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1st Vice- Excess
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Every night his mother wanted to go off with someone, she would tuck him into bed. Her long hair trailed over the blankets, and as he tugged at the soft strands in a mute plea to make her stay, she would smile gently, kissing him on the head. The smell of her breath was always strong, whispering into his nose the warm scent of alcohol.

Into his hand, she pressed a tumbler, clear cut surface shining in the light of the moon.

“Drink this and you’ll fall asleep, just like if mommy were here.”

At the beginning of the night, he sipped the burning whiskey from his plastic cup before she left.

Despite that mantra, his eyes would not close until dawn.

 

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2nd Vice- Vanity
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“He’s such a quiet, plain boy, isn’t he?”

The matronly women at his school always speak in hushed tones around him. They would yell and rap the knuckles of disobedient lads, they would declare the roster of names straight aloud during attendance, but speaking of him, their decibels would drop low, and their mouths would pinch in whisper.

He pretends not to hear them, despite the strain it’s taking for him to make out the words from his seat on the bench, outside the office.

“So calm…other boys don’t even notice him…not making any friends.”

They stop glancing over at him as they talked, and while they continued he silently slipped off his seat and slunk into the hall. When he makes his way back to the crowded cafeteria, everyone is already in the middle of their meal. No one comes in to interrupt the cacophony to call his name, so he has not been missed at the main office or no one cares enough to track him down.

Xanxus sits down at the edge of a table, small but expensively made lunch set practically close. The other children don’t even notice that he’s at their table, continuing to talk without turning their heads. It’s only when he finishes his short meal that they turn at the sound of a chair scraping loudly across the floor, his back facing them as he goes to throw away the trash.

“Did you even see him there?”

“No. He’s so unnoticeable, what was his name again?”

“Whatever.”

-0-

A king deserves a crown to tell everyone that he’s a king, but they don’t have gold in the house. Instead, suspended above his mother’s bed was a delicate and glittering gift.

Cheap twine and rough cut furs and feathers wove together to form the dream catcher on the wall. It had been a gift from a previous lover, hoping to take away the spirits that haunted her dreams but even after he left she’d kept it. She said that it was from a different country and a romantic story. Despite how cheap it was, it looked foreign and exotic in their plain house with drab bowls filled with craggy fruit and homely wooden furniture.

The fiery red beads made of inexpensive glass and the feathers dyed brilliant turquoise and yellow almost stun with their color. The rich shine of the fur tail and orange string that hung from its edge is a quiet riot of the earth and sun, dripping together from a web that couldn’t contain its greatness. Climbing atop the rickety mattress, his arms splay out to try and touch the spinning ornament just out of reach. A brief moment when the sun breaks out from behind a cloud blinds him with the reflection of colors whirling in his eye before he stumbles. Fingers hooked into the twine, Xanxus rips it down.

At school the next day there’s an uproar as students around him whisper and gape at the conflagration erupting from the ends of his normally plain, dark hair. The teachers move him aside and try to pull out the woven feathers, beads, and pelt, but he pulls away and dares them to try and take it away from him.

They let him keep it for a day, and when he gets home the shattered remnants of a once beautiful dream catcher are shaken in his face by a furious woman who screams at him about unappreciative brats. It doesn’t matter because in the next week he’ll be relocated to the main house by his father, so he simply goes to his room and stares in the mirror at the way the soft barbs electrify the short black hair, and how the beads accent the red tint in his eyes. The tail makes him look young and wild, but the dark navy of his school jacket tones it down respectably. He doesn’t wear them the next day, or even the next one, or the next.

He waits until there’s a time when everyone around him needs to know he is a king.

 

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3rd Vice- Entitlement
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He’s barely noticed, partly concealed behind a wall in the corner of the rooms as the screaming continues.

“You’re scum! Scum! Trash like you doesn’t deserve to be with me, I was above you!” Another bottle crashed against the wall, remnants of wine, runny and magenta, painting the dull whitewash.

A hand shoots out as the man across from her strikes her across the cheek with a wide, open palm. He’s bleeding from the corner of his eye; the shard of glass that flew by him had cut him high on his cheek.

