Words: 39,100 total
Warnings: canon-typical violence, attempted suicide.
Venture Out Of Boredom
File #2B104CZ is missing.
Hyacinthe spends a good ten minutes staring fixedly at the spot where file #2B104CZ should be, but isn’t, before deciding that it’s time for a break anyway. His only coworker is neck-deep into her own pile of files and letters—tomorrow’s letters, even, while Hyacinthe is stuck contemplating the pile from yesterday morning that he hasn’t had the energy to get started on yet—so he lets himself out without a word. Outside the weather is especially bad, which is never enjoyable, and his throat has that scratch of pre-ache that tells him he really shouldn’t be smoking two cigarettes in a row right now.
Hyacinthe smokes two cigarettes in a row.
Every intake of air burns and makes him want to end it, but he still swears in disappointment when a fat drop of rain lands on the paper of his second smoke and suffuses that disgusting wet-tobacco taste onto his tongue. When he’s done he crawls back to the archive room reluctantly, shoulder pressed against the wall. His coworker doesn’t look up.
She’s been here for two months, but he still can’t remember her name. Therefore, he’s decided that he will avoid any and all interaction with her until he manages to glance at her stamps or at the name of the session she uses on her computer without looking like a creep.
Hyacinthe takes a good fifteen minutes after sitting back at his desk to remember that file #2B104CZ is missing. When he does, he pats the pile of papers on the table in front of him and hopes that #2B104CZ will miraculously fall out. It doesn’t, so he groans, and gets started on tidying up three weeks’ worth of mess.
An hour later he feels a lot more anxious than accomplished, as #2B104CZ is nowhere to be found. He stares at the top of his coworker’s head that he can see just above the pile of folders she has on the side of her own desk. He thinks her name is Lisa, but it might also be Elise or Sandra for all he can remember. Just because she looks like a Lisa doesn’t mean she is one.
“Lisa,” he whispers.
She doesn’t move, of course, because she didn’t hear him, or maybe because she thinks it’s ridiculous, that he’s whispering her name when they are in an empty room together and he could perfectly just say it out loud. The Vongola archives look like what Hyacinthe imagined the Hogwarts library did when he was a kid, but it isn’t a library—they can be loud. They could scream if they wanted to. Hyacinthe didn’t have a problem being loud with his previous coworker, but then the fool had to be found out as a spy and probably tortured and killed, and now he has to undergo the mandatory six months of awkwardness before he can hope to achieve the same comfort around maybe-Lisa.
Somewhat fired up, Hyacinthe clears his throat and says, “Lisa,” again, but too loudly this time. For a wild second his heart drops to the bottom of his stomach and congeals here, but then maybe-Lisa lifts her head to look at him and replies, “Yes?”
Thank God. “Hey, sorry to bother you… do you know where #2B104CZ is?” he asks.
“Oh,” Lisa says. “Give me a second.” She fiddles with her neat piles for a moment, her polished nails scratching the paper and making shivers creep up Hyacinthe’s spine. She looks vaguely apologetic when she turns back to him. “Did you check on the shelf already?” she asks, embarrassed, and it doesn’t take a genius to know that she’s embarrassed for him.
What the fuck do you think, Hyacinthe thinks. “Yeah,” he says. “It’s just gone.”
He sees her look at his desk in a way she probably thinks is subtle but makes him feel more like he should gear up for a screaming match. Thankfully, she keeps her mouth shut when she notices that he did tidy everything up.
“Well, that’s a problem,” she says at last. “When did you take it out last?”
“I didn’t,” Hyacinthe replies.
Lisa looks like her eyes are about to blow out of her head. It’s a little funny. “What?”
“I didn’t,” Hyacinthe repeats. “Never touched the damn thing in my life.”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Lisa says with the air of someone who means to be rude, “but have you considered the possibility that you might have taken it out and forgotten?”
Hyacinthe really wants to ask her if she’s considered the possibility of minding her own business and to remind her that he, who has worked here for three years as opposed to her two months, knows the place better than she does. “It’s a nineteenth century academic research on Japan’s most toxic sea life that Quinto’s Sun Guardian completed over the course of six years,” he says. At least he thinks it is. That one might be #2B104CA. “So not only is it absolutely unforgettable, it’s also really fucking big.”
She throws him a look that says, if you can remember that, how come you can never find anything on your own? But Hyacinthe is pretty sure he’s reaching the limits of how nice he really wants to be, and he’s hungry now, and his throat hurts from talking.
“I’m off to eat,” he declares. “Gonna bring that up with Mammon on my way, see if they can find it for me.”
He’s satisfied to see her pale a little at his words.
Going to the Varia house is a one kilometer trek and an entire hill to walk down from, plus another one to climb. Hyacinthe spends five of the twenty minutes the walks usually takes him looking longingly at the cars parked in the courtyard and regretting his inability to drive. He needs the physical activity anyway, he thinks.
He starts hating himself as soon as the road starts going upward, as usual. Mammon is waiting for him at the entrance of the house—they call it a manor, but it’s a fourth of the size of Vongola’s and Hyacinthe will not call archives run by a sixty year-old dick and which can fit into less than twenty square meters worthy of a manor—and though Hyacinthe can’t see their eyes under their hood he can hear them snicker at him.
“You’re late,” Mammon says.
“I walk slow. Hard time breathing.” He’s panting as he says it, and he knows his entire face is red from the effort.
Mammon shrugs. “Stop smoking, then.”
Hyacinthe resists the urge to flip him off.
Varia house would be pretty if it wasn’t constantly being repaired. Or built. Hyacinthe isn’t sure the place was ever finished building at all. The façade looks the elegant kind of gothic from what he can glimpse between the ladders and platforms and plastic coverings and dust. Inside is a bit better overall, because the destroyed parts are closed to the public, and because the current Varia team has an understanding of sorts. They only go all-out far from their living spaces. Mammon won’t tell Hyacinthe what happened to make this necessary unless he pays for it, though.
“I need you to locate something for me,” Hyacinthe says as soon as Mammon is sat on the kitchen counter of their room.
“Did you lose something again?”
“I didn’t.” Now that he can breathe more normally he has energy to spare for irritation, so he does. “I think someone stole it.”
Mammon’s face looks even more bored that it usually is. Their mouth is down-turned, now, even. “I didn’t think there was anything worth stealing in there.”
“You’re awfully ignorant for someone who deals in everything,” Hyacinthe replies.
There’s a ton worth stealing in the Vongola archives, for rival families but also for the general public, as well as a few million euros’ worth of “lost” art stored into big rooms and attended to by a team of specialists. Hyacinthe doesn’t really like specialists. He’ll let them in as long as they keep Monet’s Charing Cross Bridge in top condition, though.
It’s probably a good idea to keep Mammon in the dark about the art works.
“I didn’t think this would get stolen, of all things, ” Hyacinthe has to admit.
“What is it?”
“An old university thesis on Japanese sea life.”
“Why do we even have that?” Mammon groans.
“It was written by Quinto’s Sun Gardian,” Hyacinthe says. “It’s been on my to-read list forever.”
“The entire bloody archive is on your to-read list.”
Hyacinthe doesn’t answer, because that’s true.
He stands up to make coffee in good part because he wants to be on Mammon’s good side for the day so as to reduce the cost of his request as much as he can. Mammon doesn’t comment on it, but their pinky finger strokes along the scales on Fantasma’s belly as if to quiet the animal. When they’re sitting like this it’s more evident how much Hyacinthe towers over them in height and weight despite how straight their back is. Hyacinthe can hunch and try to disappear all he wants, but he’s still a big guy.
