For years now, Timoteo di Vongola had been hearing stories about his successor from Reborn and Xanxus, though the stories wildly contradicted what Iemitsu had told him about young Tsunayoshi and what Timoteo himself had seen on that one visit when Tsunayoshi was five years old. Despite the contradictions within the stories he was told, Timoteo thought himself discerning enough to pick out the truth from the fiction and elaborations.
He discarded all that which did not fit his beliefs, and that more than anything else – more than his pride, more than his past sins, more than his past failings – would prove to be his downfall.
He hadn’t truly believed Reborn when the Arcobaleno told him that Tsuna was a powerful Sentinel – Reborn had a soft spot for all his students, after all, and it would not be beyond him to embellish rumours to make his students look better – and while he figured it was true that Tsunayoshi was one half of a Sentinel-Guide pair, it was far more likely that the child was the Guide and that his feral Cloud Guardian was his Sentinel.
He definitely hadn’t believed Xanxus when his adopted son had returned from Giappone and said that Tsunayoshi and Kyoya were a stronger Sentinel-Guide pair than Xanxus and Squalo. It was far more likely, in Timoteo’s mind, that Xanxus was simply claiming as much to feel better about his loss against the boy.
It didn’t occur to Timoteo that the ‘boy’ he was continuing to think of as a child was in fact an almost-eighteen-year-old Sentinel Prime. That would require acknowledging that he was wrong about his successor, and his world view did not allow for that.
Feeling quite safe and content in his own little world in which Tsunayoshi was a middling-grade Guide who could easily be convinced to run the Vongola the way Timeteo wanted it, Vongola Nono was not prepared for what he got when Tsuna, his Guide, and the rest of his Pride and Guardians arrived.
Tsuna stood by one of the plane windows, golden-brown eyes showing hints of orange as he stared down at the slowly-approaching ground. His Guide was wrapped around him, a foil for his senses against the sounds and smells of the plane – even Sentinel-friendly jets like this one were difficult for Sentinels to handle, sometimes – and a steady presence at his back as they descended. Throughout the jet, other members of his Pride and Tribe were dealing with the last legs of the flight in their own ways. Takeshi had his nose buried in Hayato’s neck, the Guide curled into his lap and completely comfortable there, the only outward sign of Hayato’s acknowledgement of Takeshi being the hand that stroked through his hair. Tetsuya was straddling his own Guide, foreheads pressed together as Lancia murmured to him to focus his senses. Ryohei and Kyoko were chattering away quietly, bracketing their Sentinels between them, and Tsuna’s mother was doing much the same thing he was – standing by the windows with her Guide wrapped around her.
Tsuyoshi and Shamal had come ahead a few days ago, and would be waiting for Tsuna and his Pride with the Varia at the Sentinel-Guide Centre’s airstrip.
“You are with me in this, aren’t you, Reborn?” Tsuna asked quietly, and the hitman came to stand nearby.
“All of the Arcobaleno are with you, Tsuna,” he replied, voice quiet in deference to Tsuna’s senses but otherwise as confident and firm as it had been since the day he’d started tutoring Tsuna. “And so are all our Skies.” Tsuna’s lips curled up slightly.
“I am looking forward to seeing Dino and Aria again,” he admitted easily, and then turned his burning orange eyes to Reborn. “And you are with us regarding Timoteo?”
Reborn chuckled, the sound dark and laden with menacing anticipation.
“The old man has made far too many errors and refuses to change his ways, Little Alpha. I will enjoy helping to bring him down a few pegs.”
Not only did the Varia greet them upon landing, but so too did the Alpha Pair of Italy. They were only just barely stronger than Xanxus and Squalo, and only because of their greater age, but they were not Primes by any stretch. Greetings were exchanged and introductions made, and then the Italian Alpha Pair bowed out and let the mafioso be on their way.
“The old man’s delusional,” Xanxus informed Tsuna bluntly as they were chauffeured to the Vongola Estate. “He’s got it into his senile mind that you’re some young gullible Guide, and doesn’t believe any of the proof otherwise.” One of the benefits of how close Tsuna had become to his cousin – who, it turned out, was Enrico’s bastard and not Timeteo’s, but had no desire to be constrained to Vongola when he was settled in the Varia – was that the older man felt no need to put on his loud, crude front around Tsuna’s Pride.