“You crazy bitch! This is the reason no man will stay with you. Look at yourself, pathetic! Wipe your tears and get a grip, your kid is watching!”

There’s no room to hide, and Xanxus was never one to turn away from something. His eyes are dark and matte, expression blank as he stares over at Fiaci, the newest one to turn against his mother in a string of lovers. The man paused, frozen for a moment by the direct and curious expression on this boy’s face, who is unsurprised by the scene.

A bitter laugh rolls out from the woman’s lips as she holds her cheek in her hand, sticky tears shining as she shakes her head.

“He knows already. My baby knows that I’m better than dirty scum like you, I was with you out of pity. Don’t think you’re doing me a favor. You’re lower than the dirt I walk on.”

Fiaci can only sigh, hand reaching out to try and wipe to wet streaks on her face, but she only flinches away, hate and bitterness masking any trace of hurt she ever had. His wrist is swept away by an angry arm, and this time it’s the plastic fruit bowl on the table that’s chucked into his face. He stops trying to console her, screaming about how she should be more grateful, how she should stop being so superior, and storms off leaving a rattling door in his wake.

Xanxus turns to go back to his bedroom to try and sleep the day away, but his mother beckons to him with a wine stained hand that’s been cut with glass. He turns to her arms, and she holds him tightly in her lap, even though he’s too big for that now. A press into his shorn hair ends with a deep breath and a soft exhalation while his mother hugs him in her arms.

“They all say we’re trash, we’re trash that doesn’t deserve them but you know the truth. Baby is a treasure, you’re the king and I’m the queen. Right?”

Again, his hand mutely comes out to touch the golden strands of her glittering hair, stroking the tresses that had become stained from the bottle she threw.

“They can’t pity us, because we pity them. My little king, little king. One day we’ll own a kingdom and then we’ll show them who is better.”

Her voice sang soft in the room, and he rests his head against her chest. It was this time and this time alone that he felt the softness of her love.

 

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4th Vice- Wrath
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Because it’s him, he doesn’t hear the diminutive whispers and gossip. One semester in and he’s still as calm and silent as a ghost, filtering through classes untouched and un-approached by everyone around him. Though his looks and hair gain attention, he is as quiet as ever, never one for useless fanfare when the whole school gossiped about who he was enough for a cadre of publicists.

Xanxus has sharp eyes when he wants to observe, and when he doesn’t he ignores the insignificance of his peers’ actions, but even he can see the obvious looks the seniors of the school give him of heightening disapproval. At the turn of his back, there’s always someone talking about him. His silence, his apathy towards those who deemed themselves important, and the unapologetic way he stares them straight in the face with deference in no shape taking root in his personality, key them all up.

The ugly light of their superiority complex rises to the top when he’s getting ready to go inside for class after his lunch out in the football field. His shoulder mutely collides with someone as he took the stairs two by two when a blonde young man grabs his arm and jerks him back.

He stumbles and lands backwards on the concrete, hands skinned from the rough contact. Despite the abrupt treatment, Xanxus is silent and only looks up with direct and fearless eyes at the older boy who stopped him.

“Apologize.”

He doesn’t say a thing, pausing to stare a little longer at this presumptuous upstart before bracing himself on his knees, and gets up to leave. He was going to be late, again.

His shoulder is next, as his senior forcefully spins him around and knocks him to step onto the grass.

“Apologize! Juniors like you cannot just push us aside without consequences. Don’t act so superior.”

“I was going to class and I can’t be late. I didn’t do it to expressly push you away from the staircase.”

The steady look never changed. His words were measured, but somehow through the even tones the older boy felt the distaste that colored his statement, hidden within. He’s thrown against the ground again, the blonde above him shoving his shoulder further into the compact dirt, grinding his bones.

“You should stop acting so uppity just because the Ninth endorsed you. We’re all bosses here, worm, and you better learn quick to respect your betters. You’ll bark when I tell you to bark, and dance when I tell you to dance, got it?”