“So,” he says conversationally. “Will you do it?”
“Make me cake and I’ll consider it,” Mammon replies, so Hyacinthe does.
He ends up making way more food than is strictly necessary, because ten minutes in Belphegor walks in and asks to be fed. Hyacinthe doesn’t think Belphegor knows who he is or realizes that he’s not the cook, despite his weekly visits to Mammon. He and Mammon start sending rapid-fire insults at each other behind his back, and Hyacinthe wisely keeps his mouth shut.
“I have work,” Mammon growls after a while, and Fantasma is on their head now and opening his mouth wide so his sharp little gleam in the low light. “If you make me lose more of time I’ll start making you reimburse me for it in full, Bel.”
“You’re so boring,” Belphegor laments.
Hyacinthe slides a plate his way and tries not to be seen. Thankfully, the boy-prince grabs it and leaves as if he hasn’t noticed the man was there at all.
“Now,” Mammon says. They have one hand around the scorching heat of their mug and the other getting Fantasma down from their head. “I’ll do it, for three hundred euros.”
Hyacinthe does some quick math in his head. This will put a dent into the money he religiously hoards every month on a third illegal bank account and never ever touches, but he can live with it. He’ll buy less food next month. “Deal.”
“Give me some paper,” Mammon orders, and Hyacinthe does, because one thing he learned about working with archives is that he always needs to have memos on him all the time. Mammon folds the page in two and holds it in front of their face like an open book. “A thesis on Japanese sea life written by Quinto’s Sun, you said.”
“Just file #2B104CZ, if you can’t remember it all,” Hyacinthe adds with a smile.
“You’re the least helpful person I know,” Mammon replies. “All right.”
Hyacinthe looks away when they do their thing, because it’s disgusting and because Fastasma is running around in circles chasing his tail now, and it’s a little cute. There’s a bright light coming from Mammon while they focus that washes the entire room of color and brings tears to his eyes. Then the unfortunate sound of sneezing, and a silence, before Mammon swears loudly enough to make Fantasma jump.
“What’s wrong?” Hyacinthe asks immediately, looking to where the paper is glowing bright with a weird symbol on it.
“It’s in Japan,” Mammon replies.
But Mammon doesn’t answer. Their hood has fallen back, and their beast-like green eyes are fixed on the symbol that keeps flickering its yellow light on and off.
Every time Hyacinthe has seen Mammon use their locating power, the paper they are holding fills itself with the sharp lines of a map of sorts—or, if Mammon is more inclined, actual written instructions. But there’s nothing here but the glowing symbol that looks weirdly like a child’s toy.
“So what does this mean?” Hyacinthe says. “Someone broke into the archive and stole a century-old paper on Japanese sea life just so they could bring it with them there and, what? Fish for toxic crustacean?” It says a lot about the years he’s spent at the manor that it doesn’t sound that far-fetched. “They could’ve just asked.”
“Not this guy,” Mammon says. “I don’t know where it is exactly, but I know who took it—and this person is in Japan currently.”
Hyacinthe waits. Mammon tugs their hood down over their eyes again and gathers Fantasma against their side with a broad swipe of their hand. The creature hisses a little.
“So who is it?” he asks when the silence becomes frankly ridiculous.
Hyacinthe doesn’t know anyone by that name. “Who?”
“Are you for real?” Mammon replies in a flat voice. “Is this a French thing, being this clueless?”
“What French thing?” Hyacinthe parrots in the worst French accent he can bring himself to recreate, and it’s with immense satisfaction that he watches Mammon groan and flex their hands as if readying them to strike. “I’m serious, though. I don’t know anyone named Reborn.”
“Then read your damn archives,” Mammon says. “There has to be at least ten folders to his name in there.”
There’s more to their tone than the usual lack of enthusiasm. For once Hyacinthe doesn’t push the topic and resolves to look into it on his own. He fishes a pen out of his backpack and writes REBORN on his left hand in blocky letters, and Mammon sneers at the sight but doesn’t say another word.
As it turns out, there is only one file specifically titled REBORN. Hyacinthe does the database search the minute he’s back at the archive, after another kilometer-long walk that Mammon refused to drive for him. The weird thing is that the file itself a very old one with very recent updates and that apparently these updates are the special kind that don’t go by Hyacinthe himself but directly from the topmost officiers at Vongola, including the Ninth himself, who has direct and protected access to it. Hyacinthe vaguely wonders if it’s any kind of regular that he can access the file at all, and indeed he cannot read any of its content, just see the title and the number.
He finds the physical copy of it with little hope. The thing is sealed with Flames and bears Vongola’s crest with an IX on it made of glinting crimson wax. Hyacinthe isn’t afraid of his boss, but he doesn’t especially want to die either, so he doesn’t try to touch it.
“Where is it, then?” Lisa asks when she sees him fall back into his chair. The thing cracks loudly in the silence.
“Japan,” Hyacinthe answers.
“Japan,” she repeats, and he can see her eyes glaze over in disappointment but not surprise.
Yeah. He agrees.
He takes his phone out of his pocket and speed-dials Mammon, and he touches his hair with his hand briefly, tugging hard on the little strands at his forehead that he needs to shorten. “What is it now?” Mammon answers with irritation on their voice. Hyacinthe smiles. They picked up after barely five seconds of ringing.
“If you’re not busy, can you locate that Reborn person a little more precisely for me?”
There are loud noises cracking in the static, and what sounds like Varia’s second-in-command Superbi Squalo’s voice screaming hard enough to tear his voice apart. “I’m busy, Cen,” Mammon replies predictably. “And you only paid me for one locating.”
“Which you failed, by the way.”
“You’re a century too young to try to manipulate me.” They don’t seem too angry despite the sound of things blowing up. They groan, satisfied, a few seconds later, after one blast of noise nearly punches Hyacinthe’s ear clean off. “Hold that thought.”
Everything after that is muffled, as if Mammon has put their hand on the receiver, so Hyacinthe leans back in his chair and stretches his shoulders until they crack loudly. Lisa makes a face at him.
“Okay,” Mammon says. The explosion noises have disappeared in favor of just Squalo’s screaming, so Hyacinthe gathers that whoever was fighting has now stopped. “Fine, I’ll locate the bastard.”
“Stop being disgusting.”
They sneeze loudly a second later, and Hyacinthe shudders hard enough to kick his left foot right into the bottom drawer of his desk. He presses down on his toes with his free palm and tries not to let the tears gathering in his eyes from the pain roll down his face.
“I have him,” Mammon declares, a little proud. “I’ll text you his current coordinates. Don’t forget the money for earlier.”
“I never forget money,” Hyacinthe says before hanging up.
The man named Reborn is located in a small Japanese town called Namimori, according to Mammon. Hyacinthe looks at their text a grand total of thirty times during what’s left of the afternoon, and by the time Lisa is leaving for her car outside it has finally started raining.
The room is dark, but Hyacinthe doesn’t turn on more than his desktop lamp. It’s early fall now, and with the clouds hiding it from all light Tuscany looks grey more than orange. Hyacinthe’s throat aches less with the coffee he’s drunk and the candy-like meds he pops too often into his mouth, and he hasn’t smoked in hours now, which doesn’t hurt. He likes the rain anyway. It never rains enough here compared to his hometown where the drizzle is daily.
