glancing diffidently at Tsuna, said, “If I may? I think I understand...”

Tsuna nodded. “Sure, go ahead.”

“Voi, now we're taking the advice of fucking freaks-”

Yamamoto clamped his hand over Squalo's mouth, muffling him.

“What were the orders exactly?” Kaneki asked Squalo, making the swordsman pause. Squalo eyed the ghoul consideringly, then said grudgingly, “The shitty boss said to eliminate all ghouls that are a threat to humans. He decided that since ghouls only eat humans, we would just get rid of them all.” Squalo shrugged. “We obeyed him.”

Tsuna resisted the urge to face-palm. “Are you kidding me? Why did grandpa give something so vague?”

“Because it's fun,” Squalo answered, and Tsuna reckoned there had been a misunderstanding somewhere along the line.

“So...how many have you killed?”

“Dunno. Lost count at about a hundred. Mammon's killed the most though because he gets a bonus for every ghoul he kills.”

Kaneki looked as though he was going to be sick, and Squalo noticed this. “Voi, why are you squemish? You eat humans, so don't act like that.”

“Uh, actually, I don't, not really...” Kaneki trailed off when Touka started radiating anger at him.

“Anyway,” Squalo said with a roll of his eyes, “It's simple. We just kill the ghouls. Are you brats going to join us or what?”

Tsuna wanted to take the 'or what' option. When he asked, Squalo snorted and said, “You fucking have to join us, or else we'll get Timoteo to order you.”


And so Tsuna, Kaneki and everyone else ended up being taken back to where Varia was staying. Tsuna, because he was Decimo (“But I don't want to be Decimo,” Tsuna had argued, but Squalo had arced an eyebrow and said, “After everything, you think you have a choice?”) and Kaneki because he was a freak of nature (“If anything else fails, I'll just give you to Verde”) and everyone else because Touka was strangely interested and the Guardians couldn't just let their enemies-but-also-allies kidnap the boss.

Only Ryohei, Lambo and I-Pin stayed behind, partly to meet Bianchi and Reborn at the station as well as getting Hibari and Mukuro to come to Tokyo.

Tsuna wondered how long it would take before Xanxus killed him. And that was ignoring the fact he had two man-eating ghouls behind him.

“VOI! I brought the trash,” Squalo bellowed as he kicked open the doors.

“Shishishi, what were they doing in Tokyo?” Bel didn't move from his position on the couch. “Did they get lost?”

How did everyone know it was us he was talking about? Tsuna wondered.

Squalo marched past the Varia officers, dragging Tsuna along behind him. “Voi, shitty boss, get your arse into gear and do your share of the work,” Squalo demanded, slamming his hand on the desk.

Xanxus glared, throwing an empty bottle at his head. “Shut up.” His eyes slid past Squalo and fixed on Tsuna, then snarled and ignited his hands in Flames, ready to blow Tsuna away. Tsuna, thanking god – well, Reborn, really – that he had brought his Dying Will pills with him, and he was still wearing the rings. He fiddled with the Sky Ring nervously, unaware that it irritated Xanxus more.

“I also brought a couple of freaks,” Squalo said, pointing with his sword at Kaneki and Touka.

Xanxus twitched but otherwise did nothing.

“Oh, a couple of ghouls, hm? Not my type,” Lussuria said, inspecting them like produce.

Kaneki flinched away from Lussuria, and Tsuna was grateful that Ryohei hadn't come along. Lussuria would probably try to kill him again, and they don't need the extra drama.

“Shishi, the ghouls look normal,” Bel said, with Mammon perched on his head. Mammon was still essentially a baby, despite the fact the curse was broken.

Levi was glaring at them intensely, but it was ineffective as he was wearing an apron (Lussuria's, Tsuna recognised it as) and was carrying a tray with whiskey on it.

“Voi, of course they look normal. How else would they fit in to society?”

Touka put her hands on her hips and snapped back, “From our point of view, you're the freaks, you damn monkey.”

Tsuna had to resist face-palming yet again. He wasn't cut out for this crazy lifestyle.

Xanxus started laughing, leaning back in his chair.

“Boss,” Levi said, startled.

Squalo clicked his tongue, annoyed at the laughter but unwilling to say anything. “The boy's a human.”

Xanxus stopped laughing and straightened. “Huh?”

Squalo jerked his thumb at Kaneki. “Explain, trash.”

Kaneki swallowed, anxious, but Tsuna stepped forwards and said, “You can't make him tell you if he doesn't want to.”

Xanxus glared mutinously at Tsuna, baring his teeth. “Fuck off, trash.”

“Uh, it's okay,” Kaneki said, smiling nervously. “I was a human, but then an accident happened and I ghoul organs were implanted inside of me, so now I'm effectively a ghoul...?”

“What was the accident?” Squalo asked.

“A steel beam fell on us.”

“Us?” Squalo jumped on the word choice and Kaneki flinched. “I was on a date, but she turned out to be a ghoul and tried to eat me.”