His senior didn’t stop the disgust curling at his lip and spits.

It comes rolling out of him, the years and years of frustration, of being pushed aside like scum when it was them, the world, which was trash. The fool above him smirking with a dirty stain of superiority suddenly falls back, eyes widening as pinned underneath him Xanxus finally cracks the surface of his calm and starts to leak the acid flame that’s slept inside him since birth.

His eyes are wide open, mouth splitting into a primal scream as the rush of fire pouring from his body moves too fast for the other boy to dodge. The sheer force that’s pushed into the crazed flames burns on contact, melting the skin from the idiot that tried to hold him down.

He can’t tell if the sound of screaming is coming from him or the other boy, but it rang long and loud in the back field of the school, and soon enough people come pouring out of buildings and from the track in the distance to witness his bloody exultation.

“Holy shit, what the fuck Alessandro’s face is half burned!”

“Who is that-”

“Stop this at once! Who’s causing this disrup-”

Teachers and students flood around as the burned boy trips back, recoiling from the pain that scalded his senses. Xanxus stands up untouched, murder screeching from his eyes as he steps forward in blind emotion to finish this presumptuous scumbag who’d wanted him to lick and beg at his boots after spitting on his face.

When the tranquilizer is shot into him from afar by the school staff he staggers across towards the crowd, eyes hazing over but still brilliant with rage, red as the blood that ran from Alessandro’s burns. When he falls to the ground, slumped in unconsciousness, there’s an eerie silence that’s shortly broken by the murmur of voices about this crazy delinquent.

At the head of the crowd, there was one person who had been watching the whole time, standing silent with eyes that bore into that inanimate body as if it held the secrets of the world. The silver haired boy could only look on his display in awe.

 

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5th Vice- Gluttony
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The first time it happened he let it out at a corner market. The man at the stall was convinced he had stolen an apple, and had tried to take him by the ear, twisting his arm and calling him a trashy street-brat.

Building inside him, the pain that coursed in his wrist from the force of the vendor’s fingers crushing him heated the embers waiting inside to burst. Quickly, from the cutting power flooding out of his flame engulfed hand, the man dropped his arm, yelling in pain as suddenly a huge burn bloomed across his palm.

His mother, across the street, dropped the cloth bag in her arm onto the cobbled road with eyes wide in revelation. She swept him up in a hug and whirled him around the street, laughing.

That night, she cancelled her date and took him out to a quaint little restaurant out on the plaza. She dressed him up in a tiny suit and he pushed open a chair for her stoically as she ordered a steak for two and a bottle of wine.

After that day, there was nothing but praise in her, for him.

 

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6th Vice- Torpor
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What pissed him off the most was the way the brightness of the day burned against his eyes, retinas scalded from what used to be normal light for him. He shoved Levi aside, despite the trembling in his limbs from thin and wasted muscles unused to movement. Staggering one step at a time, eyes decrying murder to any who dared to help him, he makes his way up the mounting set of stairs that seem to go on for ages, and with the opening of the front doors leading to the study, lunges into the nearest chair.

Startled at his untimely entrance, Squalo and Belphagor look up from the desk where Mammon was perched, giving a small lecture on the possible effect the rings had on the ice with a dry erase marker.

“VOIIIIIIIIII YOU DUMBASS DID YOU HAVE THE BOSS WALK ALL THE WAY HERE?!”

“Keep your voice down you loud mouth freak, the boss just got back and you're already screaming up a storm! What was I supposed to do, the boss shoved my arm away!”

The worship and hurt that mingled in Levi’s tone only served to further disgust Squalo who turned away from further laying into him. Before his rain guardian could make his way across to the chair, Belphagor had already cut across his path and perched in front of Xanxus, peering down with not quite visible eyes at their boss who was not so much sitting as slouching as far down in his seat as possible.

“Has the king returned, ready to take his throne?”

“This king is about to blow off your worthless face for being too close.”