Hyacinthe doesn’t know what he should do about #2B104CZ. He could get away with not mentioning it at all, because no one in this place cares enough to monitor the archives the way he does. He has the magic key that opens and close all the doors, and if his Flame control is weak at least he can use it at all, which isn’t the case for most people. It took three weeks of training under Sawada’s watchful eye to manage to produce one lick of blue between his thumb and index—just enough to use the key at all.
Technically, no one here has control over the archives. No one except Hyacinthe.
So he could just not report #2B104CZ’s disappearance. It’s not like #2B104CZ is of any importance; it’s a simple relic of Quinto’s years, something sentimental. As far as Hyacinthe knows the thesis never got published in the first place. It’s not like anyone would miss it.
The fact that someone took it is what bothers Hyacinthe at all, because this is his archive room, and those are his keys, and no one sets a foot here without his permission. Nono himself always goes through Hyacinthe when he needs something from the archives, even though he can access it without the key, because he knows whose territory this is.
And Hyacinthe is nothing if not territorial.
Plus, there’s something about spending four and a half years in college getting drilled about source material that just won’t let him lose a manuscript like that. No matter how ridiculous or outdated.
Hyacinthe gathers his things and leaves the room. He pours Flame into the key and locks the door behind him, and then he puts the key back around his neck and under his hoodie.
“I need someone to go to Japan,” he tells Nono’s Mist when he arrives at the man’s office.
Nono’s Mist is always very polite to Hyacinthe. He calls him “Faure” and isn’t affectionate in the least, but his voice is soft and his words are good and he treats Hyacinthe like a respected employee no matter what.
Hyacinthe will never call him by name because Bouche and Croquant are beyond his ability to use as words meant to designate another human being, but he does appreciate the man.
Nono’s Mist pushes his glasses up his nose to look at him. He has what looks like the blueprints of a factory spread over his desk, and his assistant, a scrawny man with early-greying hair, is looking at Hyacinthe in disapproval.
“What do you need to go to Japan for?” Nono’s Mist questions.
“I don’t need to. But someone broke into the archives and took one of the files with them to Japan.”
The Mist Guardian doesn’t look surprised, though his assistant lets out a small squeak of a noise, like a hurt mouse. He’s red in the face when Hyacinthe glances at him.
“Do you know who did?” Nono’s Mist asks.
“Yeah. Some guy named Reborn.”
“Faure,” the Guardian says, and there’s something on his voice a little heavier than Hyacinthe has ever heard before, which makes his thumbs rubs against the sides of his indexes nervously. “Are you sure about this?”
“Got the info from Mammon,” Hyacinthe says. He swallows past the ache in his throat. “Why?”
“Do you seriously not know who Reborn is?” Mist’s stuck-up assistant says in his stuck-up-assistant voice. “What ever are you doing in this Family?”
And Hyacinthe has resisted giving Lisa the finger and resisted flipping Mammon off, but he doesn’t care enough about this guy to try. So he slaps his right hand into the crook of his left elbow and raises his left forearm, fist closed.
The assistant goes crimson with indignation; for a second Hyacinthe sees his free hand twitch in the direction of what is probably an armpit holster. But Nono’s Mist grasps the man’s shoulder firmly and laughs, brief and booming.
But then—”Let me take you to the Boss,“ he says, and Hyacinthe doesn’t understand at first, not until he looks away from the assistant’s burned-red cheeks and to the glint in Croquant’s eyes.
“No,” he says.
“That was an order,” the Mist replies easily.
Hyacinthe clamps his mouth shut.
He doesn’t sink so low as to need to be steered there. He follows the Guardian’s steps from corridor to corridor and watches with unseeing eyes as the man unlocks door after door and bypasses security it would take Hyacinthe weeks to get authorized past. Not that he wants to get past it.
Hyacinthe has met Vongola Nono face-to-face a grand total of five times over the years. The first and most memorable was when he got taken—dragged—hired, and because Nono’s Mist had offered to house him directly on the estate, against a slightly less outrageous salary, of course. So Hyacinthe had to meet the Boss in person and sign a working and living contract with him directly.
There hadn’t really been a question. Hyacinthe didn’t even speak Italian at the time, though he understood it well enough when spoken slowly, so he wasn’t looking forward to having to find a place to live on his own. He had taken the offer and lived in the manor since.
The problem was that Hyacinthe had been emotionally dead from anxiety the first time he laid eyes on whom he had recently learned was the biggest mob boss in Europe and his new employer, and so he had said whatever went by his unfortunately low-inhibited mind. Including the fact that, no, this wasn’t his first visit to Italy, and that he actually had family here.
The Ninth had loved it.
Hyacinthe feels dread swallow up his insides as the Mist Guardian knocks on the Boss’s office door. A quiet come in filters out through the expensive wood panel.
The Ninth Vongola boss looks like a Vermeer if Vermeer could paint human emotion. He’s shrouded in light, sitting at his desk and his back turned to the wide windows that must bathe the entire room with gold sunlight when the summer is high, and he has one hand holding a diamond-studded fountain pen and the other resting on the paper he is busy with. His old face wrinkles with joy when he meets Hyacinthe’s eyes.
“Now this is rare,” he declares, poised and warm, and Hyacinthe feels something small and unnamed shrivel up inside him. “What brings you here, my boy?”
“Faure has some interesting news,” the Mist says, cutting right to the chase. Bless him. “About Reborn.”
Nono’s face doesn’t betray anything that Hyacinthe can see. The old man drops the thousand-euro trinket he’s holding into a ridiculously bright red leather case and leans back in his equally outrageous seat. “Does he,” he prompts.
Croquant gives a brief pat to the space between Hyacinthe’s shoulder blades, and Hyacinthe jumps out of his skin.
“Uh,” he says.
Neither of his two superiors look like they want to make this easy. Hyacinthe swallows painfully against his aching throat.
Then he remembers why he’s here, and that he has technically done nothing to deserve feeling this goddamn anxious over.
“This Reborn guy stole file #2B104CZ from the archives.” It’s more simple to speak than to stay silent and mortified, he finds. “From my archives.”
The Guardian snorts lightly.
“What is this file?” Nono asks. He doesn’t seemed phased, but then again, if he were phased by something as trivial as stolen property he wouldn’t be here, Hyacinthe thinks.
“An old manuscript from Quinto’s time. He took it to Japan, apparently.”
Nono does seem to tense a tiny amount at that. He looks over Hyacinthe’s head to his Guardian with something complicated on his face that Hyacinthe thinks better than to try and decipher, and then he looks back down. “Still friends with the Varia, then.”
“Just Mammon,” Hyacinthe mutters.
“Have you told anyone else about this?”
Hyacinthe shakes his head. Well—he did tell Lisa, but Lisa doesn’t know who took it, just where it went.
“If Mammon knows, Xanxus knows,” Croquant says flatly.
Nono frowns, and his eyes look pained.
The silence that follows is every kind of heavy at once. Hyacinthe’s life is littered with discomfort, so it’s not the worst thing he’s ever stood through, but he would still rather not be there at all to experience it. He looks out to the burned out color of the foliage and the crisp veins and heurts where every tree’s trunk has suffered bullets and what looks like knife wounds. The windows must be a sort of Vongola-special foolproof glass, for the Ninth to turn his back to them so serenely.
“Reborn is currently on a very important and very secret mission,” Nono says at last. Hyacinthe looks back at him, but the man is staring at the back of his own hands spread flat over the desktop. “I would’ve preferred no one know his whereabouts.”
Part of Hyacinthe wants to stay silent, part of him wants to inform Nono that Mammon is likely tracing Reborn already judging by their reaction earlier, and the rest of him is too busy being conflicted between the two to say anything.