Varia all exchanged looks and burst into laughter, including Xanxus.

Tsuna winced at the noise and muttered an apology, adding, “They're just all crazy.”

“Juudaime's right. They laugh even when one of their own dies.”

Kaneki nodded, face pale.

“But it is pretty funny,” Touka pointed out, smirking. “That's the worst first date ever.”

 

Chapter Text

“So, trash,” Xanxus smirked at Tsuna, “You here to help with the infestation?” Varia all turned to look at him speculatively. They expected him to give his signature scream and fall over, but much to their surprise, Tsuna raised an eyebrow and said,“Uh, no?”

Bel raised his eyebrows (which no one could see). He sounded like he almost trying to sass the boss.

“Voi, you're Vongola, whether we like it or not.” Don't I have a say in this? Tsuna thought bleakly as Squalo continued: “And we've received orders from Timoteo, so if they apply to us, they apply to you.” Completely wrong, of course, but if they could kill off the brat then Xanxus could take over the family, Vongola blood or not. Xanxus was strong enough without needing to rely on any shitty rings.

“That's stupid logic,” Kaneki countered in Tsuna's defence, surprising everyone in the room. “Unless the order specifically states that he's involved, then it doesn't apply. And from the sounds of it, he's technically not part of your group, and he technically outranks you, if Decimo means what I think it means. So you can't order him around.”

Squalo glared for a moment, then sighed. “You're unusually assertive,” he remarked, making Kaneki flush with embarrassment.

Touka scowled and kicked at him for no apparent reason. “Damn Kaneki, since when did you grow a pair? Where was this in training? Instead you choose to lie down and let others walk all over you.”

Xanxus looked at her consideringly, and everyone else (except Kaneki and Touka) were struck with dread. That look couldn't be good – mainly because Xanxus didn't consider things. He took. “Do ghouls have Flames?” He asked.

“Probably,” Squalo answered. “They should have a life force, right?”

Xanxus looked back at Touka. “Someone shoot her,” he ordered, and Squalo sighed. “Voi! Shitty boss, it doesn't work like that. Anyway, we don't know if she's a cloud.”

Xanxus scowled. “I'll replace you, then. The shitty brat has two Mist Guardians, though, so why can't I have two of one kind as well?” Xanxus turned his red eyes on Tsuna, whose knees nearly gave way. Thinking of what Reborn would do to him if he were here, Tsuna's knees locked together. Reborn was way scarier than Xanxus.

“VOI! Shitty boss, it doesn't fucking work like that,” Squalo shrieked at Xanxus.

“Don't yell at me, trash,” Xanxus snarled back, hurling an empty bottle at his head.

“What are you talking about?” Touka asked irritably.

“Flames and Guardians,” Tsuna explained, really only deepening her confusion. “Don't worry, we'll go over this properly later. And whatever happens, don't accept Xanxus's offer, okay?”

“That's not for you to decide,” Squalo interjected, Levi nodding in the background. “It's the shitty boss's choice, and his alone.”

“Shishi, won't it be interesting to have a female ghoul?”

“I'll accept it so long as I get paid more.” Mammon was still trying to wrangle money.

“We can dress up together,” Lussuria exclaimed. “But how do we feed her?”

“We're assassins. We just take some bodies home with us.”

“But how often do ghouls need to eat?”

“Once a month at a minimum,” Kaneki put in helpfully.

Squalo nodded. “So whenever she feels hungry, we send her on a mission?” Squalo thought about it for a moment. “That works. Although, we can't ever rely on Bel because that's just mincemeat. Too hard to transport.”

“Don't I have a say in this?” Touka demanded.

“You can't just recruit people like that,” Tsuna interjected.

“Juudaime, I think they can, actually,” Gokudera said nervously, disliking his contradiction of his boss.

“Maa, maa, as long as she's fine with it, what's the harm?” Yamamoto shrugged.

“Boss, we should keep an open mind,” Chrome said, trying to be helpful. “And Mukuro-sama said he'll be here soon.”

Tsuna blinked at her. “Wait...does this mean we're going to end up involved in this?”

Gokudera's phone chimed. “Juudaime, Reborn said he has orders from the Ninth about all this for you.”

Tsuna groaned, and Xanxus smirked.

 

Chapter Text

“Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn said. He was about five, physically, his aging having accelerated. Tsuna knew that sooner or later Reborn would surpass him – and then he could see what he really looked like. Reborn was going to enjoy the look on Tsuna's face when he realises that the man in the suit and the baby were one and the same. “The Ninth says to hunt down the ghouls known as 'Reaper'.”

Tsuan gaped at Reborn. “You're joking?!”

“No.”

“But I don't wanna,” Tsuna whined, knowing he was annoying Reborn and not really caring. “I don't to kill anyone.”

“You don't have to, just capture them.”

“But why?”

“They're causing trouble in the mafia world,” Reborn answered with a smirk. “Especially for Vongola. And this would make good practice for you as Neo Vongola Primo.”