He steps back and turns to Squalo for safety’s sake as a human shield just in case the calm and disinterested way Xanxus had uttered those words were a fake out. At noon, the white and yellow rays beaming in through the crystal panes of their French windows lit up the room like a fucking solar panel, and as soon as the shadow of his subordinate’s face moved away his eyes squinted in defiance of his body’s will.

“You seem to be doing fine!”

“Shut the damn curtains and everybody, get the fuck out!”

Squalo moves hastily to close the thick brocade drapery, and despite the fact that Xanxus was too weak to even spurt out enough flame to light a damn match, the fury that’s compacted in his eye is still the same; enough on it’s own to kill the mildest disobedience. The sound of the door shutting is the last thing he hears for the day.

Slowly, in the dimness of the room that was still somehow, too bright, he gathers up every ounce of energy to crawl across to the large reading chair in the corner, faced away from the light beaming from those windows. In the cool shadow of the dark study, he sits in the absolute silence of the emptiness, refusing to believe that eight years had somehow changed his tastes even when faced with something as blatant as this. He was always alone, even before he was left to rot encased in ice beneath a sealed metal sheathe, as close to plunging into a void as a human possibly could.

Tired beyond reach, his arms fall to his side in an inelegant sprawl, the fatigue no one was there to see sucking away all strength as his head rolls back to stare at the ceiling. There’s reminiscence of the prison in the isolation of the room, and under the rolling pressure of the day, hours after he was freed, he doesn’t try to wonder at the fact that he’s recreating that moment right here, in his own house, of his own will.

Even to his mind, which was the strongest thing Xanxus knew, the excuses fit poorly and uneasily, like a weakness he can’t shake.

 

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7th Vice- Avarice
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He’d gone and fetched his own cup at the dinner table, but was intercepted by a plain, solemn looking man in a black suit and pristine white gloves. The quiet, inoffensive way the old man took up the glass and filled it for him with smooth, graceful movements fascinated him. When it’s given back to him, full to the brim with orange juice, the man, still with eyes closed as he bowed, speaks to him in soft tones.

“There’s no need for you to fetch that, young master. If you would like something, all you have to do is ask.”

He takes those words to heart, and memorizes the way they’re said.

That night, as he’s sitting up in his wide, too soft bed, he’s cold in the large recess of his room. Xanxus slips down and silently makes his way out into the hall, creeping into the linen closet that’s hidden surprisingly well where he saw the maids gossiping earlier. Laden with a mountainous comforter, he slowly walks back, navigating his way without tripping on the trailing edges through sheer effort.

From the distance he sees a woman running towards him, so he pauses. She comes up and, with a gentle hand on his wrist, takes the load from him.

“You don’t need to carry that all the way back to your room. If you needed something, you can just ring the buzzer by your bed.”

He takes this to heart, and lets her set up the blankets and watches as she closes the door.

After that he doesn’t get his glass at the table at breakfast anymore, he doesn’t sneak out of his room at night for a pillow, but those are those are the only things. They stopped him from bringing his laundry to the basement, when he took out the wastepaper basket in his room, when he cleared the breakfast tray of his dishes. It’s a slow process, but after a time, Xanxus lets them take care of work he had been used to doing for himself.

When he and the Ninth are in the library, one with paperwork and one with schoolwork, he’s distracted by something in the room. The tip of his pencil stops moving and slowly, his eyes drift away more and more from the table to the glittering thing propped at the edge of Timoteo’s desk, stacked atop a pile of books.

The old man notices his gaze, and looks at the sparkling silver piece on the table. He smiles down at this tiny boy, who has very well honed instincts for one so young.

“Did you want to see it? Here.”

Above Xanxus’ open palm he holds the ring.

“All you had to do was ask.”

With both hands he reaches out and grasps his inheritance, eyes bright and shining as the resin covered enamel design inside entrances him. He doesn’t let go of it for hours.

At noon, when lunch is brought to them at the table, he tilts his head up decisively, and says,

“Fetch me another napkin.”

There’s a small smile, barely detectable in the old servant’s face beneath his mustache as he calmly brings a fresh white cloth to the table.

“As you wish, young master.”