“Mmh,” he settles on.
“It is unfortunate that he chose to take something he didn’t have the right to,” Nono continues.
“Okay,” Hyacinthe says.
“He should have gone through you, out of respect for your excellent work in the last few years.”
“That is true.”
“We’ve really never had a better archivist in our ranks.” The Boss’s eyes look like they’re sparkling again, worryingly enough. “I can’t thank God enough for bringing you to us.”
“Thanks,” Hyacinthe mumbles.
The Mist Guardian hums contentedly, and takes hold of Hyacinthe’s shoulder once more.
“Say,” and now even Nono’s voice sounds sparkly, and the pit of dread in Hyacinthe’s stomach opens up and grows, “how would you feel about a trip abroad, my boy?”
“You mean to France?” Hyacinthe asks hopelessly.
Nono chuckles and says, “No,” like a death sentence.
Hyacinthe tells himself he should consider his options; but the truth is and will always be that he doesn’t fear his Boss and that he knows, intellectually, that Nono has a soft spot for him. So he says: “I’m not going to fucking Japan.”
“Faure,” Croquant growls.
“Don’t ‘Faure’ me,” Hyacinthe snaps back. “I don’t even speak Japanese! Just send someone else to fetch the damn thing, or wait for that Reborn guy to bring it back, or just email him—I’m not traveling halfway across the world for a century-old, outdated manuscript.”
“Is this how you treat my ancestors’ legacy?” Nono pleads. He’s very convincing as a benevolent grandfather.
“I shit on your ancestors,” Hyacinthe replies in French.
His heart freezes over in fear after that, because he didn’t mean it literally, he didn’t, but who fucking knows how Italians are gonna take it—but all Nono does is laugh, and even though the Mist Guardian’s grip on Hyacinthe’s shoulder has become painful he doesn’t make a move to murder him on the spot.
“I think the trip would do you a world of good,” Nono says once he’s done laughing. “Make you get out of your comfort zone a little more.”
“I am constantly in my discomfort zone,” Hyacinthe protests.
“When’s the last time you went out, then?”
Hyacinthe is about to answer angrily when he realizes that he doesn’t exactly know—and that it’s no one’s business but his, anyway.
Nono smiles gently. “You haven’t made any connections besides Mammon since you got here,” he says. “You meet with them once or twice a week for a couple hours, and you go into town for groceries and other necessities every ten days or so. Every six months, you take three weeks of holiday and fly back to France to visit your parents. How’s Rouen?”
This is, Hyacinthe thinks faintly, the reason why Nono is considered such a fearsome Capofamiglia. “Rainy,” he replies, crossing his arms over his chest. He’s starting to sweat under the thick rose-print hoodie he’s wearing.
“I can understand how complicated the language barrier made things at first, but you overcame that quickly enough. You were pretty much fluent after half a year. But you didn’t seek any relationships, not even work ones.”
“My lack of a social circle is none of your business.”
“Indeed,” Nono continues, still smiling. “But you’re a smart and handsome young man, ruining his best years away in a dusty room that sees little enough light to be called a basement.”
And, well, there’s nothing Hyacinthe can say to that. He has been petitioning Croquant for years to open windows in the walls of the archives after all.
“I still can’t speak Japanese,” he says after a while. “I’m the worst person you could send there. I don’t even know what Reborn looks like, or who he is, or what kind of job he’s doing that is so secret and important.”
“He’s tutoring the future Decimo,” Nono answers.
Hyacinthe chokes on his inhale and coughs grossly. His vision is swarming with grey spots by the time he regains his breath, and for a while longer the light from outside looks more green than white.
“I won’t give you more information than this,” Nono cuts in. He’s not smiling anymore. “This is already more than anyone who isn’t me, my advisor, or my Guardians, knows. And I hereby forbid you from breathing a word of it.”
Hyacinthe breathes out slowly. His heart is beating off-tempo, and his face is burning, still, from the rush of exhilarated daring earlier. “Yes, sir.”
Nono’s lips curl indulgently. “I want you to go to Japan and bring back what Reborn stole.”
“This is also an order.”
Hyacinthe shuts his mouth. His ears are ringing.
“Please understand that I’m not doing this to punish you, Hyacinthe,” Nono adds gently.
It feels like it, Hyacinthe thinks. “Of course, sir,” he replies.
“Cheer up,” the Mist Guardian orders beside him. “Japan is a beautiful country, and the entire trip will be paid for. You won’t even have to worry about housing or tracking Reborn down, since we know exactly where he is.”
“To thank you, I’m willing to make a few concessions upon your return,” the Ninth says. “Bouche tells me you’ve been requesting some construction work in the archives?”
Hyacinthe nods faintly. He’s not listening anymore, not really—his mind is stuck far ahead onto the flight he’s going to have to book himself and the hotel he will have to sleep in when he’s waiting in Rome and what he’s going to do when he lands in Japan proper, because he’s never heard of a place called Namimori and with his luck it’s going to be so far from any sort of big city that he’s going to have to walk there.
He’s doing this, isn’t he. He’s going to Japan to fetch some old papers.
And his university professors thought he didn’t have the soul for the work.
“Get me some cheese that isn’t dry as the fucking desert when I come back,” he says, with the voice of a man ready for the gallows.
“I can do that,” Vongola Nono assures him.
It’s easy enough to convince Mammon to take a day off and drive Hyacinthe to Rome. They stop in Florence to eat lunch, which Hyacinthe pays, and then it’s a three-hour drive in Mammon’s neat but old car which doesn’t even have the decency of having a CD player. Thirty minutes into soapy Italian pop music Hyacinthe decides that he prefers world news to music at all. Mammon groans but doesn’t stop him.
“You elitist,” they just say.
Hyacinthe is familiar with the landscapes unfolding through the windows. He has traveled to Rome several times, by train or in the same car with Mammon in the driver’s seat, and though he adores central Italy fiercely he finds that he doesn’t really have it in him to marvel this time. The hills are beautiful, the sun is out, and the first hour of the trip is littered with silver olive trees gleaming like fish’s scales. He still can’t think about anything other than the fact that he’s about to jump straight into the unknown.
“What sort of person is Reborn?” he asks, because Nono was kind enough to pay for the trip but not give him a single picture, or any sort of information at all.
“I don’t want to talk about him,” Mammon answers.
“What did he do to you, then?” But there’s only silence beside him. When he turns his head to stare at his friend Mammon is entirely focused on the road in front of them. “Oh, come on. Give me something.”
“It blows my goddamn mind that you’ve been a mafioso for three years and haven’t heard of Reborn before,” Mammon shoots back.
Hyacinthe scowls. “I’m not a mafioso.”
“Denial looks ugly on you.”
“Fine,” Hyacinthe retorts. “Don’t tell me anything. Let me just cross two continents to find a man whose full name and appearance I don’t know in a country I’ve never visited before and whose language I can’t speak.”
“Your English is fine,” Mammon says, absolutely bored. “You’ll be okay.”
Hyacinthe knows that. It doesn’t stop the anxiety from eating him alive every second that goes by. Mammon shoots him a glance, and the curve of their mouth goes a little softer.
“Reborn is the best hitman in the business,” they say after a moment. “He’s technically unattached to any Family, but his loyalty to Vongola is the mafia’s worst-kept secret.”
“He’s not part of the Family?” Mammon shakes his head. “Not even the CEDEF?”
“God, no. He and Sawada can’t stand each other.”