Tsuna sighed loudly. “I can't get out of this?”

“No.”

Tsuna shrugged. “I can't fight ghouls.”

Reborn was still smirking when he said, “Actually, you can.”


Hibari had refused to go to Tokyo just to help out, but when he heard Mukuro was going to be there, Hibari changed his mind. He was probably going to cause more trouble, making Tsuna's hair fall out (he had pulled out clumps of his hair before) and generally causing mayhem. The image of Hibari trying to sort out the whole of Tokyo was funny at first; but then, Hibari would probably try, and would succeed. So not really that funny.

Mukuro only agreed because he thought it was interesting, and Chrome had pleaded with him to come and help. Despite his promise of aid, he was yet to be seen.

Bianchi was off cooking, but seeing as ghouls didn't eat human food, Tsuna wondered at how helpful she'd be.

“Silly Tsuna,” Bianchi had tutted. “I just throw the food at their faces. That'll be enough.”

And the scary thing was, it probably would be. The ghouls in Tokyo were doomed, Tsuna thought as he began to understand that Timoteo really, really wanted them dead.

But why? Tsuna decided he didn't want to know.


Tsuna cursed Varia for having ever breaking into the CCG and gaining the anti-ghoul weaponry. Gokudera eagerly interrogated the Varia scientists (a fact that shocked Tsuna – why the hell did they need them they were assassins) while Yamamoto ended up in a technical-sounding conversation with Squalo.

Tsuna fiddled with a piece of red something. Kaneki looked disturbed at it, then said, “That's made from kagune.”

“Ka...what?” Tsuna blinked at him.

“Kagune. Y'know, the red things that come out of our backs?” Kaneki gestured with his hand, twisting his fingers.

Tsuna wrinkled his nose and dropped the quinque, feeling queasy.

“Voi, don't be such a baby,” Squalo snarled, snapping his fingers at him. “You have to fight. It's the only way.”

Tsuna tried to muster some courage, but failed. Thankfully, Gokudera jumped in with, “Don't talk like that to Juudaime, you sword freak!”

Tsuna face-palmed as they all started quarelling. Why did it always turn out like this? Why couldn't Varia and his Guardians get along?

And did he just really think that?

He shook the thoughts from his head. Right now he had to focus on hunting down the ghouls, Reaper.

“So Reaper's a group?” Tsuna asked Reborn.

“Yes. They're a duo, supposedly a man and a woman.” Reborn shrugged. “Do you want to recruit Kaneki? He can one of your subordinates.”

Kaneki overheard and appeared shocked. Tsuna was even more. “Reborn! We're not dragging him into this.”

Kaneki sighed. “It's okay, really. My life is already a mess.”

“I know how you feel,” Tsuna agreed.

 

Chapter Text

As it happened, it was surprisingly difficult to find the duo known as 'Reaper'. Kaneki promised to keep an ear open in Anteiku, with Touka snorting in derision behind him. Xanxus went back to sleep, and the rest of Varia went out to kill some more ghouls, ignoring Tsuna's complaints.

"You're not Decimo yet," Squalo warned, and Tsuna stopped arguing. He'd had enough of pissed off elite assassins trying to kill him for one lifetime. He did not, under any circumstances, want a repeat of the Sky Battle.

"We can also try to disguise ourselves as ghouls," Chrome suggested diffidently.

"We can extremely try," Ryohei agreed, and Gokduera groaned.

"Turf head and baseball idiot don't have the brain cells to pull it off," Gokduera snapped.

"Gokudera-kun," Tsuna reprimanded at the hurt look on Chrome's face.

Gokudera looked appropriately chastised, then dragged a hand through his hair. "We've been at this for three days now. Lambo's getting annoying." That was an understatement. To Gokudera, Lambo was always annoying.

"But it's a good idea," Tsuna said, flapping a hand at Chrome. "Maybe it could work?"

"Dame-Tsuna, show more confidence as a mafia boss," Reborn cut in.

Tsuna flinched, then sighed. "But - I don't want to be mafia boss! I just-"

"With your grades, what else can you do?"

"Do UMAs - I mean, ghouls - have gatherings?"

"Probably. Everyone needs a friend," Yamamoto offered.

"I think we could always get into a fight."

"We aren't fighting every ghoul we come across," Gokudera snarled at Ryohei. "You idiot, we just want to know where 'Reaper' is. We're not killing them if we don't need to. Right, Juudaime?"

"Y-Yes."

"Maa, maa, Gokudera, calm down," Yamamoto said cheerfully.

"It'll all work out."

Gokudera hissed air through his teeth, trying to stay calm. He had been doing that a lot recently, out of respect to Tsuna (although Tsuna hadn't even mentioned anything about this).

With great difficulty, Gokudera said, "Of course it will. We have Juudaime here to help." And he turned to Tsuna, eyes shining. "I know we can do this," he said brightly. "How hard can it be?"


Gokudera underestimated the size of Tokyo. Over thirteen million people all cramped into one city - oh yes, it was so easy to find two people in that mess.