-0-

When he’s older, he’s given everything freely, without hesitation. Xanxus barely has to lift a finger because it was his right to have what he wished. When he asks the Varia to mutiny with him, they obey. When he asks them to die for him, they obey. When he asks them to fetch his birthright and put it on his hand, they obeyed.

The only one who didn’t obey was his own, traitorous blood.

 

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8th Vice- Apathy
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On an evening in November, a manila folder was flapped on the secretarial desk before which he stood, telling him one of the most powerful sub-groups of the Vongola family was now under his command. He was handed the Varia three weeks after their current boss had died. All it took was one second where his pen scratched the surface of the paper, and on the dotted line, under a bold, dark signature, were the assassins in the group inducted into his care.

There was nothing, nothing else Timoteo could do that would enrage him more. The last thing Xanxus wanted to be was a part of another group. He was the fucking Vongola. From the day he came into this house every second was prepared for the time when he would rise as the Tenth boss, not the boss of some trash. It made him livid to think that of all things, the old man was going to remove him from the main branch and shove him into this tiny, useless sect as a leader.

He had never met them. Of course when he was taking care of things in the main family he coordinated the Varia’s men and stationed them where necessary, but personal interaction with the group was brief and forgettable. They were lower level, mission orientated hit men who were at the beck and call of the Vongola head. The last thing Xanxus would ever accept was to be subordinate to someone, and the Ninth had now just unequivocally put him under his thumb. This was that very last straw in a series of ongoing events that confirmed he was being pushed out of the line of succession.

He was not happy with being made their new leader.

When the day of the formal induction came, there was an assembly of the three-hundred man team waiting outside around a podium to pay their respect to their new boss, who never came. An hour, two, five passed, while finally their long ingrained discipline broke when they figured out he wasn’t going to show. Among the older members murmurs broke out in discontent as the stage was deconstructed, the chairs scattered and put away, the podium taken down and the very rare occasion that all of the assassin squad all came to gather in one place then disbanded.

The next morning Xanxus kicked open the double doors to his new acquirement, and when a startled security detail member tried to attack him not knowing who he was, he shot the man in the lung. At the loud, unapologetic bang, a contingent of men came rushing into the open foyer where the wheezing of a still live and agonized man tried to suck down air. Their expressions of surprise at the situation heightened, and a second later guns were being pulled out of their holsters to point at the intruder.

On his lips there was nothing but sneering disdain as he swept his eyes across the room, as finally someone pointed out that this was the Ninth’s son, their newest boss. Weapons dropped right away, but the wary looks didn’t subside. The man who identified him was in the very back, but even hidden by his peers Xanxus could see the brilliant silver shade of hair.

“You. Show me where the surveillance room is.”

The very first order of business he took care of was to install cameras in the front door and foyer.

-0-

He ran things competently enough. Xanxus was efficient in their placements and work details, but he minimized his own work as much as possible, shoving off paperwork and branching mission outlines to his subordinates. Very little of the actual execution was done by him, instead he listened to the important debriefings, cut off people when he thought they included insignificant details, and outlined their mission objectives. How things were carried out, who did what assignments, those were never glanced at.

His elders were always obedient, but he could see the simmering mutiny in their eyes when he slammed his feet up on the Varia headquarters desk, handed generation to generation. They glared from behind their sunglasses at the way he stalked into conference in nothing but rolled shirtsleeves and a tie, refusing to wear the Varia colors or the coat. They whispered when they thought he couldn’t hear about how his position was only maintained by his father, that he was a low talent with no real fighting power, and in a group that was based on espionage and killings, that was the greatest insult they could give.

Out of touch with reality, granted whatever he’d been wished, the new head was an arrogant bastard full of hot air in his head and no room for compromise. Their respect wasn’t something Xanxus needed; he never wanted the devotion of these worms. He was the Vongola, and all they needed to do was obey or die. Xanxus knew how to play the hierarchy of scale, and it didn’t matter that every day Squalo comes in to tell him of their troops’ discontent.