Hyacinthe doesn’t have an opinion on Iemitsu Sawada one way or the other. He distinctly remembers calling the man a mean-spirited asshole after meeting him, because Sawada had ordered him around without a thank you or please when he was training to use his Flame, but truly, he barely got to talk to him at all. “Huh,” he says.
It doesn’t make a lot of sense for the Ninth to have an outsider watch over the future Decimo, though, does it?
“So how do you know Reborn?” Hyacinthe asks.
“Everyone knows Reborn,” Mammon answers.
“You know him, though. Personally.”
Fantasma is curled asleep on Mammon’s shoulder. Mammon raises a hand at Hyacinthe’s words and presses their fingers to the creature’s scales and to the tip of his triangle-shaped face so Fantasma can lick the pad of their index. “He and I are part of the same group,” they say. “I try to avoid all of them as much as I can.”
Hyacinthe waits, but Mammon doesn’t offer anything more.
The rest of the ride is pretty silent after that. The landscape has become less rounded and the weather less damp, and there are more cars on the roads alongside theirs, all heading toward the capital. Mammon has promised to drop Hyacinthe at the gates of the city, but they drive all the way to his hotel instead. Their reasons become apparent once they park in front of it.
“I’m hungry,” they declare, “and I know you got one of those special credit cards for the trip, so let’s use it.”
Hyacinthe does, in fact, have one of those credit cards. It’s a black thing pressed with the Vongola crest and lined in gold, and it doesn’t have a number—just a code that Hyacinthe is not allowed to write down anywhere.
He had to build an entire new part of his brain to memorize it.
Hyacinthe picked the hotel based on food reviews rather than comfort and facilities. The place looks nice enough, minimalistic but not cheap, with no dusty corners in sight. The food, when it comes, smells delicious.
“How long is the trip going to take you?” Mammon asks. A waitress is eyeing their lowered hood like it personally insulted her—she fumbled between sir and ma’am while taking their orders, too, for the both of them. Mammon is ignoring her, but they’re smiling a little nastily.
“Well, if I make it out alive, probably not more than a few days. I hope.” Hyacinthe hadn’t exactly counted on his target being a top class hitman, but it’s a bit soothing to think about.
“Look alive,” Mammon mutters. “Well, don’t count on me to pick you up when you’re back. I’m going to be very busy for the next few months.”
“What do you mean?”
Mammon lifts their head. Even in the shadow of their hood their eyes are striking, electric, and with the strength of greed in them they make Hyacinthe swallow reflexively.
“You’ll see,” they murmur.
Hyacinthe had been rotting away in Rouen when the mafia found him. He spent every day with depression gripping his guts and every night wide-eyed and hapless, and the relationship he was in at the time was sucking what was left of his self-esteem and leaving him in a state of constant emptiness. He was barely hanging on to his studies and all his friends had left for Paris years ago and never looked back. He was doing so bad for his internship at the musée des Beaux-Arts that every one of his superiors and colleagues disliked him without having the energy to actually fire him.
Then one day, a man had walked in, looking tired and irritated, and started asking him questions about Caravaggio’s Christ at the Column.
Hyacinthe hated the Caravaggio.
It was by far the most respected piece in the entire European baroque collection, but it was so damn ugly, like everything baroque and European, and Hyacinthe had been so very tired. He thought the dark-skinned man in the expensive suit and shoes with scars on his face who looked as angry as he felt might appreciate it more if he were honest about it, so he was, with no shortage of expletives for how fucking disgusting he thought the Caravaggio looked.
The man liked it so much that he offered Hyacinthe a job.
It was in Italy. It was for the mafia. The man had tried to introduce himself as croquembouche. Everything about it was fishy, and especially how rich the guy looked and how he had taken one look at Hyacinthe and brought up transition benefits—as if Hyacinthe’s year-long process of ripping his own gender to shreds was visible on his face. Because apparently, the Italian mafia doesn’t care if you’re trans as long as you can follow omertà.
All in all, it took Hyacinthe two days to break up with his girlfriend and drop out of college. Bouche Croquant, to whom Hyacinthe immediately refused to ever refer as Bouche or Croquant for the sake of his own mental health, waited for him in the city until he made up his mind, and was pleasantly surprised to see him arrive at his hotel with his luggage packed and his mind clear.
Hyacinthe had worked for Vongola ever since as keeper of the Family’s numerous archives, under the direct jurisdiction of the Ninth’s Mist Guardian.
Hyacinthe lands at Narita international airport at four in the morning local time. He made the absolute mistake of not sleeping during the flight, because this was his first time flying for so long, and because there were a bunch of movies on the plane that he has been dying to watch for a while without ever finding the energy to. He’s exhausted on top of being thousands of kilometers away from home, which thankfully sucks away his anxiety enough that he can book himself a train ticket to Namimori.
He has four hours before his train leaves. He spends them filling his stomach with coffee at Starbucks and smoking a grand total of six cigarettes, and by the time the reaches his quay the train itself is shrieking into a stop and he feels like his entire body is vibrating.
He doesn’t know how he manages to nap on the train. It’s very comfortable, so maybe that’s the reason. He wakes up jittery and with a headache, but he feels less like a dead body overall.
And then he’s there. Namimori.
The last twenty hours feel more like a dream than an actual day in his life. Hyacinthe thinks about it as he looks at the clear fall sky and the bare trees around the entrance to the train station. There are people milling around, but nothing like the crowds at Narita, and the station employee he asks for directions after five entire minutes of baring his teeth at his own social phobia is nice enough to give them to him in English. The thought that he was still in Florence twenty-four hours earlier doesn’t feel real.
He still hates this entire assignment, but the the knowledge that he can’t go back now makes him feel a tad more secure. All that’s left is finding the world’s best hitman and asking him to give back the nineteenth century biology manuscript he stole for no apparent reason.
Hyacinthe books a room at the hotel nearest to the train station. The clerk is skeptical at the sight of the sleek Vongola credit card that he uses to pay upfront for a week, but his forehead smoothes over when the payment goes in without a hitch, and his smile and polite bows become more enthusiastic. Hyacinthe climbs the stairs to the second floor where the room is and proceeds to fall onto the bed and pass out for six hours.
He wakes up at nightfall because his phone is buzzing frantically. He groans, rubs his knuckles into his eyes to get rid of the crust of sleep there, and clears his throat before opening the video call.
“Hey,” his dad says brightly. “You arrive in Japan all right?”
Hyacinthe blinks and squints at the screen. It must be morning still in France, but the light is dim, which probably means that it’s another rainy day in Normandy. “Yeah,” he answers at last. “Haven’t seen much of it yet, though.”
“You should do some sightseeing.”
“Stop swearing,” his mom interjects. Hyacinthe can only see a quarter of her face in his screen, because his dad is holding the camera and hasn’t yet grasped the concept of horizontal filming.
“I’m here for work anyway,” he says tiredly. He glances at the window; what little he can see of the sky is more navy than orange already, with tiny pricks of light from emerging stars. “This town is kinda in the middle of nowhere, I don’t know if there’s much to see.”
“You’re not in Tokyo?”
Hyacinthe shakes his head. “Nah. I have to meet someone here. Maybe I can spend a couple days in the capital before I go back.”
“That would be nice,” his mom says. “Bring me something back if you do.”
“Want a miniature version of the tower?” Hyacinthe says with a smile. “I think I’m mostly gonna buy myself some language textbooks. Might as well try to learn something.”
“That’s my girl.”
Hyacinthe doesn’t bother correcting her. The silence stretches, a bit uncomfortable, but it might just be the ache in his back from sleeping on his front like an idiot. “How’s Rouen?” he asks after a moment.