Kaneki heard nothing at Anteiku, and he reckoned that meant they weren't too social. So Chrome's idea of disguising themselves as ghouls might not work. Varia followed the policy of killing first, and let's not bother with questions unless we're torturing them.

Reborn reached out his mafia contacts in Japan after Tsuna begged him to, happy that his student was taking this seriously despite his protests.

And then they hit the jackpot.


Reaper had joined some organisation called Aogiri. When Tsuna asked Reborn what it was, the reply he got was, “extremist ghouls.”

A big help, Tsuna wanted to snark, but decided against it. He didn't want to get kicked in the face.

“Juudaime,” Gokudera said eagerly, “I'm sure we can win against them.”

Tsuna couldn't help but pity him. Them, against ghouls? Like hell they could.

“You have a call, bossu,” Chrome said, holding out a phone. Tsuna, wondering why he was even responding to 'boss', accepted the phone.

"VOI!" Squalo yelled over the phone. "Are you brats going to attack Aogiri, or what?"

"How did you know?" Tsuna asked, astonished.

"We have our sources," the swordsman said sagely, then screamed something at Belphegor. Tsuna winced. His eardrums weren't happy about this.

"We're...going to attack...After Hibari and Mukuro get here," Tsuna invented. "And...It's going to be covert, so...?"

"Don't talk out of your arse," Squalo snapped. Tsuna considered the possibility the room they were staying in was bugged; he certainly wouldn't put it past them. After all, they had lead two coups and done god knows what else.

"Anyway, we're going to raid them. I'll send the details to your right hand man, got it?” And Squalo hung up on him.

Tsuna stared blankly at the screen, then clutched at his head. “What the hell?” he cried.

“Bossu?” Chrome asked tentatively, placing a hand on his shoulder.

“Juudaime,” Gokudera said at the same time, stepping forwards. “What happened?”

“We're going, to attack, Aogiri,” Tsuna choked out.

“Sounds extreme,” Ryohei said loudly.

“That could be fun,” Yamamoto agreed.

“...What is Aogiri?” Ryohei asked, cocking his head.

Gokudera started ranting at them as Tsuna wallowed in his despair.

 

Chapter Text

Apparently, they weren't going to attack Aogiri headquarters, but raid an off-shoot.

“Is that where they normally hang out?” Tsuna asked Squalo.

“Voi! Of course. We don't give faulty info out.” Squalo was offended at the implication his question had. “What sort of organisation do you think Varia is?”

“A murderous group of psychos that try to kill us and whose main hobbies is leading coups,” Tsuna offered.

“A bunch of weapon freaks who can't get the stake out of their arses,” Gokudera mumbled to himself.

“A squad of talented guys who are really good at this mafia game?”

“One of them is extremely disturbing,” Ryohei put in with a shudder.

“Mammon is cute,” Chrome said softly.

Squalo hid his face, then forcibly tried to calm himself. “Okay, you people are all crazy. Just as much as us.”

“I don't drink as much as Xanxus,” Tsuna said indignantly. “I can't even hold my liquor!”

“Juudaime's right,” Gokudera said. “One time he wound up wearing his pants and comparing himself to Ugetsu while painting himself blue with purple stars and-”

“Ah,” Tsuna cried, clamping his hand over Gokudera's mouth. “No, forget it,” he said hastily. Squalo filed it away silently as blackmail material.

“So, again, Ryohei is staying behind to look after the kids?” Tsuna asked.

“Yeah. Your illusionist-” Squalo jerked a thumb at her, “-will be needed. She's the most effective by far.”

Tsuna breathed a sigh of relief, glad Lambo and I-Pin weren't getting dragged into this. He didn't want to consider the possibility of those ghouls eating them. The thought made him sick.

Squalo stood. “I'll be helping you,” he announced. “No one else wants to, though, but I figured someone has to watch over you brats.” He shrugged, his hair shifting. “And anyway, you need someone with experience against the ghouls, right?”

“It'll be useful,” Reborn agreed. Tsuna nodded in agreement – whatever their differences, Squalo was still Vongola.

“See you tomorrow,” Squalo said as he left. "I don't get paid enough," he muttered to himself. Judging by Reborn's smirk, he had overheard the comment.

 

Chapter Text

Before he knew it, they were all in Vongola uniform. As Gokudera tied his tie for him (so embarrasing), Tsuna frowned at Reborn.

“W-wait,” Tsuna said nervously, “why am I here? I fight with my fists but-”

“Knuckle dusters,” Reborn offered, and forced him to wear them.

“People in the CCG use-”

“Dame-Tsuna, no. They use quinques but your puny little arms can't lift one, and also the image is just wrong.”

Tsuna gaped at Reborn, and the former Arcobaleno smacked him. “Before you ask why you're going, you're Decimo. You have to.”

“Juudaime, don't worry, I'll protect you,” Gokudera said confidently.