It became his problem when their exchange with the Estrappa blew up in their faces, resulting from deliberate sabotage from the splintering faction of the family’s third son. It was full on shoot out, a blood bath that killed their fifty man contingent sent in tandem with the Estrappa for information collection against their enemies. A sixth of the entire Varia force was gone from the coup now, and Xanxus, after reviewing the reports and hearing the news of the massive fuck-up, simply got up afterward to get his lunch.

The murmuring wasn’t murmuring anymore. Three days after the debriefing the most adamant dissenters came to surround him on the back terrace where he was drinking his morning coffee. Thirty or so of them clumped around him, hostile looks blocked by the opaque shades they wore as Xanxus stood in the center of the brick pavement, expression not changed one degree from the moment he took up the Varia title.

“What do you trash think you’re doing?”

“No, it’s what do you think you’re doing? We won’t let Tyr’s title be-”

An older man interrupted, calmly stepping forward and stopped directly in front of him.

“Levi. This is about keeping the Varia strong, about keeping its respect. There’s nothing respectable about that massive mistake during the Estrappa incident. You have shown us nothing of why we should follow you. You don’t wear our colors, barely are seen, and leave us to do all the lesser work. There’s nothing to show that you are a man worthy of the Varia.”

Xanxus set down his cup. One corner of his mouth turned down as somehow he manages to look down on a man a foot taller than him.

“You’re right. There was nothing respectable about that attack. Out of fifty only two men came back. How worthy must I be to account for that?”

Shivers crawled up the older man’s arms, his eyes still hidden behind black frames but visible anger tensing him poured out against physical restraint.

“You are the one who outlined the mission parameters! You are the one who sent in those few men for security detail! You- you orchestrated the entire negotiation with the Estrappa and now you blame dead men for your mistake?!”

This Levi and the rest of a joke of a contingent closed tightly around him, no longer holding back the indignant rage that colored their tones since the first moment Xanxus walked in through the doors.

“We’re going to beat a lesson into you, boy, and maybe it will finally teach you something about humility.”

Grating, harsh barks of laughter rung out in the otherwise hushed terrace, the vicious light that glared through Xanxus’ eye mocking everyone around him for their presumption.

“That’s fine with me, you pathetic worms. Finally you grow some balls and are honest for once in your life!”

There’s no room for escape, all of them rushed upon him at once, trying to corner him back against the stone of the mansion wall, but the massive blast of heat scored through their bodies as for the first time, they feel the full power of their boss unleashed. Xanxus does not play with them, he burned them all with the intent to destroy, arm hooking viciously and with claws of brightened flame, tore into his men.

He can’t see what he was doing clearly, the colors erupting from his hand hazing everything in crimson and bleeding his pupils of any other color. All he smelled were the choking aromas of hair being bitterly charred, of flesh boiling from skin. Suit after suit tried to drape themselves on his body and weigh him down but soon enough the flimsy wool is melted off and flung away, crunching from cracked and broken bones echoing as a gruesome accent. There were no gunshots, something almost he expected to hear after all those pieces of trash talked of getting revenge and teaching him a lesson. Did they think him so weak they could take him on bare handed? Xanxus threw his head back in laughter as he hunted each man down one by one, ripping them apart and dragging them down until there’s not even a twitch when they fall to the dirt.

He’s not even breathing hard as he surveyed the land around him, brown earth exposed in long, dark patches from where he had held dissenters down. There’s no man standing in the open grass field behind the mansion but him, and from across the char patched remains of battle he spied movement from the back. Picking up his feet, he walked over to the patch of dirty silver hair of the only man who was still moving after his attack.

His boot came down and pressed against a bleeding head, tilting up Squalo’s chin so he could see how conscious the other was.

“Who is weaker now, scum?”

Even injured and helpless, there’s not a hint of subordination in his eye, but Xanxus never once saw that in the silver-haired boy in the first place. He’s not surprised to see him here, lying amongst the other mutineers.

“I had to see if you’d lost anything, over those last three years from school.”

He doesn’t know what the hell Squalo is talking about, he’s never interacted with him beyond seeing him in the hall or hearing rumors spreading from the Cavallone kid, but Squalo seemed to know him, and it was irritating.