“Wet,” his dad answers immediately. He directs the camera to the wide living-room window, and though the image is too bad to make out details, the street outside looks like a drizzle is going on. “We reached a miracle heat maximum of twenty-eight degrees celsius this summer, though, so we’re not too upset about it.”
Hyacinthe chuckles. “That’s cool. I think I’m gonna come back for Christmas and the New Year, so hopefully I’ll get to experience the cold and damp for myself. Mediterranean weather does get boring after a while.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Hyacinthe’s parents spend another few minutes small-talking about his wondrous two and a half siblings, then they show him the disgruntled face of the old family cat, then they hang up with many well-wishes. Hyacinthe drops his phone on the comforter and stretches until his spine cracks satisfyingly enough.
He feels energetic now. He calls room service for dinner and lazes in front of the TV for an hour or so. Every program is in Japanese, but he finds one dubbed in Japanese sign language and tries to follow it half-heartedly with what little he remembers of his FSL lessons. It’s not much, he finds out. Another channel is doing a rerun of an anime he has never watched, and that keeps his attention for another twenty minutes, but eventually he has to admit that he’s not going to be able to fall back asleep so soon.
“Shit,” he murmurs.
Well. Japan is renowned for its low criminality, so taking a stroll at night should be safe enough.
Hyacinthe puts on his shoes and fishes a scarf out of his luggage, and he has a cigarette between his lips before he exists the lobby downstairs.
The air outside is crisp. It smells different than it does around the Vongola estate or in Florence where pollution and the river make it heavy, cleaner and colder despite the presence of the city around him. The streets are clean, too, no sign of garbage spilling into the gutters or rats running in darkened alleys. There are a few people out, and every bar and restaurant has its doors open to the sound of loud chatter and glass hitting wooden tables. Hyacinthe walks into a convenience store and comes out with a plastic bag full of the weirdest snacks he could find.
Soon enough the apartment buildings and work offices around the train station leave room for larger houses. It’s quiet in this part of town, and Hyacinthe is alone. He can glimpse greenery above the fences along the road, painted yellow by the glow of street lamps. Every house looks lived-in, with bright windows and brighter curtains. It’s peaceful. Part of him is worried about getting lost or walking too far, but he has a map of the city in his coat pocket and he’s twenty-six, for God’s sake. He’s allowed to get lost if he wants to.
Then, of course, Hyacinthe trips on a step he hasn’t seen and then slides on a puddle, and he falls backward.
His mind goes through the five stages of grief and anticipates the crushing pain of the blow on his ass and back when he lands, but he never lands.
Someone catches him like something out of an early Disney movie, one arm under his shoulders and another under the crook of his knees, sweeping him off his feet entirely. Hyacinthe isn’t a light guy. He’s taller than most people and heavier too, skin soft at his hips and thighs and big bones holding him upright. No one has lifted him at all in at least ten years, and certainly not like he’s some skinny princess made out of blown glass.
He makes an unattractive sound from the surprise, halfway between a scream and a snort. After the shock dissipates there’s only panic; fire through his veins and his heart beating too-fast like it’s trying to break his own ribs and tear his skin and muscles open. It’s the bad kind of surprised, the jumpscared kind, the one that leaves him in an out-of-body experience for hours afterward until something shocks his soul back into place or he just decides to sleep it off.
But then—”Everything okay?“ says the sultriest voice he has ever heard, and it’s in English, but with the imprint of Italian on it, the way people spoke to him when he first arrived in Florence, the way Nono speaks to him.
Hyacinthe looks up.
The man looks terribly good. Obviously.
“I’m fine,” Hyacinthe rasps out. He’s never been this thankful for how thoroughly testosterone has changed his original baby bird voice, because even with it, this was the opposite of manly.
He’s set back up on his feet with careful hands and powerful arms—and, okay, his face is beet red and his breath is knocked so far out of his lungs he doesn’t think he knows how to breathe anymore—and he needs to stop thinking.
Deep breaths. He would fan himself with his hand if some remnant of self-esteem wasn’t holding him back.
“Thanks,” he says, in a strangled voice.
The stranger looks at him in silence. He’s wearing a deep black suit and matching fedora, and it should be ridiculous, because Hyacinthe outgrew the fedora-wearing type in high school, but it looks good on him. It looks the kind of masculine that Hyacinthe will never outgrow—or reach.
“I’m glad,” the man says, and tips his fedora down over his eyes so that only his mouth and nose remain visible. It’s theatrical and ridiculous, and Hyacinthe feels hot all over. “Well, I’ll be on my way, then. Have a lovely evening.”
Hyacinthe bites his own tongue trying to give an answer—but it doesn’t matter anyway, because he blinks, and the man is gone.
He looks at the accursed puddle and step responsible for his fall. He takes his phone out of his pocket to check the time (ten in the evening), and shoves a cigarette between his teeth before going back the way he came.
And then reality hits him like a cold shower.
“Jesus fucking Christ,” he growls, ripping the cigarette out of his mouth and throwing it an unsuspecting fence. The thing bounces and falls to the thus-far litter-free ground where no one will ever smoke it. “That was Reborn, wasn’t it.”
There’s no one around to answer him. The Italian and the suit-fedora combination are enough to give it away, though.
If it was Reborn, then he’s probably being watched. Show your fucking face, he wants to yell, but it’s already late and he doesn’t want to disturb the peace of the people in the homes around him. Plus, he makes the mistake of remembering the face in question, and his eyes start to water as if he’s trying to look at the sun itself.
So Hyacinthe goes back to the hotel, flustered and irate, and takes special care to keep his hands visible at his sides, middle fingers sticking out.
The following day is a Saturday. Hyacinthe awakens predictably late and confused around eleven in the morning to the sound of cars and birds from his open window. He doesn’t remember leaving the window open and suffers his first daily bout of acute paranoia. The shower helps him clear his mind, and so does dressing up in clean jeans and a pressed sky-blue shirt.
He sends a quick text to Mammon to inform them that he’s arrived, and the reply comes almost instantly. Have you met Reborn yet?
You didn’t tell me he was hot, Hyacinthe says, because he can’t get over that part.
If you sleep with him I will literally kill you, Mammon texts back.
Hyacinthe isn’t sure how serious they are, but it doesn’t matter. He’s just here to make sure his archives stay as dusty, unused, and complete as they always have been. He has no intention of sleeping with anyone.
There’s a kitchenette with a microwave in his hotel room that he uses to heat some of the snacks he bought last night. He eats his way through a third of it before realizing that he’s stopped feeling hungry and started feeling nervous instead, and then he locks the room behind him and leaves.
He has the address that Mammon sent him a week ago, and the one in the envelope Nono gave him, rich ink on rich paper and probably written with that ridiculous diamond pen. The addresses match, because Mammon’s locating is always accurate, so Hyacinthe takes out his map of Namimori, thankfully written in both English and Japanese, and starts looking.
He has the attention span of a toddler, so this task alone takes him a good fifteen minutes. He finally locates the street he needs to find between five other tiny scribbled street names—it looks like a cul-de-sac more than a street, with houses and nothing else. Hyacinthe walks briskly, bowing his head a bit awkwardly when he meets someone else’s eyes. Overall he doesn’t seem to draw much attention despite how out-of-place he feels in a city that doesn’t look like a very touristic spot.