Tsuna didn't feel reassured. They were about to enter an abandoned industrial building, and somehow he didn't think dynamite went well with that enviroment.

“What are you using, Gokudera?”

“I got some shards and put them in my dynamite. Also a bow and arrow.”

“What is with you and bows and arrows?”

“Juudaime, they're so. Cool.

Tsuna decided not to get into this. “And you, Yamamoto?”

“Uh. Sword.” He held six aloft. Tsuna blinked at them.

“I thought...it was four swords?”

“Well. I thought I might need four spares.”

“...Four? Where are the other two?” It wasn't obvious, and it made him worried.

Yamamoto, for his part, looked uncomfortable. “Uh, I don't think you want to know. But just know I'm probably going to wince every time I sit down.”


It was only Yamamoto, Gokudera, Chrome and Tsuna that were there, along with Squalo. They were lying on a slope outside the building, handily placed. Why it was there no one knew, but just went with it.

“So, we barge in, kill them all, bring back Reaper's heads, and it's all solved,” Squalo said flatly. “Try not to die, brats.”

“Um, makes sense? But Squalo,” Tsuna said, “You didn't mention you were bringing the rest of Varia.”

Squalo pretended not to hear as Bel snickered at them. “We're here to kill some extra ghouls.”

“I'm getting paid.”

“I'm here to watch over everyone~” A kiss blown in his direction.

“Boss said to.”

Tsuna groaned. “I don't want them all to die-”

“No, just the two that you want,” Lussuria agreed.

Tsuna glared at all of them. “No, I meant none of them. Don't. Kill. The. Ghouls.” He slapped the ground on each word for emphasis.

“Voi! We're independent, brat. Ergo, we can do whatever the fuck we like, and we say we're gonna kill them all.” Squalo grinned wolvishly. “It's been a while since we fought anything that can stand up to us.”

“We could. Byakuran. Maybe Shimon-”

VOI! Did you forget we nearly killed that Enma brat? Or that time-”

“Bermuda.”

Squalo paused. “Well, that was a tie,” Squalo acknowledged.

“A tie? You were lying on the ground-”

“A tie, you brat. A tie.

“Shishishi, the second-in-command was very nearly gone for good,” Bel said to Mammon.

“Mu. Squalo was in a worse condition than Xanxus, but the boss received more damage.”

Enraged, Squalo snapped at them all to shut up, his voice carrying across to the building (it had been for a while now). He turned and swiped his sword at Tsuna, who barely dodged.

“Juudaime-”

“You brat, I'll pay you back later,” Squalo promised. And as the ghouls in the building stirred to life and red shards started flying over to them, Squalo noticed something.

“Voi, where's Reborn?”


“Reborn can't show up because then the fight would be too one-sided,” Tsuna told Squalo as the little red missiles flashed overhead. Tsuna ducked down further, hearing the shouts of ghouls as the Mist crafted death.

“Voi. It would mean our arses would be intact.”

“Yeah, but he's a monster. Like, I would rather ten rounds of the Sky Ring Battle than go up against Reborn.”

Squalo eyed the future Decimo with grudging appreciation. “That is a valid fear.”

“Thank you.” Tsuna flinched again, muttering, “I'm so dead I don't want to be a-mafia-boss-”

Gokudera lit dynamite and threw them high as they exploded over the ghouls, spraying kakuhou at them. Bel sent knives streaming down wires, and Lussuria said, “I'm no good in these sorts of situations.”

“Mu. I'll demand more later,” Mammon said as he strangled more ghouls. Was that his kink or something, Squalo had to muse as he stood to meet the charge.

“Idiots,” he sneered. “They have no organisation.”

Yamamoto also rose with a single sword drawn. “This will be fun, huh, Squalo.”

Squalo glanced at him. “I'll get more.”

“Wanna bet?” Yamamoto grinned easily. “These cosplayers are taking it seriously, though.”

Tsuna was fiddling with his packet of pills, then when the first charge neared he hurriedly swallowed two, just as the two sides clashed.


It reminded Varia of cutting down civilians, and Varia didn't really like cutting down civilians.

Except for Bel, of course, who flew through the crowds with blood splattering around him, grinning. One ghoul crept up behind him, managing to swipe at his head. Bel ducked, holding his tiara with one hand, then sent a knife flying into his gut.

He didn't notice the blood until it had begun to trickle down his face, and Bel tasted it. He paused, finding a calm in the bloodbath. He ran a finger down his face, then gazed almost lovingly at the red that stained his finger.

“The prince's blood,” he murmured, then cackled madly, his own frenzy kicked up.

He was the exception, not the rule, as the rest of Varia methodocally cleared away the ghouls, most times killing them.

There was little Tsuna could do about that, he thought grimly, his Hyper Dying Will instructing on where to turn. Yamamoto was back in that frightening hitman state, Gokudera frantically trying to keep up with Tsuna, and Chrome inching towards Mammon unconsciously as the ground seemed to rise and split, taking ghouls down into hell.