“We had a feeling that would be the case,” Tsuna admitted, and glanced at his Guide. “As tempting as it is to let the misconception slide, I dislike the fact that my Guide could be put at risk by people believing he is a Sentinel.” Kyoya gave him the flat look that statement deserved, but didn’t argue it. It had happened before, after all, and could happen again. “You know what we’ll be walking into better than anyone else – what can I expect?”
Xanxus told him, and a toothy smirk formed on Tsuna’s face, echoed by the feral grin on Kyoya’s.
He had an idea, and he would enjoy it.
He didn’t know, then, that his plans would be derailed almost instantly.
Timoteo knew he was getting old, but he was resigned to it. He only had a few more years left in him, but it should be enough for him to guide Tsunayoshi into setting the Vongola back onto the right path. It was such a shame Iemitsu wasn’t around… he would be so proud of the role his son was to inherit.
Standing in the grand entrance hall of the Vongola Estate’s mansion, his Guardians positioned about him in a show of strength, Timoteo waited patiently for his successor to arrive with his own Guardians. It had been years since he had seen the boy… at least ten by now, though he couldn’t quite remember the exact number. He’d been told the boy took after his mother, and so he envisioned a petite, soft-looking waif of a fifteen-year-old.
Then the doors opened, and the pair that slunk – no, prowled – through the doorway were not a couple of mid-teen boys. No, these two were adults, and hunters at that. There was a grace to them that was threatening rather than delicate, and despite their fine-boned features, both boys – men – looked dangerous.
Behind them came a collection of similarly dangerous young men and women, though the ones who had Timoteo’s fine hairs raising were the tall, smiling, tanned boy and the two delicate-looking girls who Timoteo would have pegged as civilian children if not for the deadly air about them.
He gawked a little at them at first, honestly shocked, but pulled himself together by the time they paused a respectful distance away.
“Welcome, Tsunayoshi,” Timoteo began, only to pause when Tsuna levelled a look at him that was filled with such ire he felt like he was being glared at by Vongola Ottava. The boy said nothing, though his gaze drifted over each of Timoteo’s Guardians and he frowned briefly. Timoteo continued. “You and your Guardians are and will always find shelter within these walls.” It was very much a formality, this speech, but he did mean it.
“I would drop it, if I were you,” the familiar voice of Reborn drawled, deep and smooth, and Timoteo startled a little. He hadn’t noticed him – nor the four men and women with him – enter the room. Nor did he know who two of those others were, though they did hold physical similarities to Tsunayoshi’s Sentinel and the other tall dark-haired boy. Trident Shamal and Sawada Nana were familiar faces to him, though he didn’t quite understand why they were there. He was under the impression Nana was not aware of the mafia…
“I cannot decide if you are ignorant or rude,” Tsunayoshi commented, and Timoteo was instantly taken aback. Coyote spluttered in outraged offense, taking a step forward, but before Timoteo could rein him in a snarl erupted from the long-haired young woman to Tsunayoshi’s right. Lightning Flames crackled over her skin as she glared at Coyote Nougat, but when Tsuna lifted his right hand just a fraction, the woman reeled back her Flames and her snarl died down to an unhappy rumble.
“I would avoid making any threatening moves towards Tsuna or Kyoya,” the unknown woman with Reborn stated, voice cold and carrying. She had the bearing of a queen, and Timoteo was startled when her cool expression shifted into a feral baring of teeth. “None of us take too kindly to our Alpha Primes being threatened.”
“There are protocols that must be followed when interacting with Sentinels and Guides,” Tsunayoshi said before Timoteo could question the woman – who looked a great deal like Tsunayoshi’s Sentinel, and was likely his mother. “These protocols are especially important when interacting with Alpha Pairs, as Prides tend to take offence quickly and easily if their Alphas are insulted or threatened.” Tsunayoshi’s lips curled up into a mockery of a smile, baring just a hint of a sharp fang-like tooth. “It is just lucky your man there didn’t get any closer, or Hana would have made mincemeat of him.”