He finds the place easily enough after thirty minutes of staring into alleyways. He’s reasonably sure he’s in the right street. The kanji on the plate at the crossroad a hundred meters back looked the same as the ones on his map, at least. So now it’s only a matter of overcoming his burning shame before he starts feeling weird standing here for so long.
Hyacinthe crosses the distance between the sidewalk and the front door and rings.
He starts worrying that no one’s home after about ten seconds, and shakes himself mentally, because ten seconds aren’t enough to decide that. But the silence stretches to what feels like a full minute, and every window that he can see is closed, and no sound can be heard from inside the house.
Maybe the door is soundproof, though. Probably bulletproof too, if the future Decimo lives here.
Why would the future Decimo live in Japan, anyway?
A teenager with bleached hair and not enough commitment to dress fully goth materializes in front of Hyacinthe and screams at him in Italian, “Who the fuck are you?”
Hyacinthe breathes in as slowly as he can. He only barely managed to avoid jumping back and hitting his head on the side of the door.
“What do you want with the Tenth?” the kid continues, walking uncomfortably close, crowding Hyacinthe against the side of the door and taking—dynamite. He’s taking dynamite sticks out of his jean pockets.
“I’m no one dangerous,” Hyacinthe says tiredly.
“AS IF I’D BELIEVE THAT,” goth kid bellows.
Hyacinthe doesn’t own a weapon. He’s never been this kind of mafioso and he never will be, and his crowning achievement in other superpowers consists in making a tiny blue Flame appear between his thumb and index, so he doesn’t really have the necessary equipment to defend himself against an explosion.
Usually he wouldn’t think of defending himself at all from a kid, but age doesn’t count when the kid in question is armed.
“I’m really—listen, boy. Kid. I’m not here to do anything… nefarious.”
“Which Family are you?” the kid replies. He shoves a cigarette between his lips and lights it with a match, of all things—how many hands does he have?—and then he uses the cigarette to light the dynamite, but by now Hyacinthe is just trying not to cry from the smell, because he’s smoking rolled Gauloises.
“I’m Vongola,” he says anyway. “Please put out the dynamite.”
The boy squints at him. “Can you prove it?”
“I will if you put out that goddamn dynamite!”
The boy snorts and throws the stick on the ground before stomping on it. It takes him a while, of course—he doesn’t look like the type who often has to put out the explosives he apparently throws around.
Hyacinthe really doesn’t want to think about why a teenager would have dynamite on his person in the first place. Nono’s fucked-up mafia youth development program is none of his business.
“Thank God,” he mutters. He kicks the stick into a bush for added safety.
“Now,” the boy growls at Hyacinthe, walking further into his personal space as if that was possible. Hyacinthe can feel his back fuse with the door. “Who the fuck are you?”
“My name is Hyacinthe Faure,” Hyacinthe replies. “Look, I’m just here to—”
“Gokudera?” another voice says.
Hyacinthe looks above the kid’s head. There’s another kid, now, a very tall boy with black hair and brown eyes and a baseball bat over his shoulder. His other arm is wrapped in a cast. Hyacinthe really hopes that he won’t end up dead at the hands of two teenagers, because he doesn’t think Mammon will ever forgive him if he does.
The one named Gokudera turns his back on Hyacinthe and engages the black-haired boy into what looks and sounds like an argument, except only Gokudera is screaming. The other kid has a hand on his bat and keeps looking between his friend and Hyacinthe himself with confusion on his face.
“Let’s just wait for Mama to come back,” Gokudera concludes in Italian after a while of yelling. His voice hasn’t cracked the entire time, impressively enough.
He sits down on the steps leading to the street. Hyacinthe exchanges a look with the second boy and sits down next to him.
“You said you were Vongola,” Gokudera says, taking his bag of Gauloises.
“I am,” Hyacinthe says. He pushes away the kid’s bag, ignoring how he jumps, and offers a cigarette instead. “Hyacinthe Faure.”
“What?” the kid says.
“Just call me Cen.”
Gokudera has suspicion engraved onto his face. He probably doesn’t know how else to show neutrality. He does accept the cigarette, though, and Hyacinthe feels some contentment at that. He has no business lecturing anyone on addiction, but he can’t let a kid smoke Gauloises and look at himself in a mirror.
The other boy waves at Hyacinthe. “Yamamoto,” he says, pointing at himself with his uninjured arm and grinning. Hyacinthe smiles and replies, “Cen,” pointing to himself. And then he stops smiling, because Yamamoto’s attentive eyes are scanning his fingers for traces of firearm-induced calluses and scars.
“What business do you have with the Tenth?” Gokudera asks. He’s already halfway through the cigarette.
“None,” Hyacinthe replies. “My business is with a man named Reborn.”
“Oh,” Gokudera says. His shoulders sag, and he says something in Japanese to Yamamoto, who seems to relax as well. “That’s fine, then. Reborn is out with the Tenth and his mom.”
Yamamoto smiles apologetically. He hasn’t stopped staring at Hyacinthe the entire time.
Hyacinthe isn’t very used to hanging around kids. Even his youngest cousins are older than these boys are, the littlest of them already in her first year of college. There are no children at the Vongola manor and only the mad prince Belphegor at the Varia estate is younger than legal age. And Belphegor doesn’t act like a kid so much as a killing machine.
It is possible that Hyacinthe’s views on what is children-appropriate are a little skewed. He used to be such a normal guy, too.
They wait here for a long time. Yamamoto eventually tries to strike up a conversation with him in English, but it’s not easy—his pronunciation is hard for Hyacinthe to understand because he’s used to French and Italian accents, not Japanese ones, and his vocabulary is limited. The boy smiles a little deprecatingly at that, and Hyacinthe gathers that English isn’t his strongest subject in school. He does look more like a sports guy than anything. Hyacinthe has always been terrible at sports and good at everything literary.
Gokudera switches between Japanese, English, and Italian the entire time. His Italian is fluent but his English is stilted. Hyacinthe really can’t tell about the Japanese.
It’s not a bad way to spend time. Hyacinthe’s stress has all but evaporated since the dynamite thing and left only grim resolution in its wake, the way it always does when weapons are drawn at the manor. Which is often.
Eventually the owner of the house comes back. She’s a woman in her late thirties, looking younger than that, and there’s another boy by her side—a scrawny little guy who looks a good two years younger than the other two, until he opens his mouth to speak and Hyacinthe realizes why.
He’s a little happy about it, really, but he swallows back his smile and doesn’t say anything.
“Oh,” the woman says when she sees him. Her smile is beautiful. It reaches all the way to her eyes and makes her skin glow.
“Hello,” Hyacinthe replies, face warm.
“Are you a friend of Gokudera’s and Yamamoto’s?” she asks—in English. Her son looks at her with wide eyes.
“NO,” Gokudera screams back.
He switches back to Japanese to explain the situation to her. The woman listens with a kind smile and nods enthusiastically at every appropriate moment, and when Gokudera is done he looks a lot more like a kid should, red in the face and eminently satisfied with himself.
“I’m afraid I don’t know where Reborn is,” the woman tells Hyacinthe next. She’s really lovely, Hyacinthe thinks.
The last kid tugs on her arm, and points to something just behind Hyacinthe. Everyone turns in his direction and gasps, and Hyacinthe feels ice in his stomach just before the same voice from last night whispers, “Good afternoon,” right into his ear.
It doesn’t matter that Reborn is dressed like a potted plant instead of clad in fitted pants and a silk shirt, because when Hyacinthe swings around to look at him he loses his ability to speak and to feel anything but burning shame.
Fuck you, he wants to say. “Marry me,” is what comes out.