Kufufu, my Nagi, behind you-” Chrome whirled around at the sound of Mukuro's voice, smacking a ghoul over the head with her trident. The ghoul was more surprised than anything.

Tsuna spotted the Reaper duo in the crowd, and Tsuna jumped up, allowing his Flames to carry him over the crowd. He ignored the stunned gasps from the ghouls, dodged around the ghouls that fired at him, heard Gokudera's shout of, “Juudaime, I'm right behind you,” and did not heed it.

“Reaper,” Tsuna said, coming to a halt above them. “I'm here for you.”

And as Tsuna dived down in an attempt to knock them out quickly, Gokudera covering Tsuna, they heard a familiar shout:

I AM EXTREMELY HERE!”

 

Chapter Text

Apparently, Ryohei didn't understand 'teamwork' or staying the fuck away from the carnage. He barreled in with his fists swinging, bludgeoning the ghouls and making Lussuria gasp in awe and cry out, “Darling Ryohei-chan is winning my heart again!” While whacking two heads together.

Much to Tsuna's relief, Ryohei didn't bring Lambo or I-Pin with him, but where the hell the children were was beyond Tsuna.

Distracted by the arrival of his Sun Guardian, he nearly missed the departure of Reaper. Tsuna shot towards them, then landing neatly in front of the duo, dynamite exploding around him to keep the ghouls away.

Reaper paused, and Tsuna saw they were surprisingly tall; the girl was lithe, the man was heavily muscled.

Red irises, more piercing than Xanxus's, greeted Tsuna's. Time slowed around them, until finally, Tsuna said, “I just want to talk.”

The man tilted his head, the black mask reflecting the light of Tsuna's Flames. “No.”

The woman glanced at him in surprise, then looked at Tsuna. “Sorry.”

Tsuna smiled grimly, raising his fists and flashing the X at them. “So am I,” he replied, before lunging forwards and striking out, catching them by surprise.

The woman ducked back, the man rushing forwards to fill the space she had left. Tsuna used his arm to spin around, kicking with his foot and meeting solid flesh.

He forgot ghouls were strong; and now his bones were paying the price. “Juudaime,” he heard Gokudera cry, and dynamite flashed around him once more, casting shrapnel into the ghouls.

Tsuna used his Flames to manuvuer back, and was still hit by some of the quinque shards. As the pain brought back the reminder of his Dying Will, and Tsuna readied himself for round two, explosions blasted towards him and Tsuna was forced to duck away.

A familiar voice spoke. “Trash.”


Squalo was getting bored of this. Not tired – hell, never tired – but so fucking bored he was ready to fight even the baseball brat. The ghouls had no sense of style, no sense of technique or of battle. Really, how they had survived as a species was beyond him.

“Boss,” Levi said, startled, and Squalo jerked around, flicking blood-soaked hair out of his face. “Voi, what the-”

“Trash,” Xanxus said, guns out and the glint in his eys speaking of death. Already there were blood splatters on his clothes.

“I thought you weren't coming,” Squalo said, frowning as he dodged a haphazard blow. “Going back to Italy-”

“I lied,” Xanxus said apathetically, marching forwards. Varia fell back and allowed him space, carving a way through the ghouls. Xanxus, as though even god could not touch him (and let's face it, he's survived a lot of shit), marched through the crowds and over corpses.

He pulled out his X-Guns, seemingly aiming at the brat. He fired, then said, “Trash.” Holding Tsuna's gaze, he snarked, “How can you fuck up such an easy job?”

Tsuna's orange eyes glared at Xanxus, before he turned back to Reaper. "Please come peacefully," he said, voice even softer.

Xanxus thought he was going to projectile vomit all over everyone. "Just bring them in," he snapped, kicking away a ghoul that came too close. Their numbers were low now, Xanxus thought, spinning his X-Gun on a finger and eyeing the masses. Vongola was shaping up as well (they were still trash though).

"Voi! Done here," Squalo shouted, picking through the corpses.

"Mu. I don't get paid enough." The former Mist Arcobaleno was covered in blood from head to toe.

"Splat," Belphegor said mockingly, throwing knives up and catching them neatly.

“You didn't have to kill the ghoul-”

“But the baby was in danger?”

“I was not. I wanted the ghoul to get close-”

“It's good lying to the prince, you know.”

Gokudera stood behind Reaper, dynamite in hand, screaming about helping 'Juudaime'. Yamamoto was laughing, red smears streaking his face, eyes strangely cold. The rest of the Guardians formed a loose ring around 'Reaper', each looking grim (except for Yamamoto, but Xanxus suspected insanity and/or a blithe confidence in the world – what a joke).

Reaper surrendered in an attempt to save themselves.

 

Chapter Text

“You're not going to kill them?” Squalo had thought that was the case, but was still surprised. “They're just fuckin' ghouls, and we're mafia. Who cares?”

Something about his dismissals of ghouls rested uneasily in Tsuna's gut. “Uh, I don't want to kill-”

“We're mafia,” Squalo repeated forcefully, trying to stare down Tsuna. They were sitting in Varia's hotel room (straight into the lion's den, Tsuna thought hysterically), discussing what to do with Reaper.