Coyote Nougat spluttered in outrage again, and Timoteo shot him a warning look. The Storm frowned but subsided, and Timoteo looked back to his successor. That faux-smile was still present, and his eyes were gleaming orange.
“Therefore, I wish to know,” Tsunayoshi continued mildly, “are you ignorant or rude?” Timoteo decided to try placate the boy, as it was likely the better option.
“My apologies, Tsunayoshi, for any perceived rudeness,” Timoteo began, attempting a soothing tone, but he was cut off again.
“Ignorant, then,” Tsunayoshi’s Sentinel – Kyoya, if he recalled correctly – said dismissively, and then he frowned towards Nie Brow Jr. and Ganache III. Tsunayoshi touched his arm, and his frown deepened.
“Tsuna,” he replied, voice dropping to a growl, “They’ve been forced dormant.”
“I know, my Guide,” Tsuna murmured, and Timoteo blinked a few times in surprise. What? Had Xanxus and Reborn been telling the truth about that? “We will fix it.”
“To return to the matter at hand, there are certain protocols which must be followed when greeting an Alpha Pair,” Sawada Nana interrupted gently. Timoteo was surprised to hear her speaking perfect Italian, but he supposed that if Tsuna was learning it then Reborn would teach the entire household at the same time. “To greet Tsuna as you did, before he had completed his sensory scan of the room, is a taboo by writ of the International Sentinel-Guide Council.”
Timoteo was the one to splutter this time.
Kyoya was growing tired of the talking and posturing. The need to do something about the forced dormancy of the Sentinel-Guide pair among Vongola Nono’s Guardians was niggling at him fiercely, and he needed to do something about it before it drove him mad. Tsuna was being more patient, but his empathy wasn’t as powerful as Kyoya’s, and so the Sentinel couldn’t feel the Lightning and Sun’s souls screaming to be let free.
He needed to do something about it.
“I am with you, Alpha,” Hayato murmured, and Kyoya glanced at him. Lancia, behind Hayato and Takeshi, met his eyes and nodded. He would assist, too.
Kyoya smiled as the verbal back and forth continued between his Sentinel and Vongola Nono, and the two Storm Guides smirked back at him. Tetsuya nodded to him, and Takeshi’s easy grin sharpened. The two Sentinels would guard their Guides and Kyoya, and the three of them would do what needed to be done.
Ganache III – and Kyouya would need to find out his proper name sooner rather than later, because this kind of itch meant that he’d just found a new Pride member – shifted on the spot slightly and met Kyoya’s gaze, and Kyoya used that as his excuse to move. He lunged, Cloud Flames augmenting his speed, and dropped Ganache to his knees with both hands on the man’s head. Lancia and Hayato stood behind Kyoya, Flames twined with his, each with a hand on one of his shoulders, and Kyoya reached into Ganache’s soul.
Tsuna slid easily between his Guide and the Vongola Ninth Generation, teeth bared in a snarl as the rest of his Pride surged into action. Tetsuya and Takeshi stood guard over their Guides as Hayato and Lancia helped Kyoya with the block on Ganache, and Tsuna only stood between his Guide and the Ninth Generation long enough for the rest of his Pride to slot into a defensive barricade. Then he went to Nie Brow Jr., who Tsuna could see and sense was torn between going to Ganache or backing up the rest of Nono’s Guardians.
“Look at me,” he ordered, using the extra resonance of his Alpha Prime voice. Nie Brow shuddered and then looked at him, clearly reluctant to tear his eyes from Ganache. Tsuna reached out, and paused with his hands inches from Nie Brow’s face. “You should be online, but someone has forced you into dormancy. The same was done to Ganache, and Kyoya is fixing it. Will you let me fix it for you?” Nie Brow swallowed, eyes flicking to Ganache only briefly before returning to Tsuna.
“Please,” he whispered, and Tsuna smiled as gently as he could manage with the sheer fury he felt that someone had dared do this to an online Sentinel.
“This may hurt,” he warned, and then placed his hands on Nie Brow’s cheeks and reached.