Reborn chuckles at him in the silence that follows. “I’m afraid I’m promised to another,” he replies dismissively. “But I’m sure we can examine what business brings you here inside the house, Hyacinthe Faure.”
He tips his green, leaf-covered fedora down and bows forward, gesturing to the door.
“Better dress like a tree next time, because I’m gonna climb you,” Hyacinthe warns. And since his mouth is apparently betraying him, he decides that from now on he will rage in silence.
The house is bigger inside than it looks. It feels similar and different at the same time from what Hyacinthe is used to—certainly nothing like his own mother’s house, which is filled with plants and old mismatched furniture. The spaces here are clear and wide and the décor minimalist. It smells like cinnamon.
Two ridiculously small kids emerge from the living-room, chasing one another. They latch themselves to the woman’s legs and start talking extremely fast in a mix of Japanese, Italian, and—Chinese? It sounds like Chinese. The woman listens to them calmly while she puts away her groceries, with the stumbling help of her son, who is keeping a wary eye on Hyacinthe. Hyacinthe would smile if he wasn’t so consumed with frustration.
“Tsuna,” Reborn calls. The boy lifts his head and groans, dragging his feet closer to him. Reborn picks up the conversation in Japanese, and somewhere in the middle, Hyacinthe catches his own name.
“Call me Cen,” he says, because Tsuna looks as confused about his name’s pronunciation as everyone Hyacinthe has ever met and who was not French.
“This is Tsunayoshi Sawada,” Reborn says, gesturing to Tsuna. Tsuna squirms.
“Sawada, huh,” he says.
So this is Iemitsu’s son. And the future Decimo. The boy looks half-terrified and like he hasn’t slept in a while. There are circles under his eyes and his limbs are shaking slightly; when Hyacinthe looks at his face more closely he doesn’t catch any resemblance to the Outside Advisor—Tsuna takes entirely after his mother, and isn’t that relatable—but he does notice the fading bruises on his face and at his hairline where he looks like he’s received a severe blow. Hyacinthe glances quickly at Yamamoto’s broken arm.
He doesn’t really like the implications of that.
“So what does Vongola’s recluse librarian want with me?” Reborn asks, in Italian this time.
“Archivist,” Hyacinthe replies. “And besides wanting you to take me to dinner and afterward take me to bed, I want my manuscript back.”
Reborn has the gall to say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Listen, beautiful,” and, all right, Hyacinthe had meant to say asshole, but it’s too late to go back now—”you know perfectly well what you did. You took that thesis on toxic sea life without my permission and brought it halfway across the world, and now I want it back.“
“Still not yours.” Reborn sips his coffee, and only then does Hyacinthe notice that a cup full of steaming tea has been placed on the table in front of him. He didn’t even notice Sawada guiding him to a chair. “I thought all those dusty papers were free to consult.”
“They’re not, you delightful creature. You need to go through me first, and then you can consult them if you have clearance to do so, but I would never have authorized you to take them out of the archive room.” Hyacinthe takes pride in his work. This is not the first time someone has consulted the archives without his say so, but it is the first time he’s had anyone steal anything from under his nose. “Give me back the manuscript, thief,” he says, extending a hand.
He half-hopes that Reborn will just give him his own hand in turn, but all the man does is look down quickly and then back into Hyacinthe’s eyes. “You could’ve just emailed me,” he replies.
“Nono wanted me here,” Hyacinthe admits grudgingly. “You practically stole Quinto’s Sun Guardian’s life work!”
“The man did have an interesting life,” Reborn comments, browsing what looks like—what looks like a manuscript.
It’s right here. Spread over the table. Old pages full of chicken’s scratch notes and fast illustrations of what might be fish but look more like actual sea monsters. The pages are perfectly flat and intact. Hyacinthe didn’t even see Reborn take them out, or where he took them out from.
Hyacinthe rests his forehead on his palm and lets the steam from his tea bring tears to his eyes. “Why did you even take that thing,” he mutters in despair.
Reborn doesn’t answer. In fact, he is suspiciously silent. Hyacinthe raises his head again and tells himself that he isn’t disappointed to see the other end of the table empty, with only a dirty cup of coffee left behind.
Fucker even had time to finish his espresso.
“Are you all right?” Sawada’s wife asks kindly, and Hyacinthe suffers a brief moment of needing to grab her skirt the way those kids earlier had and cry.
“I’m fine,” he answered instead. He takes a sip of tea to calm down and chokes at the heat of it, but manages to swallow it without making a bigger mess of himself. “Just tired.”
“You can stay here if you want,” she offers.
“No, no.” Hyacinthe shakes his hands in front of himself. “I’m good, I have a room at a hotel not too far—”
“We have a spare room you could use. I’d be happy to welcome you.”
“Tsuna,” she calls, and then she gives a series of fast-paced instruction to her son in Japanese that make Tsuna go wide-eyed and a little pale as he looks between his mom and Hyacinthe himself.
There’s nothing Hyacinthe can do. Within an hour he’s calling his hotel to cancel his reservation and telling them to keep all the money he paid in exchange for fast delivery of all his things to Sawada Nana’s address, and Nana herself looks the picture of fulfilled joy, hands busy above the stove as she cooks a literal feast.
Hyacinthe does what he can to help, but he’s never been a very adept cook. It’s easy enough to chop vegetables and maintain small talk in English with Nana, though. It feels homely. Nana gives blunt knives to the two kids running around their legs and instructs them to peel some extra potatoes she apparently bought for the purpose of being butchered by five-year-olds.
Everything about her exudes motherhood. Hyacinthe has to remind himself several times that he faces certain death if he tries to flirt with her.
“So you like Reborn?” she asks over sizzling pork belly, because of course she caught that. Hyacinthe isn’t very subtle.
“I want to f—fight him. I want to fight him,” Hyacinthe corrects her, and himself.
“I want him to step on my skull and crush it, killing me instantly,” he adds, because it’s better than telling her he wishes Reborn was fucking him over the surface of his hotel room’s tiny kitchen counter.
Nana hums contentedly. Hyacinthe looks back to the pastry dough he’s kneading, except there’s a fully grown chameleon now right next to his hand that looks nothing like Fantasma but has the same intelligence in its beady eyes.
Hyacinthe looks up. Reborn is staring at him from the couch, dressed in shorts and boxer’s gloves and with an elephant hat on his head, but, yeah, he’s mostly naked. Hyacinthe feels the conflicting urge to kill him and lick him.
Give me back my manuscript, he mouths at him.
Reborn sips his coffee and smirks, showing a row of perfect white teeth.
Hyacinthe can’t come back to Florence without the manuscript. Everything in the archive is his responsibility, and he feels strongly about this, because the Vongola archives gave him back a sense of purpose. He was lost before meeting Nono’s Mist and he’s aware of it now, and the manor is his home in a way nothing has been, and Vongola is his Family. He knows Mammon is expecting him despite everything they say. He knows he can’t stand the thought of going back empty-handed after the Ninth himself has sent him.
He doesn’t like this house and all its hurt children, or how exposed his presence here makes him to the CEDEF’s whim. Nono would protect him… probably. But Hyacinthe isn’t supposed to know everything going on here. No one is supposed to know who the future Decimo is.
He’s not supposed to tell anyone, including his best friend, and he’d rather get out of here fast and avoid making new unnecessary discoveries that he’ll have to carry to an early grave.
Reborn wiggles his pinky finger at him mockingly, and Hyacinthe thinks, Fuck it.
He’ll get his file back. Even if he has to spend months here to get it.