“The Ninth said to eliminate the ghouls. With Reaper imprisoned, the threat's gone,” Gokudera said pointedly, puffing up under Tsuna's grateful gaze.

“They're a menace,” Squalo argued, and Tsuna couldn't help but think how absurd it was to have an experienced killer tell them that.

Only Squalo had stuck around to argue it out with them, and most of Tsuna's Guardians had gone home as well; Gokudera decided to stick close to Tsuna, mistrustful of Squalo.

“Dame-Tsuna, you should get rid of your enemies quickly,” Reborn said, popping out from nowhere. Thank goodness he wasn't cosplaying, Tsuna thought.

“But they're dealt with,” Tsuna threw back. “Reborn-”

“Why are you defending them so adamantly?” Reborn's voice was unexpectedly quiet. Everyone blinked at him.

“What do you mean?” Tsuna asked cautiously.

A long silence of Reborn staring at Tsuna, his black eyes seeing more of Tsuna than even the boy knew of himself. “...Hm.”

“Reborn?”

“Arcobaleno, you know something?” Squalo looked as though he was tempted to impale Reborn. (Everyone knew that would never happen.)

Reborn smirked. “I know everything. You'll have to specify.” They stared each other down. Tsuna and Gokudera both became accutely comfortable, trading looks.

“Reborn-?”

“About the brat,” Squalo interjected. “Voi, Arcobaleno, what're you hiding?” The use of the word, despite the fact the curse had been broken, made Reborn nearly scowl. But of course, he was too cool for that.

“I do know something,” Reborn said carefully. “I only just found out myself. When I went to Italy.”

“About me?” Tsuna squeaked.

“Yeah.” Reborn gave Tsuna a dark look. “Are you sure you want to know?”

Tsuna hesitated. “Uh, is this worse than the whole mafia thing?”

“Yes.”

“Then I don't want to know,” Tsuna said firmly. “Now, if you'll excuse me-” Tsuna stood abruptly, “-I have to go.”

“Going where?” Reborn said archly.

“Out.” Gokudera was following Tsuna's lead, making a point to glower at both of them. Tsuna spun on his heel and walked away.


Everything was going fine until Tsuna paused, confused. “Um, Gokudera-kun?”

“Juudaime?”

“Do you...smell that?” Tsuna tilted his head back.

“No?” Gokudera frowned.

Tsuna looked uncertain, but followed his nose. Gokudera trailed behind him, keeping an eye out for danger; he was thankful he still had the bombs effective against ghouls handy.

Tsuna stopped in front of a back door, hesitating.

“Juudaime, this is Anteiku?” Gokudera glanced curiously at Tsuna.

“Yeah.” And Tsuna's gut wrenched as he guessed what is was that smelled so good. He opened the door, catching sight of Touka and Kaneki.

“Tsuna-kun,” Kanki said, surprised. “What are you doing here?”

“I'm hungry,” Tsuna heard himself say, still smelling the air. Gokudera shifted uneasily, disliking where this was going.

“Coffee?” Kaneki offered.

“Not that. I mean, I smelled something and I...” Kaneki paled at Tsuna's words, but kept smiling nervously. “Um, cake, then?”

Tsuna looked at Kaneki seriously. “What did I smell? I think you know.”

Gokudera and Touka traded looks as the other two skipped around each other anxiously. “I'm not sure.”

“But-”

“Do you really want to know?” Kaneki was forceful. “You can still eat normal food, right?”

Tsuna frowned. “So...I really am-?”

“I don't know.”

“I don't know how-”

“When you were younger-?”

“Reborn knows,” Tsuna said, horrified, turning to look at Gokudera. “Gokudera-kun...”

“Dame-Tsuna,” Reborn chided from out of nowhere, causing Tsuna to shriek. “Looks like I'll have to tell you.”

Tsuna swallowed thickly. “Um, so I think correct, for once?”

Reborn's eyes glinted at Tsuna. “What do you think?”

Tsuna yelped, shaking his head violently and clapping his hands over his ears. “I don't want to hear it.”

“Juudaime,” Gokudera said in dismay.

“You're half-ghoul,” Reborn said.

 

Chapter Text

“I was right,” Tsuna groaned as Kaneki turned away, looking pale.

“Juudaime is half ghoul?” Gokudera considered this for a moment. “If you need to eat, feel free to eat me,” he said seriously to Tsuna.

Tsuna stared at him. “Uh, what?”

“It's okay, you're Juudaime,” Gokudera said confidently.

Kaneki, recovering, turned to them again, eyeing Reborn. “How...is he a ghoul?”

Reborn smirked. “Would you like to sit down for this?”


So they sat. Kaneki and Gokudera seated themselves on either side of Tsuna, Reborn opposite them. The shop owner and his other workers had agreed to let them discuss this in peace – something Tsuna was surprised at. Then again, it was likely they could hear whatever they said with special ghoul hearing.