“I was there when it happened, I read the analytical reports after. There was no reason to send in that many people in the first place for a joint operation. If anything you over compensated on security, and there was no reason to doubt anything would happen. You couldn’t have aborted it either, the Estrappa are the only ones who allied with us against the Neri and we can’t lose their lobbying power. There was nothing to do after the incident but move on, and perhaps take steps to eliminate the perpetrators of the Estrappa coup.”

“Brain power doesn’t seem to exist in the rest of these scum. Congratulations on doing the most base of logic.”

The insults rolled right off of him. Even with the way his boss’s boot was pressed against his temple, Squalo was amazingly clear.

“The Varia won’t follow you unless you wear their colors. One sign of acknowledgment is all it takes.”

“I’m the Vongola, you dense shit. I never wanted to be a part of this weak little sect.”

There’s a certain light in his eye as Squalo pushed out from under the heel against his face, arms barely shaking as he uses all the force he has left to drag his torso upright and sit up. “It doesn’t have to be weak. If you’re the boss it can become whatever you want it to be. If you don’t want to be a sycophant of the main family, you don’t have to make it one. If you only need our lives you can make the Varia into your fodder.”

Underlying his words was the sentiment, because he was strong.

A smile started to curve his lips. He didn’t want the old Varia division. Tyr and his successor’s way had made these men weak, had left their contingent small and compromised. These men who had morals, who had scruples and cared for their comrades lives, they were dualistic men, whose conviction could waver in the face of death. He didn’t need someone else's leftovers, but if he could build up something completely his own…

“If you want to use us, you have to show that we belong to you, somehow.”

Silently, Xanxus walked a few yards off, picking through the unconscious bodies of his men to the back where a slumped body was propped against a scorched tree. He ripped the black coat off this body, who at the force of the jerk, looked up at him.

Another one conscious. Barely, but conscious. Perhaps there was some usefulness still left to be weeded out.

“…Is what he said true? You did all you could and even over-prepared?”

“I’m not like you. Success is all that matters and I always do what there is to ensure my missions.”

He stalked away from the spike haired man, bloodied coat trailing in the mild autumn wind as he came back to the other conscious man sitting up on the ground, trying not to pass out.

“If you’re too stupid to know your boss, I’ll wear your crest so you can tell who is your better.”

Against the dimming orange heat of the sun, there was a flap of a coat before the defeated men of his new kingdom.

 

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9th vice- Hate
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When he first staggers out he screams at the light that burns into his eyes, striking at the core of his pupils and ripping his head apart. He can’t stop the wash of agony splitting his brain and cutting his skin, the fire of a deep freezing sloughing from his body, scratching every exposed surface inches deep.

When he comes out of his cocoon, he’s dripping blood from every pore of his body, what remains of his clothes sticking to his skin and drenched crimson. He doesn’t notice them; he can’t see Mammon floating above with the rings in his hand, he doesn’t see Levi rip off his coat and drape it on his shoulders, he doesn’t see Belphagor’s widened eyes behind his bangs at his crazed emergence, he doesn’t see the tightening around Squalo’s eyes while witnessing the most painful and releasing thing in his life.

He sees a sea of white; of pure, stark white and feels the stab of millions of needles on his face, his legs, his chest while for the first time in eight years, heat touches his skin.

The mantra won’t end, all he knows is Timoteo. Timoteo. Timoteo. Timoteo. The reluctant, determined face of Timoteo is the last thing he remembers and the first, and it whips a frenzy in him that that’s the case. The last thing he wants is to think about that fucking old man but Timoteo just keeps echoing back long and loud through all those times. Through the scalding pain and broken nerves that crush him now, through school, through the promise in the mansion, through the Varia who were given to him, through his mother’s delusions and the burning betrayal of his own blood.

Timoteo.

 

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10th vice- Defiance
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It takes him a long time, but eventually he faces the Tenth. Thirteen years after the Cradle Affair and a long road of restitution had culminated into this one, simple meeting.