“You became half ghoul as a child,” Reborn said, sipping his coffee. Tsuna gulped, wanting to hear it and dreading the truth.

“An accident,” Reborn went on, a glint in his eyes. “Iemitsu's fault, apparently, but you were going to die. So, the Vongola arranged for you to have the best treatment. As it turns out, a doctor who worked on ghouls was the best way.”

“Kanou?” Kaneki whispered.

“Exactly,” Reborn said with a nod.

“Why did he not eat human flesh?” Kaneki asked with an apologetic look at Tsuna. Gokudera was clenching his fists, looking as though he was ready to kill Kanou.

“His Sky Flames suppressed the ghoul,” Reborn answered.

“So my Sky Flames are once again at fault?” Tsuna said, voice a croak.

“Don't be ridiculous,” Gokudera jumped in. “They helped you. Besides, whether or not you're a ghoul doesn't matter – you're still Juudaime,you'll still be Decimo.”

But I don't want to be a mafia boss, Tsuna despaired. Out loud, he said, “So are my Sky Flames no longer able to repress them?”

“Exactly.” A sharp glint in Reborn's eyes. “You've entered Dying Will far too many times; it's messed with your body dynamics.”

“So all along, you knew?” Tsuna couldn't hide the aching betrayal in his voice.

“I only found out recently,” Reborn said quietly, looking vaguely ashamed.

Kaneki shifted uncomfortably. “So will he have to eat human meat?” He glanced at Tsuna worriedly. “Anteiku might look after you?”

Tsuna wondered distantly if it was okay for Kaneki to hear all this. Then again – if Reborn allowed it, it was probably all right.

“Reborn. Is there any way I can...stop this?”Tsuna gestured at his body helplessly.

“Unfortunately not,” was the answer. Reborn looked forlorn. “For once, Tsuna, I am sorry.”


Reborn's apology made Tsuna feel weird. He stumbled back to the hotel, Gokudera catching him whenever he tipped over.

“Juudaime,” he said worriedly. “Don't strain yourself.”

Tsuna shrugged at him, leaning heavily against him. “I'm fine.”

“Juudaime...” Gokudera bit back whatever he was planning on saying, biting his lip. “Yes.”

They managed to get back to their room. “Where's everyone?”

“They went out, I think,” Gokudera said cautiously. “Juudaime, are you sure you're fine?”

Tsuna collapsed on his bed, already closing his eyes. “I just hope this is all a dream.”

Gokudera shifted on the spot, finding it difficult to say anything.“I hope so too,” he admitted, finally getting some words out. But by that time, Tsuna had drifted off to sleep.


And of course, with all Tsuna's luck, he had a dream.

A mountain of corpses, and Tsuna was lounging on his throne. He was tracing the word Decimo that was carved into the armrest, over and over as he held up a mug, never looking away from his finger.

When he looked inside the mug, it was filled to the brim with blood. He sipped from it, dismissing the ghost from his sight. Then he sighed, standing and gliding down the stairs made from the men he had killed.

When one rose up to lunge at him, Tsuna idly ripped an arm off before kicking said corpse back down, taking a bite from it. He approached a mirror, peering into it.

“Human Tsuna,” he said softly. “Don't worry; soon you'll love humans.” A grin, and Tsuna woke in cold sweat.

“No,” he whimpered, unable to move for a moment. He didn't want to be a ghoul or a mafia boss or anything like that – he just wanted to be an ordinary boy.


A rare beat of silence fell, before Squalo hissed, “Voi, boss – are you fucking kidding me?”

Xanxus glared at Squalo. “I don't lie about shit like this.”

Squalo narrowed his eyes back at him. “An alliance? With the CCG? Why are we being the ones told?”

“Does it mean a payrise?” Mammon wondered. Only Squalo, Mammon and Xanxus were in the room. Xanxus had thrown the rest out – something about the noise level being enough to make his ears bleed.

Xanxus shrugged, surprisingly docile. “The Ninth said we're to aid the brats with this.”

“Aid the brats,” Squalo said flatly. He ran a hand through his hair, thinking. “And Vongola can't find more suitable people.”

“We already know about the ghouls,” Xanxus said pointedly. “No need for a primer.”

“What sort of alliance?” Mammon asked. “Are we expected to help them with the ghoul problem?”

“Partly. And gather information. But the info-gathering is probably something we keep quiet.”

“Information on what?” Mammon asked, Squalo also looking at Xanxus pointedly.

Xanxus tipped back his glass. When he slammed it back down he said simply, “On what they know.”

“What they know.” Squalo's voice was flat. “On weaponry? Biology?” A loud sigh. “why can't the Ninth explain this shit better?”

“On everything.” Xanxus's voice held a warning note. His eyes were closed, but if he opened them – the look in them would kill Squalo, he knew that. “Leave. You know what to do.”

Squalo and Mammon did both understand. They left, Squalo grumbling about being overworked.