Despite the fact that Sawada was seated primly, if nervously, on the padded chair in front of him, Xanxus didn’t remove the feet propped lazily on his desk, or correct the low, loose slouch in his office chair. From the scowl on that grey haired storm guardian as his eyes flick to his posture, he could tell the Vongola’s right was as much of a tight ass as Bel said he was.

There’s little he feels like doing to show even as semblance of welcome to the man who stole his place, but Xanxus can admit to himself that perhaps he should show his mellower side to someone who is the Vongola head. So he does the polite thing and slams a glass of un-iced whiskey down for the freshly inducted boss. Despite his magnanimous gesture, he can’t help but be amused at the shaky way the tumbler is taken into hands cupped tightly around the crystal, as if afraid the trembling in their fingers will cause the drink to fall.

“I just need to know if something were to happen, to the family, to me, to our allies, you will be there to support those who are left.”

“The Varia is Vongola and the Vongola is strong. If something is in the way, I will destroy it.”

There’s no visible sigh of relief, but he can feel the long, wispy exhale through the air while Sawada takes a quiet sip. Their talk had been slow, mostly because Sawada seemed hell bent on not making a mistake and thus was pacing things like a snail, but the lazy tilt to Xanxus’ eye indicated that he didn’t mind. This was after all, at the Tenth’s request and he had no problem with dragging things out if it meant being thorough in negotiating the Varia’s status after he’d been released from his punishment.

He leans in from his backwards slouch and stares Sawada eye to eye, mouth curling at the end at his words.

“Don’t think this means, though, that you have your rightful place and can slack. I’m going to remove you when you’re so secure in yourself you don’t think anyone can defeat you. If at any time I think your doing the Vongola disservice, to me disservice, I won’t hesitate to tear you down even if the Sky Ring decides to burn me alive when I put it on.”

In the background there’s a choking noise and a sharp rustle as Gokudera tries to swallow the gall, and an equally soft hiss from Squalo’s sword hand sounds out to counter the Storm’s grab of his lighter.

The Tenth is stunned for a second, the unexpected announcement startling, but as he looks into Xanxus’ gaze, there’s nothing of the bitter malice that threaded his threats when Tsuna was fourteen. It’s a steady, arrogant, confident gaze that simply states the truth. The Tenth’s hand comes up to his forehead again, an exasperated sigh leaving his lips as he takes a full swig from his tumbler. It was another one of those. If he kept collecting people like Mukuro and Xanxus and Hibari the Vongola soon won’t have a Tenth because he’ll have expired from dealing with them all the time.

“That’s fine. I never expected you to be a sycophant. Only promise that you’ll be there when we’re threatened.”

More indignant noises come from the back, albeit softer this time.

There’s a short burst of harsh laughter that spills from Xanxus’ lips. “If my estate is taken, I’ll burn it. If you tell me what to do wanting blind obedience, I’ll leave you. If there’s someone in Vongola’s way, in my way, I’ll raze them. This is my promise to you.”

From across the desk, Tsuna only nods his head once, eyes steady as he slams back the rest of the whiskey into this throat, and setting the crystal back safely onto the surface of the desk. Xanxus laughs again and with one jerk of the head, signals for Squalo to come up to them.

“Pour us another glass, worm. We’ve been sanctioned to take the kid’s place if he fails.”

It startles him, to see the man so relaxed, now. There’s no tightness around Xanxus’ eyes. Instead, under their languidly watchful gaze, Tsuna feels a certain reliability in how predictable his answers are. Against the breaching light coming from the back study window, the bright feathers in his hair are ignited, the colored motes of red from the beads splashing across the mahogany of the desk where his feet are still propped up. His jacket sleeve slides off to his side as he takes up his glass to drink, an amused look as Tsuna tilts his too, in silent salute.

When they both slam their empty glasses down, Xanxus finally rises from his lazy pose and chases him out, not bothering to even watch them leave as he stalks back to his office. When Tsuna turns back to glance at him, he sees the black shadow of a wavering coat, and the calm, straight step of a man who dared defy him.